"... she goes on talking, with memories of summer and nakedness and pleasure in her words ..." – Pauline Kael

06.2020

1 from Criterion

Come and See (Soviet Union, 1985)

The antiwar film to end all antiwar films – "one of the most devastating films ever about anything, and in it, the survivors must envy the dead," wrote critic Roger Ebert – director Elem Klimov's Come and See follows a Belorussian teenager named Fiyora (hauntingly played by Alexei Kravchenko) who joins the resistance against the Germans in 1943 and is orphaned when the invaders massacre everyone in his village. The film's story and imagery are memorable: a Stuka divebombing, a walk through a minefield, a gang rape by soldiers, a church set ablaze with flamethrowers and, at the end, a montage of scenes from the life of Adolf Hitler played in reverse. (The new, three-hour Czech movie The Painted Bird tells a similar story of a boy in wartime, in black-and-white.) A poignant score by Oleg Yanchenko heightens the horror, with poetic counterpoint coming from excerpts of Richard Wagner's operas Die Walküre and Tannhäuser, the "Lacrimosa" movement from Mozart's Requiem, Aleksandr Aleksandrov's patriotic song "The Sacred War," and Johann Strauss II's waltz "The Blue Danube." The new Criterion Blu-ray uses a 2K restoration of the film by Mosfilm and comes with a number of extras. They include three documentary shorts of about 10 minutes each shot between 1975 and 1977 that show eyewitness accounts of the genocide in Belorussia; two new interviews (10 minutes with cinematographer Roger Deakins and about a half hour with German Klimov, the director's brother and artistic collaborator; interviews from 2001 with Elem Klimov (21 mins.), Kravchenko (13 mins.) and production designer Viktor Petrov (8 mins); an 11-minute making-of from 1985 with Klimov, Kravchenko and writer Ales Adamovich; and a theatrical trailer. The soberly presented 30-page booklet has essays by British film critic Mark Le Fanu and Russian-American poet Valzhyna Mort.

2 from Eureka! Masters of Cinema

Criss Cross (U.S., 1949)

In this film noir directed by Robert Siodmak and set in late 1940s Los Angeles, Burt Lancaster plays Steve Thompson, an armoured car driver whose ex-wife, Anna (Yvonne De Carlo) now runs with a no-good crook named  Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea). A botched robbery sends all three lives into a deadly spin. Restored in 4K, the new Region-B Blu-ray comes with two audio commentaries (by film author Lee Gambin and actress Rutanya Alda, and by film scholar Adrian Martin); a half-hour Screen Director's Playhouse radio adaptation of the story from 1949, featuring Lancaster; an isolated music and effects track; and a trailer. The illustrated booklet has a new essay by film historian Kat Ellinger, an essay by Adam Batty and archival writing.

A Foreign Affair (U.S., 1948)

Billy Wilder returned to Berlin after World War Two to direct Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich and John Lund in this story of a Nazi-comprised cabaret singer (Dietrich) whose secret affair with a U.S. Army officer (Lund) is exposed by a visiting U.S. congresswoman (Arthur).  The new Region-B Blu-ray has an audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride; a video essay by critic Kat Ellinger (23 mins.); two hour-long Screen Director's Playhouse radio adaptations from 1949 and 1951 featuring Wilder, Dietrich, Lund, Rosalind Russell and Lucille Ball; an archival interview with Wilder (10 mins.); and a trailer. The illustrated booklet has new writing by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a new essay by critic Richard Combs; and archival material.

1 from Olive

Hair (U.S. / West Germany, 1979)

"Hair only broke even at the box office; it didn't do as well as everyone had hoped," director Miloš Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus) recalled in his 1993 memoir Turnaround. "I still think that it came out both too late and too soon after the '60s for commercial success ... Still, I find myself showing Hair to people more often than my other films ... and partly it's because musicals are almost always a pleasure to watch." Released in 1979, Hair was a re-write of Ragni & Rado's one-off Broadway musical from the late '60s about American hippies and their opposition to the Vietnam War. The central character is a young draftee from Oklahoma named Claude Hooper Bukowski (played in the movie by John Savage, who appeared the previous year in Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter). After getting his call-up papers, Bukowski comes to New York and falls in with a free-spirited bunch of hippies whose "leader" is the charismatic rebel George Berger (Treat Williams, in his starring debut); Beverly d'Angelo plays Sheila Franklin, a blonde from the right side of the tracks who sends Bukowski's head spinning with thoughts of love. Eventually, however, the young recruit enlists and goes off to boot camp in Nevada, where he's only spared from being shipped overseas when he's paid an unexpected call by none other than Berger and his gang of merry pranksters. The film ends in tragedy, nonetheless. Forman's handling of this story, with a script by Michael Weller, mixes humour with moral outrage; the choreography by Twyla Tharp is dynamic and beautiful; the original music by Galt MacDermot ("Aquarius," "Easy to Be Hard," "Somebody to Love," "Good Morning, Starshine") is by turns tender and glorious; and the cinematography by Forman's compatriot and longtime collaborator Miroslav Ondříček is both fluid and beautifully framed. And the film's politics? They're not as radical as the stage musical's, but for that reason they've aged well. Above all, for Forman, Hair was about youth. "Treat and Beverly and John," the director recalled in his autobiography, "... are now reaching middle age ... but when I see them dancing and singing and beaming, they are forever young." For the film's new Blu-ray release, U.S. distributor Olive improves mightly on the barebones DVD it issued in early 2018. It's by no means the first time the film has been released on Blu-ray; Fox did a barebones one in 2011 and the British Film Institute issued one with plenty of extras in late 2019). But Olive's sports a new high-definition restoration and has its own extras: an audio commentary by Williams and assistant director Michael Hausman; a reminiscence called "The Tribe Remembers" with D’Angelo, Savage and fellow actors Don Dacus, Ellen Foley, Annie Golden and Dorsey Wright; a featurette with Tharp called "Making Chance Work: Choreographing Hair"; "Cutting Hair, with editors Lynzee Klingman and Stanley Warnow; "Hair Style," with production designer Stuart Wurtzel; and “Artist, Teacher, Me or: Remembering Milos Forman,” with director James Mangold. The illustrated booklet has an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley.

2 from Paramount

Urban Cowboy (U.S., 1980)

John Travolta stars as a Texas oil rig worker who in his spare time rides the mechanical bull for kicks at Gilley's Club in Pasadena, near Houston. Debra Winger plays his love interest and Scott Glenn the bad-boy who gets in between. Paramount's 40th anniversary edition Blu-ray is region-free but the visuals are disappointing: they're clean, but overly so, scrubbed digitally of any grain. The disc has a few new extras (a 15-minute look-back by bar owner and country-and-western singer Mickey Gilley, plus eight minutes of deleted scenes) and some old ones (four minutes of outtakes and four minutes of rehearsal footage). There's also a download code for a digital copy of the film. A slipcase completes the package.

Friday the 13th (U.S., 1980)

The original slasher film that launched a 12-movie franchise, Friday the 13th stars a young Kevin Bacon as one of a group of teenage summer-camp counsellors who fall victim to a mysterious killer. Repackaging its decade-old Blu-ray (already re-released in 2017) in a new steelbook case, Paramount provides the same uncut and unrated international release version of the film as before, clocking in at 95 minutes, with the addition of a download code to access a digital copy. Extras are the same old ones: an audio commentary by director Sean S. Cunningham, composer Harry Manfredini, and actresses Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer; five making-of featurettes totalling 78 mins.; and the original theatrical trailer.