"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings ... Cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn." - John Muir

11.2018

1 from Twilight Time

Short Night of Glass Dolls (Italy / West Germany / Yugoslavia, 1071)

An American journalist (Jean Sorel) mysteriously collapses and dies in a town square in Prague. But is he really dead? His eyes are wide open but his body is rigid. Perhaps he's just paralyzed? Taken to hospital, the man is examined by doctors, who take his temperature – all normal – and dispatch him anyways to the morgue, where he will be prepared for an autopsy. "I'm alive!" the man silently screams, to deaf ears, "can't you see I'm alive?" The day before, he had been making plans to spirit his girlfriend (Barbara Bach) out of the country. So how did he end up now in cold storage, given up for dead with no hope of escape? Aldo Lado's feature debut is considered one the greats of the Italian giallo genre of horror thrillers. Also known as Malastrana, it was shot in Prague, Ljubijana and Zagreb, with interiors in a studio in Rome, and features fine supporting performances by Mario Adorf, a familiar face from German New Wave cinema, and Ingrid Thulin, one of Ingmar Bergman's regulars. The Blu-ray from Twilight Time comes with a new audio commentary by film historians David Del Valle and Matteo Molinari, as well an optional English dub, optional English subtitles, an English and an Italian trailer, and the choice of listening to Ennio Morricone's score as an isolated audio track. The booklet has liner notes by Julie Kirgo. [Completists, take note: there's an even better Blu-ray on the market. It's by Germany's Camera Obscura and has two audio commentaries, two interviews, two trailers and a gallery of 60 photos. Still want more? You can order the distributor's two-disc set (same Blu-ray, plus a DVD) which adds a 97-minute interview with the director as well as a selection of scenes commented by him, in French. The Camera Obscura discs are code-locked for European players, however, and the optional dub of Glass Dolls is in German, albeit with English subtitles.]

2 from Criterion

The Magnificent Ambersons (U.S., 1942)

 

Some Like It Hot (U.S., 1959)

 

1 from Olive Films

Mr. Capra Goes to War: Frank Capra's WWII Documentaries (U.S., 1942-46)

 

2 from Eureka!

The Last Waltz (U.S., 1978)

 

Hitler's Hollywood (Germany, 2017)

 

10.2018

1 from Criterion

Eight Hours Don't Make a Day (West Germany, 1972)

His artistic output was prodigious (close to 50 films and 25 plays) and his life intense and cut short (at age 37, of a drug overdose), and somewhere in between Rainer Maria Fassbinder managed to write and direct for TV. He did two mini-series for German public television: one came late in his career –  the colossal Berlin Alexanderplatz in 1980 – and the other eight years earlier, called Eight Hours Don"t Make a Day. A kind of Coronation Street for the German masses, shot in 16-millimetre, it ran for only five episodes — eight hours in all, like the title — over the winter of 1972-73. The commission from the progressive broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundrunk (WDR) was for a family-friendly series that would extol working-class values and "occupy" the "bourgeois genre" that is TV situation dramedy. Well, this was the early '70s, so that made sense, but Fassbinder pushed the boundaries thematically, and though the series today appears rather tame compared to his better-known work (no nudity, no violence, no homosexuality), the director wanted to give it a typical (for him) downbeat ending, at which point WDR reined him in: the mini-series, originally projected at eight episodes, was stopped after five. Eight Hours is set in Köln and portrays a fictional extended family, the Epps: matriarch Oma (Luise Ullrich); her toolmaker grandson, Jochen (Gottfried John); Jochen's new girlfriend, Marion (Hanna Schygulla), who works in advertising at a local newspaper; Jochen's sister, Monika, who's married to a brute named Harald (Kurt Raabe); the widower Gregor (Werner Finck), who opens a kindergarten with Oma; the aspiring factory foremen Franz and Ernst (Wolfgang Schenck and Peter Gauhe); and Jochen's friend and Marion's future beau, Rolf (Rudolf Waldemar Brem). Fassbinder was inspired by the melodramas of Hollywood German emigré Douglas Sirk (Magnificent Obession, All That Heaven Allows), but lightens the load with flashes of humour, making Eight Hours digestable for a general, if 'woke', audience. Restored and re-released at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, the mini-series arrives now on home video for the North American market in a two-disc Blu-ray edition (or alternately, a three-disc DVD set) via the New York distributor Criterion. There are two extras: a 2017 reunion documentary, 42 minutes long, featuring interviews with Schygulla and other cast members (but not, unfortunately, Gottfried John, who died of cancer in 2014, age 72), and a new interview with Boston-based film scholar Jane Shattuc (20 mins.). The accompanying pamphlet folds out to a six-page appreciation by Harvard University film scholar Moira Weigel. An additional note: There are two other Blu-rays of Eight Hours on the market, in the U.K. and Germany, both code-locked for Europe and with varying extras and, in the case of the British edition from Arrow Films, a correct running speed of 25 frames per second, versus Criterion's 24.

2 from the U.K.

Daisies (Czechoslovakia, 1966)

In avant-garde filmmaker Věra Chytilová's hallucinatory, kaleidoscopic fable about individual rebellion under Communism, two Czech teenagers, Marie I (Jitka Cerhová) and Marie II (Ivana Karbanová), get into all sorts of silly shenanigans, mostly in search of food. Mixing live action and stills, colour and black-and-white, war footage and surreal effects, the 76-minute film was considered so provocative it was immediately banned; Chytilová would make only one more film, Fruit of Paradise, before the Soviets invaded in 1968 and she and other greats of the Czech New Wave were put out of work. Now in an HD remaster, Daisies comes to all-region Blu-ray courtesy of  British boutique distributor Second Run. Extras include a new audio commentary by 'Daughters of Darkness' podcasters Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger, a previously available commentary by film historians Peter Hames and Daniel Bird, a 2004 Czech documentary on Chytilová by Jasmina Blaževič’ (54 mins.) and a trailer. The illustrated booklet has an essay by Hames. Note that there's another all-region Blu-ray on the market, from German distributor Bildstörung, with somewhat different extras: it has the Hames & Bird commentary plus a half-hour documentary from 2012 on Chytilová and crew (in Czech and English); there's also an audio CD of the soundtrack and a 24-page illustrated booklet in German.

Distant Voices, Still Lives (U.K., 1988)

For his feature debut, divided into two parts, British filmmaker Terence Davies took a searing probe to his troubled family history, cauterizing the wounds of his unhappy childhood on celluloid and thereby entering the annals of British cinema as one of the all-time greats. Distant Voices is a fictionalized account of a violent father (Pete Postlethwaite) and abused but loving mother (Freda Dowie) bringing up their three kids in Liverpool in the 1940s; shot a year later, Still Lives carries their stories forward into the 1950s. Music – jazz, popular song – plays throughout. Now the movie arrives on Blu-ray in two identical 4K editions approved by Davies and released simultaneously in the U.K. (by the British Film Institute) and the U.S. (by Arrow Academy). Each is code-locked to its own region, and each has optional English subtitles. Extras are identical, too: an audio commentary by Davies from 2007; a 2016 video introduction by Observer chief film critic Mark Kermode; a new live Q&A with Davies (32 mins.) and another live interview with him from 2007 (20 mins.); a 2007 interview with the films's art director, Miki van Zwanenberg (7 mins.); just over an hour of archival footage of Liverpool from 1939, 1941 and 1942; an image gallery lasting about six minutes; and two trailers. Both Blu-ray editions have illustrated booklets, but with essays commissioned from different writers.

1 from Olive Films

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (U.S., 1956)

Just in time for Hallowe'en, the best-ever Blu-ray edition of the '50s sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers also comes at a time when America itself seems truly possessed, this time by Trump supporters in red MAGA caps. Kevin McCarthy stars as a California doctor who, with his ex-girlfriend Becky (Dana Wynter) witnesses the quiet invasion of a small town by extraterrestials who substitute themselves for real people. Directed by Don Siegel (The Killers, Dirty Harry) and shot in widescreen black-and-white, the low-budget thriller was an unexpected hit, making its money back six times at the box office. There have been two Blu-ray editions of the film until now, one in Germany and one from Olive Films in the U.S., but neither had any extras. Now Olive has come out with a new BD, part of its Signature series, with extras that are simplyout of this world. There are two audio commentaries (a new one by film historian Richard Harland Smith and an old one by McCarthy and Wynter with filmmaker Joe Dante); a visual essay by Siegel's son, Kristoffer Tabori (12 mins.); five new featurettes (totalling just over an hour) on the making-of the film and its significance in pop culture; an interview with McCarthy from 1985 (7 mins.); a then-and-now locations comparison; a gallery of production material (including the text of an unused opening narration that was to have been read by Orson Welles); a text essay by Canadian film programmer Kier-La Janisse; and a trailer. There are optional English subtitles, in yellow. The digipack comes in a slipcase with an eight-page illustrated leaflet.

09.2018

1 from Criterion

Andrei Rublev (Soviet Union, 1966)

In the hands of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky (Ivan's Childhood, Solaris, Stalker), the story of a 15th-century icon painter is bound to be epic, and Andrei Rublev is certainly that. In the title role, Anatoly Solonitsyn shows why he became Tarkovsky's go-to-actor for his subsequent films: he's simply mesmerizing, giving a performance that is at once methodical and mystical, one of the rare ones to illuminate what it means to be a great artist, to have not only the creative spark to paint well but also the passion to nurture the sacred flame of God-given talent. For the new Blu-ray, Criterion go all-in themselves with a double-disc, slipcovered edition of this cinema classic that features two versions of the widescreen black-and-white film: the long, original one (205 minutes, with non-removable English subtitles) and the shorter, final one (183 mins., with optional subtitles) that Tarkovsky said he preferred. On the latter, Criterion provide a selected-scene commentary from 1998 by Bosnian film scholar Vlada Petrić; The Steamroller and the ViolinTarkovsky’s 1961 student thesis film (45 mins.); two behind-the-scenes featurettes from 1966 (totalling 24 mins.) showing Tarkovsky at work; a new half-hour documentary on Andrei Rublev by Scottish filmmakers Louise Milne and Sean Martin; a new interview with Chicago film scholar Robert Bird (37 mins.); a new video essay on the movie by Los Angeles documentary filmmaker Daniel Raim (13 mins); and a U.S. re-release trailer. The foldout leaflet has a poster on one side and, on the other, a new essay by New York film critic J. Hoberman and a 1962 essay from the Soviet Screen journal in which Tarkovsky set out what he hoped to achieve with Andrei Rublev: to make "neither a biographical nor a historical film" but instead to explore "the theme of the artist's personality in relationship to his time."

2 from 101 Films

The Grifters (U.S./Canada, 1990)

Jim Thompson's gritty '60s novel about small-time fraudsters gets a disturbing reboot for the start of the '90s under the direction of Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liasons). Angelica Huston and Annette Benning got Oscar nods for their work, as did Frears, but co-star John Cusack was undeservedly passed over. The new Blu-ray, inaugurating British indie distributor 101 Films' Black Label imprint, looks similar but in terms of up-to-date extras bests the BDs released by Optimum, Miramax and Lionsgate between 2009 and 2015. There's a new, feature-length documentary on the film (72 mins.), an illustrated booklet of new essays, and a slipcase. Be warned, however: the disc is locked to region B (U.K. and Europe).

Black Book (Netherlands/Germany, 2006)

Sex is text and subtext of this overlong (146 mins.) big-budget wartime drama set in Nazi-occupied Holland and directed by Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Basic Instinct). Carice van Houten stars as a singer and Jewish resistance operative who becomes mistress to a German general (Sebastian Koch). The new Blu-ray from 101 Films has new interviews with Verhoeven (28 mins.)  and cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub (20 mins.), and two more from 2006 with van Houten (23 mins.) and the director (13 mins.). There's also a trailer, an accompanying DVD and an illustrated booklet of essays. Unlike previous BD editions from Sony and Tartan, the discs are code-locked to play on British and European players only.

3 from the British Film Institute

Paris nous appartient (France, 1961)

Being a student in Paris in the late 1950s meant worrying about the Bomb, dodging Red-baiters, welcoming American dissidents, dating your fellow bohemians, maybe putting on a play and, in the case of Anne Goupil (Betty Schneider), heroine of writer-director Jacques Rivette's debut feature, delving into the mysterious death of a Spanish anti-fascist. An early opus of the French New Wave, Paris nous appartient (Paris Belongs to Us) was cobbled together with almost no budget, took several years to release, and passed under the mainstream critics' radar before finally getting its due. At 141 minutes long and in black-and-white, it's easy to see why contemporary audiences might have not known what to make of it, but today the film seems like a revelation. North American viewers already have access to it on Blu-ray; Criterion released a region-A edition in the U.S. in 2016. The new BFI disc, code-locked to the U.K. and Europe, sports the same imperfect 2K restoration by French distributor MK2 but has somewhat different extras that might be worth a double dip for fans. There's a commentary track, for instance, by film scholar Adrian Martin, unlike the Criterion, which had none. There's also an 18-minute interview with critic Jonathan Romney from 2006 (Criterion interviewed U.S. French-film scholar Richard Neupert). There's also a 32-page, illustrated booklet with a new essay by So Meyer, two vintage reviews and two vintage articles. Just like on the Criterion, there's also Le coup du berger (29 mins.), an amusing little comedy about adultery that Rivette made in 1956 and which features cameos by Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Demy and Rivette himself.

Eye of the Needle (U.K., 1981)

Two Canadian greats – Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan – star as fatally mismatched lovers in this WWII spy thriller set in England in the early 1940s, adapted from the Ken Follett novel. The new BFI Blu-ray (code-locked to Europe) includes the same audio commentary as the (region-free) disc released two years ago by Twilight Time; it, too, features the U.S. distributor's Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman with music historian John Burlingame. BFI add an alternate ending (4 mins.), audio of long interview Sutherland gave in 1987 that can be played over the film (73 mins.), three 12-minute wartime propaganda shorts, and a trailer. There's also a 10-page booklet and a DVD (also code-locked to Europe).

The Comfort of Strangers (Italy/U.K., 1990)

For this psychological thriller directed by Paul Schrader (Cat People, Affliction), Harold Pinter adapted Ian McEwan's novella about a young British couple (played here by Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett) who fall into the clutches of an evil-minded husband and wife (Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren) while on a romantic holiday in Venice. It'll give you the creeps. The BFI Blu-ray has a new audio commentary by Schrader, two lengthy audio interviews with the director from 1982 and 1993 to play over the film, and three vintage shorts about Venice from 1918, 1928 and 1964. There's also a trailer, a DVD of the film and with allextras, and a 32-page illustrated booklet. The discs are Region B / Region 2.

4 more from the U.K.

The Collector (U.K./U.S., 1965)

Late in his career, director William Wyler (Wuthering Heights, Mrs. Miniver, Roman Holiday, Ben-Hur) got an Oscar nomination (his last) for adapting John Fowles' debut novel The Collector, with Terence Stamp in the lead role as Frederick Clegg, kidnapper of lovely art student Miranda Grey (Samantha Eggar). Restored in 2K, the new Indicator Blu-ray bests the barebones Blu-ray that Image released in the U.S. in 2011 – and it's region-free. Extras are plentiful, starting with two vintage audio interviews with Wyler (83 mins.) and Stamp (92 mins.) recorded at the London Film Theatre in the 1980s; they can be played as alternate audio tracks, as can a separate commentary by critic Neil Sinyard (73 mins.). Next up are new video interviews with Stamp (13 mins.), Eggar (15 mins.) and critic Richard Combs (9 mins.); a vintage promotional quickie on Eggar (2 mins.); and a locations comparison (8 mins.). Lastly, there are trailers, an image gallery and a 40-page illustrated booklet. 

Absolution (U.K., 1978)

Buoyed by his Oscar nod for Sidney Lumet's Equus in 1977, Richard Burton followed up with three films in 1978: a supernatural thriller called The Medusa Touch, an African war movie titled The Wild Geese, and Absolution, a whodunnit murder flick set at a Catholic boys' school (Burton plays an unpopular priest who gets his comeuppance). Besides offering two versions of the film (the original theatrical one and a new director's cut, which is 10 minutes shorter), the new Blu-ray from Indicator has an audio commentary by British Film Institute editor Kevin Lyons, three new interviews (with director Anthony Page, actor Dominic Guard and costume designer Anne Gainsford, a trailer, two stills galleries (101 images in all), and a 40-page booklet. The disc is region-free.

Juliet of the Spirits (Italy/France, 1966)

For his first colour feature, lensed by cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo, Federico Fellini cast  his wife and muse Giulietta Masina as a wronged woman going through a sexual awakening. New to Blu-ray from British indie distributor Cult Films, this edition is unfortunately as lacklustre as their BD release last month of Fellini's I Vitelloni. Again, this is not a progressive transfer (1080i, not 1080p), so the high-definition comes off as half-hearted; the visuals are also much lighter and horizontally stretched compared to previous DVD editions (Criterion did the last good one, back in 2010 in the U.S.). On the plus side, the English subtitles are optional, the disc is region-free and the two extras provide context and greater understanding of the film: there's an audio commentary by British writer Kat Ellinger and a 15-minute video essay by University of Oxford scholar Guido Bonsaver. There's also a DVD with the same film and extras as on the Blu-ray. 

D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (U.S., 1980)

Lech Kowalski's debut rockumentary chronicles the implosion of the notorious Sex Pistols on their one-and-only trip to the U.S., in 1978. The British punk band's much-hyped and ultimately aborted tour of the Southern states culminated in their break-up in San Francisco, and Kowalski caught it all on his 16-mm camera. The film also captures live performances of other punk pioneers of the time: Generation X (featuring Billy Idol), Dead Boys, Sham 69, X-Ray Spex and the unlamented Terry & The Idiots, with additional music and appearances by The Clash and Iggy Pop. The Blu-ray (and accompanying DVD) by Second Sight has a two-hour making-of and a new interview with co-director and music journalist Chris Salewicz, plus a booklet. The discs are code-locked for Europe.