"Behind the glass wall snow is falling." - Simon Mawer

03.2020

3 from Eureka!

Buster Keaton: Three Films (Vol. 2) (U.S., 1924-26)

Buster Keaton made his name in the 1920s as an acrobatic genius of silent comedy, and now three of his feature films from the middle of the decade – The Navigator (1924), Seven Chances (1925) and Battling Butler (1926) – get a Blu-ray release by British distributor Eureka! as part of its Masters of Cinema series. Using the same restorations in 4K that U.S. distributor Cohen Film Collection did for its own editions stateside last year, this is Volume 2 of Eureka's Keaton boxset trilogies; Volume 1 was released in November 2017 and featured Sherlock Jr. (1924), The General (1926) and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928). The musical scores for Volume 2 are the same ones composed and conducted by Robert Israel and used on the films' first BD iterations, by Kino, in 2011 and 2012. Extras abound. Seven Chances has a new audio commentary by film historian Bruce Lawton and The Navigator has a 2012 one by historians Robert Arkus and Yair Solan. Lawton returns in the flesh for a nine-minute video documentary from 2012 that focuses on Keaton's exploration of the comic possibilities of boats. There's a new video essay on all three films by David Cairns; five audio interviews with Keaton spanning the years 1945 through 1960 that total close to two hours; and a 1926 comedy short by actor/director Harry Sweet called What! No Spinach? that borrows heavily from Seven Chances. Included in the boxset is a 60-page illustrated book with new essays and archival writings and images. Do note that the discs are code-locked to region B (U.K and Europe), so you'll need the right player to watch them.

Long Day's Journey into Night (U.S, 1962)

Sidney Lumet's adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's 1956 play is set on the Atlantic coast of Connecticut in August 1912, probes the effect of addiction (alcohol and morphine) on an acting family, and stars Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell. The new dual-format edition of the film (one Blu-ray, one DVD), code-locked to regions B and 2 for Eureka's Masters of Cinema series, has a couple of extras: a new audio commentary by author Scott Harrison and a new video essay by Lee Gambin, as well as a trailer. The booklet has new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Philip Kemp.

Syncopation (U.S., 1942)

German emigré director William Dieterle explores the evolution of jazz from New Orleans ragtime to Chicago swing with the help of Benny Goodman, Harry James and other greats in this high-energy musical melodrama. Unfortunately, the new Eureka! Classics dual-format edition (one Blu-ray, one DVD, code-locked to regions B and 2), is barebones: it doesn't have any of the extras that U.S. distributor Cohen Film Collection included on its BD in 2015; missing are all nine short films featuring Goodman, Louis Armstrong et al in performance, as well as the 2015 re-release trailer. There is a booklet, however.

2 from the U.S.

Kansas City (U.S/France, 1996)

Robert Altman goes back to his hometown to dramatize the Depression-era Jazz Age with a very effective noir. The new all-region Blu-ray from Arrow comes with a lot of extras: a director's audio commentary, a short video introduction and quarter-hour essay from 2007 by French critic Luc Lagier, a half-hour video appreciation by critic Geoff, the film's vintage electronic press kit of cast-and-crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, four trailers (in English, French and German) and some U.S. TV spots. a four-minute image gallery, and special packaging (a mediabook with reversible sleeve and an illustrated collectors' booklet with new essays and an excerpt from Altman's autobiography.

The Ten Commandments (U.S., 1923 & 1956)

Cecil B. DeMille got two cracks at directing and producing The Ten Commandments, first in 1923 as a silent black-and-white movie, and then again in 1956, in Technicolor and with Charlton Heston in the Biblical role of his life as Moses. The two films have been packaged in a variety of Blu-ray editions over the years, by Warner and Paramount. Paramount's latest is another digibook with three BDs: the first two for the 1956 version and a few extras, the third with the 1923 version and some more previously available extras, including photo galleries, featurettes and the 2011 documentary "The Ten Commandments: Making Miracles" (73 mins.). Nothing new is given; nothing has been taken away.

1 from the British Film Institute

Sunday Bloody Sunday (U.K., 1971)

Following up his Oscar win for Midnight Cowboy, director John Schlesinger returned home to England and the theme of bisexuality with Sunday Bloody Sunday, exploring a love triangle between a divorcée (Glenda Jackson), a doctor (Peter Finch) and a handsome young sculptor (singer Murray Head). Schlesinger and screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt got Oscar nods for their work, lauded for handling their subject with maturity, candour and sensitivity. Already issued (in 2012) on Blu-ray by U.S. distributor Criterion, the movie now gets a proper British release courtesy of the BFI. Code-locked to players in the U.K. and Europe, the disc has much more extensive extras than the American release. Besides a new audio commentary by critic Amy Simmons, there are new half-hour interviews with Head and cameraman Billy Williams; a quarter-hour interview from 1971 with Jackson talking about the movie; lengthy audio from 1977 of Schlesinger reminiscing about his career (105 mins, playable as an alternate commentary track); and two vintage shorts by Schlesinger: a student film called "The Starfish" (1950, 47 mins.) and a documentary walkabout of London called "Sunday in the Park" (1956, 15 mins.). There's also a public-service announcement by Jackson and comedian Ernie Wise called "Blood Donor: Glenda and Ernie" (1981, 3 mins.), two image galleries that total 13 minutes, and a trailer. An illustrated booklet completes the package.

02.2020

1 from Criterion

Roma (U.S./Mexico, 2018)

Mexico City, early 1970s. In the upscale neighbourhood of Colonia Roma, a mestiza nanny named Cleo (played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio) tends to the four young children of a professional couple going through a difficult patch in their marriage. When the father leaves for a medical conference in Quebec, seemingly not to return, Cleo shares childrearing duties with the mother and grandmother before falling into unexpected motherhood herself: she becomes pregnant by her boyfriend, a paramilitary thug, only to lose the child at birth. Writer-director-cinematographer-editor Alfonso Cuarón's eighth feature, Roma was shot in widescreen black-and-white and is a meditative movie that, despite its depressing theme, manages to sustain its storytelling magic for much of its 135 minutes. Watching it on Netflix over the Christmas holidays in 2018, I sometimes wondered what all the fuss was about (extensively reviewed in the media, Roma went on to get 10 Academy Award nominations, more than any previous foreign-language movie, before winning three); now I get to watch it all over again and re-evaluate that initially underwhelming feeling. For its Blu-ray debut, Criterion have given the film special treatment: the disc is region-free, has Dolby 7.1 Atmos sound (a first for the distributor) and comes housed in a digipack inside a slipcase, with an impressively heavy and thick book inside. It contains essays and appreciations by novelist Valeria Luiselli, historian Enrique Krauze and author Aurelio Asiain, plus images from the film annotated by production designer Eugenio Caballero. As for video extras, they're all new, and the most substantial is a 73-minute making-of called "Road to Roma"; a second documentary, "Snapshots from the Set," lasts 32 minutes. Three separate featurettes examine Roma's special look (21 mins.), soundscape (27 mins.), and distribution and impact in Mexico (19 mins.). A trailer and a teaser round out the package.

2 from Eureka!

Sons of Denmark (Denmark, 2019)

In a Copenhagen of the near future, 19-year-old Zakaria (Mohammed Ismail Mohammed) responds to a series of attacks by the neo-fascist Sons of Denmark by signing up for an Islamic terrorist cell. Will double-agent Malik (Zaki Youssef) be able to intervene? Ulaa Salim’s feature debut is imperfect, its message a tad overstated, but still, the film impresses with its ripped-from- the-headlines theme and fine acting. Besides a trailer, there are no extras on the Eureka disc, which is coded Region-B and is part of its Montage series.

The Son of the Sheik (U.S., 1926)

Just before his untimely death at 31, silent-era heartthrob Rudolph Valentino bested his double role of North African chieftain and son in this superior sequel to 1921's The Sheik. For its Masters of Cinema series, Eureka! has released a dual-format edition (Blu-ray and DVD, coded for British and European players). Extras are slim but interesting: a video essay by film historian David Cairns (24 mins.) and, my favourite, a witty introduction by Orson Welles shot in 1971 for the 12-episode American TV series The Silent Years .

1 from Arrow

Manon (France, 1949)

French director Henri-Georges Clouzot (Le Corbeau, Le salaire de la peur, Les Diaboliques) adapted the 18th-century novel Manon Lescaut for modern times, setting it just after the Nazi occupation of of the Second World War. Twenty-year-old Cécile Aubry plays the hard-luck title character, a suspected collaborator in Normandy who comes under the protection of a demobbed Resistance fighter named Robert (Michel Auclair). Struggling to survive, the lovers fall into a life of prostitution and petty crime in Paris, egged on by the heroine's unscrupulous brother, Léon (Serge Reggiani). Eventually fleeing France by stowing away aboard a ship of Jewish refugees bound for Palestine, Manon and Robert come to a nasty end wandering the desert under a burning sun. A neglected film in Clouzot's oeuvre, Manon has for years been almost impossible to find on DVD (the one in my video library is a bootleg, from South Korea) but now gets a significant upgrade and decent distribution in North America and the U.K. thanks to Arrow Academy. Extras on the new Blu-ray (coded for regions A and B, i.e. North America and Europe) include a French TV show from 1970 that features the director and his wife (46 mins.); a new video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew (22 mins.); and an image gallery of 63 production stills and promotional material that unfurls for 20 minutes. The illustrated booklet runs 24 pages, and the package's cover is reversible.

1 from the British Film Institute

Cyrano de Bergerac (France, 1990)

Gérard Depardieu stars as Cyrano de Bergerac, that big-hearted 17th-century swashbuckler with the nose of a schooner, in this big-budget Technicolor adaptation of Edmond Rostand's celebrated 1897 play. Jean-Paul Rappenau (Le hussard sur le toit, Bon voyage) directed the screenplay he co-wrote with Jean-Claude Carrière (Danton, Valmont); Anne Brochet plays Cyrano's beloved Roxane, opposite Vincent Perez as the young cadet whose sensitive love letters Cyrano secretly ghostwrites. Will true love finds its course? The BFI disc, code-locked for Region-B players, sports a swish 4K restoration and offers a choice of high-def surround or lossless stereo, giving added punch to the effects and Jean-Claude Petit's lustrous score. Extras include a new audio commentary by critic Ginette Vincendeau, vintage interviews with Depardieu (12 mins., in English) and Rappeneau (8 mins., in French), an hour-long Guardian conversation from 1987 between British novelists Anthony Burgess (who did the English subtitles for the film) and AS Byatt, and audio of a 77-minute onstage conversation with Depardieu from 1987 that can be played as an alternate commentary track. An image gallery and illustrated booklet complete the package.

01.2020

1 from Eureka! Classics

The Miracle Worker (U.S., 1962)

One of the powerful – and powerfully redemptive – cinematic portrayals of a troubled childhood, The Miracle Worker tells the inspirational true story of the late-19th-century American heroine Helen Keller. Left deaf and blind in infancy after a bout of scarlet fever, the Alabama native would have remained a "wild child," out-of-control and uneducable, if she hadn't had the good fortune of being sent a remarkable tutor to help her understand the world around her. That woman was Anne Sullivan, a Bostonian who was herself half-blind, and the story of their remarkable collaboration – with young Helen first learning to recognize words through touch, then to communicate through sign language and later to speak – is the subject of the film. Directed by Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde) from a screenplay that William Gibson adapted from his 1959 Broadway play (itself based on Keller's 1902 autobiography, The Story of My Life), the movie stars Patty Duke (Valley of the Dolls) as the rebellious child and Anne Bancroft (The Graduate) as her embattled tutor. Reprising their roles from the play, both give excellent performances on camera and won Oscars for their efforts, while Penn was nominated for best director. Made for $500,000, the film grossed five times that much, and deservedly so. As for the real Helen Keller, she grew up into a bestselling author and militant Socialist, travelling the world to campaign for the rights of woman and workers. A word on the new Blu-ray of the film: if you already have the BD that Olive released in 2017 and your player has all-region capability, now's the time to upgrade. Unlike the U.S. barebones offering, the new region-B edition from U.K. distributor Eureka! has a much high bitrate, a short audio essay by critic Amy Simmons (11 mins.), a trailer and an illustrated booklet. 

4 from Powerhouse

Orphans (U.K, 1998)

Glasgow, mid-1990s. Three brothers and a sister reunite to bury their mother and spend a stormy night chasing their own demons around town. Orphans was Scottish writer-director Peter Mullan's first feature film, and it's a roughhewn beauty. As ever with Powerhouse and its Indicator series, the Blu-ray is all-region, well-designed and has lots of extras. Here, you get two making-ofs (an hour-long new one and a half-hour one from 2000); an audio commentary by Mullan from 2000; 11 minutes of deleted scenes and 17 minutes of audition tapes (both with optional director commentary); three short films by Mullan from 1994 and 1995 totalling about an hour; a trailer and a gallery of 65 promotional images The illustrated booklet runs 40 pages.

Winter Kills (U.S., 1979)

Jeff Bridges stars in this satire of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, based on Richard Condon's 1974 novel; John Huston and Anthony Perkins co-star. For its debut on Blu-ray, the film comes with several extras: an audio commentary from 2003 with writer-director William Richert; a new half-hour featurette on the subgenre of conspiracy thrillers; three featurettes from 2003 featuring Richert and Bridges totalling just under an hour; a trailer and radio spot; a 65-image gallery and a three-minute review by screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) for TrailersFromHell.com. The 36-page booklet has new and old material, plus a full list of cast and crew credits.

Resurrected (U.K., 1989)

Based on the true story of Philip Williams, a British soldier who disappeared for two months during the Falklands War and was subsequently accused of desertion, Resurrected stars David Thewlis, four years before he shot to fame in Mike Leigh's Naked. Extras on the Blu-ray include three interviews: with director Paul Greengrass (19 mins.) and Thewlis (17 mins.) in 2011 (both previously available on the BD that Twilight Time released in the U.S. in 2014), and a new one with co-star Rita Tushingham in 2019 (5 mins.). There's an alternate audio track of Williams giving an oral history for the Imperial War Museum in 1992 (66 mins.). And lastly come a trailer, a 41-image gallery and a 36-page booklet that includes new essays and an archival interview with Williams.

Night Tide (U.S., 1961)

Dennis Hopper plays a Navy seaman who, on leave in Santa Monica, Ca., meets a femme fatale (Linda Lawson) with a curious occupation: mermaid in a sideshow attraction down on the pier. Seduction, mystery and ... murder ensue. Powerhouse go full-out with this Blu-ray. One disc has the main feature along with two audio commentaries, a one-hour TV doc on director Curtis Harrington from 1987 and a half-hour archival interview with him released posthumously in 2018, plus an image gallery and trailer. A second disc has another image gallery and two hours of eight short films that Harrington made between 1942 (as a teenager) and 2002. The booklet runs 80 pages.

1 from Second Run

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Czechoslovakia, 1970)

In the dying days of the Czech New Wave of the 1960s, director Jaromil Jireš adapted his compatriot Vítězslav Nezval's 1935 surrealist novel of the same name into a splendid feature film that to this day remains disturbingly sui generis. Part coming-of-age movie, part horror film, part allegorical fantasy, it was shot in the southern Moravian town of Slavonice, on the Austrian border, and stars Jaroslava Schallerová, only 13 years old at the time, as a pubescent girl who is assailed in her dreams by a series of malevolent leches: a priest, a thief, a vampire, a policeman. Not exactly a film for the #MeToo era (be warned, one rape scene is especially odious) but for genre fans, it's not to be missed. On the new Blu-ray from U.K. distributor Second Run, the film has a green tint that contrasts mightily with the rosier, cleaner and more detailed BD that Criterion released in 2015 in North America. I have no idea if the colour grading is accurate or not (Second Run says theirs is a new high-definition transfer "from original materials by the Czech National Film Archive.") Extras mostly differ, too: there's an audio commentary by film scholars Peter Hames and Daniel Bird; another (in the form of a podcast) by experts Mike White, Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan; a video introduction by film historian Michael Brooke (21 mins.); three shorts that Jireš made in 1959 and 1960: "Uncle" (6 mins.), "Footprints" (21 mins.) and "The Hall of Lost Footsteps" (23 mins.), all previously available on the Criterion BD, although their "Footprints" was cut to 12 mins; and a trailer. Completing the package is a 24-page illustrated booklet.

1 from the British Film Institute

Judgment at Nuremberg (U.S., 1961)

Director Stanley Kramer and writer Abby Mann do justice to the 1947 Nuremberg Trials with a three-hour courtroom drama featuring an all-star cast led by Maximilian Schell and Spencer Tracy. And the British Film Institute do justice to the film with the best-yet home video package, easily improving on earlier Blu-ray editions by U.S. distributors Twilight Time and Kino. It's a double-disc package, with the film and some extras on a BD and more extras on a DVD; both discs are code-locked for region-B (British and European) players. On the Blu-ray, the movie comes with a new audio commentary by film historian Jim Hemphill as well as a lengthy audio interview with Schell (86 mins.) that can be played as an alternate commentary track. The BD also has a six-minute image gallery and a three-minute trailer. On the DVD, the extras continue with three video interviews from 2004 with Mann and Kramer's widow Karen Sharpe (14 mins.), Mann alone (6 mins.) and Mann and Schell together (20 mins.). Following those are four vintage shorts of British propaganda that flesh out the film's themes of disability, eugenics, euthanasia, the Nazi menace, and postwar rebuilding and reconciliation, and a documentary short that dramatizes the Nazi eugenics/euthanasia issue. The shorts are: "Heredity in Man" (1937, 14 mins., presented and narrated by Julian Huxley); "These Are the Men" (1943, 12 mins.), written and narrated by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas; "Man:One Family" (1946, 17 mins.); "Berlin Airlift: The Story of a Great Achievement" (1949, 11 mins.), and "Resistance," by Liz Crow (2008, 13 mins., with optional English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing, an optional audio descriptive track, and an optional British sign language version). Completing the package is a 32-page illustrated booklet with lookbacks at the film's production and new essays.

12.2019

3 from Eureka!

A Fistful of Dynamite (aka Duck, You Sucker!) (Italy / Spain 1971)

 

Italian writer-director Sergio Leone took up the theme of the Mexican revolution of the 1910s for this, his last Western. James Coburn stars as John Mallory, an Irishman expert in explosives, who's enlisted by Mexican outlaw Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger) to help to rob a big bank. When the duo discover that the bank has been repurposed by the Mexican army as a jail for hundreds of political prisoners, they free them and go on the run. Shot in widescreen Techniscope in Andalusia, Spain (as well as briefly in Dublin, Ireland), the movie is also memorable for its haunting theme song, "Sean, Sean" (radio audiences in my city, Montreal, remember it as the 1970s jingle for popular rock station CHOM-FM). The new two-Blu-ray set on Eureka!'s Masters of Cinema label has two restorations of the film, one American (done by MGM) and the other Italian (by the Cineteca di Bologna); the first is in English and the second (with a decidedly yellower cast) is in Italian. Each clocks in at around 157 minutes, with a slight cut by British censors concerned by cruelty to animals  (a 6-second shot of horses tripping was removed). On the MGM restoration disc, there's a choice of two title cards (A Fistful of Dynamite, as the film was called in the U.K., and Duck, You Sucker!, as it was called in the U.S.) and several extras: two audio commentaries (by filmmaker Alex Cox and film historian Sir Christopher Frayling); two new interviews (with critic Kim Newman, for 21 mins., and author Austin Fisher, for 12 mins.); two old interviews (with Frayling, for 22 mins., and with MGM head archivist John Kirk, for 6 mins.); several radio spots (4 mins.) and an extended trailer (4 mins.). On the Italian restoration disc, you get several archival featurettes: an interview with screenwriter Sergio Donati (7 mins.); a 12-minute look at film's various versions; a 6-minute tour of the Leone exhibit at the Autry National Center Museum of the American West, in Los Angeles; a 10-minute look at the film's locations then and now; and four stills galleries totalling 40 minutes. The discs are code-locked for British and European players and come in a hardbound slipcase with a 60-page book featuring interviews, essays, artwork and more. 

Ironweed (U.S., 1987)

Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep both got Oscar nods for their sobering portrayals of a couple of down-and-out alcoholics in Depression-era Albany, N.Y., in this adaptation of William Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel directed by Argentina's Héctor Babenco (Kiss of the Spider Woman). Besides a trailer (and a booklet), there are no extras on the new double-disc (Blu-ray/DVD) release by Eureka! Classics. The discs are code-locked for region B (Britain and Europe).

What's New Pussycat? (U.S. / France, 1965)

Woody Allen made his screen debut as actor and writer of this mid-1960s satire of sexual obsession shot in France and headlined by Peter O'Toole, Peter Sellers, Romy Schneider and Ursula Andress (Richard Burton also appears, in a cameo). The title sequence and Tom Jones' song are memorable. Besides a trailer (and a booklet), the new region-B-locked Blu-ray by Eureka! Classics has an audio commentary by critics Emma Westwood and Sally Christie. 

1 from Second Sight

The Amazing Mr. Blunden (U.K., 1972)

Just after the end of the First World War, an impoverished London family receives an unexpected Christmas visit from a stranger calling himself Blunden. The old man offers the Allens a chance to move to the country and take over the running of a palatial home, Langley Park, left empty after a terrible fire almost a century before, its owners now untraceable by lawyers for the estate, which Mr. Blunden (played by Laurence Naismith) says he represents. Overcoming their fear that the house may be haunted, the widow Mrs. Allen (Dorothy Alison) and her children – Lucy (Lynn Frederick), Jamie (Garry Miller) and baby Benjamin – move in, and, sure enough, the ghosts come out. They're friendly ghosts, siblings like the Allens, one named Sarah (Roselyn Landor) and the other Georgie (Marc Granger), and soon the kids find a magic book that tells them how to travel back in time to right the wrongs that led to the tragic fire. They proceed to do so, with unexpected results. Directed by Lionel Jeffries with the same sensibility he brought two years earlier to a better-remembered adaptation, of Edith Nesbit's novel The Railway Children, the movie is a neglected classic, and for its Blu-ray debut (twice delayed since 2016) the film has been newly scanned from the original negative and code-locked for players in Britain and Europe. Extras all focus on actors: there's a new audio commentary by Landor and fellow cast members Madeline Smith and Stuart Lock, moderated by critic Kim Newman (their voices play over the film's original audio, unfortunately downgraded to digital stereo from DTS mono and as a result rather sibilant and echoey); new interviews with Landor, Smith and Mark Gatiss of Doctor Who and Sherlock (again with the hissy audio whenever a clip of Mr Blunden is shown); and an onstage Q&A at the British Film Institute in 2014 with Landor, Smith and fellow cast member Marc Granger. There are also several extras on paper: a booklet, a foldout poster with new artwork and, as a bonus for readers, a paperback of the novel on which the film was based, Antonia Barber's The Ghosts, long out-of-print but reproduced for this edition and housed alongside the disc case in a hard slipcover.

1 from Criterion

Until the End of the World (Germany / France / Australia, 1991)

I remember Until the End of the World, German director Wim Wenders "ultimate road movie," as a bit of a high-gloss mess when I first saw it at the Outremont Theatre in Montreal upon release. But what I and other viewers were underwhelmed by at the time was a compromise, a condensed version of the movie forced on Wenders by his distributors. Now, years after a full-length director's cut was made available to home-video audiences in Europe, North American viewers can settle in to watch it on Blu-ray, courtesy of Criterion. The movie is a wild ride, shot in nine countries for a then-unheard budget for a niche film — $23 million — and with a pop soundtrack of new tunes by Lou Reed, R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Daniel Lanois, Depeche Mode and others. Set in 1999, on the eve of the new millenium, the story follows a young Frenchwoman named Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) who lucks into a bag of cash from a bank robbery, has some of it stolen by an enigmatic American drifter (William Hurt), and then, with a German private detective (Rudiger Vogler) and her ex-lover, a novelist (Sam Neill), follows Hurt's character around the world trying to get to the bottom of his secret. It turns out his mother (Jeanne Moreau) has gone blind, and his scientist father (Max von Sydow) is developing technology in a secret laboratory in the Australian Outback that will help her see again — not only what's physically around her, but also her dreams. Sound fantastic, far-fetched, fanciful? You're right: it takes some suspension of disbelief (and patience) to enjoy Until the End of the World. Because the film is long (close to five hours), for its Blu-ray debut (in a 4K restoration approved by the director) Criterion has spread it over two discs, the better also to accommodate the lengthy extras. They begin with a new video introduction by Wenders (14 mins.), followed by a 1991 documentary short by Uli M Schueppel that shows Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recording the movie's theme song, “(I’ll Love You) Till the End of the World” (18 mins.); there are also 30 minutes of deleted scenes. The soundtrack gets profiled again with two new interviews, one with Wenders (16 mins.), the other with him and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne (8 mins.). On disc 2, the extras continue with two more interviews with Wenders, vintage this time, a half-hour one from 2001 and another from 1993 where he talks about shooting in Australia (7 mins.). Finally, there's an hour-long Japanese making-of that looks at the movie's high-definition video sequences. The movie's trailer is also provided, as well as a booklet, which has essays by critics Bilge Ebiri and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.

1 from Sony

Where's My Roy Cohn? (U.S., 2019)

If you're following the impeachment of Donald Trump and wonder how the U.S. ever wound up with such a man as president, you'll find some answers in this documentary about Roy Cohn. Notorious for baiting Communists and targeting homosexuals in the McCarthy era (he was the bullying Republican congressman's chief counsel), Cohn was a New York lawyer and Mob associate who got in early with Trump and helped him wangle his dodgy real-estate deals, including Trump Tower. They shared a disdain for blacks, "malcontents" and "fags," played fast and easy with laws and regulations, and counted the political operative Roger Stone among their many unscrupulous friends. Cohn was eventually disbarred for getting a dying multimillionaire client to make him a beneficiary in his will, among other offences. That same year, 1986, Cohn died of AIDS; it turned out he'd been a secret "homo" all his life. A little over three decades later, mired in the Russia investigation into his election and looking for a way out, Trump would exclaim to his aides: "Where's my Roy Cohn?" Oddly, despite its title, the new documentary never explains this, instead giving a rather workaday portrait of a despicable man and the powerful people whose rise he furthered and, in the case of Trump, did not live to see crash and fall (if indeed, post-impeachment, that's what's coming). Extras on the Sony DVD (also available on Blu-ray, in the U.S.) include an audio commentary with director Matt Tyrnauer (Studio 54) and co-producer Marie Brenner (of Vanity Fair magazine), and a Q&A with Tyrnauer.

11.2019

1 from Criterion

Cold War (Poland / U.K. / France, 2018)

Five years after winning an Oscar for Ida, about a Catholic nun in 1960s' Poland who learns she's actually a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, Polish-British director Paweł Pawlikowski made another remarkable black-and-white movie that explores conflicting loyalties in his homeland during the post-WWII Communist years. Cold War begins in the late 1940s and ends in the early 1960s and follows the on-again, off-again love life (based on that of the filmmaker's own parents) of Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a melancholy pianist who co-directs a folk-music choral ensemble, and Zula (Joanna Kulig)a beautiful but troubled young singer who joins the troupe. Probing themes of passion, abandonment, exile, dissidence and repression – leavened by a gloriously poignant soundtrack of traditional songs, Gershwin, Cole Porter, Chopin and Bach – the 88-minute film is an aural and visual epic of intimacy that moves in an ever-tightening circle between Poland, France, Yugoslavia and Poland once again, where cruel destiny has its final word. Extras on the Criterion Blu-ray (also available on DVD) include a friendly conversation (37 mins.) between Pawlikowski and filmmaker Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu, recorded earlier this year in Sarajevo; a half-hour news conference with cast and crew at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival (where the filmmaker was awarded the best-director prize); and two making-ofs, one Polish and the other French, of about 15 minutes each. There's also a trailer and a foldout leaflet with an essay by Time magazine film critic Stephanie Zacharek.

3 from Eureka!

Werewolf (Poland / Holland / Germany, 2018)

It's early 1945 and amid the German retreat from occupied Poland a group of children are rescued by the Red Army from the Gross-Rosen labour camp complex in Silesia and driven to safety in an abandoned villa in the middle of a nearby forest. They have not found a haven, however – far from it. Soon they are terrorized anew by a pack of German Shepherd guard dogs let loose by their masters and hungry for fresh prey. Then a couple of stray Russian soldiers show up and torment them, followed by a rogue SS officer who comes out of hiding to wreak more havoc. Is it OK to exploit the Holocaust for thrills, making starving kids the innocent victims of horror? Polish writer-director Adrian Panek obviously thought so, but you be the judge. As for the home-video release of Werewolf (in Polish, Wilkolak), on this dual-format release (one Blu-ray, one DVD, both code-locked for U.K. and European players) from Eureka!'s fledgling Montage label there's almost nothing to devour in the way of extras – just a trailer. There is a 14-page booklet, though, and it has a thoughtful essay by British film critic Anton Bitel. 

The African Queen (U.S. / U.K., 1951)

Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn take a trip up the Ulanga River in German East Africa in 1914 and, under a hail of enemy bullets, fall in love. Bogart plays Charlie Allnut, the no-nonsense captain of a small riverboat grandly called the African Queen, and Hepburn is Rose Sayer, a British missionary whose spirit of adventure lands her in the more turbulent waters of romance. John Huston directed this classic adaptation of the C.S. Forester novel, shot in Technicolor by Jack Cardiff in the U.K and, under much more arduous conditions, on location in Uganda and the Congo. Hepburn later detailed it all in her 1987 memoir, The Making of The African Queen, or: How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind. A huge improvement in the extras department over the U.S. Blu-ray that Paramount released in 2010, the new Region-B edition from Eureka! Masters of Cinema offers the same hour-long 2010 making-of called 'Embracing Chaos' and adds a previously available audio commentary recorded in the 1990s by Cardiff. Other audio extras include: an optional track of the film's score by Allan Gray (aka Józef Żmigrod), an interview with Huston at London's National Film Theatre in 1981 (88 mins.); a half-hour discussion in 2010 at London's National Film Theatre with Huston's daughter, the actress Anjelica Huston, and script supervisor Angela Allen; and an hour-long Lux Radio Theater adaptation from 1952 with Bogart and Greer Garson.There are also three video interviews: with critic Kim Newman (19 mins.), film historian Neil Sinyard (16 mins.) and the film's co-screenwriter Peter Viertel (18 mins.). Lastly, besides a trailer, there's a substantial, 60-page book and a hard case.

Der Golem (Germany, 1920)

For his 1931 screen adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, director James Whale cribbed from a German masterpiece that was barely 10 years old: Paul Wegener's silent horror film The Golem: How He Came Into the World. That movie was based on a Jewish legend of a monster in 16th-century Prague created to protect the Jews from anti-Semites ( it was said to have been made out of clay scooped from the banks of the Vltava River). On the new Masters of Cinema Blu-ray, the film comes in two versions: one lasting 76 minutes and released in Germany (delivered here with optional English subtitles for the German intertitles) and the other cut to 60 minutes for the American market (shown here with the original English intertitles). The German version has been newly and wonderfully restored in 4K and has an optional new audio commentary by film historian Scott Harrison; the American version looks much cruder, relying on a 1970 duplicate negative of poorly preserved source material. Extras include two new video essays – by critics David Cairns and Anne Billson (26 mins.) and by documentary filmmaker Jon Spira (11 mins.) – and an audio essay by film historian R. Dixon Smith (15 mins.). There's also a split-screen comparison between restorations of The Golem in 1995 and 2018 (22 mins.) and a choice of four scores: for the German version, a piano score by Stephen Horne, an electronic version by Lukasz "Wudec" Poleszak and one for a chamber ensemble by Admir Shkurtaj; and for the American version, one for violin, viola, accordian and trumpet by Cordula Heth. The 28-page booklet has reprints of illustrations from the original 1915 novel by Gustav Meyrink.

1 from Second Run

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (Japan, 1987)

American documentary film superstars Michael Moore and Errol Morris count this unusual Japanese film by Kazuo Hara as inspirational and one of their all-time favourites. Five years in the making, it follows a veteran of Japan's WWII vicious occupation of New Guinea named Kenzo Okuzaki who tracks down – and violently punishes, vigilante-style – the men responsible for executing two soldiers in his old unit. The all-region Blu-ray (also available on DVD) from British distributor Second Run sports a new HD remaster of the film and comes with a new half-hour interview with the director and 40 minutes of him giving a masterclass at the 2018 London Open City Documentary Festival. A 20-page booklet completes the package.

3 from the British Film Institute

Yentl (U.K / U.S., 1983)

From the late 1960s to its final realization in the early 1980s, Barbra Streisand's mid-career passion project was a musical screen adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story (and later play, with Leah Napolin), Yentl the Yeshiva Boy. Streisand was all-in on the project: as co-writer (with Jack Rosenthal), co-producer, director and star. She left the music to Michel Legrand, who went on to win an Oscar for his score with songs like "Papa, Can you Hear Me?" and "The Way He Makes Me Feel"; Streisand herself picked up a Golden Globe for best director, the first woman to do so. The story is a gender-bender: Streisand portrays a young shtetl Jew in early 20th-century Poland who, after the death of her religious-instructor father, crossdresses in order to take up a now-public education in Talmudic law normally reserved for men. At school she befriends a young scholar (Mandy Patinkin) and his fiancée (Amy Irving), gets entangled in a love triangle with them, and ultimately decides to emigrate to America. The BFI's new edition of the film is a little unusual. Though identical in content  to the U.S. Blu-ray  that Twilight Time released in 2014, it is split between two discs, one a Blu-ray and the other a DVD, both code-locked for British and European players. On the Blu-ray are the film's theatrical (133 mins.) and director's cut (137 mins.), an audio commentary for both by Streisand and fellow wunderkind co-producer Rusty Lemorande, 17 minutes of deleted scenes, a trailer and a 9-minute image gallery. On the DVD are the rest of the extras: an introduction by Streisand, half an hour of rehearsal footage , eight minutes of deleted songs with storyboards, and seven-minute featurettes. An illustrated booklet completes the package.

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (France, 1967)

I laughed the first time I saw (and heard!) Jacques Demy's Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Was it a musical comedy or an opera? Why was there so much recitative, why so little ordinary speech? It seemed absurd at the time. It still does, but also delightful, and Catherine Deneuve never looked lovelier, it's true. First released on Blu-ray (with mostly different extras) in the U.S. by Criterion in 2017, the film now gets freshened up on a region-B disc by the BFI. There's a new audio commentary by film critic David Jenkins; a new visual essay by BFI programmer Geoff Andrew (19 mins.); a 1993 documentary by Demy's soulmate, the filmmaker Agnès Varda (63 mins., also available on the Criterion edition); a 2015 video interview with Deneuve (7 mins.) and three audio interviews playable as alternate commentary tracks: Legrand in 1991 (71 mins.), Demy in 1982 (76 mins.), and Gene Kelly in 1980 (76 mins.). There's also an original theatrical trailer, a restoration trailer and a 32-page illustrated booklet with essays.

Moulin Rouge (U.K., 1952)

Moulin Rouge, John Huston's Technicolor biopic of French Post-Impressionist painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. is a joyful potboiler of late 19th-century gaiety. Winner of the Silver Lion at the 14th Venice International Film Festival, the movie stars José Ferrer as Toulouse-Lautrec (and, in a double role, the artist's father) and Zsa Zsa Gabor as the nightclub singer Jane Avril. The score of waltzes and can-cans by Georges Auric (Roman Holiday, Lola Montès), isclearly and exuberantly expressed in the BFI's liner PCM 24-bit soundtrack. The BFI's dual-format edition (one Blu-ray, one DVD copy) sports a new restoration and comes with a veritable chorus line of extras: a new audio commentary with script supervisor Angela Allen and the BFI's Vic Pratt and John Ramchandani; 18 silent minutes of vintage Paris street scenes from 1900 to 1925; 20 minutes of vintage newsreels and cartoons from 1895 to 1915; a 1974 British animated short on Lautrec (6 mins.) and a 20-minute image gallery. The illustrated booklet runs 24 pages.

1 from Paramount

Catch-22 (U.S., 2019)

Based on novelist Joseph Heller's 1961 bestseller, this satiric mini-series stars George Clooney (who also co-produced) as an upwardly mobile U.S. Army Air Force lieutenant in World War Two named Scheisskopf (literally, in English, Shithead) who's equally hated by the men under his command, not least a battle-shy bombardier named John Yossarian (Christopher Abbott). Dropping bombs under the flak of enemy artillery over Mussolini's Italy is not Yossarian's idea of the best way of staying alive, but he's caught in a "Catch-22": if he were to claim insanity for wanting to bail out of his duties as a serviceman, the army won't believe him, because only a sane man would want not to die. First aired last May on Hulu (and on Citytv NOW, in Canada), the six one-hour episodes now get a physical media release by Paramount in a slipcovered two-DVD set (no Blu-ray, alas). Extras include a three-part making-of as well as deleted scenes and outtakes.

1 from Powerhouse

Secret Ceremony (U.K., 1968)

Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow and Robert Mitchum star in Joseph Losey's psycho-thriller about an aging London prostitute (Taylor) who meets a strange young woman (Farrow) who reminds her of her long-dead daughter. Then Mitchum, as the creepy stepdad, shows up, and things get really weird. Pamela Brown (I Know Where I'm Going!) and Peggy Ashcroft (A Passage to India) co-star. Released on its Indicator label, the new Blu-ray from the U.K. Powerhouse Films comes with a whack of extras: an optional audio commentary with film historians Dean Brandum and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a quarter-hour French TV look at Losey from 1968; Losey's son, Gavrik, talking about the film for half an hour; 18 minutes of additional scenes from the film's TV version; a trailer; a gallery of 138 promotional images of the film; a brief appreciation by the online 'Trailers from Hell' series' Larry Karaszewski (3 mins.); and a 40-page booklet that includes Losey's own writing on Secret Ceremony and a look at the 1960 source novella by Argentine writer Marco Denevi.

1 from K-Films Amérique

Havana, from on High (Canada / Venezuela / Spain, 2019)

In his latest film, Montreal documentary filmmaker Pedro Ruiz (Philémon chante Habana, La dérive douce d'un enfant de Petit-Goâve, Animal tropical à Montreal) takes us on an 80-minute journey into unseen recesses of Cuba's capital city. From the press notes: "Nestled above a decaying district of Havana is a secret village, hidden from the clamour of the streets below. These makeshift houses are inhabited by Arturo, Tita, Pedro, Lala, Roberto, José, Reynol, Juan, Alejandro, María and Omar. Like many other residents in Central Havana, they have been forced upwards by the chronic shortage of housing. From their perch atop the city, they bear witness to a society in full historical transformation after more than 60 years of revolutionary government." The DVD from Montreal's K-Film Amérique offers identical versions of the Spanish-language film: one with English subtitles and credits, the other with French. In both, unfortunately, the subtitles can't be removed. No extras on the disc except for trailers of two other fine Quebec movies distributed by K-Films: Étienne Desrosier's 2017 architecture documentary Luc Durand Leaving Delhi and Une femme, ma mère, Claude Demers' new cinematic essay (in black-and-white) about the mother he never knew.