Crash


Viewed – 12 December 2020 Blu-ray

Very few directors could deliver a movie with subject matter such as this and make it work, without it being exploitation trash, but in the hands of David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) what remains an uncomfortable viewing experience somehow still took hold of this viewer. James Spader plays a guy fascinated by car crashes and aroused by the thrill of injury, twisted metal and the sheer violence of it all. Aided by his girlfriend (The Game’s Deborah Unger) they pursue this unhealthy obsession until Spader ends up in hospital. There he meets fellow crash victim Holly Hunter who he discovers is a kindred spirit and before long he’s lead into an underworld of like-minded people who find sexual arousal in near death experiences.

Maybe next time, my darling…

Acted from the off by all involved like they’re on the brink of orgasm, this highly sexual drama is just plain weird and has an atmosphere I’ll admit was initially hard to get into. Cronenberg’s direction however makes everything eerie, borderline hypnotic and very dream-like. However not for a second is it sexy, as Cronenberg gives each sex scene an unnatural and animalistic vibe that’s closer to his brand of body horror than say, Basic Instinct … but it works.

James Spader is perfectly cast, as is Deborah Unger, actors both at ease with uneasy material. However one surprise was Holly Hunter who I’d never usually associate with this kind of thing. Elias Koteas (Zodiac) stands out as a rather freaky medical photographer obsessed with staging recreations of famous car crashes. We also get Rosanna Arquette as a woman in leg callipers who’s involved in a particularly infamous scene. Overall this was a difficult watch. I appreciated much of the atmosphere and the perverse subject was strangely alluring… but was I entertained? No. Worth seeing but definitely not for everyone.

Crash remains quite the controversial movie, and this new, fully uncut limited edition from Arrow Video explores it impressively. The restored 4K Ultra HD image is grainy and nicely detailed, with only occasional softness. However, despite mention of HDR this isn’t a showcase for your TV setup. The same goes for the 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that’s made up mostly of gentle dialogue and Howard Shore’s haunting score. The surrounds get a mild workout mostly in the various driving / highway scenes but nothing all that diverting. However it’s the extras where this release shines. There is a comprehensive booklet covering the making and legacy of the movie, various interviews, featuretts, some David Cronenberg short films, and a commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin. Add to this a double-sided poster and deluxe hardback slip case packaging and this is decent treatment for a polarising yet still worthwhile entry in Cronenberg’s back catalogue.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Sex, Lies and Videotape


Viewed – 16 August 2020

Stephen Soderbergh’s 1989 indie hit that went on to win the much coveted Palm D’or was always a movie that intrigued me. A sort of sexy movie that approached the subject of sex, infidelity and jealousy with intelligence as it focuses on four characters. James Spader plays a guy who comes to visit his old college buddy (Peter Gallagher -While You Were Sleeping) and stumbles upon an affair as well as sisterly rivalry. He also happens to enjoy interviewing women on camera about their sex lives. His presence threatens to unravel the lives of his friend, Peter’s wife Andie Macdowell and her sister, played by Pretty Woman’s Laura San Giacomo.

Secrets & lies

This very frank, unusual approach to a familiar subject has solid turns from the cast, with a stand out Laura San Giacomo as Andie Macdowell’s vivacious sister, and explores each character well, giving each an ark where they come away changed by the end. There’s a bit of that obvious late eighties / early nineties ‘indie cool’ to it, similarly portrayed in movies like Reality Bites … and it can rely on clichés to propel its story (the pearl earring scene). Yet for a debut, this was an early glimpse of where director Stephen Soderbergh would go, and overall I found it quite effective.

The Blu-Ray from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has that 80’s softness but still retains detail and depth, aided by a clear, remastered 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack – although this is more a talkie movie so not a surround showcase. Extras are plentiful as is often the case with Criterion, including a new making of with interviews with Peter Gallagher, Andie Macdowell and Laura San Giacomo (but no Soderbergh or Spader). However Soderbergh provides an introduction and there’s featurettes on his career. We also get an archive interview with James Spader. In addition we get a feature on the sound restoration, a detailed booklet and a commentary from Soderbergh and fellow director Neil Labute. Impressive, for a fascinating drama that whilst not essential is still worth a watch.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended