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Criterion Collection: The Ice Storm [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Region 1 US import. Criterion edition. 2 discs.
Asian American director Ang Lee sums up America in the early 1970s by focusing on the arrival of the sexual revolution in the 'burbs. Isolationism within a family, consumerism, and selfishness are personified by a cast that captures the self-obsession within two New England families. As the children struggle awkwardly with adolescence, their parents stumble through sexual experimentation. In the days of Watergate and Vietnam, society is breaking boundaries and ignoring convention. Following suit, these families are eschewing polite barriers and social taboos, with disastrous results. The Ice Storm of the title refers not only to a natural phenomenon but is a (rather heavy-handed) metaphor for a pervasive emotional temperament. The entire cast delivers textured, finely nuanced performances. This movie lingers in the psyche not only for the scope of the tragedy at its conclusion, but for Lee's often humorous and stingingly accurate assessment of pop culture. Based on Rick Moody's novel, this won the best-screenplay award at Cannes in 1997. --Rochelle O'Gorman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It`s the early 70s, Nixon is still president by the skin of his lying teeth, and the well-heeled residents of suburban Connecticut are sleepwalking into affairs with their neighbours` wives and husbands, attending what would now be called swingers` parties, and virtually ignoring their dislocated, empty-eyed offspring. Welcome to the blank new `lost generation` of the soured American Dream.
Kevin Kline, all coiffed hair and blandly neat clothes, is married to flint-eyed Joan Allen (excellent as always) though their marriage is crawling half-heartedly onto the rocks. Kline drifts into a loveless affair with their friend Sigourney Weaver - a bravely cynical, passive portrayal of a bored femme fatale by this fine actress - while the various children of both couples have begun to experiment, innocently yet with a cool lack of emotion for the most part, with their physical stirrings.
Slowly but very surely (with Ang Lee one is invariably in safe cinematic hands) events spiral out of everyone`s control, leading to an almost casually depicted tragedy. The families are numbly united, no doubt a little wiser, and life, one is left to assume, goes on. It is a poignant, diffident denouement to what seems in hindsight something of a parable, though it never moralises, which is part of its strength and poetic truth. Life is hanging like one of the winter icicles, by a cold, transient thread, the future happiness of all concerned tentative at best.
The way the emotional and sexual lives of the parents are juxtaposed with those of the children is done with subtlety and tact, while sparing use is made of Mychael Danna`s suitably lean musical soundtrack. Certain images linger: the night train carrying home Tobey Maguire at a standstill in a winter `wonderland`, more like a ghost train from a Stephen King story (we`re in the right part of the world, too); Sigourney Weaver, after one too many meaningless adulteries, curled foetus-like half-in & half-out of her bed; city rich-kid Katie Holmes` drugged eyes before she passes out, the viewer fearful of how she will cope with whatever lies ahead; and the ominously long whip Weaver shoves at her son to `play with`, that is echoed much later, and much more ominously, in a jolting `whip` of electric wires...
This has been described as a comedy-drama, and in a way it is, but the comedy is mostly dark and chill, the drama close to Greek tragedy.
A very fine film, worth seeing more than once.
But I'm very disappointed with the quality of the DVD. It's advertised as widescreen, with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but is actually a full-screen (4/3) aspect ratio, with black horizontal bars to frame the picture. Way to trow away resolution!
This is not the first time I see this trick in a DVD from CANAL+ IMAGE. I hope they get their act together.
Meanwhile, you can enjoy this classic despite the flawed transfer, or pick up the Criterion Collection edition if you can watch Region 1 discs.
This adult drama is full of outstanding performances: Kevin Kline and a luminously lovely Joan Allen play husband and wife who are both filled with pain and longing. Sigourney Weaver is great as the self-absorbed and callous neighbor wife who hooks up with Kline's character. The kids include a young, sensitive Tobey Maguire who lusts after classmate Katie Holmes, while younger siblings Cristina Ricci and Elijah Woods suffer the pangs of adolescence. It's played very low-key with no sentimentality to show how what self-indulgent and disconnected lives they lead. They're all miserable and the warnings about the coming ice storm intensify the feeling of impending doom.
This sobering look at middle-class woes is definitely not a feel-good movie, but it's very well-made. Recommended.
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