That Cold Day in the Park: Blu-ray

Sunday, 19 June 2016 23:00 Written by 

That Cold Day in the Park - out now in a combo Blu-ray and DVD packFrances Austin is a 30-something spinster who lives on her own in a luxurious Vancouver apartment. She socialises with folks much older than her but remains lonely. One day Frances spies a mute, adolescent boy huddled against the cold and rain in the local park. She takes pity on him and invites him home to dry off, have a warm bath and a meal. The teenager accepts her generosity but his identity remains a mystery despite her best efforts to get him to open up.

The boy (Michael Burns – Wagon Train) stays the night and on through the next day. Frances (Sandy Dennis – “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) becomes increasingly infatuated with him, splashing out on a new set of clothes and giving him the run of her home, a truly bizarre state of affairs involving complete strangers. Directed by Robert Altman (“M*A*S*H”, “The Player”), this disturbing psychological thriller gets under your skin.

“That Cold Day” is a masterful exercise in setting up a simple but disconcerting premise, and then slowly tightening its grip on the viewer to almost unbearable levels. The story feels unreal but the two central characters are performed so wonderfully by Dennis and Burns that the Twilight Zone-like drama compels you to keep watching.

Dennis is truly remarkable, imbuing Frances with a clammy, neurotic personality that is both sweet and alarming. It quickly becomes evident that she is besotted by the boy, wanting to take care of him like an adopted, semi-grown up son but also like a lover. The age and apparent maturity gap is sufficient to make the attraction feel uncomfortable.

Burns conveys a delightful, wide-eyed and naïve charm as the boy, like a young man who was suspended in animation as a child but continued to grow to the age of 19 before being woken up. To say more about his performance would reveal spoilers, but suffice to say there is more to it than meets the eye.

Altman’s direction is excellent, particularly in the way it makes the audience feel like voyeurs a lot of the time. He uses devices like focusing on the characters’ shadows, silhouetted outlines and warped visages seen through textured windows to illustrate our lack of understanding for who these people are and how messed up they appear to be.

The discordant soundtrack helps to build the sense of unease; it is not entirely subtle but it does the job.

Fans of movies like “The Graduate” and “Play Misty for Me” will almost certainly get a kick out of this. I found it emotionally troubling and in this age of Internet dating, perhaps the tale of strangers coming together is not as far-fetched as it might have been in the late 1960s.

Special features include:

  • New high-definition master
  • Uncompressed audio on the Blu-ray
  • New video interview with critic and filmmaker David Thompson, editor of Altman on Altman
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired
  • A booklet featuring new writing and archival images

The HD picture is pretty good, perhaps not as razor-sharp as some of the previous Eureka releases, but the low or soft lighting in many of the scenes does not result in lost detail.

“That Cold Day in the Park” (1969) is out now on dual-format DVD and Blu-ray (two discs), courtesy of Eureka. The main feature has a running time of 113 minutes approx., carries an '15' certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

 

 

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