During the ’80s, director Robert Altman made a series of six films that were based on plays. One was Sam Shepard’s Obie Award-winning Fool for Love. It was part of his Family series of plays and was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Shepard wrote the screenplay, although from the interview in the Special Features it sounds as if Altman used the play without changing the text, and stars alongside Kim Basinger.
Set at a motel in the New Mexico desert, Eddie arrives wanting to re-establish their relationship. May no longer desires the tempestuous drama that comes from the two of them being together, which is why she left him. The audience is shown at the outset May has a good point as Eddie busts through the door of the motel room where she is hiding. The two spend a lot of time arguing what was and what could be.
An Old Man (Harry Dean Stanton) at the motel hovers beside them as they work through things, offering his own commentary. His character is a narrative device that works better on stage. He is ignored for quite a bit but then looked at and spoken to, so it’s not clear what is happening. He also appears flashbacks revealing not only a connection to Eddie and May, but is the source of their meeting, in multiple ways.
Two other characters show up at the motel. The pistol-packing Countess (Deborah McNaughton) is not happy about Eddie’s treatment of her and makes it known. Martin (Randy Quaid) was set to take May out on a date, but gets caught hearing different stories about their relationship, not sure what is true. The audience finds themselves in the same position as Altman alters what is shown in the flashbacks as they stories are being told so no one can be certain what is true.
The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Film grain is apparent and increases in low-lit scenes. The image captures the strong primaries and bright pastels, especially the pinks which are frequently used in the production design. Texture detail is a tad soft. Blacks are inky. Objects occasionally get swallowed in the shadows.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Dialogue is clear, although the actors sometimes speak softly and swallow their words. Gunshots are the sound effects with the biggest impact. George Burt’s score is mixed well with the other elements.
The are two Special Features. “Robert Altman: Art and Soul” (SD, 20 min) – In this previously available featurette, the director speaks about his craft, his interest in theater, and the making of Fool for Love. It make one want to hear more from him. There is also a theatrical trailer.
Fool for Love has an overly melodramatic story and the constant fighting of the leads is too repetitive. While not rewatchable like his better-known films, it is good to see Altman directing in manner different from his usual style, and the cast do an admirable job bringing the roles to life. The high-def presentation is satisfactory for a film of its scope, although it would benefit from a restoration or remastering.