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Boogie Nights: Platinum Series (second edition)

The cinema of Paul Thomas Anderson is about conflicting mentors. In Hard Eight, the John C. Reilly character is torn between Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), who teaches him proper conduct, and Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), a crude and selfish criminal, and the lure of the false mentor is what distracts and thwarts the protagonists of Anderson's movies. The 1997 Boogie Nights continues Anderson's brooding on mentorship, which anchors a sprawling narrative. This time the disciple is Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), soon to become porn star Dirk Diggler. His first mentor is Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), the benevolent dictator of an ad hoc family of disparate loners and losers who make dirty movies together in Pasadena. The first part of the film charts Diggler's discovery by Horner and his rise to fame. The second part chronicles his fall after a false mentor appears in the shape of Todd Parker (Thomas Jane), a drug fiend. Diggler for a time evades his true family, Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Rollergirl (Heather Graham), and others. Yet despite the fact that it is set in the world of professional pornographers, or maybe actually because it is, Boogie Nights is a great movie about the American experience. It's also about what makes a family and how such small groups are organized and deal with external threats. It's about bottoming out and redemption, with characters whom one likes and laughs at simultaneously. With the second edition of Boogie Nights: Platinum Series on DVD, Anderson's film seems to get the reproduction it deserves; certainly it is endorsed by the director himself, who supervised a new master. The double disc set seems to blend components from the earlier Criterion Laserdisc version of the film (notable for an audio commentary consisting of excerpts from Anderson's interviews with cast members) and the previous New Line DVD version (including Anderson's audio commentary and 10 deleted scenes). What's missing is just as interesting — Exhausted, a documentary about porn legend John Holmes (and an item that influenced Anderson's film) was on the Criterion LD, but at the last minute New Line was not able to secure the rights to it for this "final" edition of Boogie Nights. Otherwise, New Line seems to have given Anderson his head for this two-disc production. The anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) transfer is excellent; this is a film with a lot of camera movement, yet there are no noticeable visual flaws. On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 isn't fully exploited (there is also Dolby 2.0 Surround English, and French 5.1). There is a lengthy director's commentary, and Anderson is passionate, informed, funny, authoritative. In addition, excerpts from Anderson's interviews with his cast members form a second commentary track. This is an uneven feature; some of the actors are worth hearing, others not. Other features are the so-called "John C. Reilly Files," three alternate scenes and outtakes, one of which was a take used for a birthday reel for Sean Penn, the brother of the film's composer, Michael Penn. A rather unusual music video featuring Michael Penn, directed by Anderson and also carrying his commentary track is included. Commentary is also available over the 10 deleted scenes PTA offers up; for the most part his remarks concern how hard it was for him to cut the scenes. As an Easter egg, other deleted or altered scenes can be found in the "Color Bars" section on the first disc — if you just leave it on, two outtakes will appear.
—D.K. Holm

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