DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
Highlight of the week is the impressive five-disc set, “Chantal Akerman: Four Films.”
Among the many films that Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman (1955–2015, best known for her 1975 masterpiece “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels”) made over 40 years, four documentaries stand out. Beginning with “From the East,” filmed across Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, through “South” and “From the Other Side,” two films in the United States as relevant today as when first released, to her epistolary “Down There” from Tel Aviv (released for the first time in North America), Akerman’s documentaries combine her formal discipline with engagement and empathy. Disc 1: “From The East” (1993): A journey from the end of summer to deepest winter, from East Germany across Poland and the Baltics, to Moscow. Disc 2: “South” (1999)” The heart of this journey is the brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas. But this is not an anatomy of his murder; rather, it is an evocation of how this event fits into a landscape and climate as mental as it is physical. Disc 3: “From The Other Side” (2002): With technology developed for the military, the INS has stemmed the flow of illegal immigration in San Diego. But for the desperate, there are still the dangerous deserts of Arizona. Disc 4: “Down There” (2006): Akerman spends a brief period on her own in an apartment by the sea in Tel Aviv, contemplating her family, her Jewish identity and her childhood. Disc 5: “Chantal Akerman, From Here” (62 minutes, 2010): An hour-long, single-shot conversation with Akerman about her films and her directorial philosophy. In English, French, and Spanish with English subtitles. From Icarus Films … Les Blank (“Burden of Dreams”) considered his free-form feature documentary about beloved singer-songwriter Leon Russell, “A Poem Is a Naked Person” (1974), filmed between 1972 and 1974, to be one of his greatest accomplishments. Yet it has not been released until now. Hired by Russell to film him at his recording studio in northeast Oklahoma, Blank ended up constructing a unique, intimate portrait of a musician and his environment. Made up of mesmerizing scenes of Russell and his band performing, both in concert and in the studio, as well as off-the-cuff moments behind the scenes, this singular film — which also features performances by Willie Nelson and George Jones — has attained legendary status over the years. It’s a work of rough beauty that serves as testament to Blank’s cinematic daring and Russell’s immense musical talents. From The Criterion Collection … In director Delmer Daves’ psychological thriller “The Red House” (1947), Edward G. Robinson plays an aging farmer with a dark secret he’s trying to keep hidden. He and sister Ellen (Judith Anderson) have raised Meg (Allene Roberts) since she was a little girl, after her parents mysteriously disappeared. But now Meg is coming of age, and bringing a male friend from high school around to help with chores on the farm. The teens are warned against wandering into the nearby woods, where terrifying screams have been heard in the night emanating from an abandoned red house. But curiosity threatens to get the better of them … Features an original, eerie score by Oscar-winning composer Miklos Rozsa. Transferred from 35mm archival film elements. On Blu-ray Disc from The Film Detective.