Varda, Rivette Belong to Us

Posted on March 8, 2016
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DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

“Jane B. Par Agnes V. and Kung-Fu Master!”: Agnes Varda is the unsung heroine of cinema, a masterful auteur and feminist director who shook up the world of cinema with her “Cleo From 5 to 7” in 1962 and has continued to shake the branches of filmdom with documentaries, fictions, biodramas and autobiographies that focus on women’s issues, social criticism, and the art of filmmaking itself. Cinelicious Pics has brought out today two underseen works by Varda, paired in a two-disc Blu-ray set that counterpoint each other: photo for Jane B. Par Agnes V. and Kung-Fu Master! “Jane B. Par Agnes V,” a phantasmagorical bio-pic of Jane Birkin, actress (“Blow Up”), fashion icon (the Hermes Birkin bag), longtime muse to Serge Gainsbourg, and singer (“Je t’aime … Moi non plus,” with Gainsbourg); and “Kung-Fu Master!”, a seemingly straight-ahead drama also starring Birkin; both were released in 1988. In “Jane B. Par Agnes V,” Vardas uses her camera to paint a portrait of the actress — but not in a traditional way — “It’s like an imaginary bio-pic,” Varda says. Tapping her training as a photographer, Vardas gives us still “photos” that come alive with Bunuelian sequences of expressionistic action, juxtaposing reality with fantasy all while celebrating Birkin’s life as well as the life of films, filmmaking, acting, art, love and sex. Newly-restored from the original 35mm camera negative overseen by Varda, “Jane B. Par Agnes V” is dripping in gorgeous big screen color. “Kung-Fu Master!” is a gentle, bittersweet companion piece to “Jane B. Par Agnes V” that explores the world of a lonely woman facing middle age who may or may not be falling in love with a 14-year old boy (played by Varda’s real-life son with husband Jaques Demy, Mathieu Demy); the film’s title comes from the fact that the boy is a champion arcade video game player. Birkin’s daughters, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon (her child with well-known filmmaker Jacques Doillon) also appear in the film. Long unavailable in the U.S., the film has been newly-restored from the original 35mm camera negative. Extras include an interview with Varda by Miranda July and an essay by Sandy Fitterman-Lewis.

“Paris Belongs to Us” (1961): If critic-turned-filmmaker Jacques Rivette had buttoned-down post-production financing and distribution, his 1957 debut would have been the flagship kickoff to the French New Wave, well before “The 400 Blows” and “Breathless” took the world by storm. Ultimately released in 1961, the diabolically simple film — rich in subtext and the concerns that would steer Rivette’s 50 years of filmmaking (happenstance, the use of theatre pieces and theatrical motifs, conspiracy) — was not as widely hailed as those by photo for Paris Belongs to Us Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut; still it’s a swirling maelstrom of a film that follows a young literature student (Betty Schneider) who gets involved with a mixed bag of Parisian twentysomethings — radicals, intellectuals, artists — all united by the apparent suicide of an acquaintance and the possibility of an unknown conspiracy lurking behind things. Rivette would later hone his ideas of serendipity, conspiracy and theatricality in such masterpieces as “L’amour fou” (1969), “Out 1” (1972) and one of the greatest films of modern times, “Celine and Julie Go Boating” (1974). Rivette died January 29 of this year at age 87. “Paris Belongs to Us” has been released by The Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with Richard Neupert, author of “A History of the French New Wave Cinema”; Rivette’s 1956 short film “Le coup du berger,” featuring cameos by fellow French New Wave directors Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and Francois Truffaut; and an essay by critic Luc Sante.

We Knew Them Well

Posted on February 23, 2016
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Two films critical of the 1960s status quo — one an undiscovered gem, the other a verified classic — get the Criterion Collection treatment this week. First up is “I Knew Her Well” (1965), a disarmingly delightful portrait of the days and nights of a party girl in sixties Rome. On the surface, “I Knew Her Well,” directed by Antonio Pietrangeli, plays like an inversion of “La dolce vita” with a woman at its center, following the gorgeous, seemingly liberated Adriana (Stefania Sandrelli) as she dallies with a wide variety of men, attends parties, goes to modeling gigs, and circulates among the rich and famous. Despite its often photo for I Knew Her Welllight tone, though, the film is a stealth portrait of a suffocating culture that regularly dehumanizes people, especially women. In a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. One of the most beloved American films of all time, “The Graduate” (1967) earned Mike Nichols a best director Oscar, brought the music of Simon & Garfunkel to a wider audience, and introduced the world to Dustin Hoffman. Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) has just finished college and is already lost in a sea of confusion and barely contained angst when he becomes sexually involved with the middle-aged mother (Anne Bancroft) of the young woman he’s dating (Katharine Ross). Visually imaginative and impeccably acted, with a clever, endlessly quotable script by Buck Henry (based on the novel by Charles Webb), “The Graduate” had the kind of cultural impact that comes along only once in a generation. In a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include commentary from 2007 featuring Nichols in conversation with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh; audio commentary from 1987 featuring film scholar Howard Suber; a new interview with actor Dustin Hoffman; new conversation between producer Lawrence Turman and actor-screenwriter Buck Henry; “The Graduate at 25,” a 1992 featurette on the making of the film; interview with Nichols by Barbara Walters, from a 1966 episode of NBC’s “Today” show: excerpt from a 1970 appearance by singer-songwriter Paul Simon on “The Dick Cavett Show”; screen tests; trailer; booklet with an essay by journalist and critic Frank Rich, more.

‘Diamonds’ Are Forever

Posted on January 26, 2016
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Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, inaugurated a star system in the late 1950s, finding talent and contracting to their Diamond Line for a series of wild genre pictures. “Nikkatsu Diamond Guys – Vol 1” (1958/59) celebrates these “Diamond Guys” with three classic films from directors Seijun Suzuki (“Branded to Kill”), Toshio Masuda (“Rusty Knife”) and Buichi Saito photo for Nikkatsu Diamond Guys - Vol 1 “(Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril”). An old hand at tough guy action roles, Hideaki Nitani (“Tokyo Drifter,” “Massacre Gun”) stars in “Suzuki’s Voice Without a Shadow.” Asako, a former telephone operator, once heard the voice of a murder suspect that has continued to haunt her. Years later her husband invites his boss, Hamazaki, over for dinner and she realizes his voice is suspiciously like that of the killer. Before she can investigate further, Hamazaki is found dead and her husband becomes the prime suspect. Next, 50s subculture icon Yujiro Ishihara (“Crazed Fruit”) stars in Masuda’s “Red Pier” as “Jiro the Lefty”, a killer with a natural talent. Shortly after arriving in Kobe, he witnesses a man die in a crane accident, which turns out to be a cover-up for a murder. Jiro soon finds himself on the run, tailed by a determined cop. Finally, in Saito’s” The Rambling Guitarist,” mega star Akira Koabyashi (“Battles Without Honour and Humanity”) stars as wandering street musician Shinji, who falls in with mob boss Akitsu after saving one of his henchmen in a bar fight. Tasked by Akitsu with evicting an offshore fishery, Shinji finds himself in the middle of a very unusual domestic dispute. High Definition digital transfers of all three films from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation, with original uncompressed mono audio and newly translated English subtitles. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group.

“Comin’ at Ya!” (1981 – Italy) is a fan-favorite spaghetti western, here in a 35th Anniversary re-release that includes its debut on Blu-ray 3D. Directed by Ferdinando Baldi (“Django”) and written, produced and starring spaghetti western legend Tony Anthony. Independently produced, “Comin’ at Ya!” was originally released theatrically in 1981 by Filmways Pictures and went on to gross over $12 million domestically in only 200 theaters in North America (over $30 million in 2016 dollars photo for Comin' at Ya! when adjusted for inflation), long before independent films were a regular staple in multiplexes. “Comin’ at Ya!” happily embraced the 3-D technology of its time, not only taking advantage of the depth that the technology provided, but also taking every opportunity possible to throw, shoot and point things at the viewer at every possible turn and created a cult classic movie as a result. The new home video version was supervised and produced by Tony Anthony himself and Tom Stern (“In God’s Hands”), through his company Sternco 3D. Sourced from a new 4K master, the film boasts a frame by frame digital conversion of the polarized over-and-under format of the original print, sourced from a brand new internegative into the MVC 3D format and new 5.1 surround sound. The story line: Tragedy strikes as two ruthless brothers burst into a chapel and kidnap a bride during her wedding, shooting the groom (Anthony) and leaving him for dead. Hurt and angry, he begins his quest to find his love, and take vengeance upon the wicked. Sound familiar, Mr. Tarantino? On Blu-ray 3D/2D and 2D DVD from MVD Entertainment.

 

‘Llewyn Davis,’ ’60s Folkies Play for Criterion

Posted on January 19, 2016
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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 photo for Inside Llewyn Davis 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 photo for Kansas City Confidential BLU-RAY DEBUT 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.

 

‘American Friend’ Gets Criterion Treatment Jan. 12

Posted on January 12, 2016
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There’s two knock-out releases from The Criterion Collection, headed up by one of the greatest films of the modern cinema: “The American Friend” (1977). Wim Wenders pays loving homage to rough-and-tumble Hollywood film noir with “The American Friend,” a loose adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel “Ripley’s Game.” Dennis Hopper oozes quirky menace as an amoral photo for The American Friend American art dealer who entangles a terminally ill German everyman, played by Bruno Ganz, in a seedy criminal underworld as revenge for a personal slight — but when the two become embroiled in an ever-deepening murder plot, they form an unlikely bond. Filmed on location in Hamburg and Paris, with some scenes shot in grimy, late-seventies New York City, Wenders’s international breakout is a stripped-down crime story that mixes West German and American film flavors, and it features cameos by filmmakers Jean Eustache, Samuel Fuller and Nicholas Ray. New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Wim Wenders, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an photo for Bitter Rice audio commentary from 2002 featuring Wenders and actor Dennis Hopper; a new interview with Wenders; a new interview with actor Bruno Ganz; deleted scenes with audio commentary by Wenders; a trailer; and an essay by author Francine Prose … “Bitter Rice” (1949): During planting season in Northern Italy’s Po Valley, an earthy rice-field worker (Silvana Mangano) falls in with a small-time criminal (Vittorio Gassman) who is planning a daring heist of the crop, as well as his femme-fatale-ish girlfriend, played by the Hollywood star Doris Dowling. Both a socially conscious look at the hardships endured by underpaid field workers and a melodrama tinged with sex and violence, this early smash for producer extraordinaire Dino De Laurentiis and director Giuseppe De Santis is neorealism with a heaping dose of pulp. New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

‘Blood Rage,’ ‘Burroughs’ Shake Things Up Dec. 15

Posted on December 15, 2015
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What do you get if you combine Thanksgiving, American TV star Louise Lasser (“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”), killer 80s synths and some of the most gruesome special effects in all of slasher history courtesy of Ed French. Why, it’s “Blood Rage” (1983) of course! Todd and Terry seem like sweet kids — that is, until one of them takes an axe to face of a fellow patron at the local drive-in. Todd is blamed for the bloody crime and institutionalized, whilst twin brother Terry goes free. Ten years later, as the family gather around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, the news comes in that Todd has escaped — and he’s heading their way. But has the killer twin in fact been in their midst all along? One thing’s for sure, photo for Blood Rage there WILL be blood … Filmed in 1983 at the tail-end of the slasher golden era but not released until 1987, “Blood Rage” (also re-cut and released to theatres as “Nightmare at Shadow Woods”) has been lovingly restored from the original vault materials for its first ever appearance on Blu-ray and DVD. New 2K restoration from original vault materials of three versions of the film: “Blood Rage,” the original “hard” version, completely uncut and uncensored in a Blu-ray/DVD world premiere; the R-rated “Nightmare at Shadow Woods” 1987 re-cut, and a third “composite” cut combining all the footage from both “Blood Rage” and “Nightmare at Shadow Woods.” From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group … at the other ends of the cinematic spectrum — but no less freaky — is “Burroughs: The Movie” (1983). Made up of intimate, revelatory footage of the singular author and poet filmed over the course of five years, Howard Brookner’s 1983 documentary about William S. Burroughs was for decades mainly the stuff of legend; that changed when Aaron Brookner, the late director’s nephew, discovered a print of it in 2011 and spearheaded a restoration. Now viewers can enjoy the invigorating candidness of “Burroughs: The Movie,” a one-of-a-kind nonfiction portrait that was brought to life with the help of a remarkable crew of friends, including Jim Jarmusch and Tom DiCillo, and that features on-screen appearances by fellow artists of Burroughs’s including Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Patti Smith and Terry Southern. New, high-definition digital restoration, on DVD, Blu-ray Disc from The Criterion Collection.

Stephen King surely must have watched “The Car” (1977) before writing (and directing) “Maximum Overdrive” and then “Christine.” In the film, starring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Elizabeth Thompson, Ronny Cox and R.G. Armstrong, the peaceful tranquility of a small Western town is disturbed when a murderous car wreaks havoc by viciously mowing down innocent victims. The new sheriff, Wade Parent (Brolin), may be the only one who can stop this menace in its tracks. But what Wade Parent doesn’t realize is that the driver of this indestructible vehicle is far more dangerous than any man … because it is driven by pure evil. “The Car” makes its Blu-ray debut this week from Scream Factory … In the mid-1970s, writer-producer-director-actor Frederick R. Friedel went to North Carolina to film a pair of enigmatic yet startling low-budget thrillers — “Axe” and “Kidnapped Coed” — only to see them both presumed lost to shady dealings, sudden tragedies, photo for Axe/Kidnapped Coed moral outrage and drive-in oblivion. In “Axe,” depraved killers on the run hold a young woman and her invalid grandfather hostage in an isolated farmhouse. In “Kidnapped Coed,” the teenage daughter of a wealthy family forms a perverse relationship with her abductor. Once thought doomed to drive-in obscurity, fans and grindhouse historians have begun to compare Freidel’s films to those of David Lynch and Terrence Malick, and now the complete story behind this strange journey can finally be told. Severin Films is presenting both features restored from their original negatives, plus “Bloody Brothers,” Friedel’s recut of the two features as one twisted crime epic, loaded with bonus features that reveal the startling saga behind the casts, crews, disastrous fate and surprising rediscovery of these nearly forgotten grindhouse/arthouse classics — the ultimate look at one of the most fascinating sagas in indie exploitation history. “Axe/Kidnapped Coed” arrives on DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Severin Films/CAV Distributing) … From director photo for What Have You Done to Solange? Massimo Dallamano, cinematographer on both “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More,” comes “What Have You Done to Solange?” (1975), a giallo classic and the debut feature of actress Camille Keaton (“I Spit on Your Grave”). A sexually sadistic killer is preying on the girls of St. Mary’s school. Student Elizabeth witnessed one of the murders, but her hazy recollections of a knife-wielding figure in black do nothing to further the police’s investigations. Why is the killer choosing these young women? And what does it have to do with a girl named Solange? The film features all the hallmarks of classic gialli — the amateur detective, the black-gloved killer — as well as a lush score from Ennio Morricone. New 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.

There’s two important documentaries coming to Blu-ray this week, both from Synapse Films/CAV Distributing: “Triumph of the Will (2015 Remaster)” (1935). Leni Riefenstahl’s classic piece of historical filmmaking, filmed during the 1934 Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg, Germany, is considered by many to be one of the most important films ever made. Realized by Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, this film was created to influence all of Germany to support the power of the Nazi Party. Historically photo for Triumph of the Will (2015 Remaster) BLU-RAY DEBUT significant and, at times, a horrifyingly manipulative exercise in propaganda for the Nazi regime, “Triumph of the Will” continues to be controversial 80 years after its original release and has been banned in Germany for many decades. Until her death in 2003, Riefenstahl was under fire for her personal relationship with Adolph Hitler, spending her life haunted by the shadow of the Nazi Party. This all-new remastered version is derived from a new 2K scan, digitally corrected and restored under the supervision of film historian and preservationist Robert A. Harris … “Stalingrad” (2003), a high-definition presentation of the original three-part 2003 mini-series. The Eastern Front experienced the viciousness of World War II on a scale of unimaginable horror and brutality. The bloodiest and most savage fighting took place in Stalingrad between August 1942 and February 1943. Stalin’s city on the Volga had military significance for Hitler, as it carried the name of his enemy and therefore had to be destroyed. The ensuing battle sealed the fates of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians, marked the turning point of World War II, and was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. This three-part documentary by award-winning documentary filmmakers Sebastian Dehnhardt, Christian Deick and Jorg Mullner presents both the German and Russian perspective, contains rare footage shot by soldiers during the siege, and reveals new historical facts with moving eyewitness accounts and confessions from some of Stalingrad’s last survivors. The Russian archives opened their doors to the filmmakers, granting exclusive access to a wealth of previously unreleased material. Originally broadcast in both Germany and Russia in slightly truncated editions, this Blu-ray contains all three “Stalingrad” documentaries including “The Attack” (54 min.), “The Kessel” (56 min.) and “The Doom” (55 min.) in their original uncut, English dubbed versions.

Yakuza ‘Battles’ Begin Dec. 8

Posted on December 8, 2015
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“Battles Without Honor and Humanity” (1973), a violent yakuza saga that has influenced filmmakers from Quentin Tarantino to Takashi Miike. Made within just two years, the five-film series brought a new kind of realism and ferocity to the crime genre in Japan, revitalizing the industry and leading to unprecedented commercial and critical success. Fukasaku and his team broke with the longstanding studio tradition of photo for Battles Without Honor And Humanity BLU-RAY DEBUT casting marquee idols as honorable, kimono-clad heroes, defending their gang bosses against unscrupulous villains, and instead adapted true accounts torn from the headlines, shot in a documentary-like style, and with few clear-cut heroes or villains. The vibrancy and dynamism of the filmmaking, plus its shocking violence, Shakespearean plotlines, and wide tapestry of characters, launched a revolutionary new genre, establishing the series as one of the great masterpieces of world crime cinema. Thirteen Blu-ray disc limited edition box set, $149.95 from Arrow Video/MVD.

The Times They Were A-Changin’

Posted on November 24, 2015
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This week’s highlight is The Criterion Collection’s release of D. A. Pennebaker’s seminal “Don’t Look Back” (1967), which captured Bob Dylan on-screen as he never would be again. The legendary documentarian finds Dylan in London during his 1965 tour, which would be his last as an acoustic artist and marked a turning point in his career. The director is given unprecedented access to Dylan’s life here, something that the musician would allow again for almost another four decades. Like an unscripted version of “A Hard Day’s Night,” the film, prodded along by Pennebaker’s camera, pries into Dylan’s life backstage and on-stage, in cabs, lobbies and hotel rooms, surrounded by teen fans, in a heated philosophical argument with a journalists, kicking back with Joan Baez, Donovan and Alan Price — and shows you a man whose star has risen high above the world of folk (and soon, rock) music … and a man who is full of contradictions — petulant, argumentative, bashful, sympathetic, nasty. From the opening cue card credits set to “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” through performances of Dylan’s most famous songs, including “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “Don’t Look Back” set the standard for almost every cinema verite rock and roll documentary since. A must study of the man and the photo for Don't Look Back zeitgeist. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new, restored 4K digital transfer, approved by Pennebaker, with newly restored monaural sound from the original quarter-inch magnetic masters, presented uncompressed on the Blu-ray. Some of the extras have been ported over from the 2007 Docurama edition of “Don’t Look Back (1965 Tour Deluxe Edition),” which also included a 168-page companion book with a complete transcription of the film, over 200 photos, and a new forward by D.A. Pennebaker, as well as a collectible “Subterranean Homesick Blues” flipbook” but which, alas, is out of print and commanding premium prices online: Audio commentary from 1999 featuring Pennebaker and tour manager Bob Neuwirth; “65 Revisited,” a 2006 documentary directed by Pennebaker and edited by Walker Lamond; alternate version of the film’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” cue card sequence; five uncut audio tracks of Dylan songs from the film. New here is an audio excerpt from an interview with Bob Dylan in the 2005 documentary “No Direction Home,” cut to previously unseen outtakes from “Dont Look Back”; a new documentary about the evolution of Pennebaker’s filming style, from his 1950s avant-garde work to his 60s musical documentaries, including an excerpt from the filmmaker’s footage of Dylan performing “Ballad of a Thin Man” during his 1966 electric tour; “Daybreak Express” (1953), “Baby” (1954), and “Lambert & Co.” (1964), three short films by Pennebaker; a new conversation between Pennebaker and Neuwirth about their work together, from “Dont Look Back” through “Monterey Pop” (1967) and beyond; “Snapshots From the Tour,” a new piece featuring outtakes from “Dont Look Back”; a new interview with musician Patti Smith about Dylan and the influence of “Dont Look Back” in her life; a conversation between music critic Greil Marcus and Pennebaker from 2010; and an essay by critic and poet Robert Polito.

Rest in Peace

Posted on November 18, 2015
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“In Cold Blood,” Truman Capote’s best seller, a breakthrough narrative account of real-life crime and punishment, became an equally chilling film in the hands of writer-director photo for In Cold Blood Richard Brooks in 1967. Cast for their unsettling resemblances to the killers they played, Robert Blake and Scott Wilson gave authentic, unshowy performances as Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who in 1959 murdered a family of four in Kansas during a botched robbery. Brooks brought a detached, documentary-like starkness to this uncompromising view of an American tragedy and its aftermath; at the same time, stylistically “In Cold Blood” is a filmmaking master class, with clinically precise editing, chiaroscuro black-and-white cinematography by the great Conrad L. Hall and a menacing jazz score by Quincy Jones. The disturbing and harrowing film — which still haunts my memory these many decades since I first saw it on the big screen — arrives in new DVD and Blu-ray editions with a new 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.

“Requiescant” (1967), directed by Carlo Lizzani (“Wake Up and Kill,” “The Hills Run Red”), is one of finest Spaghetti Westerns from the Golden Age of post-Neo-realism Italian photo for Requiescant cinema. As with most of its ilk, “Requiescant” — Latin for “Rest in Peace” — is a revenge melodrama, but Lizzani throws in for good measure a soupcon of politics, ethics, religion, misogyny, and battles for freedom and justice. Lou Castel plays a young man who was raised to be a pacifist by a travelling preacher after his family was massacred by a group of Confederate misfits bent on enslaving Texas’ Mexican population. When his step-sister runs away, he follows her to the heart of evil in San Antonio, where he discovers that he has a natural talent for gunfighting, which in turn leads him to a bloody and unexpected confrontation with his past. While Castel is naif-killer, Mark Damon is terrific as a suave, sadistic and psychopathic aristocratic villain, Franco Citti is truly nasty as his henchman, and the great Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini males a rare acting turn as a stoic revolutionary priest. In a new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, with optional English and Italian soundtracks in uncompressed PCM mono audio. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.

Communication Breakdown

Posted on November 13, 2015
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DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

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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