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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Surround
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Exclusive new audio interview with Gus Van Sant by filmmaker Todd Haynes
  • The Making of My Own Private Idaho, a new documentary featuring interviews with Idaho crew members
  • Kings of the Road, a new video interview with film scholar Paul Arthur in which he discusses Van Sant's adaptation of Orson Welles and Shakespeare
  • New video conversation between producer Laurie Parker and River Phoenix's sister Rain
  • New audio conversation between writer JT LeRoy (The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things) and filmmaker Jonathan Caouette (Tarnation)
  • Deleted scenes
  • Original theatrical trailer

My Own Private Idaho


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Gus Van Sant
Starring: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert, Rodney Harvey, Flea , Udo Kier
1991 | 104 Minutes | Licensor: New Line Home Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #277
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 1, 2005
Review Date: December 8, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves star in Gus Van Sant's haunting tale of two young street hustlers: Mike Waters, a sensitive narcoleptic who dreams of the mother who abandoned him, and Scott Favor, the wayward son of the mayor of Portland and object of Mike's desire. Navigating a volatile world of junkies, thieves, and johns, Mike takes Scott on a quest from the grungy streets to the open highways of the Pacific Northwest, in search of an elusive place called home. Visually dazzling and groundbreaking, My Own Private Idaho is a deeply moving look at unrequited love and life at society's margins.

Forum members rate this film 7.8/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

Right after Alliance-Atlantis released a rather ďblahĒ edition of the film on DVD in Canada, The Criterion Colleciton presents My Own Private Idaho on the first dual-layered disc of this two-disc set in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The picture on this is very impressive. I had only seen the film on VHS and TV occasionally and it always looked dull and washed out. This DVD edition is a vast improvement, presenting bright, vibrant colours. The image overall is very sharp with a great amount of detail. The print is in pretty good shape. Grain is present and does get heavier in certain sequences, but this isnít a bother. There is the occasional spec of debris here and there, but itís still a vast improvement over what I recall. In all Criterion did a wonderful job restoring this film. It looks fantastic.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion presents the film with both a 2.0 Dolby Surround and 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. The 5.1 track is rather impressive considering the content of the film. It is of course front heavy with music creeping to the backs, but there are some wonderful subtle effects (such as the wind blowing) and some cool little splits when called for (the cabin falling at the beginning.) Dialogue is sharp and clear, and music sounds very good with no distortion at all. It's a talky picture so you donít expect to be blown away, but it sounds better than it needs to be.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion has put together a very loving two-disc set for the film, and while it lacks an audio commentary (sort of disappointing) fills that void with a second disc full of features (which is pretty much all talk anyways.)

The first disc contains nothing but the film and the theatrical trailer. Everything else is on the second disc.

I have to admit a certain disappointment that the supplements are really nothing but talking heads with scenes/photos from the film thrown over top, but at least the information is good, for the most part at least. The big supplement is an audio interview between Todd Haynes and Idaho's director, Gus Van Sant, which is just the two talking over the chapter selection menu (you can skip through the interview if you so choose.) It plays like an audio commentary as it appears the two are watching the film as they talk, but for reasons unknown by me it was decided that this track would not play over the film (though it may have to do with the fact the interview actually runs longer than the film, this interview running almost 2 hours.) I personally think it would have worked better if it was treated as an audio commentary. Still, you get a lot information from Van Sant, covering every detail from his script to using The Simpsons in the movie (which River was apparently a fan of.) Haynes wasn't really necessary in my opinion, as he brings nothing to the table, other than the occasional "wow!" that he seems to say to everything Van Sant says. Other than that, it's worth listening to.

A 41-minute documentary aptly titled The Making of My Own Private Idaho is also found here. Here we get Production Designer David Brisben and the directors of photography Eric Alan Edwards and John Campbell. It is just the three talking-heads chatting about their experience in making the film (with photos and scenes thrown in for good measure) from Gus getting the money for it to the editing process, and slightly on its acceptance. While it talks a lot about Gus and his vision, problems with money, getting the actors (and commenting on their performances) and so on, I have to say I felt disappointed by it in all. I know there's more that can be covered (though yes, it was also covered in the audio interview) so I felt let down. The best part of the doc was when it covered how the Magazine rack sequence was done, which is more interesting than any CGI effect.

Another little documentary called Kings of the Road is included, which is 45-minute feature going over Van Sant and the genres covered in the film, from buddy picture to western to road movie to Shakespeare. It's hosted by Paul Arthur and in all honesty it is fairly dry but there are some interesting things mentioned. It also analyzes the style of the film and what it's going for, as well as how Van Sant's mind works (to an extent anyways) and more info on his aim with the film (including influences from Orson Welles.)

An interview with producer Laurie Parker and River's sister, Rain is up next. The 19-minute interview is all about River Phoenix and what he was like as an actor and a person, and it comes down to this: Brilliant but troubled. It's a nice reflective piece that paints River in a good way. It's a shame we lost him so soon.

The final piece is an audio conversation between writer J.T. LeRoy and filmmaker Jonathan Caouette. The two are ex-street kids and close to Van Sant. They discuss the film and how it inspired/affected them and also about the life it depicts. Lasting over 50-minutes I'd like to say it's a great extra (the idea behind it is good and fits in with what Criterion usually does) BUT I have to say this is the most disappointing feature on here. It's surprisingly dry and altogether uninteresting. Shortened a bit and maybe you'd have something. Iíd actually recommend using the chapter skips when going through it.

(EDIT: As a note, I wrote this review years ago and it should be noted that a few months after this DVD was released it was revealed that J.T. LeRoy was, in fact, not a real person and was the product of musician Laura Albert. You can find more information on Wikipedia by following this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JT_LeRoy. A whole stink was raised about it with Albert saying the whole thing was meant to be a work of fiction. Iíve never read any of the books but I do seriously question that statement, especially since LeRoy participates pretty extensively with this release as someone with firsthand experience.)

And then we get 6 deleted scenes, as well as the "barn crash" with the scratch that Van Sant mentions in the interview. I actually liked the 6 scenes, though I can see why they were cut. In most cases it would have been pacing (especially the extended bit with Bob and Scott.) In one other case I figure Van Sant cut the scene to leave the ending open (one of the deleted scenes answers who picks up Mike off of the road at the end.)

And finally the set includes a thick 60-page booklet. Inside you'll find an essay on the film by Amy Taubin. There is an essay by J.T. LeRoy, a reprint of an article from the set of the film by Lance Loud, an interview with Gus van Sant by River Phoenix, an interview with Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, and a whole lot of photos. It's a nice looking booklet and makes for an excellent read.

It's disappointing that they couldn't get Keanu Reeves to talk about the film, though his schedule at the time may have had a bit to do with that. But we still have some good stuff here, though you have to search for it through a lot of dry talking-head material. But they put a lot of effort into it and this definitely exceeds what I thought the film would ever receive on DVD.

7/10

CLOSING

I always figured the film would be dumped on some cheap New Line DVD that you'd find in the Wal-Mart bin so it's nice to see Criterion picked it up and put some love into its release. While the supplements in all are somewhat dry and a tad disappointing, Criterion makes up for that with the incredible transfer. Fans of the film should not hesitate and go pick up this DVD now. A very nice release overall.


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