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The Criterion Collection is a series of DVD's of both classic and more modern-day films, and each new release of the collection is published with a high level of technical quality and bundled with award-winning supplementary material. It is in this manner that, over the last seventeen years, Criterion has been making the very best movies from world cinema available to collectors.
Various pieces of the work by more than thirty-five renowned directors have been published as part of this collectable series including films by Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. Each film is presented as those directors intended - uncut and in its original size and aspect ratio. Furthermore, Criterion work wherever possible with the original directors and cinematographers in order to obtain a finished result that does justice to the work carried out on the original movie shoot. The bonus material they provide, both on the DVDs themselves such as audio commentaries, documentaries and deleted scenes, along with generous extra printed material enables the viewer to appreciate the film in its full context.
With the benefit of daylight, Gus Van Sant, River, Keanu Reeves and William Richert
plan and prepare the robbery scene from My Own Private Idaho.
Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho takes its place among the Criterion Collection in the form of a two-disk set. The first DVD contains a carefully crafted presentation of the film, complete with both stereo and Dolby 5.1 surround sound and has clearly been mastered and published to the high standards and reputation as the rest of the collection. Also presented, and not to be missed, is the original My Own Private Idaho promotional trailer.
Put the other disk into your player, however, and it soon becomes apparent that Criterion's reputation is well-deserved. We have an absolutely classic DVD release on our hands here and no mistake. A total of six separate items are presented as bonus material, stretching to several hours of additional material.
This material begins with fellow director Todd Haynes who talks, exclusively for this DVD release, with Van Sant about his film-making techniques and about My Own Private Idaho in particular.
Four members of the production team behind My Own Private Idaho - editor Curtiss Clayton, directors of photography John Campbell and Eric Alan Edwards along with production designer David Brisbin - present one of the gems of the disk, an all-new and exclusive documentary, "The Making Of My Own Private Idaho." Countless fascinating and hitherto unknown facts about the movie's production are recalled along with a great deal of previously unseen footage, which makes for some compelling viewing.
A particular treat is our first glimpse of seven scenes that were cut from the movie. There's some serious stuff here - one scene alone runs to nearly eight minutes in length. Also included is the often mentioned, but never before seen, aborted final scene of the movie in which Mike Waters' brother Richard is revealed to be the mysterious driver who bundles his younger brother/son into his car.
One of the scenes that was filmed but eventually excluded from the finished release of My Own Private Idaho.
In another cut scene, River's character returns to Portland after his failed sojourn to Italy and looks up his former friends. There, he finds Gary, played by the late Rodney Harvey, now earning something of a more respectable living working behind a fast food stand. The scene, clearly ad-libbed throughout, is a delight to watch. "Do you want a hot-dog, man?" asks Gary. "Sure, I'll take some dead pig, yeah!" adlibs River as he shrugs in return.
In the most unexpected of all the pieces of supplementary material, My Own Private Idaho producer, Laurie Parker talks intimately with River's sister Rain Phoenix about the commitment her brother showed during the film's production. "I think for my brother," recalls Rain, "to be able to translate that to people - the feelings he had, the sadness he felt, meeting these people, knowing these lives existed - these children that were abandoned and didn't have family and didn't have a sense of 'self' - it was important to him, to tell their story."
In addition to the two disks, the Criterion Collection release also includes a sixty-four page printed booklet. The content and presentation of this booklet is of such a high standard that we felt it deserved a separate review of its own in our Phoenix Bookshelf section.
Do be aware though that it is only the region 1 release that is marketed under the Criterion banner so while the product released in region 2 areas of the world has the same two-disk set and content, albeit with revised and reworked menus, the booklet is only included in the region 1 version.