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Moonrise Kingdom

by Jake Mulligan
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Sep 26, 2015
Moonrise Kingdom

The Criterion Collection's releases of Wes Anderson's films, which emerge a few years after the original home video releases, are more than just upgrades. Before you even put the disc in the player, Criterion's release of Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" -- out this week -- is delighting you. There's the usual booklet and critical essay, but there's also a map of the fictional New England island that the film takes place on. There's even a printed cast photo, in the style of a lobby card, packed along with it. Even the disc itself is marked by a Wes-esque design. For fans of the filmmaker, these releases are surely about more than the movies themselves. They're treasure troves.

To wit: The first Blu-ray release of "Moonrise" -- a miniature epic about boy scouts, adventurous girls, and the future that faced the children of the early '60s -- featured only a few moments of additional features. But Criterion's disc is loaded full of them (they're in every tent). For starters, there's a theatrical trailer, then next up is some set footage: The "Set Tour with Bill Murray" segment provides exactly that, and "Welcome to New Penzance" offers some shots around the set of the made-up community. There's another self-explanatory segment that lets you visit the set, as well: "Eleven iPhone Videos by Edward Norton" are also included, alongside an introduction from the actor himself.

The "production" side of the extra features wraps up with a four-part "Making of Moonrise Kingdom." There's a 20-minute segment that takes a closer look at the set (for "New Penzance," the crew shot around Rhode Island), followed by shorter segments that focus on the film's elaborate storyboards, its tortured casting process, and its use of miniatures in lieu of slicker special effects. The rest of the special features on the disc dive into the text of the film itself: There are some musical extracts and still photographs included from a performance of Britten's "Noye's Fludde" (the work is featured in the film itself), additional footage of Jason Schwartzman's comic relief character Cousin Ben, and a commentary track featuring Anderson and a number of his crewmembers.

Included in the track are Anderson, Murray, co-writer Roman Coppola, Norton, Jake Ryan, and Criterion's Peter Becker. And while they're able to cover a large number of topics -- from the way the story developed in the scripting stage, to the choice to shoot on 16mm, to the editing rhythm of the film itself -- there are probably too many people speaking over each other there, and it can sometimes curtail the insight. But to complain about that, in regards to this movie, would be absurd. The opening credits sequence says it all: An "Introduction to Britten" record promises to show us how "all the pieces of a symphony orchestra" fit together. Meanwhile, Anderson's camera whips and pans, documenting all the members of his character's family, isolated in their own rooms and spaces. By the end of the film, he'll have shown us how they fit together, too.

Sam and Suzy are the center of his symphony, two grade-schoolers who run off together for a surprisingly illicit tryst. But in dramatizing their battle with the forces that maintain them (the hippies of the future rebelling against the bourgeoisie of the film's '60s-set present), Anderson employs all sorts of adolescent flourishes: The aforementioned miniature sets, the use of full-screen color-fills, extremely-stylized insert shots, and maps that light up as though they've been colored on.

The Blu-ray's last extra feature ties into this: We're read excerpts from the storybooks that Suzy carries around throughout the film. "Moonrise" aspires to the mood of those books, the ones we may have read in an elementary school's library. With this Blu-ray, those books have opened up.

"Moonrise Kingdom"

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