DVDBeaver Newsletter for December 22nd, 2005
Happy Holidays! At DVDBeaver are spending inordinate amounts of time preparing our DVD of the Year voting with ballots in from Rosenbaum, Kehr, Acquarello and many more. We will excel well beyond from last year's involvement (see HERE). We hope to post our results next week! Stay tuned. We will also have reviews on the elusive John Ford DVD/films, Mogambo and 3 Godfathers, purchasable only at brick and mortar at present.
14 reviews/updates this week - 5 of which are comparisons, the AE big sale at Amazon.UK is still on (see bottom), some classic westerns, premium Avant Garde, the much awaited Region 1 edition of an Asian autuer's dissertation on memory, Wajda, Becker, Fuller and more.
Those with overly discerning mail clients - you may read our newsletter via the web HERE.
RECOMMENDATIONS... Tough week - not a lot to extol. Let's see... the Sony 2046 has kept the intended green filter (Bravo!) and has some valued extras - yes I recommend. Most overwhelming DVD for me was Criterion's Casque D'or a fab package in all respects. Although I really enjoyed both Peebles films (Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song, Baadasssss! ), I can't recommend the DVDs - try the NTSC - we will compare one day. After Seven Men From Now (reviewed last week) I have Randolph Scott / western genre fever again and Sante Fe and The Indian Fighter make for solid entertainment pawdner ! BFI Charlie Chaplin The Mutuals Volume 2 is a technical letdown but the films are too exceptional to pass up - but maybe the Image NTSC editions are the way to go - another future comparison.
Most Recent Reviews
2046 - In Wong Kar Wai's quasi-sequel to In the Mood for Love, 2046 is a hotel room, a futuristic story, and a state of mind. Tony Leung returns as Chow, but perhaps not the same Chow who appeared in the first film. Starting three years later in 1966, we see Chow on various Christmases as he lives, loves, and writes in a hotel and nearby restaurants. Although he is less sensitive and more of a ladies man now, Chow's love life always seems to exceed his grasp. Whether the character is the same (the director calls this an "echo" of the first movie) might be trivial. Hong Kong filmmaker Wai is such a visualist (Time magazine tabbed him as the "world's most romantic filmmaker"), the images wash over with swirling smoke, neon lights, and the faces of his outstanding cast, all lovingly photographed and smoothly scored. See how the new Sony DVD edition stacks up to past releases.
Charlie Chaplin The Mutuals Volume 2 - The Mutual Film Corporation built Charles Chaplin his own studio and he entered a fruitful twelve-month period which he acknowledged to be one of the most inventive and liberating of his career. Chaplin had full control over casting, scripting and directing. This 2nd Volume, films all made in 1916, has The Floorwalker, The Fireman, The Vagabond, One A.M., The Count and The Pawnshop. The resourceful and enduring character of the "The Tramp" is seen in the early years of his evolution. It is easy to see the painstaking detail Chaplin went to to produce these gems of cinema that we still hold with immense appeal value almost 90 years later.
Sante Fe - "Whatever happened to Randolph Scott ... riding the trail
alone?" - After the Civil War four brothers who fought for the South head
west. Yanks are building the Santa Fe Railroad and one of the brothers joins
them. The other three still hold their hatred of the North and join up with
those trying to stop the railroad's completion. The one brother unsuccessfully
tries to keep the other brothers out of trouble but eventually has to join the
posse that is after them.
Dragonwyck - Based upon the bestselling novel “Dragonwyck” by Anya Seton, this is Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ directorial debut. Farm gal Gene Tierney, whose naïveté is exceeded only by her ambition, gets transplanted from her pious Connecticut clan to vast Dragonwyck manor in Hudson Valley, courtesy of aristocratic relative Vincent Price. Arriving full of dreams of splendor, she's instead met with Byronic brooding, harpsichord tickling in the middle of the night, servants whispering dark secrets, and murder via oleander -- the usual Gothic jazz. Joseph L. Mankiewicz made his directorial debut with this corseted 1800s drama, filling in for the ailing Ernst Lubitsch.
Dyrygent - From Master director Andrzej Wajda. Since his film debut Wajda has filmed conflicts between the older and the younger generations. In his early days, he sided with the young. Now, he tends to take the side of maturity. In Man of Marble the shift was barely noticeable, but became more pronounced in Rough Treatment. In The Orchestra Conductor it is obviously premeditated. This new point of view is emphasised by the fact that John Gielgud not only looks old, but also is known for his advanced age. Although his hero is nearing the grave, both the young female violinist and other members of the orchestra are fascinated by him. This new point of view is also reflected in the style of direction: the proportion of direct action has been reduced in favour of contemplation. The purpose is no longer to act and to achieve, but rather to understand, or even to reflect.
Casque D'or - Jacques Becker lovingly evokes the Belle Époque Parisian demimonde in this classic tale of doomed romance. When gangster’s moll Marie (Simone Signoret) falls for reformed criminal Manda (Serge Reggiani), their passion incites an underworld rivalry that leads inexorably to treachery and tragedy. With poignant, nuanced performances and sensuous black-and-white photography, Casque d’or (Golden Marie) is Becker at the height of his cinematic powers—a romantic masterpiece.
Iris Scan - The films of Mara Mattuschka are very hard to describe. Most of them seem to have something to do with surrealism, sexuality and an unusual large interest in the human body. Most of these films are shot in gritty 16mm black and white, with lightning fast editing and often a combination of animation and live-action, making the films instantly recognizable. Reference points might include Jan Svankmajer and Walerian Borowczyk or even Luis Buñuel (the film ‘Kugelkopf’ is clearly a parody/ode to ‘Un Chien Andalou’) but ultimately the films of Mattuschka are uniquely her own. The androgynous actress Mimi Minus (who reminded me somewhat of Maria Falconetti from Dreyer’s ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’) stars in most films and seems to functions as a sort of muse for the filmmaker. Contradiction seems the be the keyword in the world of Mara Mattuschka, because these films can jump from one mood to another in the blink of an eye. As a result they are anarchistic and provocative, but at the same time vulnerable and human; humorous and dramatic; harsh and poetic.
Sonic Fiction - Synaesthetic Videos - Ever since the beginning of film there has been an interest in abstract filmmaking, some sort of search for an abstract film language that discards our traditional icon-based images. From the Dada movement of the ‘20s via the sound-visual experiments of someone like Mary Ellen Bute in the ‘40s, up to our current age: there has always been an interest from avant-garde filmmakers in the close relation between sound and (abstract) images. This search has most recently taken the form of the short video films (made by artists from all over the world), in which the artists (often) combine modern electronic music with abstract images which bear no direct connection with a naturalistic world, but instead revel in modern technology.
Pickup on South Street - Petty crook Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) has his eyes fixed on the big score. When the cocky three-time convict picks the pocketbook of unsuspecting Candy (Jean Peters), he finds a haul bigger than he could have imagined: a strip of microfilm bearing confidential U.S. secrets. Tailed by manipulative Feds and the unwitting courier’s Communist puppeteers, Skip and Candy find themselves in a precarious gambit that pits greed against redemption, Right versus Red, and passion against self preservation. With its dazzling cast and director Samuel Fuller’s signature raw energy and hardboiled repartee, Pickup on South Street is a true film noir classic by one of America’s most passionate cinematic craftsmen.
The Indian Fighter - A revisionist western before the term was struck, this 1955 film by Andre de Toth begins with a Sioux chief warning that gold prospectors will pollute streams and cause other ecological ruin. Kirk Douglas plays a scout with similar views, but his plan to rendezvous with an Indian girl (Elsa Martinelli) causes him to lead the wagon train he's escorting into a shoot-out. The film's multiple betrayals are typical of de Toth, and his 'Scope imagery, which minimizes close-ups in favor of relatively dark long shots with faces obscured, favors fate over individual will.
Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song - After saving a Black Panther from some racist cops, a black prostitute goes on the run from "the man" with the help of the ghetto community and some disillusioned Hells Angels. Melvin Van Peebles wrote, directed, produced, edited, composed and starred in this powerful and inflammatory attack on White America. After the body of a black man is discovered, Sweetback helps two white `acquaintances' in the police force to look good by agreeing to go with them to the station as a suspect. But he is forced to go on the run after brutally attacking the two policemen when they arrest and beat up a young black man.
Baadasssss! - Mario Van Peebles, Melvin's son, directs an honest and revealing portrait of his pioneering father. Mario now tells the story of the making of Melvin Van Peebles' landmark 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, including Melvin's struggles to raise money to fund the film under the guise of creating a black porno film. Melvin had ducked creditors, the unions and had to bail out his camera crew after they were arrested because a white cop decided a bunch of Negroes and hippies couldn't have come by that camera equipment honestly. Despite death threats and temporarily losing sight in one eye, Melvin somehow managed to whip into shape a rag-tag, multi-racial crew and finish the film that would give birth to birth of a new era which was about to explode: Independent Black Cinema.
Masai - Nothing is more sacred to the Masai, than cattle. It is such a part of their being, that they consider all cattle in the entire world theirs and will defend that right by any means. As such, the only real threat to the Masai is the lion. This makes the lion an integrated part of their lives, and to the Masai, the killing of a lion is a test of manhood, as only a man can defend the tribe. With a cast of non-actors, Plisson has created a colourful and profound tale of coming of age.
Concept & Coincidence - The sculptress and project artist Gertrude Moser-Wagner understands her work chiefly as something (ETWAS) out of the abundance of everything (ALLES); evocation as a drawing out, originating from concept and coincidence. The process is essential as it determines the outcome.
The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Jean-Marie Straub/Danièle Huillet, 1968) New Yorker
Serenity (Widescreen Edition) (Joss Whedon - 2005) - Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Seven Men From Now (Budd Boetticher - 1956) Special Collector's Edition - Paramount Home Video
Toy Story 2 (2-Disc Special Edition) - Buena Vista Home Video
2046 (Wong Kar-wai, 2004) Sony
Cafe Lumiere (Hsiao-hsien Hou - 2003) Wellspring Media
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (Irving - 2003) New Video Group
Figures in a Landscape (Joseph Losey, 1970) Paramount Home Entertainment (UK) R2
Or, My Treasure (Keren Yedeya, 2004) Kino
The Bad Sleep Well (Akira Kurosawa, 1963) Criterion Collection
Ballad of Cable Hogue - Warner Home Video
Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli - 1943) Warner Home Video
Dear Wendy (Thomas Vinterburg, 2005) Metrodome [R2-UK]
Hallelujah (King Vidor - 1929) - Warner Home Video
Island in the Sun (Robert Rossen - 1957) Fox Home Entertainment
Pinky (Elia Kazan - 1949) - Fox Home Entertainment
Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2004) Sony
The Short Films of David
Lynch (2006) - Absurda/
Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa, 2005) Strand
Triple Agent (Eric Rohmer, 2004) Koch Lorber
Vidas Secas (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1963) New Yorker
Stormy Weather (Andrew L. Stone - 1943) - Fox Home Entertainment
Enjoy, relax and be kind to everyone this Holiday season,
P.S. Artificial Eye SALE AT AMAZON UK STILL ON!
(CLICK TITLES FOR MORE) Blind Chance, A Short Film About Killing, No End, Camera Buff, The Scar, Three colors (all), Bresson: L'Argent, Haneke: The Piano Teacher, Haneke: Code Unknown, Kitano: Zatoichi, Kitano: Dolls, Sokurov: Russian Ark, Dardenne: The Son PLUS MANY MORE!