Tom DiCillo knows a thing or two about getting knocked around by the Hollywood system. As a director of acclaimed indie hits such as Living In Oblivion, as well as passed-over straight-to-video gems such as Double Whammy, he is acutely aware of the fickle nature of filmmaking and stardom. Surprisingly, when he took all of his hard-earned experience and channeled it into his 2007 comedy-drama Delirious, he understood that it was better to approach this ecosystem with a delicate hand rather than as an excuse to air grievances. Frequent collaborator Steve Buscemi would help him explore the world of the paparazzi, but where others might use it only as an excuse to comment on celebrity culture – which he does do – DiCillo instead humanizes the profession. He brings nuance to their characterization where others would stop at labeling them as bottom feeders. The original release was a lackluster effort from the distributor who also urged him to change the ending that he loved so much. The independent film is not widely remembered, but with this new release with an unseen Director’s Cut there is a chance for rediscovery.
Our entryway to this tale is Toby Grace (Michael Pitt, Boardwalk Empire), a young New York street kid who spends his day just trying to survive while hoping in vain that his circumstances might change. They do just that when he meets Les Galantine (Steve Buscemi), a neurotic paparazzo (he prefers photographer) who dreams of capturing that one picture that will put him on the map. After Les and his colleagues entrust Toby with a coffee run, the young man maneuvers his way into staying the night Les and eventually convinces him to allow him to be his unpaid assistant. Les may partially allow this just because free help is never a bad thing, but with his constant references to being “somebody” and not being a “peon” like others you get a sense that he is in desperate need of some respect. Toby offers him just that as he gazes upon Les like a skilled master that does not exactly reflect reality. It is clear to the audience that Les is out of his depth as a dispenser of sage wisdom, but Toby is ready to take every word as gospel.
The building of friendship between Toby and Les is one of the true joys of the film. Despite objecting to what they are doing on a fundamental level, you care about these characters on some level as they elevate one another. When it comes time for Toby to upset their newly-established dynamic, much of the conflict comes in the form of K’Harma Leeds (Alison Lohman, Matchstick Men), a pop diva who helps introduce Toby to the other side of the world he has been trying to help Les capture on camera. The K’Harma character helps you remember how vile much of the business can be through how she is treated by both the paparazzi and her own team. The chemistry between Lohman and Pitt is not off-the-charts, but due to the nature of their dynamic it simmers at the right level. This is more about Toby and Les, and what loyalty looks like when success enters the picture. Buscemi is as great as ever here, especially in a scene where he visits his parents just desperate to get some recognition he cannot get elsewhere. He does not overplay the moment, and for that reason it is doubly effective.
The truly tricky part of Delirious is the tone that DiCillo is trying to balance. If one were only to look at the cover art for the film, they may get the impression that it is an empty, sleazy paparazzi tale. There are many funny moments throughout the film, but there is more interpersonal drama to wade through than anything. Les puts up defenses to the world by trying to project a confidence that will allow him to get what he truly wants. Yet, even when he has opportunities to make valuable connections, he has something inside of him that causes him to self-sabotage. When young Toby suddenly starts getting what he wants, it is uncertain how Les will ultimately handle it. All of the performers are putting in some really solid work with these characters. DiCillo set out to make one of his most personal films to date, and the result is something of which he can be proud. Audiences may have not been able to give it the support it deserved at the time, but they should not pass up the chance to recognize it now.
Delirious gets a pleasing upgrade on Blu-Ray courtesy of MVD Entertainment with a 1080p master in the original aspect ratio. From the stories that director Tom DiCillo tells during the intro, most of the elements of the film were destroyed and this release was derived from the sole remaining HD digital master that existed. Thankfully, this master results in a really lovely presentation which provides natural film grain with only the occasional specks of damage or subtle digital anomalies. This film features a natural color palette which this transfer shows off quite well with a nice, realistic look to it. Skin tones look natural, and the presentation offers up some fairly deep black levels. The disc shows off some excellent details in most instances, but there are moments of softness present in some shots. MVD Entertainment has provided an enjoyable transfer for a film that has been missing in action on Blu-Ray.
This new Blu-Ray comes with a LPCM 2.0 mix that features all of the sounds of the film quite well. This is a film that utilizes its music quite effectively in a way that gives the story some energy. It is presented with a great clarity and a pleasing fidelity as it comes through the room. The dialogue holds up wonderfully, coming through clearly without being stepped on by the music or sound effects. It is only in the most raucous environments such as clubs with loud music or pools of paparazzi where dialogue can become slightly unclear. The environmental effects are delineated nicely from the sounds of the bustling city. The track avoids most instances of age related wear and tear or distortion. This is a track that represents the film in an impressive manner. Optional English subtitles are provided on this disc.
- Original Theatrical Cut (1:46:57): The original version that DiCillo had to compromise with is provided here in standard definition and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The film can be viewed with a very thoughtful commentary track in which he discusses the creative sacrifices he had to make in order to reach his budget, his fight to get the performers he wanted, his intention behind the story, lingering questions in the film, evaluations of his own work and more.
- Audio Commentary: Director Tom DiCillo provides a commentary track recorded in June 2020 that is different from the one available on the theatrical cut. Some of the stories are repeated, but there is an even greater sense of reflection on this track that makes it very worthwhile.
- Stalking Delirious Making Of Featurette: A 15-minute featurette which shows DiCillo and Buscemi walking around New York City discussing their history together, the evolution of the script, memories from the production, shooting on location in New York City, the process of directing an independent film and more. It is so great to document the relationship between these two because their anecdotes are fascinating.
- Steve Buscemi Is Pissed: A four-minute promotional piece in which DiCillo approaches Buscemi at an inopportune to discuss shooting some promos for Delirious.
- The Gina Gershon Sex Tape: Another four-minute promoitional piece in which the idea of turning to sex to sell the film is presented.
- Marketing Meeting: A final six-minute promotional piece in which DiCillo settles in for a marketing meeting from hell.
- Alison Lohman Music Video – “Shove It”: A four-minute music video from “K’harma Leeds” is presented in standard definition.
- Director’s Intro: A four-minute video in which DiCillo chronicles his journey to getting this film released on Blu-Ray and how he seized this opportunity to right a creative wrong that he has been pressured into upon the film’s original release.
- Trailers: The two-and-a-half-minute trailer for Delirious is provided here. There are also trailers provided for Dahmer, First Snow, Split Second and Sukiyaki Western Django.
Delirious has the appearance of something potentially off-putting and broad, but the script from DiCillo brings a balanced and edgy look at a profession that is easy to view as two-dimensional. Steve Buscemi rarely puts in a bad performance, and this role is among his better lesser-seen works. MVD Entertainment has rescued this film by providing it with a Blu-Ray featuring a new Director’s Cut of the film, a strong A/V presentation and a host of in-depth extras. It is rare that a director gets to reclaim their film in such a way, so for that reason alone this release is more than worth the price of admission. Recommended
Delirious: Director’s Cut is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: MVD Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.