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The technical dazzle of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a truly astonishing thing to behold: this story of a man who ages backwards requires Brad Pitt to begin life as a tiny elderly man, then blossom into middle age, and finally, wisely, become young. How director David Fincher--with makeup artists, special-effects wizards, and body doubles--achieves this is one of the main sources of fascination in the early reels of the movie. The premise is loosely borrowed from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story (and bears an even stronger resemblance to Andrew Sean Greer's novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli), with young/old Benjamin growing up in New Orleans, meeting the girl of his dreams (Cate Blanchett), and sharing a few blissful years with her until their different aging agendas send them in opposite directions. The love story takes over the second half of the picture, as Eric Roth's script begins to resemble his work on Forrest Gump. This is too bad, because Benjamin's early life is a wonderfully picaresque journey, especially a set of midnight liaisons with a Russian lady (Tilda Swinton) in an atmospheric hotel. Fincher observes all this with an entomologist's eye, cool and exacting, which keeps the material from getting all gooey. Still, the Hurricane Katrina framing story feels put-on, and the movie lets Benjamin slide offscreen during its later stages--curious indeed.--Robert Horton Also on the disc Criterion offers a two-disc presentation of the 2008 Oscar-winner, stamped as "Director Approved." Hard to miss that, since David Fincher is all over the extras on this one: he provides a talkative commentary track for the 165-minute film, which leaves little doubt about his fabled involvement in every aspect of the results you see on screen, and he figures in the documentary sections contained on the second disc. Fincher is such an assured, skillful talker that he easily justifies the otherwise standard-issue collection of behind-the-scenes material. The documentary sections can be played as one epic (three hour) making-of feature, which actually lasts longer than the film itself; they are also carved up and can be played in handy parts: the origins of the project (tons of people considered making it, including Frank Oz, Ron Howard, and Spike Jonze), the flabbergasting technical trickery involved, shooting in post-Katrina New Orleans, and anything else you can think of. Especially illuminating is the step-by-step stuff about how Brad Pitt's face was motion-captured for the purposes of morphing it onto the work of body doubles--in case you're still puzzled about how all that really worked. The usual production stills and an essay by Kent Jones fill out the package. --Robert Horton Stills from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button