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City Island

May 11th, 2011 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

I recently watched the film City Island on DVD, another goodie from Amazon’s Vine programme.   One of the real pleasures of the scheme is that it leads me to films, books or music I might otherwise have never heard of but which end up giving me much more pleasure than ones I have been eagerly anticipating.   Sometimes this is down to having no weight of expectations to fail to live up to , and sometimes it is just because they are bloody good.  Like this DVD.

More ravings about it below the fold…

This film must be one of the best-kept secrets of recent years. I had never heard of it, nor had my wife or anybody we have asked about it, but it deserves to be much better know because it is a pure pleasure to watch.

It is a gentle farce by a very good ensemble cast, led by Andy Garcia who generated quite a few out-loud laughs while playing it totally straight.  The real star of the piece may well be the location – a small fishing village in the Bronx, which sounds like a flight of fancy but turns out to be a real place.

With no prior knowledge of the film I was just hoping not to be bored, but quickly found myself completely hooked on the characters and situations, and I was not alone.  My wife sometimes just tolerates the films I watch, but with this one she watched it a second time the very next day with our daughter.

I won’t give examples of what I found so appealing: part of the appeal was the surprising little quirks and I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprises for anyone.  I think it struck the right balance between being weird and being plausible.

The extras are quite watchable too.  There is a feature called Dinner with the Rizzos which is the cast (minus the son) gathered round a table with the producer chatting about the filming and the location informally.  Such features are generally full of hyperbole about the film and cast, but this seems more genuine: the cast do seem to fit well together.  That might be because of the way they worked, with a fair bit of improvisation on-set, although having Andy Garcia’s daughter play his daughter must have helped.

The second feature is the now-familiar ‘deleted scenes’ – about thirty minutes’ worth.  Some of these are alternate takes of scenes in the film, and it ends with a very interesting sequence.  In the film there are a couple of pivotal meal scenes, and here we see several versions of them, each slightly different and illustrating the amount of improvisation going on.  The actor playing the teenage son was instructed to try and irritate and disrupt the others – be a teenage boy in other words – and you can see how well he was following his brief.  Showing just the footage from one camera shows you the bits he was doing when he would have been off-screen.

I would recommend this to anybody.  I’m sure it will bear repeat viewings so it is one to consider for buying as well as for renting, and the next time I go to New York I will be very tempted to headout to City Island itself.

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