There’s a scene in Gus Van Sant’s warped buddy road flick where River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, playing male prostitutes in search of their respective pasts and futures, sit alone at a campfire. It’s straight out of a John Ford movie. That is, until Phoenix’s character, Mike, tells Reeves’ Scott, ”I really want to kiss you, man.” (So much for the John Wayne moment.) In a film that deals with sin, Shakespeare, and the dangers of narcolepsy, this painfully real reminder of unrequited love hits home the hardest.
While you may enjoy watching My Own Private Idaho, whether you choose to view this two-disc Criterion edition in its entirety depends on how much you enjoy watching people talking about My Own Private Idaho. And some-times just listening to them, like when Van Sant sits down for a two-hour interview with filmmaker Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven). At least I assume he’s sitting — hard to know with only a still-menu screen to look at. Lack of visual stimulation notwithstanding, it’s an easygoing and enlightening chat, punctuated with such probing questions as ”How did you get a film that started with a boy getting a b— job financed?”
You’d think those two hours would cover it all. But there are five other extras (totaling more than two and a half hours) with crew, friends, family, and historians giving their takes on the Henry IV-meets-homo hustler tale. There’s also a 64-page booklet of interviews and essays, just in case you haven’t had your fill. Overkill? Perhaps. But with all the various interpretations and influences, this is definitely a film worth talking about. And talking about. . .