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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 0:49)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, German, Hebrew, Czech, Hungarian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish, Bulgarian

    O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 102 mins . M15+ . PAL


    The Cohen brothers are a rare Hollywood breed. With their intelligent scripts and A-list casts, they walk that intangible line between art house and mainstream while being praised from both sides of the fence. From the brilliant ‘Fargo’, to the under-rated ‘The Big Lebowski’, and the bizarre ‘Barton Fink’ , the results of their vision may not always be perfect, but they are always their own. Surprising at every turn, their varied projects prove that story, performance and cinematography are still the heart of great cinema.

    The multi-award winning ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’, the Cohen’s 8th film, is no exception. A rambling road-movie, part musical, part screw-ball comedy, part fantasy, it follows the adventures of three escaped prisoners on a journey across Mississippi during the depression. Their leader, the hair-obsessed con-man Ulysses Everrit McGill (George Clooney), drags his two moronic companions, the short-tempered hillbilly Pete (John Turturro) and the kind-hearted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) on a quest to seek his stash of ill-gotten gains.

    "I ‘spose it’d be the acme of foolishness to inquire if you have a hair net.."

    Based loosely on the classic poem ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer (quite possibly the original road-movie/poem/tale/whatever), our dim-witted adventurers blunder into all manner of misshap. They become old-timey radio stars, aid and abet a famous bank robber, intersect a hapless political campaign, stumble upon a Klan meeting, are set upon by a violent, bible-selling cyclops and encounter sigh-reens by a river who tempt them sorely. Pete is almost turned into a horney-toad. To tell you any more would ruin the adventure.

    At all times, O Brother’s Academy Award nominated script is sharp and the satire biting; we would expect nothing less. Compared to some of their previous works, it's a light film - not the vicious, dark humour of such previous outings as ‘Fargo’ or ‘Miller’s Crossing’. It rambles from hillarious situation to hillarious situation with loads of character development thrown in. There‘s never a dull moment.

    Once again the brothers' exercise their sharp eye for casting, with the three leads providing superb performances. George Clooney, sporting a pencil-thin moustache and hair plastered down with Dapper Dan pomade, is fantastic as the fast-talking Ulysses Everrit and his hillarious antics were honoured with a well deserved Golden Globe (Best Actor comedy/musical). With his vocabulary always two seconds ahead of his intellect, the wordy Ulysses makes a perfect protagonist for the Coens. Ever since ‘From Dusk ‘til Dawn’ I’ve been waiting for another memorable performance from Clooney, and finally he delivers.

    As always John Turturro turns in a fine performance as Pete. Seemingly there is no role Turturro can’t handle. However, it is the newcomer Tim Blake Nelson that is the real surprise. A director and friend of the Cohens, Blake Nelson steals many a scene as the kind-hearted moron Delmar. Along the way, we are also treated to a fine supporting cast of Cohen regulars including Holly Hunter and John Goodman.

    So what does all this virtuosity add up to? That is often the question with the Coens' enterprises, and O’ Brother has again divided critics. The title, coming from the film-within-a-film of Preston Sturges’ 1942 classic screw-ball comedy ‘Sullivan’s Travels’, gives us some idea. Sturges was known for his witty dialogue, biting satire, and eye-opening social commentary. Sound familiar? In fact, O Brother is just the kind of film Sturges might well have made. Thematically O Brother is a no-brainer - it’s a light and charming excursion into screwball madness. But it’s the most sharp and intelligent screw-ball madness you’ll ever see.


    The anamorphic transfer of ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film itself is a visual feast sporting amazing cinematography (Roger Deakins received an Academy Award nomination for his efforts) and some stunning locations. There is only one way to describe the transfer – beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

    The image is clear and sharp, and there is no obvious edge enhancement. There are many scenes shot at night – plenty of time to enjoy the deep blacks and fantastic shadow depth. Throughout the film the colours have been washed out and muted – the greens almost completely removed to create a deep sepia tone. The colouring adds greatly to the tone of the film, infusing the movie with the antique look of the 1930s. The image also has that over exposed feel, perfectly evoking sun drenched rural Mississippi. Combined with the sepia tones, this lends the image very high level of contrast – affording exquisite detail.

    If I had to find fault with the transfer I would say that the image is maybe a little too sharp – many instances of aliasing can be seen. I did not find these distracting and are to be expected for a film with such a high level of contrast. There are also two short instances of slight background pixelation. I missed these the first time round.

    The layer change for this dual layer disc is well placed at 0:49 during a significant scene change.


    Several Dolby Digital 5.1 sound tracks are provided, English, German Italian and Spanish. I listened to the complete English soundtrack and portions of the German.

    Like the transfer, there is little fault to find with the sound track. At all times the dialogue is clear and nicely integrated - although the southern drawls are sometimes hard to understand. Audio sync is never a problem.

    Despite this being a character-driven film, the audio mix has a surprisingly large dynamic range, with the subwoofer getting a good work-out throughout. The surrounds are well utilised, creating a wide sound-stage with an impressive level of ambient noise (forest sound-scapes predominate). They also help with the odd piece of directional dialogue or gunshot. There are times when the surrounds are not utilised, most notably during the fugitives recording of their hit song, enclosed in a sound studio.

    The dubbed tracks seem to share the same dynamic range as the English mix; with only the speech track having been altered.

    O’ Brother features a very prominent score courtesy of T-Bone Burnett. Its earthy, blugrass tones really evoke the feeling of the old south. A delightful rendition of ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ by the so-called Soggy Bottom Boys (our three protagonists) provides a nice plot device and a pleasant distraction. When the sigh-reens call with the dulcet tones of ‘Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby’ the effect is thoroughly mesmerising.


    I literally wept when I realised that Universal had not provided one single extra with this release. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. What can you say about that!! I guess ‘low box office turnover’ means a low interest factor. I’m still choked with tears.

    For what it is worth, the menus are simple and static with no soundtrack. They are 16x9 enhanced. Much to my distaste, Universal have continued to utilise their ‘standard’ icon scheme on this disc, lending the menus a garish and amateurish feel.


    Without doubt, ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ is one of the best cinema releases of 2001. I absolutely loved it, laughing constantly (and loudly) throughout. An intelligent script, great performances and superb cinematography have made it an instant classic, sitting proudly alongside the Cohen’s other recent films. In so far as the movie is concerned Universal have done a fantastic job, providing a crystal clear transfer and an impressive sound mix. Pity about the extras.

    This disc is definitely highly recommended viewing. If you can overlook the lack of extras (and you will after a single viewing) then the DVD is definitely worthy of your collection.

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      And I quote...
    "An intelligent script, great performances and superb cinematography make this an instant classic. "
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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