Combustible Celluloid
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With: Edith Meeks, Millie White, Buck Smith, Anne Giotta, Lydia Lafleur, Ian Nemser, Rob LaBelle, Evan Dunsky, Marina Lutz, Barry Cassidy, Richard Anthony, Angela M. Schreiber, Justin Silverstein, Chris Singh, Edward Allen, Carlos Jimenez, Larry Maxwell, Susan Gayle Norman, Al Quagliata
Written by: Todd Haynes, based on stories by Jean Genet
Directed by: Todd Haynes
MPAA Rating: R/NC-17
Running Time: 85
Date: 01/01/1991

Poison (1991)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Unholy Three

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Todd Haynes gets cool guy clout because he took money from the National Endowment for the Arts and offended a whole bunch of Republicans by making Poison with it. Poison tells three intertwined tales, titled "Hero," "Horror" and "Homo." The first is a mockumentary about a young boy who kills his father, the second a mock 1950s-style horror film about a man who isolates the sexual drive and turns into a monster, and the third is a very dark quasi-love story about two men in prison.

Poison is a very tough, queasy film, but extremely powerful and a strong feature debut for Haynes, who would go on to make the best American film of 2002, Far From Heaven (2002). Note: the MPAA rated the film both 'R for sensuality, strong language and sexual violence' and 'NC-17 for explicit sexuality' according to different cuts.

In 2011, Zeitgeist Films released a 20th anniversary DVD edition (but no Blu-Ray). It features a new, enhanced widescreen, anamorphic transfer. It comes with a commentary track (recorded in 1999) with director Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and the late actor/editor James Lyons. There's also new footage from Sundance, a photo gallery (taken by future film director Kelly Reichardt), a poster gallery, a new short film by Ira Sachs, and optional subtitles. A liner notes booklet includes production notes, an essay by critic J. Hoberman, and other stuff.

In 2021, Zeitgeist released the long-awaited Blu-ray edition! It includes a new introduction by Haynes, and a new liner notes essay by Dennis Lim, rather than the Hoberman one. It also includes the commentary track, the Sundance footage, the Sachs short film, and a trailer. Highly recommended.

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