The American Society of Cinematographers

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Return to Table of Contents July 2011 Return to Table of Contents
Super 8
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
Clockwork Orange
Gaumont Treasures
Thelma & Louise
ASC Close-Up
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Blu-ray Edition
2.35:1 (High Definition 1080p)
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $19.99

Pushing middle age and stuck in a waitressing job in rural Arkansas, depressed Louise (Susan Sarandon) jumps at the chance to use her co-worker's mountain cabin for a weekend getaway. She taps her best friend, Thelma (Geena Davis), to ride shotgun for the weekend. Thelma eagerly saddles up in Louise's green, 1966 Thunderbird convertible, leaving her controlling husband some dinner to microwave and a note explaining she will be back next week. Unsure of what to take to the cabin, Thelma loads the car with unnecessary items, including a handgun in case of “psycho killers, bears or snakes.” Shocked and a little amused, Louise agrees to hold the gun in her purse.

In the car, the women have an easy rapport as they relax, driving away from their daily lives. They agree to stop at a bar for a celebratory drink before they continue on into the mountains. Inside the raucous tavern, Thelma and Louise drink and accept offers to dance. As time passes, Louise loses Thelma's attention to a smooth-talking line dancer, who soon woos tipsy Thelma into the dark parking lot, where he turns violent and attempts to rape her. Louise, brandishing Thelma's gun, spots them just in time and rescues her friend. In a burst of fear and anger, Louise fatally shoots the attacker.

Speeding away, the terrified women agree no one will believe they acted in self-defense, and they decide to drive to Mexico and begin a new life. As dawn breaks, the two begin to plan their new route and realize their travels have just begun. Along the way, two very different men will cross their path, a seemingly friendly drifter (Brad Pitt) and a hard-nosed detective (Harvey Keitel) who begins to hunt them down.

“It's two bitches in a car. I don't get it!” was the response director Ridley Scott heard from more than one studio executive while he shopped Thelma & Louise around as he looked for financing. First-time screenwriter Callie Khouri's tale of modern-day outlaws speeding through the American Southwest packed a potent mix of buddy-movie conventions and action clichés that managed to evoke both the mythology of the Western and a hint of contemporary feminist ideology. “It made executives nervous,” Scott says in an interview on this Blu-ray edition. The director further explains he felt a bit unsuited to the material at first but loved the screenplay so much he decided his way “into” the piece was the look of the journey. A transplant from the United Kingdom, Scott tapped his fascination with open American roads he perceived as “filled with color” and with the “reflections of new automobiles.” He wanted that vitality to be there for these women, who were essentially on a road journey of self-discovery.

To shoot Thelma & Louise, Scott enlisted fellow Englishman Adrian Biddle, BSC, who had worked on a number of American films in the dynamic California sun. With the budget allowing for very limited travel, the filmmakers used various spots in Bakersfield, Calif., to double for many of the story’s locations. Biddle's cinematography provides a vast, Western-flavored landscape with bold use of sun and reflections surrounding Louise's striking Thunderbird. Biddle earned an Academy Award nomination for his work on the picture.

MGM/Fox Home Entertainment's recently released Blu-ray edition of this popular road movie presents an overall accurate and pleasing 1080p image transfer. With the exception of some inconsistencies in black levels from scene to scene, the contrast is generally solid. What really sets this edition apart from the existing standard-definition presentations is the vibrancy of color, which is often remarkable in its warmth and depth. Primaries are deep and rich, with a tendency to favor earthy, sun-drenched tones. The DTS audio track is slightly crisper than the previous DVD release, with strong front-stage surround pans and rear-channel activity generally limited to the film's score.

All of the supplements in this package originally appeared on the 2003 DVD release. They include an audio commentary by Scott; a commentary shared by Khouri, Sarandon and Davis; an hour-long “making of” documentary and numerous deleted scenes. All of these are presented in standard-definition.

It is disappointing no new supplements were created for the film’s Blu-ray debut, especially considering 2011 marks the film’s 20th anniversary. Still, Thelma & Louise continues to provoke and entertain, thanks to its engrossing mix of action, melodrama and all-too-rarely-depicted female camaraderie. With this Blu-ray, Thelma and Louise continue to earn their place in the pantheon of heroes, outlaws, victims and travelers who populate the mythic landscape of the American West.

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