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Dawson City: Frozen Time (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Well-researched, well-presented, “Dawson City: Frozen Time” is a fantastic documentary from Bill Morrison and a true masterpiece!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Hypnotic Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dawson City: Frozen Time

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 Surround, B&W and Color

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Bill Morrison

Written by Bill Morrison

Cinematography by Raoul Cotard

Produced by Madeleine Molyneaux, Bill Morrison 

Assistant Producer: Paul Gordon

Music by Alex Somers

Edited by Bill Morrison


Starring:

Bill Morrison

Kathy Jones-Gates

Michael Gates

Sam Kula

Bill O’Farrell

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo


A thrilling adventure through American history, Dawson City: Frozen Time pieces together the bizarre true story of a collection of some 500 silent films. Dating from the 1910s and 20s, they were lost for over 50 years until being discovered buried in a subarctic swimming pool deep in the Yukon Territory in 1978.
Director Bill Morrison (Decasia) uses this extraordinary footage as a conduit to explore the complicated past of Dawson City, a Canadian gold rush town and First Nation hunting camp that was transformed and displaced. Dawson City: Frozen Time is a triumphant work of art that chronicles the life cycle of a singular film collection through its exile, burial, rediscovery, and salvation, discovering another world in the process.


For many silent film fans, before Hollywood, it was known that Fort Lee, New Jersey was once the motion picture capital during the early 1900’s and it is known that 75% of all silent films were destroyed unfortunately by improper storage and the combustible nitrate film.

But how is it that 533 silent film reels were discovered in Dawson City, a town in northern Yukon (Canada) by a construction worker in 1978.

This would be the basis of “Dawson City: Frozen Time” directed by Bill Morrison, who would construct a timeline of Dawson and show its history through photos and also show a timeline of what was going on in America/Canada through various scenes of footage that are from the 533 silent film reels that were discovered.

But also to show how Dawson City brought many people for gold, many people who worked in Dawson and would become tycoons in America. But we see the transformation of Dawson, which was once an entertainment hub to have a population of tends of thousand to technology eventually lessening the role of miners and decreasing the population to a few thousand.

We see the years progress, we see through this footage of the various films that were lost, or films and news reels that only have so much surviving footage due to degradation, film warp/damage due to time and also being thrown in soil for many years and being strewn around.

And through this footage, we see history play out and “Dawson City: Frozen Time” eventually becoming a tale about the American 20th century.  From thousands of people moving to areas where there was gold, these areas becoming business and entertainment hubs, from how people in Dawson received entertainment showing what was going on in America, from the World Series, strikes, celebrity scandals and more.


VIDEO:

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio).  This is a film that showcases American history through photography and videos.  For the most part, picture quality is good but depending on the surviving film footage that was found in Dawson, some reels are in good shape, others not so good.  Some footage may show excessive degradation to film damage, while others may look very good with minimal scratches.  But these scenes are short, if anything, scenes to indicate a point or reference.  As I always mention in silent films and when it comes to picture quality, considering nearly 75% of films are lost, the fact that we get to see these surviving films or even glimpses of American history is fantastic. 

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” features haunting melodies created by Alex Somers.  Lossless audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  Scenes with dialogue are crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” comes with following special features:

  • Dawson City: Postscript – (9:54) Michael Gates and Kathy Jones Gates (Yukon Historians) discussing how the premiere showing of the films would be in Dawson City.  Bill O’Farrell (Head of Film Section of the National Archives of Canada) discussed the condition of the reels when they received them.  And how a last resort of rewashing to save the film because they were in bad shape.  And also what happened to the reels after they were rescued (and how many newsreels and documentaries kept in storage vaults at National Archives Buildings caught on fire).
  • Interview with filmmaker Bill Morrison – (8:50) Filmmaker Bill Morrison discusses on the utilization of film footage and how he would create the story as he discovered Dawson City’s history and the changes that would take place.
  • Selections from the Dawson Film Find – Featuring a plethora of news reels (all silent) such as the British Canadian Pathe News from 1919, The Montreal Heral Screen Magazine of 1919, International News issue #52 of 1919, Pathe’s Weekly of 1914, scenes from “The Butler and the Maid” of 1912, D.W. Griffith’s “Brutality” of 1912, “The Exquisite Tief” of 1919, “The Girl of the Northern Woods” of 1910 and more.
  • Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Dawson City: Frozen Time” comes with a 24-page booklet with an essay by Lawrence Weschler and Alberto Zambenedetti.


For many silent film fans, before Hollywood, it was known that Fort Lee, New Jersey was once the motion picture capital during the early 1900’s and it is known that 75% of all silent films were destroyed unfortunately by improper storage and the combustible nitrate film.

But how is it that 533 silent film reels were discovered in Dawson City, a town in northern Yukon (Canada) by a construction worker in 1978.

It sounds hard to believe but while excavation was being done, in order to create a new recreation center, Frank Barrett saw reels of film that were literally dumped in the Earth.

Many were fiction films and newsreel footage from the early 1900s.

But what many people may not know is how this once booming goldmining town had a connection to the early entertainment scene and the location would include people who would go on to do great things in America back then.

In order to showcase clips from films and newsreel footage found in Dawson City but also showcasing the history of the town, filmmaker Bill Morrison created “Dawson City: Frozen in Time”.

The film would go into how an American man visiting a village of the indigenous Han people (First Nations people of Canada) who happened to be mining and discovered gold.  This would lead to other prospectors discovering gold, claiming the land, displacing the Han people and because of the mining, also destroying their hunting and fishing.

While those who came to the Yukon first were able to capitalize, would lead to one of the first restaurant and hotel (created by Frederick Trump, grandfather of U.S. President, Donald Trump and miner Ernest Levin) which offered fine dining and lodging but also scales to weigh gold.

How thousands of people would flock to Dawson to mine gold and many business were opened.  And one of the families that went to Dawson City was Sid Grauman and his parents.  And little Sid saw how people paid a lot for entertainment and Sid Grauman would grow up to open theaters in America, including the popular Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.  To Alexander Pantage who would move to Dawson and eventually found love with brothel-keeper “Klondike Kate” Rockwell and both operated the successful vaudeville and burlesque theatre, the Oprheum.  Pantage would become famous for promoting the “movie palace” concept and creating theatres across the United States and Canada.

How Yukon Gold Company employee William Desmond Taylor would become a famous silent film director but possibly best known for his murder and a cold case which was probably intentionally by the film studios.

For sports, Dawson was host to various sporting events and boxing matches.  But with tens of thousands of people coming to Dawson, eventually bigger companies would find ways to mine for gold with devising new technologies such as floating dredges that would be less reliant on workers and the population would eventually dwindle to a few thousand.

And as time went on, we would see history play out through this film reels.  From strikes, the war to baseball such as the World Series including the Black Socks Scandal in which members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series games.

To video footage of multiple film laboratories and theaters that burned (which eventually led to the end of nitrate films and finding safer alternatives to creating film).

But those who stayed would create a community and life in the 1900’s to the teens were captured on nitrate and film reels were distributed around the world but as film companies didn’t feel the need to get the reels back, Dawson City which was so remote, was the last of the distribution line for film companies.

In fact, Dawson City would receive films 2-3 years later but eventually they would have many reels that were stacked up and so, they were either burned, thrown into the river (with other garbage, showing mass pollution being thrown in the river) or buried into the soil.

But it was this discovery in 1978 that would lead to people discovering reels of silent film and news footage that have been long forgotten.  Considering that many nitrate film were lost in fires and 75% of silent film were lost, this discovery was no doubt a significant find.

And I have to applaud filmmaker Bill Morrison who was able to piece together many photos to build a timeline of Dawson City’s transformation with or without the miners, the significance of buildings, especially the pool to various buildings that were destroyed or rebuilt, to those who stayed and worked in Dawson and would become famous and also featuring those who were displaced.  And inter-spread with this historical timeline are footage from various newsreels and film that help capture society during that era (focused between 1900-1919).

Well-researched, well-presented, “Dawson City: Frozen Time” is a fantastic documentary from Bill Morrison and a true masterpiece!

 

La Chinoise (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“La Chinoise” is Godard’s profound masterpiece in which the filmmaker/writer going through an exploration of ideas through characters, explore actions knowing all too well, the film may not change a thing. “La Chinoise” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: La Chinoise

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1967

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:37:1 Aspect Ratio), 2.0 French Monaural

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 10, 2017


Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Written by Jean-Luc Godard

Cinematography by Raoul Cotard

Edited by Delphone Desfons, Agnes Guillemot

Costume Design by Gitt Magrini


Starring:

Anne Wizamsky as Veronique

Juliet Berto as Yvonne

Jean-Pierre Leaud as Guillaume

Michael Semeniako as Henri

Lex De Bruijn as Kirilov

Omar Dip as Omar

Francis Jeanson as Francis

Blandine Jeanson as Blandine

Eliane Giovagnoli as Son Ami


La Chinoise is a pop-art masterpiece by Jean-Luc Godard that both channels and parodies the revolutionary energies of Paris in 1967. Disillusioned by their suburban lifestyles, a group of middle-class students, led by Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Véronique (Anne Wiazemsky), form a small Maoist cell and plan to change the world by any means necessary. After studying the growth of communism in China, the students decide they must use terrorism and violence to ignite their own revolution.


For French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, while celebrated for his French New Wave films, his supporters and even his friends started to see a change with the filmmaker who shifting towards films that were becoming more political and going after government and also society.

While Godard would begin to go full force with his radical films in 1968, two years prior, we started to see Godard’s film shift into this direction beginning with “Made in U.S.A.” and then his two films in 1967, “La Chinoise” and “Weekend”.

The film is written and directed by Godard and would star Anne Wiazemsky (“Au Hasard Balthazar”, “Teorema”, “Rendez-vous), who would become Godard’s wife that very year; Juliet Berto (“Weekend”, “Celine and Julie Go Boating”, “Neige”), Jean-Pierre Leaud (“The 400 Blows”, “Stolen Kisses”, “Masculin Feminin”), Michael Semeniako (“Le Cercle de Minuit”) and more.

“La Chinoise” is considered as one of Godard’s best films and it was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

While the film was not supposed to be prescient of what would eventually take place in May 1968 in France, the film no doubt examines New Left activism and the film was didactic in its approach to Maoism.  For those not familiar with Maoism, it is a political theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong and was applied as the political and military ideology of the Communist Party of China and it guided many revolutionary movements around the world.

The film revolves around five university students who represent different ideologies and have different personalities.  They are conspiring to overthrow the Russian Imperial regime through revolutionary violence.

The film is set in Paris and these five students belong to a radical Maoist group known as Aden Arabie Cell and consists of Nanterre University student Veronique (portrayed by Anne Wiazemsky); a young bourgeois actor named Guillaume (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Leaud); the girl from the countryside, Yvonne (portrayed by Juliet Berto); science student from the University of Grenoble, Henri (portrayed by Michel Semeniako) and a Dutch painter named Kirilov (portrayed by Lex de Bruijin).  And a visit from their friend, Omar (portrayed by Omar Dio).

Each of these students are in summer vacation and they spend their time studying political articles, practicing their lectures with one another, inviting guest speakers to their pad and dreaming of a revolution.

And reading text about advocating violence in the name of resolution, these individuals decide to assassinate Soviet novelist, Mikhail Sholokhov, who happens to be in Paris as a cultural ambassador representing the Soviet government.


VIDEO:

“La Chinoise” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). This is probably the best I have seen of this classic film.  Presented in 1080p, detail of closeups are well-done and I saw no signs of film damage or any artifact issues while watching the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“La Chinoise” is presented with French with English subtitles. Lossless audio is 2.0 Mono and for those who have never watched a Jean-Luc Godard film, while you will get crystal clear dialogue, expect to hear Claude Channes “La Chinoise” being played multiple times.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“La Chinoise” comes with following special features:

  • Interview with actor Michael Semeniako – (38:28)
  • Interview with Assistant Director Charles Bitsch – (19:49)
  • Interview with 2nd Assistant Director Jean-Claude Sussfield – (17:39)
  • Interview with writer Denitza Bantcheva – (18:55)
  • Interview with film historian Antoine de Bascque – (30:55)
  • La Chinoise Trailer

EXTRAS:

The Blu-ray comes with a 16-page booklet with essays by Richard Hell and Amy Taubin.


The film before filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard would go onto create his more political, radical films, “La Chinoise” was no doubt created during the frustration building in France at the time and a foretelling of what was to come a year later.

“La Chinoise” is a Godard masterpiece that manages to capture cinema, politics and didactic principles that would pave the way to Godard radicalism and non-docile filmmaking.

The film marks Godard pursuing to look into Maoism, while casting Anne Wiazemsky as his main lead and an actress who won audiences for her performance in the 1966 Robert Bresson film “Au hasard Balthazar”, would marry Godard that very year and would later become a successful novelist.

The film would also star two of France’s well-known young talents who have appeared in previous and later Godard films, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Juliet Berto.

What I enjoyed about “La Chinoise” is that it’s a film where Godard is trying to understand and gain knowledge of political ideology through his characters.  In fact, Godard would refer to Wizaemsky as “Cinematographic education” and unlike his previous films that may incorporate some sort of form of love, “La Chinoise” is about students who stay at a friend’s apartment during a summer break from university terms to learn about each other’s ideology and through discussion of violence as a necessity to achieve revolutionary goals.

Reading text about advocating violence in the name of resolution, these individuals decide to assassinate Soviet novelist, Mikhail Sholokhov, who happens to be in Paris as a cultural ambassador representing the Soviet government.

“La Chinoise” represents the intelligent cinema that demanding cinemaeaste want to see.  Wanting to expand their views on cinema, wanting characters that are non-banal, with substance.

You have Veronique (Wiazemsky) who’s appearance of a beautiful, intelligent college student attending University Nanterre but yet wanting to shut down the university with bombs.  Veronique wants a violent revolution.  Going further, Anne Wiazemsky’s real-life philosophy professor at the Paris X University Nanterre, Francis Jeanson is in the film and Veronique and Jeanson are in a discussion in which he tries to argue against the use of violence to shut down French universities.  Jeanson in support of cultural action, Veronique through violence to inspire a revolution.

The real-life Jeanson was committed to the National Liberation Front (FLN) during the Algerian War his appearance in the film  was no doubt fascinating.

Godard and his actors would not know that a year later, protesting students and millions of French workers would go on strike, paralyze the country but in effect, would lead France and liberate French society.

Jean-Pierre Leaud’s character of Guillaume is no doubt a character that is a mouthpiece for Godard.  For those who watch a Godard film, there are always moments where Godard likes to use his characters and allow the character to speak for him.  And in Guillaume’s scenes, Godard goes Brechtian style and one of the most powerful scenes is when Guillaume goes to a blackboard with the names of famous playwrights including Sartre, Giraudoux, Racine, Cocteau, Goethe, Sophocles, Chekhov and Shakespeare and as Guillaume erases each name, one name stays and it is Brecht.

The film is crafted in a way that it doesn’t try to pick which side is right or which side is wrong.  While some may feel that a film about characters who are into Maoism, Marxism, Lennism, makes the film too radical, may not know that after the premiere of “La Chinoise”, those who are Marxist-Leninist Maoists complained and were furious about how they were portrayed.  That “La Chinoise” made them look irresponsible.

Film critics praised the film as a Godard masterpiece and that the film captured the revolt of youth.  The film is may seem too hip for students to pull off such a revolution but it happened in France in 1968.  For something more brutal, Kino Lorber also has a film from Koji Wakamatsu called “United Red Army” which shows how normal university students of the ’60s and ’70s dedicated their lives to communism and also wanting a revolution, chose a path of violence and murder.  Where students were allowed to voice their opinion among the students featured in “La Chinoise”, in Japan, members who were weak-minded were killed and these students chose to become terrorists, recruited by a Palestinian group and attacked Lod airport near Tel Aviv, killing 26 people and injuring 80 others.  Both films about students wanting a revolution.  Godard’s film being surreal without despair, Wakamatsu’s film showing the barbaric nature of homegrown terrorism.

I looked at “La Chinoise” as a flip-flop of “Masculin Feminin” (1966), where the 1966 film was more pop with slight political undertones, “La Chinoise” is slight pop with more political undertones.  Both entertaining, both wonderful films, different execution, different Godard in terms of mind-set but yet “La Chinoise” being more poetic, didactic and experimental.

The film looks great on Blu-ray and the best I have ever seen of the film so far.  Presented in 1080p, the film features a monaural 2.0 soundtrack and numerous interviews.

Overall, “La Chinoise” is Godard’s profound masterpiece in which the filmmaker/writer going through an exploration of ideas through characters, explore actions knowing all too well, the film may not change a thing.

“La Chinoise” is recommended!

 

Le Gai Savoir (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I am in no way an aesthete when it comes to French history or politics but “Le Gai Savoir” is a complex, abstract and fascinating film but there is a message that even the viewer can deconstruct and ponder about. Anyone wanting to watch a radical Godard film will no doubt enjoy “Le Gai Savoir”.

Images courtesy of © 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Le Gai Savoir

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1969

DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:37:1 Aspect Ratio), 2.0 French Monaural

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 10, 2017


Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Written by Jean-Luc Godard

Text by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Cinematography by Georges Leclerc

Edited by Germaine Cohen


Starring:

Juliet Berto as Patricia Lumumba

Jean-Pierre Leaud as Emile Rousseau

Jean-Luc Godard (Narration)


While alone in an abandoned television studio, two militants, Émile Rousseau (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Patricia Lumumba (Juliet Berto), have a discourse on language. Referring to spoken word as “the enemy” – the weapon used by the establishment to confuse liberation movements – the two deconstruct the meanings of sounds and images in an attempt to “return to zero” and truly experience the joy of learning.


For French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, while celebrated for his French New Wave films, his supporters and even his friends started to see a change with the filmmaker who shifting towards films that were becoming more political and going after government and also society.

While his film “Pierrot le fou” touched upon certain themes for very few scenes, his interest in German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht and the thought of alienating a viewer through a separation of elements in the medium.  Characters would address the audience about their thoughts, feelings and more.

And so the period between 1968-1979 is called his “Militant Years” or “Revolutionary Years” in which Godard abandons mainstream filmmaking to pursue low-budget political films and collaborating with Jean-Pierre Gorin.

And Kino Lorber has release two films from this period on Blu-ray, his 1968 film “La Chinoise” and “Le Gai Savoir” (Joy of Learning).

The film focuses on two primary characters, Patricia Lumumba (portrayed by Juliet Berto) and Emile Rousseau (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Leaud).  Narration was done by Jean-Luc Godard.

To provide a background on this film, the film was shot before civil unrest took place in France and after.  In France, there were massive strikes and many people on strikes would occupy universities and factories throughout France.  Students went on strike against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions.  This spread to 11 million workers on strike.

So bad were the strikes that the entire country’s economy was brought down and there was fear of civil war or a revolution.

While looked at as one of the dark times in French history, it is also regarded that the events led to a cultural, social and moral turning point for France.

In the film, Emile Rousseau (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Leaud) is the great-great-grandson of Jean-Jacques (Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a Francophone Genevan philosopher, writer and composer of the 18th century) Patricia Lumumba (portrayed by Juliet Berto), Third World delegate of the Citroen auto plant who got caught for giving people with recording devices, come in contact with each other inside an unused TV studio.

Patricia’s goal is wanting to learn and teach everyone that they must turn back against the enemy that weapon which he attacks everyone through “Language”. Emile tells her that because they are on TV, to go into people’s homes and ask them what they want to know.

The two take part in seven late night TV dialogues and eventually the two analyze the relationship between cinema and politics.

The two would then meet up for seven evenings to analyze sound and images.  To decompose and to recompose.


VIDEO:

“Le Gai Savoir” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio).  The majority of the film features Emile and Pamela surrounded by black backgrounds with lighting on them.  There are then a plethora of classic images shows.  The film received a 2K restoration and you can see details, especially Juliet Berto’s freckles.  With that being said, for the most part, the picture quality is great but it’s not exactly a film that people will be expecting to see a whole lot as it limits visuals to Emile and Patricia.  No backgrounds, just the two performing (like as if they were on a blacked out stage with a spotlight on them).

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Le Gai Savoir” is presented with French with English subtitles.  Lossless audio is 2.0 Mono and for those who have never watched a Jean-Luc Godard film, while you will get crystal clear dialogue, expect to hear a multitude of songs especially annoying sounds but also inclusion of sounds that are being analyzed by the characters.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Le Gai savoir” comes with Godard film trailers (for films released on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber) and a short video by Fabrice Aragno (DP of “Goodbye to Language” and “Film Socialisme”) titled “Promenade Dans Le Gai Savoir”.

EXTRAS:

The Blu-ray comes with a 16-page booklet with essays by Richard Hell and Adam Nayman.


May 1968, France’s economy was shut down. The largest general strike in an advanced industrial country, 11 million workers were on strike for two weeks and student protests ran rampant. It was a blow to President Charles de Gaulle’s government and groups revolted against modern consumer and technical society.

1972. Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard ala the man who was instrumental for Nouvelle Vague was no more. The era from the late ’60s to early ’70s was the filmmaker’s “radical” years. His interest in Maoist Ideology led to his partnership with Jean-Pierre Gorin and together they formed the socialist-idealist Dziga-Vertov Cinema group (named after Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov) and both would go on to create political films and from 1968-1973, the two would create films showcasing their Maoist beliefs.  Also, Godard incorporating his Brecht style to alienate viewers.

“Le Gai Savoir” is a film that you will either love or hate.  As many film critics who championed Godard’s earlier work would distance themselves from reviewing the filmmaker’s films during his revolutionary period, his radical years, because films such as “Le Gai Savoir” are complex and for some, incomprehensible.

Two characters who are literally opposites, wanting to meet each other in a TV studio to analyze film and politics, to analyze sound and images.  To decompose and to recompose.

And knowing that they can get into people’s homes via television, they plan a three-year course to re-educate people through a political program.

Similar to classic Godard films which would often cut away to other scenes, to eliminate sound, bring back sound or throw in other sounds, these two characters want to start from teh beginning and go back to zero.  To start anew and believing a revolution is waiting to happen.

The two read, they listen to radio and discuss the information they come across and eventually developing mutual beliefs.

For all its worth, the film proves to be a didactic style that Godard would be known for.  He was not interested in going back to the days of being popular.  In fact, when “Breathless” became popular, he wasn’t thrilled about it.

So, I am going to tell you right now…If you have never watched a Jean-Luc Godard film, do not start with this film. To appreciate this Godard film, you need to go along with the journey of knowing Godard’s previous films. Seeing how this filmmaker changed from “Breathless” up to “Weekend” and then seeing how the turbulent times had changed Godard.

From what transpired in France in May 1968, the Algerian War to the Vietnam War, those French New Wave years were over and this Maoist Ideological version of Godard is what the late ’60s and ’70s is what had become of the man.  So, if you enjoy “La Chinoise”, enjoy “Le Gai Savoir”, then you will no doubt enjoy “Tout va Bien”, but if you enjoyed “Breathless”, “Band of Outsiders”, “Pierro le fou”, “Masculin Feminin” and want those similar style of films, Godard’s style of filmmaking and creative direction changes completely from “La Chinoise” and “Weekend” and on.

I am able to enjoy Godard films because I was able to go through the journey of Godard films, watching his films over and over and discovering something new each time. While I have no doubt the impact of this film is felt more by the French, especially those who lived during the late ’60s and saw or experienced the political unrest have feelings probably after watching this film.

I am in no way an aesthete when it comes to French history or politics but “Le Gai Savoir” is a complex, abstract and fascinating film but there is a message that even the viewer can deconstruct and ponder about.

Anyone wanting to watch a radical Godard film will no doubt enjoy “Le Gai Savoir”.

 

Variete (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Variete” is a magnificent film from Ewald Andre Dupont.  Created at the height of German Expressionism, the recently restored film features wonderful staging, lighting and wonderful perfomances from Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Weisbaden. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Variete

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1925

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), Color Tinted, German Intertitles with optional English Subtitles, New Musical Score by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and a 2015 score performed by The Tiger Lillies

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2017


Based on the  Novel by Felix Hollaender

Directed by Ewald Andre Dupont

Scenario by Ewald Andre Dupont

Produced by Erich Pommer

Musical score by Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and also a 2015 musical score performed by the Tiger Lillies

Cinematography by Karl Freund, Carl Hoffman

Art Direction by Alfred Junge, Oscar Friedrich Werndorff


Starring:

Emil Jannings as Boss Huller

Maly Delschaft as Frau Huller

Lya De Putti as Bertha-Marie

Warwick Ward as Artinelli


A rediscovered masterpiece of the German silent cinema, Ewald André Dupont’s Varieté is a visually dazzling tale of love and betrayal, foreshadowing such great works as F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise and Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel. Emil Jannings (The Last Laugh) stars as a carnival spieler who becomes entranced by a waifish dancer (Lya de Putti), and gradually betrays his wife, his honor, and his self-respect in an effort to be the sole possessor of her love. The dynamic camerawork by Karl Freund influenced an entire generation of filmmakers, and can at last be fully appreciated in this exquisite restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung.

Special Features: Mastered from the 2015 restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Filmarchiv Austria | New musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | 2015 musical score performed by The Tiger Lillies | Visual essay by Bret Wood | “Varieté: The Making of,” a 7-minute documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra | Othello (1922, Germany 79 min.), Dimitri Buchowetzki’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama of love and jealousy, also starring Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti


German filmmaker Ewald Andre Dupont (or better known as E.A. Dupont) is known as one of the pioneers of the German film industry.

Known for films such as “Piccadilly” (1929) with Anna May Wong and his retelling of the Titanic disaster in the 1929 film “Atlantic”.  But with numerous films in his lengthy oeuvre, one film that stands out and is known among silent film fans is his 1925 film “Variete” during the height of German Expressionism during the Weimar era.

And now the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

In 2015, the film received a restoration and mastering courtesy of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stifftung and Filmarchiv Austria and the Blu-ray release will also feature two scores.  Which includes the magnificent musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, which fans got to experience live at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in 2017.  And the film includes the 2015 musical score performed by the British musical trio, The Tiger Lillies known for their music, in this case, which brings together macabre magic of pre-war Berlin with a piano score.

“Variete” stars Emil Jannings (“The Blue Angel”, “The Last Laugh”, “Faust”), Maly Delschaft (“The Last Laugh”, “Familie Benthin”), Lya De Putti (“The Informer”, “Buck Privates”), Warwick Ward (“The Way of Lost Souls”, “La venenosa”) and more.

The film begins with prisoner #28, Huller (portrayed by Emil Jannings) meeting with the judge for his parole hearing and wants to know if he is remorseful over the murders he committed ten years ago and why he hasn’t said anything about it all this time (as it could have earned him parole) and while Huller is not interested in talking, he receives a letter from his wife vouching for his freedom and that she and her son are waiting for him.

This leads to Huller telling the judge of his story.  Ten years ago, Boss Huller was in charge of fairground trapeze artists for the carnival.  He and his wife, Frau Huller (portrayed by Maly Delschaft) were once trapeze artists but they have gotten older and stopped after he got injured.

For now, he is busy as a boss, being a husband and being a father to his baby son and taking care of him when his tired wife needs to sleep.

Life changes for the Huller family when a dancer named Bertha-Marie (portrayed by Lya De Putti) is taken in and is asked if Huller can spare a room for her in his home, as she can dance for their show.

Many who come to the show are smitten with Bertha-Marie who is seductive and many are attracted to her.  As for Boss Huller, he often looks at his wife’s rear and compares it to Bertha-Marie’s rear and starts to see the beauty in her.

One day while his wife is sleeping and he is to take care of the child, Bertha-Marie starts to seduce Boss Huller and as Huller at first tries to resist, he is captured by her charms and the two engage in a sexual liaison.

And Frau Huller starts to notice how her husband looks at her, defends her and catches the two making out.  She now knows her husband is having an affair and Huller now knows he must leave his wife and son and together, he and Bertha-Marie begin their new life together as trapeze artists.

Meanwhile, a big-show trapeze artist named Artinelli (portrayed by Warwick Ward) is without his brother who had an accident and he is recommended to bring in two people, Boss Huller and his girlfriend Bertha-Marie.

When Artinelli and his manager offer the two the opportunity, he is immediately smitten by Bertha-Marie.  While the three would become known as the 3 Artinelli and would wow audiences, Artinelli has one thing in his mind and that is to seduce Huller’s woman, Bertha-Marie.


VIDEO:

“Variete” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is color-tinted. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is fantastic compared to any of the previous DVD releases of the film.  Featuring a remastered/restored version of the film done in 2015 courtesy of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and Filmarchiv Austira, the film looks great without any major signs of film damage.  Quite often you will see a lot of film warping, scratches and nitrate damage but this restored version, while not perfectly pristine, shows no signs of major damage, film warping.  While specks and lines can be seen, for a silent film from 1925, this is one of the better films that have been given the restoration treatment.  And all the hardwork put into restoring this film shows.  It looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Variete” is presented with German intertitles with optional English Subtitles.  While the musical score is presented in LPCM 2.0 and there are two soundtracks.  A 2017 musical score performed by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and the 2015 musical score performed by the Tiger Lillies.  The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra is magnificent, while the Tiger Lillies is rather interesting and gave a different vibe while viewing, as the song is sung throughout, while a piano score is played.  It’s very different but I actually enjoyed it, because it was so unexpected.  Both soundtracks are great but I definitely have to say that I was captivated by the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, while the Tiger Lillies musical score made me want to bob my head as the vocalist would sing “Variete” in various ways.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Varietee” comes with the following special feature:

  • Visual Essay – (10:35) Featuring a visual essay by Bret Wood.
  • Variete: The Making of”– (7:25) Featuring a documentary on the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra creating the musical score for the film and performing it live in front of a live audience.
  • Othello – A 79-minute film from 1922 featuring Dimitri Buchowetzki’s adaptation of the Shakespear dram of love and jealousy, starring both Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti.

When it comes to films that were released during the Weimar era and at the height of German Expressionism, many would often give a nod to films created by Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Erich Pommer, Paul Wegener, Carl Boese, to name a few.

And while E.A. Dupont was one of the other known filmmakers of German Expressionism, fortunately his 1925 film “Variete” was one of the his earlier films that would entertain fans for decades.

In fact, in America, the film was well-received.  Film critic Carl Sandburg wrote back in 1926 of the film:

“Emil Jannings, the male star, does the best all-around work we have seen from his prolific and changeful face, while Lya De Putti, the new female star, is far out of the ordinary and will be discussed freely among 10 or 20 million moviegoers in this country during the coming year.”

Sandburg would further write in his article, “‘Variety’ is one of the few sure master pieces of filmart.”

And while we have seen Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau films receive the expensive restoration and re-release on Blu-ray and DVD, I was quite pleased to hear in 2015 that “Variete” would receive a restoration and as the film has been screened at various film festivals with different scores.

While the film has been available for many decades, it was only available in a heavily edited, censored version.  That changed in 1995, when a video dealer named Peter Kavel found a complete print from Germany and for the first time, people were able to see a complete version which included the intro.  Prior to that, the intro which featured prisoner #28 is being considered for parole and as he tells his story of how he left his wife, the censors in the U.S. felt the film was too much for American audiences at the time and nearly a half hour of the beginning of the film was deleted from the American premiere.

As the subject of vamps and women who are able to take advantage of men was featured often in silent cinema between ’10s and ’20s, what made interesting about “Variete” is the fact that it was at the height of German Expressionism, the storyline is about a woman who knows how to get her way with her beauty and literally as a performer, this personality of Bertha-Marie would not just be for the stage but extended to the men she comes across.

She knows how to use Huller and knows how to use Artinelli as both men provide her with life and material things that make her happy.  In other words, she has men twisted around her finger and she works it in order to get things going her way.

How E.A. Dupont is able to utilize this with the German Expressionism style is through facial expressions, character placement and the use lightening, camera placement and well-timed edits to create this artful masterpiece.

The acting performance by Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward was fantastic.

Emil Jannings was one of the well-known actors of his time, creating films in America for Paramount Pictures but would unfortunately lose popularity as he was active in Nazi propaganda, as his films in the ’30s and ’40s would promote Nazism.

Lya De Putti was no doubt an actress who wanted to be part of movie magic in America and the following year, after “Variete” was released, she starred in D.W. Griffith’s “The Sorrow of Satan”.  With her captivating eyes and just a sight that works remarkably on camera, she played primarily vamp roles and starred in , unfortunately, the actress died at a young age in 1931 after developing pleurisy and pneumonia following an operation to remove a chicken bone stuck in her throat.

While Warwick Ward would experience like many other silent film stars, the inability to transition during the beginning of talkies, fortunately for Ward, he was able to transition from actor to film producer in England.

As for director E.W. Dupont, the success of “Variete” insured him a chance to work in Hollywood and he would receive a lucrative contract from Universal and worked on the film “Love Me and the World is Mine” and would go on to make successful films in Britain.  While Dupont emigrated to the US in 1933, unfortunately, he would be assigned to work on B movies and would become a talent agent in 1940 before returning to films in the early ’50s before his death in 1956.

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, the picture quality to this film is fantastic.  Sure, it’s not pristine but for a silent film, “Variete” looks absolutely magnificent.  And for me, part of the enjoyment, aside from watching this film restored and remastered is having the choice of two musical scores.  The Berklee Silent Film Orchestra score is magnificent but to my surprise, the score by the Tiger Lillies was unexpected because its singing throughout with a piano, drums and cello and the score is no doubt a different vibe from the Berklee score.  But I enjoyed both, as they both bring different vibes to this film.

As for the special features, included is a short visual essay, a making of the score featuring the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra and the 1922 film “Othello” (an adaptation of the Shakespeare drama) starring both Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti.

Overall, “Variete” is a magnificent film from Ewald Andre Dupont.  Created at the height of German Expressionism, the recently restored film features wonderful staging, lighting and wonderful perfomances from Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti and Warwick Ward.  Highly recommended!

 

Young Doctors in Love (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Review)

October 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a fan of Gary Marshall’s films or a wanting to watch Marshall’s first theatrical film will no doubt want to check out his 1982 film, “Young Doctors in Love”.

Images courtesy of © 1982 ABC Motion Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Young Doctors in Love

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1982

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), 2.0 DTS HD-Master Audio, English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Garry Marshall

Written by Michael Elias, Rich Eustis

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by Harold Rosson


Starring:

Sean Young as Dr. Stephanie Brody

Michael McKean as Dr. Simon August

Gary Friedkin as Dr. Milton Chamberlain

Kyle T. Heffner as Dr. Charles Litto

Rick Overton as Dr. Thurman Flicker

Crystal Bernard as Julie

Ted McGinley as Dr. Bucky DeVol

Saul Rubinek as Floyd Kurtzman

Harry Dean Stanton as Dr. Oliver Ludwig

Pamela Reed as Nurse Norine Sprockett

Taylor Negron as Dr. Phil Burns

Patrick Collins as Dr. Water Rist

Dabney Coleman as Dr. Joseph Prang

Titos Vandis as Sal Bonafetti

Michael Richards as Malamud

Hector Elizondo as Angelo/Angela Bonafetti


There’s almost always something funny at City Hospital, where the amorous young interns think that love – or at least lust – is the cure for everything! Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap), Sean Young (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), Hector Elizondo (The Flamingo Kid), Harry Dean Stanton (Paris, Texas), Dabney Coleman (9 to 5), Patrick Macnee (TV s The Avengers), Ted McGinley (TV s Married with Children), Crystal Bernard (TV s Wings) and Michael Richards (TV s Seinfeld) star in this refreshingly wacky hospital parody from the director of Overboard, Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride! The new interns at City Hospital are desperately hoping to survive their first year of residency, which could prove difficult, since their minds are on the wrong body parts! Garry Marshall made his feature film directorial debut with this hilarious comedy in a similar vein to Airplane!, Stripes and The Naked Gun.


Before Garry Marshall would be known for his director work on “Pretty Woman”, “The Princess Diaries”, “Runaway Bride” and “Beaches”, Marshall was known as a showrunner creating popular series such as “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley” and “Mork & Mindy”.

Marshall would go on to direct his first film “Young Doctors in Love”.  While not seen as a major film in Marshall’s oeuvre, this comedy is similar to comedy films of the late ’70s and early ’80s that spoof many shows.

In this case, spoofing soap operas such as “General Hospital” which would give attention to the film, but also many soap opera stars making a cameo in”Young Doctors in Love” such as cameo by Susan Lucci, Demi Moore, Richard Dean Anderson, Kin Shriner, Janine Turner, Michael Damian, Jacklyn Zeman, Jamie Lyn Bauer, Steven Ford, John Beradino and many more.

The film would have a cast of popular and also up-and-coming talent who would become major stars years later.

Featured in the film is Sean Young (“Blade Runner”, “Stripes”, “No Way Out”), Michael McKean (“Laverne & Shirley”, “This is Spinal Tap”, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”), Crystal Bernard (“Happy Days”, “Wings”), Ted McGinley (“Happy Days”, “Married with Children”, “Hope & Faith”), Saul Rubinek (“Unforgiven”, “True Romance”, “Warehouse 13”), Harry Dean Stanton (“Alien”, “The Avengers”, “The Green Mile”), Pamela Reed (“Kindergarten Cop”, “Bean”, “Proof of Life”), Taylor Negron (“The Last Boy Scout”, “Nothing But Trouble”, “Angels in the Outfield”), Dabney Coleman (“WarGames”, “Tootsie”, “You’ve Got Mail”), Michael Richards (“Seinfeld”, “UHF”) and actor Hector Elizondo (“The Princess Diaries”, “Pretty Woman”, “Chicago Hope”).

And now, “Young Doctors in Love” will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Young Doctors in Love” revolves around a group of young trainee doctors.  Dr. Simon August (portrayed by Michael McKean) is a young trainee who is brilliant, smart but has one major fear that prevents him from being great, he can’t stand the sight of blood.   Simon has fallen for Dr. Stephanie Brody (portrayed by Sean Young), who is suffering from some major ailment, while being in love with Simon and keeping her ailment as a secret.

Meanwhile, Dr. Phil Burns is a trainee doctor that is working three jobs and he is trying to romance Nurse Norine Sprockett, but in truth, doing it so he can steal drugs and sell it to a drug dealer (portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson).

Dr. Bucky DeVol (portrayed by Ted McGinley) is often trying to flirt with prostitute Julie (portrayed by Crystal Bernard),

Meanwhile, Sal Bonafetti (portrayed by Titos Vandis) is a gangster who is brought to the hospital after being paralyzed by fear.  Malamud (portrayed by Michael Richards) is trying to kill him, but the doctors mistake him as a patient and start operating him and each time he awakens, he tries to find ways of killing Jacobs.  As Angelo Bonafetti, who works for Jacobs tries to prevent that…but to avoid being caught by authorities, he disguises himself as Angela and Dr. Walter Rist (portrayed by Patrick Collins) falls for Angela.

Will the fellow young trainees graduate, will Sal Bonafetti survive?, will Dr. Walter Rist realize that Angela Bonafetti is a man and will Dr. Phil Burns continue to trick Nurse Sprockett?


VIDEO:

“Young Doctors in Love” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  For the most part, the film is not digitally restored nor remastered and is more upscaled to 1080p, so the film does have its share of softness and does look like a film made in the ’80s.  There are scratches on some frames but for the most part, the film looks good in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Young Doctors in Love” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and dialogue is crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Young Doctors in Love” comes with an audio commentary by actor/filmmaker Pat Healy and film curator Jim Healy.


When Garry Marshall passed away in 2016, America lost a talented director/writer who has created television shows and films that have entertained generations.

While Marshall was quite established in the television world with “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley”, “Mork & Mindy”, “The Odd Couple” to name a few, the question was if he could transition into film and sure enough, he did just that.

As many people discover Marshall’s hit films, his earlier films are not as easy to find until now.

While his first film “Young Doctors in Love” will not be a Marshall highlight in his vast oeuvre, the film is noteworthy for showcasing many talent who would become television and movie stars years later, would feature cameos of soap opera stars (especially for “General Hospital”) which in the ’80s were watched by millions of viewers.  And for Gary Marshall film fans, you would see the first major film collaboration with actor Hector Elizondo, who would appear in every Gary Marshall film since “Young Doctors in Love”, as Marshall considered the actor as “good luck”.

The film has the humor of ’80s films at the time and the craziness of films such as “Airplane”.  A parody of “General Hospital” where you have a future great doctor who has the fear of blood, a trainee doctor who keeps passing out due to an ailment (yet no one takes care of her), a trainee doctor trying to steal drugs by romancing a nurse and selling the drugs to drug dealers, a doctor who tries to teach his fellow doctors by drinking urine, a doctor who falls in a mobster dressed like a woman and a mob boss who is trying to be assassinated in his hospital room.

Throw in crazy cameos with soap opera stars, crazy antics and hilarious moments and it makes for an entertaining film.

Sure, it may not have the romantic comedy magic of “Pretty Woman” or the “Princess Diaries” but it does have humor.

“Laverne & Shirley” fans would get to see actor Michael McKean in a role unlike his TV character role of Lenny, Crystal Bernard who was quickly getting known on “Happy Days” playing a bit role with fellow “Happy Days” co-star Ted McGinley, both would be known for their appearance on TV again years later, Bernard with “Wings” and McGinley on “Married with Children” and Michael Richards before playing Kramer on “Seinfeld”.

Surprisingly, two soap opera cameos that were uncredited are talents Richard Dean Anderson (before “MacGyver” and “Stargate SG-1”), Cynthia Geary (before “Northern Exposure”), “All My Children” actress Susan Lucci and actress “Demi Moore” before she would be identified a few years as part of the “Brat Pack”.

As far as the film’s presentation on Blu-ray, the film is no doubt upscaled to 1080p.  Softness is evident, scratches are present but Kino Lorber is a company that has presented its films in 1080p and if anything, picture quality is much better than VHS or DVD.  And its lossless audio soundtrack is presented in stereo DTS-HD Master Audio.  And while the Blu-ray release was released a year later, I felt it was great to have an audio commentary by actor/filmmaker Pat Healy and film curator Jim Healy, who give honor Gary Marshall during the commentary.

Overall, if you are a fan of Gary Marshall’s films or a wanting to watch Marshall’s first theatrical film will no doubt want to check out his 1982 film, “Young Doctors in Love”.

 

Beggars of Life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

With the popularity of Louise Brooks, there is no denying that “Beggars of Life” is a must-buy, must-own title.  And for silent film fans, the film is entertaining, suspenseful and action-packed. May you be a Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery or Richard Arlen fan, I can faithfully say that this silent film on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1928 Paramount Pictures. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Beggars of Life

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1928

DURATION: 81 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W, 2.0 Stereo, English Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2017


Based on the Book by Jim Tully

Directed by William A. Wellman

Adapatation by Benjamin Glazer

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by Harold Rosson


Starring:

Wallace Beery as Oklahoma Red

Louise Brooks as Nancy – The Girl

Richard Arlen as Jim – The Boy

Blue Washington as Black Mose

Kewpie Morgan as Skinny

Andy Clark as Skelly

Mike Donlin as Bill

Roscoe Karns as Lame Hoppy

Bob Perry as The Arkansaw Snake


An American silent film classic, Beggars of Life (1928) stars Louise Brooks as a train-hopping hobo who dresses like a boy to survive. After escaping her violent stepfather, Nancy (Brooks) befriends kindly drifter Jim (Richard Arlen). They ride the rails together until a fateful encounter with the blustery Oklahoma Red (Wallace Beery) and his rambunctious band of hoboes, leading to daring, desperate conflict on top of a moving train. Based on the memoir of real-life hobo Jim Tully, and directed with adventuresome verve by William Wellman (The Ox-Bow Incident), Beggars of Life is an essential American original.


From legendary filmmaker William A. Wellman (“A Star is Born”, “The Ox-Bow Incident”, “The Public Enemy”) comes his romantic comedy silent film “Beggars of Life”.

A film that was released in 1928 as a silent film but it was considered lost until an incomplete copy was found in Czechoslovakia.

And now the film will be released as a silent film with English intertitles and a musical score compiled and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Pictures Orchestra, who employed selections from the original 1928 Paramount cue-sheet.

“Beggars of Life”  is based on an autobiography by Jim Tully and would star Wallace Beery (“Grand hotel”, “The Champ”, “The Lost World”), Louise Brooks (“Pandora’s Box”, “Diary of a Lost Girl”, “Miss Europe”), Richard Arlen (“Wings”, “Island of Lost Souls”, “Alice in Wonderland”) and Blue Washington (“Haunted Gold”, “The Butler”).

The film is known as being Louise Brooks best American film and also a film that would feature a Black actor, Blue Washington and one of the first films that would feature a man of color in the opening credits which was not common during that era.

And now the 1928 film will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with a hungry homeless man named Jim (Richard Arlen) wondering into someone’s property, begging for the owner to please give him food and he would work hard for it.

When Jim sees someone sitting but not answering, he walks inside to find the man shot in the head and dead.  Seeing the deceased man startles him and he hears a young woman named Nancy (portrayed by Louise Brooks) scurrying around.

When Jim asks if she killed the man, she admits to it.  She explains that she was an orphan and taken in by the family but as she got older, the man would sexually assault her and having had enough of being raped, she took his firearm and shot him with it.

The two decide to escape and Nancy disguises herself as a young boy.  Meanwhile, Jim feels he just wants to help her get on the train, so she can get to Canada.  Unfortunately, getting on a train is not so easy for Nancy and she sprains her ankle.  Jim ends up taking care of Nancy and the next day, as they swipe some pastries from a bakery car, he sees a wanted photo of Nancy for murder.

As the two walk, they end up walking into a homeless camp, they meet the blunt and fearsome homeless man that goes by Oklahoma Red (portrayed by Wallace Beery) and they meet gang leader, The Arkansaw Snake (portrayed by Bob Perry).  When the Snake observes Jim and Nancy, he realizes that Nancy is a woman and not a man and wants to have his time with her.  But as Jim tries to come to her rescue, he is overtaken by the other homeless men and is held back.

But Jim ends up showing everyone to Nancy’s wanted poster and everyone steps back, worried about being around a murderer and not wanting to draw authorities to them, so they prefer to distance themselves away from her.

But when the police arrive, they see Nancy and as they are to stop her, all the homeless step in and Oklahoma Red handcuffs them all together, so they are unable to escape.

Oklahoma Red helps Nancy and Jim  but Red also wants to be with Nancy.

Will Nancy be able to escape to Canada with the authorities chasing after her?  Can Jim protect her?


VIDEO:

“Beggars of Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness.  Considering the film’s age, I didn’t notice any major film warping and while there are scratches that can be seen on various frames, the fact that this film has been lost and was recently discovered, is a major plus and I’m sure glad that what was found is still a good print that was restored from 35 mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Beggars of Life” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful score compiled and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, employing selections from the original 1928 Paramount cue-sheet.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beggars of Life” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by William Wellman, Jr.
  • Audio Commentary #2 – Featuring audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, founding director of the Louise Brooks Society.

EXTRAS:

“Beggars of Life” comes with a booklet essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton.


When it comes to Louise Brooks, many are familiar with her European films directed by George Wilhelm Pabst and of course, her reputation.

Considered an actress that was ahead of her time, she took on roles that were portrayed sexuality that was not common for the era.  She was an intellectual, some considered her a snob, rumors were spread all over Hollywood that she slept with all her actors and facing so much in the U.S., she no doubt developed a tough skin.

For the most part, going to Europe did wonders for her career, especially post-posthumously such as “Pandora’s Box” or “Diary of a Lost Girl” are well-revered today.  But back then, while great films, her loathing of Hollywood and being denied by Paramount for a promised raise was enough for her to leave America which would lead her to become blacklisted.

Prior to moving away from America though, while starring in several silent light comedies and flapper films, it was “Beggars of Life” that would be considered her best American film.

Surprisingly, considering that she never thought about the film positively and not being faithful to Jim Tully’s book, which the film was an adaptation of Tully’s autobiography of the same name.

Nor did Louise Brooks get along with her co-star Richard Arlen and also director William A. Wellman, it’s a sign of a good actress that she was able to take on the role and give a solid performance as murderer on the run, Nancy.

But the tone of the film is set as Nancy was an orphan who was repeatedly raped by the man who took her in and tired of being assaulted, she shot and killed him.  And now she just wants to be free.  Free and happy and Jim, wants to help her escape to Canada but he needs to disguise her as a boy as he knows authorities will be after her.

The film broke new ground, no surprise as William A. Wellman was in an experimentation mode.  You have a woman dressed and disguised like a young man which no doubt, went against Hollywood norm and upset a number of people.  You also have Blue Washington, a Black actor in a major role and also being featured in the opening credits.  While Washington is not featured during the first half of the film, he becomes more prominent towards the second half of the film as a homeless man trying to take care of another sick homeless man.

But along with Louise Brooks, you also have to talk about the two prominent male actors.  Richard Arlen is the main protagonist that is paired with Louise Brooks as the homeless man named Jim who tries to help Nancy escape to Canada.  At first, he just wants to help her get to Canada on train but when he sees that she is not experienced to do much, let alone jumping on trains, he ends up helping her and protecting her from the homeless men who want to take advantage of her.

And of course, the actor who gets top billing, Wallace Beery as Oklahoma Red.  A homeless man who seems like he would be the antagonist, the alpha male among many homeless men, a man with a reputation that some fear him and a homeless man who also carries a heavy wooden barrel wherever he goes.  And he has his eyes on Nancy and wanting her to be his.  But he wants to naturally help her escape as well, just with him and not Jim.

Beery had appeared in many major films and while at that time, it makes sense for him to get top billing and be known as the star of the film.  Since the release of the film and the escalation of Louise Brooks as an actress and has received recognition as an early cinema sex symbol, she has also received respect for her independence as a woman.  Defying Hollywood, defying the norm and some may even make comparisons to modern day stars such as Madonna.

And part of the mystique that surrounds Louise Brooks is that there is much written about her, but yet many of her films are lost.  Fortunately, her key silent films filmed in Europe such as “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl” have survived.  And of course, her American film “Beggars of Life” that was discovered in 2016, has finally been released and giving many fans a chance to enjoy an early American film starring Louise Brooks.

And earlier this year, 23 minutes of a long missing 1927 Brooks film, “Now We’re in the Air” was found in the Czech Republic and is another significant film in Brooks’ oeuvre as four of the films she had made in 1927 were considered lost.  And this World War One comedy also features Wallace Beery, and Brooks in two supporting roles.

Going back to “Beggars of Life”, it’s important to note that while this film was released as an early sound film, the original sound recordings have not been found and thus was released as a silent film.  And while it is sad that we don’t have the original audio, considering that this was an earlier film that experimented with sound, the film works much more effectively as a silent and the score by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra was fantastic.

Picture quality on this Blu-ray release was digitally restored from 35mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum and they did a magnificent job.  Scratches are not so evident and there is no major damage or film warping at all.  And you get two audio commentaries and a essay booklet included as well.

With the popularity of Louise Brooks, there is no denying that “Beggars of Life” is a must-buy, must-own title.  And for silent film fans, the film is entertaining, suspenseful and action-packed. May you be a Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery or Richard Arlen fan, I can faithfully say that this silent film on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

 

 

Amar Akbar & Tony (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Atul Malhotra’s “Amar Akbar & Tony” is an entertaining comedy film that touches upon culture and contemporary life in London without having to become deep or banal.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 AAT Films Limited. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Amar Akbar & Tony

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: June 28, 2016


Directed by Atul Malhotra

Story and Written by Atul Malhotra

Produced by Victoria Barrell, Atul Malhotra

Executive Producer: Rohit Kumar, Sandeep Puri

Associate Producer: Martin Delaney, Rez Kempton

Music by Rishi Rich

Cinematography by Jorge Luengas

Edited by Gareth Blower, Alex Morgan

Casting by Shakyra Dowling, Kristina Erdely

Production Design by Damien Creagh

Art Direction by Annalisa Andriani

Costume Design by Julie Jones


Starring:

Rez Kempton as Amar

Sam Vincenti as Akbar

Martin Delaney as Tony

Karen David as Meera

Laura Aikman as Samantha

Goldy Notay as Sonia

Meera Syal as Honey

Nina Wadia as Seema

Tanveer Ghani as Uncle Jay

Amrita Acharia as Richa

Mark Moraghan as George Williams


A Sikh, a Muslim and an Irish Catholic take stock of their lives in contemporary London in Atul Malhotra s coming of age romantic comedy drama Amar Akbar & Tony. The title is an homage to a 70s Bollywood classic and sets the tone for a unique film marrying the storytelling styles of British Independent cinema with that of the Bollywood narrative as Amar Akbar & Tony come of age, cause chaos and fall in love in multicultural London.


From filmmaker Atul Malhotra (“Card Shark”, “Lethal Attraction”) comes his British comedy “Amar Akbar & Tony”.  A title that pays homage to the ’70s Bollywood action film but in this case, a comedy.

The film stars Rez Kempton (“The Mummy”, “I Can’t Think Straight”), Sam Vincenti (“Alfie”, “Brothers”, “I Can’t Think Straight”), Martin Delaney (“Now You See Me 2”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Beowulf & Grendel”), Karen David (“Once Upon a Time”, “Cold Feet”, “The Scorpion King 2”), Laura Aikman (“Casualty”, “The Mysti Show”, “Keith Lemon: The Film”), Meera Syal (“Doctr Strange”, “The Jumars at No. 42”, “Beautiful Thing”), Goldy Notay (“Sex and the city 2”, “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife”), Amrita Acharia (“Game of Thrones”, “The Devil’s Double”) and more.

And now the film will be available on DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film follows three friends from childhood, a Sikh named Amar (portrayed by Rez Kempton), a Muslim named Akbar (portrayed by Sam Vincenti) and an Irish Catholic named Tony (portrayed by Martin Delaney).

Amar is a law student who is about to graduate and is engaged to Richa (portrayed by Amrita Acharia) and life is looking great for him. His family owns a restaurant and are proud of his son who is embarking on a new chapter of his life.

Meanwhile, Akbar is pursuing a career in real estate and hopefully inheriting his father’s business and loves flirting with the women.  But unfortunately, their buddy Tony isn’t so good at girls.

So, the guys often try to get their friend Tony to go after a beautiful woman but her overprotective brother ends up giving Tony a black eye.

Meanwhile, Tony finds out that the woman goes jogging at the park and unaware that her brother is nearby and sees Tony trying to get close to his sister and once again, chases him down, but Tony manages to escape.

As the group celebrate Amar’s engagement and have fun, afterward, Amar and his fiance, Akbar and Tony all head to a club where the man (whose sister Tony keeps trying to flirt with), spots him going to the bathroom and the man and his friends beat Tony up badly and are near killing him until Amar and Akbar intervene.

Amar spots the man pulling out a knife and is about to hurt Akbar, but Amar jumps in and a fight ensues and the man ends up getting stabbed in the belly.

Amar ends up getting arrested and goes to prison for three years.  Losing his career, losing his fiance and literally losing everything.

Fast forward three years later and, Amar’s sister Sonia (portrayed by Goldy Notay) is driving her father’s brother, her Uncle Jay (portrayed by Tanveer Ghani) and his wife Meera (portrayed by Karen David) to their home.  Meera is sad about leaving her home and visiting England.

Meanwhile Amar’s father and mother and Jay discuss Amar’s upcoming release from prison and his father could only hope he holds his head up high.  No one has seen Amar since he went to prison, as he didn’t want anyone to see or visit him.

As for Akbar, he now is a doing well as a real estate agent and he meets Samantha (portrayed by Laura Aikman) and often flirts with her.

And as for Tony, he wants to meet a woman and tries to go to a business that arranges weddings.  And when he is assigned to a possible wife who just came from India, he finds out that it’s an older woman named Honey (portrayed by Meera Syal), who turns out to be too much for him.

After his release from prison, Amar has changed.  Harboring anger towards Tony for all that has happened, he tells his Tony that he wants him to feel sorry for what he had done.

When Amar goes to visit his father’s restaurant, he meets Meera and finds out that his Uncle Jay has taken over the family business.

When Amar meets his father, his father tries to give him wise words to hold his head high and explains to him why the restaurant didn’t go to him and his father tells him that he wants him to work hard to earn his own self-respect.

As Amar is unemployed, and when he meets up with Akbar, Akbar tells him that a restaurant defaulted and he wants Akbar to run it, since he has restaurant experience and that there is a room upstairs that he can live in, rent free as payment for saving his life from the attack three years ago.

But with Amar out of prison, how will life work out for Amar, Akbar & Tony?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Amar Akbar & Tony” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) and for the most part, picture quality is as good as it can get on DVD.  While I wished the film was released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber, for the most part picture quality is very good.

The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and while dialogue is crystal clear, the film features a lot of music which sounds great on DVD.  Surround channels are reserved for ambiance and crowd-based scenes.

 

Closed Captions are included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Amar Akbar & Tony” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Director Atul Malhotra
  • Cast commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Karen David, Laura Aikman, Rez Kempton, Sam Vincenti and Martin Delaney.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage – (3:34) Featuring behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (9:22) Deleted scenes from the film.
  • On Location – (2:50) A featurette featuring the crew and talent on location.
  • Premiere Footage – (1:20) Featuring the premiere of “Amar Akbar & Tony” and cast and guests posing for photographers.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Amar Akbar & Tony”.

In America, we are often introduced to buddy films that involve the banal, sex, drugs and hilarious (or really dumb) comedy.

But with Atul Malhotra’s “Amar Akbar & Tony”, we have a buddy film that has the sex and comedy but most importantly, it showcases three friends, a Sikh, a Muslim and an Irish Catholic.

A homage to the classic 1977 Indian action comedy film “Amar Akbar Anthony” about friends who were also raised in three different faiths but a much different setting (and also deals with criminal syndicates and revenge), “Amar Akbar & Tony” is a film that begins like comedy.

Almost reminiscent to a scene in the ’80s film “The Wanderers” where friends cajole their buddy to take part in a game to talk to women, Akbar gets their buddy Tony to talk to a beautiful woman, who happens to have an overprotective brother that will kill anyone who gets near her.

But the direction of the film changes when law school graduate and newly engaged Amar gets caught up in Tony’s mess, when the brother comes to a club where the friends are at and a fight ensues.  The man pulls out a knife but before anyone can get hurt, Amar grabs the mans arm and while struggling, the man ends up getting stabbed.  And poor Amar, who just celebrated his engagement party and a celebration to his new job in law, now sees everything disappear  as he is arrested and eventually serves three years in prison.

While Tony serves as the film’s source of comedy due to his hijinks of trying to find a woman, Amar finds himself getting closer to his uncle’s wife, while Akbar finds himself falling for a Caucasian woman named Samantha.

And the film does explore race relations because Akbar is Muslim and his family as Samantha’s family is curious about Akbar’s family and how they feel about Muslim extremists and terrorism.

But for the most part, I found it fascinating of how writer/director Atul Malhotra was able to craft a multicultural film that touches upon race relations, family, arranged marriages, marriage, homosexuality, honor and losing face within society for a crime or something troublesome to the culture.

There are a variety of topics that the film touches upon and while it seems those topics can get too deep and serious, Malhotra manages to keep things loose, enjoyable and entertaining.

Picture quality and audio is as good as one can expect on DVD.  But as for special features, while there are numerous featurettes and deleted scenes, the film also comes with two audio commentary tracks.

Overall, Atul Malhotra’s “Amar Akbar & Tony” is an entertaining comedy film that touches upon culture and contemporary life in London without having to become deep or banal.  Recommended!

 

Who’s Crazy? (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Thomas White’s “Who’s Crazy?” is a fascinating film that captures creative energy on film but also through the mesmerizing music of Ornette Coleman Trio.  A wonderful, frenetic blend of free cinema and free jazz that I highly recommend.

Images courtesy of © 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Who’s Crazy?

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1966

DURATION: 73 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), English 2.0 Stereo, B&W

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: July 25, 2017


Directed by Thomas White, Allan Zion

Written by Thomas White, Allan Zion

Produced by Thomas White, Allan Zion

Music by Ornette coleman, David Izenzon, Charles Moffett

Cinematography by Bernard Daillencourt

Edited by Denise de Casabianca


Starring:

Wimme Andre

Melvin Clay

Tom Edmonston

Carl Einhorn

Michael Elias

Warren Finnerty

Peter Glaze

Gene Gordon

Diane Gregory

Leroy House

Nona Howard

Steven Ben Israel

Gene Lipton

Michele Mareck

Dorothy Shari

William Shari

Barry Shuck

Esther Silber

Luke Theodore

Steve Thompson

James Tiroff

Lester Waldman


Long thought to be lost until the only surviving copy was salvaged from director Thomas White s garage, Who s Crazy? (1966) is a wild, free-form burst of 1960s experimentalism.

Accompanied by an ecstatic original soundtrack by the great Ornette Coleman, and starring actors from The Living Theatre, Who s Crazy? follows a group of mental patients who hole up in a deserted Belgian farmhouse, where they cook large quantities of eggs and condemn one of their own in an impromptu court. The actors don t have much need for words when they can dance around, light things on fire, and drip hot wax on each other instead.

Ornette Coleman and the other members of his trio David Izenzon and Charles Moffett recorded their score for Who s Crazy? in one go while the film was projected for them, and the result feels like a slapstick silent film with the greatest possible accompaniment.


Back in the ’60s, many creative individuals looked towards experimentation with media.  May it be musical or film, it was the sign of the times.

And for Thomas White, who lived in Paris at the time, produced a semi-improvised movie featuring the members of the avante-garde Living Theater and featured the music by the free jazz innovator Ornette Coleman and bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett.

While the film was screened at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival, the film was never seen again and was considered as lost.

But filmmaker Vanessa McDonnell, a fan of Ornette Coleman, started a search for the film after Coleman’s death (she saw a short version online via streaming video website Vimeo and found Thomas White’s name) and wanted to find out if a surviving copy exists.  So, looking for a Thomas White, she contacted every Thomas White she can find and managed to find Thomas White in Connecticut and learned that he had a print of the film in the shelf of his garage and has been there for decades.

As White lived a Bohemian lifestyle in Paris, next door to his apartment was a fathering place for musicians, writers and artists.  And that is how he was able to recruit members of the Living Theater to take part of his film in 1964.

And immediately, the film was cleaned and repaired by Anthology Film Archives and the film which was screened in 2016, is now made available to the public via Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film which was fully improvised begins with a bus transporting psychiatric patients in the middle of nowhere.  When the bus breaks down, an in inmate runs and as the two guards go after him, the rest of the patients escape from their keepers and run to an abandoned farmhouse to take shelter and creating their own new beatnik society.

And as the patients take part in various activities such as playing music, screaming, trying out breathing exercises, staring into one’s eyes, playing with candles, taking part in a ritual or wedding and more.


VIDEO:

“Who’s Crazy?” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:331 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness and Anthology Film Archives did a good job with restoring the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Who’s Crazy?” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful as the music is a key highlight as it features the Ornette Coleman trio and just listening to the musical soundtrack, it was magnificent.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Who’s Crazy?” comes with the following special features:

  • David, Moffett & Ornett – (28:17) Featuring a 1966 episode of Tempo International.
  • Q&A with Director Thomas White – (27:48) Moderated by Vanessa McDonnell and Nicolas Rapold, courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
  • Trailer – The theatrical trailer for “Who’s Crazy?”.

EXTRAS:

Includes a booklet essay by Adam Shatz, contributing editor at the “London Review of Books”


Call it experimental.  Call it avant garde.  Call it a film that was a sign of the times.

Watching Thomas White’s “Who’s Crazy?” brings us a creative look into a film where everything is improvised, everything goes and while watching these individuals, who happened to be members of the Living Theater, improvising and coming up with things creative and wild.  And while the troupe do their thing, captivating one’s senses it he music by the Ornette Coleman Trio.

What people may not realize is that visually, you are watching actors being creative.  Not knowing what will come next but just running with it while Thomas White captures them on film.  And as wild and crazy they may be, Ornette Coleman and his technique could be seen as the same.  A master of the alto sax (and other instruments), hearing his music sets the mood as these individuals, who happen to be psychiatric patients, enjoying their freedom.

While one must think this is a film about mental health, director Thomas White has said it wasn’t.   While mental health is in the forefront of news today, the mindset towards the mentally ill were different.   This film is not about people suffering but creative freedom, the freedom of expression and free will.

Gone are the prison clothes and when the men and women get dressed up, the group shows us a display of limitless energy.

But as the film will be enjoyed by man, one of the biggest inclusions to the Blu-ray release of “Who’s Crazy?” is the inclusion of “David, Moffett & Ornette”, a 1966 episode in which one see what has taken place behind-the-scenes in the making of this film as the Ornette Coleman and musicians play to what they see on screen but also the mindset of the times and the disagreements that people had.

Watching this featurette alone, you can’t help but be amazed to see the music being played and recorded.  It gave me a deeper appreciation for the music for the film.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray release also features the Q&A with director Thomas White recorded in 2016 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and also included is a booklet essay by Adam Shatz, contributing editor at the “London Review of Books”.

Overall, Thomas White’s “Who’s Crazy?” is a fascinating film that captures creative energy on film but also through the mesmerizing music of Ornette Coleman Trio.  A wonderful, frenetic blend of free cinema and free jazz that I highly recommend.

 

Zaza (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1923 Paramount Pictures. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Zaza

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1923

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W,

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Based on the Play by Pierre Berton and Charles Simon

Directed by Allan Dwan

Written by Albert S. Le Vino

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by  Harold Rosson


Starring:

Gloria Swanson as Zaza

H. B. Warner as Bernard Dufresne

Ferdinand Gottschalk as Duke de Brissac

Lucille La Verne as Aunt Rosa

Mary Thurman as Florianne

Yvonne Hughes as Nathalie, Zaza’s Maid

Riley Hatch as Rigault

L. Rogers Lytton as Stage Manager


Gloria Swanson is all flounce and swagger as Zaza, a street gamine turned music hall star, strutting her stuff, tossing off quips and taunts with her irrepressible backside, which is sometimes adorned with a pert bow for emphasis. Over the course of the film, directed by Allan Dwan (Robin Hood), she engages in two knock-down drag-out cat fights, frisks through playful love scenes, writhes in a hospital bed, nurses a broken heart, and evolves into a soberly dignified woman. Her physicality dominates the film, which does not suffer from being essentially a well-crafted frame for her performance. Swanson s ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made. Imogen Sara Smith


Back in 1899, the French play “Zaza” had entertained audiences.  So, popular that the play was produced on Broadway and the first film adaptation was released by Paramount in 1915.

While there were a few more adaptations of “Zaza” created, in 1923, a silent romantic drama directed and produced by Allan Dwan (“Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”, “Sands of Iwo Jima”, “Robin Hood”) and executive produced by Adolph Zukor was released.

Starring Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard”, “Queen Kelly”, “The Trespasser”, “Indiscreet”), H.B. Warner (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”), Ferdinand Gottschalk (“Grand Hotel”, “Les Miserables”, “Tonight or Never”), Lucille La Verne, Mary Thurman, Yvonne Hughes, Riley Hatch and L. Rogers Lytton.

And a print of the film is housed at the George Eastman House and the Library of Congress.

During this time, Gloria Swanson was the most sought-after actress in Hollywood and a box office draw for Paramount.  In fact, what she wore on screen influenced fashion  all over the world.

And now the silent classic will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Zaza” is set in France and begins with showing us how Zaza (portrayed by Gloria Swanson) is a popular performer with a temperament.  Often taking things out on her maid Nathalie (portrayed by Mary Thurman) when she loses things and is frustrated, when she is kind, she can be a major giver of fine jewelry to her maid.

Meanwhile, many men desire Zaza including Duke de Brissac (portrayed by Ferdinand Gottschalk) but the only man Zaza is interested in is Bernard Dufresne (portrayed by H.B. Warner) of the diplomatic corps.  Who often comes to visit the stage as he also fancies Zaza.

While Florianne (portrayed by Mary Thurman), Zaza’s stage rival, was once popular in the Odeon, she also fancies Dufresne.

At the show, it was said whoever catches Zaza’s shoe can be with her and when one man comes to claim his “prize”, he manhandles Zaza, in which Bernard Dufresne comes to her rescue.

But as both Zaza and Florianne vie for Dufresne’s attention, which woman will win?

Meanwhile, what secrets is Bernard hiding from Zaza?  And will the fact that Bernard lives far from Zaza affect any chance of a relationship?


VIDEO:

“Zaza” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:331 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness. The film is does have scratches but for the most part, the film looks very good on Blu-ray considering its over 90-years old.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Zaza” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful piano score by Jeff Rapsis.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Zaza” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi (author of Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios)

A silent romantic drama about love discovered, distance that hinders romance but secrets that can tear people apart.

This is the story of “Zaza”, among one of the well-known silent films starring the legendary actress Gloria Swanson and actor H.B. Warner and also one of the last films to star Mary Thurman (who could come down with pneumonia working on a film a year later and would die from complications from the illness the following year), who was also engaged to the film’s director, Allan Dwan.

In some ways, since the film is based on a play, the film can also get a little bit of exhausting wondering if these two individuals, Swanson’s Zaza and Warner’s Dufresne would be together.

While Zaza comes off as impetuous and bombastic early in the film, we see her character transform.  Transformed by love, by jealousy, by anger and by sadness.  Gloria Swanson had to no doubt show various sides of Zaza and for the most part, it was a very well-done performance.  From emotional to even action as she and Thurman’s Florianne engage in a few tussles onscreen.

H.B. Warner plays a stoic Bernard Dufresne.  A man who is captivated by Zaza but there is something preventing him from going to far in his relationship wtih Zaza, which we find out the truth later in the film.

The film on Blu-ray features wonderful detail for the film over 90-years old and for its lossless audio, you get a piano score composed and performed by Jeff Rapsis, adapted from the original 1923 cue sheet.  And also included is a very informative audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi.

Overall, I really welcome Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray.  One of the things that I hope to see is more silent actresses films on Blu-ray.  There have been so much focus on Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, on Blu-ray, which is understandable but it would be nice to see more Pickford, more Swanson, more Gish, Bow, Brooks, Talmadge, Normand, Davies, Bara, Thomas, to name a few on Blu-ray.  So, Gloria Swanson’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray is a major plus and hopefully this means more silent actress greats and their films will be featured on Blu-ray in the near future.

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

 

The Son of the Sheik (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Son of the Sheik” is no doubt an exciting romance/action silent film worth watching.  And will forever be remembered as a Rudolph Valentino classic.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1926 Artcinema Associates. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Son of the Sheik

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1926

DURATION: 80  Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p, Color tinted, DTS-Master Audio 2.0

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017


Based on the Novel by Edith Maude Hull

Directed by George Fitzmaurice

Screen Adaptation by Frances Marion, Fred De Gresac

Titles by George Marion Jr.

Produced by George Fitzmaurice

Music Composed and Performed by Alloy Orchestra

Cinematography by George Barnes


Starring:

Rudolph Valentino as Ahmed/The Sheik

Vilma Banky as Yasmin

George Fawcett as Andre

Montagu Love as Ghabah

Karl Dane as Ramadan

Bull Montana as Mountebank

Agnes Ayres as Diana – Wife of the Sheik


In this visually intoxicating sequel to Valentino’s career-defining film The Sheik, the silent screen’s greatest lover portrays a cultured yet untamed young man who is lured into a thieve’s trap by a beautiful dancer, Yasmin (Vilma Banky). After escaping, he kidnaps the damsel and holds her captive in his desert lair, dressing her in Arabian finery and threatening to unleash his violent passion upon her. Exotic romance saturates every frame of this Orientalist epic; its sadomoasochistic fantasies are acted out against the lavish set design of William Cameron Menzies (The Thief of Bagdad) and lushly photographed by George Barnes (Sadie Thompson). The Son of the Sheik proved to be Valentino’s final film. He died suddenly on August 23rd, 1926 at the age of 31, just before the picture’s release. This edition is mastered from the best surviving 35mm elements and features a dazzling score by Alloy Orchestra.


In 1921, “The Sheik” was the film that launched Hollywood’s first male sex symbol, Rudolph Valentino.

Despite the success of “The Sheik” and his 1922 film “Blood and Sand”, due to his divorce with Jean Acker and the negative publicity he had received for being romantically involved with silent film costume and set designer, Natacha Rambova, thus earning a reputation of a bigamist, he was also in a battle against Famous Players which earned him a reputation of having an ego and being a diva for not settling for the proposed salary that they had given him.

And Valentino would then go on a break until his return to make more films and eventually signing with United Artists thanks to his friends and fellow silent actors, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks.  And in 1926, he would go on to film “The Son of the Sheik” despite his known hatred to use the sheik image.  But took on the role in order to pay off his debts.

While “The Son of the Sheik”, which is based on a 1925 romance novel by Edith Maude Hull was a success in the box office (grossing $1,000,000 within the first year of its release) and many decades later would be selected for preservation in the United Stations National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, it was not a film that Valentino would enjoy.

While on a nationwide tour to promote the film, Valentino collapsed in his New York hotel room and doctors discovered that he had a perforated ulcer which required surgery.  But unfortunately, after the surgery, Valentino developed peritonitis and would die on August 23, 1926.  As critics raved Valentino’s performance as his best, the film would be released two weeks after the actor’s death.

“The Son of Sheik” was directed by George Fitzmaurice (“Suzy”, “Raffles”, “The Devil to Pay!”) and features a screen adaptation by Frances Marion (“Camille”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “The Red Mill”) and Fred De Gresac (“Sweet Hearts”, “Vida Bohemia”, “Hell Harbor”).

The film would star Valentino in a dual role as The Sheik (of the original film) and who is the father of the film’s protagonist, Ahmed.  The film would also star Agnes Ayres reprising her role as Dianna, the mother of Ahmed.  And the film would star Vilma Banky (“The Eagle”, “The Winning of Barbara Worth”, “The Awakening”), George Fawcett (“Flesh and the Devil”, “The Wedding March”, “The Merry Widow”), Montagu Love (“The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Gunga Din”, “The Mark of Zorro”) and Karl Dane (“The Big Parade”, “The Big House”, “The Scarlet Letter”).

And now “The Son of the Sheik” will be released on Blu-ray in May 2017 (as well as the 1921 film, “The Sheik”) by Kino Lorber.

The film begins with an introduction to a gang of criminals who disguise themselves as a troupe.  The daughter of the gang’s leader is Yasmin (portrayed by Vilma Banky) who is a dancing girl that performs in front of men and keeps their eyes fixed on her, while her father and his men do their crimes.

One day while dancing in the ruins of Touggourt, she and Ahmed (portrayed by Rudolpha Valentino), the son of the Sheik (an older version of the character from the the first film, also played by Valentino), fall for each other and have a secret romance.  When one of the men catches the two together, her father is disappointed as she is promised to Ghabah (portrayed by Montagu Love).

Meanwhile, Ahmed is captured by the gang, as they feel they could collect a large ransom because he is the son of the Sheik.  When Ahmed asks for Yasmin, he is told by Ghabah that it was all a ruse and that Yasmin was faking everything to lure him in.  Ahmed is beaten and tortured.

While Ahmed’s men would come and rescue him, Ahmed can’t believe the woman he loved was using him.

Will his love turn to anger?  And when his father finds out that Ahmed was having a romantic relationship with a dancing girl, how will his parents react?


VIDEO:

“The Son of the Sheik” is presented in 1080p High Definition(1:331 aspect ratio) and is color-tinted. It’s important to note that the last version I have of this DVD is the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD. And I can say that the quality of the film on Blu-ray is much better in terms of clarity and sharpness. The film is color-tinted (not black and white) and while there are scratches and some frames look blurrier, the entire film actually looks very good considering the film is over 90-years old. The picture quality is definitely an improvement over the 2000 DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Son of the Sheik” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is music composed and performed by Alloy Orchestra.  The orchestra version really gives an exciting adventure-action film type of feel to it. but I’m sure there are people who may be wondering if a second musical score is included and the theatre organ score by Jack Ward featured on the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD is not included on this Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Son of the Sheik” comes with the following special features:

  • Introductions by Orson Welles –  (17:34) Orson Welles discusses Valentino and “The Son of the Sheik”.
  • Newspaper Headlines Announcing Valentino’s Illness and Death – (1:29) Newspaper clips featuring the headlines regarding Valentino’s illness and death.
  • Valentino: His Life and Times – (8:32) A short documentary about Rudolph Valentino.
  • Valentino at the Beach – A Short Subject – (2:25) A small short shot during a time Rudolph Valentino was not with a film company.
  • The Young Rajah Theatrical Trailer – (2:30) A trailer for Valentino’s 1922 film “The Young Rajah”.

As Rudolph would continue to make women swoon and men would question his masculinity because of the actor’s European upbringing and style.  While it has been a few years since Valentino had a major box office hit, “The Son of the Sheik” would become the actor’s finest film that would earn a significant amount of money in the box office for its time.

But the film would also showcase the final work of Valentino, as the actor passed away during the promotion of the film at the young age of 31.

Reuniting both Valentino and his “The Eagle” co-star, Vilma Banky to star in a film showcasing the love and passion between the two individuals, their love is put to the test as Valentino, playing the young Ahmed (son of “The Sheik” character of Ahmed) is captured, tortured by a gang and offered for ransom.  To make things worse, the gang puts in Ahmed’s head that his girlfriend Yasmin was using him and was in on the plan of luring him.

While Ahmed is eventually freed by his men, he has developed a hatred towards the woman he once loved.  But what happens when he captures Yasmin and keeps him at his home, his father, The Sheik is disappointed in his son’s actions.

Meanwhile, the gang wants Yasmin back and it would lead to an action-packed battle between Ahmed, his father and their soldiers versus this gang of ruffians.  What will happen to Ahmed and Yasmin?  Can their love be tested in such fashion and can these two overcome this test?  Or will Ahmed’s hatred towards Yasmin for thinking he wronged him, start to consume him?

A worthy sequel to “The Sheik”, which showcases Valentino in dual roles and also featuring the return of Agnes Ayres as the Sheik’s wife, Dianna, the sequel was a major success because of its stars but also because it had a sultry storyline which showcase Valentino and Banky showing amazing chemistry (on the big screen) with one another.  But also delivers in action, which many people will love because there is so much of it.

So, there is a good balance of drama and action in “The Son of the Sheik” and it’s a silent film that showcases Valentino’s strength as an actor.

As the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and the Alloy Orchestra musical score is quite awesome.  But I can understand if there are those who are not thrilled that Jack Ward’s theatre organ score from the 2000 Kino Lorber DVD is not included on this Blu-ray release.

You also get a few special features which also includes another different way of seeing the funeral of Valentino, news headlines of his sickness and his death but also an introduction by Orson Welles showing his respect towards Valentino.

Overall, “The Son of the Sheik” is no doubt an exciting romance/action silent film worth watching.  And will forever be remembered as a Rudolph Valentino classic.  Recommended!

 

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