Clean, Shaven

(Criterion Collection)

If Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven simply got under your skin, it wouldn’t be half the American independent masterpiece that it is. Kerrigan employs a full arsenal of cinematic devices to draw us out of ourselves and sink us deep under the raw, twitchy skin of a schizophrenic trying to find his troubled way home. Upon his release from a mental institution, Peter Winter, played by a riveting Peter Greene, steals a car and drives cross-country to his mother’s house in search of his daughter, who was given up for adoption years before. As Winter pushes through a cold Midwestern landscape, transmission lines zip by, their crackle and hum insinuating into the sonic salad of radio signals, snippets of movie dialogue and white noise that constantly churns in his head. Kerrigan plunges us into this fragmented, discordant inner world where everyday details — catalog cards in a library, the whine of a boiling kettle, the smear of mustard across a piece of bread — take on the disturbing significance of veiled clues. Whether they foretell a mounting danger or maybe a great loss isn’t clear. Compelled by such ambiguous signs, Winter covers every reflective surface he sees and gouges his own flesh in a desperate bid for relief. This desperation pools in Greene’s tiny but infinitely expressive eyes. His stark but sensitive performance elicits our sympathy even as he and Kerrigan refuse to resolve our doubts about Winter when his cross-country journey entangles him in a detective’s hunt for a little girl’s killer.

—Paul Malcolm

Also released this week: DVD:

The Adventures of Kit Carson: Volumes 10 & 11; The Adventures of Robin Hood: Volume 15; Beavis and Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection; Bewitched: The Complete Fourth Season; Blood of Jesus/Lying Lips; Body Heat: Deluxe Edition; Creature Comforts: The Complete Second Season; Crossroads; Dusty’s Trail: Volumes 2 and 3; The Facts of Life: The Complete Third Season; Father Christmas; Fighting Pilot; Follow That Man: Volumes 6 & 7; Freak Out; Greg the Bunny: The Best of the Film Parodies; Guns in the Dark; Hands Over the City; His Double Life; The Hurricane Express; Inside the Law; Kiss Me Again; La Commune (Paris, 1871); The Law Rides/Smokey Smith; The Live Wire; Lock-Up; The L Word: The Complete Third Season; Meet Corliss Archer; Monster House; My Son the Hero; Mystery Man/The Racketeer; The Reading Room; The Road to Guantanamo; Rolling Family; Roy Rogers: Volume 2; SCTV: The Best of the Early Years; A Shot in the Dark; The Snowman; Sweetie; Tarzan the Tiger; Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller; Why We Fight (1943–1945).

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