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Reviewed January 28th, 2001 by Brian White


Brilliant cinema, a complete crock, or some combination of the two: that seems to be the consensus for this enormous effort on the part of Oliver Stone. A better DVD of the film has finally been released. Just as the Warren Commission reported a single gunman, the DVD case back in ’97 reported an anamorphic transfer. In neither case did we find the truth. The first DVD was also a flipper (not like you were going to sit through it all anyway), this disc fits all 3 hrs, 17 mins (!) on one side. You’ll end up pausing it anyway. There are also a bunch of goodies included, so this is a good buy if you enjoyed the film.

Oliver Stone’s JFK is an exploration of a conspiracy theory. The official explanation of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is dubious at best. Oliver Stone spends three hours plus pointing out every possible hole, and ignored piece of evidence. The film centers on Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), the New Orleans district attorney who prosecuted the only case in the murder of the President. Conveniently, Stone comes to the conclusion that powerful forces in government assassinated Kennedy because he wanted to avoid the Vietnam War.

Despite whatever might be said about Stone’s argument, it is made stylistically. Through his over-the-top editing style, and unique artistic vision, the viewer is definitely involved with the story, rather than just watching it. Stone cuts together documentary footage, manufactured documentary footage, photographs, and anything else to assist in the sensory overload. Technically, this is filmmaking at its best. Stone also fills the screen with a countless number of familiar, and very respected faces.

How’s the new 16x9 transfer? Gorgeous. It’s clean and detailed; a perfect show piece for some of the textbook cinematic artistry. A new 5.1 DD mix has also been created for this release. The audio mix, though quite active, is not overblown, like that of an action flick. Instead, the mix serves to further unsettle the audience by augmenting the editing style of the film. Also, sub is used atmospherically during certain dramatic moments. This is a very well used, and aural surround mix.

As for extras, it’s great to have the feature length, scene-specific commentary by Stone; yet this is not the information that I’d hoped for. Most of the time, he goes on about the conspiracy theory, despite the fact that most of his information is repeated in the film. Information about filmmaking is usually Stone congratulating himself about accomplishments here and there, as he sees them. Stone does not suffer from self-loathing.

The second disc contains some great features, including two great documentaries. The first focuses on information about the assassination, which has surfaced since the film’s release. James DiEugenio, of Probe magazine hosts this documentary. Many of the documents that the Garrison character calls for in the film have been released to the public in the wake of the film. The most interesting aspect of this documentary is the revelation that the most maligned bit of “evidence” in the film: that Johnson’s Vietnam policy was a 180 degree turn from Kennedy’s, has been proven by the released documents. The second documentary is an interview with Fletcher Prouty, the inspiration for Mr. X, Donald Sutherland’s character in the film. Fletcher is interesting because he is clearly in the know, and has lots to share.

Also included on Disc 2 are several deleted scenes with and optional commentary track from Stone. DVD-ROM features are also included.

A complaint must be made about the stupid packaging. A snapper case just wasn’t intended for two discs. Disc 2 is shoved into an opening on the flap. You really have to look for it when you open the disc. I know I’m going to wreck the packaging taking it out one day. I suppose I could buy a double keep case, but I’d have to cut apart the cardboard cover on the snapper case to preserve the artwork.


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