Release Date(s)1973 (March 30, 2021)
Studio(s)Kenesset Film Productions/United Artists/MGM (Fun City Editions)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
Jeremy is a wonderful coming of age drama about first love, which has been sadly neglected since it was originally released in 1973. The film is remarkable, as much for what it doesn’t do as for what it does—there’s little in the way of dramatic conflict, and very few extraneous plot details. The primary focus is on the experience of falling in love for the first time, and all of it unfolds in a naturalistic fashion. Even the melodramatic conclusion is an entirely plausible one, and it shows just how vulnerable young people can be to circumstances which are beyond their control.
Jeremy (Robbie Benson) is a teenager at a performing arts school in New York who contentedly focuses on his hopes of a career playing cello until he encounters Susan (Glynnis O’Connor), a new ballet student who has recently moved from Detroit. The two quickly bond and form a relationship with all of the attendant joys and pains that can accompany young love. That’s really the entire film in a nutshell. Scenes involving other characters such as their parents, teachers, and fellow students exist only to support developing the characters of Jeremy and Susan, and to help shed light on their relationship. That singular focus is what sets Jeremy apart from other romantic dramas.
Jeremy was also one of the few feature films by writer/director Arthur Barron, who spent most of his career working in television and the documentary world. However, credit for the film was disputed at the time by Joseph Brooks, who claimed that he wrote and directed most of it until he was fired by producer Elliot Kastner. Ultimately, Barron received sole credit and Brooks was only credited for one of the songs that he wrote for it. Like the film itself, that dispute faded with time and it was never resolved. Regardless, much of the credit for the films’ effectiveness goes to Benson and O’Connor. They were both young and inexperienced at the time, and they really fell in love with each other while shooting the film. That chemistry shows. While the low-budget 16 mm cinematography gives the film one kind of verisimilitude, their unfeigned feelings for each other is a completely different kind of truthfulness. It’s an honest portrayal of a relationship which is unfettered by stylistic choices or most of the normal trappings of the genre. There are a couple of stereotypical montages set to music, but at a scant 90 minutes long, the film had to take some shortcuts to reach its goal.
The only real false notes are the songs, featuring lyrics which are far too on-the-nose. But that’s a minor criticism in a film that’s otherwise subtle, gentle, and naturalistic. It’s rare to see a film revel so much in the awkwardness of youth without displaying even a trace of mockery. Jeremy and Susan love each other honestly, and the film loves Jeremy and Susan with equal honesty—an uncommon achievement for a genre which is often marked by its artificiality.
Jeremy was shot on 16 mm film by cinematographer Paul Goldsmith and then blown up optically to 35 mm film for its theatrical release, which was framed at 1.85:1. For this Blu-ray version, a 35 mm color reversal internegative was scanned at 2K resolution and the final product has been framed at 1.66:1. There’s no explanation given for the altered aspect ratio, but the framing does appear natural, and closeups may have looked a bit tight at 1.85:1. Since this was a blowup, the image is softer and grainier than it would have been on the original 16 mm negative, but it’s accurate to how the film would have looked theatrically. The encoding handles the grain well without adding much noise or other artifacts, and there’s only minimal damage visible such as speckling. The colors all look natural and the contrast range is good, though there’s a noticeable lack of detail in the darkest areas of the screen. Once again, that’s the result of the blowup process rather than being a deficiency in the transfer.
The primary audio is available in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. There’s also an identical English 2.0 mono Dolby Digital track. The opening song suffers from a bit of distortion, but the rest of the film sounds clear given its budgetary limitations. The dialogue is always intelligible and the limited musical score sounds good.
The following extras are included in HD:
- Introduction by Glynnis O'Connor (:47)
- Audio Commentary with Kat Ellinger and Mike McPadden
- Susan and Jeremy (21:05)
- A Phantom of Delight (8:25)
- Trailers from Hell with Larry Karaszewski (3:21)
- Image Gallery (5:19)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:25)
The optional introduction by Glynnis O’Connor needs to be selected from the main menu to play before the film, while the rest of the features are included under the Extras Menu. The commentary by film historians Kat Ellinger and the late Mike McPadden does a nice job of explaining what sets Jeremy apart from other teen romances, and how its comfortable middle-class setting is distinct from other New York films of the era. They talk about how the film takes advantage of Benson’s inherent sensitivity, and how the 16 mm cinematography helps to give everything an authentic look. They also make the important point that the themes of the film are recognizable to anyone, and it’s that universality which gives Jeremy a timeless quality despite its dated elements. Susan and Jeremy features separately shot interviews with Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Connor. They each reminisce about their experiences making the film, what it was like to be in New York at that time, and what their relationship meant to them. Benson says that there are no false notes in the film because they didn’t know how to make any. A Phantom of Delight is a video essay that shows clips from the film while Chris O’Neill talks about the simplicity of the storyline, the chemistry between the stars, and the New York setting. The Trailers from Hell commentary featuring Larry Karaszewski amplifies that last point by calling Jeremy the quintessential New York movie. The image gallery features posters and production photographs. It’s fascinating seeing 35 mm stills from a film which was shot in 16 mm as they are far sharper and clearer than anything in the film itself. Interestingly, none of the features mention the dispute involving Brooks.
Also included in the package is a reversible insert with new artwork on one side and the theatrical artwork on the other, as well as a ten-page booklet with an essay by Bill Ackerman. Ackerman points out that while part of the cult following for Jeremy came from people who saw the film in 1973, another part came from those who read Danny Peary’s classic Guide for the Film Fanatic in the 80s. It’s impossible to overstate how influential Peary’s book was on a generation of film fans like me.
While it may not be well known today, Jeremy was a big hit at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973, winning the award for Best First Work and proving popular with the general public as well. Fans have kept its memory alive for decades and this Fun City Editions Blu-ray release should please them, but hopefully it will help the film find new ones as well.
- Stephen Bjork
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