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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'Chemical Syndrome')


Directed by Todd Haynes
USA 1995


Safe is about Carol White (Julianne Moore), a passive and rather dull California homemaker who discovers that she's allergic to the 20th century -- that she has Environmental Illness, a rare disorder afflicting people who have a low tolerance for the thousands of daily chemicals and irritants that most of us, by now, take in stride. This is an actual ailment, and though Haynes' script follows something of a TV-movie disease-of-the-week trajectory, he knows a ripe symbol of modern alienation when he sees one. Carol is like an innocent alien, a cross between E.T. and David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, driven into seclusion by our intolerable atmosphere. She could represent any number of other things, too (though Haynes has insisted that we take her simply as a woman with a disease). Even her name carries associations with Carol Brady and, of course, colorlessness. In an odd way, too, Carol is linked to the Lily Tomlin character in, of all movies, the 1981 Joel Schumacher comedy The Incredible Shrinking Woman; Tomlin played an ordinary housewife whose exposure to everyday household chemicals made her shrink, and both movies share a certain anger about women who are victimized, marginalized, and finally radicalized by their own consumerist culture.

Little by little, Carol detaches herself from the outside world, suffering at the hands of clueless men who think she's just a bored rich woman angling for attention. Julianne Moore is in almost every shot, and the physical preparation she did for the role -- dropping about fifteen pounds from her already slender frame -- certainly shows. She's convincingly ravaged and weak, a helpless woman who, by the end of the movie, has seen her world dwindle to the confines of a hermetic igloo. Nobody can be trusted: not her doctor, not her insensitive husband (Xander Berkeley), not the unctuous leader (Peter Friedman) of a "safe" retreat for EI sufferers -- not even the air she breathes, which at any moment can be fouled by the exhaust of an unexpected passing truck.

Excerpt of (Rob Gonsalves) review located HERE


Theatrical Release: June 30th, 1995

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DVD Review: Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:58:40 
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.67 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s  

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary with director Todd Haynes, producer Christine Vachon and actress Julianne Moore
• Filmographies
• Trailers

DVD Release Date: August 21st, 2001

Keep Case
Chapters: 28



I have a section of my collection in an area I term 'Favorites'. There are maybe 100 discs there. I keep Safe there but realize I had not seen it in years. I re-watched it last night and it blew me away even more than it did a decade ago. I also listened, again, to the commentary. After I digested the experience, I checked to see if it had reached Blu-ray status anywhere in the world. It has not, yet. I did, however, notice that this DVD is out-of-print and fetching ridiculous prices ($187 in Canada!?!?).

The Sony is single-layered. Spoiled by 1080P the image seems very weak today. Colors are drab, it is not very sharp and indoor sequences appear greenish. The Stereo audio is unremarkable but consistent. The score by Ed Tomney works with the slow pans and background snippets of Madonna, George Benson, Belinda Carlisle help establish the banality - almost like Muzak.  Good news that I don't see excessive manipulation and the image is fairly clean. There are optional subtitles on the region 1 NTSC, standard definition, disc.

The film is an absolute masterpiece - a contributing factor to the DVD's rare-ness and high price. Haynes has crafted a brilliant story - filling in details with subtle precision. Julianne Moore is one of my favourite actresses (What Maisie Knew, Chloe, Blindness, A Single Man, Magnolia, The Big Lebowski etc.) and this is one of her best roles, IMO. My point of this review is to encourage someone to get this film onto Blu-ray. How about Criterion? Anyone?

Gregory tells us in email: "Just wanted to update you on the status of Todd Haynes's film you just reviewed - Criterion already confirmed [safe] is coming to the collection at their 2013 Wexler talks in November." Woohoo!!

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC

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