Monday, March 14, 2005

DVD: Saw (2004)

Most DVD commentary tracks are a snooze. We learn which action scenes were rendered digitally, and that every actor “was a joy to work with.” But some tracks deserve a listen. Steven Soderbergh’s are wry and informative, while Kevin Smith’s can be funnier than his movies. Paul Thomas Anderson claims that everything he knows about directing he learned from John Sturges’ commentary on the BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK laserdisc.

To the short list of worthwhile tracks, add the one on this disc featuring director James Wan and writer/co-star Leigh Whannell. It’s studded with useful tips on low-budget filmmaking. It’s also hilarious. The enthusiasm of these two is so infectious that it made me wish I’d liked their movie, which is derivative, dopey and kind of unpleasant. Points for the ending, though.

Like SE7EN and PHONE BOOTH, it’s a thriller featuring an evil genius intent on righting society’s wrongs. One could speculate on whether these films are positing that the rise of secular humanism has brought about the diminution of the Judeo-Christian belief in a common morality imposed by a higher power. And that we secretly long for someone to fulfill that role, even if the only figures willing to do so are psychotics unable to differentiate between great crimes and petty ones who thus punish them all equally, becoming modern avatars of the vengeful pagan gods of old.

But this isn’t that kind of blog.

Noticed: Block Watch

Lawrence Block will be on Craig Ferguson’s show Tuesday night to promote his latest Matt Scudder novel. He also announced in his email newsletter that he’ll be writing the screenplay for the next film from Wong Kar-Wai, to be set in 1937 Shanghai. I cannot wait to see how these two diverse sensibilities mesh. Considering the extended gestation of Wong’s latest film 2046, the result may be some time in coming.