Rushmore(Criterion Collection)

The trailer of the 1998 film Rushmorefeatures a spectacular opening riff from an obscure rock tune called "Making Time." One might suspect it was by The Who or the Rolling Stones, but it was really by The Creation, a lesser-known name in the 60s British invasion. The song (and the curious choice of music) contributed to my curiosity about Rushmore. The trailer seemed to promise something unique and funny, or at least something with a unique sense of musical taste.

After some research on the film, I discovered Bottle Rocket, the previous effort from director Wes Anderson. That first feature was certainly amusing, perhaps a bit overlong, but absolutely unique. Bottle Rocketwent about telling a story in such different ways, I couldn't help being drawn in. When I finally did see Rushmore, I was rewarded with another thoroughly unique and amusing vision.

Anderson's second feature revolves around the world of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a young student at Rushmore Academy. Max is an overachiever  - as far as extra-curricular activities go - but his poor academics threaten his scholarship money. Max becomes enamored of a new teacher at Rushmore, Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams), and strikes up a friendship with a self-made millionaire, Mr. Blume (Bill Murray). Max admires Blume's attitude, but Blume is really depressed because of his unsatisfying home life. Things go incredibly awry when Max finally is forced to leave Rushmore, and Mr. Blume takes a liking to Ms. Cross.

The plot sounds rather threadbare, but the characters, which inhabit this world, are full of quirks. Max has a penchant for staging highly ambitious school plays (Rushmore students make up the cast of his take on "Serpico"), and he is probably the only student ever to be a member of the wrestling team and the Beekeeper's Club. And when push comes to shove, it's clear that Mr. Blume is, in some ways, more of a child than Max.

The songs and score on the soundtrack punctuate the uniqueness of the film. Ex-Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh provides a charming baroque underscore, a contrast to the classic "British Invasion" songs (Cat Stevens, The Kinks and The Who are some of the names represented) sprinkled throughout the film.

The Criterion Collection has been fortunate enough to produce a definitive DVD edition of Rushmore. Fans of Criterion already know to expect classy products, but the company may have outdone itself this time.

The film on this Criterion disc looks and sounds wonderful. The beautifully composed 2.35:1 image is enhanced for 16:9 televisions, with nary a compression artifact visible. The transfer is faithful to the film's subtle color scheme, with well-chosen bright blues and reds contrasting the earthy browns and greens of the settings. Fleshtones are spot-on, and detail is fine - although the picture is a bit soft. And while the soundtrack is not incredibly dynamic (it's primarily music and dialogue), it is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

The special features, however, truly make this disc shine. An enlightening audio commentary is provided with Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson (co-writer), and Jason Schwartzman. Also fascinating are excerpts from PBS' Charlie Rose Show, featuring Anderson and Bill Murray. There is also a "Making of Rushmore" documentary on the disc, but it doesn't delve deeply into the process of creating the film, opting to instead provide a number of candid glimpses of work on the set.

The filmmakers have been thoughtful enough to include some interesting surprises on the DVD. A set of hilarious MTV commercials featuring the "Max Fischer Players" is perhaps the most interesting of these features. There are also storyboards drawn by Wes Anderson for several scenes, including a film-to-storyboard comparison of the film's opening scene. Cast audition videos, promotional stills and photos of props created for the film are on display as well. All of this is accessible through very creative (and very tasteful) thematic menus - some of the most interesting I've ever seen on a DVD. In addition, the sleeve and booklet for the disc were drawn by Eric Chase Anderson, the director’s brother. Finally, there is a poster included, done in the same style as the cover, which depicts many of the film's key moments.

Criterion has produced a DVD that any film lover would be proud to own. Even though there was a gap between the release of standard and special editions of Rushmore, the wait was certainly worth it. For being patient, we get a feature-packed, charming and quirky DVD for a charming and quirky movie.

- Derek Miner

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