The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Paramount) comes out on DVD in a two-disc special edition DVD and Blu-ray with a Criterion logo and spine number, but Paramount release and distribution. I don’t know what the relationship between these two companies – the major American studio and the gold standard for definitive editions of classic (and some contemporary) movies on DVD – but it’s resulted in a magnificent production.
The disc features the handsome, austere Criterion art and menu design, which loads right up and takes you to the movie and the supplements without having to wade through trailers. The transfer is sterling (taken directly from the digital master of the largely HD-shot film) and supplements are serious, in-depth productions for serious film folk. But the documentary producers are not Criterion veterans but professionals with credits on DVD special editions from Paramount and Fox (including the non-Criterion releases of Fincher’s Panic Room and Zodiac, which are excellent editions in their own right). Whatever the breakdown of responsibility and credit, this is an amazing DVD production anchored by a very serious and typically observant commentary by Fincher (who drops a few harmless F-bombs in his solo commentary tour of the movie) and the documentary/production study The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button. Hit the “Play all” function and you get an almost three-hour documentary featuring almost every major collaborator on either side of the camera, who take you on a tour of the film from its initial attempts at adaptation in 1990 through the technology harnessed to create a backwards-aging Benjamin in the screen to the release. It’s dense and interesting and entertaining, far more engaging and captivating than the majority of such supplements. But there are also featurettes not included in the “Play all” that you can access separately and galleries of storyboards, art direction and costume sketches, and production stills. It’s not for everyone, but this is the kind of epic production documentary that fascinates me, not just because of the detail of information but also for the insights it offers into the collaborative process of filmmaking and the marriage of creative decisions and practical solutions. Whether or not it was the Criterion logo that inspired the DVD producers to take such an exhaustive and intense approach to the supplements, it’s a production that does the logo proud.
For more on the film itself, see my review on the MSN DVD column here.
Wendy and Lucy (Oscilloscope)
Shot in Portland by New York-based filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, Wendy and Lucy is ostensibly about a young woman, Wendy (Michelle Williams), traveling to find work in Alaska, and her detour when her car breaks down and her traveling companion, a dog named Lucy, goes missing at a stop in Portland. But as Reichardt presents her story (from a script co-written with Oregon writer Jon Raymond), it becomes something much more: a down-to-earth portrait of single woman of limited resources on a road fraught with potential predators and random potholes. Wendy is like a lot of folks just scraping by, merely one disaster away from losing it all. It’s a tender, tough, uncompromising film, photographed with a disarming directness and seeming simplicity that reverberates with the precariousness of her situation.
I write about the film in more detail for Parallax View here.