[box cover]


Northfork (2003) is the third film in the Polish Brothers' trilogy (following Twin Falls, Idaho and Jackpot) that utilize towns in the Midwest as a backdrop for their imaginative storytelling. Bringing together a stellar cast on a shoestring budget, the brothers have created a film that will leave some marveling at its storytelling, and others scoffing at its pretentious attempts at art. The town of Northfork, Montana is dying — a new hydroelectric dam will open soon, and when it does the plains on which Northfork sits will become a lake. The government has sent an Evacuation Committee to convince the remaining homesteaders to leave their homes, for $1,000 and an "authentic" pair of angel wings. In exchange for their services, the six committee men will receive an acre-and-a-half of prime lakeside real estate. Evacuation team members Walter (James Woods) and his son Willis (Mark Polish) carry an additional burden — Walter's dead wife is buried in the Northfork Cemetery, and in his worst fears, her casket will rise to the surface of the new Northfork Lake. A parallel story tells the tale of Irwin (Duel Farnes), a terminally ill boy, whose parents flee the impending flood and leave their burden in the hands of resident clergyman Father Harlan (Nick Nolte). In Irwin's feverish dreams, he has created a fantasy world in which he believes he is an angel. An odd group of gypsies are searching the plains of Northfork in search of the "Unknown Angel", and Irwin desperately wants them to believe that he is it. The gypsies — played by Darryl Hannah, Ben Foster, Robin Sachs, and Anthony Edwards — can be seen in the various items that rest on Irwin's nightstand. Through these visions Irwin imagines leaving Northfork, and he believes these spirits are there to escort him to their home. The story of Irwin, with its fairy-tale imagery, is an obvious parallel of the death of the town itself, although this presents a certain amount of pretentiousness to the overall narrative. The tale of the Evacuation Committee, while well played by the strong cast and delivering humor and heart, might not be interesting enough to carry the film itself. The blending of the two story-lines asks the viewer to decide if the events in Irwin's visions are in fact separate from reality, and no clear answer is given. Paramount presents Northfork in an anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), and while the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio sounds good, the vocal track is very quiet and may require listening at a high volume to capture all of the dialogue (or watching the film with optional subtitles). Supplements include a commentary from Michael and Mark Polish, a short "24-Frame News" segment from the Sundance Channel, a series of short films called "Bareknuckle Filmmaking: The Construction of Northfork," the theatrical trailer, and a photo gallery. Keep-case.
—Scott Anderson

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