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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary from 2004 featuring Susan Seidelman
  • New interviews with Susan Seidelman and actor Susan Berman
  • And You Act Like One Too (1976) and Yours Truly, Andrea G. Stern (1979), two early shorts by Seidelman, with new introductions by the director
  • An essay by critic Rebecca Bengal

Smithereens

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Susan Seidelman
1982 | 93 Minutes | Licensor: Shout Factory!

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #941
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: August 21, 2018
Review Date: September 23, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

Susan Seidelman established her distinctive vision of 1980s New York with this debut feature, the lo-fi original for her vibrant portraits of women reinventing themselves. After escaping New Jersey, the quintessentially punk Wren (Susan Berman)—a sparkplug in fishnets who lives dangerously downtown—moves to the city with the mission of becoming famous. When not pasting up flyers for herself or hanging at the Peppermint Lounge, she’s getting involved with Paul (Brad Rijn), the nicest guy to ever live in a van next to the highway, and Eric (Richard Hell), an aloof rocker. Shot on 16 mm film that captures the grit and glam of the setting, with an alternately moody and frenetic soundtrack by the Feelies and others, Smithereens—the first independent American film to compete for the Palme d’Or—is an unfaded snapshot of a bygone era.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens on Blu-ray, delivering the film on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K restoration scanned from the 16mm A/B negative.

The end results are shocking to say the least. Age and elements (plus the very independent nature of the production) hold things back a bit, but I can’t imagine the film ever looking as bright and lively as it does here. The colours are easily the most splendid element, managing to overcome some of the more glum ‘80s New York settings, delivering outstanding reds, purples, oranges, and so on, and rather strong black levels that only get a little muddy when it looks like the lighting was a bit questionable. It’s a very grainy film but the encode handles it quite well, even during darker moments, keeping it natural looking and clean.

The restoration work has also cleaned up most of the damage; nothing all that significant remains. Clarity is also pretty strong, details popping nicely at times, but there are moments that can look a bit fuzzy but it appears that has more to do with the original shooting conditions. Yet even with these low-budget short-comings the image still manages to look striking.

8/10

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AUDIO

The film’s mono track—presented in lossless PCM 1.0 mono—sounds pretty good much to my surprise. It’s certainly not all that robust and dialogue is fairly flat, but the music is decent and the general quality is good. Perfectly serviceable.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion’s special edition first ports over an audio commentary featuring director Seidelman and Blue Underground’s David Gregory, recorded for their own DVD edition in 2004. Working as the moderator, Gregory asks Seidelman a number of questions about the film’s production, from original development to rounding up all of the people to work on it (not surprisingly some people involved in the film, either in front or behind the camera, just happened to be around) and then getting it shot and released. She recalls New York at the time and the independent film scene, and talks about constructing the final film and its selection of music, all of which was done with the aid of Jonathan Demme. Thanks to Gregory keeping things going it’s a very energetic and informative track, never missing a beat and filling out the film’s running time.

Criterion next includes a new interview program featuring Seidelman and actor Susan Berman. The lengthy 41-minute feature has Seidelman repeat some details from the commentary track, but she does also talk a bit more about her follow-up films, while getting Berman’s point-of-view proves to be a valuable addition, with her covering her own casting and then taking the film to film festivals.

Criterion also includes two of Seidelman’s student films: the 25-minute black-and-white And You Act Like One Too and the 38-minute colour Yours Truly, Andrea G. Stern. Both also come with new 2-minute introductions by Seidelman. Though with their rough edges they’re both confidently done, the first focusing around a mother and wife who feels slighted on her birthday and comes across a hitchhiker while out and about, and the second focusing on a little girl dealing with the divorce of her parent’s and her mother’s new boyfriend. Both are in okay condition, not great, while the audio for the first film is a bit rough.

The release the comes with an insert with an essay by Rebecca Bengal, who looks at the film as a snap shot of ‘80s New York and independent filmmaking of the time.

In the end we get an entertaining and informative set of supplements. I found the journey down memory lane littered throughout fascinating and enjoyable.

7/10

CLOSING

A rather impressive edition, exceeding my expectations by a fair margin. The supplements, while not looking all that plentiful, were wonderful to go through, and the presentation ended up being shockingly good. Fans of the film will definitely want to pick this edition up.


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Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca