1983 Academy Award Nominations for Best Actress: Jessica Lange, and Best Supporting Actress: Kim Stanley.
In the DVD's documentary, director Graeme Clifford makes an interesting point as to why "Frances" has become a more respected biography since its 1982 theatrical release. Full of powerful emotions and raw energy from actors Jessica Lange and Kim Stanley, audiences were pretty unnerved and a bit scared in a huge theatre; through home video, the chance to experience the film in more private surroundings increased its popularity, particularly in France, where the film is highly regarded.
Anchor Bay's release presents the film in a clean transfer with minor artifacting in some of the darker areas of Laszlo Kovacs' outstanding cinematography, while the vintage colours and tones of production designer Richard Sylbert exceptionally evoke each decade of Frances Framer's hard fall, from Hollywood star to brutalized mental patient. John Barry's tender score, still effective in the film's standard Dolby 2.0 mix, is also a graceful counterpoint to the immutable tension in Farmer's life.
Having established a successful career as an editor for directors Sam Peckinpah, Bob Rafelson, and Nicholas Roeg, Graeme Clifford's first directorial venture benefited from his experience in observing his peers, including Robert Altman, working with actors of immense talent. Drawing from the best, "Frances" remains a powerful film, and it seems the timing was just right for all the production's personnel to have come together when two rival Frances Farmer biopics were being proposed. (Only "Will There Really Be A Morning?", made the same year for television, and based on Farmer's autobiography, came to fruition.)
The research by the screenwriters, actors and director are ably detailed in the film's excellent commentary track. Graeme Clifford gives us a pretty complete history of the film's genesis, production and theatrical release, and even though it's been 20 years since he made the film, Clifford is able to recall plenty of historical facts relating to Farmer's life, including some of the sources from which the screenwriters drew. Being a former film editor, Clifford also talks about deleted material and unused scenes that would have made the film too hard for audiences, plus bits of trivia (such as Kevin Costner's extra work on "Frances" was the key to his acquiring a SAG card).
The DVD's documentary, "A Hollywood Life: Remembering Frances," includes lengthy interview segments with director Clifford, star Lange, producer Jonathan Sanger, production designer Richard Sylbert, co-writer Nicholas Kazan, cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, and composer John Barry. There's some minor repeated information (a demonstration of Clifford's authoritative commentary, perhaps), but as each person reveals some of the nuances they injected into every scene or sequence - whether through lighting, design, editorial work, or performance - it's clear these professionals were among the best in the industry; and the devotion to their craft is quite remarkable.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan