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Robert Altman
Emily Watson, Derek Jacobi, Maggie Smith
Julian Fellowes

A murder at a 1932 party in an English country house leads to a contrast between the upstairs guests and the downstairs servants.
Box Office:
$15 million.
Opening Weekend:
$3,395,759 on 658 screens.
Domestic Gross:
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 137 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date:11/27/2018

• Audio Commentary With Director Robert Altman, Production Designer Stephen Altman, and Producer David Levy
• Audio Commentary With Screenwriter Julian Fellowes
• Audio Commentary With Critics David Thompson and Geoff Andrew
• Interview with Executive Producer Jane Barclay
• Interview with Actor Natasha Wightman
• Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
• “The Making of Gosford Park” Documentary
• “The Authenticity of Gosford Park“ Featurette
• “Cast and Filmmaker Q&A Session”
• Trailer
• Booket


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Gosford Park [Blu-Ray] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 20, 2018)

After a mixed reaction to 2000’s Dr. T and the Women, Altman returned to form with 2001’s Gosford Park. The movie didn’t make a substantial box office impact, but that doesn’t come as a surprise, as this sort of quiet period piece usually doesn’t tend to reach a mass audience.

Nonetheless, the movie got seven Oscar nominations. It received nods for top prizes like Best Picture and Best Director, and it took home the award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.

Despite his stellar reputation, I must admit I’ve never been especially enamored of Altman’s work. I like M*A*S*H quite a lot but I think Nashville remains an overrated film. I strongly disliked Dr. T but was interested to check out the much-praised Gosford and see if it fared better.

Packed with an enormous cast, Gosford examines a social gathering at the rural English estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon). Set in the 1930s, the movie initially presents amusingly crotchety Constance, Countness of Trentham (Maggie Smith) and her personal assistant Mary (Kelly Macdonald) before we soon meet a wide variety of privileged guests, their servants, and the house staff.

Of course, a few of these receive more attention than others, but the film presents them in a relatively democratic manner. That makes it tough to concisely discuss the plot, especially since the movie doesn’t really offer a tight storyline. Instead, it focuses more heavily on the events of the weekend, through dinners and a bird hunt.

The film stays with these interpersonal interactions for most of the first half until a dramatic event finally occurs. A murder occurs and the police enter the situation. During the rest of the movie, bumbling Inspector Thompson (Stephen Fry) deals with the slaying and the others sort out their own relationships.

Really, the murder seems like something of a MacGuffin. The movie’s plot appears to revolve around the murder, but in reality, the flick doesn’t devote much energy on it.

Blurbs that relate the film’s plot may make Gosford appear to be a murder mystery, but that concept could scarcely be farther from the truth. The flick provides no sense of tension or drama in regard to the killing, as it comes across as an afterthought much of the time.

I don’t mean this to sound like a complaint, but I do mention it more as a warning. I’ve read other reviewers who intensely disliked Gosford due to its ambling pace and lack of strong storyline.

Indeed, almost nothing “happens” during the movie. For some, that seems like a major weakness, but others will regard the more vague and character-oriented emphasis as a strength.

I fall somewhere in between the two camps. I don’t mind the lack of tight plotting, but I don’t fully embrace the manner in which Altman tells the story either. Still, I do find Gosford to offer an intriguing experience.

Probably the strongest aspect of Gosford relates to its depth. The movie really demands additional viewings to pick up on all its textures and nuances.

It tosses so many characters and situations at you that you can’t take in all of them at once. With another screening, you’re sure to discern many new tones and elements that passed you by the first time.

Altman usually utilizes a seemingly loose attitude throughout his movies, and that occurs here as well. While I didn’t think this worked well in something like Nashville or the abysmal Dr. T, Altman exhibits greater tightness here. I received a great deal of negative e-mail about my general dislike of Nashville, but I stand by my thoughts that it was more interesting as an experiment than as a film.

In Gosford, however, Altman shows that he developed the multi-character formula greatly over the intervening years. Gosford features more roles than the much touted “24 major characters” in Nashville, but it manages to develop them more fully and treat them like humans, not props. It also retains the seemingly loose and casual tone of many other Altman flicks without appearing like the actors just made it up on the spot.

In other words, Gosford comes across as a well thought-out film, not just a cinematic experiment. Julian Fellowes’ script deserves much of the credit for the increased structure, as it gives Altman a solid framework upon which to build.

The excellent veteran cast also allows the material to breathe. Bad films become even worse with weak acting, but Gosford provides a terrific group of actors who anchor the piece and make sure it doesn’t go astray.

If anything, I think Gosford has too many plot-driven moments. Though most of the film remains detached and cool, it ties together a little more tightly than I’d like. It seems to violate its own rules at times, though these occasions remain infrequent.

I can’t say that I feel great enthusiasm toward Gosford Park, but I definitely like it more than many other Robert Altman movies. The movie provides an intriguing experience that should become even more rewarding upon additional viewings. Altman provides a clever twist on the standard murder mystery that manages to be “different” without seeming self-conscious.

The DViscGrades: Picture B / Audio B- / Bonus B+

Gosford Park appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, the picture seemed fine for what the filmmakers intended to do.

Sharpness appeared good for the most part. A few interiors appeared slightly soft, but those didn’t create any big concerns, so most of the film looked nicely detailed and distinct.

Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no issues, and edge haloes remained absent. With a nice layer of grain, I didn’t suspect heavy use of digital noise reduction, and print flaws failed to mar the presentation.

Due to the style of the film, the palette remained fairly subdued through most of the movie, and it also took on that amber tone typical of period flicks. Within these choices, the hues came across with good clarity and definition throughout the movie.

Black levels seemed nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail appeared appropriately heavy without excessive opacity. Ultimately, Gosford Park presented a good image that seemed to represent the filmmakers’ intentions for the most part.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Gosford Park provided a serviceable but unspectacular presentation. Not surprisingly, the soundfield remained heavily oriented toward the front channels.

The surrounds rarely added much, as even during a thunderstorm scene - the kind of element that usually spices up this kind of mix - the audio stayed largely anchored in the front. Since Gosford focused so strongly on speech, I didn’t find this orientation to be a problem.

Music displayed good stereo presence, and effects spread well across the front. Nothing memorable came from the soundscape, but it seemed appropriate for the story.

Sound quality appeared fine. Speech showed nice clarity, with no signs of edginess or other issues.

Effects were clean and accurate, and they showed no issues related to distortion. Music worked well, as the score and songs appeared bright and vivid.

Low-end didn’t create a substantial presence during the film, but the track showed good fidelity and dynamics. In the end, the soundtrack of Gosford Park seemed satisfactory for this sort of film.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2002? Audio remained similar in scope, but the lossless DTS-HD MA mix appeared a bit more natural and dynamic.

As for the visuals, the Blu-ray looked better defined and cleaner, with more accurate colors and blacks. The Blu-ray became a good upgrade.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, including three separate audio commentaries. The first involves director Robert Altman, production designer Stephen Altman, and producer David Levy.

All three sit together for this running, screen-specific track. I’ve heard Altman commentaries for Nashville and M*A*S*H and found both to offer pretty weak discussions.

Altman occasionally provided some interesting remarks, but that material popped up infrequently, so those tracks suffered from many empty spaces. I hoped that the presence of the other two filmmakers would make this commentary a more active affair, but unfortunately, it shows many of the flaws found on those prior pieces.

On the positive side, the Altman boys and Levy occasionally provide some interesting remarks. For example, we learn about the director’s desire to get an “R” rating instead of a “PG-13”, and he also chats about period details, casting, and a few other moments. Stephen Altman and Levy chime in on similar topics, though they don’t do much more than reflect the director’s material.

As with the other Altman tracks, Gosford flops because so much of it passes without information. Scads of time passes without remark, and even when someone does speak, the details usually seem fairly lackluster.

This track succeeds better than the prior Altman commentaries, but not by much. Overall, it seems fairly boring and tedious.

The second commentary comes from screenwriter Julian Fellowes, who sits alone for this running, occasionally screen-specific piece. I feel Fellowes offers a strong chat, but others may disagree for one reason: he devotes relatively little time to the subject of the movie itself.

To be sure, Fellowes covers some issues particular to Gosford, such as the cast and the writing process. However, most of the track relates to the facts behind the movie.

Fellowes provides a terrific discussion of the reality of the various situations, and he even tosses in his own experiences with upper-crust relatives and his upbringing. Fellowes seems chatty, engaging, and very informative, so I like this commentary quite a lot. However, folks with no patience for tracks that don’t deal exclusively with the movie - and I know you’re out there - will probably not care for it.

Recorded for the 2018 Blu-ray, the third commentary features critics David Thompson and Geoff Andrew, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific view of the project’s origins and development, story/characters, cast and performances, Robert Altman’s approach, sets and production design, period details, and related domains.

Thompson and Andrew start well, so they give us good information during the movie’s first act. After that, though, the quality of the material declines.

Not that this ever turns into a bad commentary, as it brings a reasonable overview. However, the chat loses punch too soon and turns into a less than enthralling piece much of the time.

Next we find The Making of Gosford Park, a 19-minute and 52-second featurette with director Altman, screenwriter Fellowes, producer Levy, and actors Emily Watson, Alan Bates, Richard E. Grant, Bob Balaban, Stephen Fry, Eileen Atkins, Ryan Phillippe, Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, Jeremy Northam, and Derek Jacobi.

The program starts well, as we learn nice facts about the genesis of the project and Altman’s working style, such as his loose reliance on the script. However, before too long the show degenerates into a fairly generic promotional piece that does little more than relate some basic plot and character points.

It picks up again toward the end, and we even get to see bits of the Golden Globe ceremony and the announcement of the Oscar nominations. In the end, the documentary has enough moments to merit a look, but it seems fairly insubstantial.

15 deleted scenes fill a total of 20 minutes, four seconds. I find the scenes interesting to watch, and those who don’t like the loose nature of Gosford will wish some of them made the cut, as they add structure and plot elements to the tale.

We can watch the clips with or without commentary from Robert Altman, Stephen Altman, and David Levy. As with their longer track heard during the movie, their remarks here appear sporadically.

Sometimes we learn why the snippets didn’t end up in the film, and sometimes we don’t. I’d estimate that they explain the deletion of about half the material, and virtually all of those shots got the boot because they were either too plot-driven or too sentimental. Otherwise, the commentators do little more than describe the scenes.

The Authenticity of Gosford Park provides an eight-minute, 40-second look at the facts behind the fiction. Here we get notes from Robert Altman, Fellowes, Levy, actors Bates, Jacobi, and Mirren, butler technical advisor Arthur Inch, cook technical advisor Ruth Mott, and parlour maid technical advisor Violet Liddle.

Although Fellowes already covers many of these issues during his commentary, “Authenticity” seems interesting due to the participation of the technical advisors. All served in their various capacities back in the 1930s, so they bring a nice level of depth to the show.

During Cast and Filmmakers Q&A Session, we get a 25-minute, one-second session taped in March 2002, only a few weeks prior to the Oscars. Moderated by Pete Hammond, this chat includes Robert Altman, Fellowes, Levy, and actors Bob Balaban, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, and Ryan Phillippe (who enters after about 11 minutes).

Overall this offers a good conversation. Hammond asks questions for the first 12 or so minutes, and then audience members chime in with their queries. We hear some of the information conveyed elsewhere, but the program still offers some useful material.

New to the Blu-ray, Executive Service provides a 2018 interview with executive producer Jane Barclay. During this 20-minute, 46-second chat, she discusses how she got into movies as well as aspects of her career and her involvement on Park. Barclay provides an engaging look at her work.

Another 2018 piece, Acting Upper Class offers a 10-minute, 57-second interview with actor Natasha Wightman. She looks at her career and experiences during the film. Though brief, this turns into a useful chat.

In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we get a booklet. Along with credits and photos, it includes an essay from film critic Sheila O’Malley and a 2006 interview with Robert Altman. The booklet brings value to the set.

While I doubt I’ll ever be a real fan of Robert Altman’s work, Gosford Park works well. The movie provides an unusually dispassionate take on the murder mystery genre and offers a clever and intriguing experience. The Blu-ray brings very good picture and supplements with appropriate audio. Arrow make this a nice release for an engaging film.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of GOSFORD PARK

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main