The Ice Storm Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
The year of 1973 was a revolutionary one. Richard Nixon was declaring he was not a crook on national television. Johnny Carson, Truman Capote and Barbara Walters were lining up to see DEEP THROAT. Couples across America were having key parties. And the Carver and Hood families were just living their lives.
Meet the Carvers: There’s husband Jim (Jamey Sheridan), wife Janey (Sigourney Weaver) and sons Mikey (Elijah Wood) and Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd). And the Hoods: There’s husband Ben (Kevin Kline), wife Elena (Joan Allen), son Paul (Tobey Maguire), and daughter Wendy (Christina Ricci). Ben is having an affair with Janey, whose husband is out of town too often to notice and while Elena spends her days bored with the norm. Wendy is sexually curious and expresses it openly with the Carver boys, one of whom is so desensitized to violence that he sets off minor explosions in the backyard. Paul, a collegiate with a passion for classmate Libbets (Katie Holmes), finds a perfect comparison between his family (and, by extension, all suburban families) and the Fantastic Four—not in their superpowers, but in the fact that the more you’re drawn in, the farther into the void you are.
THE ICE STORM, adapted from Rick Moody’s 1994 novel of the same name, takes place over one Thanksgiving break in the small town of New Canaan, Connecticut. There is an ice storm approaching the area, something the viewer is reminded of constantly, as when one of the characters makes a cocktail and cracks open an ice tray in a foreshadowing close-up. But we know this is just a tease and that there are greater problems and issues to be resolved and exposed. It’s like one big joke on Thanksgiving clichés, only there’s not much funny going on (there are slices of humor, but almost all is dark). These are people both young and middle-aged who are trying to find out which pieces are missing and how they can fit them in. But even if they do fit, do they really belong?
The screenplay, wonderfully constructed by James Schamus (who earned a BAFTA nomination for his work), develops each of these characters and makes them as complex and confused as the story necessitates. The film is directed by Ang Lee, whose most notable feature up to THE ICE STORM was his take on Jane Austen’s SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, and who would go on to win Best Director Oscars for 2005’s BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and 2012’s LIFE OF PI. Lee, a native of Taiwan, captures that time in history—the doubt, the experiments, the music (from Jim Croce to Traffic)—so well that it’s not hard to imagine an American director of the same generation not being able to distance himself and making a more hollow film as a result.
Here is a portrait of American life around Thanksgiving that would have given Norman Rockwell a heart attack. It’s a world where the adults are no more mature than their children and the kids are no less innocent than their parents.
THE ICE STORM BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “Supervised by director Ang Lee and director of photography Frederick Elmes, this digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K DataCine from a 35mm interpositive, and color-corrected on Autodesk’s Lustre system. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.”
This is a very nice high-definition transfer that, while fairly soft, features fine colors and details throughout that enhance the fine work of cinematographer Frederick Elmes.
Audio: English 2.0 Surround. “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35mm LT/RT magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.”
The audio transfer is very good, with clean dialogue, crisp tunes and a clear Mychael Danna score.
Audio commentary featuring Lee and producer-screenwriter James Schamus: As Lee and Schamus have an excellent relationship, it’s no surprise that this commentary is a comfortable and fun listen. The duo touches on all that fans would be interested in, including the cast/characters, the film’s style and its reception upon release.
Weathering the Storm (36:09): This documentary (initially filmed for Criterion’s initial DVD) gathers Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, and Elijah Wood to discuss THE ICE STORM, their experiences working on the film, director Ang Lee, and more.
Rick Moody Interview (21:22): Author Moody sits down to discuss both his 1994 novel and the 1997 adaptation.
Lee and Schamus at MoMI (32:08): Shot in November 1997, this footage shows Lee and Schamus at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image chatting about their then-15-year working relationship, which has produced such films as EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.
The Look of THE ICE STORM collects audio interviews with cinematographer Frederick Elmes, production designer Mark Friedberg and costume designer Carol Oditz.
Deleted Scenes (6:50): There are four here, available with optional audio commentary by Schamus. They are: “Ben Hood at the Office,” “Elena and Rev. Edwards,” “Elena’s Offer,” “and Paul’s Moral Dilemma.”
Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 16-page booklet featuring an essay by critic Bill Krohn.