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The Departed, now on DVD

By Arthur J Pais
February 16, 2007 16:00 IST
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Breaking the tradition of releasing the DVD version three months after the film has ended its run in theatres, Warner Brothers has issued a two-disc special edition of pulse-quickening and intriguing hit film, The Departed.
Expect the DVD, which adds nine scenes with introductions by director Martin Scorsese and a feature length profile of Scorsese, to shoot to the top of the sales chart instantly and become one of the hottest selling DVDs in the last 12 months. 
The Scorsese-directed crime drama, which has been nominated for major Oscars, including in the best director and best picture categories, is still showing in some 800 theatres in America and over 500 theatres abroad. It has grossed a handsome $275 million worldwide, proving to be the biggest success for its director who is widely expected to receive the much eluded Oscar for it.
The film revolves around rookie cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is working hard to win the trust of mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), so that he can help his detective handlers (Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen) to bring Costello down. Meanwhile, officer Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is winning many people's trust. No one suspects him to be Costello's mole. It's only a matter of time before both moles are suspected and face grave danger.
A story of crime and punishment dealing with commitment, betrayal and exploitation of vulnerable people, it is a compellingly interesting, multi-layered drama that doesn't open up at the first viewing. The DVD version will help fans to peel the film's many layers, and appreciate at a leisurely viewing. But like the movie itself, the DVD too is not for the squeamish. It is certainly one of the best films directed by Scorsese, and it is also his most violent film.
The DVD also offers an opportunity to study the career of Scorsese, one of the best directors in Hollywood today, and how his vision and craftsmanship shaped such classics as Taxi DriverRaging Bull, and even his failures such as Kundan. The 85-minute long feature, which was shown on TCM, discusses the significant films in Scorsese's four-decade long career. But The Departed is not included in the discussion since the documentary was made before he began working the hit film.
The additional nine scenes which run for about 20 minutes are introduced by Scorsese who explains why they didn't make the final cut.
Also included are The Story of the Boston Mob: The real-life gangster behind Jack Nicholson's character; Crossing Criminal Cultures: How Little Italy's crime and violence influence Scorsese's work and theatrical trailer   
Oscar and other kudos in the first quarter of the year leads to renewed interest in not only Oscar winning classics but also in classics by Oscar winners.
The ConformistAmong the many special DVDs that are drawing attention are two sets from Paramount Home Entertainment: Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, a story of friendship and betrayal in wartime Italy comes to DVD for the first time. And there is also the famed filmmaker's political drama The Conformist which fetched him an Oscar nomination for screenplay.
The special features of The Conformist include a featurette about its production. Based on a novel by the internationally renowned Alberto Moravia, the film is centered on a 30-year-old Italian, Marcello,  (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who is targeted by a fascist organisation to lead a lethal mission in France. But on his journey Marcello, who is accompanied by his naive wife (Stefania Sandrelli), is forced to revisit his troubled past and deal with his current dilemmas.
'The Conformist places Bertolucci among the finest film-makers,' declared Kevin Thomas in Lost Angeles Times. The 1970 art-house hit in America is one of the more gripping political films from any country in the past five decades. 
The special features of the two-disc 1900 include the featurette in which Bertolucci and the director of photography Vittorio Storaro share how the film's casting process worked. The film, which had Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu playing the lead, also featured Burt Lancaster, Donald Sutherland and Stefania Sandrelli.
The film, which was shown at the Cannes film festival with high hopes, received mostly negative reviews. Roger Ebert called it an uncontrolled film, referring to its 320-minute long run. Bertolucci reduced it to 240 minutes later after a heated discussion with producer Alberto Grimaldi. In the featurette 1900: Creating an Epic, Bertolucci, whose hit films include Last Tango In Paris and the Last Emperor, discusses, with his cinematographer Storaro joining him, on the difficult production and its controversial theatrical release.

Despite a flawed script, 1900 still has many compelling moments, and it is a pleasure to see De Niro and Depardieu coming up with solid, natural performances. And the filmmaker's commentary tells a few uncomfortable truths about the nature of the movies.
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Arthur J Pais