The Fisher King Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer
  • Director: Terry Gilliam
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: June 23, 2015
  • Run Time: 138 minutes

  •         The Fisher King was somewhat of a transitional film for director Terry Gilliam, both as his first major Hollywood blockbuster and ironically one of his more simplistic and subdued narratives. For the first time in his filmography, none of the members of Monty Python are a part of the cast, and his iconic style was focused into a thoughtful fantasy grounded in the character’s psychological struggles. Though many of the fairy tale narrative elements are carried over from Gilliam’s heavier fantasy and sci-fi films, they primarily exist in the delusions of our protagonist’s broken psyche. It is an enigma of a film, containing all of the elements necessary for the typical zaniness of a Gilliam comedy-fantasy, but instead unfolds into a thoughtfully sentimental drama.


            Though The Fisher King has been appreciated as one of Gilliam’s greatest cinematic accomplishments, the Criterion Blu-ray release is layered with additional significance with the death of Robin Williams. Plenty of other films capture the comedian’s rapid-fire comedic delivery, and a few years earlier he had proved himself a marvelously affecting dramatic actor in Peter Weir’s Dead Poet’s Society, but few roles captures the blending of both quite so organically. We are able to laugh at the manic energy of Parry, a former professor of medieval studies whose tragic loss has left him homeless and mentally unstable, but it is never done at the expense of his character’s suffering. We feel sympathy for Parry’s situation, but this does not interfere with his ability to make us laugh.


            The other half of the film is carried by Jeff Bridges, who plays an irresponsible and selfish radio shock jock whose careless comments led to the tragedy in Parry’s life. With guilt so debilitating that he is spiraling towards suicidal actions, Jack (Bridges) coincidentally meets Parry and instead directs his energy towards helping the man whose life he inadvertently destroyed. Taking place in early 1990s Manhattan that is still brimming with the superficial money-obsessed ideology of the 1980s, Jack’s first instincts in helping Parry is to give him money and better clothing. In discovering that Parry needs a different kind of help, in the form of compassion and friendship, Jack finds himself changing more through this experience than the man he is trying to help.


            Homeless and living in a boiler room, Parry has no interest in worldly possessions or wealth. There are only two things that seem to matter to him, and one of those is a delusional search for the Holy Grail he believes to be hidden in plain sight amidst the upper class of the Upper East Side. This quest, which Jack inevitably must humor, is often hindered by an imaginary Red Knight, whose appearances seem to represent Parry’s inability to face the tragedy from his past. The other interest that Parry has is in a clumsy young woman named Lydia (Amanda Plummer). Taking advantage of the fact that homeless are essentially invisible in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, Parry has taken to following Lydia through her daily routine. With the help of his own girlfriend (Oscar-winning Mercedes Ruehl), Jack goes to great lengths in order to play matchmaker to the oddly well-paired couple.


            This Blu-ray release features a newly restored 2K digital transfer with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio, approved by Gilliam who also provides a new interview. Additional new special features include more interviews with producer Lynda Obst, screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, actors Bridges, Plummer and Ruehl, as well as artists Keith Greco and Vincent Jefferds on the practical effects used to create the Red Knight. There is also a new video essay with on-set photographs taken by Bridges. Previously released extras are also included, from the commentary tack by Gilliam to a 2006 interview with Williams. The deleted scenes included also include an optional commentary track from Gilliam, and there is also additional pre-production material in the costume tests and footage of Bridges training as a radio personality. The package includes a foldout insert with original artwork and an essay from film critic Bilge Ebiri.


    Entertainment Value: 8.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10

    Historical Significance:  8.5/10

    Special Features: 9/10

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