Blu-ray: Bartleby (1970)
Powerhouse Films wanted me to write a review of the 1970 movie version of Herman Melville’s celebrated short story ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street’, directed by Anthony Friedman and starring John McEnery as the titular character ‘Bartleby’, but….I’d prefer not to.
A cheap start to the review I know, and one which will only make sense once you’ve watched the movie…or read further into this review. I suggest you do both.
Bartleby is a shy and quiet man who becomes an employee at a firm of accountants, who soon find out that Bartleby is quite different to all their other employees, specifically in the way that he responds to any and all requests to do anything at all by saying “I prefer not to“.
This of course bemuses his manager and work colleagues, before that bemusement moves on to being frustration and then anger, eventually leading to the firm moving office locations so that he can’t turn up to work.
This however sends Bartleby spiralling into a dark depression and he ends up in an asylum where….you’ll have to buy the blu-ray to find out.
Bartleby is a conundrum, both as a character and as a movie. While little really happens as far as narrative progression and character development, I still found myself fascinated as what was going to happen next…which most of the time was Bartleby saying “I prefer not to” to the very next thing he is asked to do.
When out of the office he wanders around London, and there are some great shots of the city back in the 1970’s, and I always love to see the UK back in that decade as I was growing up…the cars, the people, the fashion, but he doesn’t really do anything while out and about…just has a bit of a wander around.
Bartleby is one of those “marmite movies” where you’ll either really take to it and be engaged even though not a lot really happens, or you’ll become bored very quickly and not care what happens to him.
This new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative makes it look as good as it ever has, and making its worldwide debut on Blu-ray is the perfect time to buy…unless you’d prefer not to.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
- New restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative by Powerhouse Films
- Original mono audio
- Audio interview with writer-director Anthony Friedmann (2022, 15 mins)
- Bartleby’s London (2022, 4 mins): an exploration of Bartleby’s locations
- Original theatrical trailer
- Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
- Script gallery: complete shooting script
- Beat the Bomber (1975, 16 mins): anti-terrorism documentary short written and directed by Friedmann
- Bartleby (2017, 12 mins): stop-motion animation version of the Melville story, directed by Kristen Kee and Laura Naylor
- Animation timelapse footage from Bartleby (2017, 1 min)
- Trailer for Bartleby (2017)
- Bartleby (2017) image gallery: promotional and publicity material
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet featuring a new essay by Jeff Billington, archival interviews with star Paul Scofield and writer-director Anthony Friedmann, an overview of contemporary critical responses, new writing on Beat the Bomber and Bartleby (2017), and film credits
- World premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 2,000 copies for the UK (4,000 copies for the world)
Released 21st February 2022.
Review by Dave from a disc kindly supplied by powerhouse Films.