Clerks X: 10th Anniversary Edition Review
Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) works at the "Quick-Stop" convenience store. Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) works next door at "RST-Video". These best of friends spend every waking day working shitty jobs and questioning life while dealing with the customers they hate and putting up with two slackers - Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) who sell drugs outside of the stores and curse until they're blue in the face (well Jay does). Aside from this, Dante has girl troubles, Randal is addicted to porn, their lives are directionless and to top it all off Dante isn't supposed to be there today. So prepare for a little film that turned the film industry upside down and changed a lot about the way independent movie making was seen.
I'm going to boldly say that Clerks and later Mallrats started off this whole sorry mess of production companies reviving the forgotten "gross out" comedy, bringing us painfully unfunny, vulgar teen movies that hopefully are beginning to die down now. The 70's and early 80's gave us plenty of teen comedy/high school hi-jinks movies that kind of disappeared for a while, replaced by "friendlier" ones starring Judd Nelson and friends. My first statement is not meant to sound harsh toward Kevin Smith's debut feature; rather it stands as a pretty big compliment toward a film that feels as fresh today as it did ten years ago. No film in recent years has lived up to the sheer, unashamed, in your face quality that Clerks delivered so forcefully and unforgettably.
Clerks is simply a film about nothing. Like Jerry Seinfeld's famous sitcom it thrives on everyday conversations, often the most ludicrous subjects and at other times the ones we all talk about with our friends. It is a film for every generation, not stuck in some time-warp from which it can never escape, but can continue to grow and have a mass appeal as the years move on. Clerks is one of those films that you could look at every 10 years and think "boy I hear what you guys are saying." It's a lifeline for everyone out there who has ever been in a piss poor situation; who bemoan about their place in life; who desire bigger things but never get off their ass to go out and achieve their biggest goals. Clerks is an inspiration for every Joe out there and I'm not quite sure if Kevin Smith realised this when he made it.
I saw the film the very day it was released on VHS and after watching it I played it again. It was unlike any film I'd ever seen before and I thought to myself "This guy is a genius." No one else really took these kind of human values and had them acted out on screen in such a realistic manner, in a way that we could connect with and think about long after it had finished. And so everyday after school I would watch this, for about 3 weeks until I could practically recite the feature. I always thought Clerks would be the greatest film that Kevin Smith would ever make and to this day I still believe it is the greatest thing he'll have ever accomplished in his career as a film maker.
For its 10th anniversary Clerks is given a wonderful, celebratory treatment that is so lovingly crafted that in my eyes it places it at the top of the list for this years finest DVD release. Kevin Smith and friends at View Askew have put together a packed 3-disc collection that has just about everything that any fan of the film could possibly want.
Considering that there is so much here I thought it would be best to break down each disc.
Note: There are no subtitles for the extra features.
"Clerks" - The Feature
If you got this far then you've already read my small review. This is the theatrical release of the film that we have all come to know and love throughout the years. Man I feel old...
Classic Commentary, Circa '95 - Featuring Kevin, Mos, Mewes, Brian and Others
Those of you who own either the previously released laserdisc and/or DVD will already be familiar with this track. It isn't exactly up to the production values of recent audio commentaries but it is an essential addition and offers plenty of amusing moments and technical info. Smith and co have provided far better tracks for later films but overall this is worth it to just hear Jason lose his fix on reality and fall asleep.
Enhanced Playback Track
Selecting this option will open up the film with running pop-ups. I killed two birds with one stone here and played it as the commentary ran, which works well because the pop-ups tend to slow down from time to time. They offer a solid amount of information such as definitions for each according scene and a good amount of View Askew history. If you hated "pop-up video" you should get along well with these, they're far less annoying.
"Clerks" - The Lost Scene
This has become somewhat of a famed item in Clerks history. It is known as being the scene that Kevin Smith couldn't afford to shoot and had to discard. Now he has returned to his script and funded an all new animated segment that runs for approximately 7-minutes. From the menu you have an option to play the segment on its own or integrated as part of the main feature. Viewing it on its own brings you an introduction by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier, while viewing within the film itself causes a very noticeable break in-between scenes.
The scene itself is fairly disappointing. It is neither as good as what has been previously seen in Clerks Uncensored and nor does it fit in well with the overall feature film. The trouble with this scene is that it is too forceful on the audience. For a start Dante and Randal's characters curiously have more of a "vulgar" vocabulary than they did in either the theatrical release or the animated series. Granted, the latter is understandable but maybe it is because some of the things that come out of their mouths here just don't feel right. It's a side to the characters that the viewer isn't entirely used to but more to the point it isn't as funny as I had hoped it would be (despite several nods to other Jersey films) and in all honesty might as well have stayed on the cutting room floor because the film works better at leaving the scene to your imagination.
The Flying Car
This is a welcome return from Dante and Randal. Smith introduces us to this short film that he was asked to do for NBC, to feature on The Tonight Show. This time we see our clerks in full colour as they sit in their car in the middle of a traffic jam as Randal brings up yet another bizarre point of discussion - this time involving a flying car of the future and if given the choice would Dante sacrifice a limb in order to obtain the only flying car in the world and aid humanity?
MTV Spots with Jay and Silent Bob
Those of you who remember the early days of MTV when it used to play odd, little, animated segments in-between songs will appreciate these offerings from Smith, shot in 1998. Like most of the features on the disc this comes with an introduction from Smith and Mosier before playing the clips. You can choose to watch these individually or as one collection. This is a nice addition that until now has been quite rare and there are eight spots in total. Most of these will raise a smile; a couple will genuinely make you laugh. Jason Mewes seems to be enjoying himself immensely and there are a couple of little surprises from him that are a treat for fans.
As it says. This is the original theatrical trailer.
Kevin Smith introduces the video for "I can't even tell", performed by Soul Asylum. Originally he was offered $30,000 to film the video but decided to drop the price considerably as he didn't need to spend that kind of budget on what would be a 5-minute video, in comparison to the $25,000 he spent making his own film. It's a good video, featuring familiar faces, so again it is a nice compliment to the set.
"Clerks" - Restoration Intros
This part of the disc features three short segments that look at the film restoration process, the new 5.1 sound engineering and an introduction to the theatrical cut. It is clear that a lot of effort has been put into restoring the film. Transfer wise it looks better than ever but at the same time it was never going to rival larger scale films. The most noticeable part of the process would be in the sound department. To put together a new 5.1 surround track Scott Mosier collected the original source materials and re-recorded the sound from scratch. The final result is very good but more on that later.
Original "Clerks" Auditions
Here's some rare stuff. Now is your chance to see Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Ernie O'Donnell and Marilyn Chigliotti perform their original auditions by re-enacting a favourite piece of their choice. The most interesting pieces involve Jeff auditioning for Jay and Ernie going for the role of Dante. It is clear both times that Smith made the right choice when going for the final casting decision.
French Language Track
Due to this set being the Canadian release it includes a French dub.
"Clerks": The First Cut
Smith and Mosier introduce this - the original Sundance Film Festival cut of the film. Unsurprisingly the film looks bad, it is poorly edited and very raw but does contain several scenes that were removed for the theatrical release, and wisely so.
Clerks: The First Cut is still very much the film that we've taken to heart. It runs for 105 minutes and there are several additions and changes but the essence of the film is still there. The most striking things about this version is the final scene that sees Dante getting shot in the store - a very uncomfortable moment that brings down much of the comedic value that what we've witnessed prior - ending on a down note as it were, almost echoing Dante's feelings toward The Empire Strikes Back.
All New Audio and Video Commentary with Kevin, Brian, Jeff, Mos and Mewes.
I wasn't totally interested by this, most of the real ground work had been covered in the previous commentary and here it is time for the cast and crew to kick back, drink some beers and smoke some wiz. They eat take-out really. Here they joke around and reminisce about old times which is okay as there are some funny moments but it'll offer very little else. The video format becomes tiring, the film isn't displayed onscreen - just various cameras positioned around the participants.
Here is where all the real meat is.
Snowball Effect: The Story of "Clerks"
Running for 90-minutes this documentary that chronicles the early beginnings of Smith's life up to his success with Clerks is a real treat for fans and budding film makers out there. Kevin's family and friends all pitch in and voice their opinions on him and experiences working with him. The high-school years are explored, from the early tell tale signs that Smith had talent as a writer, to his eventual leaving for film school where he met Scott Mosier. There is plenty of reminiscing and all round nice words said. Plenty of information about the Clerks shoot is made available, from difficulties in casting to the editing process and on-set romance. The documentary only covers ground up to the "Sundance" showing but that is perhaps the most important aspect as it was when everyone realised just how special the film was. Its standing ovation sealed its reputation and finally opened new doors for Smith and company.
Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary
Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier's first production together was for their Vancouver film school. The ill fated project was conceived as a documentary that would follow a man as he underwent a sex change. Unfortunately he disappeared and instead of giving up entirely, Smith and Mosier decided to finish their project and call it a disaster piece. This short film is interesting in an oddball way.
10th Anniversary Q&A
This lengthy session was taken from a Q&A held at the Arc light and brings together Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, David Klein, Marilyn Chigliotti, Jason Mewes, Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson. Running for around 42-minutes and exclusively recorded for this edition there are plenty of insightful titbits on offer. The session isn't without its share of horrible questions but Smith and co make light of every moment and provides some good and often amusing answers. More interesting are some of the very frank discussions made available, which prove to be a great treat.
Outtakes from "Snowball Effect"
Presented here are 14 deleted takes from the aforementioned documentary. These cover several unexplored factors on the final cut and I wonder why they were even cut out in the first place, seeing as this was made exclusively for the disc. Anyway aside from how puzzling that is these outtakes are equally as interesting and enjoyable.
Still Photo Gallery
A decent sized collection of stills from the Clerks shoot are available for your viewing pleasure.
Original Kevin Smith Journals
Here you have the option to view texts from two of Smith's journals - his "Pre-Clerks journal" and the "Sundance journal". These are both decent reads, showing Smith's writing talent, his concerns prior to shooting and afterwards.
Articles and Reviews
A collection of articles and reviews that were previously mentioned in the documentary are made available here. There are eight in total and these are from various sources, including Amy Taubin, Janet Maslin, Robert Hawk and John Pierson.
By placing this disc into your PC you will have access to an enhanced playback track and Kevin Smith's original 168 page first draft of the "Clerks" screenplay.
Miramax have put out a nice digi-pack for this release. Within the black slip case is housed the pack that contains 3 discs. Folding this out will reveal a booklet that reveals a great foreword from Kevin Smith, articles, art work, a word from Mosier and a few more little bits and pieces.
Clerks is given a bit of an over the top menu feature, starting with a huge X that scrolls along before settling dead centre where the song "Berserker" then plays. Once a particular option is selected we get an unnecessary explosion that signifies how huge the release is, but to me felt pretentious. A little understatement would have been nicer but overall they're well animated and aside from the main menu on disc 1 the others are accompanied by stills from the film, with nicely coloured text.
The menus also appear to be a little clunky, being too slow in between selecting options.
Clerks has been remastered for optimum picture and sound and presented anamorphically enhanced at 1.85:1. Naturally coming from a 16mm original print it isn't going to look stunning. There is a strong amount of grain present and some of the poorer lighting still shows up but this is how we've always seen it and it is the best way to do so. It is a film that is hard to imagine looking any other way. To date this presentation is the best I have seen and I can't ever imagine it looking any better in the future.
For Clerks - The First Cut the picture has not been tidied up. This is full frame, very raw, soft and undesirable in the sound department but it is the original version that is meant to be seen this way. There isn't much point in arguing over its presentation - just appreciate that it is there. You'll notice that there is more info at the top and bottom of this print.
For the supplementary material the rest of the quality is very good, being shot on digital film.
The theatrical cut is presented with a newly remastered 5.1 surround track. There is no option to hear the film with its original mix, a shame but then again this new track works very well and the many hours put into this has been justified. Dialogue is clearer and the soundtrack is spread across all channels successfully. Background noises can now be heard through the rear speakers and while I think this wasn't all necessary it is still nice to hear.
A newly recorded French dub is present on this Canadian release.
There are optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing as well as Spanish. There are also subtitles for Clerks - The First Cut.
Well there you have it. Ten years on and Clerks gets the ultimate treatment that it deserves. No more can be said about this film that hasn't been said already by me and the many fans that adore it and have stuck by it for years. In my opinion this is Smith's finest hour and as his subsequent films become more disappointing I can only go back and enjoy this one again and again. Here's looking forward to "The Passion of the Clerks" and the animated feature.