Two recently released DVDs showcase director's talent
By JEFFREY Q. IRISH
Scene Movie Critic
"We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us" is just one of the many themes in director Paul Thomas Anderson's latest masterpiece "Magnolia," which was released onto DVD this past week.
The film is basically a day in the life of nine troubled characters whose lives intersect in the San Fernando Valley. Although universally praised by critics, "Magnolia" failed to connect with an audience at the box office. Some audience members thought the movie was "too long," or "too boring." Others, however, thought that it was a true triumph. Undoubtedly, "Magnolia" has polarized its audience and carved itself a place in cinematic history.
There has been much debate concerning the reasons for the title of the film, but recently Anderson has shed some light on the subject. "It's foremost the intersection (or street) where the climax of the film takes place. Secondly, it has been hypothesized that the bark from a Magnolia tree could help cure cancer [two characters in the film suffer from the disease]. It is also a close name to Magonia, which is a mystical place I read about. Magonia is like a Bermuda Triangle of some sorts in the air, it's like this place where things (like frogs and guns) go when they are missing until they finally fall back down to the earth."
The falling frogs
Towards the end of the film, there is a sudden shower of frogs that envelops all of the San Fernando Valley, disrupting each character's actions.
Believe it or not, but it rains frogs in real life. This rare phenomenon takes place in parts of the world with heavily concentrated frog populations such as the Amazon Rainforest. Tornadoes touch ground and pick up the frogs and carry them miles away where they float in the atmosphere until the winds die down. The result is an amphibian rainfall.
At the beginning of the film, Anderson ingeniously sets up the viewer for a freak occurrence by recounting a series of three stories.
He tells the story of the man of Greenberry Hill who was killed by three other men named Green, Berry and Hill; the story of a scuba diver who was killed in a forest fire; and the story of an attempted homicide that prohibited what was to be an unsuccessful suicide, but was somehow ended by a related accidental homicide. "This cannot be `one of those things,'" the narrator says. But the setup prepared the audience for `one of those things,' and two hours later a phenomenon takes place that shocks everyone.
Anderson claims that he did not know that frogs could rain in real life. He explains the raining of the frogs as thus: "you get to a point in your life, and s--t is happening, and everything's out of control, and suddenly, a rain of frogs just makes sense."
The DVD itself is a two-disc release similar to that of "Fight Club." One disc contains the movie and one contains the supplemental material. The supplemental material is less than one would hope for, but a lot of it is hilarious. It has two extended versions of Frank "T.J." Mackey's (Tom Cruise) pathetic sexual empowerment seminar and a few of the usual DVD extras such as the trailers and television spots.
Unfortunately, there is no Anderson commentary track to go along with the movie. In replacement, there is a 75-minute "Making of Magnolia" documentary that shows Anderson at work. It is very cool, but disappointing to those who have loved his commentaries on his previous DVDs.
"Boogie Nights" re-release
A new version of P.T. Anderson's second and most notorious film, "Boogie Nights," was also released this past week. This updated version is a two-disc double platinum series from New Line Studios with digitally enhanced coloring and soundtrack. There was apparently some color distortion in the original transfer (some scenes leaked red) on last year's release, so the studio and Anderson decided to re-release the film. Aside from that, there is little on this version that was not on the original platinum edition release. The only noticeable additional feature is that of an alternate commentary track taken from the laserdisc version of the movie. Still, "Boogie Nights," which tells the story of a young actor in the porn industry, is an excellent, genre-bending masterpiece, and the DVD is worth buying.
P.T. Anderson's next
On a sadder note, it has been confirmed by a publicist of Anderson that he is almost done with a comedy script that will soon team him up with former "Saturday Night Live" star Adam Sandler. Anderson met Sandler on the set of SNL last season as he was fine-tuning his comedic skills. Let's just hope that Lorne Michaels, responsible for such hits as "Coneheads," "A Night at the Roxbury" and "Superstar," doesn't produce the film.
All Scene Stories for Thursday, September 7, 2000