Price of Milk
- (2002) - John Swimmer Productions/New Zealand Film Commission (New
by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): D/D/C
Specs and Features
87 mins, PG-13, cropped widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, keep
case packaging, single-sided, single-layered, audio commentary (with
directors Harry Sinclair and actress Danielle Cormack),
theatrical trailers, film-themed menu screens, scene access (12
chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: none
Sinclair is probably best known to American audiences as Isildur at
the very beginning of Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring, but in native New Zealand,
he's gotten a name a stage actor and as a very unique, ambitious
independent filmmaker. I've gotten the opportunity to see two of his
films, Topless Women Talk About Their
Lives and The Price of Milk,
and they both contain a strange, but deep connection with the
audience. The Price of Milk,
however, far outshines the former film as a winning, at times
magical, romantic comedy.
Lucinda and Rob aren't your normal couple. Rob (Karl Urban) is a
simple farmer who is happy with his life as a diary farmer in the
New Zealand countryside. Lucinda (Danielle Cormack), his fiancé,
loves him dearly but is a bit concerned that the relationship has
become stale, and taking the advice of her best friend, she decides
it's time to spark things up. Lucinda starts to anger Rob at any
chance she gets, and for a while that strategy gives the engagement
the extra kick that it needs.
After Lucinda accidentally runs over an old Maori woman, her nephews
steal Lucinda's prized quilt in the middle of the night. After
correctly suspecting the old woman's involvement, and confronting
her with it, the old woman proposes that she'll only give the quilt
back if Lucinda gives her one of the couple's most prized
possessions. Figuring that it's the perfect opportunity to give her
relationship with Rob an extra spark, she decides to trade his cows.
Obviously Rob does not take the trade lightly, and calls off the
engagement. Now Lucinda must learn the true meaning of love, and the
price of milk, if she's going to get the cows and her fiancé
The Price of Milk relies on
old, obvious special effects techniques, such as simple editing to
achieve characters appearing and disappearing and sound effects for
off-screen car wreaks. There was even so little budget that Rob's
dog was made to be agoraphobic so that it was simply a person
running inside of a large cardboard box. It's that quirkiness that
creates the odd timing and cleaver, economical charm that is
The Price of Milk, not that
you'd necessarily notice how cheaply is was made.
Along with those low-tech tricks, there is a great sense of
immediacy and improvisation to the film. It's helped in part by the
fact that many scenes were written only just before they were shot.
That level of commitment by the actors gives the film great energy,
even in sections where the plot would otherwise slow down.
New Yorker Video has been a champion of obscure independent and
foreign films on DVD, but the actual transfers used have been rather
poor, leading to lackluster releases, and The
Price of Milk is no different. First of all, there is
almost no shadow detail, and having seen the film in theatres, I can
tell you that is not a part of the cinematography. Shots are either
brightly illuminated or half of a face is completely blacked out.
The picture is overly sharp, and the colors fluctuate from being
overly saturated to under-saturated. Finally, the film was shot in a
2.35:1 aspect ratio and you can tell by the extra letterboxing
during the credits, but the large majority of the film has been
cropped to 1.78:1, and it's pretty obvious that the sides of shots
have been cropped out. Very poor.
The audio doesn't fair much better, and those of you with surround
sound may want to switch to a stereo mode for this one, as the
surround matrix is incredibly uneven. In the middle of dialogue, the
sound can shift from left to right unnaturally. The sound itself
sounds overly compressed, and often-different elements overpower
each other (the score occasionally drowns out the dialogue). Not
good at all.
Extras are a little on the light side, but considering the size of
film that this is, it's nice that this DVD isn't just bare bones.
First up is an audio commentary with director Harry Sinclair and
actress Danielle Cormack. The two are very gracious speakers
allowing each other time to speak, and their camaraderie shines
through. For anyone confused by the film or interested in how it was
made as cheaply as it was, this is one of those seemingly rare audio
commentaries that do give the secrets away. They reveal the quick
edits, physical stunts, and improvisations that give the film its
character. While it may not be a classic review, I'd suggest this
commentary to be a must-hear for aspiring filmmakers as this is a
great guide on how to make your film cheaply and quickly. Also
included is a theatrical trailer presented in an 1.33:1 aspect
ratio, and a feature called "Outtakes" which is actually
footage that Harry Sinclair shot on DV to sell the idea of the film
to the New Zealand Film Commission, as there was no script - a
misleading, but interesting addition.
The DVD release of The Price of Milk
is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have to applaud New Yorker
for giving this unique and charming film a release at all, but the
audio and video quality is a bit of a let down, certainly not
befitting of the film. While home cinema aficionados may find the
transfer distracting, it's most definitely a recommended rent for
those looking for a charming romantic comedy. As a fan of the genre,
I can say that this is about as good as it gets.