The dazzling sophomore film from Wes Anderson is equal parts coming-of-age story, French New Wave homage, and screwball comedy. Tenth grader Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is Rushmore Academy’s most extracurricular student—and its least scholarly. He faces expulsion and enters into unlikely friendships with both a lovely first-grade teacher (Olivia Williams) and a melancholy self-made millionaire (Bill Murray, in an award-winning performance). Set to a soundtrack of classic British Invasion tunes, Rushmore defies categorization, capturing the pain and exuberance of adolescence with wit, emotional depth, and cinematic panache.
Criterion upgrades their previous DVD edition of Wes Anderson’s Rushmore to Blu-ray presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz. The back description states that this is the “director’s cut” of the film, usually suggesting (in terms of home video) that this version would differ from previous releases but I could not discern any differences between the version of the film here and what’s on the Criterion DVD edition released almost 12 years ago, though admittedly there could be a subtle difference that escaped me. That’s not to say this isn’t the “director’s cut” as I would assume the version released theatrically and on DVD is Anderson’s version through-and-through, ultimately making it the director’s cut, but why they would bother to note this on the description now is a little odd.
At any rate I suspect the transfer may come from the same source as the DVD’s, or at least uses the same print materials for a new high-definition transfer as some of the same blemishes can be found. Still, having said that, more debris and damage has been removed in comparison to what is present on the DVD and the print does look to be in better shape. The digital transfer is a far improvement over the DVD as well. I remember being impressed with the Criterion DVD when I first saw it (it was itself a nice improvement over the previous Disney DVD) but over the years it hasn’t held up well: it now looks a bit soft and fuzzy with heavy compression artifacts. The Blu-ray now presents a far sharper and cleaner image with clearer details and definition. Film grain is left intact and looks far more natural, and colours pop off the screen with some brilliantly rendered reds, blues, and greens.
The previous DVD had obvious noise and halos in sequences but those are now absent and the presentation looks more like a film. For this aspect alone the Blu-ray is worth the upgrade to.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track sounds similar to the Dolby Digital track on the DVD in terms of the mix but it sounds far crisper and clearer here with more range, more impressive volume levels, and less distortion. Again the sound field does stick to the fronts, still handling a bulk of the music and the dialogue with clean and noticeable pans across the three speakers. Where the track really sparks is during sequences where British invasion tunes are played, pumped through all 5 of the speakers and with noticeable though surprisingly subtle use of the lower frequency.
And again the track has a lot of activity going on in it during Max’s “Heaven and Hell” play that occurs during the film’s finale. This sequence is loaded with gunshots, explosions, helicopters flying overhead, and so on, a full-on battle. Activity is happening all around and effects move effortlessly and naturally through all of the speakers with a nice dose of bass thrown in for good measure. It’s very loud and very active during this sequence.
It’s always surprised me how active the film’s audio presentation is and again it sounds great here.
Most but not all of the features have made it over. Unfortunately we also lose Criterion’s rather cute menu system from the DVD, instead getting the generic pop-out system with background images that try to capture the same spirit of the DVD menus.
First up is an audio commentaryfeaturing director Wes Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson, and actor Jason Schwartzman. Anderson and Wilson talk mostly about their inspirations and their take on the characters. Anderson talks about some of his real life experiences that were used in the film, including getting kicked out of school himself. There’s also mention of film influences. Schwartzman offers some amusing anecdotes and stories and makes it clear that for the movie he "shaved his chest!" I rather liked this track, finding it quite entertaining and funny. Unfortunately everyone was recorded separately (common to early Criterion tracks) but it’s still quite informative, and is also still the best one of all of the Criterion Wes Anderson tracks.
The remaining supplements are of course found under the “Supplements” section of the menu.
Up first are Auditions, which feature audition footage of Jason Schwartzman, Stephen McCole, Ronnie and Keith McCawley, Sara Tanaka, and Mason Gamble. In total it runs almost 9-minutes, with Schwartzman’s taking up most of it. It was shot on video so it’s a little rough. I don’t know if it adds anything noteworthy but it’s interesting enough to watch. You have the option to view them all in sequence or individually.
An amusing extra are a bunch of shorts used for the promotion (I believe) of the 1999 MTV Music Awards that have Max and his gang perform their own takes on The Truman Show, Armageddon and Out of Sight. There’s also a short introduction with Max explaining how his group was commissioned by MTV. They’re rather amusing (especially the Armageddon one,) if too short; in total they run about 4-minutes.
Eric Anderson, Wes’ brother, made a documentary covering the making of the film, naturally called The Making of “Rushmore”, which was supposed to be just a short EPK but ballooned to something else. Running 17-minutes it doesn’t really get that in-depth, only offering a shallow look at the making of the film with behind-the-scenes footage and short interview clips. It’s interesting, giving an idea of the feel of the production but that’s about it. I guess I liked watching it but have to be honest in saying if it wasn’t here I probably wouldn’t have missed it.
A 2-minute storyboard comparison is presented in the exact same manner as what was found on the DVD. It compares the opening sequence with the film playing on the top portion of the screen and the storyboards playing in the bottom portion. Criterion also offers up a collection of storyboards including the “Geometry Dream”, the “Yearbook Montage”, the “Country Club Scene”, the “You Are Forgiven” sequence, and a portion of the “Vietnam Play”. You can navigate them individually using the arrows on your remote.
An interview with Anderson and Murray on The Charlie Rose Show is also included on the disc. I’ve only seen a few episodes of Charlie Rose and I am generally unfamiliar with his interview style, but I can’t say I was all that impressed with this one. At 54-minutes he sort of meanders around with Rose concentrating on aspects that don’t have to do much with the film. Murray’s portion takes up the most time, around 36-minutes or so, and Anderson gets the rest. Probably the most interesting portion of the interview is Anderson recalling how he was able to convince Murray to be in the film, which included sending him copy after copy of Bottle Rocket in hopes of convincing him. But I don’t even think Rose watched the film and has very little interest in it (I felt anyways.) I actually question the inclusion of this as a feature, though wonder if Anderson felt it was somewhat funny (and I suspect this was the inspiration for the joke interviews that appear on the other Criterion DVDs of his films.) Worth watching only for its bizarre qualities.
The theatrical trailer follows and then the supplements conclude with a section called "Archiva Graphica", which has been severely cut down in comparison to the same feature on the DVD. The DVD featured a rather large photo gallery including concept poster art, a breakdown of the portrait displayed in the opening, and then various photos and materials from the film, including Max’s handwritten speech to his new class in public school. This gallery only shows the portrait with a rough sketch, and then the concept poster and various close-ups. Everything else is inexplicably missing.
But we do get the same two inserts found with the DVD. We get an insert with an essay written by film critic Dave Kehr and we also get a map that displays all of Rushmore's key events drawn by Eric Chase Anderson. This is the exact same map found in the DVD.
It’s a decent edition, though in retrospect, many years later, it’s pretty sparse. I’m disappointed Criterion and/or Anderson didn’t bother with some sort of retrospective but at least most of the material made it over.
The supplements are basically the same, though some photos are missing. But the disc is worth the upgrade for the video transfer, which offers a substantial and more than noticeable improvement over Criterion’s previous DVD.