[box cover]

Boogie Nights: Platinum Series (second edition)

New Line Home Video

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore
John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Phillip Baker Hall, and William H. Macy

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson


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Review by D. K. Holm                    


Reducing it to auteurist high concept, the cinema of Paul Thomas Anderson is about conflicting mentors. In Hard Eight, John (John C. Reilly) first finds a dedicated mentor in Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), a man who teaches him proper conduct for functioning successfully in the competitive underground world of gambling. But then John finds a false mentor in Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson), who conducts himself crudely, beckons John down a false path, and ultimately messes up everyone's life (though John also must take blame for some actions). The lure of the false mentor is what distracts and thwarts the protagonists of Anderson's movies. If Magnolia strikes the sympathetic yet critical viewer as not quite the film it could be despite its marvelous set pieces and its troupe of actors all operating at a high pitch (too high, some say), that's possibly because there is no clearly defined mentor competition to anchor the sprawling narrative. Magnolia is a movie about people, such as Frank T. J. Mackey or Claudia Gator, who have lost father figures, and who damage themselves and others in retaliation, not about individuals torn between competing mentors.

Boogie Nights, on the other hand, does have such an anchor for its not-quite-as-sprawling narrative. The disciple is Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), soon to become Dirk Diggler, a John Holmes style porno actor. His first mentor is Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). Horner is 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. Then things change when the '70s change to the '80s, when video recording threatens the hard core movie industry, and worse, when a false mentor appears in the shape of Todd Parker (Thomas Jane of Deep Blue Sea), a fringe character who "facilitates" Diggler's increased drug use and fantasies about starting a music career. Parker drags Diggler down to his bleakest moment, when Diggler is almost killed in a drug heist. In the end, Diggler returns to his first mentor, and is welcomed back into the fold of his true family, which includes the mother figure Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), a brotherly fellow porn star named Reid (Reilly), and a sisterly component (Heather Graham's Rollergirl) among several others.

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. After all, it's a movie that isn't really just about the adult entertainment industry (about which the film makes certain key mistakes, such as introducing videotapes too early). 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, 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 Laser discversion of the film (notable for an audio commentary consisting of excerpts from Anderson's interviews with cast members) and the previous DVD version (including Anderson's audio commentary and 10 deleted scenes). In a statement on the box, Anderson insists that this is his final version of the film. However, Anderson's audio commentary describes yet another scene that was shot but not used, and has not yet made it on to any supplement. In this scene, Alfred Molina goes back into his house after the failed drug heist, finds his fire-cracker throwing friend dead, and then has a confrontation with the police, in which he is shot to death. And there is reference elsewhere to a whole subplot concerning the Luis Guzman character and Rollergirl. Also known is that originally the marriage of Little Bill (Bill Macy) and his wife (Nina Hartley) was explored in much more detail, so that we understand her motivation for infidelity (Hartley says that such scenes were shot). So, truth be told, there may be room yet for an even more definitive set of supplements. Meanwhile, excerpts from Exhausted, the documentary about porn legend John Holmes, was on the Criterion Boogie Nights LD with commentary by Anderson, but at the last minute New Line was not able to secure the rights to it, and the out-of-print Criterion laser remains the only place to find this sublime treat.

Boogie Nights was a modest hit. Released on October 10th, 1997, the film cost $15 million and made $26 million in the United States, with an additional $15 million in other countries. It was more of a critical success. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Burt Reynolds, Best Supporting Actress for Julianne Moore, and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Paul Thomas Anderson. Other bodies that offered nominations as well as actual awards were the British Academy Awards, the British Independent Film Awards, the Golden Globes, the MTV Movie Awards , the National Society of Film Critics Awards and the virtually identical New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

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 due to all that movement. 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). Surprisingly, another thing missing is the original trailer, but there is a lengthy director's commentary, that is obviously Anderson's edited responses to an (mostly) unheard interviewer's questions. Anderson is passionate, informed, funny, authoritative, and uses the F-word to the distress of many other DVD reviewers. 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, while others (such as Wahlberg) have insights that have to be plucked out of rambling sentences. 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's and also carrying a commentary track is included. This video is shot in a building that is reputed to have the longest hallway on the west coast; Anderson reveals that he wants to make an Altmanesque movie there. Another commentary-inspiring section on the second disc is the 10 deleted scenes Anderson offers up; for the most part his remarks concern how hard it was for him to cut these moments. 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: a deleted award-speech scene, followed by prosthetic-device screen-tests with Wahlberg.

The second edition of Boogie Nights: Platinum Series is a good package of stuff, if not truly exceptional, as it still leaves some questions unanswered. On the other hand, it's a great transfer of a great film. The whole package comes in a dual DVD digipak in paperboard slip-case.

— D. K. Holm



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