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Saturday, February 18, 2017

'Nocturnal Animals' DVD/BD: Director/Designer Tom Ford Haute Couture Noir

The numerous notable aspects of the 2016 psychological thriller "Nocturnal Animals," which Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing on Blu-ray/DVD/VOD on February 28 2017, create a challenge regarding where to begin discussing this film. This sense relates to "Nocturnal" being the follow-up film by acclaimed fashion designer Tom Ford, whose first effort behind a movie camera is the 2009 drama "A Single Man." The glamorous clothes and highly stylized cinematography, which looks spectacular in Blu-ray, make good use of the design skills of Ford.

On a larger level, "Nocturnal" is another great reminder that Universal outshines Warner in offering fare that extends beyond catering to teen boys and/or the lowest common denominator. This film evokes good thoughts of the Universal (Unreal TV reviewed) 2015 Jason Bateman psychological thriller "The Gift," which finds the corporate-ladder climbing character that Bateman plays terrorized by a former high school classmate to whom Bateman was not so nice back in the day. These films are great homages to the '80s-style thrillers that obviously influence them.

The by-the-numbers analysis of "Nocturnal" is that is has an astounding 109 nominations (including a 2017 Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor) and 12 wins. The wins include a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays a menacing big bad.

The tangled web that Ford weaves without practicing to deceive centers around art world luminary Susan Morrow, whom all-grown-up Amy Adams portrays well. She is the ex-wife of novelist Edward Sheffield, who is a great role for good guy with a dark side portrayor Jake Gyllenhaal, and current unhappy trophy wife of a Master of the Universe corporate type.

The following YouTube clip of the "Nocturnal" trailer is light on spoilers and heavy on atmosphere.

The highly stylized opening scenes of Susan at an art exhibit that features grotesque images of an obese woman are the first indications that a modern artist is at the helm of the project. Susan soon getting an advance copy of the titular novel by Edward is the first sense that we are in for an homage to the noir of the '80s.

The bulk of the film then depicts the novel, which centers around barely fictionalized versions of Susan and her current family having a "Deliverance" style encounter with a trio of rednecks on a dark and deserted Texas road. This story heats up as hubby #2 first faces scrutiny and scorn regarding the event and then considers his options when it seems that the justice system is not going to be effective. All of this occurs in interaction with old-style justice Texas lawman Bobby Andes, the portrayal of whom earns Michael Shannon  the aforementioned Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

The mixed emotions regarding receiving written proof of the warped mind of her ex-husband at a time that the honeymoon is long over regarding her current marriage predictably stirs up complex emotions in Susan. These, in turn, prompt flashbacks regarding her courtship with (and marriage to) Edward. A reveal regarding a traumatic event near the end of that relationship puts much of the film in perspective. This is not to mention the full significance regarding the title that Edward chooses for his outwardly revenge-fantasy (redemption?) tome.

The manner in which Ford presents the oft-told tale of city folks paying the price for being in the wrong rural place at the wrong time adds the depth that contributes to the more-than-100 nominations for "Nocturnal." He gives us a glimpse at the folks who create those violence and class-oriented images. Edward has good reason to resent the family of Susan specifically and the "haves" generally. Further, his status as a previously published author provides him an outlet for those feelings that does not involve actual mayhem.

For her part, Susan receives a good chance to curl up with a good book and think about what she has done, The rest of us merely are secondary or even more minor characters in her world,

The bonus features in the DVD/Blu-ray release includes shorts on Ford himself and the aforementioned style of "Nocturnal."

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Nocturnal" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.