This sensual, remarkably observed, beautifully acted wonder is the breakout feature from British writer-director-editor Andrew Haigh. Rarely has a film been as honest about sexuality—in both depiction and discussion—as this tale of a one-night stand that develops into a weekend-long idyll for two very different young men (exciting screen newcomers Tom Cullen and Chris New) in the English Midlands. It’s an emotionally naked film that’s at once an invaluable snapshot of the complexities of contemporary gay living and a universally resonant portrait of a love affair.
Andrew Haigh’s Weekend makes its home video debut from Criterion, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc in a 1080p/24hz transfer.
Shot primarily using a Canon 5D digital camera the film is entirely digital and according to the notes the film was transferred to this Blu-ray straight from the digital copy. There are of course no “print” issues since it has never touched film, but there are some shortcomings present because of the equipment used.
A colourful film, the transfer has no issues delivering them, with bright vibrant reds and some wonderful greens. The image is sharp and detail is decent but limited, and some darker scenes outside or in a club are little murky and softer around the edges. Shimmering is a fairly common problem throughout when any tight lines are onscreen, and I was surprised by the amount of banding that could occur, most noticeable during some of the club scenes. The image also looks a little noisy, possibly compression inherent in the source.
Overall it’s bright and pleasing if a little problematic. My feeling is that the problems are simply a limitation of the equipment used and not a problem with the transfer itself.
The disc comes with a decent if unspectacular 2.0 DTS-HD MA surround track. My biggest problem was some of the dialogue sounded to be recorded a little low so I had to crank the volume a tad. Otherwise it’s fine if with very few surprises, focusing everything primarily to the fronts. The rears present some ambient noises and also kick in to full gear in both a club and party scene, but otherwise get very little use. It’s not spectacular but is suiting to the quiet and reflective nature of the film.
Criterion includes some excellent supplements on the making of the film starting with a 30-minute feature called Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, which gathers together interviews with Haigh, director of photography Ula Pontikos, producer Tristan Goligher, and actors Tom Cullen and Chris New. The piece looks at how the film came to be from its initial funding to eventual release at SXSW. It goes over a lot of the things that had to be considered while putting the production together, like whether the sexuality of the actors should be considered (apparently not since Cullen is straight) and who would be best to actually shoot the film, Haigh feeling either a woman or gay man would suit best in filming his two characters best. The actors and Haigh talk about building the characters, which was made easier by the fact they insanely shot the film in chronological order, and Pontikos talks about the look of the film. Haigh also talks a lot about how he was intent on making the film as universal as possible, with no interest in being classified as a “gay director”. This is part of the reason why the film premiered at SXSW to as wide an audience as possible for the indie project, and that move more than likely paid off. Haigh also discusses some of his frustrations about what is expected from both the straight and gay audience when you make a film about gay characters, neither expectations helping in trying to make as realistic or as true a film as possible. Not surprisingly it’s your standard talking-heads documentary but it’s incredibly engaging and insightful.
There’s a short 6-minute interview with Haigh on the film’s sex scenes. Haigh talks about the decision to not show the first encounter simply because he was afraid many would see it as just a way to titillate and he wanted the sex scenes to actually help in expanding on the characters. He instead chose to have the two talk about their first encounter because that would tell the audience far more about the characters and then cause the audience to picture the night themselves. He then explains how each sex scene after is there to show where the two are in their relationship. Haigh is also a bit amused by how straight people seem confused about one sequence where the two are having sex looking at each other and he laughs about it. Admittedly I was confused as well but Haigh ultimately blames it on the fact that it’s never really been addressed in the movies before.
There’s 10-minutes worth of audition footage presenting both New and Cullen performing two sequences from the film, including the one where Glen and Russell talk about coming out and then another where Glen tells Russell he’s going to be leaving for America. Each audition is followed by the actual scene and you can see the little subtleties that had been added. There’s also over 8-minute’s worth of footage shot by Chris New (or others who grabbed the camera) chronicling the making of the film. We get some general on set footage and then footage from the goodbye party sequence and then more from the fair.
An interesting inclusion is a visual essay about the photography company Quinnford + Scout, whose photos influenced Haigh and who were also hired to do on-set photos. This 7-minute piece presents a slide show of samples of the team’s striking and very personal work followed by photographs taken on set, most of which has been used in some manner in the Blu-ray’s packaging and booklet artwork. While it plays the two talk briefly about how they came to work together and go over their work a little bit. They also talk about the awkwardness of photographing others while on the set of Weekend. It’s hard to hear them so Criterion has provided subtitles.
Two short films are next provided, both made by Haigh. First is the 2003 6-minute piece entitled Cahuenga Blvd., which shares a very similar theme to Weekend. In this one a young boy has a brief but intense love affair with a young woman who is returning to Austria. It’s short but Haigh uses framing and editing to intensify the feelings and some of the techniques do show up in Weekend. It’s incredibly rough, shot in poor SD video, but it’s effective.
More polished is his 2009 short Five Miles Out, based on a short story by Sarah Tierney, and running 18-minutes. The film focuses on a young girl who is sent to live with her cousins while her parents deal with her anorexic sister at home. While there she meets a young boy who is determined to swim through a cavern despite the dangers. Far more professional (2-minutes of it is devoted to cast and crew credits, where the previous film could stick everyone on one screen) and shot in scope it shows Haigh’s growth and improved use of the camera.
The disc then closes with the not-completely-awful theatrical trailer for North America. The included booklet then includes a strong essay by Dennis Lim.
I’m sort of fascinated by the use of the Canon 5D camera so I was a little disappointed that there was next to no mention on what it was like to film with it, a similar disappointment I had with Criterion’s release of Tiny Furniture. Past that, though, I found the supplements very in-depth on the making of the film and all of them are certainly worthwhile in going through.
Limitations from the equipment used hamper the presentation a bit, but I’m sure what we get is about as true to the source as one can expect. But Criterion has added on some impressive supplements that really delve deep into the making of the film. For those looking to own the film the disc comes highly recommended.