The Royal Tenenbaums

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS

Criterion/Touchstone, $29.99

Let's face it: The main reason DVDs are so cool—other than the non-rewinding issue—is that commentary tracks make for a viewing experience previously available only to film students and Cineaste subscribers. Sitting on the sofa eating Cheetos in your tightie-whities, you can now receive critical insight on your favorite movie straight from the bien-pensant mouths of Ms. Celebrated Auteur and Mr. Smarty-Pants Critic. Too frequently, however, studios opt for the more-is-more approach to commentaries, bombarding viewers with multiple tracks of blather from those with very little to add. Who has the stomach to sit through two hours of bon mots from the friggin' costume designer?

Fortunately, on this two-disc set (due July 9), Criterion once again comes up aces and avoids that pitfall with a wholly engrossing, mercifully uncluttered solo commentary from director Wes Anderson. His demure, witty approach to the brilliant depiction of "a family that peaked early" is a hands-down winner, pointing out sight gags and explaining precisely how those "Dalmatian mice" were obtained.

A portrait of a complex filmmaker emerges as Anderson breathlessly iterates reference after reference—nods to Wim Wenders, Michael Powell, and Orson Welles within the first 10 minutes alone—yet refreshingly confesses that elements of Tenenbaums remain a mystery even to him. Also of note are a hilarious Charlie Rose Show send-up, an audio interview with Miguel Calder�the artist behind the memorably chilling portraits in Eli's apartment), and an exhaustive Tenenbaum home floor plan winkingly done in the style of The New Yorker's Roz Chast.

Peter Vidito

Unlike Anderson's rising star, Hal Hartley's fortunes have dipped, with his monster-movie fairy tale No Such Thing going straight to DVD July 9. The same date greets Hart's War (with Bruce Willis commentary), Charlotte Gray (yet another WWII film), a director's cut of Imposter (based on a Philip K. Dick story, like Minority Report), Beijing Bicycle, and the 1988 Punchline, with Sally Field and Tom Hanks, whose Road to Perdition opens July 12. Among artier fare, Criterion's putting out the 1974 Oscar-winning Vietnam doc Hearts and Minds and Kurosawa's 1965 Red Beard (his last collaboration with swordsman Toshiro Mifune).

B.R.M.

bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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