Gosford Park


Universal Home Video, $19.95

SINCE ONCE IS not nearly enough for the interweavings of Robert Altman's sublime Gosford Park, there are no better tour guides than Altman and his Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes for a revisit on this single-disc package (released June 25). Altman peppers his commentary with asides about his 1932 aristos ("They don't tolerate entertainment—much as it is today") and a wild description of the film's grouse shoot where he and everyone behind the camera hurled already shot (and iced) birds down on the actors. When it was suggested that lady's maid Kelly Macdonald should perhaps linger on with valet Clive Owen, Altman dismisses the idea: "That's television storytelling."

He's very nearly upstaged by Fellowes, whose great-aunt might have modeled for Maggie Smith's Lady Constance. A born raconteur, Fellowes knows precisely how these grand houses worked, above stairs and down "in the engine room." He's also a piercingly clear social observer, tipping us off to how both classes could remain fixed in their "unquestioned arrangement" for as long as they did. Fascinating stuff.

As Altman and co-producer David Levy riffle through 19 deleted scenes, it's apparent that any with the slightest stain of sentimentality were tossed. Finally, as Ivor Novello's sweet "The Land of Might-Have-Been" floats over the last shot and the yellow Rolls departs, Levy says he thinks Novello's song of days long past "affects Americans most." Altman punctures that sentimentality, too: "He wrote that as a gay man in the closet; that song is the lament of gay existence."

Sheila Benson


LAMENTATIONS of a different kind attend the Sundance-selected Sept. 11 documentary WTC: The First 24 Hours, out June 25. The same date sees Dennis Leary and Hope Davis in the psych-ward drama Final (like K-PAX but with a twist), Oscar darling A Beautiful Mind (no Crowe commentary), the superior Spanish paranormal thriller The Devil's Backbone, and the awful The Affair of the Necklace (which almost destroyed Hilary Swank's career). Among oldies being pushed to disc, you can laugh at Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis in 1985's aerobics-era Perfect and admire the performances in Francis Ford Coppola's 1987 Vietnam-era drama Gardens of Stone.


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