I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t this DVD come out in June? Why are they just now reviewing it?” Well, I can answer that for you: through a series of mix-ups, the wrong version being sent to me initially, then it being sent to the wrong address and it eventually showing up at my doorstep, the DVD had a long and arduous journey to my doorstep. When it finally arrived I’d all but forgotten about it, but I’m glad it finally showed up: the movie was exactly what I expected it to be, but just with a little bit more heart.
From the cover, Black Snake Moan appears to be some kind of exploitation film of sorts, what with the excess of chains on the cover with the tiny Rae (Christina Ricci) being dwarfed by Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson). While the film starts out leading the viewer to believe it is nothing more than a dirty, whorish film, it quickly takes a sharp turn in its second act, becoming less a film full of “shock” value and one with true heart.
As the story goes, both the characters of Rae and Lazarus are strangers to one another until one event puts their paths in line with one another. With both of their loved ones having left them (Lazarus’s wife for another man and Rae’s boyfriend for the Army), Lazarus finds Rae abandoned and beaten on a road and takes her into his home and begins to cure her of her fever and her “illness” (nymphomaniac). In order to keep her from running away and to give her ample time to “heal”, he chains her to his radiator.
While the description is disturbing, it really becomes less strange as the story goes on. The chain becomes a metaphor for the struggles the two, Rae and Lazarus, have to face with their loved ones gone. The radiator is the rock for both of the characters, giving them a place to come back to and the two are eventually both able to move on by the films end, Lazarus with a new girlfriend and Rae with her boyfriend, Ronnie (Justin Timberlake).
As much as I enjoyed the film, I find it slightly difficult to collect my thoughts on. I think the massive mood swing the film has from the first to the third act slightly dishevel one from truly understanding all that the film has to offer. Of course, while the script is amazingly strong throughout, the actors in the film really is what brings it to a whole new level. Ricci and Jackson are simply astonishing throughout the film, showing off some of the best acting from the two I’ve yet to see. In addition, Justin Timberlake continues to impress; with this and Alpha Dog under his belt, I’m certain he has a long film career ahead of him—he’s really got some great dramatic chops in him and at no point did I ever feel that his scenes weakened the film. If anything, they strengthened it, especially during the driving sequence at the very end of the film.
On top of the acting in the film, the music quickly became a large part of it halfway into the film. Once Lazarus breaks out the guitar, blues music is immediately another character in the film and from the moment “Black Snake Moan” is played in Lazarus’s house, it becomes an integral part of the viewing experience.
I feel I should talk more about the film, but I don’t think I can go on too much longer without simply going into a scene-by-scene dissection, which wouldn’t be beneficial to your eyes or my fingers. In the end the film was an incredible experience and it was well worth the wait that the DVD took to get to me. If you haven’t by now, do yourself and watch this movie—it comes Highly Recommended.
Arriving on a single disc DVD release, Black Snake Moan comes without a slipcover nor an insert. The disc art is a plain grey disc art that Paramount DVDs are known for. Menus are animated and easy to navigate.
Video and audio on this release is terrific. While the audio was mostly front channel based, there was some rear action during the music sequences later in the film. On top of that the video was crystal clean and clear, delivering a sharp picture throughout. The film really looks remarkable and there weren’t any noticeable flaws that jumped out at me.
First up on the DVD extras list is the commentary by writer/director Craig Brewer. As he explains on the commentary (and the other extras on the set), the film is a very personal movie for him. A lot of the experiences in the film he culled from his own life (in particular the anxiety attacks that Timberlake’s character suffered through) and from his discussion about his feelings towards the music in the film and his thoughts on the actors are made evident, it’s clear that Brewer is very emotionally attached to this film.
“Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan” is your typical making-of documentary, featuring cast and crew interviews (although Ricci is completely absent from all extras on this DVD, for some reason). The near half-hour runtime on this documentary is more than enough and we get plenty of tales of how the film was conceived, initial studio reaction and how the roles were cast. Plenty of good information about the film is included in this little segment.
“Rooted in the Blues” and “The Black Snake Moan” both deal with the music of the film, with “Rooted” covering the original music composed for the film, while “The Black Snake Moan” goes further in-depth to the song itself. Seeing as the music was such a big part of this film, it’s easy to see why both of these were given two separate features, both of which are well worth watching.
The final extras on the set are deleted scenes. Most of them are superfluous and they come with commentary with Brewer. One scene that I did enjoy watching was the first meeting between Rae and Ronny. While it would’ve been entirely out of place in the film itself, it was neat to see and I’m glad they included it as an extra.
Overall the DVD is a solid presentation for the film and I doubt they could do much more with it. This DVD comes Recommended, as does the soundtrack for the film which is equally as impressive as the movie itself.
Black Snake Moan is now available on DVD and HD-DVD.