DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD
The Coen brothers’ 2013 hit “Inside Llewyn Davis” gets The Criterion Collection treatment this week and what a splendid release it is. Their film — about a singer barely eking out a living on the peripheries of the flourishing Greenwich Village folk scene of the early sixties — captured the angst and excitement of an era whose protagonists would forever change the world, both culturally and politically. Not so for Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac in his breakout performance) an irascible, rude, and self-defeating folkie whose career is going nowhere. With no place to live, he sleeps on the couches of friends and patrons, making a circular odyssey through an unforgiving wintry New York cityscape that is realized with poignant humor and the occasional surreal touch — including the appearance and disappearance of a cat Davis “babysits.” Davis — no matter how hard he tries — just doesn’t make the right decisions, and he’s left behind as the times pass him by. This director-approved special edition boasts a new 4K digital transfer, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and features new audio commentary with writers Robert Christgau, David Hajdu, and Sean Wilentz. Other extras include “The First Hundred Feet, the Last Hundred Feet,” a new conversation between filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and directors Joel and Ethan Coen about the evolution of their approach, from “Blood Simple” to “Inside Llewyn Davis”; “Inside Inside Llewyn Davis,” a 45-minute 2013 documentary; “Another Place, Another Time” (2014), a 101-minute film documenting an “Inside Llewyn Davis” tribute concert, featuring Joan Baez, Mumford & Sons, Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Jack White, and others; a new piece about Dave Van Ronk (on whom “Inside Llewyn Davis” was roughly modeled) and the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early sixties, featuring music writer and historian Elijah Wald; and “Sunday,” a short 1961 documentary by Dan Drasin about the riots that took place in Washington Square Park after folk musicians were prevented from gathering and playing there. Stupendous.
Due January 25 is a high definition, digitally restored edition of “Kansas City Confidential” (1952), a Film Noir classic from the tail end of the Noir era. An ex-con trying to go straight is framed for a million dollar armored car robbery and must go to Mexico in order to unmask the real culprits. Ex-con Joe Rolfe (John Payne) is on the road to rehabilitation. Framed for a $1 million robbery, he gets off for lack of evidence … but with his face plastered in the headlines and still hurting from a brutal beating in police custody, he’s already lost all that he’s doggedly worked to achieve. Embittered and with steely determination, he sets out to track down the real criminals and render his own justice. Clues trail over the border to a Mexican fishing resort, and straight into the path of an inconvenient beauty (Coleen Gray). The seductress’ ties soon pit Rolfe — who has nothing left to lose — against a crooked ex-cop (Preston S. Foster) and some of the ugliest, most-menacing thugs in the cinematic underworld, portrayed by Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand and Jack Elam (all extremely well known to classic film fans as villains, henchmen, gangsters and tough guys). Director Phil Karlson worked with an array of Hollywood’s biggest talent — including Abbott & Costello, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Elke Sommer and Sharon Tate — and helmed the mega box-office hit “Walking Tall” (1973). But it was his raw, unflinching filmmaking about disagreeable truths — punctuated by exaggerated and shadowy cinematography — that left his most indelible mark. From The Film Detective.