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My Own Private Idaho (The Criterion Collection) (1991)

River Phoenix , Keanu Reeves , Gus Van Sant  |  R |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert, Rodney Harvey
  • Directors: Gus Van Sant
  • Writers: Gus Van Sant, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Allan Mindel, Anthony Brand, Laurie Parker, Solomon J. LeFlore
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: March 1, 2005
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JLHW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,199 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "My Own Private Idaho (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Exclusive new audio conversation between director Gus Van Sant and filmmaker Todd Haynes
  • The Making of My Own Private Idaho, a new documentary featuring interviews with key crew members
  • New video interview with film critic Paul Arthur on the adaptation of Shakespeare in My Own Private Idaho
  • Video conversation between producer Laurie Parker and Rain Phoenix
  • Outtakes
  • Original theatrical trailer

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Mapping the spaces between fortune and degeneracy, Shakespeare and street cant, Europe and the Pacific Northwest, and gay and straight, My Own Private Idaho is the 1991 masterpiece by director Gus Van Sant. River Phoenix gave the most generous and memory-searing performance of his tragically shortened career as Mike Waters, a narcoleptic street hustler in search of his mother. His best friend, Scott, played by Keanu Reeves, is a son of privilege who fosters plans of rejoining the moneyed world of his father after gallivanting with assorted urchins and ne'er-do-wells. The beautifully symmetrical story that emerges between the two is one of friendship, yearning for lost time, and sexual identity conveyed with a poet's eye for landscape. The camera lingers on abandoned houses in golden fields and time-lapse clouds, providing what T.S. Eliot called "the objective correlative"--external representations of interior emotional states. We're treated to striking iconic sequences like a barn falling from the sky and still-life scenes of carnal entanglement. The supporting cast is a rogues' gallery that includes Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Udo Kier, director William Richert, and a variety of "nonactors" pulled literally off the street to provide documentary veracity to a film that gleefully careens into riffs on Henry IV. It's beautiful.

What's also beautiful is the Criterion Collection's treatment of the film's DVD debut. The director-approved transfer successfully conveys the warmth of the film's palette of oranges and browns, and preserves the whimsical atmospherics of the yodeling country music soundtrack. Many members of the original crew contribute their fond memories to the documentary features, which include a conversation between Phoenix's sister Rain and producer Laurie Parker. There are also two lengthy audio-only conversations--one between Van Sant and Velvet Goldmine director Todd Haynes, and another between author J.T. Leroy and filmmaker Jonathan Caouette about their experiences on the street. The deleted scenes mostly suggest alternate endings that Van Sant wisely left on the cutting room floor. A superb example of a beloved film on DVD. --Ryan Boudinot

Stills from My Own Private Idaho (click for larger image)


The Cast

River Phoenix

Keanu Reeves

Keanu and River

Udo Kier

Gus Van Sant

Product Description

River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves star in director Gus Van Sant’s haunting tale of two young street hustlers: Mike Waters, a sensitive narcoleptic who dreams of the mother who abandoned him, and Scott Favor, wayward son of the mayor of Portland and the object of Mike’s desire. Navigating a volatile world of junkies, thieves, and johns, Mike takes Scott on a quest from the grungy streets to the open highways of the Pacific Northwest, in search of an elusive place called "home." Groundbreaking and visually dazzling, My Own Private Idaho is a stirring look at unrequited love and life at society’s margins.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
72 of 77 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
Most people seem shocked when I tell them that "My Own Private Idaho" is one of my favorite movies ever, though I don't see why. One of Gus Van Sant's lower budget films, this melancholic adaptation of Shakespeare's "Henry IV" to the American West (chiefly Portland, Oregon and all around the western states) follows the adventures of a road-tripping prodigal son of wealthy and powerful politician (played to perfection by a reflective Keanu Reeves)and his best friend, a narcoleptic prostitute (a visionary performance by the late River Phoenix).
"My Own Private Idaho" is a marvel: dreamlike, eerie, haunting, constantly engaging, often surreal. There are a handful of films I have seen that completely transport me out of the feeling I'm seeing a film: this is one of them. The film's first haunting image of River Phoenix, alone, on a desolate stretch of Western highway, taken by his sickness, has to be seen to be believed; the eerie "Riding the Prairie" is a perfect complement to this movie about two strangers in a very strange land, journeying among the hustlers, hookers, con-men, schemers and bon vivants in the modern American West.
The plot is loose and rangy, and like its subjects, Van Sant uses it as needed to move the story along: Phoenix's character wants a reconciliation with his estranged mother, and certainly peace with himself. Keanu, sensing debauchery and fun, tags along, and the movie rambles about with them, taking note of their adventures and their pursuers (particularly delightful and outre is their awkward and funny tryst with an older woman, spoiled by Phoenix's narcolepsy, and a splendidly funny turn by Udo Kier as Hans, an unbearably kinky German john who simply will not be left behind).
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128 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wishlust wanderings; or, Snapshots of the Damned January 19, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
When *My Own Private Idaho* hit the rental shelves of the local movie theater way back in the early 90's, its reputation spread immediately among the young and restless of my small, conservative home-town. The consensus was of near-unanimous disgust, with common descriptions including "sick," "depraved," and that age-old chestnut "Confusing" with a capital "C." And yet my opinion was, typically, not that of the consensus. My artist's spirit identified with the wanderlust-yearning and puckish wonder inhabited in the vagabond Scott and Mike - a somewhat-sheltered mind's naïve lust for that opposite of its own experience. Although I certainly found myself shocked by the depiction of homosexual prostitution, the romantic tone and Shakespearan prose-play helped to penetrate (so to speak) this gutterpunk-fantasy firmly into the deepest reaches of my life-thirsty cerebrum; if anything, I found the homophobic snarls of my teenage compatriots in regards to this film more disturbing - on an immediate, reactionary level - than any fantastical degradation the film itself presented.
Immersed in that heady sensation of nostalgia and curiosity, I looked forward to a mature re-viewing of this art house masterpiece: of filtering Van Zant's intentions through an adult lens. Accordingly, I found that which impressed me most as a child seemed less important to my current mindset, and vice versa - no longer was I wholly enraptured by the wide-shots of empty highways and the plethora of bizarre chance encounters (elements so common to life on the road): having Kerouac'ed my way across the world, I must admit to preferring my own experiences to *Idaho's* hodge-podge questing.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By A. Hill
Format:VHS Tape
Being fairly new to the world of 'art-house' movies, i first found this a little confusing, and i was concerned that this strange approach would hinder the emotional impact of the film, rendering it yet another overly stylish, powerless and incomprehensible piece of modern film-art. I had also heard that it was extremely shocking and controversial. However, i began to understand Gus Van Sant's language, and it soon seemed completely natural. The claims regarding its explicit sexual nature have been, fankly, grossly exaggerated and probably the result of mild homophobia. The camp fire scene is the most memorable, with River Phoenix's perfomance as Mike, subtle and shining as usual, bringing to mind the very similar camp-fire scene in "Stand by me". Having only seen Keanu Reeves appear in such films as 'Speed' and 'the Matrix', in which he hardly demonstrates any power or skill as an actor, it came as somewhat of a pleasant surprise to see his humorous and striking portrayal of Scott. A sensitive choice of music contributed to the mood, both in the comic, nostalgic steel-string guitar to the gentle folk song that plays as Mike vows through tears to find his mother (by the way, does anybody know what that song is or how to find out?). I was slightly disappointed and depressed by the ending, which is extremely inconclusive, but i suppose movies don't always need a conclusive ending to make them good. Overall a visually stylish, emotionally powerful movie, with some fantastic acting by River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
River Phoenix is always fascinating to me.
Published 4 days ago by Claire Kronlage
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd Movie But Great Acting
This movie is really odd. I bought it to watch for River Phoenix but it wasn't my type of movie. Only thing I can say is River is an amazing actor because his character couldn't... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Callie Kleeb
5.0 out of 5 stars Must purchase this movie, or at least see it!
Really amazing! River Phoenix is just fantastic, and Van Sant really knows his stuff. I love the cameos made by actual hustlers from the streets of Portland, OR. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Mark S
4.0 out of 5 stars kind of a classic
I put off seeing this movie for years and finally saw it; very good to excellent.
Published 1 month ago by Timothy
3.0 out of 5 stars Oops.
I watched it to see how it related to Shakespeare's Henry IV, but otherwise I would not have picked a movie like this. Definitely NOT something to show students!
Published 1 month ago by Jane M. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
If you're a fan of this movie already, definitely get this DVD because it comes with so much. So many bonus features on disc two, and also it comes with a little booklet with... Read more
Published 1 month ago by samls
2.0 out of 5 stars Faulty, non-linear, no resolution, an Art House scramble
I read that this movie is a mock-up of several scripts that were floating around for a number of years, finally pieced together . Read more
Published 2 months ago by Esmondo A.
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Acting is excellent and story is interesting--but many implausibilities. (For one thing, why is River Phoenix always hitch-hiking in the middle of nowhere--how did he get there in... Read more
Published 2 months ago by william dillinger
1.0 out of 5 stars My Own Private Idaho
So many people expressed surprise when they would rave about this movie and find out that we had not seen it. Critics loved it and the great performance by the late River Phoenix. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Hodnett
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic
a classic movie, quirky, thoughtful, unexpected twists and an unexpected look into the world of hustlers and street people in the 80's
Published 3 months ago by Thomas E. King
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Deleted Scenes
It was his brother.
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