Posted: 02/09/2011

 

A Private Function

(1984)

by Jef Burnham



Now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Image Entertainment.


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A Private Function is the latest film from the Handmade Films library to be brought to Blu-ray by Image Entertainment, along with Five Corners. A Private Function stars Michael Palin (my favorite Monty Python alum) and two-time Academy Award-winner Maggie Smith (A Room With a View, the Harry Potter series) as the Chilvers, a couple who futilely strive for acceptance from the local upper class during a period of post-World War II food rationing in England. All the while, local butchers are being closed for harboring black market meat while members of said upper class illegally raise a pig themselves to hold a private feast on the eve of the upcoming royal wedding. With the remaining butchers unable to fulfill the demands of the town, the Chilvers steal the pig unaware of its not-so-rightful owners and find themselves in a unique bargaining position with the local elite.

While this premise certainly has all the makings of an amusing farce, the film fails to deliver on the laughs. That is, unless you find bathroom humor particularly gratifying, in which case there is always someone farting when the pig (which coincidentally has diarrhea) isn’t defecating on the floor. It’s a truly dull experience overall. Additionally, the plight of those starving as a result of the meat rationing lacks any real power and fails to act as a sufficient driving force for the narrative. To this end, the film would have benefited from an increased emphasis on pathos, as in the films of Chaplin and Lloyd where the genuine desperation of the starving is blended with comedy through an often equal emphasis on both (comedy and pathos).

As for the Blu-ray transfer itself, the sound is often slightly muffled, and the picture, while sharp, displays a shocking amount of debris, especially in portions of the frame which should be entirely black as in the Handmade Films title at the opening of the film. There, one would think, the removal of such debris would be fairly simple. But A Private Function, like Image’s previous Handmade releases, is a budget title.

After the disappointment of the film itself, I was delighted to find a worthwhile and enjoyable feature on the disc— over 35 minutes of back-to-back vintage Handmade Films trailers!

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.



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