As someone who grew up during the 1970s, my reaction the first time I saw “The Ice Storm” in 1997 when was probably similar to what someone who was raised during the 1950s thought when watching “Far From Heaven.” Behind the kids’ world of “Star Wars” and “Planet of the Apes” action figures, comic books, and video games were adults dealing with the hangover from the 1960s by indulging in a new, pathetic brand of suburban hedonism. It made me wonder what my parents were really doing when they hired a babysitter and said they were going out for a night of disco dancing.
(Yeah, I know that “Star Wars” wasn’t out yet in 1973, when this film is set.)
Watching the movie again a decade later, with three kids in the house and a mortgage to pay, I was left wondering how the heck anyone survived that decade, between a criminally corrupt presidency, rampant inflation, crazy gas prices, and the joyless lives led by so many suburbanites who sought to replicate what they were reading about in Playboy magazine. Then I realized what decade I’m living in, and I was glad that at least the fourth thing doesn’t apply to me. But I wonder how many it does apply to, if you swap out Playboy for some seedy web site. In 30 years, will we see a novel and a movie looking at the first decade of the 21st century in a similar way?
As is my custom with reviewing films that have been around for a while, I’ll skip the plot recitation. I’m sure I’m mostly speaking to fans of the film who want to know what Criterion has in store for them. Rest assured, it’s another worthy release.
Disc one includes the original theatrical trailer, along with a commentary by director Ang Lee and screenwriter/producer James Schamus. It’s a pretty typical commentary that imparts a lot of background information about the obstacles faced while making the movie, along with plenty of production anecdotes. For example, some in the town where they filmed didn’t want the production there because of the negative publicity surrounding the book. The two are long-time collaborators, so they have an easygoing style, and they pretty much stick to discussing the movie, rather than heading off on the tangents that often happen when more than one person participates in a commentary.
Over on disc two, we have the 35-minute “Weathering the Storm,” a new featurette that features many cast members looking back on the movie. Rick Moody, who wrote the book on which it was based, gets his own 21-minute interview, which was nice considering how often novelists are marginalized in DVD bonus features. Even better is the fact that he’s candid with his thoughts about the way his novel was adapted.
Lee and Schamus get their moment in a 31-minute interview conducted at the Museum of the Moving Image, although the piece covers all of Lee’s films and doesn’t focus solely on “The Ice Storm.” They also pop in with commentaries on the four deleted scenes.
“The Look of ‘The Ice Storm'” wraps up the disc with three featurettes covering 34 minutes and discussing the cinematography, production design, and costume design. Finally, Criterion threw in an 18-page booklet that features several stills from the movie and an essay by journalist Bill Krohn. I appreciate that Criterion still likes to include print materials in their DVDs. They’ve done a lot to further film viewing from a scholarly perspective, as opposed to the “This is a wicked cool movie! Check out the bad a*s bonus features!” mentality that permeates most mainstream DVDs. “Transformers,” I’m looking at you.