DVDBeaver Newsletter for November 3rd, 2005
Hello friends - recently we were doing some discussion of potential suggestions for DVD of the Year (2005) and in this newsletter we link to new reviews of quite a few candidates.
For those with uncooperative mail clients - you may read our newsletter via the web HERE.
NEWS: I regret that in the ensuing months I will not be able to maintain DVDBeaver to the extent that I have in the past. Truth be told - it is not really capable of supporting a full-time programmer/reviewer. Previously it was great fun but in recent weeks it simply offers an inescapable workload that is conflicting with the calmer family life that I am ultimately striving to maintain. My driving force in the past has been over concerns that we will not meet our present bandwidth and hosting charges and simply dissolve into the digital ether... but if we do - so be it. I rely on your generosity to continue to support the site and hopefully this is not the end but simply a slow-down.... and a rest.
Two immensely important works of cinema surfacesimultaneously in Region 1 this month. Pickpocket reveals Bresson at his enigmatic, virtuosic best and Ugetsu offers Mizoguchi's commentary on the delusions of lust and power... and the folly of war. Reviewed HERE and HERE
New titles from Warner for January 31st 2006: Captains Courageous, The Champ, Cimarron, The Good Earth, Johnny Belinda, Kitty Foyle, Lust for Life....
Feb 2006 Criterions - Kind Hearts and Coronets, La bete humaine, Metropolitan, and Viridiana.
Gaumont is now saying that their 4 DVD Box of Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma LISTED HERE WILL HAVE English subtitles.
This weeks newsletter has 21 new items - 6 of which are comparisons. We have what are regarded as some of the strongest films ever made by the single greatest DVD production company in existence. It is thrilling times for films fans with DVD players!
We are continuing to update our YesAsia recommendations page HERE with UPCOMING releases and new reviews. These guys are the real-deal folks - an e-tailor stocked with rare treasured film releases on DVD - and their quality continues to improve and prices are competitive.
RECOMMENDATIONS: I can put them in order to a certain degree - Pickpocket and its wonderful Paul Schrader introduction are the equivalent of cinema gold - this may be the fastest inductee to the Essentials list we have ever had. Ugetsu Monogatori and the inspiring Tony Rayns commentary push this into the category of DVD of the Year - an amazing triumph of digital encoding. Le Samouraï is steeped in noir-ish beauty that it almost transcends the word 'cool'. For some Japan's Antonioni is Hirokazu Koreeda and his debut masterpiece is Maborosi. Check out our PRE-CODE resource - its a whole new world and it demands your attention. We shouldn't have to sell anyone on Yasujiro Ozu - and Passing Fancy is yet another masterpiece ($12 folks). France has one cinematically respectful culture and both the Mk2 10 DVD Buster Keaton Boxset and their recent Hitchcock Boxes with The Manxman (1929), The Farmer's Wife (1928), Champagne (1928), and The Ring are exemplary samples.
Most Recent Reviews
Le Samouraï - A razor-sharp cocktail of 1940s American gangster cinema and 1960s French pop culture—with a liberal dose of Japanese lone-warrior mythology—maverick director Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece is available on DVD again, this time from Criterion in a crisp new widescreen transfer.
Ugetsu Monogatori - Kenji Mizoguchi draws on sources from both East and West for this, his crowning achievement. Focusing on an ambitious potter haunted by a beautiful ghost and a farmer who dreams of becoming a samurai, Ugetsu offers a commentary on the delusions of lust and power and the folly of war. This is essential cinema and the Criterion is an essential DVD with a viable candidate for commentary of the year by Tony Rayns.
Pickpocket - Robert Bresson’s masterful investigation of crime and redemption tells the story of the young, arrogant Michel (Martin LaSalle), who spends his days learning the art of picking pockets in the streets, subway cars, and train stations of Paris. Tautly choreographed and stylistically rigorous, Pickpocket reveals Bresson at his enigmatic, virtuosic best. The new Criterion DVD has the best image available and an optional commentary, but I was ecstatic about the Paul Schrader introduction - possibly the best I have ever heard.
Maborosi - Hirokazu Koreeda's feature-length directorial debut "Maborosi" is a hauntingly beautiful film about a young woman who faces an inexplicable death of her husband. Reminiscent of Yasujiro Ozu's style, Koreeda weaves the story with a minimalist grace. Former model Makiko Esumi's reserved performance as the heroine is quite effective, and leaves a lasting impression.
Passing Fancy - Ozu - After the death of his wife, a man struggles to raise his son in nearly overwhelming poverty. When the father meets a beautiful young woman, the son becomes jealous of his father's attentions, and conflict arises between them. Another Ozu masterpiece that garnered his most contemporaneous acclaim to date, winning the prestigious first prize from Kinema Jumpo.
Hitchcock Boxsets from France - Studio Canal (France) have put together three beautiful boxsets of "The Masters" early films. This silent set with The Manxman (1929), The Farmer's Wife (1928), Champagne (1928), and The Ring (1927) listed HERE and a 'talkie' set with Blackmail (1931), The Skin Game (1931), Murder! (1930) Reviewed HERE and another with Rich and Strange, Number 17 and Foreign Correspondent HERE. The transfers are stupendous - certainly outdoing the many DVD production companies who thrive on Public Domain material in NTSC. Extras are all in French with no English subtitles, but thankfully the Feature presentation subtitles (again French only and mandatory with most DVD players) are player generated and can be easily removed with any PC with a DVD burner as all films take up less than 4.75 Gig thereby fitting on a single layered blank DVD (see tutorial HERE)
3-Iron - a new Optimum edition of the wonderfully produced piece of cinema. Kim Ki-duk’s directs his silent lead actors with great precision. Throughout the body of work Tae-suk utters only one small sound and it is not until the ending scenes Sun-hwa speaks a few short sentences.
The Fallen Idol - was the first collaboration between director Carol Reed and author Graham Green, one of the most creative pairings in cinema history. Later the duo would go on to make the two classics ”The Third Man” and ”Our Man in Havana” together. Reed had just made “Odd Man Out”, his first film as director and producer, and noting the kind of creative freedom, which would blossom working with Green.
Planeta Bur - Pavel Klushantsev, who directed more Russian SF films than he's credited with here, found himself propelled from obscurity into sudden demand by the Soviet authorities when the production of his 1958 SF debut, 'Road to the Stars' coincided with the launch of Sputnik. Although he languished in almost total obscurity in the West, his films were enormously popular in the USSR, and, as a recent documentary noted, many of his cinematic innovations were 'borrowed' 10 years later by Kubrick in '2001'. Thanks to Gregory for uncovering this one!
Bird of Paradise - Although I was somewhat agog at seeing Dolores del Rio clearly swimming buck naked (see last three large captures in the review) and bra-less throughout most of the film - what I was most surprised at was her character's open admission to enjoying 'rough sex' both with her as the aggressor or with Joel McCrea forcefully holding her down! This is 1932 you say? Well recognized more for its PRE-CODE openness rather than any other attribute, the film does captures some euphoric moments of deserted island fantasy and an interracial Polynesian love fable. I think it is well worth seeing.
The Lady Refuses - More PRE-CODE fun and folies - This story surrounds a wealthy London nobleman who hires a pretty but poor young girl to distract his playboy son from marrying a conniving golddigger. A simple yet, for me, effective rendition of the story with stereotypes in full force. The finale focusing on a father-son relationship makes one realize how the love-triangle plot was unusual for the times as it was so openly referred to.
Errance - After the truly amazing "Le Souffle" and before the questionable "En Attendant le Deluge", Damien Odoul made "Errance", a portrait of a couple in crisis, set in three different time periods between 1968 and 1973.
Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst - February 4, 1974, only two weeks before her 20th birthday, granddaughter of William Randolph Heart, Patty Hearst, was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. “Guerrilla” is one of the best documentaries out there. It is gripping as any thriller, is it more revealing than any reality program, and it uncovers previously unknown facts about the case. A mind blowing portrait of romantic fantasies, political terrorism and the media.
Tintin et Moi - In 1971, the French writer Numa Sadoul went to Bruxelles, to, as a student, interview cartoonists about their work. Amongst them Hergé. Instead of an interview, Sadoul got 4 days of soul searching conversations with Hergé, which over the next 3 years would be rewritten 4 times by Hergé and Sadoul, to be published as a book. But Hergé withdrew his conversations, as he felt they were too personal, and the book never came to be. Now, 30 years later, Danish writer and director Anders Østergård, has made these conversations into a documentary about Hergé and Tintin.
Adams Aebler - Adam (Ulrich Thomsen) is your everyday neo-Nazi, who hates everyone. After time in jail, he has to spend time redeeming himself and thus is send to a provisional church to help the community. Denmark’s candidate for the Oscar nominations for best foreign film, “Adam's Apples” is an at times almost surreal, wonderful and extremely quirky comedy about the fight between good and evil, about the meaning of life, and about the pleasures of a good apple cake.
Film ist - is a collage work in the truest sense of the word. Deutsch combines tons of archaic film material and the result is exhilarating, interesting, funny and often extremely beautiful. Deutsch never set out to make a theoretical film and he succeeded admirably.
Mk2 10 DVD Buster Keaton Boxset - Just a note that we have added more information and screen capture comparisons to our review of this stupendous boxset that is sure to be high in the running for DVD of the Year.
Mirror - (Russian title 'Zerkalo') from 1975, is Tarkovsky's fourth of seven feature films. It has relevancy being numerically "central" in his oeuvre also marking itself as, by the director's own account, 'My most openly autobiographical, daring, and self-revealing film'. Infused with dense, personal references from memory and an inaccessible use of time, space and performances, this is considered the director most artistically bold work being steeped in layered constructions. In examining his entire body of work this tends to be a catalyst of his vision of transcendency. there is a newish Lizard DVD but unfortunately it has no English subtitles.
Upcoming releases (next 3 weeks)
9 Songs (Michael Winterbottom, 2005) TLA Releasing
Burn! (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1969) MGM
Cet amour-là (Josée Dayan - 2001) New Yorker Video
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton - 2005) Two-Disc Deluxe Edition) Warner
Christmas in Connecticut (Peter Godfrey - 1945) Warner Home Video
Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton -1990 - Collectible Tin Anniversary Edition) - Fox Home Entertainment
The Fallen Idol (Carol Reed, 1948) Optimum [R2-UK]
The Fugitive Kind (Sidney Lumet - 1959) MGM
The General's Son (Kwon-taek Im, 1993) - Spectrum DVD - Region 0 - NTSC
Hammett (Frederic Forrest, 1982) Paramount Home Video
Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959) Criterion
S.O.S. Iceberg (Tay Garnett - 1933) Kino International
Ugetsu Monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954) Criterion
Warner Bros.Classic Holiday Collection (Boys Town / A Christmas Carol 1938 / Christmas in Connecticut)
Almodóvar Vol 1 Box Set: Dark Habits/Matador/Law of Desire/Women of the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown/Kika/The Flower of My Secret (Pedro Almodóvar) Optimum [R2-UK]
Almodóvar Vol. 2: Matador/Law of Desire/Kika/The Flower of My Secret (Pedro Almodóvar) Optimum [R2-UK]
The Idiot (Akira Kurosawa, 1951) Eureka/MoC [R2-UK]
The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Jean-Marie Straub/Danièle Huillet, 1968) New Yorker
HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA - (YES ENG SUBS- Jean-Luc Godard) R2- France - Gaumont - Columbia Tri-Star Home Video
House by the River (Fritz Lang - 1950) - Kino International
Leave It to Beaver - The Complete First Season (Jerry Mathers - 1957) Universal Home Video
The King Kong Collection (King Kong 2-Disc Special Edition/Son of Kong/Mighty Joe Young) Warner Home Video
King Kong (Collector's Edition) (1933) Warner Home Video
Ran (Kurasawa, 1985) Criterion
Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang - 1945) Kino International
Watch out - Andrei Tarkovsky's Offret (Sacrifice) is coming out in a 2-DVD edition by Arte (R2) on Nov. 23rd, and features Chris Marker's "One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch" & "Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky" by Michal Lesczylowski HERE but it has no English subtitles.
Film has an incredible power to change and improve your life - but don't let it monopolize you,
P.S. Two quotes that keep surfacing in our discussion about film but are relevant on many fronts -
"Taste is directly proportional to experience"
"Popularity is generally a sign of mediocrity"
P.P.S. CONTEST STILL IN EFFECT: First correct 100 entries get a chance of winning a sealed copy of the new Criterion "Wages of Fear". Email me HERE, with the film names of the 28 orange lettered screen captures in our new Masterlist or Reviews listing (they are the same). The first 10 correct entries will get 10 chances EACH in the lottery, the next 10 will get 9 chances each etc. etc. One entry per email address and you will not be told whether you are correct or not - the answers will be posted after the contest has ended. When we have 100 correct entries I will electronically draw one name and that person will receive a brand new sealed copy of Henri-Georges Clouzot's film on a the new Criterion DVD. NOTE: Good luck!... ohhh, and please no questions - only the winner will be contacted and listed here (if they agree).