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(1994) *** R
89 min. Miramax Films. Director: Kevin Smith. Cast: Brian Christopher O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti (II), Lisa Spoonauer, Jason Mewes.

/content/films/3636/1.jpgFor those without trust funds, breaking into movie-making ain't easy. But with a little ingenuity, and a lot of support and luck, one can scrape together a calling-card film on the cheap. It infamously took David Lynch six years to make Eraserhead, his black-and-white debut, but it turned out to be a masterpiece. Kevin Smith's first film, Clerks, may not be a masterpiece, but it made a cannonball splash in '90s cinema, when the then-Weinstein-run Miramax made a writer-director from New Jersey the darling of the indie circuit.

Set in a New Jersey "Quick Stop" convenience store (not so coincidentally, the same one in which the director was working at the time), Clerks is an ode to the slacker, who cannot see a way forward from a life of poorly compensated drudgery and emotional ennui. Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) works the Quick Stop, while his irritating buddy Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) comes by to kibitz, on seemingly perpetual "break" from his job clerking at an adjoining video store. If Ionesco had come from Jersey, he might have imagined this scenario, defined by a parade of customers best described as fools, jerks and stoners. The latter include Jay and Silent Bob, performed to perfection by the hyper-verbal Jason Mewes and Smith, who tamps down his verbal acuity to a few well-chosen, well-timed syllables.

It's an unusual day for the clerks, in that it includes not only the usual mind-numbing, soul-deadening, endless day of work, but also some personal events of note for Dante. A visit from his girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) presses the point of Dante's lack of ambition and long-term commitment. This existential crisis deepens when Dante discovers that his ex-girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonhauer) is apparently about to be married. The old wound of their relationship reopens when Caitlin, too, comes by the Quick Stop and does damage to Dante's attempts to turn over a new leaf. Meanwhile, Randal makes time for he and Dante to carry on pointless arguments (many of them about Star Wars) for the sake of filling the void, and shenanigans erupt at irregular intervals, including a hockey game on the store's roof.

Clerks is a shaggy dog of a picture: likeable and funny in its diagnosis of lower-middle-class strivers who didn't ask for their lives to be so disspiriting and who lack the emotional wherewithal to go for broke and escape their sad fates. Plus it has a river of profane dialogue of the school of Tarantino. And Star Wars jokes. Thus it is guaranteed to entertain actual "clerks" and those who have outgrown slackerdom to look back in bemused fondness at wasted time.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 11/17/2009

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Clerks makes its Blu-ray debut in a 15th Anniversary Edition that preserves pretty much everything from the 10th Anniversary DVD edition while adding a couple of brand-new Blu-ray exclusives. And it's all on one disc. Of course, it's also available in a three-BD set called Kevin Smith 3-Movie Collection.

Enjoy the Theatrical Cut or First Cut version, in a hi-def transfer that preserves the film's theatrical look—in all its grainy black-and-white glory—and its soundtrack via a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Obviously, Blu-ray is overqualified to render this cheap indie, a point amusingly made by Smith in the new and exclusive to Blu-ray "Intro by Kevin Smith" (3:18, SD).

The Theatrical Version comes with a "circa '95" commentary by Smith, producer Scott Mosier, Jason Mewes, Brian O'Halloran and others. Another option is an Enhanced Trivia Track "with synchronized behind-the-scenes trivia and quotes from cast and crew."

The biggest new bonus, exclusive to Blu-ray, is the long-awaited, feature-length View Askew doc Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party: The Making of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (1:27:17, SD). Constructed entirely of rare, raw onset footage and candid interviews with the entire cast and crew, this is a treasure trove for Smith fans. (It's included on the Clerks disc only because Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was already issued without it, and this tactic doesn't require pressing new discs for that film.)

Reissued here from the previous 10th Anniversary Edition are a ton of extras, starting with "Clerks Lost Scene - Animated Short" (10:06, HD), which can be viewed with a Smith/Mosier intro or seamlessly branched back into the film.

"The Flying Car" (8:14, SD), a funny Clerks short film made for the Tonight Show, comes with an intro by Smith.

"MTV Spots with Jay & Silent Bob" (18:01, SD) come with an intro by Smith and Mosier.

The "Theatrical Trailer" (1:55, SD) comes with an intro by Smith.

"Soul Asylum 'Can't Even Tell' Music Video" (5:41, SD) comes with a Smith/Mosier intro.

"Restoring the Clerks Sound with Scott Mosier" (5:14, SD) and "Restoring the Clerks Look by David Klein" (:36, SD) lead into an "Introduction to the Theatrical Cut with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier" (7:02, SD).

"Original Auditions" (14:33, SD) for O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, and Ernest O'Donnell come with a Smith/Mosier intro.

The feature-length doc Snowball Effect (1:30:31, SD) details the making of Clerks; also included are thirteen "Outtakes from Snowball Effect" (SD).

Smith and Mosier's film-school "documentary" short "Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary" (11:38, SD) begins with a Smith/Mosier intro.

The "10th Anniversary Q&A" (42:09, SD), conducted at the Arclight Theater, includes Smith, director of photography Klein, Mosier, O'Halloran, Anderson, Ghigliotti, and Mewes.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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