DVDBeaver Newsletter - March 14th, 2006


Hello! Lots of stuff to cover this week - Reviews of new DVDs with films directed by Carl Dreyer, Feuillade, Nicholas Ray, Cronenberg, Watkins, Suzuki, von Sternberg, Hartley, 5 Busby Berkeley musicals, 3 important comparisons... and more!


Jean Renoir and Nicholas Ray have belatedly been added to our Director's Chair database - see our Reviews, Search or Master List pages and click their tiled names.


MORE NOIR announced - Ophuls, Siodmak, and Lang! Paramount will be releasing:
Body and Soul, Secret Beyond the Door, The Dark Mirror and Letter from an Unknown Woman on May 16th, 2006


Easiest way to catch up is simply read the new Newsletter Archive HERE.


RECOMMENDATIONS:  I am watching my own pennies these days but I still have a lot to recommend (and a few to avoid) - Cronenberg's A History of Violence is really worth viewing despite my dislike of graphic imagery... and its a good edition on both sides of the pond. These days finding a new Nicholas Ray film on DVD is tantamount to a blind purchase - but peruse the review of Party Girl and I'm sure you'll agree that its a worthy buy. Some DVDs just have an air of production love and care - The Gladiators should be picked up by those keen on Watkins or simply interested in exploring his brand of intelligent cinema. Warner is our occasional savior - The Busby Berkeley Collection is a must own if you have even the remotest leanings to Hollywood's unique glory days of old. Pure cinema enthusiasts will revel in Free Cinema: The Definitive Film Collection and its grassroots appeal - this is really special stuff. When we talk of Ordet, we are referring to one of the greatest films ever... it consistently surfaces in almost all cinefiles Top 10 lists - a new DVD from BFI is here and it is very appealing with a solid image and great extras. Lastly - I don't know how you will be able to ever see this cinematic precursor unless you nab this DVD... do so and immerse yourself in the world of Fantômas and drink deep of the primordial soup of film (yeah, yeah - cornball, I know)

ONLY FOR THE FILM: Image Entertainment improves 0.0% on their new release of The Shanghai Gesture. The film is pure - the DVD's appeal lies in its inexpensive price. I wish I could say the same for Kino's meager attempt of Suzuki's Taisho Trilogy (Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-za and Yumeji) - recommended only to those Suziku fans with deep pockets.  

GUILTY NOD: I'm not big on TV but I loved all 4 seasons. Columbo: The Complete Fourth Season is the newest one (but get the first 3 as well).    


New Reviews:


Party Girl - Nicholas Ray's Film Noir entry with Cyd Charisse slinking across the stage. The film has some basic weaknesses but if you can look beyond it Ray's signature is still bold enough to dole-out some keen enjoyment. Nice DVD image from Warner France.

A History of Violence - Though he avoids platitudes, David Cronenberg is a troubled moralist who lingers over cherished mythologies to find their dark residue: this masterpiece, an art film deftly masquerading as a thriller, seems to celebrate small-town pastoralism and critique big-city violence, but this position turns out to be double-edged. a Great DVD (PAL and NTSC) of a VERY worthy film!

The Gladiators - Peter Watkins stages a story in the near future, countries engage in televised gladiatorial bouts known as the Peace Games. Sponsored by a spaghetti company, the games are intended to subdue man's aggressive tendencies. This is another essential for Watkins fans and those keen on exploring his thought-provoking work. Another great Project X DVD!

Butterfly - Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, Flavia finds her lesbian passion reawakened after a chance encounter with a carefree and spirited singer/ songwriter. A shattering film from award-winning director Yan Yan Mak (Gege, 2001), Butterfly alternates between the past and the present, juxtaposing a romance to a rebellious human rights activist in 1989 with her current struggles as a wife and mother. Fronted by a brave and sympathetic performance by Josie Ho, the film dares to challenge the institutions of family and marriage while championing individual rights for all Hong Kongers, gays and lesbians included.

The Girl From Monday - Hal Hartley gives us a world-like-our-own with titular femme (Brazilian model Tatiana Abracos), who's secretly an alien from the constellation Monday, representing a collectivized alien race and, perhaps, a lingering leftist hope. Though there are moments of clever humor although not a film for everyone.

Zigeunerweisen - Departing from his signature stylistically-infused Yakuza pulpy drama's Seijun Suzuki concocts another masterpiece of psychedelic cinema. Titled after a Pablo Sarasate violin composition that haunts the film both narratively and aurally, Zigeunerweisen (aka Tsigoineruwaizen) was a huge hit in Japan. Suzuki's naturalistic, yet twisted and bizarre, approach helped reincarnate himself as the modern auteur of Japanese Art cinema.

Kagero-za - Kageroza's alternate title, Heat-Haze Theatre, perfectly illustrates the ineffable sensuality and perverse randomness of Seijun Suzuki's late-period arabesque. The middle entry in the director's Taisho Trilogy, the wantonly eccentric narrative is set in 1926 Tokyo, though, given Suzuki's contempt for coherence, it might as well take place in another planet.

Yumeji - Yumeji is the final film in youth-gone-berserk auteur Seijun Suzuki’s acclaimed Taisho Trilogy. Sensual and absurdist, it spins a ghost story around the character and work of real-life painter and poet Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934). The eponymous character -- conjured by Suzuki as a chronic philanderer and dreamer played by former rock star Kenji Sawada -- is plagued with ideals of perfect beauty and the terror of his own demise.

The Shanghai Gesture - An intriguing and at times surprisingly subversive film which stars Huston as the tycoon whose business involvement in buying a property in Shanghai attracts the wrath of Munson, the owner of a casino in the area. When he comes face to face with his daughter (Tierney), who has been manipulated by an Arab (Mature), his world falls apart and he is forced to re-examine his relationship with money as well as with his family. Sublimely conveyed by von Sternberg, The Shanghai Gesture is proof of what Hollywood can do if it allows its talent the room to maneuver. The DVD is no improvement over Image Entertainment's last kick-at-the-can.

The Busby Berkeley Collection - The Busby Berkeley DVD Collection is a 6-disc compilation of five remastered Warner Bros. classics from one of the greatest motion picture choreographers of all time. It is marked with Warner's exceptional quality and reasonable price. These films are truly priceless and this package belongs in any film fans library. It includes Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, Gold Diggers of 1935 and the famed 42nd Street.

Three... Extremes - Three Asian directors, from Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan, join forces to create an omnibus horror film, Three...Extremes, a sequel of sorts to the 2002 Hong Kong/Korean/Thai production Three. We have compared the Asian DVD with the new US one.

Free Cinema: The Definitive Film Collection - The British Film Institute has compiled for the first time, the definitive collection of films from the 1950s' Free Cinema movement. Free Cinema not only re-invented British documentary making, but this highly influential period in the country's cinema history was the precursor for the better known British New Wave of social-realist films in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The DVD box set celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the first screening of films by the Free Cinema group, which was also commemorated by a special event at the NFT on 5 February of this year.

Master of the House - This is a charming, richly detailed tragi-comedy of domestic manners. By turns funny, intensely emotional and deeply affecting it clearly still enjoys considerable contemporary relevance. Carl Th. Dreyer compressed and clarified the stage play by Svend Rindom on which he based his film, making it a definitively cinematic rather than theatrical work.

Ordet - A farmer’s family is torn apart by faith, sanctity, and love—one child believes he’s Jesus Christ, a second proclaims himself agnostic, and the third falls in love with a fundamentalist’s daughter. Putting the lie to the term “organized religion,” Ordet (The Word) is a challenge to simple facts and dogmatic orthodoxy. Layering multiple stories of faith and rebellion, Dreyer’s adaptation of Kaj Munk’s play quietly builds towards a shattering, miraculous climax. The new BFI DVD brings much joy!

Fantômas - Fantômas [1913-14] is the first great movie experience, Feuillade the first director for whom no historical allowances need to be made. See him today and you still wonder what will happen next... This may be many people's only ability to see these films - the DVD package is well worth it.... every penny.

Columbo: The Complete Fourth Season - Season 4 of Columbo proves again the strength of the writing and the wonderful character acting of Peter Falk. The substantial cast support including far too many to name (I have attempted to include screen shots of most of them in the review, They include Gena Rowlands, Robert Conrad, Dick van Dyke, Oskar Werner, Patrick McGoohan, George Hamilton, Robert Vaughn etc.)

Next 3 weeks on the Calendar:

A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005) New Line Home Video

Au revoir les enfants (Louis Malle, 1987) Criterion Collection

Columbo: The Complete Fourth Season - Mca Home Video

3 Films by Louis Malle ( Murmur of the Heart; Lacombe, Lucien; and Au revoir les enfants) Criterion

Lacombe, Lucien (Louis Malle, 1974) Criterion Collection

Murmur of the Heart (Louis Malle, 1971) Criterion Collection

The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005) Columbia/TriStar

Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch, 2005) Momentum Pictures Home R2 UK

The Busby Berkeley Collection (Footlight Parade / Gold Diggers of 1933 / Dames / Gold Diggers of 1935 / 42nd Street) - Warner

Johan van der Keuken, Vol.1 - Coffret 3 DVD - I Love $ / 1986 , Beauty / 1970, Un Moment De Silence / 1960/63, L’oeil Au-Dessus Du Puits / 1988, Lucebert, Temps Et Adieux / Un Triptique De Johan Van Der Keuken (1962-1966-1994), La Question Sans Réponse / 1986 , On Animal Locomotion /1994, Face Value / 1991, Le Masque / 1989 - Arte Region 2 France

Johan van der Keuken, Vol.2 - Coffret 3 DVD - Cuivres Débridés - A La Rencontre Du Swing / 1993, Sarajevo Film Festival Film / 1993, Temps/Travail / 1999, Johan Van Der Keuken - Realisation : Thierry Nouel / 1998, Amsterdam Global Village / 1996, To Sang Fotostudio / 1997, Vivre Avec Les Yeux -Realisation Ramon Gieling / 1997, Amsterdam Afterbeat / 1996 - Arte R2 France

Toni (Jean Renoir, 1934) Eureka/MoC [R2-UK]

After The Rehearsal (Ingmar Bergman, 1984) Tartan R2 UK

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Jacques Audiard, 2005) Artificial Eye R2 UK PAL

The Bridesmaid aka La Demoiselle d'honneur (Claude Chabrol , 2004) - Cinefilm R2 UK

Calvaire (Ordeal) (Fabrice Du Welz, 2004) Tartan R2 UK

The Children are Watching (Vittorio De Sica, 1944) Criterion

The Cremator (Juraj Herz, 1968) Second Run [R2-UK]
Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1943) bfi [R2-UK]

Gertrud (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1964) bfi [R2-UK]
Love is the Devil (John Maybury, 1998) Artificial Eye [R2-UK]

The Red and the White (Miklós Jancsó, 1967) Second Run [R2-UK]

The Kingdom (aka"Riget" - 4-disc) - (Lars von Trier, 1994) Tartan R2 UK

Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003) Tartan R2 UK

The Story of Qui Ju (Zhang Yimou, 1992) Sony Pictures

Under Capricorn (Alfred Hitchcock, 1949) Kinowelt


Enjoy your 'March Break' week (for the few it applies to),




P.S. Stuff, not on the imminent calendar, that I am leaning towards pre-ordering:

49th Parallel (Michael Powell, 1941) 2-disc Warner Home Vidéo - France

The Nun's Story (Fred Zinnemann, 1959) Warner Home Video

Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection: Morocco, Blonde Venus, The Devil is a Woman, Flame of New Orleans and Golden Earrings.) MCA Video - I'll have to compare!

L'Enfant (Dardenne Brothers) blaq out R2 France

Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory (Ziegfeld Follies / Till the Clouds Roll By / Three Little Words / Summer Stock / It's Always Fair Weather) Warner Home Video

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Julio Medem, 1998) Home Vision


The sale that won't die:

P.P.S. Still holding firm...

Amazon.UK SALE - £ 7.97 or less - Some of the notables include:

The Scent Of Green Papaya [1993], Pretty Poison (1968) , Etre Et Avoir [2002], Delicatessen [1991], Sympathy For Mr Vengeance [2002], Mirror [1974], Abigail's Party [1977], The Last Metro [1980], Three Colours Blue [1993], Three Colours White [1993], Three Colours Red [1994], Persona [1966], Lovers Of The Arctic Circle [2000], The Gospel According To St. Matthew [1964], Ivan's Childhood [1962], Jamon Jamon [1992], The Magician [1958], Code Unknown [2001], A Short Film About Killing [1988], To Joy [1949], Crisis [1946], Beau Travail [1999], Summer Interlude [1950], The Terrorist [1998], The Wicker Man [1973]  and many more!