Secret Friends (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (26th February 2020).
The Film

Unfairly neglected since its original low-key cinema run, Secret Friends is the only feature to be written and directed by Dennis Potter (Pennies from Heaven, The Singing Detective).

Made shortly after his hugely controversial mini-series Blackeyes, the film centres on a writer, played by Alan Bates (A Day in the Death of Joe Egg), who descends into a kind of madness during a train journey as memories, fantasies and psychotic visions collide.

Video

A 1.5 million production written and directed by Dennis Potter for Film 4 and made by a largely female production crew for Film 4. This uneven film highlights lots of Potter's obsessions but doesn't scale the heights of his best work.

Potter said he wanted the scenes of reality and fantasy to mingle and be virtually indistinguishable from each other. However I fojnd they were subtly different. scenes of Bates as an adult seemed softer, slightly diffused. Whereas, some of the more melancholy adult flashbacks seem to have a slightly colder grade or are set in surroundings with duller colours. Potter uses colour, light and shade carefully; Glynis Barber's first scene is extremely vividly coloured; her red outfit bursting off the screen.

Flashes to childhood: Flesh tones are slightly richer, image is sharper; overall the palette favours browns, reds, greens, blacks with a naturalistic patina. Flesh tones pale, pinkish especially when set against the richer colours in the production design. The contrast makes for an appealing image.

Black levels work in concert with the finely layered contrast to create a very impressive image throughout. The encode is extremely competent with a fine, consistent grain field pat all times. The image has a slightly luxuriant feel and is very filmic and pleasing.

Top ho!

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.66:1 / 97:32

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English HoH

Exceptionally clear audio track is limited in it's use of surrounds to train sounds, wallah from crowds of people etc and to the score, which is also used in the front left and right. Dialogue is front and centre. The two gentleman observers / fellow travellers / Greek chorus who seem to be perpetually eating have great mastication sound effects.

Subtitles for the hard of hearing are provided.

Extras

"Bon Vivant: Ian McNeice on Secret Friends" 2020 featurette (5:35)

Obviously recorded at the same time as his interview on Powerhouse's Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne Blu-ray McNeice discusses the shooting if the film and his view of Potter as writer and director.

"Keeping Secrets: Graham Fuller on Secret Friends" 2020 featurette (9:19)

Fascinating analysis of Potter and his work on the film. Fuller is not entirely positive, especially regarding the fractured narrative and the Madonna & the Whore dichotomy at the heart of the film and in covering the toxic relationship betwixt leading lady Bellman and Potter. A very interesting piece.

Theatrical Trailer (3:00)

Plays heavily on Potter's star status, opening with a card "From the creator of Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective". The oddball style of the film's narrative is also plain here. It represents the fragmented film and it's slyly humour very well.

Secret Friends Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (58 images)

Yet another pleasing, HD still gallery.

36-page liner notes booklet by Jeff Billington, Dennis Potter on the making of Secret Friends, an extract from Potter on Potter, an overview of critical responses, and film credits

A fascinating analysis of Potter and the film by Billington kicks off another great supplemental booklet from Powerhouse Films which, given the scant nature of the other extras, is the whole show on that score.

Packaging

Standard clear BD case.

Overall

Ultimately, you either "get" Potter's singularly unique work or you don't. I can't say I'm as versed in it as I ought to be but Secret Friends is, to put it mildly, an acquired taste. However, the visual and aural presentation of Film 4's HD master is impeccable. The extras aren't extensive but what there is very contextually interesting and supportive. A very fine release.

The Film: C+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B Overall: A

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.