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Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: SOMETHING WILD

Joshua Brunsting

by: Joshua Brunsting
May 9th, 2011

Every so often, a film comes along and seems to get adorned with the Criterion “C” simply based on the fact that the film’s director, or someone involved with its production, is a staple of the collection.

One of these films, at least at first glance, was the 1986 Jonathan Demme film, SOMETHING WILD. Written by E. Max Frye, the film’s director, Demme, is best known for his film THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (currently out of print in its Criterion Collection DVD form). Toss in the fact that it was selected to screen out of competition at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, and while they may be tenuous connections to the Collection, they are there.

And then you actually see the film. And then it becomes quite clear as to the reasons why this absolutely hilarious, bombastic, and visually stylish comedy is a perfect fit for the Collection.

SOMETHING WILD follows Charles Driggs, a normal everyday banker, who has the time of his life following a chance encounter with free spirit Audrey. They go on a series of random adventures, ranging from a sexcapade to a violent run-in with Audrey’s ex-hubbie, Ray, played by Ray Liotta. Starring Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith, the film has hit store shelves thanks to the Collection in both DVD and Blu-ray formats.

Among the illustrious career of Demme, SOMETHING WILD plays as one of the director’s cavalcade of early narrative features (he shot 12 things over the span of a 15 year portion of his career), one of his first after leaving the side of Roger Corman. Demme started his career working on films like CAGED HEAT and CRAZY MAMA, and this is a wholly different style of film. SOMETHING WILD is an over-the-top comedy in many ways, but ultimately, it’s Demme’s skill behind the camera and behind the music box that makes this film as intriguing as it truly is. Demme’s frame is so kinetic and full of great production design and cinematography that it is an inherently intriguing bit of filmmaking to lay your eyes on.

And then the soundtrack. Talk about that soundtrack. Featuring tracks from David Byrne, The Mahotella Queens, The Troggs, and a personal favorite, New Order, SOMETHING WILD’s soundtrack is in and of itself a great piece of history to have within the Criterion Collection. A time capsule of an era, WILD is a stunning look into a day or so in the life of these characters, and also a really interesting look at a filmmaker working in a medium he loves and focusing on a medium that honestly, he may love even more: music. Much in the same way all of his films, particularly something like RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, truly blends narrative and music, SOMETHING WILD is a perfect mixture of music, narrative and visuals, making it a wonderfully kinetic piece of filmmaking from a director synonymous with the adjective.

Featuring the debut in the Collection of one Ray Liotta (a welcome addition, in this writer’s book), the film’s cast is also top tier. Griffith is a perfect choice for this role, and really chews up the scenery as the free spirit Audrey, a.k.a. Lulu. She fits the role great both visually and also aesthetically with how much she simply lets herself really go within the role. Liotta is great here as the jilted convict ex-lover, and there is not a single greater choice to play the role of the mild-mannered banker than the epitome of that characterization, Jeff Daniels. All around, the cast here is simply fantastic, and makes the film a real joy to watch while it plays on your screen.

That all said, the film’s DVD and Blu-ray release through the Criterion Collection here is relatively bare bones.

Audio/visual wise, the film is top notch. The soundtrack comes to real life with this new mix, and the cinematography via iconic DP Tak Fujimoto thrives here thanks to the film’s new transfer. The new transfer is truly the film’s biggest star. However, the film also does come with new interviews with Demme and writer Frye, a trailer, and of course, a booklet. Overall, it’s a relatively weak release, save for the stunningly gorgeous transfer visually and sonically.

As a whole, SOMETHING WILD is an odd choice to enter into the Criterion Collection, but one that, hindsight being 20/20, is something of a welcome addition. Featuring a collection of top-notch comedic performances, one of the best soundtracks the Criterion Collection has to offer, and cinematography from one of the all-time greats, SOMETHING WILD will be a film that many will be seeing for the first time, and won’t be able to stop watching. A must-own for fans of Demme, the rare comedy is a real gem from one of film’s master filmmakers.

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