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The story behind ‘Benjamin Button’

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“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” earned 13 Academy Award nominations for its sprawling, ambitious story about a man coming of age by growing up backward. But there is another “Benjamin Button"-related narrative that is equally compelling, multifaceted and -- with a running time of nearly three hours -- lengthy.

That’s “The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button,” the exceptional making-of documentary that serves as the centerpiece of the two-disc Criterion Collection edition of the film, now out on DVD and Blu-ray ($40). Virtually every element in the evolution of the David Fincher drama is documented here, from the project’s attachment to numerous other directors during the 1990s (including Frank Oz, Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard), to its shoot in 2006 and 2007 on the steamy streets of New Orleans, to its complex, CGI-intensive postproduction process.

Want to know how Cate Blanchett’s head was superimposed on a ballet dancer’s body for some key, pirouette-filled vignettes? Done. Curious about how they made that freakish, wrinkled animatronic Benjamin Button baby? Covered. Want to watch Brad Pitt perform with glowing-green, motion-capture spackle all over his face? Once again, you’re all set.

Some critics understandably found “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” a bit heavy on schmaltz and low on substance. But I suspect most would agree that the film stands as a remarkable technical feat. And as a document of all the creativity, compromise and computer wizardry involved in achieving that feat, this DVD is unparalleled.

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Jen Chaney writes for the Washington Post.

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