"Lenten ys come with love to toune / With blosmen and with briddes roune" (Spring is come with love to town / With blossom and with birds' song) - Anonymous, 14th century

04.2019

1 from Powerhouse

The Reckless Moment (U.S, 1949)

Exiled to France, then Switzerland, then the U.S. during World War Two, German-Jewish director Max Ophuls (Letter from an Unknown Woman, Lola Montès) made a handful of memorable pictures in Hollywood after the war before returning to the Continent; The Reckless Moment, a noir starring Joan Bennett and James Mason, was the last. It's a tale of accidental death, cover-up, fatal attraction and suburban angst and ultimately murder, with Bennett a duplicitous housewife and Mason the man sent to blackmail her. On the all-region Blu-ray now released by British distributor Powerhouse as part of its Indicator series, the film has been remastered in HD and supplemented with a number of extras. Previously available are a 44-minute documentary from 2010, in which Ophuls biographer Lutz Bacher offers a personal view of the director and the making of The Reckless Moment; and a 2006 featurette called "Maternal Overdrive," in which Hollywood director Todd Haynes (Carol) discusses Ophuls and his film for 23 minutes. New to this Blu-ray is video of two lectures and an audience discussion that followed a revival screening last year at the University of London organized by the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image. First up is "James Mason as Homme Fatal," by Adrian Garvey (26 mins.); next is "James Mason: Watching the Violence Unfold" (33 mins.), by Sarah Thomas; and lastly, both speakers take questions from the audience about Mason and his legacy (39 mins.). An image gallery of 29 lobby cards, stills and other promotional material completes the disc's contents. There's also a 36-page illustrated booklet with a new essay by Diabolique Magazine editor Samm Deighan, an appreciation of Ophuls from 1971 by critic Andrew Sarris, a Cahiers du cinéma interview with the director from 1955, a short speech by him from 1956, a Sight and Sound magazine review from 1950 and another from Cahiers du cinéma in 1958.

3 from Eureka!

The Song of Bernadette (U.S., 1943)

Henry King's 1943 film, based on the bestselling Franz Werfel novel, stars Jennifer Jones as the titular heroine, a French schoolgirl who, in 1858 in Lourdes, had so many visions of the Virgin Mary that she was investigated by the Catholic Church, officially approved and ultimately, decades later, canonized. Today, Lourdes is a top destination for millions of pilgrims. Part of British distributor Eureka!'s Classics line, the new Blu-ray is code-locked to Region B (U.K. and Europe) and, like the near-identical American BD that Twilight Time released in 2013, is a limited edition (2,000 copies). You can watch the two-and-a-half-hour film with or without the original, 7-minute orchestral overture or the audio commentary (by Jones biographer Edward Z. Epstein, Newman biographer John Burlingame and biographer-historian Donald Spoto). There's also a trailer, an illustrated booklet with a new essay by film journalist Amy Simmons, and a slipcase.

The White Reindeer (Finland, 1952)

A vampiric reindeer haunts the snowy wastes of Finnish Lapland in this 1952 horror drama directed by Eric Blomberg. Restored in 4K, the film now comes to Blu-ray on a region-B disc from Eureka!, enriching its Masters of Cinema catalogue. Limited to 2,000 copies with an O-card slipcase and optional English subtitles, the disc has an audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, a video essay on the portrayal of witches in Nordic cinema, a Blomberg short from 1947 called "With The Reindeer," archival colour test footage, and a featurette of the film's success at the 1952 Jussi Awards. The packaging includes a reversible sleeve and a booklet with new writing by film scholars Alexandra Heller Nichols and Philip Kemp.

One, Two, Three (U.S., 1961)

Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment) returns to his native Germany to spoof the Cold War, with the Berlin Wall dividing an American industrialist (James Cagney) from the affections of his scatterbrained daughter (Pamela Tiffin), who's fallen in love with a headstrong young Red from the East (Horst Buchholz) . Now part of Eureka's Masters of Cinema series, the film gets a limited-edition Blu-ray release (2,000 copies) in a special O-card slipcase with a booklet featuring new essays by film scholar Henry K. Mille and critic Adam Batty. The disc is code-locked to Region-B and includes a new interview with film scholar Neil Sinyard and a previously available audio commentary by film historian Michael Schlesinger.

03.2019

1 from the British Film Institute

Bergman: A Year in a Life (Sweden, 2018)

1957 was a watershed year for Swedish superstar director Ingmar Bergman: he had two new movies playing in cinemas (The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, both masterpieces), directed no fewer than four classic stage plays (for the Malmö city theatre), and took a one-act drama ("Mr Sleeman is Coming") and adapted and directed it live for Swedish TV. Prolific, as loved as he was feared, tyrannical and tender when it suited him, Bergman was a complex man, as geniuses tend to be. In the centennial year of his birth, Swedish documentary filmmaker Jane Magnusson took an unsparing look at Bergman, going backwards and forwards from 1957 to better illuminate the artist, warts and all, and examine his legacy. Premiered last May at Cannes, Bergman: A Year in a Life went on to win the best-documentary award at the 31st European Film Awards. It now comes to Blu-ray in a three-disc edition from the British Film Institute, with each disc code-locked to region-B players (U.K. and Europe). The first has the two-hour version of the film that was shown in theatres; the second and third present "Bergman: A Life in Four Acts," the extended version that aired on Swedish TV in four one-hour episodes. You'll spend a lot of time reading subtitles, but at least they can be made not to appear when people are speaking English, including Bergman himself in the many interviews he gave over the years, most notably to U.S. talk-show host Dick Cavett. Other stars and celebrities appearing in the documentary include Bergman's leading ladies (and lovers) Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson, Hollywood actors Elliott Gould and Holly Hunter, and Barbra Streisand. Bergman himself died in 2007, age 89, but speaks from the grave thanks to extensive audiovisual archives. So does his older brother, Dag, in an especially revealing interview recorded in the 1980s that has never been seen until now (it was mothballed by Swedish TV at the request of the great director, prickly to the end about his reputation as a suffering artist). The BFI have loaded on a few extras, all on the first disc: there's an hour of audio of an interview Bergman gave The Guardian in 1982 that can be played over the film; a quarter-hour Q&A with Magnusson onstage in London; an 11-minute animated short she made about Bergman in 2018 called "Vox Lipoma," in which he appears as a cartoon character with major anger-management issues; and a trailer. A 20-page illustrated booklet rounds out the package. 

1 from Second Run

Ikarie XB 1 (Czechoslovakia, 1963)

Before 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris, there was Jindrich Polák's Ikarie XB 1, a science-fiction adventure set on a spaceship 200 years in the future. While Kubrick and Tarkovsky opted for colour, Polák shot his Czech-language masterpiece in black-and-white, heightening the contrast between life aboard the Ikarie XB 1 vessel, home to 40 astronauts and personnel, and the uncharted wilds of the Alpha Centauri system they've been sent to explore in search of other forms of life. Loosely based on an early novel by bestselling Polish writer Stanislaw Lem (who also wrote Solaris), the film now finally gets the home-video release it deserves. Updating its 2013 DVD with a 4K master made in 2017, British distributor Second Run offers the film on all-region Blu-ray with plenty of extras. Besides an appreciation by critic Kim Newman from the previous DVD (12 mins.), there's a short film Polák made in 1963 called "The Most Ordinary of Occupations" (12 mins.); the opening scene and (quite different) ending of Ikarie's U.S.-release version called Voyage to the End of the Universe (4 mins. and 1 min., sourced from a VHS);  a restoration trailer of Ikarie from 2016 as well as the original trailer for Voyage ...; a one-minute photo gallery; and, as a hidden extra, a quarter-hour Barbican Cinema podcast on Ikarie by Second Run founder Mehelli Modi. There's also a 20-page booklet (the same as the 2013 DVD, re-sized for BD).

1 from Twilight Time

The Quiller Memorandum (U.K., 1966)

This mid-'60s British spy drama was scripted by Harold Pinter and has a sober, haunting pace. It also happens to be Quentin Tarantino's favourite in the genre, according to its star, George Segal. The American actor plays Quiller, a secret agent in West Berlin who is charged by his English boss, Pol (Alex Guinness) to flush out a gang of violent neo-Nazis. Will Quiller fall for the discreet charms of Inge (Senta Berger), the young schoolteacher he meets at the start of his investigation? Will the fascists find out where the British spies have their secret headquarters? Is Quiller strong enough not to crack under interrogation by the sinister ringleader, Oktober (Max von Sydow)? Michael Anderson (The Dam Busters) directs; Robert Helpmann (The Red Shoes) co-stars, with George Sanders (All About Eve) and Robert Flemying (Funny Face) in bit parts; and for history buffs, the location photography in Cold War Berlin (Olympic Stadium rendez-vous and Autobahn car chases by day, deserted streets and cat-and-mouse skullduggery by night, all shot in widescreen Panavision) is worth the price of admission. Extras on the crisp-looking, all-region Blu-ray from Twilight Time include a previously available (from the 2006 Fox DVD) audio commentary with film historians Eddy Friedfeld and Lee Pfeiffer, an optional audio track that plays John Barry's musical score (including its Hungarian cimbalom theme and the ballad "Wednesday's Child," heard on American Forces Network radio), and an original trailer. The illustrated booklet has appreciative notes by Julie Kirgo on the film and on Segal especially. [Note that there is another BD on the market, a region-B disc released in the U.K. in 2014 by Network; it has inferior visuals but a rather nice selection of vintage cast-and-crew interviews (34 mins.) and image galleries (24 mins.).]