The Criterion Component: Punch-Drunk Love
The Talk Film Society looks at various films, and their special features, from The Criterion Collection in this new column, The Criterion Component. First up, Paul Thomas Anderson's 2002 film, Punch-Drunk Love (Spine #843).
It’s about time Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love received the Blu-Ray treatment; it’s most surprising that it hasn’t been released for so long despite the recognition it has received among many film lovers for featuring Adam Sandler’s best performance. And of all companies that could’ve released the Blu-Ray, it was none other than The Criterion Collection. Not only is it about time that Paul Thomas Anderson’s breakdown of the chaotic, abused mind received a Blu-Ray treatment, but the treatment which they give it is nothing short of wonderful.
So, what exactly comes with this brand-new Criterion Collection edition? First things first, what they provide is a crystal-clear restoration of the film, something much cleaner compared to its previous DVD release, making artist Jeremy Blake’s visual interludes even more stunning than they already were. It’s especially helpful when considering the fact that colour is one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s main motifs in Punch-Drunk Love, especially when it comes to highlighting the most intense blooms of colours, from Barry Egan’s (Adam Sandler) distinctive suit along with the lens flares which come to signify his lack of connection in relation to the world around him.
Along with the beautiful restoration that has been provided, what’s also present are a plethora of extras that range from an interview with Jon Brion, and curators Michael Connor and Lia Gangitano about the usage of Jeremy Blake’s artwork as interludes used all throughout Punch-Drunk Love. The extensive Jon Brion interview about the music for the film is perhaps one of the biggest perks to be offered by this release, as it covers what Paul Thomas Anderson’s intentions were with the score and the visuals. Brion’s account of what Anderson was developing for Punch-Drunk Love offers a great perspective into the making of the film, almost as if one were speaking with Anderson himself. Adding more to that is a recording session for the film’s distinctive score, and it doesn’t get any lovelier than that.
Previous DVD features such as the Mattress Man Commercial, Scopitones, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s experimental Blossoms and Blood do return. What’s new to the disc includes footage from the Cannes Film Festival premiere, together with a fun tidbit that inspired the pudding subplot (David Phillips, “The Pudding Man”, on The Today Show). The Cannes portion features an in-studio interview showing the actors having fun with one another; we also have a near 40-minute long Cannes press conference that features Paul Thomas Anderson, Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and producer JoAnne Sellar. It’s a bit disappointing if you want to hear more from Anderson because his answers are somewhat blank, although hearing Sandler during the press conference talking about his experience makes for something satisfactory.
What’s also a bit of a letdown is the discussion that covers the art of Jeremy Blake, which includes a slideshow, which is somewhat disinteresting and there is very little connection made towards the film. New interviews with Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, or Paul Thomas Anderson would’ve been an interesting inclusion; it would be intriguing hearing about the experiences making the film from those three. At the very least you’ll find a lot of that in the Cannes panel. But given how Anderson’s answers during the panel are often vague as noted above, it’s a missed opportunity in this regard especially if you want to hear the artist speaking for his own work. You’ll get a load out of Jon Brion’s session, so there’s that.
Closing things off is an insert that includes a personal essay written by Miranda July about her own love for Anderson’s creation. If one’s appreciation for Punch-Drunk Love would compel themselves to see how such a wonderful film has affected another so personally, then Miranda July’s essay is a must-read for those who want that appreciation to grow all the more.
On all counts, this is still an incredible restoration - even though there was still more ground Criterion could have covered in certain areas. It’s disappointing that the Scopitones feature doesn’t appear to be remastered in high definition (like the rest of the features that were included on the DVD release), it only comes off dodgy when placed on a Blu-Ray. But the extensiveness of the many extras on this Criterion makes this edition worth buying for those who want to expand their own collection or just want to finally witness this masterpiece on Blu-Ray.