'Kansas City: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Dermot Mulroney, Steve Buscemi, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1996) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Blondie O Hara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) resorts to desperate measures when her low-level hood husband Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) gets caught trying to steal from Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), a local crime boss operating out of jazz haunt The Hey-Hey Club.
Out on a limb, Blondie kidnaps laudanum-addled socialite Carolyn (Miranda Richardson), hoping her influential politician husband can pull the right strings and get Johnny out of Seldom Seen's clutches.
Blu-ray Verdict: Robert Altman, perhaps one of the most innovative directors, working in Hollywood pays homage to his home town: Kansas City.
Mr. Altman recreates a long gone era that he probably didn't know that well, being only a child at the time the action takes place. It seems as though the allure of the period made a vivid mark in the director's mind, as he takes us, with this film, for a long over due visit.
Make no mistake, this is not another 'Nashville', quite the contrary. The only similarity is the title that reflects a city name. As written by the director and Frank Barhydt, the film succeeds in creating the atmosphere, but as far as the story line goes, it has the quality to disorient, even the most avid of Mr. Altman's fans.
What 'Kansas City' lacks in story line, it makes up with the glorious music that serves as compensation with the thinness of the material one sees on the screen. The music is the best excuse to watch the movie that showcases an excellent group of musicians playing heavenly in between the action.
Mr. Altman's choice of Jennifer Jason Leigh as Blondie, is probably what's wrong with the film. This actress mumbles her lines, plays Blondie as strident woman and manages to derail the film.
On the other hand, Miranda Richardson's Carolyn Stilton gives her one of the best roles in her career. Ms. Richardson appears to be on a cloud most of the time because of her opium addiction. She makes us care for her portrayal of this society woman that needs all the help she can get.
Having it all, she can't cope with being married to a cold man that couldn't care less about her. Where other lonely wives resort to drinking, Mrs. Stilton gets away from it all with drugs.
Harry Belafonte plays the local gangster in charge of illegal gambling that evidently was prevalent in the city. His Seldom Seen character (yes, that's actually his character name!) is at times inaudible by the way he throws his lines.
Sometimes we have to strain our ears in order to hear what he is saying. Mr. Belafonte is a fine actor. As far as Dermot Mulroney and Steve Buscemi are concerned, they have not much to play in the movie to make us care for them. The supporting roles are good.
In spite of this movie not being one of Robert Altman's best, it presents a fine opportunity to absorb the atmosphere and the music of the era, oh, and all that jazz! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary by director Robert Altman
Newly filmed appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew
Gare, Trains et Déraillement, a 2007 visual essay by French critic Luc Lagier, plus short introduction to the film narrated by Lagier
Robert Altman Goes to the Heart of America and Kansas City: The Music, two 1996 promotional featurettes including interviews with cast and crew
Electronic press kit interviews with Altman, Leigh, Richardson, Belafonte and musician Joshua Redman, plus behind-the-scenes footage
Four theatrical trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors booklet featuring new writing by Dr Nicolas Pillai, original press kit notes and an excerpt from Altman on Altman
'Kansas City: Special Edition' Blu-ray Purchase Link