Bound

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Synopsis

Before they blew the world’s mind with The Matrix, Lana and Lilly Wachowski delivered a jolt of pure pulp pleasure with their hyperstylish debut, which puts a deliciously sapphic spin on a crackerjack caper premise. When butch plumber Corky (Gina Gershon) catches the eye of alluring femme (fatale) Violet (Jennifer Tilly), little does she know she’s about to be drawn into both a torrid affair and a high-stakes heist that will pit the pair against the mob. With crackling dialogue, luscious neonoir cinematography, and live-wire performances by Gershon, Tilly, and Joe Pantoliano, Bound is a genre-reimagining joyride that keeps both the tension and the erotic heat rising through each crazily careening twist.

Picture 9/10

The Criterion Collection presents the unrated cut of Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s Bound in 4K UHD, featuring Dolby Vision on a triple-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition presentation is sourced from a 4K restoration, scanned primarily from the 35mm original camera negative, with a 35mm interpositive used for some sections. Criterion also includes a standard dual-layer Blu-ray featuring all of the release's special features and a 1080p presentation of the film.

Previously, I had only seen the film through shoddy home video releases, with Arrow’s UK release being the best (though I never did see Olive’s Blu-ray from 2018). However, that edition used a dated high-definition master with a purely video texture and weak contrast levels.

This new 4K presentation is a completely different experience, with the noir qualities of the photography now far more apparent. The benefits of HDR really come into play here through rich blacks and a wider range in the shadows. Numerous shots feature a bright single light source that beautifully and smoothly transitions into the darker areas. Highlights look clean, and I was pleased to see these areas don’t look noisy or blocky, with details like grain appearing well-rendered.

The image can look a bit soft in places, which could be inherent to the original photography. The notes mention that an interpositive was used in some sections, and this could be the cause, though I can’t say for sure. Grain still looks good overall, and I didn’t notice any obvious jumps in quality.

Grain rendering is never an issue, thanks to a solid encode. I didn’t detect any noise, and macroblocking was not an obvious problem, even in the brighter areas. The restoration has also cleaned up any print damage, with nothing of note popping up. Ultimately, it’s an entirely different experience compared to the previous home video releases I’ve seen. It looks striking.

Audio 8/10

Criterion includes a 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s a rather dynamic mix, with objects whooshing by as the camera zooms through various settings, while the score envelops the viewer by extending to all channels. Gunshots have a satisfying pop, and dialogue is consistently clear with generous range. The audio is crisp and sharp, free from distortion or significant damage.

Extras 9/10

Criterion’s edition of Bound doesn’t offer much in the way of new supplements, but it impressively gathers most of the features from previous home video releases by Olive Films and Arrow. Included is the audio commentary originally recorded for the 1997 Republic LaserDisc edition, featuring directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski, consultant/actor Susie Bright, and editor Zach Staenberg. Actor Joe Pantoliano makes an early appearance, while Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly join later, with Gershon coming in about a half-hour before the film ends.

Having never listened to the track before, I was pleasantly surprised: it’s an older studio track, yet it offers a lot of incredible insights. The actors discuss their characters and the challenges of shooting some scenes, but the commentary mainly belongs to the Wachowskis and Bright. They spend a significant amount of time discussing their efforts to depict the relationship between Gershon’s and Tilly’s characters authentically, avoiding exploitation or male fantasy. This aspect of the track is particularly striking, given the time it was recorded. In 1997, same-sex relationships were still largely taboo on screen, so a studio commentary being so candid and thoughtful about the subject matter was unexpected. Besides discussing the film’s complex and creative shots, this was the most compelling topic covered. It’s well worth a listen.

The commentary can be found on both the 4K disc and the standard Blu-ray. All other features are only found on the Blu-ray.

Criterion also includes a series of interviews filmed in 2012, starting with Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, filmed separately. Surprisingly, Tilly was initially considered for the role of Corky, with Linda Hamilton set to play Violet. This changed as the project evolved, with Gershon replacing Hamilton, and everyone seems to agree it all worked out for the best. They discuss working together and developing their on-screen chemistry, including how they collaborated with the Wachowskis to make their intimate scenes not only authentic but comfortable for the two.

Technical challenges in shooting some scenes, including the central sex scene with a circling camera, required more crew than usual, complicating things, yet they still worked through it. This technical focus continues in interviews with Joe Pantoliano, who mentions a special rig for one shot, Christopher Meloni, impressed by what the directors achieved on a low budget, and a longer discussion with editor Zach Staenberg, director of photography Bill Pope, and composer Don Davis. This trio delves into the directors’ influences and how the seeds of ideas for The Matrix can be seen in Bound.

There’s also a 2018 interview with title designer Patti Podesta, explaining the impressive non-CGI titles, and a program with film scholars Jennifer Moorman and B. Ruby Rich, both filmed for Olive’s Blu-ray reissue. Moorman and Rich contextualize the film within its time, highlighting how it diverged from typical, often exploitative depictions of same-sex relationships in mainstream media. They also explore the film’s noir elements and its subversion of audience expectations.

Criterion’s sole new contribution is a 17-minute video essay by Christina Newland, Pipeline to Seduction. It touches on topics similar to Moorman and Rich, like subverting noir conventions and seriously portraying the romance between the protagonists. But Newland also examines the film’s symbolism and visual creativity, along with a comparison between the unrated and R-rated versions (since Criterion doesn't include the R-rated version, some may be intrigued by the very subtle differences).

The disc includes the film’s American and international trailers, and an insert features an essay by McKenzie Wark, offering a personal interpretation of the film and the Wachowskis’ subsequent work.

While the set could benefit from more technical features in the film's camera work, Criterion’s effort in gathering previous material is commendable. It’s a fun and comprehensive package to explore.

Closing

Despite featuring only one new special feature, this edition stands out as a terrific offering, showcasing a stunning new 4K presentation that transforms the film into an entirely new experience.

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Year: 1996
Time: 108 min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1220
Licensor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 18 2024
MSRP: $49.95
 
4K UHD Blu-ray/Blu-ray
2 Discs | BD-50/UHD-100
1.85:1 ratio
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Regions A/None
HDR: HDR10Dolby Vision
 
 Audio commentary featuring directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski; actors Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, and Jennifer Tilly; editor Zach Staenberg; and technical consultant Susie Bright   New video essay by film critic Christina Newland   Interview with actors Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly   Interview with actor Joe Pantoliano   Interview with actor Chris Meloni   Interview with title designer Patti Podesta   Interview with film scholars Jennifer Moorman and B. Ruby Rich   Interviews with director of photography Bill Pope, editor Zach Staenberg, and composer Don Davis   Trailers