I fell in love with The Commitments when it first came out in 1991 and it’s remained a favorite ever since. When I launched my podcast two years ago I wanted to recommend it to listeners but found, to my dismay, that it wasn’t available for rental or streaming online. Now I understand why: its owners were preparing a special 25th anniversary reissue on Blu-ray and DVD. That edition hits the streets today, from RLJ Entertainment, and it’s a welcome sight.
Director Alan Parker and several cast members including Glen Hansard, who went on to win an Oscar for the song he introduced in Once, sat for new interviews, which happily confirm that the movie meant as much to them as it has to its many fans over the years. Parker also contributes an insightful new essay for the program book.
Most of the other special features come from earlier DVD releases, including a thorough and insightful documentary from 2004 which features not only the director and cast (with some of their raw screen tests) but the producers, casting directors, cinematographer, author Roddy Doyle and screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. It covers the whole story of the film, from the printed page to its concert-tour aftermath, and is well worth revisiting.
Then there’s the film itself, which remains as fresh, gritty, and irresistible as ever: the story of dead-end youngsters from North Dublin who form a band to play American soul hits. As for the music, it pulses with a sizzling energy: the kids Parker chose from thousands of candidates come together as a cohesive unit and create renditions of soul classics you can listen to again and again. 16-year-old lead singer Andrew Strong is an absolute marvel, and the decision to record all the vocals “live” was an inspired one.
Nothing about the band’s journey is what you might expect yet all of it rings true, with that uniquely quixotic Irish spirit. As Joey “The Lips” Fagan says, at the end of the story, to have ended it in a typical fashion would have been predictable…but this is poetry.