[box cover]

Trainspotting: Collector's Series

Now that we all know how sweet, charming and sexy that lovely Ewan McGregor bloke can be, can we really accept him as a cheeky heroin addict in 1996's Trainspotting? Absolutely. Despite his less-edgy turns in the Star Wars epics, Moulin Rouge, and Down with Love, it only takes a few minutes to forget all of that and see him as Mark "Rent Boy" Renton, Trainspotting's disaffected, heroin-dabbling narrator. The film is hardcore, punk-rock cinema — funny, desolate and, at times, distinctly uncomfortable to watch. "Choose life… Choose a job… Choose a career… Choose a family…" Renton recites as he and a friend run away from some store detectives at the film's start. "Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers… Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance… Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth." Renton explains that he's chosen none of those things, however — he chooses not to choose life. The reasons? Simple: "Who needs reason when you've got heroin?" Director Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later) prepped his actors by having them study The Exorcist, Goodfellas, and A Clockwork Orange — and it's Kubrick's nihilistic classic that Trainspotting most blatantly emulates, making the skag-shooting street existence of Renton and his buddies seem as understandable, even sympathetic, as that of Alex and his droogs. Based on an anecdotal novel by Irvine Welsh, the story's an almost haphazard string of experiences centering on Renton, who's inspired to kick heroin (by nailing himself into a room with valium, ice cream, a TV, and several buckets) then gets a straight job for awhile… until his buddies come to him with a plan for a killer score. Trainspotting isn't the sort of movie that will appeal to every film-lover — it's often downright disgusting, what with Renton hilariously going face-first into the "Worst Toilet in Scotland" to retrieve drugs, and graphic scenes of users shooting up, throwing up, and experiencing horrifying withdrawal symptoms in disturbing detail. But it's also an amazing, entertaining film, alternating between gritty realism and almost campy surrealism, depicting the agony, the ecstasy and the desperation of addiction as it cuts between Renton and his mates — manipulative, movie-loving Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), comic-relief sidekick Spud (Ewen Bremner), sweet, almost-innocent Tommy (Kevin McKidd), and psycho alcoholic Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Although the focus is squarely on McGregor, the film is most definitely an ensemble piece, with each character showing another facet of the junkie lifestyle. It's also a very, very funny picture, for those can get past any revulsion over the subject matter — the group's misadventures as they stumble through bar fights and dumb street deals are often hilarious, and the dialogue is liberally sprinkled with a crude wit.

*          *          *

Miramax offers a second Trainspotting DVD release as part of their "Collector's Series," presenting the uncut, European release on Disc One and a handful of very nice extras on Disc Two. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is exceptional, with brilliant color reproduction and excellent contrast. The audio, in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English or French) or DTS 5.1 (English) is very good. There's a lot of terrific music in the film — opening with Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" and featuring the likes of Blur, Lou Reed, Elastica, and Brian Eno — but the dialogue never gets short-changed — although with the characters' oatmeal-thick Scottish accents, you may find yourself punching up the optional English subtitles now and then just for clarification. Those subtitles, by the way, are not precisely word-for-word, which is sort of unsettling when watching them along with the film — and there doesn't seem to be much of a pattern to the differences. Sometimes a profanity will be dropped from the subtitles, but usually not — sometimes slang like "birds" will be changed to "girls," but not always. There's also a nice commentary track featuring Boyle, McGregor, producer Andrew McDonald, and screenwriter John Hodge, cobbled together from separate interviews recorded in 1996. The scene-specific anecdotes are interesting, though, and overall it's a very informative track. There also are nine deleted scenes, all of which are nice to see but wouldn't have improved the film at all with their inclusion. Disc Two offers some dandy extras, starting with "Retrospective," which is divided into "The Look of the Film" (discussing the visual references used in the film), "The Sound of the Film" (on the post-production sound work and choices of music), and "Interviews" with Irvin Welsh, Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge, and producer Andrew McDonald. "Cannes" offers interviews from the '96 Cannes Film Festival, each between one and three minutes long. "The Making of Trainspotting" (9 min.) is a pretty standard behind-the-scenes featurette. There's also cast-and-crew bios, a stills gallery and trailers. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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