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Putty Hill
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Audio Commentary featuring director Matt Porterfield, director of photography Jeremy Saulnier, editor Marc Vives and producer Steve Holmgren
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Metal Gods screen test, the inspiration for Putty Hill
  • Making of Documentary (30 minutes)
  • Putty HillTheatrical Trailer
  • Hamilton
  • Deleted Scenes for Hamilton
  • Union Docs: Richard Brody interview with Matt Porterfield
  • Theatrical Trailer for Hamilton

Putty Hill


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Matt Porterfield
2011 | 85 Minutes

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $34.95 | Series: Cinema Guild
Cinema Guild

Release Date: November 8, 2011
Review Date: November 21, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

A beautifully realized portrait of a close-knit community on the outskirts of Baltimore, Putty Hill is the second feature from celebrated young filmmaker Matt Porterfield. At a neighborhood karaoke bar, friends and family gather to remember a young man who passed away. Knowing little about his final days, they attempt to reconstruct his life. In the process, they offer a window onto their own lives, an evocative picture of working-class America, dislocated from the progress and mobility around them, but united in pursuit of a shared dream. Exquisitely shot and employing surprising documentary techniques, Putty Hill is one of the most exciting American indie films in years.

Also includes HAMILTON (2006, 65 minutes) the debut film from Matt Porterfield. A delicate, beautiful work, Hamilton chronicles two summer days in the life of a young family: Lena, 17, and Joe, 20, two recent and accidental parents residing in a diverse suburban neighborhood in northeast Baltimore.


PICTURE

Cinema Guild presents Matt Porterfield’s second film, Putty Hill, on DVD in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two-disc set. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Shot in digital HD it’s no surprise the transfer comes off looking pretty good, though certainly not spectacular. The image is fairly sharp and clean, suffering from some mild ringing in places. Colours look pretty sharp and to be rendered nicely though never really pop, more than likely a limitation of the film’s look. Some darker scenes look a little noisy as well, but it’s a minor issue and not much of a distraction.

Since the film was shot on digital there is no damage to speak of. In all a generally pleasing presentation.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film’s Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track works adequately for the film. It actually opens quite stunningly after the opening credits, where we’re thrown right into the middle of a paintball battle. The sequence is rather loud and has the noise of paintballs firing come from all of the speakers. Dialogue is sharp and clear, as are sound effects, the latter of which are effectively mixed and subtly surround the viewer.

Overall it’s a rather limited and quiet track, but no less effective.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Cinema Guild loads on a few supplements onto the 2-disc set, starting with an audio commentary by director Matt Porterfield, Director of Photography Jeremy Saulnier, editor Marc Vives, and producer Steve Holmgren. This track was rather surprising for me because I was expecting a fairly stuffy track. Instead it’s a fairly loose, somewhat entertaining reflection on the making of the film, made on a shoestring budget over a couple of weeks. They talk about working with the non-professional actors, the technical difficulties they came across, and so forth. Overall it’s a decent, sometimes humourous look into the making of the film.

Following this are 6 deleted scenes running about 12-minutes. They’re primarily made up of abandoned “interview” footage (the film has an interesting, almost shocking at first use of interviews with the characters in the film, having them simply sit and explain their stories/feelings to an unseen interviewer, who is in fact Porterfield) while others appear to have been excised simply because they didn’t offer much, or were maybe a little repetitive.

The behind-the-scenes presentation, running 31-minutes, is unfortunately rather lousy. Though it contains some interesting footage, like Porterfield conducting his “interviews”, or him directing the cast, the footage has been edited together in a similar reflective, minimalist style to the film. So what we get is a lot of footage of people sitting around, or shots of whatever item interested somebody that had a camera. The style works for the film but unfortunately here it’s not hypnotic or interesting, and actually becomes monotonous. An interview with one of the cast member’s midway through proves a little interesting, and some other footage of cast and crew (including Porterfield) singing at the karaoke bar actually livens things up a bit (despite someone singing Creed,) but overall this is really a disappointing, painfully dull inclusion.

Metal Gods Screen Test is 7-minutes worth of footage shot for the abandoned project Metal Gods, the financing of which fell through. You’ll recognize a number of the cast members here, all of whom I believe appear in Putty Hill, and there are also some scenarios that are carried over to that film.

The disc then closes with a theatrical trailer.

The second single-layer disc is devoted to Porterfield’s first feature, Hamilton, a 65-minute film that focuses on the lives of the people that live in a Baltimore neighbourhood, with a young girl and a young boy, who have become “accidental” parents, as the main focus. It’s admittedly a maddening film to view yet I can see why Richard Brody (who participates in this DVD release) fell in love with it. Almost entirely free of dialogue Porterfield manages to convey everything you need to know in the images he creates, which include some beautifully composed sequences. He can really push one’s patience here, though, like a number of long sequences where characters wander around with what appears to be no set purpose, but I guess in all fairness they do serve a purpose as he tries to offer a simple, non-judgmental portrait of these characters, who I suspect are based on people he knows.

The disc then supplies features devoted solely to the film, starting with its own deleted scenes, four of them totaling about 13-minutes, which includes more wandering for Joe, the young boy in the film. Most interesting, though, and disappointingly short, is a Q&A session with Porterfield and Richard Brody talking about Hamilton, with Porterfield talking about his intentions with the film and why he made it (basically he felt like he just had to make a film, didn’t matter what) and Brody offers his admiration for some of the director’s choices. While it proves to be one of the more engaging features on here, next to the commentary, it’s unfortunately way too short, not even making it 4-minutes.

The disc then concludes with a theatrical trailer for Hamilton.

Cinema Guild then includes a booklet that contains an essay on Putty Hill by Andrew O’Heir and then an essay on Hamilton by Richard Brody, who gushes over it.

The inclusion of Hamilton is a nice touch, but it’s still pretty slim in this department and the fact one of its lengthier supplements is one of the drabbest items I’ve ever come across on a DVD doesn’t help. Still, the commentary and Hamilton are worth going through.

6/10

CLOSING

I’m not familiar with Matt Porterfield, though my interest is peaked with this DVD edition. I’m not terribly fond of Mumblecore in general, and Putty Hill can loosely fit into that category, but his style is notable and the film (along with Hamilton) is very assured in its direction. He can convey a lot of information in his shots, , he comes off genuine without a sense of irony, really cares about his characters, and I even liked the experimental mix of documentary and narrative, like when he actually interviews the characters from off screen, sometimes in the middle of the action.

And Cinema Guild has delivered a nice, modest little edition, with a nice standard-def transfer and some interesting supplements, specifically the director’s first feature. It’s a decent introduction to a promising director.




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