Black Snake Moan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, the transfer seemed very good.
Sharpness looked positive. A couple of wider shots came across as a little soft and ill-defined, but those caused no significant distractions. Instead, the majority of the flick appeared distinctive and detailed. I saw no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. Print flaws seemed non-existent, as I noticed no source defects along the way.
Moan went with a generally naturalistic palette that seemed fairly well rendered. Colors didn’t jump off the screen, but they seemed acceptably vivid and distinctive. Black levels seemed reasonably deep and dense, and shadows looked smooth and clear. Only the minor softness kept this one from “A”-level, as it offered a consistently satisfying image.
Given the film’s genre, I didn’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer of Black Snake Moan, but the audio proved to be surprisingly satisfying. Although the soundfield won’t win any prizes for ambition, it appeared more active and involving than usual for this sort of movie. The forward spectrum boasted a nice and varied sense of environment that created a good feeling of location. Elements were well placed in the front and meshed together smoothly.
The surrounds added a fine tone of atmosphere as well. Not a lot of impressive sequences occurred, though some – mostly Rae’s fever dreams and a thunderstorm – seemed vividly executed. Mostly the track stayed with general atmospherics, and these recreated the environment well.
Audio quality was also quite good. Speech consistently came across as natural and concise, with no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music displayed a nice sense of dynamics and range, with crisp highs and warm lows. Bass response proved especially strong. The effects replicated the different elements with detail and distinction, and the low-end parts were quite deep and rich. Ultimately, Moan presented a fine auditory experience.
As we move to the extras, we begin with an audio commentary from writer/director Craig Brewer. He provides a running, screen-specific piece. Brewer discusses sets, locations and shooting in the south, cast and performances, elements from his own life used in the film, music and its use, story and character subjects, cinematic influences, and a few other production issues.
I think Brewer offers a pretty effective look at his film but not a great one. Part of my minor disenchantment comes from his frequent reference to all his southern bona fides; the director often makes sure we know he’s a real southern boy, a tone that makes him sound arrogant at times. Otherwise, Brewer provides a good examination of the movie and its various elements.
A documentary called Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan runs 27 minutes, 51 seconds. It mixes behind the scenes material and interviews. We hear from Brewer, producers Stephanie Allain and John Singleton, director of photography Amelia Vincent, editor Billy Fox, composer Scott Bomar, and actors Christina Ricci, Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Timberlake, John Cothran, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Kim Richards. The show looks at the script and the project’s development, real-life influences on movie elements, casting and performances, Brewer’s approach to the flick, the film’s music, and some other production notes.
“Conflicted” starts slowly, as the first five minutes devote themselves to pretty vague but grandiose notions of the movie that tell us very little. Though it rebounds from there, it never quite recovers. We hear some decent thoughts about various aspects of the production, and these flesh out matters to a moderate degree. “Conflicted” never turns into a particularly interesting or satisfying show, however.
Two featurettes come next. Rooted in the Blues goes for 12 minutes, 37 seconds and includes Brewer, Allain, Bomar, and musician Charlie Musselwhite. We get a little more info about the film’s music and its recording. Some decent details emerge, but the program feels a little too self-satisfied for my liking. It comes across as another attempt to prove the flick’s southern-fried bona fides and sputters due to that tone.
The Black Snake Moan goes for nine minutes, two seconds and gives us remarks from Brewer, Bomar, Fox, and Vincent. This one looks at the title tune, its use in the movie, and the scene where we hear it. It turns into a reasonably satisfying examination of the various aspects involved in one important sequence.
Five Deleted Scenes fill a total of 12 minutes, 22 seconds. These include “Laz Breaks Rae’s Fever” (3:06), “RL Has News for Laz” (2:33), “Laz in Bedroom/Rae and Ronnie B&W” (3:19), “Laz Goes to Angela’s House” (2:52) and “Laz in Pool Hall” (0:30). Of all these, only “B&W” offers anything moderately interesting, as it lets us see a flashback to Rae and Ronnie. “News” takes the movie more into soap opera territory, while “House” just makes a romantic undertone more explicit. “Fever” is simply a longer version of an existing scene, and “Hall” shows Laz as he buys jewelry for Rae. None of the clips present much useful material, and all of them deserved to be cut.
We can watch these clips with or without commentary from Brewer. He offers some insights into the scenes themselves and relates why he cut them. He offers useful notes about these sequences.
The disc also features a Photo Gallery. Here we locate 33 stills. I like the comic book style poster art, but the other shots present forgettable images from the movie and the set.
A few promos launch the disc. We find ads for Year of the Dog and Zodiac. These also appear in the Previews area along with clips for Shooter and Hustle & Flow. No trailer for Moan can be found here.
Too much talent appears in Black Snake Moan for the movie to totally flop, but it lacks the character and story strength it needs to prosper. It remains too sketchy and too absurd to ever become genuinely worthwhile. The DVD offers very good picture and audio as well as a decent set of supplements. This is a more than acceptable DVD but the movie lacks much to make it effective.