The Addiction Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Abel Ferrara
Written by Nicholas St. John
1995, 82 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on June 26th, 2018
Lili Taylor as Kathleen Conklin
Christopher Walken as Peina
Annabella Sciorra as Casanova
Edie Falco as Jean
Paul Calderon as Professor
Fredro Starr as Black
Kathleen Conklin is a philosophy grad student at NYU whose life is turned on its head when halfway through her doctoral dissertation she is bitten by a vampire. From here on she begins to question her beliefs and understanding of the world. The New York streets can be tough, but Kathleen is growing stronger by the day. She explores her new existence as a vampire by casually taking blood from strangers and friends alike. Kathleen chooses to take her victims’ blood via syringe before succumbing to traditional biting. Everything changes when she meets Peina, a wise and seasoned vampire who has mastered what he is and has a pragmatic outlook on life. What will Kathleen ultimately decide she wants from this new lifestyle and will she regain her soul?
With The Addiction, director Abel Ferrara (Ms. 45) delivers a beautiful film steeped in philosophical metaphor and rich with artistic flourish. The script by longtime collaborator Nicholas St. John (King of New York) tackles the heroin parallels head-on and follows the metaphor to its natural conclusion. AIDS is briefly mentioned as are various other assorted evils of the world. Ferrara fills the screen with images of terrific beauty contrasted by horrific photos from the Holocaust, Bosnian war crimes and the My Lai massacre. St. John has a lot on his mind and includes intellectual discussions of the works of various philosophers while ruminating on Catholic theology and free will. Everything is carefully measured but goes wild in a third act that culminates in a bloodbath at an academic reception. Ferrara is on home turf shooting in New York City and is comfortable with the story he is telling.
Lili Taylor (The Conjuring) stars as Kathleen, the graduate student with a serious problem. Taylor is haunting in the role and audiences will gladly follow her on this mysterious descent. Christopher Walken (The Dogs of War) is mesmerizing as the wise vampire Peina, who has taken control of his addiction and mastered the art of blending in with humanity. He offers Kathleen literature to broaden her understanding of her situation before sampling her essence for himself. Walken’s role qualifies as little more than an extended cameo but is a highlight here that benefits the film greatly.
The supporting cast features a trio of strong performances by Annabella Sciorra (The Funeral), Edie Falco (The Sopranos) and Paul Calderon (Band of the Hand). Sciorra oozes sensuality as the vampire Casanova, the one responsible for biting Kathleen. Her screen time is limited, but she completely owns the scenes she is in. Falco is sympathetic as Kathleen’s friend Jean, her one remaining connection to the living world. Paul Calderon introduces a lot of the film’s central themes as the philosophy professor with an addiction of his own. Fans of Ferrara will recognize these faces and many others from his other works, as the director likes to use the same performers whenever possible.
The Addiction is a gritty movie filmed in glorious black-and-white by cinematographer Ken Kelsch (New Rose Hotel). Shot on the streets of 1990s New York and set to a hip-hop soundtrack, the picture serves as a time capsule of the city and university. This is an intellectual vampire movie more interested in advancing philosophical discussion rather than scaring audience members. Director Ferrara, himself a recovering addict, has a lot to say on the subject and its central metaphor and he does so in a manner that is thoughtful and frequently striking. This film falls somewhere in the middle of his extensive filmography in terms of viewer reception. From here he would move on to more quiet works like The Funeral (1996), a self-reflective family drama of sorts. Not as far out as Driller Killer (1979) or as confrontational as Bad Lieutenant (1992), The Addiction is a strong film that needs to be seen if for nothing else than the performances alone.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture has received an all-new HD transfer that really shines. The gorgeous black-and-white photography is rich with detail and solid black levels. Film grain is minimal and natural throughout and contrast levels are spot on.
There are two audio options on this disc; the first is an LPCM 2.0 stereo track that preserves the original mix. A newly created DTS-HD MA 5.1 expanded option opens things up nicely with a bit more bite.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Abel Ferrara’s commentary gets off to a bumpy start and is a bit frustrating, as his thoughts frequently trail off mid-sentence. He has some interesting things to say, but it’s not always fluid. There are some gaps of silence punctuated by the occasional odd memory as he watches the movie, but then he kicks in and has a lot to say. The track is more satisfying than not but requires patience.
For the 2018 release, Ferrara conducts a series of interviews for the documentary Talking with the Vampires (31 minutes), featuring Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, composer Joe Delia, cinematographer Ken Kelsch and Ferrara himself. There is a lot of discussion about the themes of the picture and how the cast worked with the material. We also get their thoughts on addiction and how they have learned from their pasts.
The director sits down for a new interview (16 minutes) to discuss The Addiction, specifically the ending. He talks about his approach to filmmaking, his longtime addiction to heroin and some of the lessons he has learned.
Critic Brad Stevens records an appreciation of the film (9 minutes) in which he connects the dots between Ms. 45 and The Addiction. He goes on to reflect on the central themes of the film and where this fits in the director’s filmography.
The vintage featurette Abel Ferrara Edits The Addiction (9 minutes) visits the director in the editing room. He’s got a lot of energy and is proud of the film, but he’s also all over the place and a bit exhausting to keep up with.
A stills gallery (18 images) provides a behind-the-scenes look at the production.
The original theatrical trailer has been included.
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