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I have a confession to make. As I was trying to figure out some hip and clever way to open this review, as I try painstakingly hard to do each time I write, I realized why I try so hard to be hip and clever: I am a product of the Kevin Smith/Quentin Tarantino generation. A generation of twenty-somethings that rely on other people’s work to filter into their own. A generation of people that laden others with pop culture references that seemingly make sense to no one but the speaker/writer. People are abound in a haze of confusion when I speak, and I have had my fair amount of detractors that say I write like I speak. So, as can be expected, I was racking my brain for analogies to Star Wars or an eloquent but candid discussion of super hero powers. Then I realized not so much how influential Smith and Tarantino are, rather, I realized that they have tapped into a reservoir of geeks and made it culturally chic to speak in that style of vernacular. I realized that I had always spoke/written like that. I had been shunned most of my years for being a geek and lo and behold, these two stalwarts of cinema come along and just like that, I am accepted. So yes, I am grateful for Smith and Tarantino (yes, I know there are others to thank, but I am reviewing one of Smith’s movies) and I am grateful for his first, and arguably best film, Clerks.

Clerks X (10th Anniversary Edition)
My fellow reviewer Chris already did a stellar review of the previous release of this film so I won’t retread what he has already skilfully laid out and give you a repeat plot summation, but rather look at its significance in the area of filmmaking and what it has done to pop culture lore.

It’s well known that Smith made the movie on a budget of around 27,000 dollars, which is unheard of in this day and age. He took a huge risk financially banking that the film would be a success and that the money would be paid back in full. This could have been an indie cautionary tale of how not to go about making a movie, but as the tale goes, he sold the film to Miramax and has now inspired a legion of pious fans to pursue filmmaking because if he can do it, why can’t they? But not everyone is a fan. In fact, Smith has a line of detractors almost as long as his fan base is.

He is a gifted writer with a rhythm that can be compared to David Mamet or even Tom Stoppard. However, his eye for visuals, or a lack thereof, has lead him down a path to the point that he even heckles himself on this point. Some have argued that he should stick to writing rather than directing, but this lack of vision, in my opinion, served him well with Clerks. It was gritty and had an air of voyeurism to it. Perhaps we were seeing the security camera footage and we didn’t know it? Perhaps this was a documentary detailing the mundane existence of the people that only Tom Waits would sing about? These are people that make up the foundation of America. The people that we really never think twice about after dealing with them. This was their movie.

I don’t think that fancy camera moves or quick jump editing would have served Smith and this film. This was a film that had to be rough around the edges. What we didn’t know was that this was a direct telling of what kind of filmmaker Smith really was. His growth as a filmmaker has been stagnant as his style has remained the same throughout his work. The two shot is his calling card and becomes immediately recognizable with some dialogue. But rather than pile on him for his lack of style, I would like to congratulate him for introducing the characters of this film to the world. The most recognizable duo from this film would be Jay and Silent Bob.

Clerks X (10th Anniversary Edition)
This creation, for which Smith himself originally didn’t intend to play the role of Silent Bob, has seethed into the fabric of reality and no one has been able to clean the stain out. They are everywhere. I recently saw the duo performing, if you want to call it that, on one of those VH-1 I Love the 90s shows. They had a cameo in the movie Scream 3. They have appeared in the sitcom Degrassi: The Next Generation. The drug dealing duo has evolved from a one-note drug dealing duo to, well, maybe they haven’t really evolved. Characters like these don’t necessarily have to evolve, they just have to be. As stated earlier, Smith tapped into a consciousness that hit a chord with a lot of people and Jay and Silent Bob are part of that. While I think he is coming close to bleeding the characters dry, as Clerks 2 is in the works, I commend him for capitalizing on his creation and making the most out of it.    

Video


Miramax presents this release in anamorphic 1:85.1 video. The transfer was supervised by Dave Klein, who shot the movie, and truthfully the film looks great. As I had said before the griminess was part of the movie that appealed to me so I am for one glad that there is still a hint of that. There is only so much that can be cleaned up and the transfer from 16mm to HiDef is certainly workable. With the reduction of grain and the contrast a bit sharper, I can’t complain all that much.  

Audio


The sound is much better from the previous instalment (Dolby Digital 2.0 versus Dolby Digital 5.1) but there is still much to be desired. Most of the sound seemed to be focused on my centre channel but with this being a dialogue driven movie it wasn’t that upsetting. The upgrade to 5.1 was supervised by Scott Mosier but I can’t help but feel there was something amiss when he did it. This is not a flick to blow out your speakers to but I was still a little disappointed with the sound quality.  

Clerks X (10th Anniversary Edition)

Extras


People can say what they want about Kevin Smith as a filmmaker, but as far as his releases go on DVD, he is as magnanimous as they come in terms dishing out the goods for his DVD releases. Clerks X is overloaded with enough material and goods to try the patience of even the most devout Smith apologist. So take a deep breath as this might take awhile. On the first disc you have the original commentary track from the previous release. As with most of the Smith commentaries you get a great amount of self-deprecating humour as well as interesting anecdotes about the production. This man certainly realizes how lucky he is and it comes through when he speaks. The only downfall with this one is that the audio is terrible (sounds like they’re sharing one microphone) and Jason Mewes is horribly inebriated. Fun for some but not what I was looking for.

There is an enhanced playback track that offers trivia and titbits that pop up on the screen. A cool little feature bat sadly repeats most of the information that can be found on the commentary track. Next up is a ‘lost’ scene that was never shot for the film, due to budget restraints, but has been animated and re-voiced in the style of the short lived Clerks cartoon. This was a nice feature that fills in the blank of what happened when Dante and Randall went to the wake. There is even a familiar face, or should I say voice, from Smith’s movie Chasing Amy that shows up.

‘The Flying Car’ is a feature that Smith put together for Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, which has Dante and Randal pontificating on the merits of a flying car while stuck in traffic. There are eight MTV spots featuring Jay and Silent Bob musing on various topics pertaining to the MTV audience. Several induced hearty laughs while several were cringe worthy. The original Clerks audition tapes are just what they advertise. The rest of the disc has the trailer and Soul Asylum music video. Also, Smith introduces each of the pieces and offers some insight to the production. As usual, the introductions can be more entertaining than the pieces themselves. What can I say, as those who have seen An Evening with Kevin Smith can attest, the man knows how to speak!

Clerks X (10th Anniversary Edition)
The second disc has the original print of the movie along with a newly recorded commentary by Smith and the cast of the flick. The original print is dirty and grainy and can actually cause brain damage if viewed for more than an hour. Okay, that last part is completely fabricated, but the print is dirty, which I adore. This is the version that filmed and has the original ending that Smith intended which would have made the film much darker and less audience friendly. The newly recorded commentary track is a nice change from the original as you can clearly hear everyone and no one is drunk.  Everyone reminisces about the shoot while dining on food that is delivered in the middle of the track. One of the most amusing bits of the track is how Scott Mosier walked in on Smith’s mother undressing. To say they now share a bond would be understating the case a bit. The other feature is the video commentary which shows the cast watching the movie while commenting. It’s an interesting feature that allows you to see the cast reacting to the movie as well as to each other. It’s not the most functional feature ever but a cool addition nonetheless.

Disc three has an extra that is worth the price of the set all by itself. ‘Snowball Effect: The Story of Clerks’. This is an exhaustive documentary that chronicles Kevin Smith’s rise to fame from his childhood (an amusing anecdote about when his parents like to copulate) to his film school days (how he and Mosier had an agreement that whoever wrote a script first, the other would help out making the movie) to filming Clerks (Jeff Anderson got the part of Randal by accident), all the way to Sundance where it made a buzz (listen for the story of Harvey Weinstein and his De Niro like reaction to the film). You hear from almost every possible person connected to the film and it offers a wonderful view to the painful process of independent filmmaking. Clocking in at ninety-two minutes, it’s one of the better making-of docs that I saw last year.

There are over forty minutes of deleted scenes from the documentary on offer. These were cut for pacing and content but it’s nice to be able to view them as well. Next up is the documentary that Smith and Mosier completed at the Vancouver Film School where they initially met. It is a documentary about the failed attempt at making a documentary. Not the most interesting feature but nice to have anyway. There is the Tenth Anniversary Q & A, which features most all the cast (only Lisa Spoonhaur wasn’t present) and plays much like An Evening with Kevin Smith only with more people. A barrage of questions are fielded from the audience and most everyone gets to say their piece. Entertaining as always and it’s good to see the cast ten years after the film and their reaction to each other. Rounding up the goodies on the third disc are still galleries and journal and articles detailing the rise of the film. You can’t really ask for more.

Clerks X (10th Anniversary Edition)

Overall


This is a must have if you’re a fan of Smith. He has all but put his sweat and blood into this release and it shows. Having two versions of the film is nice and the documentary is a phenomenal extra. Definitely worth the money to but if you have the previous edition, this is the definitive DVD to have if you worship at the alter of Smith.


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