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The Beach: Special Edition

The great thing about DVDs is that they make even marginal movies suddenly seem more interesting. Fox's The Beach: Special Edition is one of this phenomenon's beneficiaries. With its extra features, its commentaries, and a gorgeous transfer, The Beach takes on an interest that it didn't have as a rather lame eco-thriller when it hit the cineplexes in 1999. Based on the successful pop-novel by Alex Garland, Richard (DiCaprio), the narrator, has become a "traveler." Stumbling upon a map for an island paradise he convinces two fellow travelers (Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet) to go there with him. When they make it to the island paradise, run by Sal (Tilda Swinton), he is caught out in a lie, with disastrous consequences. The paradise they find turns grim, and for a long period toward the end of the film, Richard lives on the edge of both civilization and madness. The Beach isn't exactly an iconic movie for the new century, but it does have its constituency, either among Leonardo DiCaprio's fans, with ecology buffs, or with students of Danny Boyle and the new Scottish cinema. Regrettably, that's the only real interest the film generates. How did Danny Boyle and Co. go from bright lights of the British Cinema with the Coen-inspired Shallow Grave and the Scorsese-derivative Trainspotting to dim-bulb Hollywood sellouts? The answer can probably be found in A Life Less Ordinary, their previous film. This misguided, goofy cross between a teen comedy and existentialist allegory was such a flop in 1997 that the boys (Boyle, his writer John Hodge, and producer Andrew Macdonald) were perhaps shaken up a little and thus decided to switch from self-generated tales to full-blown Hollywood prestige adaptations of novels. Financially and esthetically, they raised the stakes but lost the bet. What's interesting about Fox's DVD is that it shows how many mistakes Boyle made during the editing stage. Almost all the deleted scenes gathered here flesh out the movie's characters and plot, give the story more clarity, and improve both the introduction and the conclusion, and Boyle's commentary with these deleted scenes is a sad chronicle of bowing to corporate pressure. Very clean and lush anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer, as befits a recent movie that takes place in a tropical paradise. Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Commentary, nine deleted scenes (including an alternate ending) with commentary, music video, storyboards, trailers and TV spots. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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