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Smithereens (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Susan Seidelman established her distinctive vision of 1980s New York with this debut feature, the lo-fi original for her vibrant portraits of women reinventing themselves. After escaping New Jersey, the quintessentially punk Wren (Susan Berman)—a sparkplug in fishnets who lives dangerously downtown—moves to the city with the mission of becoming famous. When not pasting up flyers for herself or hanging at the Peppermint Lounge, she’s getting involved with Paul (Brad Rijn), the nicest guy to ever live in a van next to the highway, and Eric (Richard Hell), an aloof rocker. Shot on 16 mm film that captures the grit and glam of the setting, with an alternately moody and frenetic soundtrack by the Feelies and others, Smithereens—the first independent American film to compete for the Palme d’Or—is an unfaded snapshot of a bygone era.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New 2K digital restoration, approved by director Susan Seidelman, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Audio commentary from 2004 featuring Seidelman
• New interviews with Seidelman and actor Susan Berman
• And You Act Like One Too (1976) and Yours Truly, Andrea G. Stern (1979), two early shorts by Seidelman, with new introductions by the director
• PLUS: An essay by critic Rebecca Bengal
- MPAA rating : s_medR R (Restricted)
- Product Dimensions : 6.8 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches; 3.2 Ounces
- Director : Susan Seidelman
- Media Format : Subtitled, Widescreen
- Run time : 1 hour and 33 minutes
- Release date : August 21, 2018
- Actors : Susan Berman;Richard Hell;Brad Rijn
- Subtitles: : English
- Studio : Criterion Collection
- ASIN : B07D3N5M3Z
- Country of Origin : USA
- Number of discs : 1
Best Sellers Rank:
#21,537 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- #2,301 in Drama Blu-ray Discs
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It’s a succinct (93 mins), quirky joy to watch. Whilst clearly made on a shoestring, both Susan Berman and Brad Rijn are perfectly cast. Berman plays Wren, a frequently tiresome leading character, but there’s something about her charisma and chutzpah that means you can’t tear your eyes from her. Meanwhile Brad Rijn (appearing here as Brad Rinn) plays the lovestruck Paul, who is such a put-upon, adorable character that it seriously impacts how you react to Wren and her choices.
Perhaps the most infectious thing about the film is how stunningly it captures New York in the early eighties - shot on the subway and streets without any permits, it’s a glorious time capsule.
The extras on this Criterion edition aren’t extensive, but have a great deal of substance. There’s 40+ minutes of reflections from Susan Seidelman and Susan Berman, both of whom are compelling interviewees, and 2 earlier short films from Seidelman with introductions.
I can’t assign this 5 stars because it’s not a GREAT film and it’s somewhat rough around the edges... but that’s also one of its selling points. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in independent film, New York in the eighties, or movies that make you smile when you think about them later.