"In highschool I came across a poem called The Projectionist's Nightmare, I don't recall the name of the poet but the poem's message is still very much with me. It described a wayward bird inside a movie theatre, where an audience was watching two poeple "being nice to each other". The bird crashes into the screen, its blood slithering onto the image, the spell is broken, the fantasy dispelled and the audience screams. Hector Babenco had already made this poem in substance in 1985s Kiss Of A Spider Woman where his lead character, a prisoner, escaped his miserable surroundings through memories and fantasies of a propaganda film. Two years later Bebanco would make Ironweed, and his lead character Frances Phelan (Jack Nicholson) is well past the dreaming stage, the only fantasies he has are of ghosts from his past. Ironweed is a film many people would find slow. Nothing much happens and the characters don't change. The stark grim atmosphere and the dead end conditions unrelenting. There is no hope in the story of Frances Phelan. He has abandoned his family 22 years ago after dropping his 13 year old baby to its death. The film starts with him visiting his dead baby's grave for the first time, and then follows him around as he joins his companion Helen Archer (Meryl Streep) and his friend of sorts Rudy (Tom Waits). All three of them are alcoholics, and we watch as they wade through the alleys of Albany 1938 looking for a place to sleep . They get robbed, they see a homeless prostitute from Alaska die of cold and they get into fights. But there is no emotional release in their anger or in their better moments. You'd expect there to be emancipated joy when Streep sings in a bar in front of a full house, or rage when a bunch of kids rob them of all their money. But Streep is quickly back to her depression, and Nicholson shrugs off the robbery. All the characters in Ironweed are infact dead, they live off their memories, do what they have to do to stay alive as they await their physical death. Meanwhile there are quietly affecting scenes of closure as Nicholson visits his abandoned family and Streep remember her "musical days". Nicholson's and Streep's Oscar nominated performance are among their best. Babenco holds his camera on his characters for a long time, as if waiting for them to crack. They never do because Ironweed is not angry, it doesn't have an agenda, it is just mournful. As I watched it for the first time tonight I became aware that the episodic cyclic nature of the film develops in the end to a complete whole. When the end credits roll you feel like you were standing too close to a painting, and now for the first time you are far enough to see it for the sad beautiful image it is. The famed author John Fowles said that we are all poets but few of us can write it. From the rhetorical dialogue of these hobos, the ugly poverty they endure, the dark allyways they inhabit and the ghosts that haunt them, Ironweed emerges as a sad and deeply affecting poem."
Breathtakingly sad & beautiful
inframan | the lower depths | 02/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Where do you start with a movie like this? The cinematography & art direction are stunning. Every single shot, every frame, is a Hopperesque masterpiece: colors, lighting, composition. It grabs you way way deep inside. The writing is of a rare pureness: concentrated & intense & head-spining. The excellent writer William Kennedy wrote the screenplay from his Pulitzer prize-winning masterpiece of a novel. You can't get better than that. And then the acting. What acting! Where to start? Tom Waits who sings even when he acts. Jack Nicholson always reaching - out & deep inside - tremendous! Never better. And the exquisitely divine (sorry, can't help it) Meryl Streep: beautiful, heartwrenching, pathetic, laughable, lovable & real. The part of a lifetime, no not just a lifetime, the part of an entire movie-making era. Lastly the direction by the masterful Hector Babenco. Thank you Snr. Babenco. You belong in the pantheon with Von Stroheim, Renoir, Fellini. Thank you. So why has this film fallen into the void of video oblivion? I guess because it's an honest no melodramatics or histrionics depiction of bums - real people who represent the alternative lives that all of us could be leading but would really prefer never be reminded of."
Non-OAR Release! Product Details are Correct!
M. Orlando | 02/22/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This film has been released for the first time on DVD in a horrid Full Screen only version. Not sure why, but I thought the days of non-original aspect ratio releases were over. Apparently not."
This Title Is NOT Pan And Scan
Butch Johnson | Gaithersburg, MD | 02/28/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Before everyone freaks out about the aspect ratio, be aware that this film was shot flat and hard matted at 1.85:1 for its theatrical run (I know because I was a projectionist who ran it back in '87). In a nutshell, this means that it was shot at 1.33:1 and then shown with an aperture plate cutting off the top and bottom so it fit the theatre screen.
The version on this DVD is full frame. There are doubtlessly small bits of the sides cut off, but much more is shown at the top and bottom. Is this the way the director intended it to be seen? I don't know (some directors such as Kubrick preferred full frame). I'd be happier knowing what Hector Babenco's thoughts were on the release, but at least the film's not a 2.35:1 pic that really IS pan and scan and missing lots of peripheral info.
And more importantly, I'm happy to have the damn film in ANY ratio on DVD finally."
A VERY GOOD MOVIE
M. R. Sheffield | Herkimer, NY | 06/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No, this is not a typical Nicholson project, but it's the better for that. I mean -- "About Schmidt" or "Ironweed" -- the former is good, the latter nearly great. The fact that Nicholson is playing so off-character makes this a role well worth seeing him in. Streep is good, Tom Waits is GREAT as Rudy. The film is not for depressives, however. PLEASE RELEASE THIS IMPORTANT FILM IN DVD FORMAT!! With all the toppings, please."