Criterion Collection, $39.95
IF THE FIRST feature you access on this second DVD of 2000's acclaimed drug war drama is the friggin' "U.S. Customs K-9 Squad" trading card series, your skankweed sensors may go into red alert. Freak not, Traffic junkies. Just released, this new double-disc set is otherwise crammed with extended highs. A triumph of storytelling technique more than story itself, Traffic offers encyclopedic insight for everyone from wanna-be screenwriters to wanna-be sound editors.
We tend to grant a movie's ownership and accountability to the writer and director, and Oscar winners Stephen Gaghan and Steven Soderbergh do provide plenty of face time in commentaries for the film and 25 deleted scenes. (Soderbergh doubled as his own director of photography so he could "do the things he'd have to fire somebody else for.") Thankfully, Traffic's other integral behind-the-scenes principals get comparable recognition. Film editor Stephen Mirrione capably explains the layering processes that shaped quickly intercut individual scenes, while supervising sound editor Larry Blake details how critical dialogue was restored via multiple microphones.
Another bonus: unused footage from Michael Douglas' largely improvised cocktail party powwow with D.C. bigwigs. Afterward, Utah's irascible Sen. Orrin Hatch invited the filmmakers to sample his wretched "rock" music—then later dissed the film's rampant profanity. A great Raiders of the Lost Ark-style extra is narrated by consultant Craig Chretien, who leads us on a tour of a sterile government facility with endless rows of confiscated contraband . . . for which, naturally, we have star canine agent Bark to thank.
DON'T THANK studios for any of these woeful June 18 releases: I Am Sam (with Oscar-nominated Sean Penn); The Shipping News (Kevin Spacey's third stinker in a row); The Majestic (Jim Carrey, call your agent); Rollerball (Chris Klein attempts English on the commentary track); plus something called Happy Campers (it's got Brad Renfro, so it must be bad). But don't throw your DVD player in the trash just yet. Criterion's putting out the 1958 art-world comedy The Horse's Mouth with Alec Guinness (nice transfer, few extras). Fans of Andrei Tarkovsky (Stalker) will welcome his 1960 The Steamroller and the Violin to disc.