Anchor Bay's 2007 DVD release of Apartment Zero
corrects two major shortcomings of the film's previous video releases. Director Martin Donovan cut eight minutes from the film when it was first released on VHS and laserdisc, and the 1999 DVD release was in full-screen format. This DVD restores the film to its original theatrical length (124 minutes) and 1.78:1 aspect ratio, finally allowing viewers to enjoy this exquisite psychological thriller as it was meant to be seen. Image quality isn't exactly dazzling (remember, this was a low-budget production), but it represents a significant improvement over previous releases, and in any case it's the best presentation available. And while Donovan's solo commentary (recorded in 2006) may seem quietly droning to some, he's actually providing a great deal of insight into the behaviors and motivations of his characters, spontaneously letting us into his own thoughts as he watches his film for the first time in years. Despite being a novice when the film was made, Donovan demonstrates a very clear grasp of the story's psychological dynamics and how they're reflected in the production design and, most importantly, the performances of Colin Firth and Hart Bochner, who became good friends after filming was completed.
The second commentary (also recorded in 2006) features co-writer David Koepp (later to become one of Hollywood's hottest screenwriters; this was his first produced screenplay) and director Steven Soderbergh, the latter billed as "special guest" on the DVD's special features menu. Because their careers began at roughly the same time, Koepp and Soderbergh share voluminous insights about independent filmmaking in the late 1980s, how the industry has changed since then, and how Apartment Zero played a substantial role in Koepp's early-career education (including the hard-earned lesson about never investing in your own movie projects). Their free-ranging conversation covers a lot of detail about the making of Apartment Zero (and Koepp is a lively source of production anecdotes), but it's most valuable to aspiring filmmakers as an authoritative discussion between two talented filmmakers who've learned a lot about their craft, and are able to articulately share their perspectives. Soderbergh also serves as an inquisitive film buff, asking pertinent questions that keep the commentary flowing at a constantly fascinating pace. It's a valuable snapshot of filmmaking past and present, coming from a writer and director who speak vividly from experience. --Jeff Shannon
An emotionally crippled man rents out his insane mother's room to a man he eventually suspects is a serial killer.Genre: