One of my all-time favourite films, Miller’s Crossing, has finally been released on DVD. I bought it yesterday along with Barton Fink, which also was released on DVD. Miller’s Crossing to me is the Coen brothers masterpiece (to this point). It’s a film that manages to strike a difficult balance between comedy, drama and genre all while not falling into any predictable pattern. I’ve watched it many times and I continue to enjoy it more. On the surface it’s a noirish, gangster melodrama, but it features the Coen’s ability to construct characters who defy and are defined by their ethnicity, sexuality, and moral codes. John Polito’s speech in the first scene of the film encapsulates the entire moral universe of the film and neatly sums up the dilemma: “It’s about ethics.” The speech and the choice made in that scene kick off the action and the world and complex relationships start to be revealed to us. I actually have the shooting script and after I read it I started picking up even more. Part of it is due to the rapid-fire dialog. Part of it is due to the complicated structure and relationships, but it’s still a joy to watch.
The DVD isn’t exactly packed with extras, but it does feature some interviews that would have been part of the electronic press kit from over a decade ago. It’s neat to see what people are saying about the film and the Coen’s (who had previously done the dark “Blood Simple” and the lighter “Raising Arizona”). There is an interview with Cinematographer (and now Director) Barry Sonnenfeld about shooting Miller’s Crossing as well. Unfortunately there isn’t a commentary track, but it doesn’t really need one, does it?