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New Line Home Cinema presents
"I just want a name, y'know, I want it so it can cut glass, y'know, like, razor-sharp. When I close my eyes I see this thing, it's like this big sign, and the name is in, like, bright blue neon lights, with, like, purple outlines. And this name is just so bright and so sharp that the sign, it just blows up because the name is just so powerful. It says 'DIRK DIGGLER.'"
DVD ReviewPaul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights debuted in 1997, establishing its writer/director as a significant new cinematic voice and boosting the careers of many of its stars. While other films had been made about the pornography industry (the 70's films Hardcore and Inserts come to mind), none had treated it so matter-of-factly, or dared to suggest that the people involved were real human beings. Boogie Nights is set in the late 1970's and early 1980's, focusing on the life of one Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), an extremely well-endowed young man who becomes major porn celebrity Dirk Diggler under the tutelage of director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), male co-star Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), and Horner's wife and star Amber Waves (Julianne Moore). The film covers the fate of the porno film industry, briefly chic in the 70's, as it gives way to the cheap shot-on-video product that flooded "family" video stores in the 1980's. Turmoil, tragedy and inevitable change affect the lives of Dirk's extended, semi-dysfunctional family.
Boogie Nights rides smoothly on a solid foundation of innovative, technically tricky cinematography, an unabashed affection for pornography as pop culture, and emotionally affecting, thoroughly credible performances by a stellar cast. Anderson's script fleshes its characters out well while leaving considerable room for improvisation, giving the movie a convincing sense of reality without meandering off into the bushes. His camera is fluid and active, particularly in an opening sequence that moves from the street to the interior of a busy club in one continuous shot, but it rarely calls attention to itself—every movement is motivated, avoiding the pointless stylishness to which many young directors seem prone. Most importantly, Anderson is interested in character and culture—his technical virtuosity is matched by a surprisingly mature appreciation of human nature.
Boogie Nights is truly epic within its intimate scope; its multi-threaded narrative holds up to repeated viewing despite the film's two-and-a-half-hour running time, blending a knowing perspective on the excesses of the 70's with genuine affection for the period. Standout supporting performances include William H. Macy as Little Bill, a cuckolded production supervisor; Philip Seymour Hoffman's awkwardly gay Scotty; Heather Graham's sexy, emotionally vulnerable "Rollergirl"; Luis Guzman's club owner and wanna-be porn star; and Don Cheadle's technically-confused stereo salesman/porn actor Buck Swope. The film's environment is much more than a salacious ticket-selling backdrop—much of the film's substance is derived from the ironies of the X-rated film business, ghettoized by the very nature of its product. It's simultaneously funny and heartbreaking to see these lost souls, convinced that they're legitimate movie stars but unable to master their own lives—their porno careers make it excruciatingly difficult to get a loan or maintain custody of a child. Anderson's film also communicates a genuine mournfulness at the passing of pornographic film, a sense that a genre on the verge of maturing was struck down by cost pressures and disregard for quality as video technology took over the industry.
If you haven't seen Boogie Nights and you're of sufficient age to experience its extremely strong R-rated content, I urge you to see it at the first opportunity. Only time will tell if the film holds up as the 90's Nashville it currently appears to be, but I think it's one of the finest films of the past five years. Broad in scope but intimate in focus, hyperreal yet grounded and truthful, it's an amazing cinematic achievement. Highly, highly recommended.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: New Line presents Boogie Nights in a brand-new anamorphic transfer, preserving the film's original 2.40:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. The film was transferred under the supervision of director P.T. Anderson and looks just great, with solid black level and intentionally oversaturated colors that rarely intrude on the crispness of the image. I spotted no distracting compression artifacts or significant print flaws—yet another high-quality transfer from New Line.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: Boogie Nights features three audio tracks—English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, and a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The character of all three tracks is similar—surrounds are used only on occasion, with dialogue centered and music in front-oriented stereo most of the time, with solid bass invoked by the film's 1970's pop music soundtrack. Dialogue is a bit crisper in the 5.1 mixes; all three soundtracks suffer from subtle hiss here and there and a bit of dialogue muddiness during the opening scene, but these are minor flaws in a generally solid audio presentation.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
10 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by P.T. Anderson / P.T. Anderson, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, Luis Guzman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Mark Wahlberg, Melora Walters
Layers Switch: 01h:24m:24s
Paul Thomas Anderson contributes a running screen-specific commentary, filled with anecdotes, technical insights and humor. He credits his filmic influences and thoroughly enjoys talking about his work—some may consider this self-indulgent, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Director P.T. Anderson rounds up cast members Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, Luis Guzman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Mark Wahlberg, and Melora Walters, recorded over several casual sessions with Anderson prompting and interviewing the actors. This material isn't always screen-specific but is smoothly assembled, and Anderson has the nerve to ask questions more neutral producers wouldn't. This track is great fun and provides some additional perspective on the film's production.
Try Music Video:
A very interesting music video starring Boogie Nights composer Michael Penn, directed by P.T. Anderson and shot in one amazingly long single take with a constantly moving camera. An optional commentary by Anderson lends some insight into the technical complexities of the shoot.
Cast & Crew Filmographies:
Up-to-date filmographies for 16 cast members and 12 production staff personnel, presented as simple text screens.
Character Biographies:Hilarious, completely appropriate biographies penned for the DVD, profiling each of the film's porn industry characters in fine style (Rollergirl apparently has "Over 600 video titles available on request!")
10 deleted scenes (9 of which were included on the earlier DVD release) presented with fine anamorphic transfers and optional commentary by P.T. Anderson. It was rumored that these might be edited back into the film for an extended "'fun cut," but Anderson wisely opted to keep them as supplementary material. All of the scenes are entertaining and contain some fine character moments, but most are not essential to the story. The new SE-only scene is fairly lengthy and explains the condition of Dirk's 'Vette as seen later in the film.
The John C. Reilly Files:
3 scenes, presented with low-quality non-anamorphic video workprint footage, of Reilly ("Reed Rothchild") improvising and riffing on the script, including extensive "gag reel" footage that evolved into the recording-career subplot seen in the finished film. Lots of fun to watch, though nowhere near the same quality imagewise as the official Deleted Scenes.
DVD-ROM Enhanced Presentation:
I was not able to explore the disc on a PC DVD-ROM drive. The packaging implies that some "PC Friendly" interactive features are included, though there appears to be no DVD-ROM-only supplemental material.
Extras Grade: A+
Final CommentsBoogie Nights is one of the finest films of the late 1990's, rich, funny, adult and honest in ways few films dare to be. New Line's "Platinum Series" DVD release is a class act through and through, featuring an excellent transfer of the film backed by a strong lineup of supplements under the supervision of director P.T. Anderson. Definitely not for the whole family, but highly recommended just the same.
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