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Eternal Sunshine’ shines on in DVD

Brian Doxtader | Wednesday, March 30, 2005

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was one of the finest films of 2004 – an uncompromisingly intricate, complex and emotional experience. It garnered critical acclaim and two Academy Award nominations: Best Supporting Actress for Kate Winslet’s charmingly off-kilter performance as Clementine and Best Original Screenplay, which it won, for Charlie Kaufman, Pierre Bismuth and Michel Gondry’s head-spinning script.The film follows Joel, a man who recently broke-up with his girlfriend Clementine. Clementine has undergone a process at Lacuna to have the memory of her relationship with Joel erased. Joel, as a sort of revenge, decides to undergo the same process, but decides midway through that he doesn’t want to forget Clementine after all. As Elijah Wood comments on the DVD while trying to explain the film, “I just tell people that it’s a Charlie Kaufman film,” which is to say that it’s unendingly complicated and intricate. A brief plot synopsis doesn’t give justice to the convolutions of the story and the character interactions. The film truly has to be seen to be understood.Universal and Focus Features released “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” on DVD late in 2004 in a single-disc edition. Then, almost without warning, they released a two-disc edition at the tail end of the year. This wouldn’t have been so upsetting to fans of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” if Universal Studios had announced both editions simultaneously, so fans would know to pass on the single-disc and wait for the forthcoming double-disc edition. This alarming business practice of putting the single edition on the shelves only weeks before the newest and more complex edition is announced seems to be happening with disheartening regularity In any case, the first disc of the two-disc version is identical to the single-disc of the single-disc edition, and it’s a fine DVD. The anamorphic widescreen presentation preserves the theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and looks quite good. Much of this film has a low-budget appearance, so the picture quality is exactly what one expects. Sound is either 5.1 digital or DTS and both tracks sound great, but this is, for the most part, a dialogue-driven film. The DTS soundstage is slightly smoother and punchier, but both tracks offer an immersive experience. There are also forced menus at the start of the DVD, but these can thankfully be skipped.The extras are numerous and occasionally insightful, but sometimes seem a bit fluffy. The featurettes are sometimes cursory and fail to delve deep into the making of the picture. The best feature is the commentary track by Gondry and Kaufman, who sound relaxed and comfortable with each other. Both offer interesting anecdotes and observations about the film. Sadly, the trailer is absent, as are any other advertising promotions. The second disc of extras offers just over an hour of material, so it’s not really enough to warrant an upgrade if the single-disc edition has already been purchased.The packaging, which is smugly self-congratulatory, screams “award promotion.” The box is plastered with words like “unforgettable, profound, real, brilliant, wondrous.” The booklet is also a waste, filled with blurbs from reviews praising the film’s wonderful qualities. We know it’s wonderful – that’s why we bought it, Universal. This is a good DVD of one of the best pictures of 2004. It could’ve been better, but the feature film is the main reason to buy, and it’s in fine shape. The two-disc edition is recommended, but it’s not worth upgrading if you already own the single-disc version.