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View Full Version : (Brief) Existenz (US v. Canadian/R2)


dwatts
07-29-2003, 01:46 PM
This “review” is going to be rather shorter than usual, since Existenz is a movie you all likely know a lot about. Also, the main point of writing it at all is to compare the R1 release with both the Canadian and R2 release.

Note that I have the R2 release, which appears to be a copy of the Canadian disc. Along with this, I also own the original R1 release.

Story

In a future world, video games are jacked into the human body via a bioport into the spine. Game designer, Allegra Geller, is one of the most well-known celebrities in gaming, and she’s about to premier her new game – Existenz (which is a funky way or writing EXISTENCE).

During a beta run, someone tries to kill Allegra (played, I might add, by the gorgeous Jennifer Jason Leigh). Escaping with a member of the audience, she hides out in the only safe place – the game of Existenz. But what is real and what is not, and who else is playing the game?

Image Quality

Well, let me now compare the two versions that we have here. To be honest, the R2 version (don’t forget, this seems to be a copy of the Canadian release) is better. It is an incremental change, it’s not like it is going to set you back on your heels. But it is clearer, with better colors.

Having said that, I note one interesting anomaly. The R1 release is 1:77. The R2 release is 1:85 (the Canadian release says it is 1:77). Mind you, maybe this is lazy packaging, since the R2 packaging says “1:85 approx.” I see nothing missing in the frame. Both are enhanced for 16x9 televisions.

If I had to choose – the R2 release wins. I always liked the R1 video quality, but once you have something to compare it too, my mind changed. R2 wins.

Sound

Both have Dolby 5.1 tracks – so there is nothing to choose here.

Supplemental Material

Ha ha ha ha ha! Seriously, ha ha ha ha ha.

Some people see no need for region free players and the like, because they can get everything they need in the US. This is yet another example of why this thinking is a bit wonky. Yeah, I know the Canadian release is also, R1. But what I mean here is that anyone who thinks they can get everything they want in R1 is mistaken – and anyone who thinks, “Well, if I wait, it’ll come” is probably simply okay with missing out on certain things.

Regardless, let’s see what we have here. In the R1 release we have bare bones, it ships with a Theatrical Trailer and that it is – can the R2 release improve on that?

Well, how about a Directors Commentary? Yep – watch the film with Cronenberg himself, as he explains his inspirations and decisions. This is priceless, imho.

Not enough? Well how about that Theatrical Trailer? Just so you’re not missing out.

You want more? Well alright then – how about a very informative 53 minute documentary on Carol Spier, the set designer? You’ll get to visit the sets, see some clips from Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers and other films she’s worked on. Cronenberg is in there too. You get to go INSIDE the movie – very nice documentary!

What? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more? Alright, how about a second commentary from the Director of Photography? Oh sure, there are silent moments, since he tends to talk about how scenes were framed, so starts speaking as the scenes change. But still – come on! Want to know how the film was lit? What was computer generated and what was not? This is the one to listen to.

More?!?!?! Oh come on! Ain’t that enough? Look, last thing – how about a THIRD commentary with the video and special effects supervisor? He’s been with Cronenberg forever, so he has insight into a bunch of his films.

The strangest “extra” is that this disc has a special “Sega Dreamcast” menu. I have no idea what that is, since I don’t own a Dreamcast :)

Listen, if I have to tell you which release is better, you’re on dope or something. The R2 release matches a Criterion film. It is exhaustive, and goes into all the details of the film. Once through this disc you’ll really feel as though you’ve experienced everything about Existenz and the creation of this work. A superb release!

Final Thoughts

I guess there is a chance that there are people out there without this movie. Goodness knows why. It’s an original Cronenberg story, and the type of film only he could make.

The first time I watched it I was a bit confused, but subsequent viewings have paid dividends. Isn’t this the essence of the beauty of DVD? The commentaries help. There are so many subtleties here – like the number of curls in Gella’s hair, which tell us how deep into the game she is. It’s really fun to unravel. I have other tidbits, but honestly, I got them all from the commentary, so rather than repeat them back like I’m an Existenz expert or something, I’ll just let you get this and listen for yourself.

I won’t claim this is classic Cronenberg. But it sits nicely with Videodrome and his other work. With the R2 release, the movie simply smokes. As for the R1 (US) release, well, maybe for $5 it would suffice, but I couldn’t go back to it now. Dimension Home Video should be ashamed. The R2 is a Criterion level release, at bargain basement pricing.


ps: You gotta love the Gristle gun!

The Chaostar
07-29-2003, 04:10 PM
Yeaaaaaaaaaah!
I'm off to buy the damn disc!!!!!

dwatts
07-29-2003, 08:48 PM
The R2 release is a "Momentum" release. They're the people that did They Live and Prince of Darkness, make sure you get that one.

Cujo108
07-29-2003, 11:18 PM
I won’t claim this is classic Cronenberg.

Every Cronenberg film is classic Cronenberg as far as I'm concerned. eXistenZ is yet another spectacular and brilliant work from THE master. Nice review.

dwatts
07-29-2003, 11:33 PM
I want my Naked Lunch!!!!!

Andrew
07-30-2003, 09:23 AM
Some people see no need for region free players and the like, because they can get everything they need in the US. This is yet another example of why this thinking is a bit wonky. Yeah, I know the Canadian release is also, R1. But what I mean here is that anyone who thinks they can get everything they want in R1 is mistaken – and anyone who thinks, “Well, if I wait, it’ll come” is probably simply okay with missing out on certain things. Dude you shot yourself in the foot there. This proves exactly what I was saying earlier, everything you'd get from Region 2 is on Region 1 (in this particular case only, of course). Just found it funny that you'd mention it in one of the few cases where it doesn't work :).

dwatts
07-30-2003, 11:29 AM
Sorry Andrew - did you actually READ it.

Quote: " Yeah, I know the Canadian release is also, R1. But what I mean here is that anyone who thinks they can get everything they want in R1 is mistaken"

How is that "shooting yourself in the foot"? I know you feel no need for a region free player - you'd be one of those who is: "probably simply okay with missing out on certain things".

I find it funny you would make a comment like this, when I said exactly that in the original post - and even went on to explain WHY I said it. Now, enjoy being region-crippled, why I enjoy freedom, okay?

:eek2:

Andrew
07-31-2003, 05:32 AM
No I did notice that, that's why I quoted it. I just don't understand why in this review, of all places, you'd bring it up again.

dwatts
07-31-2003, 11:47 AM
Because the official US release in inferior. This happens a lot (Sleepless anyone, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, etc) Existenz is an example of the US release being crapola, while the rest of the world gets a Criterion level disk.

Honestly, all this is in the text - it seems you're just smarting because you're one of those that insists there is no need for a region free player. I got no problem with that, but it ain't changing my mind any. I'll let people like you buy crippled electronic hardware, and have the holywood moguls lead me by the nose and tell me what I can, and when I can buy it. :)

Andrew
07-31-2003, 04:29 PM
Not at all, it seemed to me you were doing the opposite. But fair enough, my mistake.

dwatts
07-31-2003, 05:15 PM
Well, I *never* make mistakes - as you know ;)