Saturday, May 3, 2014

Matt Johnson on Steven Spielberg

One of the special features on the new DVD of The Dirties is a hidden audio commentary (it’s track 6) of Matt Johnson & co. who instead of discussing the film provide a commentary of Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Hook. It’s a characteristic move from this surprising and funny group as it allows the viewer to just sit back and listen to these guys as they hang out and make jokes while they watch Spielberg’s classic and under-appreciated story of Peter Pan. It’s worth noting how the commentary sometimes corresponds in interesting ways to The Dirties.

They’re big Spielberg fans. Some of their favorite Spielberg films are Jurassic Park, Catch Me If You Can, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There are obvious connections between The Dirties and Spielberg: there is the Schindler’s List poster in Matt’s basement and the Catch Me If You Can riff in the film’s end credits. They’re not meaningless references either. The Dirties is an ode to the victims of tragic circumstances just like how Spielberg’s film is about the holocaust. Matt's journey as he constantly puts on disguises that reflect his character – most notably the The Catcher in the Rye shirt – is similar to Frank Abagnale’s sneaky attempts at upward mobility.

But! There are also similarities between The Dirties and Close Encounters especially through their shared protagonist: an alienated young boy who feels totally detached from their parents. There are also interesting setting parallels between the landfill shooting scene in The Dirties with those from Close Encounters and its isolated rocky mountain. This connection is made even stronger with a special hidden track on only some of the DVDs (!) where Johnson & co. have a commentary of Spielberg's masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The highlight of this secret commentary is their discussion at the ending of the spacecraft landing at Devils Tower. Throughout the film Johnson & co. constantly makes jokes on the commentary so in this scene you can hear them: “How did they even hire these people at the military base? Who is this guy on the piano?” But eventually it gets emotional as the commentary track gets really quiet (is light crying audible?) when Jilian’s son, who was abducted earlier, comes rushing out of the UFO. And then they discuss the genius of Spielberg around when Roy is brought onto the spaceship. Johnson concludes: “Steven Spielberg is the best! His use of the supernatural and the emotional is unmatched!”

This is an interesting approach to the DVD commentary and The Dirties is one of the most original and daring recent Toronto films. By watching The Dirties and listening to Johnson & co. the viewer can just tell that these guys were meant to make films. Pick up the DVD if you can!

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