Picking Up The Pieces Review

Woody Allen plays Tex, a Texan butcher, owner of ‘Mighty Good Meat’. His wife Candy (Sharon Stone) has been cheating on him with every man in town (“at the rate you are going your diaphragm should have call waiting”). He kills her, cuts her body up into seven pieces and buries the parts just across the border in New Mexico, near the little town of El Nino. One of the body parts goes missing, a hand, which is stumbled upon by a blind woman who finds her sight miraculously restored.

The hand, which is anything but virginal, becomes a religious icon and El Nino becomes an attraction to pilgrims and tourists, the sick and the curious alike, much to the consternation of local priest (David Schwimmer). The people on the other hand (On the other hand! Sorry – it’s that kind of film…) are more than happy as the healing properties of the hand which includes regenerating lost limbs, can be used for boosting and enhancing other body parts. The whole enterprise comes under threat however from a Texan State Trooper (Kiefer Sutherland) who is on the trail of Tex and his missing wife.

Director Alfonso Arau is well known for the harmless fluff of Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) (1992), and A Walk in the Clouds (1995), so expectations for the film aren’t likely to be too high anyway. (I note however, with a large degree of horror, that IMDB report Arau as having gone on to make a TV movie remake of 'The Magnificent Ambersons’. I somehow doubt that this will turn out to be the version of the film that Welles wanted to make). The humour in Picking Up The Pieces is pretty crude throughout – typified by the fact that the worshipped hand maintains a posture of ‘giving the finger’ throughout the film. It is not exactly gross-out by today’s standards, but just rather basic, unsophisticated humour that plays for cheap laughs. Needless to say, it doesn’t all quite make sense. Woody is seen at the start of the film cutting Sharon Stone up in some kind of magic act that goes horribly wrong – whether this is real or fantasy or just a humorous way to visualise a gruesome murder is never clear. But it seems silly to try and get to serious and try to analyse a comedy film whose ultimate, unsophisticated message is, as Tex states at the end of the film – “If you can’t take a joke, go **** yourself”. Quite.

The film could easily make some points among the humour about religion, idolatry, adultery and cultural exploitation if it wanted to, but it in the end it veers away from any message and concentrates on the cheap laughs - which is fair enough. The casting is curious and no-one particularly distinguishes themselves here. Only a typically neurotic performance from Woody Allen being Woody Allen, guilt-wracked and paranoid at being found out, is worth seeing. If you are a Woody Allen completist (and I have to count myself among that number), you’ll find this film no worse than much he has done recently himself.

PicturePicture quality is generally superb. The film is very colourful, technically well lit and carefully composed, and it is well transferred, anamorphically here on this DVD. The small black bar at the top of the screen isn’t a 1.85:1 framing mistake as I initially thought. The film was made in the unusual ratio of 2.00:1, and is correctly presented this way on the DVD. One or two minor marks can be seen occasionally, but otherwise there is little to fault with the print here.

SoundThe sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and is perfectly good, clear and effective. The film sounds very well indeed.

ExtrasTheatrical trailer (2:50)An absolutely dreadful trailer, it shows the whole film and all of the good parts in a summarised form. Don’t watch it before the film. It is presented in 2.00:1 letterbox.

New Release trailersTrailers for the bio-pic ‘The Temptations’ and the Burt Reynolds film ’The Last Producer’

Mini-featurette (5:04)Standard EPK material mixing snippets of the trailer, interviews and behind the scenes shots.

Cast and Director interviewsShort interviews with almost everyone in the cast except Woody Allen and Sharon Stone. The interviews range from less than one minute to about 3 minutes and are in the form of snippets without questions, so you have to guess what they’ve been asked.

B-roll footage (16:26)Standard behind the scenes/making of footage.

ConclusionQuite how crude you find the film depends on whether you are Irish or not, since the Irish film classification board film rate the film an 18, while it carries a 15 certificate in the UK. Probably a little too much fun made at the expense of the church. It’s no classic - a straight to video release - but if you can pick this up for £4.99 you’ll get an excellent quality anamorphic widescreen DVD with a standard set of extras and a few laughs, so there’s little to complain about.

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