118 Oleanna

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MichaelB
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118 Oleanna

#1 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jun 04, 2018 9:12 am

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OLEANNA
(David Mamet, 1994)
Release date: 20 August 2018
Limited Blu-ray Edition (World Blu-ray premiere)

Based on his own controversial and incendiary stage play about a young college student who accuses her much older professor of sexual harassment, David Mamet’s riveting drama features two grandstand performances from leads William H Macy (Fargo, Magnolia) and Debra Eisenstadt. Now more relevant and provocative than ever, Oleanna is both a reaction against the plague of political correctness, and a powerful, yet teasingly ambiguous, plea for tolerance between the sexes.

INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster
• Original stereo audio
• Power Play (2018, 18 mins): new and exclusive interview with award-winning actor William H Macy who recalls working with David Mamet on the controversial stage and screen versions of Oleanna
• The Understudy (2018, 11 mins): new and exclusive interview with actor and director Debra Eistenstadt who discusses her role and the experience of working with Mamet and Macy
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: promotional photography and publicity material
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by Rebecca Nicole Williams, an examination of the controversy surrounding the play and the film, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
• World premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition of 3,000 copies

#PHILTD118
BBFC cert: 15
REGION FREE
EAN: 5037899071748

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domino harvey
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Re: 118 Oleanna

#2 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:07 am

Sadly, this is the only bad film David Mamet ever directed and it's the one to now get the Indicator treatment. I know it's a timely film, so I get it, but man alive does Mamet wreck his own masterpiece of a play. Maybe there's footage of the original run with Rebecca Pidgeon that can be included, to wash the taste of whoever replaced her in this mess-- inexplicable that the one time Mamet unquestionably should have cast his wife (who originated the part on stage), he didn't and what's worse, replaced her with an actress that fails to plausibly manipulate the audience onto her side.

Hopefully the extras justify picking this up, but one hopes Indicator has their eyes set on a box of Mamet's Sony titles (Things Change, the Spanish Prisoner, the Winslow Boy, and I guess Redbelt too)

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#3 Post by beamish14 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 12:14 pm

I've always been very partial to this one. Macy is terrific, and I've never had much of a problem with Eisenberg in the female lead. The MGM DVD looks awful, and seeing this in its OAR for the first time ever will be a real treat. Some may point to this work as the first overt expression of Mamet's horrible, reactionary politics, but I think it's more nuanced and clever to make any kind of grand ideological statement. Like his later play Race, it's punctuated with a real sadness that permeates throughout the rage.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#4 Post by M Sanderson » Tue Jun 05, 2018 2:21 pm

Can’t wait. I like Mamet as a director and hope for more afterward.

There’s so few Mamet on Blu ray just as there’s so little Pinter.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#5 Post by Colpeper » Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:20 am

I count myself fortunate to have seen the original London stage production, directed by Harold Pinter and still with its original cast of David Suchet as John and Lia Williams as Carol, when it transferred from the Royal Court to the Duke Of York's in autumn 1993.

The remarkable thing about that production was that Pinter had persuaded Mamet to allow use of Mamet's original ending, which the author had abandoned between the initial run in Cambridge, Massachusetts and its off-Broadway premiere later in 1992.

The play had arrived from New York with such a reputation, akin, some suggested, to melodrama or, I would have said based on the reports at the time, some kind of stunt polemic, that I was wary of it and only chose to go on the day because it seemed an easier sell to the friends I went with.

In the popular imagination, according to the play's caricatured notoriety, we 3 young, conservative, males might have been expected to side vocally with the male character. However, the performance we saw that afternoon astonishingly managed to balance our sympathies so finely between the 2 protagonists that we were convinced Mamet was not aiming for the polarization many had talked about. Obviously, he did plan an uncomfortable time for the audience (and the performers), but there were no cheers, shouts nor pantomime boos.

Only 1 line produced a single audible gasp (not from us)
SpoilerShow
Carol: I saw you, Professor. For two semesters sit there, stand there and exploit our, as you thought, “paternal prerogative,” and what is that but rape; I swear to God.
This was a Saturday matinee in October and maybe there was just an especially reverent crowd in that day, but I doubt it.

While the main credit must go to the actors and Pinter's direction, I felt that it was also the ending which helped cement the surprising recognition of dual sympathies, at the expense of some ambiguity.

The printed programme contained the complete text of the play, but it was the New York version, so evidently even Pinter's powers of persuasion only went so far. In fact, I can't see that the Massachusetts / London version has ever been published.

25 years later, I believe I recall the final line of that original climax, although memory might have failed me,
SpoilerShow
John (reading from the statement which Carol's group has prepared): I have let down the young.
If Pinter was referring to that when he wrote, "The last line seems to me the perfect summation of the play. It's dramatic ice" , then I think he was right.

The following year, in his film version now to be released by Indicator, Mamet reverted to the New York ending (albeit with 1 minor tweak).

To me, that reversion was as disappointing as the casting of Debra Eisenstadt.

Otherwise, I agree with Domino that Eisenstadt was the weak link in the film, although Lia Williams would have been my choice.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#6 Post by All the Best People » Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:39 am

Colpeper, can you let us know what the penultimate's line change was? It's not included in the excerpt of that article available to non-subscribers.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#7 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:48 am

SpoilerShow
Only familiar with the printed version, and I don't have my copy handy to quote exactly, but he calls her a cunt and says he would never touch her, which is followed by the infamous "Yes, that's right" response that ends the play. Not sure if that's any different in the Pinter version
I must confess that I don't like the line Colpeper recalls at all as a replacement for what Mamet settled on, which to me is a precise encapsulation of the very question that drives the play. Great story/recollection of the London perf though!

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#8 Post by Colpeper » Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:35 am

I appreciate that the New York version is a more natural conclusion. In a way, it chimes with the end of the 1st act (which actually raised a laugh in London) and appears to leave nothing more to be said.

The full published text was still there in the Pinter production, but appended with a further verbal exchange culminating in the line I quoted. As with any script, the full impact is in the performance, so maybe you had to be there.

But if you take the academic setting to be crucial, rather than just incidental, then I think the play is just as much about a failure of communication and trust between generations as between the sexes. To a conservative, education is part of Edmund Burke's inter-generational contract (ultimately between the dead, the living and those yet unborn), so that might explain part of why I held John so culpable in Oleanna and why the London ending seemed so ... well, not fair but not unfair.

On a separate note, one addition I really liked in the film is the charming school song "Brief College Days" (Music: Rebecca Pidgeon & Lyrics: David Mamet). Worth buying the disc for that alone.

I should perhaps investigate more of Pidgeon's music career. Recommendations anyone?

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#9 Post by barryconvex » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:59 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:48 am
SpoilerShow
Only familiar with the printed version, and I don't have my copy handy to quote exactly, but he calls her a cunt and says he would never touch her, which is followed by the infamous "Yes, that's right" response that ends the play. Not sure if that's any different in the Pinter version
I must confess that I don't like the line Colpeper recalls at all as a replacement for what Mamet settled on, which to me is a precise encapsulation of the very question that drives the play. Great story/recollection of the London perf though!
In the movie doesn't Macy
SpoilerShow
call her a cunt and then attack her after the "don't call your wife baby" line?
I haven't seen it since 1995 and i'm totally unfamiliar with the the various stage productions but i've only ever identified with Macy's character. If one of the goals of the play is to garner empathy towards Carol's cause then Eisenstadt's performance must be judged as a total failure as i've only ever seen her as a shrew and not completely sane.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#10 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:07 pm

No Mamet participation at all in the announced extras...

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#11 Post by MichaelB » Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:14 am

Much like Albert Brooks and Modern Romance, Mamet is aware of Indicator's release, but he opted not to be involved - I imagine he thinks that the film should speak for itself.

But we were at least able to confirm with him that the correct aspect ratio is 1.66:1 - a bit counter-intuitive given the nationality and era, but if that's what he wants, that's what he's getting.

Final specs announced:

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#12 Post by EddieLarkin » Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:30 am

Does that mean the master provided was wider (1.78:1/1.85:) and it has now had the sides reduced to achieve 1.66:1? Or it was 1.66:1 to start with?

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#13 Post by MichaelB » Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:44 am

We had a choice of two HD masters, one framed at 1.66:1, the other at 16:9, which is why we needed to find out which was correct. We'd normally assume 1.66:1 in such situations, but it was worth checking given that it's quite an unusual ratio for an American production from the mid-1990s.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#14 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:07 pm

Amazon sez this is delayed two weeks to September 3rd

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#15 Post by MichaelB » Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:52 am

domino harvey wrote:Amazon sez this is delayed two weeks to September 3rd
There were manufacturing problems with this and The Odessa File, although not Ministry of Fear or Missing.

I suspect it’s a complete coincidence that these are the only region-free titles that begin with O.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#16 Post by MichaelB » Sat Aug 25, 2018 1:25 pm


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Re: 118 Oleanna

#17 Post by MichaelB » Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:17 pm

A typically lengthy and thoughtful review from CineOutsider.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#18 Post by Slaphappy » Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:15 am

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:07 am
Sadly, this is the only bad film David Mamet ever directed and it's the one to now get the Indicator treatment. I know it's a timely film, so I get it, but man alive does Mamet wreck his own masterpiece of a play. Maybe there's footage of the original run with Rebecca Pidgeon that can be included, to wash the taste of whoever replaced her in this mess-- inexplicable that the one time Mamet unquestionably should have cast his wife (who originated the part on stage), he didn't and what's worse, replaced her with an actress that fails to plausibly manipulate the audience onto her side.
I haven’t seen the play and I just saw the movie for the first time without knowing anything about it except the tagline ”What ever side you take, you’re wrong.” After an hour or so I was kind of baffled about that at which point I was supposed to start siding with Oleanna too. I had to really put my mind into it to figure out her perspective and that made the movie even more intriguing. I picked Oleanna up because I got into thinking about Phil Spector movie and how few actually challenging and risk taking directors there are, so for me it was spot on.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#19 Post by MichaelB » Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:32 am

Her name's Carol. The play's title comes from a 19th-century folk song that offers an illusory vision of Utopia.

I seem to recall that in the stage version - the London production, anyway - the song was actually played at the start, although presumably by the time the film was made the play was so famous that an explanation was considered superfluous.

For the record, here are the lyrics:

Oh, to be in Oleanna!
That's where I'd like to be,
Than be bound in Norway,
And drag the chains of slavery.

Ole, Oleanna, Ole, Oleanna,
Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Oleanna.

In Oleanna land is free,
The wheat and corn just plant themselves,
Then grow a good four feet a day,
While on your bed you rest yourself.

Beer as sweet as Muchener
Springs from the ground and flows away,
The cows all like to milk themsleves
And hens lay eggs ten times a day.

Little roasted piggies
Just rush about the city streets,
Inquiring so politely if
A slice of ham you'd like to eat.

Aye, if you'd begin to live,
To Oleanna you must go,
The poorest wretch in Norway
Becomes a Duke in a year or so.


As for your other point, if you watch it a second time, I think you pretty much automatically find yourself analysing the viewpoint of the person you disagree with it first time round. For instance, I get the distinct impression that a majority of viewers of both play and film have backed John on the basis of a first viewing, but on a second it becomes clear that he absolutely does cross some serious ethical lines - for instance, offering Carol an unconditional A grade even though the course is only half completed and she's shown little sign that she'll achieve that on merit.

Interestingly, when my entire six-strong immediate family watched the London production (the very last time we went out to the theatre en bloc, if I remember rightly), we ended up siding five-to-one with John... but the person who backed Carol, and pretty fervently, was my sister, who was the only person in our group who had direct recent experience of what it was like being a young and vulnerable female student in a university environment dominated by middle-aged male tutors and lecturers. And now that I've had to watch it multiple times when working on the Indicator edition, I have to concede that she had a point. (Which is not that Carol comes off "better", but that she's very far from the intolerant, ideologically-driven misandrist shrew that she's so often lazily painted as.)

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#20 Post by Slaphappy » Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:37 am

MichaelB wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:32 am
Her name's Carol. The play's title comes from a 19th-century folk song that offers an illusory vision of Utopia.

I seem to recall that in the stage version - the London production, anyway - the song was actually played at the start, although presumably by the time the film was made the play was so famous that an explanation was considered superfluous.

For the record, here are the lyrics:

Oh, to be in Oleanna!
That's where I'd like to be,
Than be bound in Norway,
And drag the chains of slavery.

Ole, Oleanna, Ole, Oleanna,
Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Oleanna.

In Oleanna land is free,
The wheat and corn just plant themselves,
Then grow a good four feet a day,
While on your bed you rest yourself.

Beer as sweet as Muchener
Springs from the ground and flows away,
The cows all like to milk themsleves
And hens lay eggs ten times a day.

Little roasted piggies
Just rush about the city streets,
Inquiring so politely if
A slice of ham you'd like to eat.

Aye, if you'd begin to live,
To Oleanna you must go,
The poorest wretch in Norway
Becomes a Duke in a year or so.
Thanks! :D

Slaphappy
Joined: Fri Apr 27, 2018 5:08 am

Re: 118 Oleanna

#21 Post by Slaphappy » Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:12 am

MichaelB wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:32 am
As for your other point, if you watch it a second time, I think you pretty much automatically find yourself analysing the viewpoint of the person you disagree with it first time round. For instance, I get the distinct impression that a majority of viewers of both play and film have backed John on the basis of a first viewing, but on a second it becomes clear that he absolutely does cross some serious ethical lines - for instance, offering Carol an unconditional A grade even though the course is only half completed and she's shown little sign that she'll achieve that on merit.

Interestingly, when my entire six-strong immediate family watched the London production (the very last time we went out to the theatre en bloc, if I remember rightly), we ended up siding five-to-one with John... but the person who backed Carol, and pretty fervently, was my sister, who was the only person in our group who had direct recent experience of what it was like being a young and vulnerable female student in a university environment dominated by middle-aged male tutors and lecturers. And now that I've had to watch it multiple times when working on the Indicator edition, I have to concede that she had a point. (Which is not that Carol comes off "better", but that she's very far from the intolerant, ideologically-driven misandrist shrew that she's so often lazily painted as.)
I did consider John’s behaviour in the study, but I don’t think it was that bad, that it would justify the witchhunt he was subjected to nor do I believe it was the full motivation for Carol and her posse to raise hell. John’s bafflingly elitist views on education and condensenting attitude were what exposed Carol to that behaviour and they were something that affected all of John’s students. John was kind of selfish to hold that position and flunk students who didn’t get his groove.

I did a short stint in University and my views on education are very similar to Mamet’s/John’s. Still, even though off-beat professors like John were most fun, they were also the ones I learned least from and I can imagine the frustration that some more ambitious student must had had with them.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#22 Post by M Sanderson » Fri Sep 14, 2018 2:36 am

I liked it. Weird and obtuse. No rhetoric to get you on any one character’s side. Neither are “likeable”, if that’s what characters are supposed to be. Had a consistently unhappy atmosphere. Heavy going. People can be irreconcilable in their issues. Mamet used some nice spatial transitions. Was surprised how far he took it, in the end. It felt almost like John was going to turn into Edmond, whom Macy also played in Stuart Gordon’s adaptation of another controversial Mamet play.

Indicator’s Blu ray was attractive. Wood tones looked accurate and glimpses of exteriors looked fresh and convincing.

I do find admirable Indicator’s level of devotion to not only cinema, but also literature and in this case theatre. Oleanna, and also Pumpkin Eater, also scripted by a prominent playwright (Pinter) have been two of my favourite releases. So, hoping anything else Mamet & Pinter will turn up, for sure. In particular, Pinter’s Betrayal (rights and materials permitting) which has become something of a lost film. And defintiely Mamet’s Edmond, which has appalled and stimulated many viewers. Edmond has yet to appear anywhere in HD. Some have seen it as an “arty Falling Down,” even though the play was written a good decade before that film.

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Re: 118 Oleanna

#23 Post by domino harvey » Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:57 am

Edmond, both on film and on stage, is among Mamet's worst, though he didn't direct the film. William H Macy is a natural for Mamet's material, but there's no reason for it to exist-- a one-act should have a concise purpose, but this rarely seems like more than an excuse to indulge racist frustrations. I also "fondly" recall the DVD had what I've long considered the worst audio commentary of all time from Mamet, who treats the audience to immortal insights like "Nobody steps out of an elevator like Bill Macy!" I'm not sure what the climate is in the UK for a film like Edmond, but I can't imagine a US label putting it out now at any rate

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