The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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DVD Playback
Raging Bull
Vicky Cristina Barce
ASC Close-Up
Missing (1982)
1.85:1 (16x9 Enhanced)
Digital Monaural
The Criterion Collection, $39.95

Journalist and filmmaker Charles Horman (John Shea) and his wife, Beth (Sissy Spacek), decide to leave New York City and move to Chile. It is the early 1970s, and the young couple is drawn to the Socialist climate brought about by the election of President Salvador Allende. Despite rumors of a government coup, the Hormans and several American friends enjoy living cheaply in a relaxing environment while cultivating their film projects and earning money translating American newspapers for the Chilean press.

By the late summer of 1973, rumors of a coup are more urgent, with organized militia appearing more frequently. Returning from a visit to New York with a friend, Terry (Melanie Mayron), Charles decides to show Terry Vina del Mar before heading to Santiago, where Beth awaits. While in Vina del Mar, Charles is surprised by the number of American military officers he encounters. When it is announced Allende has committed suicide, soldiers plotting a coup head through the country, led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. When Charles and Terry meet Beth in Santiago, they agree it is time to leave; numerous civilians have been imprisoned at a local stadium, and interrogations and shootings have become common. While Charles takes Terry to the airport so she can get the next flight out, Beth goes across town to try to persuade the couple’s American friends to leave, too. After being delayed, she spends a harrowing night hiding from militia in alleyways after curfew. At dawn, she races home to find the apartment ransacked and Charles missing.

After numerous, fruitless trips to the U.S. State Department, Beth calls Charles’ father, Ed Horman (Jack Lemmon), a conservative Christian who has often questioned Charles’ politics, and asks for his help. Ed travels to Chile and forms an uncomfortable alliance with Beth as they try to cut through red tape and find Charles.

Based on Thomas Hauser’s nonfiction book The Execution of Charles Horman, the suspenseful, heartfelt drama Missing was the first U.S. feature made by controversial Greek director Costa-Gavras (Z). Among his collaborators was Argentine cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich, ADF, AFC, ABC, with whom he had just made Claire de Femme. Costa-Gavras envisioned Missing as a drama on a documentary-style canvas. Using Mexico City as a double for Santiago, the filmmakers re-created the political upheavals of 1970s Chile, often using actual Chilean refugees as visual consultants and extras. Aronovich’s frequently sun-drenched images capture the immediacy of the situations as violent, terrible incidents occur in broad daylight.

An acceptable-looking DVD of Missing has been on the market for some time, but The Criterion Collection’s recently released package will be welcomed by the film’s many fans. Nicely capturing Aronovich’s vibrant images, this new transfer features a warm, solid tonal range, with virtually no visible chroma noise in the most highly contrasting sequences. It also delivers sharp layers of blacks in the film’s sinister night exteriors.

This DVD is an improvement over the previous transfer, offering a more stable, film-like appearance that has been digitally scrubbed of any print flaws. The monaural audio, confined to the center channel, has an impressive tonal range; there is a good balance of dialogue and effects, and Vangelis’ minimalist score is given surprising life.  

The first disc in this two-disc package includes the feature presentation and the original theatrical trailer. The second disc offers more than 30 minutes of interviews with Costa-Gavras (filmed between 1982 and 2006); a 30-minute interview with Joyce Horman, Charles’ widow; a 17-minute segment featuring the producers and Hauser; 20 minutes of interview footage from the 1982 Cannes Film Festival that features Lemmon, Costa-Gavras and Joyce and Ed Horman; a 20-minute interview with Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File, which chronicles the U.S. government’s involvement in Pinochet’s violent coup, and additional video interviews. Also included are a booklet of essays and a copy of the U.S. State Department’s official response to the film

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