Man on the Moon, 1999,
Directed by Milos Forman.
Starring Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, and Paul Giamatti.
Kino Lorber brings Milos Forman’s Andy Kaufman bio-pic Man on the Moon to Blu-ray, sporting a new 2K master and a new bonus feature to add to the archival materials. This one had a mixed reception when it was released, but I’ve always been a fan, and if you are too, this is a must-have purchase.
I remember reading an article by a film critic (it may have been Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle) who remarked that actors who died young, such as James Dean, are forever a part of a certain era. For example, hippies and Beatniks may have looked at Dean as one of their own, especially given his role in Rebel Without a Cause, but the reality is that he didn’t live to see those movements gain momentum, so he could never be part of them.
Likewise, Andy Kaufman forever belongs to the mid-to-late 70s and early 80s, when his career flourished and he became one of the best known anti-comedians of that era. We’ll never know what he would have thought, for example, of the modern streaming era. Would he have disdained it, or would he have embraced it? Would he have added five or ten more characters to Latka Gravas, Tony Clifton, and his Elvis impersonation?
At the very least, we can remember him through Jim Carrey’s uncanny performance as Kaufman in Milos Forman’s excellent 1999 film Man on the Moon, out now on Blu-ray in a new edition from Kino Lorber. It received mixed reviews at the time, but my feelings about it are best summed up by what Roger Ebert had to say: “What is most wonderful about [it] … is that it remains true to Kaufman’s stubborn vision.” In the end, it deconstructs the traditional bio-pic the same way Kaufman deconstructed the traditional stand-up comedy routine.
And no one was more stubborn about that vision than Carrey, who notoriously stayed in character as Kaufman on- and off-camera throughout shooting. He even had Forman talking to him as if he was Andy Kaufman and Jim Carrey was someone else. If you want to learn more about that, I’ll direct your attention to the wonderful documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, which chronicles the sometimes chaotic effect that Carrey’s choices had on the filming process.
I believe this is Man on the Moon’s first time on Blu-ray, at least in the U.S., and Kino boasts that it uses a new 2K master that was supervised by cinematographer Anastas N. Michos. The film looks excellent. Since it’s not a CGI-heavy effects extravaganza, a nice-looking 2K presentation should be good enough for most viewers. Maybe a 4K offering is in the cards, but if you’re a fan of the film like I am, this is a solid edition.
Kino commissioned one new bonus feature, an audio commentary with screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, moderated by film historian Howard S. Berger. The moderator does a great job of keeping the writers engaged and talking about the film, with no dead air or falling back on describing what’s onscreen. Alexander and Karaszewski have plenty of interesting stories to tell about the film’s production.
I believe the other bonus features were ported over from a DVD edition, but since this is the first home video copy of Man on the Moon I’ve owned, I’m not 100 percent sure about that. They include:
- This Might Be a Story (21 minutes): An audio recording of the screenwriters talking to Forman from 1999. You’ll find even more interesting stories here.
- Spotlight on Location (20 minutes): This is a pretty standard studio EPK from the DVD, but it takes the time to go into a bit more depth than most EPKs do, so it’s still worth watching. You’ll find several members of the cast and crew participating here.
- Deleted scenes (12 minutes): Any bio-pic is likely to have plenty of excised footage that you could argue for or against including, and Man on the Moon is no different. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more deleted scenes than what’s included here. All of it is worth watching and deciding for yourself if it should have been left in. My vote is for putting it all back in and releasing an Extended Edition. (Not a Director’s Cut, since Forman is no longer with us.)
The theatrical trailer, along with the music videos for R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon” and “The Great Beyond,” round out the platter. I wish Kino had the ability to offer codes for digital copies, but I suppose that’s beyond their budget.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★/ Movie: ★★★★