The Great Lost Commentary Track for Chasing Amy

[Warning: the following article contains strong language. Some would call it “mature content”, but to be frank, there’s nothing mature about it. Read at your own risk.]

Over a decade ago, when Kevin Smith was introduced to the new medium of podcasting, it was described to him as, “A commentary track without the movie.” Always an enthusiastic raconteur and commentator (his commentaries on the original Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy laserdiscs are legendary), it should come as no surprise that the writer/director took to the medium right away. Today, his “Smodcast” empire has included dozens of shows, spawned live appearances, a TV series (AMC’s Comic Book Men) and eventually led Smith back to directing after a mid-career hiatus. But the podcast notion came full circle with the release of Smodcast “097” (not the actual production number), titled “Glazing Amy”, in which Smith and his producing partner Scott Mosier offer a new commentary for their 1997 film Chasing Amy.

For those who require a reminder, Chasing Amy starred Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams as two comics creators who have a relationship, with the twist being that Adams’ character is a lesbian. Affleck’s character heroically botches the situation due to jealousy, despite the efforts of his sidekick, played by Jason Lee. The film is regarded as Smith’s best and most mature work, and a more worthy follow-up to Clerks than 1995’s Mallrats.

Released in August of 2014 as a podcast, “Glazing Amy” might be unprecedented in podcast history: a commentary for an old film by the actual director, released for free and produced at least in part for the purposes of comedy. (Smith had, by the way, done something like this before when he released a “podcast commentary” for Clerks II while the film was still in theatres, encouraging viewers to go and see the movie and play the commentary on their headphones while watching.) For this particular commentary, Smith and Mosier do their best to make it both a “technical commentary”, with interesting behind-the-scenes information and an episode of Smodcast, with all the vulgar but somehow charming flights of fancy that program is known for. This gives the whole commentary a “meta” freedom that is liberating even by Kevin Smith standards — at several points, he starts commenting on the commentary itself, taking the role of an outraged audience member complaining, “Are they talking about meal penalties on this track?!!” and “The fat one’s always high, and the thin one doesn’t remember anything!” But that’s only the beginning of what makes this commentary enjoyable.

The track’s single most prominent running gag comes out of an attempt to share some useful information about the conception of Chasing Amy. Scott Mosier had, in the mid-1990s, developed a friendship with Guinevere Turner, one of the co-writers and stars of Go Fish, which had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival alongside Clerks. Mosier admits quite honestly on the track that he was indeed very attracted to Turner and was, at least on some level, trying to take the relationship to the next level. The twist was that Turner is a lesbian, and everyone in the situation was aware of this. Smith, observing as a third party, was fascinated by what he calls Mosier’s “fruitless endeavour” with Turner and was intrigued by the comedic and dramatic possibilities of a handsome straight man falling in love with a lesbian, so much so that he told Mosier, “If you don’t write it, I will.” Mosier didn’t see as much in the story as Smith and ultimately left it to his friend. It’s typical of the commentary that it switches gears instantly at that juncture, with Smith proposing a scene where Mosier pleads for Turner’s sexual interest with the following dialogue:

TURNER: You don’t have what I want… you don’t have what I need!

MOSIER: Well… I have an ass! It’s kind of like a pussy. Ass is pussy, Gwen!

(Turner slowly walks away as Mosier continues to call out to her.)

MOSIER: Gwen! Ass is pussy! Ass is pussy!!

At that point, Smith and Mosier start to pitch a sequel/alternate version of Chasing Amy titled Chasing Amy 2: Ass is Pussy and go from there. The commentary continues to careen from the technical to the ridiculous in true Smith fashion, including a sequence where the director cries real tears as he thanks Mosier for helping him get his vision on the screen for only $200 000 when he could have been working on his own projects. (Of course, towards the end of his crying fit, Smith blubbers out, “Ass is pussy – I knew it!”) Along the way, the podcast hosts do find enough moments to address some long-noticed gaffes in the film, such as one shot in which the camera crew is clearly visible in a window behind a main character. (Mosier defends the film saying, “We had no money – get off our dicks,” but Smith suggests that maybe the film was successful because of the gaffe, with audiences describing Chasing Amy as “That movie where a guy is followed around by camera-wielding ghosts calling out, ‘Don’t fuck her!’”)

Smith also addresses some of the serious issues the movie touches upon, particularly the sexual jealousy of an inexperienced young man with a more experienced woman. At the time Chasing Amy was made, Smith himself was in that situation, dating Joey Lauren Adams (who he had met through Mallrats), and though the original concept for the film was inspired by Mosier’s infatuation with Guinevere Turner, its emotional truth is rooted in Smith’s sometimes-tumultuous relationship with Adams. Watching now, years later and happily married, Smith is still made uncomfortable by how close he came to portraying his then-current relationship on screen, citing one disgusted look Adams gives Affleck as, “All too familiar”. Smith makes light of his monumental insecurity, mentioning that every time Affleck and Adams had a love scene he had to warn Affleck, “Dude. Please, don’t make her cheat on me,” and how that phrase could easily have been peppered through every conversation he had with Adams at the time — “Good morning, don’t cheat on me!” But most astute of all, Smith reflects on what he’s learned as a filmmaker in the years following Chasing Amy. He contemplates a shot-by-shot remake with the original cast, just so he can have another pass at the material as a better director. He sees all the flaws in the direction now (“Get out of that shot faster,” he says under his breath to his younger self at one point) and feels he could do so much better. (That serious moment of insight is, of course, immediately followed by the comment that this remake would be titled, Chasing Amy 2: Ass is Pussy.)

The podcast episode does indeed sync up with the film, so if you feel like digging out an old DVD, you can enjoy this hilarious, raucous and revealing commentary track as it was intended. (The newer blu-ray release includes the podcast as a second commentary right on the disc.)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Independent scholar Ian Dawe has been writing for Sequart since November 2013. Before that, he had a mixed background, initially in science (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), where he earned an MSc from Simon Fraser University and then an MA in Film from the University of Exeter in the UK. He spent a decade teaching at the college level, delivering courses in Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biological Anthropology and Film History. His academic work includes peer-reviewed papers on the work of Alan Moore, Harvey Pekar for Studies in Comics and a dissertation on Terry Gilliam for the University of Exeter. He has presented papers at several major academic conferences including Slayage 2014, Magus: Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Work of Alan Moore in 2010 (in the wizard's hometown of Northampton), Comics Rock and the International Conference of the Humanities in 2012, and at the Southwest Popular Culture Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014 and 2015. He has contributed to several books, including a chapter about the TV show Archer in "James Bond and Popular Culture" and two chapters on Breaking Bad for "Breaking Bad and Masculinity", both now available from McFarland. At Sequart, he has authored a chapter for New Life and New Civiliations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, A Long Time Ago and two more upcoming books on Star Wars comics. He has also contributed to books on Alan Moore and 1970s Horror Comics. He is currently planning a full-length book on Better Call Saul. Ian currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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