DVDBeaver Newsletter for January 12th, 2006
Hope all is well! This has been a very strong week - reviews of 2 Criterions discs, 2 Masters of Cinema DVDs, additional Bergman, Fellini, De Sica, Polanski, an iconic western, a classic Japanese animation, Chabrol thrillers and 50's sci-fi cheese... ohh and some wonderful J.S. Bach. What more can we do? (he says panting)
Are you aware of Warner's upcoming Films of Faith Collection ? including (also available individually) "The Nun's Story", "The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima" and "The Shoes of the Fisherman" or The Busby Berkeley Collection (Footlight Parade / Gold Diggers of 1933 / Dames / Gold Diggers of 1935 / 42nd Street) or Lubitsch and Preminger's A Royal Scandal (1945) or Vittorio De Sica's Miracle In Milan (1951) or the Burton / Bujold gem Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) ? - Then perhaps you should be looking at our release calendar!
RECOMMENDATIONS... This is one of those weeks where we reviewed so many great films I hesitate to only name a few. Here goes - I can't see how any true fans of cinema wouldn't latch onto Masters of Cinema's The Savage Innocents release. Unforgettable is the way to describe the film. Criterion shows their superiority over the pack with two strong entries - The Bad Sleep Well and The Virgin Spring.... and speaking of Ingmar Bergman, you might consider his last film a MUST own - Saraband is a true expression of genius (I hate throwing around that word so I guess I really mean it in this context). The three NoShame releases are all wonderful representatives of Italian cinema at its best - Boccaccio 70', Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, and the neo-realistic The Railroad Man. Finally a new DVD that I cherish - Bach Relaxation - Beautiful Nature With Bach has exactly what I want at times - just sit back and absorb. A perfect foil for, say - the rigors of the DVDBeaver ListServ discussions!
To all you Ozu lovers, Criterion will be releasing Late Spring sometime this year (maybe in late spring?). Hold tight!
Most Recent Reviews
The Savage Innocents - Nicholas Ray's epic 1959 film about Eskimo life
was unfairly victimized on release, censored at the UK cinema, and neglected by
both TV and home video for decades. The Savage Innocents continued Ray's
fascination with alternative lifestyles — examining the life of Eskimos and
their remoteness from "civilized" values. It represents Ray's first and most
ambitious attempt to break free from Hollywood and forge his own route.
Assassination - (or Ansatsu) marked Masahiro Shinoda's first attempt at a period film, and is widely considered to be his finest achievement. Previously gaining fame and status alongside Nagisa Oshima and Kiju Yoshida, challenging established Japanese cinema with tales of reckless youth, The Dry Lake (1960) and the seminal yakuza drama Pale Flower (1964) Shinoda graduated from Shochiku, where, like Shohei Imamura, his grounding was working as an assistant to Yasujiro Ozu.
The Bad Sleep Well - A tense re-working of Hamlet (adapted from a novel by Ed McBain) is a biting exposé of the corruption and politics of greed at the heart of Japanese business. Beautifully photographed in ravishing black and white Tohoscope. Leisurely paced, bitterly ironic, the film employs an arid visual style, with hard-edged black and white images of Tokyo that perfectly complement its portrayal of corruption in high places.
Boccaccio 70' - A summit meeting of great Italian directors of the era, Boccaccio '70 is an antipasto platter of vintage sex symbols and naughty material. Cooked up and bankrolled by Carlo Ponti and American producer Joseph E. Levine, the four-part film was meant to tap the international smash of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, which gave audiences some refreshingly, you know, "mature" subject matter. Four directors were hired to create segments ostensibly based on the tales of Boccaccio: Fellini himself (in the lull between La Dolce Vita and 8-1/2), Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica, and Mario Monicelli.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - Vittorio De Sica's delightful anthology comedy from 1963 pairs joined-at-the-hip costars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in three funny stories about sex. It was the winner of the 1964 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It remains one of the most beloved Italian films of all time.
The Railroad Man - Severely attacked by the leftist Italian critics of its time, THE RAILROAD MAN is a heartfelt cry against many of the problems that plagued Italian society during the mid-50’s. An undisputed masterpiece by its director and star Pietro Germi.
Chinatown - Roman Polanski's brooding film noir exposes the darkest side of the land of sunshine, the Los Angeles of the 1930s, where power is the only currency--and the only real thing worth buying. Jack Nicholson is J.J. Gittes, a private eye in the Chandler mold, who during a routine straying-spouse investigation finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into a jigsaw puzzle of clues and corruption. The glamorous Evelyn Mulwray (a dazzling Faye Dunaway) and her titanic father, Noah Cross (John Huston), are at the black-hole center of this tale of treachery, incest, and political bribery.
Bach Relaxation - Beautiful Nature With Bach - I always thought what a great idea simply orchestral Bach and magnificent scenery would make for film. I can leave this looping all day, catching only glimpses or sit and relax for a few moments and watch. The orchestrations are beautiful and the cinematography (all motion- no stills) with occasional gentle pans left and right show the beauty of nature from arctic snowscapes, autumn harvests, rich green forests with rivers and ponds and clear blue oceans with fish swimming undersea. I am very happy with this DVD - it is exactly what I was looking for. It may end up being the most played disc in my house.
The Virgin Spring - Winner of the 1961 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring is a harrowing tale of faith, revenge, and savagery in medieval Sweden. Starring Bergman stalwart and screen icon Max von Sydow, the film is both beautiful and cruel in its depiction of a world teetering between the sacred and the profane and one father’s longing to avenge the murder of a child.
The Magnificent Seven - A bandit (Eli Wallach) terrorizes a small Mexican farming village each year. Several of the village elders send three of the farmers into the United States to search for gunmen to defend them. They end up with 7 (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson etc.), each of whom comes for a different reason. They must prepare the town to repulse an army of over 100 bandits who will arrive seeking food. An oft recognized Americanization of the Japanese Kurosawa film Seven Samurai.
Earth vs. The Spider + War of the Colossal Beast - Samuel Z Arkoff was born in the Midwest to the parents of Russian and Latvian immigrants. Opportunistic dreams of Hollywood mogul-dom had him borrow $3000 and with a partner start the American Releasing Corporation which came to signify itself with an infamous string of pragmatic 50's B-films. Along with producer/director of low-grade sci-fi films and simple rear-projection enlargements special effects man, Bert I. Gordon - what we have in this DVD package are quintessential examples of two of cinema's colossal (yes 'Colossal') low points, but something about them is attractive, simply beyond their imperfections. I admit to having a big soft spot for these low-grade productions which always represented a kind of innocence to me. Perhaps it reminds me of my childhood, watching films like these on Saturday afternoons and reminiscing of my own wide-eyed excitement. I'm only disappointed that the more polished 'The Amazing Colossal Man' is not available yet on DVD.
Howl's Moving Castle - Director Hayao Mayazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away) has produced another masterpiece from his Studio Ghibli. A beautifully crafted, mostly hand-drawn animated feature, Howl's Moving Castle is the latest in an impressive catalogue of quite simply, some of the best animation ever committed to celluloid.
A Double Tour - Released in the US as Leda in 1961, Variety called À double tour a "sleek whodunit," with "good camera work and tricky direction." Viewed today, À double tour's swooping camera and character eccentricity echo both Alfred Hitchcock's most personal and obsessive films and Douglas Sirk's colorful '50s melodramas.
The Blood of Others - based on the novel by Simone de Beauvoir, headed with an international cast including Jodie Foster, Michael Ontkean, Michael York, Lambert Wilson, and Stephane Audran. The film will is directed by Claude Chabrol from a screenplay by Brian Moore.The international co-production is the story of two young people in love in war-torn France, facing the ultimate sacrifice. It is a consuming love affair and a dramatic suspense story. Moment by moment, twist by twist, the suspense and tension build to heights of courage and heroism, reflecting everyone's responsibility for their own lives and other's deaths.
Saraband - The most remarkable thing about "Saraband" is that Bergman makes this kind of intensely emotional filmmaking look simple. The ease with which the director calls forth the most deep-seated and complex emotions from his actors is helped by their skill and the decades they've worked with him, but it's nevertheless exceptional.
The Gunfighter (Henry King , 1950) 20th Century Fox UK PAL
Ju Dou (Yimou Zhang, 1990) Razor
Junebug (Phil Morrison, 2005) Sony Pictures
Lord of War (Andrew Niccol, 2005) Lions Gate
Space Amoeba (Ishirô Honda, 1971) Tokyo Shock
La Bataille du Rail (René Clément, 1945) Facets
Captains Courageous (Victor Fleming, 1937) Warner Home Video
The Champ (King Vidor, 1931) Warner
Wishing you strength, warmth, family... and a few good films on DVD,
P.S. The AMAZON UK SALE is... OVER! We hope you got in to get some great deals...
P.P.S. Here is a not is subtle reminder to steer clear of DVDSoon.com - technically they are out of business and have absconded with 100's of peoples money. I have no idea what their website is still doing in business. We still have some links to them but I am removing as best as I can. Avoid at all costs!