29 Housekeeping

Discuss Blu-rays released by Indicator and the films on them.

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hearthesilence
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29 Housekeeping

#1 Post by hearthesilence » Sun May 06, 2012 7:41 pm

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(Bill Forsyth, 1987)
Release date: 22 May 2017
Limited Dual Format Edition (Blu-ray premiere)

Director Bill Forsyth (That Sinking Feeling, Gregory’s Girl, Local Hero, Comfort and Joy) made his American film debut with this moving and offbeat adaptation of Marilynne Robinson’s acclaimed novel, about two young girls who are sent to live with their eccentric aunt (Christine Lahti).

INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster
• Original stereo audio
• Writer-Director Bill Forsyth on Housekeeping (2017, 42 mins)
• Author Marilynne Robinson on Housekeeping (2017, 14 mins)
• Director of Photography Michael Coulter on Housekeeping (2017, 13 mins)
• Editor Michael Ellis on Housekeeping (2017, 11 mins)
• BFI Interview with Bill Forsyth (1994, 36 mins): archival audio recording of an on-stage interview conducted by Nick James at the National Film Theatre, London
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and production materials from the personal collections of the filmmakers
• New English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet featuring a new essay by David Archibald, a production report and contemporary reviews
• World Blu-ray premiere
• UK DVD premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 3,000 copies

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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#2 Post by CSM126 » Mon May 07, 2012 3:23 am

hearthesilence wrote:This has been available for purchase through iTunes and Amazon's download service, but it was also released on DVD back in September.

Anybody have any details on this? I saw a new, great-looking print back in 2010 and was wondering if a DVD issue was imminent - I wonder if they just re-used the same transfer seen in the digital downloads?
I think that's some kind of burn-on-demand thing Sony/Columbia does. If that Amazon listing is correct, it's a 1.33 presentation, which screams "re-used VHS copy" to me.

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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#3 Post by Perkins Cobb » Mon May 07, 2012 8:32 pm

I have this. It's anamorphic widescreen. Looks fine. Most of the Sony and Warner MODs get it right (apart from the price). It's the MGMs and Universals that you have to watch out for.

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Re: Indicator

#4 Post by andyli » Wed Mar 08, 2017 7:25 am

rapta wrote:May titles:

HOUSEKEEPING (Bill Forsyth, 1987)
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster
• Original stereo audio
New interview with director Bill Forsyth (2017, tbc mins)
New interview with editor Michael Ellis (2017, tbc mins)
New interview with author Marilynne Robinson (2017, tbc mins)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive booklet
• World premiere on Blu-ray
• UK DVD premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies
• More TBC
Fantastic news about Housekeeping!

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Re: Indicator

#5 Post by What A Disgrace » Wed Mar 08, 2017 8:39 am

Housekeeping is one of the best announcements of the year.


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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#7 Post by MichaelB » Sat Apr 08, 2017 3:52 am

...and a strong probability that it's region-free, as it's a Sony title: they don't seem that fussed about region coding even when a third-party label is handling their films.

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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#8 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:47 pm

I'm guessing it's going to be from the same HD master used for the HD iTunes download that's been available for at least 5 years - it'll be nice to have without all the extra data compression of an iTunes download.

Still one of my favorite experiences was seeing this at Film Forum in 2010, in a then-new 35mm print, with Forsyth giving a long Q&A afterwards. I don't think it's screened in NYC since, which is a shame. It's easily my favorite of Forsyth's films.

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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#9 Post by tojoed » Sun Apr 09, 2017 3:41 am

hearthesilence wrote:It's easily my favorite of Forsyth's films.
I finally saw this a couple of years ago, and was completely underwhelmed. I love Bill Forsyth, but I couldn't see why the subject interested him.
To me his best films are those he made at home, especially "Gregory's Girl".

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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#10 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Apr 09, 2017 4:12 pm

Wow, couldn't disagree more, over the course of three films (from Gregory's Girl to Housekeeping), he was getting better and better, and the material he was working with grew much more darker, richer and complex. They're all good films but he was growing leaps and bounds.

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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#11 Post by beamish13 » Mon Apr 10, 2017 7:53 pm

Barring the ability to see Forsyth's original cut of Being Human, I think it's safe to call
Housekeeping his best, and among the very finest films of the 1980's. It's such a note-perfect
adaptation of an unbelievably beautiful novel, and the performances from the two teen girls and Lahti
are phenomenal. It still retains the droll humor that characterizes his other films like Comfort & Joy,
but there's a profundity in this particular work that showed an artist synthesizing some of his key themes (finding one's place in the world, youth vs. maturation and the quest for self-actualization, among others) with a feminine
perspective. That fusion makes Housekeeping feel so singular and even miraculous in its execution.

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Housekeeping

#12 Post by Roscoe » Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:54 am

Count me in as a fan of HOUSEKEEPING. I'm glad to see it has admirers. For me it's in a tie with the sublime LOCAL HERO as Forsyth's Best.

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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#13 Post by whaleallright » Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:44 am

This is one of my very favorite films; it really is something of a miracle that a book as dense and elusive as Marilynne Robinson's novel was adapted into something of equivalent gravity and mystery. It has very little of the quirky humor of Forsyth's earlier films (which I love), but—without meaning to advance the usual critical bias for dramas and against comedies—it reveals an even deeper talent. It's really worthy of one of Bresson (one of Forsyth's heroes).

There's a great Forsyth interview from 1987 in the New York Times in which he says something very telling, namely (and I'm paraphrasing) that in order to get lyricism on film, it's important not to be self-consciously lyrical. There's a limpid, self-effacing quality to the style of Housekeeping that makes it all the more effective. For example, the book has some passages where Robinson describes natural phenomena with extraordinary specificity, but rather than translate those into a series of nature-film-like cutaways and montages, Forsyth simply places his characters—often in long shot— in well-chosen, rich and evocative environments. (Housekeeping is also a miracle of production design.)

I actually like Being Human quite a bit. There's certainly no other film like it. But the idea that the "original cut" would have been a masterpiece is, I think, wishful thinking. Having read the original script, I can note that there is one major change (the removing of an entire historical episode) and lots of minor ones (not any greater than the usual changes you'd expect to see from script to screen). The film's virtues and limitations seem more or less the same in both "versions."

I think it's a tragedy, as well as a mystery, that Forsyth never matched these films again, or even really had much of a career after them.

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Indicator: Housekeeping

#14 Post by MichaelB » Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:01 am

From what I gather, he hated the Being Human experience so much that he just wanted to give up filmmaking there and then - a bit like George Miller after The Witches of Eastwick, to cite another wonderfully quirky and individual filmmaker who just didn't get on with the Hollywood machine. Although Miller did at least manage to reinvent himself (albeit slowly - who'd have guessed in 1987 that he'd only notch up four more directing credits over the next thirty years, and that two of them would be for childrens' films?)

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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#15 Post by whaleallright » Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:15 am

That's an excellent comparison (though I'd note that Miller has signed five films since 1987; six if you include his close supervision of the first Babe).

BTW the usual reference to Warners having insisted upon a new, "happy" ending to Being Human (see e.g. the Wiki page) seems apocryphal, since the draft script—which is truly an idiosyncratic beast—has more or less the same one as the finished film. The film suffers from a certain early-90s tony prestige-picture quality (several passages look an awful lot like The Piano) and it was probably funded mostly because Robin Williams was seeking an Oscar.

That said, we have David Puttnam to thank for almost the entirety of Forsyth's resolutely uncommercial Hollywood career. Despite being shuttled between different studios, he remained loyal to Forsyth and helped him to get three projects off the ground. The only American feature he didn't produce, Breaking In, seems like the closest thing Forsyth's done to a work for hire, although it's pretty charming just the same.
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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#16 Post by Calvin » Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:16 am

I seem to remember Forsyth saying when I met him a couple of years ago that he was trying to get funding for a project. He wouldn't divulge much more than the fact that he certainly wasn't done with filmmaking.

Does anyone know if Forsyth's original cut of Being Human survives in the Warner vaults? I'd love to see it and wished that the BFI could have licensed it back when they got Revolution and The Devils.

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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#17 Post by Ribs » Sat Jun 17, 2017 12:42 am

!!! What a wonderful film. I've loved Indicator's releases but this was the first one to pique my interest that I literally knew nothing of before its announcement - I'd seen both of Forsyth's more famous films (Local Hero also wonderful, though Gregory's Girl left no impression on me), but I'd never really thought of him as this big auteuristic voice or anything worth specifically seeking out anything else he'd had to offer. But here is something very distinct from those other films; it's narrative undercurrent established near the beginning, that this is a series of remembrances of a time long gone, some bits of which are mixed into one another and some which are invented not out of a desire to do so but out of forgetfulness, is done with far more care and precision than pretty much any other films that come to mind trying to do a similar trick. Its success is its measured approach to that style; it's never that anything can't have happened, but rather that everything that does happen is just a little bit past credulity, somehow at an intersection between a strictly realist approach and a more radical, surrealist one. It gives it this great relative thematic density that you wouldn't really get if you went one way or the other.

Mildly fascinated in particular by the photo gallery on the disc - half the photos are of the bridge prop! It's neat they built like a whole bridge but you'd think they'd have gotten over it. It's also utterly bonkers to see the photo of the crew gathered together, literally 100% male, considering this film has maybe a single speaking part for any male characters whatsoever, but it was a different time, whatever, they'd probably do a bit better on that front nowadays (not that it shows in the final product, per se, but something that just stuck out like a sore thumb when going through the feature).

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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#18 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 15, 2017 12:57 pm

An interesting film. I loved the first act, but liked the film less as it went along. I struggled to separate the mental illness of Lahti's character from the reverence the film gave her via her persecution and the wistful remembrances of Ruth-- fundamentally this woman should not have been supervising / caring for two teenagers, who are subsequently forced to raise themselves and her. Shades of Almodovar's recent Julieta, perhaps, but that later film didn't try to excuse the protagonist's behavior. It's hard to not see a film like this, with its outsiders vs the system construction, as dangerously bolstering the wrong side of the argument just because the close-minded town disapproves. There are so many individual elements the film nails and I am left with several positive takeaways and impactful moments, but this film started as an observant study of two young girls marked by the constant flux of tragedy and became an apologia for a third character I didn't much care about or for

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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#19 Post by whaleallright » Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:51 pm

The movie is hardly reverent of Sylvie—I think that like the sustains a fundamentally undecided, distant perspective on her. Tolerant, perhaps, but not entirely forgiving. Both Jim Emerson's and Dave Kehr's original reviews of the film get at this quite well. Both suggest that another, more conventional film might be made of this material: one in which Sylvie's charming noncomformity is valorized as against the snooty, propriety-obsessed townsfolk. But Forsyth's Housekeeping is defiantly not that film. I think the scene where the church ladies come visit is a case in point; it's probably the part of the film that most tends to this kind of facile dichotomy, but it's undercut by a moment of genuine pathos from one of the visitors, and ends more ambiguously than one might expect. Similarly, even in his passive-aggressiveness, it's easy to sympathize with the sheriff's concern for Ruthie. I definitely don't think the film is meant to end on a sanguine note; I believe we're supposed to be genuinely concerned for Ruthie's fate. In that way and others it reminds me of the ending of Days of Heaven.

But my admiration for this film goes way beyond just its ability to retain the book's haunting ambivalence toward Sylvia. There's such a profound sense here (to invoke a phrase Malick might appreciate) of the thingness of things, of the strangeness and specialness of the world. Again, it's a miracle that Forsyth's film should capture that most elusive aspect of Robinson's extremely dense and often difficult book. Not to pit one film against another, but I think that the limpidity of Forsyth's filmmaking here, its apparent effortlessness (which of course was far from effortless), is a key to this achievement, as against the constant straining for lyrical revelations in Malick's most recent features.

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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#20 Post by bottled spider » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:20 am

I regard Housekeeping is a complex tragedy in which
  • i. the townspeople and sheriff are fully justified in their apprehensions that Sylvie is an unfit guardian, and are absolutely right to intervene;
  • ii. notwithstanding, if Ruth and Sylvie were just left alone, they might have made out alright for themselves;
  • iii. but the outside intervention prompts them to run away, which will likely end badly for both of them, and especially Ruth.
The deeper tragedy is that Sylvie is gravely mentally ill, while Ruth -- for all her affinities with Sylvie, and possible susceptibilities -- is not. Yet Ruth, despite having witnessed more than anyone else the extent of Sylvie's madness, plights her troth with Sylvie out of loyalty, and this is her destruction.

A relevant passage from the Book of Ruth:
16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#21 Post by Lost Highway » Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:39 am

whaleallright wrote:The movie is hardly reverent of Sylvie—I think that like the sustains a fundamentally undecided, distant perspective on her. Tolerant, perhaps, but not entirely forgiving. Both Jim Emerson's and Dave Kehr's original reviews of the film get at this quite well. Both suggest that another, more conventional film might be made of this material: one in which Sylvie's charming noncomformity is valorized as against the snooty, propriety-obsessed townsfolk. But Forsyth's Housekeeping is defiantly not that film. I think the scene where the church ladies come visit is a case in point; it's probably the part of the film that most tends to this kind of facile dichotomy, but it's undercut by a moment of genuine pathos from one of the visitors, and ends more ambiguously than one might expect. Similarly, even in his passive-aggressiveness, it's easy to sympathize with the sheriff's concern for Ruthie. I definitely don't think the film is meant to end on a sanguine note; I believe we're supposed to be genuinely concerned for Ruthie's fate. In that way and others it reminds me of the ending of Days of Heaven.

But my admiration for this film goes way beyond just its ability to retain the book's haunting ambivalence toward Sylvia. There's such a profound sense here (to invoke a phrase Malick might appreciate) of the thingness of things, of the strangeness and specialness of the world. Again, it's a miracle that Forsyth's film should capture that most elusive aspect of Robinson's extremely dense and often difficult book. Not to pit one film against another, but I think that the limpidity of Forsyth's filmmaking here, its apparent effortlessness (which of course was far from effortless), is a key to this achievement, as against the constant straining for lyrical revelations in Malick's most recent features.
I think you are spot on and the first time I saw Housekeeping was in a repertory cinema double bill with Days of Heaven.

The reason why I love this film is exactly because it stays clear of the cliched narrative of the inspirational eccentric. A lesser film would have delivered a pad counter culture feel good message where "straight" society becomes the villain. Sylvie is a charismatic person but she is clearly troubled and an unfit guardian. The sister who craves mainstream acceptance is no shrill caricature of 50s conservatism, the film always stays sympathetic towards her. Everybody has their reasons.

I also love the way the town and it's past are a character in the film, there is a magic of place that is reminiscent of Malick but also the more fantastical places of Powell & Pressburger, where contemporary characters are in the thrall of past or historical events.

This is my favourite film by Forsyth and one of the most undervalued films of the 80s. I'm so glad it's available on Blu-ray, I would have never though that this film will get a BD release.

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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#22 Post by Drucker » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:17 pm

A few years ago I watched Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen and set out to write an essay about the struggles of "outsider" characters in great films. I never put it to paper and I regret it now, but I can certainly say that I would have lumped Sylvie in with the notions I had at the time. There is so much going on with her character that is fascinating, most importantly: the family lineage. One daughter clearly sees the writing on the wall and the necessity to escape a family which is totally undependable and absolutely nuts. Ruth, perhaps the next generation of doomed member of this clan, is prepared and drawn to this outsider status and destiny. Of all the dynamics at work in this film, that was the most interesting to me. The other thought, more in line with what I wanted to write at the time, is the punishment Sylvie gets by trying to fit in and break her outsider status. There's no right way for her to be, either in or out of society and she is forced to flee and remain solitary.

An absolutely amazing film. Count me in as a huge fan and grateful to Indicator for introducing this one to me.

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Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#23 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon May 14, 2018 9:54 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, May 28th.

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

This thread is not spoiler free. This is a discussion thread; you should expect plot points of the individual films under discussion to be discussed openly. See: spoiler rules.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.

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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#24 Post by Lost Highway » Fri May 18, 2018 11:54 am

I rewatched this recently when the Blu-ray came out. Everytime I watch Housekeeping, I fall more in love with it.

Is it wrong to say that this doesn’t feel like a movie made by a man ? It’s just that i can’t say that about many films written and directed by men. There are many films by men with great understanding of their female protagonists, but the three female characters here are so subtly rendered.

The film never gives you the celebration of the non-conformist, inspirational outsider you expect at the beginning. I showed the film to a group of friends and they still ended up interpreting the film that way, possibly because of its moments of comedy, because Christine Lahti is charismatic and often charming and maybe because that’s a narrative which has become such a cliche for that type of film. The more the film goes on, the less certain one becomes whether Sylvie is a fit guardian to her nieces. The authority figures and upstanding members of the community who look in on them and who worry about the girls, genuinely care and they have a point. In a lesser movie they would be stuffy busybodies to be made fun of. Sylvie‘s irresponsible behavior escalates and her last act is reckless and possibly condemns her and Ruth to a life of homelessness.

The two young actresses who play the girls are fantastic and Sara Walker who plays the gangly. introverted Ruth quietly breaks my heart everytime I watch the film. She clearly sees a role model in Sylvie because neither conform to the idea of what a woman should be like at the time the film is set (the early 60s ?, it’s not specified in the novel) But the film also understands why Lucille, who does fit in, wants to conform and it doesn’t condemn her for it.

I love the melancholy of the film and how a past train catastrophe still haunts that town like a ghost. The moment when Sylvie shows Ruth her favourite place, a shimmering clearing in a forest of frost covered trees, reminds me of one of me favourite movie moments, Irena Christmas present to Amy in Curse of the Cat People.

When people talk of American movies of the 80s, this one never comes up. I’d count it among the best of that decade. The poster and trailer give a wrong impression of the film. It looks like a quirky comedy but Housekeeping is a lot more dark and delicate.
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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#25 Post by swo17 » Fri May 18, 2018 12:21 pm

Lost Highway wrote:Is it wrong to say that this doesn’t feel like a movie made by a man ? It’s just that i can’t say that about many films written and directed by men. There are many films by men with great understanding of their female protagonists, but the three female characters here are so subtly rendered here.
Well it was co-written by a woman.

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