Region 1 / NTSC / Alliance
eXistenZ is one of those movies that I find tends to improve with each viewing. After three viewings (that's a lot for me - and I still think that I could manage a few more), I'm glad to say that one of the directors that I idolised as a youth is finally in form! Say goodbye to pretentious Naked Lunch Cronenberg. Say goodbye to pointless sleaze (and I don't mean that to sound like a bad thing) Crash Cronenberg. Say goodbye to so uninteresting that I never even saw it M Butterfly Cronenberg! With a movie that most closely resembles his masterpiece Videodrome, Cronenberg is back to the good old fashioned bio-visceral sci-fi thriller.
To say that eXistenZ closely resembles Videodrome may give the wrong impression. There are some elements (namely, the groovy 'gristle gun') that do seem strikingly familiar and it again plays with the idea of modern technology affecting us physically and mentally. But eXistenZ is a far more light-hearted and commercial film. From watching the film, the doco and listening to his commentary, it's clear that Cronenberg (and his crew for that matter) is a stickler for details, and frankly, it all pays off. There are so many subtleties and twists here that each viewing comes from a brand new perspective and thus makes it feel slighly different each time (much like eXistenZ itself). Law's very likeable as the bemused security guard. While less likeable (there's one bit where she gets all hysterical and that's kind of irritating), Leigh still finds one of her best roles yet as the celebrity game designer on the run. It's not Cronenberg's best (like I said, Videodrome takes that honour), but it's one of his best, and that's saying a lot!
Alliance have provided an excellent transfer from a virtually flawless print. Apart from some slight aliasing on Gas' toolbox and the Ski Lodge's roof, there were no noticeable film to video or compression artifacts. Blood seems a little too pink at times, but that's NTSC for you. Other than that, the NTSC factor is low. While there's not a lot of stunning sound effects in the movie, the audio on this disc shines when it comes to Howard Shore's typically atmospheric score.
OK! Now the reason why everyone should buy this version of eXistenZ. The Extras. Unlike the US and Aussie versions, which have (for all intents and purposes) no supplementary features, the Canadian disc gives us not one, not two, but three audio commentaries. To be honest, I've only listened to the Cronenberg commentary so far, but it's totally fascinating from start to finish. Just as fascinating is the 50-odd minute documentary about Cronenberg's long time production designer Carol Spier. You also get two trailers: one in english and one in french.
Bottom line is that this a great disc. Sure, you miss out on the PAL transfer (which is something I never take lightly), but hey, this is a very good NTSC transfer and there's about 5 and a half hours more material on this disc than the other versions available. Not to mention the fact that buying it from DVD Box Office, where shipping is free, makes it cheaper than buying the R4 at retail - Thank you, Columbia Tri-Star for jacking up your prices and encouraging such international purchases. The only negative point that I have with it is the cover. It just seems a little cheap looking. Speaking of the cover, the slick is double-sided, with a French version on the flip side. Pretty cool! Just out of interest - it looks like the R2 version also has the extras, but lacks an anamorphic transfer.