| Posted on Nov. 14, 2011, 6:28 a.m.
In this thread, Madcap, myself, and others will comment on stuff they've seen. Or not. Its just like the other threads we've done.
Here's what I watched this week. I'm convinced that Ernst Lubitsch is, like Yasujiro Ozu, the single greatest film maker of all time, and this applies as much to his German silent films as his American sound works. Not so much for the pageant melodramas (though they're well worth watching in my opinion), but his comedies are sublime, wild, liberated, liberating (Hollywood's view of women *still* hasn't caught up to his Ossi Oswaldas and Pola Negris), and really just do not give a good god damn. They are the missing link between the fanciful phantasia of Georges Melies and the bizarre silliness of Dr. Seuss. Even The Merry Jail (which is significant for being the film that made Emil Jannings a star), while lacking the supreme grace of the comedies that would soon follow, is nonetheless charming.
Jalsaghar (Satyajit Ray, 1958)
Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955) - 2nd viewing
Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton, 1932)
I Wouldn't Want to Be a Man (Ernst Lubitsch, 1918)
Die Puppe (Lubitsch, 1919)
The Oyster Princess (ditto)
Sumurun (Lubitsch, 1920)
Anne Boleynn (Lubitsch, 1920)
Die Bergkatze (Lubitsch, 1921 - - all Lubitsch films are 2nd viewings, except...
The Merry Jail (Lubitsch, 1917)
| Posted on Nov. 16, 2011, 8:59 a.m.
Full specs are available for Kino's upcoming edition of Seven Chances:
Audio commentary and conversation by film historians Ken Gordon and Bruce Lawton
A Brideless Groom (1947, 17 min.), a Three Stooges short that recycles the premise of Seven Chances, co-written by Keaton collaborator Clyde Bruckman
How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the New York Herald Personal Columns, a 1904 Edison short directed by Edwin S. Porter
Visual essay on the films locations, by Silent Echoes author John Bengtson
Analysis of the Technicolor sequence by film historian Eric Grayson
Gallery of production stills
Music arranged and conducted by Robert Israel, in 2.0 stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
| Posted on Nov. 16, 2011, 9:56 a.m.
haha. nice title!
| Posted on Nov. 16, 2011, 10:03 a.m.
I had the munchies.
| Posted on Nov. 16, 2011, 1:01 p.m.
I just watched Seven Chances recently and was rather underwhelmed (It's not top-tier Keaton), but that collection of supplements may be the best yet from the Kino blu-rays. Hmm.
| Posted on Nov. 18, 2011, 4:03 p.m.
Agreed. I really wish Kino had paid that much attention to Keaton's more major films (no commentary for Our Hospitality?!).
Olive Films is releasing three Jerry Lewis films on Blu-ray on February 14: Rock-a-Bye Baby, The Geisha Boy, and Boeing Boeing. I confess to having no interest in the last one, but the first two just might be day one purchases. Jerry Lewis on Blu-ray. How lovely. I hope, hope, hope that Olive digs into the already-released Lewis titles and bumps them up to Blu.
| Posted on Nov. 18, 2011, 4:20 p.m.
Yeah, I actually (re-)watched Our Hospitality the same day and it's clearly one of the great silent comedies. Seven Chances is 20 minutes shorter than OH but contains maybe four times as many title cards. It might be heretical to say such a thing about a Keaton Klassic, but the film probably would have benefited from sound.
| Posted on Nov. 19, 2011, 2:40 a.m.
Blame Canada, because MGM is releasing The Apartment, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Midnight Cowboy, Spellbound, Rebecca and Notorious on Blu-ray, come January 24.
(This is Canadian MGM, if I hadn't made that clear)
| Posted on Nov. 19, 2011, 6 a.m.
The Great White Silence. Oh my gosh. You must all see it!
I haven't really been able to watch much recently, though for the most part I want my viewing to be focused on films high up in the list on the Mubi Forum Users' Top 20: Longform List and Voting Series event (which is essentially a massive hurt and heal contest). At the moment the (everchanging) top 20 is as follows:
Screen Tests 20
Eros Plus Massacre 19
The Travelling Players 19
City of Pirates 19
Duck Soup 19
Wagon Master 19
The Hole (Tsai) 19
The Mother and the Whore 18
Veronika Voss 18
Once upon a Time there was a Singing Blackbird 18
Sherlock Jr. 18
Marketa Lazarova 18
Heartbeat Detector (aka The Human Question) 18
Tale of Tales 18
Medium Cool 18
The Only Son 18
Berlin Alexanderplatz 18
Le Trou 18
I've seen six of those so far, all of which I've loved to some extent. I hope to watch either Wagon Master or Maborosi later today.
For those who are interested, the next 30 films on the list (which started off with 1,218 films and currently 582 films left on it) are:
Close-Up (Kiarostami) 17
Woman in the Dunes 17
Les Vampires 17
The Golden Thread 17
Early Summer 17
A Brighter Summer Day 17
Manila in the Claws of Neon 17
La Cienaga 17
Humanity and Paper Balloons 17
Follow Me Quietly 17
The Sound of the Mountain 17
Hawks and Sparrows 17
Lucky Star (Borzage) 16
Subida al Cielo 16
Black God, White Devil 16
A Snake of June 16
I Walked with a Zombie 16
The Executioner 16
Death in the Land of Encantos 16
Tropical Malady 16
My Night at Mauds 16
City of Sadness 16
The Suspended Vocation 16
Limportant cest daimer 15
Manoel on the Island of Miracles 15
3 Women 15
The Ogre of Athens 15
The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz 15
Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on
| Posted on Nov. 20, 2011, 6:56 a.m.
Here's the stuff I watched this week.
Leon Morin, Priest (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1961)
Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946) - 5th or 6th viewing
Orpheus (Cocteau, 1950) - 5h or 6th viewing
Days of Heaven (Terrance Malick, 1978) - 4th viewing
The Small Back Room (Powell & Pressburger, 1949 - 2nd viewing
Thieves Like Us (Robert Altman, 1974 - 2nd viewing
Leon Morin may well become my favorite of Melville's films. I hardly noticed it when I was watching the film, but thinking about it over next couple of days in the week...its a must-see. And now I'm going back to bed.
| Posted on Nov. 27, 2011, 1:52 p.m.
You guys make me sad. Anyway, here's what I watched this week.
A propos de Nice (Jean Vigo, 1930)
Taris (Jean Vigo, 1931) - both 3rd viewings
Zero de Conduit (Jean Vigo, 1933) - 4th viewing
L'Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934) - 5th viewing
Red Psalm (Miklos Jancso, 971)
A Man Vanishes (Shohei Imamura, 1967
Ballad of Narayama (Imamura, 1883) - 2nd viewing
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958) - 4th viewing (but first viewing in 1.33:1)
As Michael Brooke points out in his Kinoblog essay, its difficult to trace the change in Jancso's cinema between Red Psalm, and the previously available films of his simply by DVD releases, since four films seperate it and Silence and Cry (of course, in my case, the gap is greater, as I'm missing out on Silence and Cry!), but the impression is nonetheless that of a violent shift. Since I've pointed you in the direction of Brooke's essay, you might as well just go read it. The best way I can think to describe this shift is thusly: if Jancso's trilogy of war films (My Way Home, The Round Up, and The Red and the White; the only others I've seen) can be accused of harsh pessimism or even nihilism, then Red Psalm could be seen as an abstract folk miracle thrown in the face of oppression, and a sensual and audacious rallying cry for socialism that is perhaps more invigorating than any film since the revolutionary films of the Soviet avant garde of the 20s. It is still, of course, a Jancso film, but his cinema seems to have sprouted new branches.
As for A Man Vanishes...I can't say that Imamura's meta film is as enjoyable as those of Kiarostami or Welles. But considering it pre-dates their efforts, and indeed most any other example of mockumentary film-making, it deserves attention, and probably, some credit. But the more I think about the film, the more Nagisa Oshima's review (reprinted on the DVD booklet; a mostly derisive review but charged and intelligent criticism) makes sense. I'm not dismissing it; in fact I want to probe it again in a few weeks or so, but I'm not going to praise it yet, either.
| Posted on Dec. 2, 2011, 6:30 p.m.
Terence Davies's The Deep Blue Sea is already coming to Blu-ray in April, from Artificial Eye. Its getting mixed reviews all over, but that's about the same reception given to all of Davies's films since the very first, so I'm not at all going to temper my enthusiasm.
Michael Brooke says that Second Run is going to be releasing a few Polish classics next year, taking advantage of numerous recent restorations. With those, and a couple more Hungarian films from their Mokep deal yet to be revealed, 2012 might be Second Run's best year to date. I rather hope Mother Joan of the Angels is among those released...they've already released the film before, but it was in such rotten condition. A restored edition of that film, the same year as Russell's The Devils, would be delicious.
| Posted on Dec. 4, 2011, 4:07 a.m.
Who's that Masters of Cinema background image?
Its Monte Hellman's Cockfighter!
| Posted on Dec. 4, 2011, 9:37 a.m.
I should note that thay was the background of their Twitter page. I got excited. Anyway, here is what I watched this week,
Park Row (Samuel Fuller, 1952)
The Citadel (King Vidor, 1937) - 2nd viewing
Go West (Buster Keaton, 1925) - 3rd viewing
Battling Butler (Buster Keaton, 1927) - 2nd viewing
Park Row might be Sam Fuller's masterpiece. Its certainly his most optimistic and entertaining film, and his love for journalism is just as vibrant as his hatred for racism, war, and hypocrisy that seeps into his other major films. If not moreso. Fuller is a fighter, and always has been, and in Park Row, he's smashing his ham sized fists into the face of very physical limitations; that of ultra low budget film making. And, throughout its entirety, Park Row has a muscular vibrance that triumphs over these minimal means. The film, in a few ways ways, is about its own making. Just as its characters struggle and invent their way into the newspaper business, Fuller and his crew defied every odd to get their film made; in many ways the film can be seen as much as an ode to independent film making as it is to journalism. Everything about it feels damn good, even if Fuller's films never quite gave us a statue of liberty.
BUT! Also this week, I finally got around to watching something I've owned for years, but only dipped into intermittently for a few films that were of great interest. More Treasures from the American Film Archive is one of the most lauded home video releases of all time, and from the point of view of one of them ecclectic types, it deserves this accolade: the variety here is greater than in its older brother, the lost classic:obscure curiosity ratio is also quite higher, and the extra material is richer: most films have audio commentaries (though some are a bit bland), and the essay book is much more in-depth than its predecessor. I dare not tackle every single film here; ranging from newsreels, to trailers and promotional films, to features, to Fleischer bros. silents and more, but a word or two on some. These aren't necessarily the best material in the set (though There it Is and Lady Windermere are the best works of cinema in the set, I think the Nora Zeller footage is the most essential), however.
The Invaders (Thomas Ince, 1912) I've long held a curiosity for Thomas Ince; the only American film maker of his day who seems capable of competing with Griffth (or at least, the only such director whose work pops up on video a lot). While Griffith's early, but sophisticated, use of parallel editting is not something Ince's unit reproduced (at least not at this time), what Ince did have over Griffith at the time was the naturalism of the drama; seen particularly strong here in the film's use of Native American actors. The film is a very basic film, but has an unfilterable purity to it, and it retains a great deal of impact. It also stands apart from the Hollywood Westerns of the 40s and 50s in that much of it is taken from the point of view of Native Americans, although 1914's Last of the Line (made two years later, also by Ince, and available in the Treasures V boxed set) proves a much richer and more sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans.
| Posted on Dec. 4, 2011, 9:37 a.m.
Gretchen the Greenhorn (Chester M. and Sidney Franklin, 1916) I wouldn't be mentioning this film if it didn't display a great deal of maturity and subtlty for a film of its age; or at least what we think of when it comes to films of its vintage. So let's get right down to what makes the film special: Gretchen the Greenhornis a simple, unpretentious, character oriented film aimed at working class Americans, including (and this is key) first generation immigrants. The best scenes, I would argue, are its earlier scenes; before the plot kicks in. Not because its plot is poorly told (this is not the case at all, like I said before), but because of the little details of urban, ethnic life. I will definitely be revisiting this little feature. It is a prime example of what seperates films of the 1910s from films of the 20s and up, and seeing it today should give one pause, and reflect upon what has been lost in popular cinema.
Clash of the Wolves (Noel M. Smith, 1925) Except for the 4th collection, each of the five Treasures sets has at least one feature on each disc, and this is the feature on the 2nd. By no means a great movie (I'd say its the least of the three features here), Clash of the Wolves is rollicking (if at times, silly...putting a beard on a dog?). At very worst, it won't bore you (though the comic relief might make you groan), but its historical value (aside from being the only film of the original Rin Tin Tin on video) is that its also one of the surprisingly few examples of feature length, big studio commercial entertainment, that was churned out during the 20s, on high quality DVD.
There It Is (Charley Bowers, 1928) Perhaps the best film on the set, and the reason I bought the darned thing way back when. It was worth it. This silent short, awash with genuine American comic surrealism, deserves to sit alongside the great masterpieces of the late silent era; from Keaton and Chaplin to Lang and Murnau.
A Bronx Morning (Jay Leyda, 1931) The city film is the chief genre of the American avant garde film of the 20s and early 30s, and A Bronx Morning may be the best. Earlier in the set is Robert Florey's Skyscraper Symphony, which isn't as good as this, but is certainly more invigorating than Florey's most well known Hollywood film, Murders of the Rue Morge. While Florey's film is an exceptionally modernist look at the abstract quality of skyscrapers, A Bronx Morning excels by turning its gaze downward, at people in the street. It is a precursor to decades of films about New York; its charming scenes with children can't help but remind me of the landmark 1953 classic The Little Fugitive.
Lady Windermere's Fan (Ernst Lubitsch, 1925) A strangely, and wonderfully, austere (surprisingly!) melodrama, which combines the better qualities of Lubitsch's grand scale epics of the German screen, with some of his more refined, future qualities as a Hollywood film-maker. Competence scarcely describes the way in which he weaves this tale; subtle and graceful in all regards, and Lubitsch's uncharacteristic sobriety, with regards to the film's atmosphere, imbues the film's space with a cavernous quality. All this, and the characters still feel like human beings, as opposed to rich people. I was caught off guard, on more than once occasion, at how entranced I was in the film, despite initially finding it a little stifling. This is probably the star of the set; or at least it should be considered so due to its pedigree, and is definitely the best of the three features. I haven't seen any more of Lubitsch's American silent films, but if this is any indication, I am missing a major segment of his work. This film, like most in the set, has a commentary, but its worth noting that this commentary is almost as uninteresting as mine, and takes a lot of breaks.
| Posted on Dec. 5, 2011, 5:14 p.m.
Nick Wriggley claims he put that screen cap on their Twitter page just because he likes the film. I don't believe him.
According to their twitter page (actual posts, and not wallpaper), the Masters of Cinema series will be inducting "a raft of films by some heavyweight masters" into their catalogue next year; directors not yet represented by them, and their next wave of announcements are set for January. As they are currently knee deep in Fox and unknown Universal titles, I predict we'll see films from at least one of the following:
Frank Borzage - Any of his early Fox titles are up for grabs, except the four that BFI scored. Lazybones is easily the best of those, and its release would be the film's first outside of the obscene Borzage and Murnau at Fox set. He made Little Man, What Now? at Universal, and that is another likelihood, as it is considered a major film of his, and stars Margaret Sullivan. Desire, with Marlene Dietrich, is also a possibility.
Sam Fuller - Plenty of Fox titles of his to choose from...Fixed Bayonets!, Hell and High Water, House of Bamboo, China Gate, Run of the Arrow, Forty Guns...all rather tasty prospects. I believe all of those are owned by Fox.
Alfred Hitchcock - There's no telling which of the man's films MoC could snatch from Universal. Assuming that Vertigo and the like are out of the question...Marnie, The Trouble With Harry, Family Plot, Frenzy, Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much...all seem like fair possibilities. On the Fox end of things, Lifeboat could happen.
Preston Sturges - Between Universal and Fox, virtually all of Sturges's major films are potential victims. Only Miracle at Morgan's Creek, which remains at Paramount, is out of the question. Since Unfaithfully Yours is unreleased in the UK, I would put my finger on that.
Raoul Walsh - The Big Trail seems like a natural choice for Blu-ray, as it was one of the earliest 70mm films shot. Walsh afficionados might prefer The Bowery or Me and My Gal, though, of his early Fox films. His silent What Price Glory is also a possibility. As for Universal...just imagining The World In His Arms on Blu-ray makes me need to use the bathroom. Tag Gallagher would surely be on board for special features on any of these, and that is also bathroom worthy.
Billy Wilder - The early films. Double Indemnity, Foreign Correspondent, The Lost Weekend, all possibilities.
Josef von Sternberg - All of his Dietrich films are owned by Universal. For that matter, so is An American Tragedy. The Blue Angel and Saga of Anatahan, though not owned by either studio, would also be wonderful; The Blue Angel is something they have wanted to do for a long time.
James Whale - While somewhat inconceivable that MoC would be able to snatch any of his high profile monster movies, The Old Dark House is ripe for the plucking. I doubt it would make it to Blu-ray, though, as the film is said to be in bad shape. It'd surely go well with their upcoming release of Island of Lost Souls. I know some of his Universal Films...like Show Boat and Waterloo bridge...are Warner Bros. owned in the US, but I am not sure if the same goes for The Road Back and Remember Last Night?, getting to more obscure films. In any case, if they go for Whale, The Old Dark House is almost guaranteed.
Anthony Mann - Universal owns several of his westerns, including Winchester '73.
| Posted on Dec. 7, 2011, 10:53 p.m.
I finally got around to seeing another Jia Zhangke movie, The World, and though I don't find it as satisfying as Platform it's still something.
| Posted on Dec. 8, 2011, 2:18 p.m.
The only reason I've avoided seeing Platform, is that the film seems to be universally available in really bad DVDs. And like I fool, I keep holding out for a good one.
Criterion's posted this image as a clue for their March releases. Its Last Temptation of Christ, and I believe I'll buy it, as it sounds damned interesting for a Scorsese movie. I just hope this one doesn't get stuck in my Blu-ray player, like the old DVD. Since it doesn't seem likely Criterion will be able to get many more Scorsese films, I'm betting they'll really deck the halls with this one. The making-of doc, those early short films, the works. Its almost guaranteed to be the best Scorsese Blu-ray.
| Posted on Dec. 9, 2011, 3:48 a.m.
This is what to expect from future public domain classics released by Kino, I hope.http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film3/blu-ray_reviews55/a_farewell_to_arms_blu-ray.htm
| Posted on Dec. 9, 2011, 10 a.m.
How is A Farewell to Arms, Amok? I generally tend to really like Paramount productions from that time period. And Borzage and whatnot.
Still, I'm more excited about Velvet Goldmine! Yeah!!
| Posted on Dec. 9, 2011, 1:30 p.m.
I haven't actually seen the film myself. I'm hoping I'll be able to rent the Blu-ray from Classicflix before the year's end.
| Posted on Dec. 11, 2011, 8:27 a.m.
The weather made work difficult for most of the week, so I made the most of it and watched a lot of stuff.
Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1987) - 2nd viewing
Eight films by Santiago Alvarez (1965 to 1973)
The Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk, 1954) - 2nd viewing
Bombshell (Victor Fleming, 1933)
Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933 - 2nd viewing
Queen Kelly (Eric von Stroheim, 1929) - 2nd viewing
That Shoah is, perhaps, the most important non-fiction film ever made is a dangerous statement to make, because for all its might, it limits the all encompassing Nazi horror o the extermination of the Jewish people (still, to its credit, much of it focuses on horrors specific to said extermination). But considering its relative obscurity; relative to so many inferior films about the Holocaust, and considering the growing desensitization to its subject (consider all the narrative films made in the 90s!), it is an important statement to make. Its also important to state that the film, aside from a documentary of an event, is a monumental human document, and a document of life. Every face; be it that of a perpetrator, a victim or a witness, has significance, as do the clothes they are wearing, their surroundings, their behavior. Doubtlessly, a major part of what makes the film so immensely powerful, gripping, fascinating and heartbreaking is the fact that every man is living and talking, in the comforts of human civilizations, yet recall vividly what it was like to have the most miniscule civility denied.
On the opposite end of the non-fictional spectrum is a group of eight short films by Santiago Alvarez, whom I am convinced (due to the brilliance of these films, and the vastness of his body of work) is the greatest of Cuba's film makers. If Shoah is a work of reflection; even meditation, on a past thatt refuses to go away, then Alvarez's films mold reality (mostly found footage and photos) into a primal scream of white hot and immediate rage. Indeed, its their incredible sense of immediacy that transposes issues of 60s and 70s world and Cuban affairs violently into the present day, making them feel contemporary, and fresh out of the editting room, over 40 years after the fact. Alvarez's films are less documentaries than violent retribution against injustice. And by the masterpieces LBJ and 79 primaveras, Alvarez's films reach the veritable heights of the avant garde (at times I was reminded of Jeff Keen!), but remain vital, poignant and affecting, even though their subject matter (most of the films involve the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War in the states, and the others are pure communist agitprop) exists now in the shadow of Hollywood quaintness. There's nothing quaint or complacent about these films; they're clear and unmistakeable and go right for the throat. And Alvarez's films; scrabbled together as they are, are examples of true cinema that can be made with the most miniscule means imagineable. The films, collected onto the aptly named DVD He Who Hits First Hits Twice, are mostly in rough shape and not transferred particularly well, but if you give it much notice, then your priorities need reassessment. Even on VHS (the horror!), these films would set you on fire. The documentary on Alvarez, included on the second disc, is no small biopic in its own right.
| Posted on Dec. 11, 2011, 8:27 a.m.
Most of Sirk's films, in time, cast some sort of spell on me, and on this 2nd viewing Magnificent Obsession did so. I still hold that this is the weakest of Sirk's films of the era; the softest and most optimistic, with the most appallingly convoluted plot twists you can imagine, but there's still something special about it that is unique to it, while it also informs the later Sirk films. Almost devoid of the deep, grounding elements of social, sexual, or moral commentary that colors those later films, Magnificent Obsession becomes a miraculous and absurd work of its own universe. Almost like a film out of Borzage's silent period. And if it isn't nearly as good as Seventh Heaven or Lucky Star, its twice as reckless and far more rigid all at once. Its a piece of junk, but what a piece of junk it is!
Bombshell, to put it simply, is one of the nastiest and funniest movies Hollywood ever made about itself, and for some reason I really like it, even if its almost the polar opposite of director Fleming's earlier Clara Bow masterpiece, the deeply rewarding and entirely feminist Mantrap. Why have I been ignoring pre-code Hollywood? I suspect that most people who get into cinema through the arthouse fare eventually stumble into that wonderful ditch. Terrible shame that the film, all restored as it is, has to be relegated to that damned Archive. On that note, I think I'm falling for Design For Living, as well.
| Posted on Dec. 11, 2011, 11:17 a.m.
Well, I think you're giving Bombshell entirely too much credit. I don't know that I'd use the word "nasty" to describe the film. The first third, the bit about the Red Dust reshoots, is really funny and certainly has something of a transgressive charge to it, but the film as a whole has the trajectory of a Judd Apatow joint, in that the last half is all about the restoration of normative values. It's hugely deflating.
| Posted on Dec. 11, 2011, 12:38 p.m.
My feelings for the film might sour a little over time (its certainly a lot less fun than Cagney's Lady Killer, my other favorite "auteur-less" precode comedy), but it was precisely that return to normalcy that I found so nasty and, I guess in a Brechtian way, exhilarating.
As for Queen Kelly, how are you supposed to define something like that? Its incomplete, and feels it, to the point that its hard to call it a film...it even starts to 'fall apart' as it winds down, due to so much of it not existing. Nonetheless, what exists is amazing.
| Posted on Dec. 12, 2011, 12:02 p.m.
Second Run's second (unless Liverpool gets delayed again) DVD release of 2012 isn't just a doozy; its their biggest release yet: a three film boxed set of recently restored Polish classics.http://www.polishculture.org.uk/film/news/article/polish-cinema-classics-1620.html
EDIT: Whoops, I meant to say four film boxed set.
| Posted on Dec. 13, 2011, 4 a.m.
I'm hoping that these discs presage remastered titles in Second Run's catalogue. My favorite Polish film (and first Second Run purchase), Mother Joan of the Angels, is in dire shape, but has recently been restored as part of the same program. As has Knights of the Teutonic Order (in bad condition and the wrong aspect ratio on the current disc), and I think The Passenger is also up for restoration. All Polish titles.
| Posted on Dec. 13, 2011, 9:50 a.m.
If you're looking for some pre-code jollies, check out The Story of Temple Drake. It was essentially marked for banning by Hays even before it's release for being based on William Faulkner's Sanctuary, which had been scandalizing readers for a couple of years at that point, and sports some fine Karl Struss cinematography as well as a strong performance by Miriam Hopkins. Quite short and free on youtube no less.
| Posted on Dec. 14, 2011, 4:36 a.m.
That sounds lovely. I'ma look for it.http://www.eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/catalogue/
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935
) is going to be Masters of Cinema spine number 35
, and Island of Lost Souls (1932
) is going to be spine 32
. According to Nick Wriggley, this isn't the last case of spine numbers matching up to their release date in the coming year. I'm curious as to what titles will continue this trend.
| Posted on Dec. 17, 2011, 3:45 a.m.
Jonathan Rosenbaum's latest article has, ironically, rekindled my interest in The Artist, after being one of the first people to take the wind out of my sails about the film.http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?m=201112
| Posted on Dec. 17, 2011, 10:46 a.m.
My mild interest in The Artist doesn't have anything to do with JRo, but it's nice to see some kind words about The Underneath further down the page.
I recently watched a wonderful movie called Payment Deferred, with Charles Laughton. It's a worthy contemporary of Fritz Lang and Renoir's La Chienne.
| Posted on Dec. 18, 2011, 12:25 p.m.
I sure did watch a lot of stuff this week.
Moonfleet (Fritz Lang, 1955)
Rome Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945) - 2nd viewing
Paisan (Roberto Rossellini, 1947) - 2nd viewing
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005)
Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, 1949) - 2nd viewing
Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)
Strike (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) - 2nd viewing
Family Plot (Hitchcock, 1976)
La tete contre le murs(Georges Franju, 1959) - 2nd viewing
Moonfleet is easily my favorite of Lang's American films so far, though I'm not quite sure how confident I'd feel in calling it a masterpiece, and I certainly need to revisit the others. Its most certainly a flawed film, but beneath those flaws might lie one of the most magnificently textured period pieces ever made in Hollywood. As it is, warts and all, its a ravishing beauty; a marvelously overcast snake and/or funeral. Lang rocked the wide screen for this one.
I still can't get over Rome Open City, which is sad, because its a great film and one of the few films whose significance in cinema is truly monumental. Godard seems right to assert that that "all roads lead to Rome Open City". I stole that from the DVD booklet, but it applies: its hard to imagine the cinema of the past 66 years without Rossellini's crystallization of neorealism. But beautiful, moving and rich as it is, it is an utterly inferior film, in every way, to the following films in Rossellini's trilogy. Seeing it a second time, I can't say I see why the preference is for that film over the other two (or, for that matter, any of de Sica's masterpieces of neorealism), but I have to admit that the film occupied a larger hole in my soul than on the first viewing. But so did Paisan and Germany Year Zero.
Franju's first feature film, La tete contre le murs, predicts many of the same elements that would fuel his second, and probably greatest, feature...namely his style; a cold and clinical observation of the fantastic (taken to extremes in his ravishingly cold and dead remake of Feuillade's Judex). Pierre Brasseur even plays the 'same' character, though this time his mad doctor is less a dangerous and inhuman revolutionary than a dangerous and inhuman reactionery. There's really not much difference between the two, is there? Still, the film is too heavily flawed to be put on quite the same level as the other films (or, for that matter, his short films, if Blood of the Beasts is an indication); the fantastic creeps into the normal world creepily enough, but simply with much less success and coherance. As Raymond Durgnant points out in the booklet essay, Franju has yet to successfully marry his style with the demands of a narrative script, and the result is a film that is often puzzling as a drama and, largely due to the film's structural dependence on said drama, unsatisfactory. But the brilliance is there throughout the film, and if Franju doesn't quite know how to do what he wants, he knows what he's doing, and why.
| Posted on Dec. 22, 2011, 4:23 p.m.
Kino is releasing a lot of stuff I don't care about in March.
They are also releasing "Lost Keaton" on Blu-ray. Sold.
| Posted on Dec. 25, 2011, 3:47 p.m.
I didn't feel much like watching movies this week. However, I did watch a few, all of them new. Next week, I'll hopefully watch more?
Murray Christmas, everybody.
Sands of the Kalahari (Cy Endfield, 1965)
No Greater Glory (Frank Borzage, 1934)
Medea (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
The Four Feathers (Zoltan Korda, 1939)
I was not expecting No Greater Glory to be as powerful as it was; mostly because I've been more curious about the Hungarian adaptation of the same novel (by its proper name The Paul Street Boys), by Zoltan Fabri. I'm convinced that Fabri is a talent to be reckoned with, but Borzage's little film is a miracle in virtually every respect, containing at worst a half dozen or so of the most convincing and moving child characters and performances in Hollywood history, and fine black and white photography from Joseph H. August, a pioneering cinema artist in his own right. As a critique of war, its spot on and ultimately heartbreaking; subtle yet merciless...the opposite of miserablism; the opposite of Grave of the Fireflies, posessing a whimsical and naturally boyish charm, which isn't so much undercut by the ensuing senselessness as brought to full, halting life. That Borzage pulls off this seeming contradiction of tragedy and charm, engaging drama and pointed moral critique is simply astounding. Some have said that this film, though devoid of any romantic tension at all (Borzage's trademark), is Borzage's masterpiece, and I don't half doubt them.
| Posted on Dec. 31, 2011, 2:01 p.m.
The year has come to an end. I got bored, and decided to try and tally up a list of the fifteen best films I saw (for the first time) in 2011. They are the following:
1. Red Psalm (Miklos Jancso, Hungary, 1971)
2. Jalsaghar (Satyajit Ray, India, 1958)
3. Stars In My Crown (Jacques Tourneur, USA, 1950)
4. Park Row (Sam Fuller, USA, 1952)
5. Our Beloved Month of August (Miguel Gomes, Portugal, 2008)
6. No Greater Glory (Frank Borzage, USA, 1934)
7. Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, USA, 2011)
8. Dressed to Kill (Brian de Palma, USA, 1980)
9. The Strange Case of Angelica (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal, 2010)
10. Alice (Jan Svankmajer, Czechoslovakia, 1988)
11. The Phenix City Story (Phil Karlson, USA, 1955)
12. Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski, UK, 1970)
13. Blow Out (Brian de Palma, USA, 1981)
14. Salt for Svanetia (Mikhail Kalatozov, Russia, 1930)
15. He Who Gets Slapped (Victor Sjostrom, USA, 1924)
Next year will probably be a year like any other...except there might be less buying of movies. But I do have one resolution that I intend to keep; just not sure if I'll write about it or anything. In September, I purchased five essential looking DVD collections dedicated to silent films, for very low prices: The Forgotten Films of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, both American Slapstick volumes, Becoming Charley Chase, and Harry Langdon Lost and Found. I'm going to go through these, one each month, and also watch similarly themed films (for example, I'll rent the other Chase and Langdon DVDs available, and re-watch Arbuckle's work with Keaton). I'm rather excited by the idea, and I'll be on Arbuckle the week after next.
And sticking to the theme of silent comedians, I'll then have a retrospective of Harold Lloyd's films. I've never been too big on Lloyd, but once I've gone through the works of three other giants of silent comedy, plus a bounty of lesser comedians, I think I might have a greater context to appreciate his work.
| Posted on Dec. 31, 2011, 2:46 p.m.
I have the same Arbuckle set. He Did and He Didn't, man.
| Posted on Dec. 31, 2011, 3:49 p.m.
That one, as well as Leap Year and Love, are the ones I'm most interested in. I believe you stated your feelings on Arbuckle's films before; care to reprise any of them? Myself, I'll try to be a bit thorough on the other four sets I mentioned, at least. Langdon seems right up my alley.
In a bout of paranoia, I bought the limited edition Blu-ray of Cy Endfield's The Mysterious Island. I enjoyed that flick a lot when I saw it as a kid, and since its an Endfield film, I suspect it holds up a lot better than other Ray Harryhausen flicks. And speaking of Endfield, I highly recommend Olive Films's Blu-ray of Sands of the Kalahari. Like a cross between The Naked Prey and Flight of the Phoenix, with all of the better elements of both films (but mostly The Naked Prey, because Flight of the Phoenix is kind of dull). If you like baboons, you should probably run out and buy the movie now.
| Posted on Jan. 1, 2012, 10:24 a.m.
Here's all the stuff I watched on Christmas week, through the first day of the new year.
A Farewell to Arms (Frank Borzage, 1932)
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
Silent Running (Douglas Trumbull, 1971)
The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1932) - 4th viewing
Despair (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978)
The City of Life and Death (Chuan Lu, 2009)
Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1999) - 2nd viewing
If I hadn't already seen three all-out masterpieces made after it, I'd say A Farewell to Arms promised that the rest of Borzage's career would be about as brilliant as his silent films. Regardless, the film truly marks a shift: away from transcendent miracles and towards even more transcendent miracles, and though I prefer those three masterpieces (No Greater Glory yes, but more pointedly the romance-tinged Moonrise and The Mortal Storm) by a fair margin, I can easily say that in none of them are the miracles greater, nor do they have as much to transcend beyond.
Its not hard to imagine that one reason that Malick's cinema career is taking one of the sharpest turns in history (he has as many films currently in production now as he completed between 1973 and 2005). Tree of Life seems to sum up and finalize so much of what Malick's films have been aiming for: an observation of man's great significance among the much greater grandeur of the universe, and an aesthetic that captures these contradictions with ghostly, whistful poetry. Only this time, as they say, its personal, or so that seems to be the case. Even the film's most potentially egregious moment; a slightly anthropomorphic encounter between two CGI dinosaurs, proves a powerful moment in its own right, and is almost certainly the bravest use of dinosaurs in cinema. I can't imagine this film offering anthing less than infinite rewards upon repeat viewings.
Silent Running is that rare kind of science fiction film: a simple, bleakly optimistic moral fable that addresses high concept concerns with a quiet, desperate humanity. There's nothing particularly complex or complicated about the film, and I don't think it could ever be mistaken for a masterpiece, but I'm very glad I watched it, and I'd do so again. Children, and those still in touch with some of childhood's better impulses, will get the most out of the movie.
Birth of a Nation looks amazingly good on Blu-ray. Can you imagine actually being able to discern facial features in this film?! I'm having a hard time imagining it now, and I actually saw it. But I don't think I'd attempt to say anything about the film itself, which represents many of the best and worst aspects of American cinema, because its just too daunting a task. I don't think it is a great film, in any case; neither the best film or even just the best American film ever made at its time (Les Vampires and either The Wishing Ring or Salomy Jane, respectively), but its probably the most essential non-great film out there, and I've long ago succumbed to its allure.
| Posted on Jan. 1, 2012, 10:24 a.m.
There's much to be amazed and overwhelmed by in City of Life and Death, and though these feelings are certainly pure (I haven't felt both this drawn to, and yet physically repulsed by, a film in a long, long time), there are certain things about it that give me slight pause. Unlike what Spielberg does with the majority of Schindler's List and the opening of Saving Privte Ryan, City of Life and Death charts the Nanking Massacre not as if it were an epic travesty, but interconnected tragedies and abominations with meanings to individuals that, long before the film's end, are far from anonymous. What most gives me pause about the film is that, as it strives so much for realism, it does not seem to strive so much for either closure or profundity. The ultimate meaning of the film, as impressive and moving as it is throughout, is the same as can be found in so many films about the travesty of war, without pushing any new buttons. To wit, this all really sucks, and its very sad and a bummer. In that respect, it winds up being more Saving Private Ryan than The Ascent, The Big Red One, or The Thin Red Line.
| Posted on Jan. 3, 2012, 6:07 p.m.
This interview with Second Run is interesting, particularly in that it reveals an as-of-yet unnamed film from Adoor Gopalakrishnan is in the works. His film Rat-Trap is a real gem, both wonderfully complimentary and contrasting the films of Satyajit Ray, in the context of Indian cinema.http://www.dvdcompare.net/features/secondrun.php
| Posted on Jan. 5, 2012, 12:11 p.m.
A few days ago, a Criterion topic I started got "side tracked" into the usual Warner Archive bashing, which happens whenever someone mentions Warner Bros.' home video policy. This, of course, only made me madder at the Archive, because it sure is a steaming load. I believe in expressing my rage in constructive ways, though, at least when its on sale at Amazon. Currently, all four volumes of Warner's series of gangster films are marked down to about 25% of their original price. So I bought volumes 2-4 for a grand total of $49. I guess I'll be watching the gangster films in each box (including another re-watch of the contents of box 1) over the next few months. Good times ahead.
| Posted on Jan. 5, 2012, 12:27 p.m.
I own the 1st and 3rd sets, but I might pick up the 4th one. The Little Giant is a very fine comedy that Roy Del Ruth made with EG Robinson the same year he made Lady Killer with Cagney. It's sort of a very loose, unaffiliated adaptation of The Great Gatsby. In a way.
| Posted on Jan. 5, 2012, 12:40 p.m.
Ha, yeah, sorry about that. I don't recall, but I feel like I'm to blame for steering the topic off-course.
Anyway, that's a sweet deal for the gangster sets. Pretty sure I paid nearly full price for 3 and 4 when they were released. Maybe I'm a tad immature, but I absolutely adore the blooper reels in Vol. 2 that consist of nothing but actors flubbing their lines and cursing for 10-15 minutes.
http://spiraltap.dvdaf.com/ ~ http://www.last.fm/user/SpiralTap
| Posted on Jan. 6, 2012, 4:03 a.m.
Hey, I raged the hardest in that thread, no need to apologize. But look at this.http://www.eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/news/
Hitchcock in the MoC banner, loads of Universal titles coming out in 2012...coincidence?
| Posted on Jan. 6, 2012, 4:34 p.m.
Well somebody better be coming out with some Hitchcock on Blu-ray. With MGM and Paramount dumping all of their major league Hitch films in the next couple of months, that just leaves Universal and Those Brothers Who Shall Remain Nameless. Universal obviously needs assistance in making me happy, but at least they're trying. Those other guys... I doubt we'll see anything other than Dial M for Murder and maybe Strangers on a Train before they figure out how to burn Blu-ray discs on demand and charge $50 a pop.
I'd really love it if MoC just did the entire Masterpiece Collection set. I mean, I don't really see any other way of getting Frenzy (one of my favorites of his) or The Trouble With Harry on Blu-ray, much less stuff like Torn Curtain or Topaz.
Really, why are we so far into the Blu-ray life cycle without The Birds, Rear Window, and most importantly, Vertigo? S*** is criminal.
http://spiraltap.dvdaf.com/ ~ http://www.last.fm/user/SpiralTap
| Posted on Jan. 7, 2012, 5:30 a.m.
| Posted on Jan. 7, 2012, 9:11 a.m.
That is an awesome cover.
I'm getting my Blu-ray of John Guillermin's Rapture today. Pretty stoked to see it after all the good things I've heard.
http://spiraltap.dvdaf.com/ ~ http://www.last.fm/user/SpiralTap
| Posted on Jan. 7, 2012, 11:02 p.m.
So Rapture was pretty gnarly. I can see why Fox didn't wanna release it themselves, it being good and all that bulls*** that no one wants to see.
http://spiraltap.dvdaf.com/ ~ http://www.last.fm/user/SpiralTap
| Posted on Jan. 8, 2012, 12:05 p.m.
I already wasted $40 smackers on The Mysterious Island from Twilight Time. I guess I'll just fold my hands together and pray that MoC releases Rapture, because I can't afford to spend any more money right now.
Here's what I watched this week.
Dressed to Kill (Brian de Palma, 1980) - 2nd viewing
Histoire(s) du cinema (Jean luc Godard, 1998)
The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961) - 2nd viewing
The 10th Victim (Elio Petri, 2nd viewing, 1965) - 2nd viewing
Bluebeard (Egdar G. Ulmer, 1944) - 2nd viewing
Strange Illusion (Egdar G. Ulmer, 1944) - 2nd viewing
Strange Woman (Egdar G. Ulmer, 1946) - 2nd viewing
Scarface (Brian de Palma, 1983)
Most people opine that Godard should have stopped making films after the 60s. If Histoire(s) du cinema is any indication, then for me he didn't really start until...well, after the 60s. My impression from this film is that perhaps, all along, Godard was building up to this moment; this film...maybe even aiming for and missing it before he realized how, or what he had to do, in what is essentially a found footage film Godard style, and perhaps the ultimate epic poem about the art form. I doubt I'll see a more rewarding movie this year, and if I do, it'll be a hell of a picture.
I've never cared much for method acting, or the films that surround it. To a lot of people, movies didn't really start to get good until Brando, Newman, and Dean came along and shook Hollywood acting to its core. To me, it seemed to only make Hollywood all the more uneven, and all of those actors spent their careers mostly giving fantastic performances in a fantastically uneven selection of films. I'm not sure what it is about The Hustler that sets it apart for me. I can say that one of the elements that turns its detractors off; its pacing (which is often quite slow), is one of the things that I most like about it. And it isn't that the film is talky-slow in the way Elia Kazan's films are, though it does have its moments where the characters' dialogue oversteps the bounds into didacticism (with dialogue more befitting the stage than the screen, I imagine; much as in Kazan's films, though maybe someone more versed in the stage could offer an analysis). Its that atmosphere that gets me; an atmosphere that, amazingly, has more to do with Paul Newman and the supporting characters than it does the .
| Posted on Jan. 8, 2012, 12:43 p.m.
I saw Hail the Conquering recently. I liked it a lot though not as much as the other Sturges I've sern. Still pretty great.