FAMILY PORTRAITS A TRILOGY OF AMERICA
Directed & Written by Douglas Buck
Produced by Rita Romagniono, Douglas Buck & Frank Cento
Cast: Nicca Ray, Gary Betsworth, Jared Barsky, Christine Caleo, Ray Bland, William Stone Mahoney, Sally Conway & David Thornton
1997-1998-2003/23-29-53 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 2.0
Various/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from the A Voice In The Head Production DVD
Independant director Douglas Buck has put together his three infamous short films to give us FAMILY PORTRAITS A TRILOGY OF AMERICA. CUTTING MOMENTS, HOME and PROLOGUE present to us a different look of life in suburban America, a cold, disturbing and moving one.
This is a two disc edition with each short films separated and presented the way their were at the time of their release on the first disc and as one movie, with some changes done, on the second disc. Let's first take a look at the first disc.
In CUTTING MOMENTS (1997, 23 minutes. with Nicca Ray, Gary Betsworth and Jared Barsky) we follow the story of a troubled family who are about to loose their son due to incest coming from the father to the young boy. In the middle is the wife, superbly played by Ray, who tries everything to make things work but fails due to her husband. In the end she becomes one with her body, flesh and blood and perform a gruesome and very graphic art of self-mutilation that will make everyone nervous and cringe!
With a very cold and almost medical approach, Douglas Buck delivered one of the most infamous and wanted short film of the last decade. With fx supervised by genre legend Tom Savini, CUTTING MOMENTS is a slow and disturbing descend into nothingness.
Separated in 12 chapters, CUTTING MOMENTS looks as good as it will ever be. The image has some grain and dust but nothing alarming... it is exactly what you would expect from a low budget but nicely shot film. Still this is a million time better then my old VHS which i've watched at least a hundred times. Like all of Buck's shorts, CUTTING MOMENTS is a very quiet film but the audio is clear and crisp. We get a commentary track with Douglas Buck and one with author and critic Douglas E. Winter. Buck goes into all of the details of the making of his most famous piece of celluloid. Its there that I first heard about the little changes done in the FAMILY PORTRAITS A TRILOGY OF AMERICA feature version... the cutting of the breast scene has been cut a few seconds. After first watching CUTTING MOMENTS in 1998 just before HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER 2 at the Fantasia Film Festival and talking with Douglas many times through the years, it was great to hear what he really thinks about CM. Winter gives an alternate and also interesting view on the short.
In HOME (1998, 29 minutes. with Gary Betsworth, Christine Caleo and Ray Bland) Gary Betsworth is back as a father. No this ain't a sequel to CUTTING MOMENTS but more of a retelling of some of the elements from it. Raised in a very strick and religious family, the father is soon feeling that he is loosing control of his own wife and daughter... so in the name of God he slaughters his family.
While not as graphic as CUTTING MOMENTS, HOME also has that very uncomfortable and nearly Cronenberg-esque surgical feel. Also separated in 12 chapters, HOME looks and sounds just as good as CUTTING MOMENTS. Douglas Buck gives another very good commentary track about this rather less succesful short. Surprisingly, he admits that HOME is the weak link of the three and that pretty much everyone was disapointed with it because they expected over the top and gut-wrenching gore like in CUTTING MOMENTS. Personally I like HOME, yeah I would have loved to see some more but this is more of a character study and a very claustrophobic one. The ending with the father who just slaughtered his family, walking on the porch and sitting down covered in blood telling how great the day is stuck in my mind for days when I first saw it years ago.
In PROLOGUE (2003, 53 minutes. with William Stone Mahoney, Sally Conway and David Thornton) a young woman, the beautiful and angel-like Sally Conway, returns home after being brutally attacked and loosing her arms a year ago. We soon find out that the killer is a rather quiet but demented old man (Mahoney) who tries to recreate his weird and explicit painting and scultures in real life. In the end, the wheelchair-bound heroine finds her assailant but things don't go as we though it would, this is a Douglas Buck film after all.
Separated in 24 chapters, PROLOGUE explore more of the themes found in HOME and CUTTING MOMENTS. Out of the three, PROLOGUE is the most clever and intelligent of the three. I think it would have worked even more as a feature film and while there aren't any blood or gore in this one either, the ending is so harrowing that you can't help but to feel disturbed and sadden by it. Look for a cameo by Lloyd Kaufman of Troma, as the town's mayor, and Larry Fessenden, director of HABIT and WENDIGO, as a postal worker. PROLOGUE is presented in its original 1.77:1 aspect ratio. The image looks pretty good with rich, deep and solid blacks, hardly no compression and finally giving justice to the great cinematography of Buck's films. And like the previous two, the audio is rather quiet but clear and crisp. Once again, Douglas' commentary track goes into all the little details of the making of the film. The other commentary is a rather quiet one and not as interesting unfortunately.
On the second disc we find all three shorts films but together and slightly edited to 105 minutes feature as FAMILY PORTRAITS A TRILOGY OF AMERICA. The movie opens with a new title. The second disc is also host of several extras the first one being the director's first student short, AFTER ALL. This 17 minutes, shot on 16mm black & white movie from 1994 looks like a student movie but still has that weird and uncomfortable feeling that we came to know from Buck. There are trailers for CUTTING MOMENTS, trailer and teaser for HOME, trailer for PROLOGUE and one for the trilogy. We also get a deleted scene with the homeless mother and daughter from PROLOGUE. There's a 7 minutes behind the scene featurette on CUTTING MOMENTS in which we see how the fx were created, and a glimpse of Tom Savini. The image is a little too dark but gives the whole thing a very creepy and eerie feel. Also there's a 17 minutes behind the scenes featurette on PROLOGUE which give us a look at the shooting, rehearshal, the crew having fun and Larry Fessenden.
Certainly one of the coolest feature is the Screenplays of both HOME and PROLOGUE. We also gets still gallery for each shorts. All the menus are static and the main ones feature background music. There's a four pages booklet with interesting liner notes on Douglas and his films plus the chapters stop on the backside. The discs come in a keep case. I really like the artwork, very nice and stylish in a Criterion way. This is without a doubt one of the most important independant release of the year, get it!
This Film Features:
Review by Kim Dubuisson. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©
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