Communication Breakdown

Posted on November 13, 2015
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Award–winning Austrian director Michael Haneke (“The Piano Teacher,” “Cache,” “Funny Games,” “The White Ribbon,” “Amour”) is an enfant terrible who explores social issues, isolation, miscommunication and estrangement in the modern world. “My films are intended as polemical statements against the American ‘barrel down’ cinema and its dis-empowerment of the spectator. They are an appeal for a cinema of insistent questions instead of false (because too quick) answers, for clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, for provocation photo for Code Unknownand dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.” “Code Unknown” (2000) is no exception. The film tells the intersecting tales of a quartet of main characters — actress Anne (Juliette Binoche), Malian music teacher Amadou (Ona Lu Yenke), Romanian immigrant Maria (Luminita Gheorghiu) and farmer’s son Jean (Alexandre Hamidi), who also happens to be the younger brother of Anne’s boyfriend — who meet in the film’s stunning opening sequence, a 10-minute real-time tracking shot that parallels the actors’ action down a boulevard in the St. Germain des Pres district of Paris. The rest of the film is composed of brilliantly shot, single-take, static-camera vignettes concerning the characters and their interactions with others (reminding one of the later works of Luis Bunuel, in particular “The Phantom of Liberty”). The film is a revelatory look at racial inequality and the failure of communication in an increasingly diverse European landscape. In a new, restored 2K digital transfer, approved by director Michael Haneke, on DVD and Blu-ray, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Extras include a new interview with Haneke; an introduction by Haneke from 2001; “Filming Haneke,” a 2000 making-of documentary featuring interviews with Haneke, Binoche, and producer Marin Karmitz, as well as on-set footage of cast and crew; an interview from 2001 in which Haneke discusses the filming of the boulevard sequences; new interview with film scholar Roy Grundmann; trailers; and an essay by critic Nick James. From The Criterion Collection.

Back in the day (1972-1974) I ran a theatre company in West Los Angeles and one summer — when we weren’t mounting any of our own plays — we rented our facility to a theatrical music and comedy troupe of wacky kids calling themselves The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Headed up by Richard Elfman and his younger brother Danny (and inspired by the Le Grand Magic Circus of Paris, of which both Elfmans were members), the group employed big busted women, photo for Forbidden Zone, the Ultimate Edition BLU-RAY DEBUT 20s and 30s cabaret music, fire-eating, insane, off-the-wall comedy skits and dance numbers, a French chanteuse, gorillas, and, of course, the stupendous music of Danny Elfman (playing his own hand-made instruments). It was truly a circus of the mind and I was sad to see them go (the group, sans Richard, evolved into the new wave group Oingo Boingo). Unfortunately, there is very little documentation of the group, but the closest thing to seeing the original Mystic Knights is “Forbidden Zone,” which has just been released in an Ultimate Blu-ray Edition for the first time by MVD Entertainment. The 1980 film, starring Herve Villechaise, Susan Tyrell, Matthew Bright and Marie-Pascale Elfman, was directed by Richard Elfman and featured original music by Danny Elfman. A mysterious door leads to the Sixth Dimension and sexy, beautiful young “Frenchy” slides through cosmic intestines into an insane subterranean world ruled by a horny little king and his jealous queen. Chicken-boy comes to the rescue, only to have his head cut off by the soul-singing Devil himself — played by Danny Elfman. Frog butlers, topless princesses and rioting school kids sing and dance in unforgettable musical numbers by Elfman, Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker. Includes both the original black & white plus the new colorized version. Extras include audio commentary with director Richard Elfman and writer-actor Matthew Bright; “A Look Into Forbidden Zone” featuring an extensive behind the scenes documentary featuring interviews and archive footage, including scenes from Elfman’s lost film “The Hercules Family”; outtakes and deleted scenes; original theatrical trailer; a soundtrack CD and a booklet. It’s also available as a single Blu-ray and a single DVD. Here’s a YouTube compilation of Mystic Knights bits put together by Mystic Knights and Oingo Boingo horn player Sam “Sluggo” Phipps:

Sony has released “Bad Boys I & II: 20th Anniversary Collection,” the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence films about two hip, loose-cannon narcotics detectives prowling the underworld of Miami with action and humor; both are newly remastered in 4K, with “Bad Boys II” making its Blu-ray debut. Extras include commentary by director Michael Bay, “The Boom and the Bang of Bad Boys” featurette, three music videos, original theatrical trailers, deleted scenes, production diaries, a stunts and visual effects featurette, Jay Z “La-la-la” music video, and sequence breakdowns.


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