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Thank heavens Sony didn't release this for Valentine's Day.

Returning to territory he owned with Carnal Knowledge (and earlier in his own stage act), director Mike Nichols made a small splash last December with Closer, reviewed by Mario Anima on our site. Adapted from a stage play by Patrick Marber, the film chronicles the rise and fall and rise and fall of two couples struggling to understand that age-old question: what is this thing called, love?

Bitter, disturbing and at times bitterly disturbingly funny, the film garnered two Academy Award nominations, but little in the way of actual attention from the public. Perhaps it felt too much like one of those films that we were supposed to like on the strength of its pedigree alone. Perhaps the public had just grown tired of the onslaught of Jude Law.

Through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, there's a chance to correct that misperception. Closer comes to home video, and though it really isn't the ideal "date night" entertainment, it does deserve a look.

Certainly, the nominated performances of Clive Owen and Natalie Portman stand out, in particular a tremendously un-erotic strip club confrontation between the two. That lack of eroticism is on purpose, and not the effect of a prudish director, either. Nichols may present tantalizing glimpses of Portman, but the scene itself drips with emotional pain. Juxtaposed with the constant beat of the club's soundtrack, the desperation and ludicrousness of Owen's plight has to make us laugh, but in an uneasy way. When Nichols is on top of his game, as he is here, this is the way he likes it.

Presented in Sony's "Superbit" format, the disc has little to offer beyond a lush transfer and crisp sound. That's the point of Superbit: just the film, as well-presented as possible.

No one offers commentary, and though that may be a bit of a disappointment, it makes sense. Owen might have had an interesting viewpoint, having played Law's character on stage, but that has been covered in interviews elsewhere. As for Nichols, he jumped right from this film to directing the stage show Spamalot, and if that means no time for commentary, the trade-off is still pretty good.

Sony does offer a music video for Damien Rice's title sequence song, "The Blower's Daughter." A haunting melody, it's still hard to go on to the video after getting knocked around by the film. Still, it's good to see Rice get some attention.

Without extras, the focus returns to the film itself, and for character pieces like this, that seems only appropriate. Just because a DVD can feature a lot more than a movie doesn't always mean it should. Save the documentaries and navel-gazing for something with a cult following or tremendous special effects. For a piece like Closer, it's nice for a studio to trust that we might just be able to think for ourselves about it.

Better that we might just want to.


Closer (Patrick Marber's original play)

Derek McCaw


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