Atlantic City on DVD
Burt Lancaster lost the "Best Actor" Oscar to Henry Fonda's "On Golden
Pond" performance, but he still pulls off an award-worthy performance
in this Canadian/French story about an aging crook in an aging city, both
of whom are in the process of rebirth.
Lancaster is Lou, who for some 40 years has hung out in the dark underbelly
of Atlantic City, New Jersey, eking out a marginal living as a small time
hood and numbers runner. Then, one day, the estranged husband of his neighbor
Sally (Susan Sarandon, who was also nominated for an Oscar, but lost out
to Katherine Hepburn's tour de force in "On Golden Pond") and her sister
arrive to sell some stolen cocaine and Lou's and Sally's lives and generations
The story of Lou's rebirth from "washed up never-was" to a credible player
in the modern underworld plays out against - and parallels - a once glamorous
city fallen into disrepair that's now finding new life as a gambling Mecca.
The similarities are obvious, but you're never really beaten over the
head with them.
This really oversimplifies the plot, of course, but we don't want to
dwell on it when you really should see Atlantic City for yourself to fully
savor its flavor.
Sarandon is excellent as the small town Canadian girl dragged to the
big city by her sleazy husband. She dreams of bettering herself and is
working hard to do so until hubby slinks back into her life, throwing
a monkeywrench into everything for which she's been striving. She carries
the weight of the world on her shoulders, and it appears her one ray of
hope turns out to be her new friendship with Lou - until she discovers
that he's involved in the same criminal activities that got her husband
Atlantic City was also nominated for Best Picture, director (Louis Malle)
and screenplay (John Guare), though it didn't win any of them, thanks
to the On Golden Pond and "Reds" juggernauts of that year. It might have
done better in other years, since it's the type of small and arty film
the Academy seems to eat up with a spoon.
Despite that backhanded compliment (we tend to distrust things the Hollywood
establishment loves), we really enjoyed Atlantic City's small and intimate
look into the lives of these people. If you're looking for action and
adventure, look elsewhere, but if you dig a small, intelligent and richly
textured work of art, this definitely deserves a look.
The DVD quality is pretty good. The picture is presented in anamorphic
widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) and though it's excellent for the most
part there are some shots/scenes that are very, very grainy. Audio is
Dolby Digital mono and it's clean and clear, though unremarkable. Extras
are limited to the theatrical trailer.
Atlantic City, from Paramount Home Video
103 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid, Al Waxman
Produced by Denis Heroux
Written by John Guare, Directed by Louis Malle
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