Glengarry Glen Ross [DVD]
Director : James Foley
Screenplay : David Mamet Hayes (based on his play)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1992
Stars : Al Pacino (Ricky Roma), Jack Lemmon (Shelley Levene), Alec Baldwin (Blake), Alan Arkin (George Aaronow), Ed Harris (Dave Moss), Kevin Spacey (John Williamson), Jonathan Pryce (James Lingk)
High-pressure salesmen are always walking a thin, dangerous line between their main purpose in life (which is to deceive or, at the very best, to bend the truth to their advantage) and how they must appear (which is honest and genuine) . Whether or not a salesman truly believes he is selling a good product is immaterial. His main function is to tell you what he thinks you want to hear so you will buy. He has to seem like he's doing you a favor by letting you buy from him.
This truth, among others, is harshly embedded in the caustic, driving cinematic version of David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross. A hard, cynical tale of real estate agents fallen on hard times, it presents its characters as both victims and victimizers, deceivers and deceived, callous and sad.
Even as they lie, con, cheat, and connive people, these salesmen are themselves being targeted by Mitch & Murray, the corporate suits downtown who have decided that only the top two salesmen in the office will have jobs at the end of the month. This is made all the harder because the salesmen have to keep pursuing the same old tired leads and can't get their hands on the new, coveted Glengarry leads until they have closed a deal. But, as they keep pointing out, they can't close a deal without decent leads. It's a no-win situation, a catch-22.
The film is divided into two acts. The first act deals with the salesmen learning of their impending fate and doing everything in their power to sell to the deadbeat leads they've been given. The second act happens the next morning after someone has broken into the office and stolen the Glengarry leads. Everyone is a suspect immediately, and the man who seems to bear the most suspicion has an alibi.
In an unforgettable scene early in the film, a corporate man named Blake (played with pompous intensity by an unusually effective Alec Baldwin) comes down to the small, crowded real estate office for a little pep talk with the salesmen. Actually, it's more like hazing. According to Blake, the top salesman wins a Cadillac, runner-up wins a set of steak knives, and everyone else is fired. Baldwin delivers Mamet's expletive-laden prose with brute severity. Unlike the struggling salesmen around him, he doesn't have to sweet talk and put up a front-he lets his vicious intentions be known right off the bat. "You can't sell shit, you are shit, hit the bricks pal, cause you are going out!" he barks.
This turns out to be especially tough news for Shelley “The Machine” Levene (Jack Lemmon), an aging, outdated man who was once top of the heap, but hasn't closed a deal in months and is saddled with a daughter in the hospital and a dim future. He is so desperate that he is willing bribe the uptight office manager (Kevin Spacey) for some of the good leads, but it is all to no avail. Like that other great fictional salesman, Arthur Miller's Willie Loman, Shelley is doomed.
Another salesman, Dave Moss (Ed Harris), is thoroughly insulted by the whole idea, and he lets an impressionable fellow salesman (Alan Arkin) know that he plans to steal the coveted Glengarry leads and sell them to the competition. The conversation between these two men, where ideas are shared but never really put out in the open, is a small work of genius (“We're just talking about this, right? We're not really talking about it.”)
The only salesman who doesn't seem worried is Ricky Roma (Al Pacino). Roma doesn't even make the meeting with Blake because he is currently the number one salesman in the office and he's too busy sweet-talking a naive prospective buyer (Jonathan Pryce) in a bar. Roma represents everything that is good and bad about salesman: He's easy-going, receptive, and social, but all that is just a facade to get in close so he can make a deal. In one masterfully written scene, Pryce comes back the next morning and tries to undo the deal, and Pacino continually spins the conversation, going off on tangents, telling lies, confusing the facts-basically anything to keep the deal from going bad.
Director James Foley (At Close Range, The Chamber) stays back for the most part and lets his talented ensemble case do its thing. Pacino was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for his role, but the real stand-out is Lemmon. He makes Shelley Levene into a character who is both despicable and terribly endearing at the same time. In some scenes, you can't believe his loud-mouthed arrogance, and, in other scenes, his defeat is so palpable that it hurts to look at him. Lemmon's best scene occurs in the house of a prospective buyer who is obviously uninterested, but Lemmon continues pushing in every way possible. He knows that he cannot make the sale, but he continues trying because he has no choice. It is a pathetic, heartbreaking moment.
Mamet is known for his commanding use of prose, and it has never been so evident as it is here. His harsh dialogue fits perfectly into the claustrophobic atmosphere of the film. Everything feels cramped despite the use of an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio, whether that be in the paper-strewn office or in the pouring rain outside beneath the railroad tracks. There is, literally and figuratively, no escape for these characters.
And that is where the film gets its power: Glengarry Glen Ross moves us because there is always the sense of impending doom. These broken men are fighting against an impenetrable wall, causing their frustrations to come out in the worst ways. Mamet knows these men would take advantage of anyone they could, but he also understands that they are just trying to survive in a hard world. Maybe some other time or in some other place, they could have been better men, and that is their tragedy.
|Glengarry Glen Ross 10th Anniversary Special Edition Two-Disc DVD Set|
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 / 1.33:1|
|Distributor||Artisan Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||November 19, 2002|
| 2.35:1 (Anamorphic) / 1.33:1|
There are two DVDs included in this set, one containing an anamorphic widescreen transfer in the film's intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio and a second disc with a 1.33:1 modified aspect ratio transfer. The image quality of both transfers is quite impressive. Cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía establishes a very particular color scheme in the film's opening moments, depicting the salesmen in shades of gray and brown offset with colored lights against brightly colored backgrounds. The film's color palette is dominated by primary hues-reds, blues, greens-all of which are beautifully saturated without any bleeding or noticeable chroma noise. The image is well-detailed, with good black levels and nice shadow detail. A note on the 1.33:1 transfer: Glengarry Glen Ross was shot in Super 35mm, which allows for a variable aspect ratio. Thus, the 1.33:1 transfer doesn't loose a terrible amount of image on the sides and adds image to the top and bottom. However, I still find it unwatchable because the wide aspect ratio is an integral part of the film's composition and its emotional effect, and I find that the squarish TV aspect ratio ruins it.
| English Dolby 5.1 Surround |
English DTS 5.1 Surround
English 2.0 Surround
French Dolby 2.0 Surround
Both transfers have the benefit of a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack, and the widescreen transfer also has a DTS 5.1 surround mix. While Glengarry Glen Ross is primarily a dialogue-driven film, ambient noise is incredibly important to the film's mood, particularly the intermittent rumbling of the train overhead and the constant downpour of rain that dominates the film's first act. The soundtrack is well mixed, with a good balance between the dialogue in the front soundstage and the environmental sounds in the surround speakers. James Newton Howard's jazzy musical score also sounds rich and full.
| Audio commentary by director James Foley|
Unfortunately, this is not the same audio commentary that appeared on Pioneer's special edition laser disc (the commentary by Jack Lemmon that appeared on the LD is also M.I.A.). Instead, we get a brief commentary track that is divided into three sections: “Rehearsals,” “On Directing,” and “About the Screenplay.” Foley only speaks during certain scenes in the film, and even then his comments are not screen-specific. All in all, he talks for less than half an hour, which is only a third of the film's running length. He has some interesting things to say, but one wonders why he couldn't have recorded an entirely new track. This commentary is only available on the widescreen disc.
Audio commentary by cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía, production designer Jane Musky, and actors Alec Baldwin and Alan Arkin
Magic Time: A Tribute to Jack Lemmon
ABC: Always Be Closing
J. Roy: New and Used Furniture
Clip Archive: The Charlie Rose Show
Clip Archive: Inside the Actor's Studio
Cast and crew biographies
Copyright © 1997, 2002 James Kendrick