To Die For


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The all-American obsession with celebrity turns monstrous in this deliciously subversive (and disturbingly prescient) satire of our television-mediated, true-crime-obsessed age. In a career breakthrough, Nicole Kidman delivers a diabolical deconstruction of the girl next door as a local TV weather reporter whose perfectly perky facade belies a murderous heart, as her ruthless pursuit of fame ensnares three disaffected teens in a sordid, tabloid-ready scandal. Deftly deploying shifting perspectives, faux-documentary interviews, and a supporting cast featuring Joaquin Phoenix, Matt Dillon, and Casey Affleck, director Gus Van Sant adds provocative layers of meaning to this darkly funny examination of suburban sociopathy.

Picture 8/10

Gus Van Sant’s To Die For receives a new 4K UHD edition from The Criterion Collection. It is presented with Dolby Vision in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a triple-layer disc. The 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition presentation is sourced from a new 4K restoration performed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, taken from a scan of the 35mm original negative. The release also includes a standard Blu-ray edition that hosts a 1080p film presentation.

What we get does look rather good, and it probably could have been perfect—or damn close to it—if it wasn’t for one frustrating shortcoming, and it (yet again) comes down to the encode fumbling the highlights and the hotter areas of the screen. Though not a consistent problem through their UHD releases, it pops up to varying degrees, from barely noticeable, as in Blood Simple, to glaringly awful, like the macroblocking mess that is Walkabout. Mercifully, details aren't obliterated within the highlights entirely this time around, with grain and some finer nuances still there to a degree. Unfortunately, compression is just lousy enough that these areas become incredibly noisy, and grain looks like static dancing around. The film's opening shots, which feature a bright, snow-covered setting, look especially bad and are all very glaring.

Thankfully, after the opening, this issue only pops up intermittently throughout the film and isn’t a common problem, inexplicably not impacting some bright spots and only mildly impacting a handful of other sequences, like some featuring close-ups of Nicole Kidman over a white background. Still, at its worst, it’s hard not to ignore.

And it’s a shame because the rest of the presentation looks great. The encoding in other areas is solid enough, and grain is rendered well outside some of those highlights. Fine-object detail looks excellent, all the way down to the textures in the fabrics of Kidman’s endless collection of outfits. The colors also look lovely, with HDR really boosting the range in those reds, violets, pinks, yellows, and so on, and this is all again best sampled in Kidman’s outfits. Black levels are rich and deep, with a broader range in the shadows.

In all, it still looks rather good, but yet again, it just drops the ball when it comes to rendering detail in the highlights.

Audio 8/10

The film comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround soundtrack. Dialogue is sharp and clear with excellent fidelity. Danny Elfman’s score is spread through the channels effectively with subtle bass, and the range is vast. The mix is ultimately simple, with only some effects making their way to the rears (camera snaps, ambient noise, etc.), but it’s still effective and sounds very sharp.

Extras 7/10

Criterion’s edition marks the first special edition the film has received on video. Unfortunately, the supplements are shockingly slim.

Thankfully, one of the features is a brand new audio commentary featuring Van Sant, director of photography Eric Alan Edwards, and editor Curtiss Clayton, and it proves to be one of the best filmmaker tracks I’ve recently listened to. It starts a bit rough, with Clayton seeming to interview Van Sant in an effort to get him talking. But once the conversation gets rolling, it goes full speed, and the three never fall short on topics to cover. The track focuses mainly on the film’s production, from its origins to the lengthy editing process, with screenwriter Buck Henry sounding to have been involved in some capacity every step of the way. There were a lot of surprises here, starting with the fact Henry wrote the screenplay specifically for Van Sant to direct, along with the story about director Mike Nichols attempting to get Van Sant fired so he could take over. The biggest shock, though, probably has to do with Henry’s reaction to Illeana Douglas’ performance: he hated it to the point he even made an edit of the film that excised her entirely. No one understood his issue exactly, but he didn’t have any sway in this area.

Outside of that, it sounds as though Henry was easygoing otherwise. The conversation ventures on to other subjects, from the casting of Kidman and others to the costume design and every topic in between. The only thing that doesn’t get covered is how David Cronenberg ended up in his cameo. That aside, it’s one of the more fascinating production-focused commentaries I’ve probably listened to.

Sadly, no cast members appear, and there is no archival material featuring Henry. The disc does include 35 minutes worth of deleted scenes (included on the standard Blu-ray, not the 4K disc), which all appear to have been scanned from the raw film elements without any editing or post-production touch-ups (for example, one scene features Kidman singing and moving along to an Aerosmith song that hasn’t been added in yet). Most of the material appears to be trims or second-unit stuff, but material mentioned in the commentary pops up, including Van Sant’s cameo and the film’s alternate opening. There is also an additional subplot around a tattoo Kidman’s character receives, more material focusing on the police investigation, and a lot of footage around a “date night” Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix’s characters have. It’s an extensive amount of material that ends up being rather fun to sort through, and you also get an inkling of those alternative edits mentioned in the commentary.

The disc then closes with the film’s trailer. The included insert features an essay on the film by Jessica Kiang, who places the movie in the context of its time, where the 24-hour news cycle and daytime talk shows turned murderers into instant celebrities. She does bring up the case of Pamela Smart, an apparent influence on this film's story, and this is surprisingly the only place where she comes up, outside of a quick mention in the commentary (she apparently doesn’t like the film).

In the end, it’s lacking, but the deleted scenes and commentary are terrific additions.


It’s an underwhelming release with a slim selection of supplements. Still, issues aside, the new 4K restoration delivers a solid upgrade over previous presentations.


Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Year: 1995
Time: 106 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1213
Licensor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 26 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 Gus Van Sant, Eric Alan Edwards, and editor Curtiss Clayton   Deleted scenes   Trailer   An essay by film critic Jessica Kiang