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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Psycho Returns to DVD
One of the most amusing (and illuminating) scenes in American Psycho involves a group of selfish, soulless yuppies sitting around a boardroom table comparing business cards. They examine each other's fonts, make comments about the highlights on the card, the paper. Their faces register what their voices don't, and the metaphor is clear. This is "Yuppicus Selfishicus" in its natural habitat, establishing the dominance hierarchy, based on the largest "asset" available to them.

In some ways, watching this brilliant 2000 film again is a lot like watching a nature video, if only because the behavior it depicts is so primal, so pure. Patrick Bateman (played in a career-making turn by Christian Bale) is an upcoming wall street executive in the 1980s who is dead at his core. Nothing excites him, as he says in the voiceover, "I can feel nothing but greed and disgust". His need to feel some kind of real emotion is fueled initially by an excess of image (including a morning bathing ritual that makes a supermodel seem like trailer trash in comparison), but later evolves into ritualized gruesome murder, set to a parade of 80s hits. His desperate struggle to connect with some kind of genuine emotion, find some person inside this hollow corporate shell, is both fascinating and deeply disturbing.

If that makes it sound like a slasher movie, don't be fooled. It's a sly, knowing film that actually comes across with a great deal of wit and black humour. The source novel was criticized heavily upon release for being anti-female (most of Bateman's victims are women), but this is a simplistic and reactionary reading. At least through the cinematic filter, this is an exploration and criticism of eighties urban culture, knowing and clever, told with intelligence and imagination.

The recent special edition DVD release contains numerous special features, including a new, nice-looking anamorphic transfer, a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, audio commentary with director Mary Harron (a Canadian!) and a few great little documentaries concerning the book, the film and their impact. (Among the neat tidbits here is the revelation that the movie originally starred Leonardo DeCaprio and was to be directed by Oliver Stone.)

Stay away from the wretched direct-to-video sequel (with William Shatner) and enjoy a provokative look at post-modern American moral culture.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 6/28/2005 Comments (0)
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