DVD Review: Tideland

Movie •••½ Picture •••• Sound •••½ Extras •••½
Even the best and most popular films that spring from the warped mind of director Terry Gilliam aren't for everyone. They're too quirky, too stubbornly individualistic, or just too off-the-wall for general audiences. And Tideland is almost certainly the most Gilliamesque one of all. This story of Jeliza-Rose, a beautiful 10-year-old girl who gets lost in her own fantasies in order to escape an unspeakably bleak existence, is not for the squeamish or the easily offended. But scenes which may at first glance seem exploitative, are gradually built into a beautiful illustration of the remarkable resilience of children when confronted with impossible situations.

The visual splendor for which Gilliam is widely known is rather muted here, as the 66-year-old director has grown more interested in the spontaneous contributions of his actors than in creating flashy imagery. Tideland may be his first truly character-driven film. Even so, the lushness of Gilliam's work remains, and it's everywhere on this gorgeous transfer. The rolling hills of Saskatchewan are sharply rendered in all their golden detail, and Jeliza-Rose's flights of imagination - including one sequence in which her dilapidated house falls into an imaginary ocean - arrive in a virtual explosion of color. Audio is equally rich and exceedingly well-balanced throughout, though, like the visuals, it's more subtle than longtime Gilliam fans might expect.

The extras are highlighted by a wonderfully rapid-fire and free-associative commentary by Gilliam and his co-screenwriter, Tony Grisoni; Gilliam may not always be lucid, but he's certainly never boring. On a second disc, brief documentary segments offer a glimpse behind the scenes and an exploration of green-screen technology. There are also some 15-minute interview segments with Gilliam and producer Jeremy Thomas; 6 minutes' worth of deleted scenes that come off strong enough to have made the cut; and a 45-minute documentary called Getting Gilliam that gamely tries to untangle the extraordinary director's tumultuous career. [R] Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed 2.35:1; dual layer.

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