When I was in high school I worked at a movie theater. You could say it was the first time I worked in the film industry, because I really did feel like I was a part of the moviegoing experience, at least making sure that the audience had a good time in a clean theater with good food. On Friday, June 2 1995, for some reason I had a day shift that ended around 8. That was unusual because usually they had me work nights on weekends to help with the busiest shows. We weren’t even allowed to go watch the movies on weekend nights because they would usually sell out the theaters to paying customers. But, before I left and had to figure out what to do on a Friday night, one of the managers said I should just watch Bridges of Madison County.
I had seen all the other movies playing and it wasn’t like I was going to go out and party all smelling like popcorn, so I took the offer. There were some seats left in the front few rows but not a bad crowd for an opening night in 1995. I began the movie with with a lot of resistance, like I don’t need to see some old people mope about their boring lives and lost loves while some middle-aged siblings learn about their parents. Oh, the drawer in the bedroom is broken, isn’t that real? That’s just like the kind of daily hassles everyone has to deal with.
But darned if I didn’t get sucked in to the friendship, and more, formed between small town mother Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) and adventurous photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood). It had a lot to do with the source material, the slow burn that gradually makes a really strong case for adultery. It also had a lot to do with Eastwood’s directing and the performers’ chemistry. The wraparound story with the kids was new to the movie, and their reactions at various points in the story sold me on the legacy that this story impacts a generation later. By the time Kincaid hung Francesca’s necklace on his rearview mirror, I was crying noticeably enough that I had to compose myself before walking back out into the lobby where the rest of my friends were still working the night shift.
The Bridges of Madison County re-entered my life again a few years ago when one Valentine’s Day, my favorite movie critic, Outlaw Vern, decided to do a Valentine’s Day live tweet of the one Clint Eastwood movie he hadn’t seen. Watching Bridges again as an adult only confirmed its power. This week, the film finally came out on Blu-ray for a high definition presentation of a film I’ve been recommending since reluctantly seeing it in 1995.
I wasn’t prepared for just how good the Blu-ray transfer of Bridges would be. Warner Brothers always does a good job with their catalog titles, especially with the legacy of Eastwood movies, but it looks more vivid than I ever remember it sitting in that movie theater. There are hints of grain, from back when movies were shot on 35mm film, but the color is at a level that looks poignantly realistic. We see the texture of the roads around Madison County, and the green meadows and forests are lush but never look greener than they naturally would. It’s a delicate balance, carefully calibrated with precision on this Blu-ray. The bonus features from the DVD release are included as well, but the reason to upgrade is the high definition version of the film.
I always thought it would be funny to do a spoof called The Bitches of Madison County where Clint Eastwood professes his love, that this kind of certainty comes but just once in a lifetime, and Meryl Streep is just indifferent. Eastwood would scowl, “You bitch.” Even funnier would be The Britches of Madison County where Eastwood would try on a pair of pants that fit so well, he confesses that this kind of certainty comes but just once in a lifetime. There used to be a store called Britches Great Outdoors where they sold khakis. That joke would’ve killed in 1995.