Color, 1973, 90 mins. 16 secs.
Directed by Arthur Barron
Starring Robby Benson, Glynnis O'Connor, Len Bari, Leonardo Cimino
Fun City Editions (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
One of the most memorable indie teen films of the '70s and a perennial fixture on Cinemax afternoon programming well into the mid-'80s, Jeremy could have easily turned out to be an Afterschool Special wannabe in the wrong hands. It's also a priceless snapshot of early '70s New York City as seen through the eyes of teenagers, resulting in a naturalistic love story that built up a small but captivated cult following that still cherishes it today.
Living in an apartment with his parents and attending a private school where he thrives in the atmosphere devoted to the performing arts, shy aspiring cellist and part-time dog walker Jeremy (Benson) becomes transfixed by a new ballet student, Susan (O'Connor), recently relocated from Detroit with her widowed father. A tentative dance of attraction begins between them that lasts over the course of a month as the two youths discover both the joys and painful pangs of first love.
Driven far more by quiet character moments than traditional plot, Jeremy is about as sincere as films come with a solid chemistry between the leads that became a relationship in real life at the time as well (including a second film together, 1976's Ode to Billy Joe). Both were newcomers at the time but became popular fixtures throughout the decade, with O'Connor shining in productions like The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and Benson becoming a teen heartthrob in films like Ice Castles and One on One before achieving Disney immortality with Beauty and the Beast. In fact, both leads even get to croon their own separate songs in the film ("Blue Balloon" and "Jeremy"), both prominently used and augmented by a spare score by Lee Holdridge long before he headed on to The Pack and The Beastmaster.
Jeremy first appeared on DVD in 2005 from MGM in one of those double-sided discs with both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 options, though neither one really gave you the whole picture. That was confirmed in 2021 with Fun City Editions' Region A Blu-ray release, which is sourced from what's cited as a new 2K restoration from the 35mm color reversal internegative. The film was originally shot in 16mm and looks it with a thick, gritty appearance that feels a bit like a cinematic time machine, complete with vibrant primary colors that'll make you want to grab some Colorforms and Nerf toys. The 1.66:1 framing looks the best of any available options by far, with some nice head room visible without sacrificing information on the sides. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono audio sounds true to the source, which wasn't particularly dynamic in the first place but gets the job done just fine. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided. The disc also comes packed with new extras, two of which are extremely poignant for different reasons. An audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Mike McPadden carries a great deal of significance now since the latter passed away suddenly not long after it was recorded, and it's a fitting tribute to his gifts as a writer and incisive surveyor of pop culture beyond the cinematic here. They play off nicely here as always as they dive into the treatment of teen romance, the depiction of Manhattan on film, the markedly different social mores of the era compared to now, the careers and lives of the two stars, and all the little touches that make this film so special. Then the featurette "Susan and Jeremy" (21m5s) combines separate interviews with Benson and O’Connor chatting about their fond memories of the film, the personal discoveries they made working with each other, the insane experience of taking the film to Cannes (where it nabbed an award for Best First Work for director Arthur Barron, who was mostly a documentarian and doesn't get mentioned much on the disc). O'Connor also appears for a quick separate video intro (47s), and Chris O'Neill contributes "A Phantom of Delight" (8m25s), a video essay taking a low-key survey of the film's charms and its spare approach without focusing on socioeconomic issues one might expect. The theatrical trailer (which really plays up the Cannes reception) is included standalone or in its Trailers from Hell incarnation hosted by a mask-wearing Larry Karaszewski, who does a swift and efficient job of explaining why the film seemed groundbreaking after years of bubblegum teen movies. Finally the disc closes with a very generous (by MGM-licensed standards) 5m19s image gallery featuring an array of photos and promotional material, set to the two signature songs in their entirety. An insert booklet features a liner notes essay by Bill Ackerman, who deftly frames the film as a singular entry in New York cinema and explores the professional junction of Barron and director of photography Paul Goldsmith.
Reviewed on March 9, 2021