A Prairie Home Companion—New Line

Video: 3
Audio: 4
Extras: 5

As with most Robert Altman films, A Prairie Home Companion isn’t easy to summarize. It’s an oddly ethereal little film that’s about nothing in particular and yet explores the cosmic everythings of life, love, and death. Written by Garrison Keillor, the man behind the real Prairie Home Companion radio show, the story chronicles the final performance of a radio show much like PHC, as its cast and crew struggle to say goodbye.

The film was reportedly shot with HD cameras, but their impact is muted by various lighting and camera choices that give the 2.35:1 anamorphic picture a slightly soft, rich, old-timey look befitting of the subject matter. Music is an essential character, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does a nice job balancing dialogue aplenty with the folksy score performed by the PHC house band.

Music is also an important part of the extras package, which includes isolated 5.1-channel versions of the 16 music segments, as well as a preview of the CD soundtrack. A 50-minute making-of, split into six parts, dissects the original radio program, the screenplay, the director, the cast, and the music, while the commentary track by Altman and star Kevin Kline often focuses more on Altman’s general methodology than on the film itself.

Like the show it depicts, A Prairie Home Companion is a glorious anachronism on the modern entertainment landscape, with characters and dialogue that are simply enchanting.