Chasing Amy [Blu-Ray]
Director : Kevin Smith
Screenplay : Kevin Smith
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1997
Stars : Ben Affleck (Holden McNeil), Joey Lauren Adams (Alyssa Jones), Jason Lee (Banky Edwards), Dwight Ewell (Hooper X), Jason Mewes (Jay), Kevin Smith (Silent Bob)
For many, Chasing Amy is a film that hits a nerve. With blunt humor and a stark, honest approach, it tackles modern romance in the way few films do. It doesn’t soften the edges or candy-color anything. It takes life as it is.
Specifically, the film explores a particular strand of cultural hypocrisy that has been constantly hammered into the male psyche and reinforced in almost every aspect of Western society. To quote writer/director Kevin Smith, whose inspiration to make this film stemmed from personal experience, “There are these unspeakable, ingrained mistruths men are brought up to believe about sex: We’re dominant, we should go to bed with whores, but wake up with virgins.” Sometimes referred to as “The Madonna-Whore Complex,” it is often couched in strictly Catholic terms, so it should come as little surprise that Smith is a practicing Catholic. Another Catholic-inspired filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, has also dealt with this issue, explicitly in his first feature, Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967), and to a lesser extent in Mean Streets (1973) and Raging Bull (1980).
Chasing Amy is about Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), a twentysomething comic book artist who falls in love with a woman named Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), successfully builds a relationship with her, then unwittingly destroys it because he is emotionally incapable of dealing with her past sexual experiences. The film is given a double edge in that, when she is first introduced, Alyssa is a practicing lesbian, so it seems that the chances of Holden winning her affections are next to none.
Yet, he does, but the film is not about “turning” homosexuals. Rather, it is about relationships and how difficult it is for men--even those who consider themselves modern and liberated from traditional cultural baggage and sexual hang-ups--to deal with being intimate with a woman who is more sexually experienced than they are. When Holden confronts Alyssa about her past and demands an explanation, nothing she says can possibly suffice because he doesn’t actually want her to explain anything. He wants her to be something she is not, and therefore there is nothing she can do; it is all up to him because it is his insecurity that drives a wedge between them.
What is striking about the film is the frank and moving manner in which Smith is able to bring out such sensitive, nerve-jangling material in a film that is also very funny. The closest cinematic relative to Chasing Amy might be Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally... (1989), a similarly penetrating look at modern romance that also happened to be hilarious. Still, Chasing Amy feels more raw and uninhibited. This is very much a low-budget independent film, from its somewhat grainy 16mm photography to its unabashed dialogue that delves into often embarrassing truths about human sexuality without even the slightest hint of restraint.
At times, the film seems to be pulling in multiple directions. While it is primarily about the relationship between Holden and Alyssa, it is also about the relationship between Holden and his best friend and business partner, Banky (Jason Lee), who has even more hang-ups than Holden and is, perhaps, repressing latent homosexual desires. The entire story is infused with homosexuality and its place in modern American society, and in this respect the film sometimes feels a bit schizophrenic. In some scenes, it seems very open and understanding of gay life; in others, it lapses into stereotypes and crude humor.
The best example of this is Hooper X (Dwight Ewell), an African-American cartoonist who poses in public as a Black Panther-style militant who writes a virulent comic called White-Hating Coon, but in actuality is an effeminate gay man who bemoans the fact that he is an oppressed sexual minority within an oppressed racial minority. Still, it must say something that Hooper is, in the end, one of the most adjusted and self-assured characters in the film, especially when compared to Holden and Banky.
Chasing Amy was Kevin Smith’s third film, after his highly praised black-and-white indie debut Clerks (1994) and his roundly lambasted studio effort Mallrats (1995). While Chasing Amy has a little bit of both of those films, it marks a significant departure for Smith in that it is about more than the ’90s slacker lifestyle dressed up with witty, vulgar wordplay. Smith is great writer of dialogue; he is a master of lacing pop culture references and sly in-jokes throughout conversations in a way that feels completely natural and true to the characters. His two earlier films used this to great effect, but they were never about much more.
Chasing Amy matters because it is about something. It tackles issues and explores situations that many other filmmakers have shied away from. It’s the kind of film in which almost everyone can recognize a hint of themselves and perhaps a mistake they or someone they know has made. Although Smith’s directorial style remains somewhat flat and uncreative, it fits the mood of this film because a lot of self-conscious camerawork and editing would have distracted from the heart of the story. This is a truthful movie simply told, and it works marvelously.
|Chasing Amy Blu-Ray|
|Chasing Amy is available either as a separate Blu-Ray (SRP $39.99) or as part of the three-disc “Kevin Smith: 3-Movie Collection” Blu-Ray box set (SRP $89.99), which also includes Clerks (1994) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001).|
|SRP||$39.99 (Blu-Ray) / $89.99 (box set)|
|Release Date||November 17, 2009|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|On the plus side, the 1080p high-definition transfer of Chasing Amy on this Blu-Ray disc corrects the framing issues that marred the previously available Criterion Collection DVD. On the down side, noise reduction has been used quite extensively to tame the inherent grain of a low-budget film shot on 16mm, and while some grain is still visible, much of it has been digitally flattened, which has taken something of a toll on the image in terms of detail and depth. Simply put, it doesn’t look like a 16mm film anymore. The overall image also seems slightly darker than in previous transfers, which also makes the contrast seem heavier, although colors seem more intense and saturated than I’ve seen them before, especially in the opening comic con sequence. The uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack is quite good, with good separation to give the music additional weight while keeping the dialogue free and clear.|
|There are a number of new supplements included on this Blu-Ray. I am assuming that Criterion held onto the rights of the previously available audio commentary, which is why writer/director Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier have recorded a new one, which was originally a SModcast available on the Internet. Smith and Mosier are always entertaining, and they rehash many familiar stories and anecdotes, along with some new ones and plenty of off-the-cuff rambling. The best new inclusion is Tracing Amy: The Chasing Amy Doc, a feature-length retrospective documentary (82 min.) that includes interviews with just about everyone involved in the film, from Smith and Mosier, to actors Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee, and Jason Mewes, to cinematographer David Klein. The film’s backstory of studio politics, personal struggles, tricky financing, and the difficulties of recovering from a major bomb is a fascinating journey that is well told and constantly engrossing. Also new is “Was It Something I Said?: A Conversation With Kevin & Joey,” an 18-minute video interview in which Smith and Joey Lauren Adams sit down to discuss their past relationship and their work on the film, and “10 Years Later Q & A With Kevin Smith and the Cast,” a 28-minute question-and-answer session following a screening of the film that includes Smith, Mosier, Adams, Affleck, Lee, Mewes, and Dwight Ewell. The rest of the supplements, which include 10 deleted scenes (nearly half an hour total), a selection of outtakes, and the original theatrical trailer, were included on the DVD.|
Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick
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