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Release Date(s)1997 (April 26, 2011)
Setting the independent film world ablaze with his slacker classic Clerks, Kevin Smith's dealings with a major Hollywood studio on Mallrats unsuccessfully followed, driving him back to the independent scene for the third film in the original New Jersey Trilogy: Chasing Amy.
If Clerks is to be considered Kevin Smith's most honest work then Chasing Amy has to be his most personal and most reflective. Shot with very little money and using a cast of unknowns (all of whom went on to have successful careers afterwards), the film's performances carry what could have easily been a cheesy soap opera-ish love story but instead wound up being an existential view into relationships between friends and lovers. It's never been the best-looking film Smith has ever made, but it has a particular sting to it and rings true on many emotional levels that audiences still relate to in one way or another. I've always felt that it was, and still is, more attuned to a Woody Allen film (specifically Manhattan). Human relationships skewed while still being very relatable is something that Kevin has always been good at putting on the screen. For many fans and critics, Kevin peaked personally and creatively with Chasing Amy. He has gone on to make other enjoyable films, but many feel that his legacy belongs to the two films that capture not only his youth but his creativity as a filmmaker: Clerks and Chasing Amy.
As I stated before, Chasing Amy has never been the cleanest and most pleasant-looking film in the Kevin Smith library. Shot for $250,000 on 16mm film, the picture has always been slanted toward the soft side with high grain levels. It's also always had a sort of lived-in feel visually, playing into my own personal notion that anyone who's had relationship problems will feel like it's like digging up personal history. Because of its quality, a high definition transfer of the film is going to need a lot of TLC. Lionsgate's efforts do have some positive aspects to them: the image is much more stable and much cleaner than its Criterion DVD counterpart, with a lot of the print's blemishes having been removed digitally. There are also no signs of edge enhancement, banding or any other augmentation nonsense. Due to the newfound clarity, newly-revealed image detail is also present. Despite all of that, the film is still grainy as hell. In the color department, flesh tones are off pretty much all of the time, having mostly a reddish hue to them. The image isn't as bright as it could be either. Blacks aren't all that deep, being a bit crushed in some of the darker scenes. Because of the lack of digital clean-up, it's my feeling that this was the director's and the director of photography's intended and preferred look for the film. I suppose we should be thankful that the grain has been left intact and not completely digitally erased like other films with high grain levels. To get a better understanding of the new transfer's improvements and non-improvements, check out the infamous $100 bill scene (which is the grainiest scene in the entire film) and that should give you a good road map to follow on the film's visual quality. As for the film's soundtrack, it's about as good as one could hope for. Three different options are included: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital and Deutsch 5.1 DTS. The English track has some considerable range to it. Nothing outstanding, but it's very clean and clear with a bit of push to it during the songs used in the film. Ambience is used to good effect in the rear speakers like say, for instance, any scenes set in a bar. Dialogue is also both audible and natural-sounding. Certain scenes in the film were overdubbed because of the location work, but one can hardly tell a difference between the two. It's a very good soundtrack and is much better than the video quality, by comparison. Being a region-free release, there's also a multitude of subtitle options to choose from, including English, English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Deutsch, etc.
The supplemental material is also quite good for this release without being perfect. Included is a new audio commentary (originally a Smodcast) with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier; a great new documentary on the making of the film Tracing Amy: The Chasing Amy Doc; a new featurette Was it Something I Said? - A Conversation with Kevin & Joey; another new featurette Q & A 10 Years Later - with Kevin Smith and the cast; deleted scenes; outtakes; and the film's theatrical trailer. Like the Dogma Blu-ray, the deleted scenes are sourced from a DVD transfer so they aren't the best quality, but it's nice to see them included anyway. Missing from that Criterion release is all of the disc, deleted scene and menu video introductions from Kevin and the cast. Also missing is the original audio commentary with Kevin, Scott Mosier, Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes, Robert Hawk, Jon Gordon and Vincent Pereira, as well as the material from the insert booklet, which contained a Askewniverse Legend guide to the characters from Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy, and a piece from Kevin Smith about Chasing Amy. To be honest, I'm not surprised in the least that this material didn't carry over as I'm actually expecting Criterion to do a future Blu-ray release of the film anyway. So I guess having some differentiation from that release and this one is a good thing. It's a shame not to have it altogether on one disc, but if you're interested in getting all of the extras then you might want to hang onto that DVD.
I definitely commend Lionsgate on their release of Chasing Amy. I would like to have seen it cleaned up a bit more, but I'm glad they didn't do a complete overhaul on it. It's also nice that the film's famous goofs and continuity errors are still left in place (unlike the new Evil Dead 2 Blu-ray). So all in all, I definitely recommend this disc to anyone who's a fan of the film. The picture looks good, the audio is great and the extras are fantastic. You can't really go wrong with it.
- Tim Salmons