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The Kindergarten Teacher (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

thekindergartenteacher

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is a film that is innocent, unnerving and captivating.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Kindergarten Teacher

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 Original Aspect Ratio,  Hebrew 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: December 8, 2015


Directed by Nadav Lapid

Written by Nadav Lapid

Produced by Osnat Handelsman-Keren, Talia Kleinhendler, Carole Scotta

Co-Producer: Olivier Pere

Associate Producer: Simon Arnal, Caroline Benjo

Line Producer: Julie Billy

Music by Michael Emet

Cinematography by Shai Goldman

Edited by Era Lapid

Casting by Orit Azoulay

Art Direction by Miguel Markin

Costume Design by Doron Ashkenazi


Starring:

Sarit Larry as Nira

Avi Shnaidman as Yoav Pollak

Lior Raz as Nira’s Husband

Jill Ben David as The Poetry Teacher

Ester Rada as Miri

Guy Oren as Asi

Yehezkel Lazarov as Amnon Pollak

Dan Toren as Aharon Pollak

Avishag Kahalani as Kindergarten Teacher


Nadav Lapid’s The Kindergarten Teacher is the story of a teacher who becomes at first enchanted, and then ultimately consumed, by the poetic genius of her five-year-old student. Nira (Sarit Larry) discovers that her young student Yoav (Avi Shnaidman) has an otherworldly talent for language and poetry, and becomes interested in cultivating the boy s gift. but when fascination morphs into obsession, Nira pushes the boundaries of her relationship with the boy and his family in an attempt to protect the purity of his talent. Following his critically acclaimed debut Policeman, lapid demonstrates the aesthetic vision of a true auteur, combining a ve rite approach with a thrilling cinematic narrative that has made him, the most internationally acclaimed Israeli filmmaker in recent memory…and perhaps ever (J. Hoberman, tablet).


Nadav Lapid was best known for directing and writing “Policeman”, but now he has returned with an award winning film titled “The Kindergarten Teacher”.

The film stars Sarit Larry (“Domino”, “Zman Avir”), Avi Shnaidman, Lior Raz (“Fauda”, “The World is Funny”), Ester Rada and Yehezkel Lazarov (“Plasticine, “Waltz with Bashir”).

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

The film begins with married couple Nira (portrayed by Sarit Larry) and her husband (portrayed by Lior Raz) as they watch television.

Nira is a kindergarten teacher and also passionate about poetry.

Her life changes when she discovers the talents of a five-year-old boy named Yoav (portrayed by Avi Shnaidman).

When he starts walking back and forth, he tells his nanny Miri (portrayed by Ester Rada) that he has a poem and he begins reciting a poem that he has created himself.

A possible poetic genius, this captivates Nira, because Yoav can be the next Mozart.  And it’s important for her, as interest in poetry has declined in her country, she wants to further his talents by cultivating it.

But she is troubled by Miri using Yoav’s poetry as her own during her acting auditions.

As she starts to get closer and learning more about Yoav’s talents, Nira also starts to use Yoav’s poetry with others at her poetry club and people are fascinated by it, not telling them that it’s the poetry of a five-year-old boy.

Nira then begins to push the boundaries between teacher and student.

But how far will Nira go with her obsession?


VIDEO:

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  Shot in HD, the film features wonderful detail, especially during closeups.  Skintones look natural and for the most part, the film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is presented in Hebrew 5.1 DTS-HD MA and features crystal clear dialogue and while the film is dialogue driven, there are moments where the film utilizes the surround channels for a thunder/rainstorm to Niri dancing in a dance club or in her kindergarten classroom.  And while there are good use of surround for ambiance, the overall lossless soundtrack is very good.

The film is presented with optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Kindergarten Teacher” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with director Nadav Lapid – (18:35) Featuring an interview with director Nadav Lapid.
  • “Why?”, a short film by director Nadav Lapid – (5:22) Nadiv Lapid’s Frencg short film.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “The Kindergarten Teacher”.

Once in awhile, you run across a film that looks innocent, but as the film progresses it becomes quite unnerving.

As many cineaste can probably understand the feelings of kindergarten teacher, Nira (portrayed by Sarit Larry), of the waning interest of language and poetry, she sees the gift of her young five-year-old student Yoav, going into some sort of trance and out of his mouth, the most eloquent words that are yet so deep and captivating.

We can understand Nira’s drive to cultivate Yoav’s gifts but the problem is growing obsession to do so.

Yoav is of course a young boy that is oblivious to what Nira is doing. Not having a motherly figure and putting his trust into his teacher, he loves the attention he gets because Nira is so interested in his poetry.  Nira gives him so much attention, that he enjoys it.

But for anyone else who sees Nira’s obsession growing out of control, pushing the boundaries between teacher and student, the sympathy we have had for Nira earlier in the film has all but dissipated because her drive has transformed to something so unexpected and unusual.

But Sarit Larry gives a fine performance as the unstable Nira and director Nadav Lapid shows his inner Godard by going further with camera interaction by having his actors bump into the camera, grabbing at it, rather than just talking and looking directly at it.

There is no doubt a poetic and dark feel to “The Kindergarten Teacher”, which was a film that was loosely inspired by Lapid’s younger years but he manages to create a film of unhealthy obsession but yet a yearning of wanting to protect something that is intellectual and yet trying to retain in a world that no longer values language and poetry like yesteryear.

The Blu-ray release looks wonderful and also features a solid lossless soundtrack.  But the interview with director Nadav Lapid is insightful and his short film “Why?” is also rather interesting and artsy.

Overall, “The Kindergarten Teacher” is a film that is innocent, unnerving and captivating.  Recommended!

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Gueros (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

gueros

“Gueros” was a film that captivated me from beginning to end and of the many Mexican films that I have watched in my lifetime, “Gueros” was no doubt one of the best. Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gueros

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, Black and White, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: December 8, 2015


Directed by Alonso Rulzpalacios

Screenplay by Alonso Rulzpalacious, Gibran Portela

Produced by Ramiro Ruiz

Executive Producer: Alonso Rulzpalacios

Co-Producer: Coria Corial, Jose Felipe

Associate Producer: Gael Garcia Bernal

Assistant Producer: Xochiti Enriquez Mendoza

Line Producer: Claudia Valdez

Music by Tomas Barreiro

Cinematography by Damian Garcia

Edited by Yibran Asuad, Ana Garcia

Casting by Alejandro Caballero

Production Design by Sandra Cabriada

Costume Design by Ingrid Sac


Starring:

Tenoch Huerta as Sombra

Sebastian Aguirre as Tomas

Ilse Salas as Ana

Leonardo Ortizgris as SAntos

Raul Briones as Furia

Laura Almela as Isabel

Adrian Ladron as Moco

Camila Lora as Aurora

Alfonso Charpener as Epigmenio

Marcelo Tobar as Film Director


The winner of five Ariels (the Mexican Academy Awards), including Best Picture and Best Director, Gueros is one of the most striking debut features in recent memory.

Ever since the National University strike broke out, Sombra (Tenoch Huerta) and Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris) have been living in angst-ridden limbo. Education-less, motionless, purposeless, and unsure of what the strike will bring, they begin to look for strange ways to kill time. But their idiosyncratic routine is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Tomas (Sebastian Aguirre), Sombra’s kid brother. Unable to fit in amongst these older slackers, Tomas discovers that unsung Mexican folk-rock hero Epigmenio Cruz (Alfonso Charpener) has been hospitalized somewhere in the city. Toma s convinces Sombra and Santos that they must track him down in order to pay their final respects. But what they thought would be a simple trip to find their childhood idol soon becomes a voy-age of self-discovery across Mexico City’s invisible frontiers.


Guero – A person of fair complexion or with blond or red hair.

“Gueros” happens to be the title of the award winning 2014 Mexican film by filmmaker Alonso Ruizpalacios (“Cafe paraiso”, “La revista”, “XY”).  And is a film that was inspired by the 1999 strike at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), which was caused by the tuition hike from 0.02 dollars to $150 a semester.  Leading students to declare a strike and block the main campus and would last for 292 days.

The film won five Ariels including “Best Picture” and “Best Director” and now it was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Gueros” is co-written by Alonso and Gibran Portela and stars Tenoch Huerta, Sebastian Aguirre, Ilse Salas, Leonardo Ortizgris, Raul Briones and Alfonso Charpener.

The film begins with a young woman frantic to run away with her baby.  As she tries to run away from her building, Tomas (portrayed by Sebastian Aguirre) and a friend drop water balloons from the top of their building and accidentally hit the baby.

Unfortunately for Tomas, his troubles have led his mother to send him away to live with his older brother Sombra (portrayed by Tenoch Huerta).

Sombra is a student at National University and lives with his friend Santos (portrayed by Leonardo Ortizgris), but due to a strike at the university, the two are unsure about their future as students.

Now Sombra and Santos are nervous, frustrated, education-less and not sure what they will do with their lives without the proper education.  In order to pass time, they try to get a mentally disabled girl to send up an extension cord to the men in order to power up their apartment.

And now with Tomas living with them, it complicates matters because they have no means of taking care of him.

But when Tomas finds out that his folk-rock music hero Epigmenio Cruz (portrayed by Alfonso Charpener) has been hospitalized, he gets Sombra and Santos to take him to get an autograph.

But the three find out through their trip that the quest to find Epigmenio is full of danger but also surprises and also giving them a time for self-reflection as their adventures take them across Mexico City.


VIDEO:

“Gueros” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Shot in black and white, the film features wonderful sharpness.  Black levels and are nice and deep, grays and white are well contrast and closeups show amazing detail.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts or issues while watching the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gueros” is presented in Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA and features crystal clear dialogue and music.  The film showcases crowd ambiance and natural sounds that utilizes the surround channels, but the film is primarily center and front channel driven.

The film is presented with optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gueros” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (12:05) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • Interview with the Director – (14:04) Filmmaker Alonzio Ruizpalacios discusses how the Students Strike of 1999 influenced the film.
  • Short Films – Featuring two of Alonzio Ruizpalacios short films “Cafe paraiso” (10:32) and “el ultimo canto del pajaro cu” (14:52.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Gueros”.

EXTRAS:

Featuring an 8-page booklet with an essay by Godfrey Cheshire.


I have to admit that I feel it’s been awhile since I have been captivated by a Mexican film, but filmmaker Alonso Ruizpalacios has managed to craft a film, paying homage to films from the French New Wave but creating something so magical, entertaining and a film I would probably watch several times.  That’s a testament of how much I enjoyed this film.

From its characters, the adventures undertaken by each of these characters, the music and the cinematography, “Gueros” is a cinematic masterpiece.

In some ways, after watching the film and reflecting on the various adventures that Tomas, Sombra and Santos go through, I couldn’t help but think of the fascinating adventures of Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel character which began with the “The 400 Blows”.

Antoine was no doubt a troublemaker and a person who’s curiosity got the best of him at times, but as Tomas is the troublemaker, the film becomes less about Tomas’ troubles but giving us a perspective of how students were in 1999 after finding out that the the college tuition was going from 0.02 cents to $150 a semester.  A lot of these individuals crave education, are smart but come from poverty and their hopes and dreams of their family was to make money after graduating from college.

Unfortunately, many were forced to go without school for nearly a year and we get to see how Sombra and Santos are not sure what to do with their lives and for the most part, have become slackers.  And for young Tomas, by seeing Sombra in a funk, he is not too pleased that he must live with them.

But he does give the two purpose when he finds out that the Mexican Folk-Rock hero of his father and his family, Epigmenio Cruz has been hospitalized and he wants Sombra to take him to get his tape cassette signed.

But through their trip to find Epigmenio, the group are taken on an adventure, some being fun, some being risky and scary and some situations giving them the time to reflect on their current lives and making a decision of whether to fight for their college education or just stay home and do nothing and live within their depressing paradigm.

Nevertheless, “Gueros” is a film that pays homage to French Nouvelle Vague, from its cinematography to its storyline that will no doubt entertain audiences.  I absolute enjoyed this film!

As for the Blu-ray, The Blu-ray looks and sounds good in HD.  You also get an featurette with an interview with director Alonso Ruizpalacios, two short films and deleted scenes.

Overall, “Gueros” was a film that captivated me from beginning to end and of the many Mexican films that I have watched in my lifetime, “Gueros” was no doubt one of the best.

Highly recommended!

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The Epic of Everest (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

evpiceverest

“The Epic of Everest” is a fascinating documentary.  It gives us an early peek into the lives of those in Tibet during the 1920’s and also what transpired when filmmaker J.B.L. Noel and the mountaineers of the 1924 Everest Expedition began their ascent.  A silent documentary that manages to capture beauty and tragedy.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Epic of Everest

FILM RELEASE: 1924

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, B&W with color tinting, 5.1 DTS-HD MA with with a newly commissioned score by Simon Fisher Turner.

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: September 8, 2015


Directed by J.B.L. Noel

Music by Simon Fisher-Turner


Starring:

Andrew Irvine

George Mallory


The 1924 Everest expedition culminated in the deaths of two of the finest climbers of their generation, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, and sparked an ongoing debate over whether or not they did indeed reach the summit. THE EPIC OF EVEREST (1924) is an awe-inspiring travelogue of their perilous journey.

Filming in brutally harsh conditions with a specially adapted camera, Captain John Noel captured images of breathtaking beauty and considerable historic significance. The film is also among the earliest filmed records of life in Tibet and features sequences at Phari Dzong (Pagri), Shekar Dzong (Xegar) and Rongbuk monastery. But what resonates so deeply is Noel s ability to frame the vulnerability, isolation and courage of people persevering in one of the world’s harshest landscapes.

The restoration by the BFI National Archive has transformed the quality of the surviving elements of the film and reintroduced the original colored tints and tones. Revealed by the restoration, few images in cinema are as epic or moving as the final shots of a blood-red sunset over the Himalayas.


In 1924, filmmaker and mountaineer, J.B.L. Noel would film a documentary about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory on an expedition to Mount Everest.

The pair set a goal to make the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain and when the two mountaineers tried to achieve their goal on the third attempt, the two never came back down and  were declared as deceased.  Whether or not the two have successfully climbed the summit, no one would know.

But what is for certain, J.B.L. Noel documented the expedition in which the two men and others would perish during the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition and would be featured in the documentary “The Epic of Everest”.

The film would receive digital restoration in 2013 and was re-released in UK cinemas.  And now the digitally restored version was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The documentary “The Epic of Everest” follows Captain John Noel filming in brutally harsh and cold conditions, so harsh that two men involved in the expedition would die of frostbite and hypothermia.

The film would feature the expedition group meeting with the Sherpa and also capturing the beauty of Tibet and the Phari Dzong, Shekar Dzong and Rongbuk monastery and the documentary is also essentially one of the first to films to show life in Tibet.

But the focus is on the brave souls who took part in the expedition but to also further the debate of whether or not both George Mallory and Andrew Irvine ever climbed to the top of the summit.


VIDEO:

“The Epic of Everest” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is color tinted.  The Blu-ray release features a new digital restoration that brings out the clarity of the film.   The film has a little wear considering it’s age, there is no major warping or nitrate damage, so for a silent film/documentary, picture quality is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Epic of Everest is presented in 5,1 DTS-HD MA featuring a newly commissioned score by Simon Fisher-Turner with instruments that utilize the surround channels.  I was quite impressed by the use of the surround channels for this documentary.

The film is presented with English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Epic of Everest” comes with the following special features:

  • Introducing the Epic of Everest – (9:02) Featuring interviews with a BFI curator, Bryony Dixon and Sandra Noel (daughter of Captain John Noel) who filmed “The Epic of Everest” and more.
  • Scoring the Epic of Everest – (8:16) A featurette about the new music score by Simon Fisher Turner.
  • Restoring the Epic of Everest – (6:19) A featurette about why and how the film was restored.
  • Trailer – (1:31) Theatrical trailer for “The Epic of Everest” for its 2013 theatrical re-release.

“The Epic of Everest” is considered a national treasure as it is an official record of what took place during the 1924 Mount Everest Expedition and what happened to the individuals who took part in the expedition.

But as the story about Andrew Irvine and George Mallory is important, I would like to first focus on Noel’s film outside of the two men.

JBL Noel had mountaineering in his blood.  Having spent time near the Himalayas in 1913, taking part in the 1922 Everest expedition as the official photographer and filmmaker and even making a short film titled “Climbing Mount Everest” in 1922.

So, there is no doubt that Noel was passionate about being a filmmaker and capturing other fellow mountaineers on camera and what best for him to film the 1924 Everest expedition with Andrew Irvine and George Mallory.

Enamored with the Tibetans and having worked with them to get to Everest, “The Epic of Everest” is a historical film in the sense of capturing the culture in the early 1920’s.  From observances of their culture, their clothing, how they raise their families, etc.

But once the expedition begins as the crew make their way and begin their climb on Everest, you are then captivated by the sheer beauty of the images of Everest that Noel was able to capture.  And also to see the brave crew push themselves to the limits.

But with each successful ascent, things become more grave as the freezing temperatures and mother nature become a force that even the best mountaineers may not be ready for.

But while J.B.L. Noel, an experienced mountaineer even knew his own personal limits, there is no doubt that he understood the magnitude of his film that would be documenting the final moments of a few of the men he met during the expedition.

So, for a beautiful documentary that showcased the gorgeous Everglades, unfortunately the film clearly demonstrates the risks that mountaineers must be prepared for, in order to scale the summit.

It’s probably one of the first documentaries that exposed people to nature in such a truthful, honest way and showing that even the most beautiful locations are challenging to film, challenging to climb and even with skilled mountaineers, even the best may not make it alive.

And while the footage was probably shocking for its time, for those of us today, we marvel at the risks taken by J.B.L. Noel as a filmmaker, because he like others in the expedition, they sacrificed their lives to strive for their goal.

And for Andrew Irvine and George Mallory, the film shows how courageous these men are, but what happened when these two skilled individuals never came back.

And while the 1999 discovery of one of the bodies gave us additional clues to what may have happened to the men, the debate of whether or not they accomplished their goal and reached the summit is not yet known.

But “The Epic of Everest” is more or less a documentation of their perseverance and moments leading to their tragic end.

As for the Blu-ray release, “The Epic of Everest” looks great in HD.  The digital restoration and remastering features more clarity and its newly commissioned soundtrack is crystal clear.  And most impressively, the use of the soundtrack and its output through the surround channels.

The additional special features were also good to see as the BFI curator discusses the importance of the film, while we get to know more about the men who gave their lives in the 1924 Everest expedition.

Overall, “The Epic of Everest” is a fascinating documentary.  It gives us an early peek into the lives of those in Tibet during the 1920’s and also what transpired when filmmaker J.B.L. Noel and the mountaineers of the 1924 Everest Expedition began their ascent.  A silent documentary that manages to capture beauty and tragedy.  Recommended!

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Diary of a Lost Girl (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

diaryofalostgirl

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is a must-see, must-own film for silent film fans but also Louise Brooks fans.  It’s more than a classic, I tend to look at the film as one of G.W. Pabst’s top films in his lengthy oeuvre.  Louise Brooks is absolutely captivating!  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Diary of a Lost Girl

FILM RELEASE: 1929

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio, B&W, German 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with German Intertitles with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: October 20, 2015


Based on the Novel by Margarete Bohme

Directed by George Wilhelm Pabst

Written by Rudolf Leonhardt

Produced by Georg Wilhelm Pabst

Music by Otto Stenzeel

Cinematography by Sepp Allgeier, Fritz Arno Wagner

Art Direction by Emil Hasler, Erno Metzner


Starring:

Louise Brooks as Thymian

Andre Roanne as Count Nicolas Osdorff

Josef Rovensky as Robert Henning

Fritz Rasp as Meinert

Vera Pawlowa as Aunt Frieda

Franziska Kinz as Meta

Arnold Korff as Elder Count Osdorff

Andrews Englemann as The Director of the Estate

Valeska Gert as The Director’s Wife

Edith Meinhard as Erika

Sybille Schmitz as Elisabeth


The second and final collaboration of actress Louise Brooks and director G.W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box), DIARY OF A LOST GIRL is a provocative adaptation of Margarethe Böhme’s notorious novel, in which the naive daughter of a middle class pharmacist is seduced by her father’s assistant, only to be disowned and sent to a repressive home for wayward girls. She escapes, searches for her child, and ends up in a high-class brothel, only to turn the tables on the society which had abused her. It’s another tour-de-force performance by Brooks, whom silent film historian Kevin Brownlow calls an actress of brilliance, a luminescent personality and a beauty unparalleled in screen history.


The greatest director of German cinema, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, is known for wonderful films such as “The 3 Penny Opera”, “Westfront 1918” and two films which starred American silent film star, Louise Brooks.

In 1929, Pabst shot two films with the Brooks, “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl” and both are considered masterpiece films in his oeuvre and one of the wonderful films to come out of Weimar Germany.

An adaptation of Margarete Bohme’s “Tagebuch einer Verlorenen” (1905), a controversial but also a bestselling novel for its subject matter about a young woman forced into a life of prostitution.  The subject matter for its time was considered sensational, notorious but yet commercially successful, selling over a million copies by the end of the 1920’s.

While the film received an adaptation in 1918 by director Richard Oswald, starring Erna Morena, the film is considered lost.  While the second film adaptation by Pabst, has entertained silent film fans for generations had been heavily censored.  In 1997, a reconstruction and photochemical restoration of the originally intended version was put together by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.  The film is based on a dupe-negative from the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen and most of the missing scenes were added from a contemporary print from the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen-Sodre, Montevideo.

And now the remastered in 2K and restored print (based off the master negative) was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film revolves around the innocent and naive Thymian Henning (portrayed by Louise Brooks).

Thymian is the daughter of pharmacist Robert Henning (portrayed by Josef Rovensky) and the housekeeper, Elisabeth (portrayed by Sybille Schmitz) is released on the day of Thymian’s confirmation.  As Elisabeth tries to do all she can to plead to her wealthy employer to stay, because she is unmarried and pregnant, the prudish pharmacist let’s her go.

As Thymian does all she can to Elisabeth stay, she is unaware that her father’s assistant Meiner (portrayed by Fritz Rasp) knows the real truth of why Elisabeth was let go.  Because he is responsible for Elisabeth’s pregnancy.  But Meiner is a person who only cares about himself and a man who finds himself enamored by Thymian and wants her to himself.

As the day proceeds, Thymian father hires a new housekeeper named Meta (portrayed by Franziska Kinz) and unfortunately, on the day of Thymian’s confirmation, Elisabeth’s body is found, having died from an apparent suicide by drowning.

Distraught by Elisabeth’s death, she tries to find clues of why Elisabeth had died.  She goes to Meinert to learn the truth but ends up collapsing in Meinert’s arm.  Meinert uses the opportunity to take advantage of Thymian.

Many months later, it is revealed that Thymian has given birth to an illegitimate child.  The entire family wants to know who the father is but Thymian refuses to name the father.  But the housekeeper Meta tells the family that if they want to know, they must go through Thymian’s personal diary.  And it is revealed that Meinert is the father and they want Thymian to marry him immediately.

But Thymian refuses because she is not in love with him, so the family sends the baby to a midwife and wanting to punish Thymian, they send her to a very strict reformatory for wayward girls which is ran by the strict and mean manager (portrayed by Valeska Gert) and her tall assistant (portrayed by Andrews Engelmann).

Meanwhile, her friend Count Osdorff (portrayed by Andre Roanne) is disinherited by his wealthy uncle, who is not proud of his nephews lifestyle (and failing in school and trade) and strips him from any ties to the family wealth.

Thymian communicates with Count Osdorff to know of the bad conditions at the reformatory and how badly she and others are treated.  But because her father had married the new housekeeper and does not want Thymian butting into their relationship, she makes sure that Thymian’s message is never received by her father.

But the life of Thymian will never be the same as her tough life of having to survive alone, no skills to have a job and not wanting to return to the reformatory, leads poor Thymian to a life of prostitution.


VIDEO:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and in black and white.  Compared to the original Kino Lorber DVD, “Diary of a Lost Girl” on Blu-ray features much better clarity.  The film looks so much better in HD without the smeariness and slight blurriness of the older DVD release, it looks very good in HD!

According to Kino Lorber, “In 1997, a reconstruction and photochemical restoration of the originally intended version was put together by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.  The film is based on a dupe-negative from the Danish Film Institute, Copenhagen and most of the missing scenes were added from a contemporary print from the Archivo Nacional de la Imagen-Sodre, Montevideo.”

The remastered in 2K and restored print (based off the master negative) is what people will be watching on this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” is presented in 2.0 LPCM featuring a wonderful piano score by Javier Perez de Azpeitia.  The music is crystal clear through the front channels.

The film is presented with German intertitles and optional English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Diary of a Lost Girl” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, director of the “Louise Brooks Society”.
  • Windy Riley Goes Hollywood – (20:02) An early talkie from Educational Pictures (1931) featuring Jack Shutta and Louise Brooks.
  • Promotional Trailer – The promotional trailer for “Diary of a Lost Girl”.

There is no doubt a mystique that surrounds Louise Brooks in a G.W. Pabst film.

May it be the hairstyle, the eyes that showcase human emotion with efficacy, the delicate naivety of her character, we are instantly captivated by her beauty and also sympathize with her sorrow.

While “Pandora’s Box” is considered a Pabst masterpiece and Louise Brooks as Lulu to be one of her defining films in her career, 1929 was a year of cinematic achievements by Pabst, with progressive content way ahead of its time.

As Lulu in “Pandora’s Box” and the content within the story and its story elements of men who desire the woman and also even women being drawn to her, “Diary of a Lost Girl” deals with a different type of woman.  A woman who came from a great family, had a great heart but was victimized by those who surrounded her family and was  forced to live under difficult situations and in order to survive, with no skills in life, she has no choice but to become a prostitute.

But both of G.W. Pabst films are captivating to the viewer for its story elements and its cinematography.  People who look directly to the camera, people who move to a rhythm, characters that are flawed was a symbol of Weimar cinema but also the bold steps that Pabst would go into making a film.  Hiring an American actress over a German actress was risky for the filmmaker for “Pandora’s Box” but I have no doubt in my mind that Louise Brooks captivated viewers and became the screen vixen that many women wanted to look like and men wanted to be with.

A combination of cinematic  genius and visual beauty, “Diary of a Lost Girl” stays with you and becomes a film that you will most likely not even forget because it’s well-crafted and well-performed.

Seeing how Pabst was so well in-tuned in what he wanted from his talent, treating them differently, having them do things that may have made them feel uncomfortable but was needed to obtain the performance he imagined.  From Pabst’s working in tandem with his cinematographer in capturing the scene the way he wanted, being their early in the morning and late at night to make sure they planned the details of what shots they wanted.  It’s amazing to see all that is captured in this film.

This is a film that utilizes facial expressions and action to tell an emotional story and Pabst does a wonderful job in crafting this masterpiece.  Louise Brooks is absolutely wonderful in this film and you have no doubt in your mind why she was one of the most wanted silent actresses of her time but with that being said, she was a rebellious actress who went against Hollywood tradition, and unfortunately blacklisted (while in Germany, she was asked to refilm her 1929 film “Canary Murder Case” as a talkie, but she refused to go back to America which led to her to never get a role in Hollywood from a major company ever again).  She lived her life, made her own decisions even though it may have been a detriment to her career.

Nevertheless, her role on both Pabst films have earned her praise from critics all over the world and made her an icon of silent film.

As for the Blu-ray release, having owned the previous Kino Lorber DVD release of “Diary of a Lost Girl”, there is no doubt that this film looks so much better than the DVD release.  Better clarity and the print looks much sharper, while the piano playing (presented in 2.0 LPCM) by Javier Perez de Azpeitia is absolutely wonderful and goes with the film remarkably well.

The Blu-ray release comes with an audio commentary, a 1931 Louise Brooks talkie and a promotional trailer.

Overall, “Diary of a Lost Girl” is a must-see, must-own film for silent film fans but also Louise Brooks fans.  It’s more than a classic, I tend to look at the film as one of G.W. Pabst’s top films in his lengthy oeuvre.  Louise Brooks is absolutely captivating!  Recommended!

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Deutschland 83 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

deutschland83

Wonderful writing, awesome performances…”Deutschland 83″ is a riveting series that I highly recommend!

© 2015 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Deutschland 83

YEAR OF TV SERIES: 2015

DURATION: 8 Episodes (360 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen (1:78:1), German 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English

RATED: NOT RATED

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

Released Dated: September 29, 2015


Created by Anna Winger, Joerg Winger

Directed by Edward Berger, Samira Radsi

Written by Steve Bailie, Anna Winger

Executive Producer: Ulrike Leibfried, Sebastian Werninger

Producer: Nico Hofmann, Henriette Lippold, Jorg Winger

Line Producer: Tim Greve

Music by Reinhold Heil

Cinematography by Phillip Haberlandt, Frank Kupper

Edited by Sven Budelmann, Boris Gromatzki

Production Design by Lars Lange

Art Direction by Carsten Woithe

Costume Design by Katrin Schafer


Starring:

Alexander Beyer as Tischbier

Sonja Gerhardt as Annett

Sylvester Groth as Walter Schweppenstette

Jonas Nay as Martin Rauch

Ulrich Noethen as General Wolfgang Edel

Maria Schrader as Lenora Rauch

Ludwig Trepte as Alex Edel

Lisa Tomaschewsky as Yvonne Edel

Godehard Giese as Karl Kramer

Uew Preuss as Markus Fuchs

Anna von Berg as Ursula Edel

Carina N. Wiese as Ingrid Rauch

Niels Bormann as Fritz Hartmann

Vladimir Burlakov as Thomas Posimski

Errol Trotman-Harewood as General Arnold Jackson

Florian Bartholamai as Felix von Schwerin

Michaela Caspar as Frau Netz


Deutschland 83 is a groundbreaking new series from the producers of the international Emmy award-winning Generation War. It’s 1983. The Cold War is hot. Russian SS20 Missiles in East Germany are already pointed West. American Pershing II Missiles will soon be placed in West Germany, pointing East. The threat of nuclear conflict looms.

Our hero, Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay), is 23. Born and raised in East Germany, he is sent undercover, as Moritz Stamm, to West Germany, to work for a top General in the Bundeswehr. Officially, his job is to gather intelligence on the placement of the Pershing II Missiles. A secondary gig develops, infiltrating youth culture through close relationships with the General’s two children. But nothing and no one are as they seem.

Deutschland 83 is a coming-of-age story within a suspenseful thriller, set against the real events, culture wars and political realities of Germany in the 1980s.


In 2015, the eight episode German television series “Deutschland 83” aired on Sundance TV, becoming the first German-language series to air in the U.S.

Created by husband and wife team, Anna Winger (an American novelist) and Joerg Winger (a German TV producer), the series has received critical acclaim.

The series takes place years before the reunification of Germany (1990), with the East Germany (German Democractic Republic) and West German (Federal Republic of Germany) still within many decades of tension.

“Deutschland 83” is set during the time of Able Archer 83 (a ten-day NATO command post exercise which exercised a simulated period of conflict escalation and thus culminating into a simulated DEFCON 1 coordinated nuclear attack).

Because East Germany and Russian intelligence reports suggested that Able Archer was a ruse of war and was Germany with the help of NATO planning a genuine nuclear first strike in Germany, it was an instance where World War III was almost imminent.

The series begins with the introduction of Martin Rauch (portrayed by Jonas Nay), a border patrol guard from East Germany.  He is also a young man who lives with his mother Ingrid (portrayed by Carina Wiese) who is in badly need of a kidney transplant and dating Annett Schneider (portrayed by Sonja Gerhardt).

Life seems good for Martin until one day, his life would change forever.

His aunt, Lenora Rauch (portrayed by Maria Schrader) is the East German Embassy’s Cultural Attache (a diplomat with a special responsibility of promote the culture of their homeland) and she enlists Martin to be a spy for Walter Schweppenstette (portrayed by Sylvester Groth), Lenora’s boss at the East Germany Embassy.

Martin, against his will, is forced to become a spy for the East Germans (he is told that if he becomes a spy, his mother would be put on top of the list for a kidney transplant).

He must take the name of Moritz Stamm, the name of an actual soldier killed by an East German mercenary and become the aid of General Wolfgang Edel (portrayed by Ulrich Noethen) in Bundeswehr.  General Edel works with the Americans at NATO on the deployment of Pershing II Weapon System missiles and Martin’s mission is to take photos of strategic sites that NATO has planned to strike.

As the East German’s have spies that have infiltrated the West Germany military, Martin works with Tobias Tischbier (portrayed by Alexander Beyer), a professor at the University of Bonn and works in the STASI’s (Ministry for State Security) foreign arm, the Main Directorate for Reconnaisance (HVA).

While Martin succeeds in his first mission, the STASI want Martin to continue his espionage activities in order to find out more about Able Archer and when West Germany and their NATO allies will send a nuclear strike onto East German soil.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Deutschland 83” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and German 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality on DVD is very good as the series is broken up in three discs.  I will admit that I wished Kino Lorber released this series on Blu-ray, but picture quality for the most part is very good. I did not notice any artifacts or any problematic issues during my viewing of the series.

Audio quality is good with crystal clear German dialogue.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Deutschland 83” comes with the following special features:

DISC 3:

  • The Actors – (11:49) Interviews with Jonas Nay, Sonja Gerhardt and Ludwig Trepte who discuss the show and their characters.
  • The Creators – (13:19) Interviews with series creators Anna and Joerg Winger who discuss how the show came to fruition.
  • Q&A with Cast and Creators at the Goethe-Institut – (21:55) Q&A with series creators Anna and Joerg Winger, actors Jonas Nay, Sonja Gerhardt and Ludwig Trepte.

The first words that came out of my wife’s mouth after she watched a few episodes of “Deutschland 83″ on Sundance TV was…”You have to watch this show! It’s so good!”.

I have caught little glimpses of the series from time-to-time and wondered if she may be biased, considering she is German and she was and is still is, a huge Duran Duran fan.

But with Kino Lorber releasing “Deutschland 83” on DVD, I figured it was a very good time to check out the series that she and many people have been raving about this year.

And I have to concur that “Deutschland 83” is a magnificent spy thriller incorporating ’80s pop culture and captivating acting from its large cast.

But also taking one of the most tension-driven situations in Germany’s history and bringing it to television for the world to enjoy.  The fact is a lot of people in America who are not erudites on the history of East and West Germany and how close the world was for another World War, is quite amazing to see how intelligence played a big part in preventing any misdirection leading to war.

The storyline resonates strongly for those who grew up in the ’80s.  The pop culture such as Nena’s “99 Luft Ballons” or Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and technology such as the Walkman being enjoyed.  Those little bits of pop culture hits home for those of us that enjoyed those things many years ago.

But of course, it’s the well-written storyline of how a young border guard is chosen by force to become a spy for his country, East Germany and transplanted to West Germany.  Not having to say goodbye to his sick mother or girlfriend, he tries in various attempts to contact them and of course, doing so at inopportune moments and risking his identity.

To take on the identity of an aid worker to a General and having to be so close in proximity to an American General and German General with access to highly classified material and is given the task to take photos of those documents and get it into East Germany through spies who infiltrated the West German government or military.

There are also quite a few side stories in play.   From General Edel’s son, Alex, who serves in the military with Martin but is slowly growing into becoming against the military.  And also, his daughter Yvonne, who becomes a member of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh cult.

Another story includes Martin’s girlfriend, Annett Schneider moving in with his mother Ingrid.  And Annett discovering a major secret that Ingrid has been hiding.  And also a story about Tobias Tischbier, an East German who works for the STASI but is in the West, working as a professor at the University of Bonn and his relationships with men and the fears, especially during the early ’80s in regards to the AIDS epidemic.

But the primary storyline revolves around Martin with the name of Moritz Stamm having forced to become a spy but is told that his mother would receive medical treatment and will be put on the list for a kidney transplant if he does his job.  So, we watch his journey of several risky missions he must undertake as a spy.

Every episode is thrilling and the acting by Jonas Nay, Maria Schrader, Alexander Beyer, Sonja Gerhardt, Sylvester Groth to name a few is definitely worth mentioning as their performance are fantastic.

But with a wonderful eight episodes making up the first season, can we expect a season two?

To ensure to not leave people hanging after its thrilling season finale, Anna and Joerg Winger have said in an interview (included on this DVD) that the plan is to have three seasons.  That is great news for fans of “Deutschland 83” and one can only hope the quality of the writing and acting remains consistent.

For parents who want to watch this series with their young children, just a little warning that the series does have violence and brief nudity.

As for the DVD, as much as I hoped that Kino Lorber would release “Deutschland 83” on Blu-ray, for now, only a DVD release will be available.  But the good news is that the episodes are broken up to three DVD discs, so picture quality is very good as one can expect on DVD.  Audio is German Dolby Digital 5.1 and English subtitles are easy to read.  Special features include interviews with three members of the cast, series creators and a Q&A which all take place in New York for the screening of the first episode.

Overall, “Deutschland 83″ is a magnificent spy thriller and as the first German television series to air in the United States, this series may open the gates for more international programming to be released in the U.S.

Wonderful writing, awesome performances…”Deutschland 83” is a riveting series that I highly recommend!

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Vice & Virtue (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

vicevirtue

“Vice & Virtue” is an interesting moralistic tale of two sisters and the different paths they have chosen during Nazi occupation. While the film could have been darker and more sadistic, Roger Vadim chose a more artful format that focuses on theatrical style lighting and focuses on the performances of both Annie Girardot and Catherine Deneuve.  Definitely a film worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 1963 Gaumont (France).  2015 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Vice & Virtue

FILM RELEASE: 1963

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio, French Monaural with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Gaumont/Kino classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 17, 2015


Directed by Roger Vadim

Based on the novel “Justine, ou les malheurs de  la vertu” by Marquis de Sade

Original Screenplay and Adaptation by Roger Vadime, Roger Vailland

Adaptation by Claude Choublier

Produced by Alain Poire, Roger Vadim

Music by Michel Magne

Cinematography by Marcel Grignon

Edited by Victoria Mercanton

Set Decoration by Jean Andre

Costume Design by Marc Doelnitz


Starring:

Annie Girardot as Juliette Morand

Catherine Deneuve as Justine Morand

Robert Hossein as SS Colonel Erik Schorndorf

O.E. Hasse as General von Bamberg

Philippe Lemaire as Hans Streicher

Luciana Paluzzi as Helena

Valeria Ciangottini as Manuela

Astrid Heeren as Danielle


Set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of France, VICE AND VIRTUE (La vice et le vertu) is a stylized retelling of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine, as envisioned by one of cinema’s most provocative filmmakers: Roger Vadim (Blood and Roses, Barbarella). Two sisters navigate very different courses as they struggle to survive within the morally corrupt fascist regime. Juliette (Annie Girardot, The Piano Teacher) is surrounded by the spoils of war, being the mistress of an SS colonel (Robert Hossein). Meanwhile, Justine (Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), whose husband is seized by fascists on their wedding day, is taken to a chateau in the country, where she is groomed to become a concubine for the Nazi elite.


From Roger Vadim, the director of “Barbarella”, “..And God Created Woman” and “Spirits of the Dead” comes the war-time French film “Vices & Virtue”, a loose adaptation of Marquis De Sade’s “Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue”, which was originally set during the French revolution.

The film would star Annie Girardot (“The Piano Teacher”, “Cache”, The Discord”), Catherine Deneuve (“The Dancer in the Dark, “Repulsion”, “Belle de Jour”), Robert Hossein (“Rififi”, “The Secret Killer”, “Bolero”), O.E. Hasse (“I Confess”, “Canaris: Master Spy”, “State of Siege”), Phillippe Lemaire (“Adventures of Arsene Lupin”, “The Blood Rose”) and Luciana Paluzzi (“Thunderball”, “The Geen Slime”).

And the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber in March 2015.

“Vice and Virtue” takes place during World War II and begins with the pure Justine (portrayed by Catherine Deneuve) who is about to get married.

Unfortunately, right before they are to enter the church, her husband, who is a resistance fighter is captured by the Nazi’s.

As Justine hopes for her husband’s return, her older sister Juliette (portrayed by Annie Girardot) chooses not to fight the Nazi’s and becomes the mistress for General von Bamberg (portrayed by O.E. Hasse).  Of course, Juliette uses her position to do all she can to protect herself and her sister.

But when SS Colonel Erik Schorndorf (portrayed by Robert Hossein) comes to visit General von Bamberg, he poisons and kills him.  He creates an alibi of how the General had died and immediately has plans for Juliette to be interrogated and no one will know how the General had died.

Unfortunately, Justine is the one who is brought to interrogation and she and other beautiful French women are taken to a remote Austrian chalet.

The women are not sure why they are being taken to, but they are dressed up and are made to look beautiful around the chalet until they learn the horrors of what takes place in the chalet.  The women are forced to have sex with Nazi leaders and if they do not follow the rules, they are tortured.

At first, the naive and pure Justine is defiant and will fight against her Nazi captors.  But seeing how her defiance leads to others being tortured, she has no choice but to submit and become a victim.

Meanwhile, Juliette becomes the mistress of SS Colonel Schorndorff and because she is as cold and direct as he is, they see each other in equal footing, he being the king and she as his queen.

But what happens when sisters Juliette and Justine are to meet each other again?


VIDEO:

“Vice & Virtue” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The film is sharp but white and grays are well-contrast.  It is important to note that the film does use archived documentary footage, so there are differences between the primary film and the World War II scenes.  Grain is still intact and I didn’t notice any blurriness or problematic issues with overall picture quality.

AUDIO:

“Vice & Virtue” is presented in French LPCM 2.0 with English sbutitles. The lossless soundtrack is clear with no sign of any clicks, crackle or hiss during viewing.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Vice & Virtue” comes with the original four minute theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Vice & Virtue” comes with a two-sided cover.  One with the regular cover art and the other with the original 1963 poster artwork of the film.


Roger Vadim’s “Vice & Virtue” is looked as the romanticized version when compared to Pier Paolo Passolini’s “SALO”, in terms of the final year of World War II before the Nazi stronghold is squashed.  But of course, there is not much comparison as “SALO” is a film that defies any expectation, while “Vice & Virtue” is a film that is dramatic and is not as tragic as what was featured in Marquis De Sade’s novel “Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue”.

The film touches upon the morality and decisions of two sisters who choose different paths.  Justine, the pure virgin who submits to becoming a victim but as a way to become virtuous and standing up against her tormentors but also protective of the other women who are used as sex slaves.

Juliette who uses her vice as a way to get what she wants as a mistress for the Nazi.  Two different decisions made by sisters that will come to a full head when each other confronts one another for a final moment.

While the film’s moralistic tale is quite interesting as a film, especially the toughness of Juliette, who is the more prominent character in the film, one can see this film as a distilled version of Marquis De Sade’s novel, which I have read summaries for and is much different than this film.

Of course, this is 1963 and to be a commercial film, the horror aspect of the Nazi tormentors are not brought to life but are seen through the faces of those affected.

Actress Annie Girardot does a great job when the cameras get close up, while actress Catherine Denueve was no doubt utilized for her beauty and emotional acting as Justine’s dignity is stripped away from her.

The film could have gone further, became much more darker but instead, it’s a film that chooses to showcase morality between two women versus putting the horrors in the chalet as a top priority.  And perhaps, that is a good thing for those who can’t stomach atrocities or sadistic tragedies or anything dark or twisted as Passolini would definitely showcase in “SALO”.

The Blu-ray features very good picture quality while the lossless soundtrack is also very good.  There are no special features but the theatrical trailer and a reversible cover.

Overall, “Vice & Virtue” is an interesting moralistic tale of two sisters and the different paths they have chosen during Nazi occupation.  While the film could have been darker and more sadistic, Roger Vadim chose a more artful format that focuses on theatrical style lighting and focuses on the performances of both Annie Girardot and Catherine Deneuve.

Definitely a film worth checking out!

 

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Winter Sleep (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

wintersleep

“Winter Sleep” is an entertaining, smartly written, conversational film from director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. A film that uses conversation as a way to bring out the characters, in a similar style of Bergman and Rohmer, I was captivated by the film for its intelligence and beauty. “Winter Sleep” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Adopt Films. All rights reserved.


DVD TITLE: Winter Sleep

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 196 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 16:9, Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1 with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Adopt Films/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2015


Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Written by Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Inspired by the Short Stories by Anton Chekhov

Produced by Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan

Co-Produced by Remi Burah, Mustafa Dok, Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Olivier Pere

Executive Produced by Sezgi Ustun

Cinematography by Gokhan Tiryaki

Edited by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Bora Goksingol

Art Direction by Gamze Kus


Starring:

Haluk Bilginer as Aydin

Melisa Sozen as Nihal

Demet Akbag as Necla

Ayberk Peckan as Hidayet

Serhat Mustafa Kilic as Hamdi

Nejat Isler as Ismail

Nadir Saribacak as Levent

Emirhan Doruktutan as Ilyas


Directed by the Turkish cinema master, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, this enthralling, brilliantly photographed film won the top prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and was Turkey’s entrant in the Oscar Best Foreign Language Film category. Ceylan’s Once Upon A Time in Anatolia had shared the top prize at Cannes in 2011. Set in the amazingly picturesque Cappadocia region in central Turkey, the exterior scenes strikingly capture the remarkable topography a World Heritage site while the interior scenes bring Rembrandt to mind. A retired actor has inherited a small hotel where he is ensconced with his recently divorced sister, his much younger and growingly discontented wife. A seemingly trivial incident sets in motion a drama of personalities at odds with each other and the paths their lives have taken. The superb cast of actors quickly takes your attention and won’t let it go.


From Award winning Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan (“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, “Three Monkeys”, “Distant”) comes his latest film “Winter Sleep” (Kis Uykusu), an adaptation from the short story “The Wife” by Anton Chekhov.

The film would star Haluk Bilginer (“The International”, “Innocence”), Melisa Sozen (“Hunting Season”, “Cenneti Beklerken”), Demet Akbag (“Eyyvah Eyvah”, “Vizontele”), Serhat Mustafa Kilic (“Remember Darling”, “Veda – Ataturk”) and Nadir Saribacak (“Yozgat Blues”, “Sarmasik”).

“Winter Sleep” was the winner of the Palme d’Or and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and now, the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Adopt Films.

“Winter Sleep” is set in Anatolia (western Asia) and revolves around a famous and retiring actor Aydin (portrayed by Haluk Bilginer).  Aydin runs a mountaintop hotel known as Cappadocia and is also a writer for the local newspaper and often researches the history of Turkish theater for a possible book.

He is married to Nihal (portrayed by Melisa Sozen) and lives with her and his sister Necla (portrayed by Demet Akbag).  He happens to be wealthy, educated and quite opinionated.

One day as Aydin and his assistant Hidayet (portrayed by Ayberk Pekcan) are driving to a nearby village, a young boy named Ilyas, throws a rock and shatters his window.  Hidayet takes Ilyas to his father Ismail (portrayed by Nejat Isler), which we learn that Ismail and his family are behind on rent and so Aydi sent a collection agency after them and took away their television and refrigerator and because Ismail resisted, he was beaten by the local police.

As Hidayet tries to get an answer of why Ilyas threw the rock, Ismail slaps his son and breaks his fist on a window to see if they are satisfied with the punishment.  But Ismail’s anger starts to get the best of him and before things get messy, his brother Hamdi (portrayed by Serhat Mustafa Kilic), a local imam (a worship leader in the community), intervenes.

Because of the messy situation, Hamdi repeatedly tries to bring Ilyas in an attempt to make amends with Aydin but because it annoys him, he writes a column of how an imam should be to their community.

But we then gradually get to see how the people close to Aydin resents him because of his critical verbal ways.  His sister Necla feels he uses his power just sitting and writing and criticizing people (and the two often exchange barbs towards one another).  While his young wife Nihal is often disturbed by him and while she tries to give back by fundraising for developing schools, Aydin dismisses her actions as nothing that will result to failure because unlike him, she is inexperienced and not educated.

And this leads to individuals reexamining their relationship to Aydin.

 


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Winter Sleep” is presented in 16:9 and Turkish 5.1 Surround Sound with English subtitles.  If one wants the best picture and audio quality, I highly recommend going for the Blu-ray version of this film, rather than the DVD. With that being said, the DVD does look and sound good, but as best as one would expect for DVD.  I didn’t notice any major compression issues or problems with audio.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Winter Sleep” comes with no special features.


“Winter Sleep” is another wonderful film from filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

But I classify his films, almost in a similar context with French filmmaker Eric Rohmer or Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman in which intelligent conversation dominates the entire film.

I am drawn to smartly written films in which conversations explore one’s perspective towards life and these conversations and their reactions are ways of character development.  Something quite rare to see in today’s cinema.

Earlier in the film, we know of Aydin’s power in the village and how there is a unique divide as he is wealthy, he is very critical and in his mind, his thoughts are almost final and no one can change it.

In showing the character of Hidayet and Ismail or even Hamdi and Ismail, he is not a character that can put himself in the shoes of those who are without money.   He can not and will not care for the poor, he has a set way of thinking.  Why did young Ilyas throw a rock at the window of Aydin’s car?  It’s evident that the young boy despises the landlord who has made his family suffer.

And while Hamdi also despises Aydin, as the imam of his village and also his family is involved, he must try to make sure any friction is calmed before things can get any worse.

But while Hamdi and Aydin’s scenes show the divide between rich and poor, the juxtaposition between Aydin and his young wife Nihal is what I find most interesting.

Nihal’s face shows how distant she is from Aydin, her face shows nothing but discontent of a woman who knows that everything she says to her husband, does not matter.  He is opinionated and everything must go his way and nothing else.  She is not an equal partner in this relationship, she is just a woman that remains with him because of his power, wealth and influence.

But the film wouldn’t be as enjoyable if the women did not at least challenge Aydin in his thoughts and beliefs, both Nihal and his sister Necla do their best to challenge his beliefs, especially of the topic surrounding one should not resist evil.  A debate if one is attacked by something evil, do you let it happen or do you fight back? Will the victim’s choice change the perpetrator if they did not fight back or resist?

But a film examines that for Aydin, does this man have a care, a heart towards the people around him?  Or has his beliefs made him indifferent to others?

As for the DVD, it’s important to note that if you want the best picture or audio quality, a Blu-ray version is available for the film.  The DVD does look good, as one can expect from DVD, and there are no special features included.

Overall, “Winter Sleep” is an entertaining, smartly written, conversational film from director Nuri Bilge Ceylan.  A film that uses conversation as a way to bring out the characters, in a similar style of Bergman and Rohmer, I was captivated by the film for its intelligence and beauty.

“Winter Sleep” is highly recommended!

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

April 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

lifeofriley

I absolutely found the film to be entertaining and fun, but also enjoyed the changes of the characters through the course of the film and its vibrant set and fantastic acting.  A film of pure exuberance and thoroughly entertaining, Alain Resnais’ final film, “Life of Riley” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Life of Riley

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 108 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:55:1 Aspect Ratio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: March 10, 2015


Directed by Alain Resnais

Play by Alan Ayckbourn

Dialogue by Jean-Marie Besset

Adaptation by Laurent Herbiet/Alain Resnais

Produced by Jean-Louis Livi

Executive Producer: Christophe Jeauffroy

Music by Mark Snow

Cinematography by Dominique Bouilleret

Edited by Herve de Luze

Production Design by Jacques Saulnier

Costume Design by Jackie Budin


Starring:

Sabine Azema as Kathryn

Hippolyte Girardot as Colin

Caroline Sihol as Tamara

Michel Vuillermoz as Jack

Sandrine Kiberlain as Monica

Andre Dussollier as Simeon

Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi as Tilly


Life of Riley (Aimer, boire et chanter) is the joyous, life-affirming final film by French New Wave legend Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad).
Resnais’ third adaptation of an Alan Ayckbourn play (after Smoking/No Smoking and Private Fears in Public Places), Life of Riley circles around the absent George Riley, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Three couples react to the news with various degrees of emotion. The women are each separately invited to a seaside resort by Riley, and hidden resentments and insecurities in each relationship bubble to the surface, causing a re-evaluation of each couple’s love.
Life of Riley features an exuberant cast of Sabine Azéma, Hippolyte Girardot, Caroline Silhol, Michel Vuillermoz, Sandrine Kiberlain and André Dussollier. Resnais shoots the film on artificial-looking sets, setting off actors against cross-hatched backgrounds as if inside of a candy-colored comic strip. The film is a beautifully realized, improbably upbeat confrontation with mortality, and a fitting capstone to a monumental career.


Alain Resnais, the French filmmaker has earned the respect of filmmakers, critics and cineaste with films such as “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, “Last Year at Marienbad”, “Muriel” and “My American Uncle”, including his short film “Night and Fog”.

Working for nearly 60-years in cinema, with the last films in his oeuvre, Resnais would create films that revolved around cinema and theater.

In 2014, Alain Resnais adapted Alan Ayckbourn’s 2010 play (his third adaptation of Ayckbourn’s work), “Life of Riley” which premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and won a Alfred Bauer Prize.

While preparing another adaptation based on the 2013 play “Arrivals & Departures” and weeks after the film’s premiere, the great filmmaker passed away at the age of 91.

And now “Life of Riley” will be released on Blu-ray in April 2014.

“Life of Riley” is set in Yorkshire and focuses on three couples.  Kathryn (portrayed by Sabine Azema) and Colin (portrayed by Hippolyte Girardot) are thespians, Tamara (portrayed by Caroline Silhol) and Jack (portrayed by Michel Vuillermoz)…a couple trying to raise their teenage daughter Tilly and Monica (portrayed by Sandrine Kiberlain) and Simeon (portrayed by Andre Dussollier)… Monica is the former wife of George Riley who left him to be with a wealthy farmer, Simeon.

The couples receive word that their friend George Riley is fatally ill and has a few months to live.  They grieve about their good friend, try to help him and get him involved in their amateur dramatic group but as they work on their rehearsals, their past history start to affect them.

But when George invites each of the wives to accompany him on a final holiday in Tenerife, each of the women want to accompany him, but their husbands are torn by it and don’t agree.


VIDEO:

“Life of Riley” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:55:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. The film is shot with the actors on studio(as if they are on stage with theatrical style sets including painted curtains and props), while footage of people driving or footage of their home are edited into the film.  The studio is well-lit, colors are vibrant, skin tones look natural and the overall film looks sharp and colorful.

AUDIO:

“Life of Riley” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue driven with music.  The soundtrack is quite appropriate for this type of film, dialogue and music is crystal clear and front and center-channel driven.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Life of Riley” comes with the following special features:

  • Interviews – (16:24) Interviews with the cast who discuss working with Alain Resnais, his approach to film and theater and more.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:34) The theatrical trailer for “Life of Riley”.

EXTRAS:

“Life of Riley” comes with a 16-page booklet with a word from the filmmaker and the essay “The Sense of an Ending: Alain Resnais’ Unintended Last Film” by Glenn Kenny.


A beautifully, entertaining final film from the great French filmmaker, Alain Resnais.

“Life of Riley” is a fascinating film about its group of characters and a humorous study on their thoughts and perspectives of their fatally ill friend, but how they begin to question the friend and his motives when he asks each of the wives to accompany him on a trip.

Working with talent that have experience working on Ayckbourn’s plays (with the exception of Sandrine Kiberlain), it’s interesting to see how Resnais was able to create the film with a very low budget but working with skilled designer Jacques Saulnier to use painted curtains to create the setting and perspective of facades of buildings and the outdoors.

As filmed theater, this type of film will of course, not attract everyone.  For those who love theater will find the exuberance of “Life of Riley” and its fun and entertaining presentation. The film is well-acted and I felt it was a fitting final film for Resnais.

Those who can’t get over the fact that this is filmed theater will probably find the movie tedious and wish for something different.  Nevertheless, when I said the film is fitting as the final film for Resnais is because even with the surreal “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961), people questioned Resnais films, some who praised the film for its uniqueness, others who panned the film because they were not able to understand it.

While “Life of Riley” is much more accessible, it’s just a style that shows Resnais’ appreciation for theater and filmed theater and working with theater actors is what he enjoyed, much more in his later years.

But I absolutely found the film to be entertaining and fun, but also enjoyed the changes of the characters through the course of the film and its vibrant set and fantastic acting.  A film of pure exuberance and thoroughly entertaining, Alain Resnais’ final film, “Life of Riley” is recommended!

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Goodbye to Language 3D (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

goodbyetolanguage-a

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is an entertaining, complex and yet cerebral film.  One that requires multiple viewings, a film that requires you to be fully in the zone and not distracted as you may miss certain important references or dialogue.  And with over 70-years of dedication of cinema, Jean-Luc Godard has managed to challenge the cineaste and will continue to do so as long as he is creating cinema. “Goodbye to Language 3D” is recommended for the cineaste ready for a challenge! 

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Goodbye to Language 3D

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 69 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2D and 3D, 1:78:1 for 3D, 1:85:1 for 2D, Original Aspect Ratio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: April 14, 2015


Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Produced by Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Alain Sarde

Cinematography by Fabrice Aragno


Starring:

Heloise Godet as Josette

Kamel Abdeli as Gedeon

Richard Chevalier as Marcus

Zoe Bruneau as Ivitch

Christian Gregori as Davidson

Jessica Erickson as Mary Sheley

Marie Ruchat

Jeremy Zampatti


Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Goodbye to Language 3D is a triumphant masterpiece from Jean-Luc Godard. Using 3D technology to mind-bending effect, the film follows a couple whose relationship breaks down along with the images, which in its second half takes a dog’s-eye view of the world. It is a meditation on history and illusion that creates 3D effects more spectacular than any Hollywood blockbuster, figures merging and weaving across the screen along with the film’s ideas about romantic love and being-in-the-world. It has the feeling of a final statement, but knowing Godard’s penchant for re-invention, hopefully it is yet another beginning to an extraordinary career.


In 2014, French director Jean-Luc Godard would create his 42nd feature film, a French-Swiss 3D experimental narrative essay which Godard also wrote.

The film would star Heloise Godet (“Girl on a Bicycle”, “Errance”), Kamel Abdeli (“Djihad!”, “Une Journee sur la terre”), Richard Chevallier (“Cafe de Flore”, “Part-Time”), Zoe Bruneau (“Les gazelles”, “Pas tout de suite”), Christian Gregori (“Attention aux chiens”, “Les Petites couleurs”) and Jessica Erickson (“8th Wonderland”, “Graduation Day”).

Wanting to collaborate with cinematographer Fabrice Aragno, Aragno was dissatisfied with modern professional 3D cameras that he created his own custom rig with Canon 5D DSLR camera, Canon 1DC and inexpensive Flip Minos.  And for four years, both he and Godard shot footage, with Godard editing the footage in 2D and Aragno via 3D with color correction and surround sound.  But also experimenting with double exposure 3D image and shots with parallax.

The film would win the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and won Best Picture at the 2014 National Society of Film Critics Awards.  And as such with many Godard films, there were film critics who praised the film and others who dismissed it as incomprehensible.

And now “Goodbye to Language” both in 2D and 3D (2-Blu-ray Discs) will be released in April 2015 courtesy of Kino Lorber.

I will not bother giving a summary of the film, because the film is demanding of the viewer to watch it several times.  Even watching it several times may not make a connection to the viewer and the characters, female actresses Heloise Godet and Zoe Bruneau and male actors, Kamel Abdelia and Richard Chevallier, will no doubt confuse viewers as both look like each other, which the casting was intentional.

“Goodbye to Language” is an experimental narrative about a couple who are having an affair.  The stories are “1 Nature” and the other “2 Metaphor” focus on couples Gedeon and Josette, the other on Marcus and Ivitch.  Davidson is possibly a scholar, and Marie and her boyfriend also make an appearance.

We know there are discussions of Vladimir K. Zworykin, Adolf Hitler, Rodin’s “The thinker”, Mao Zedong’s opinion of the French Revolution and quite possibly, an affair between one of the couples.

Meanwhile, Jean-Luc Godard’s dog, Roxy is seen, swimming, taking a dump, paraphrasing Clifford D. Simak’s “Time and Again”.

During the film, while people are talking, clips of many films show in the background and makes references to art, science, literature, philosophy and political theory.


VIDEO:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:84:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. Because of the experimental style of this film, shot with DSLR’s and other types of cameras, the scenes vary to clear, noisy, soft and for the most part, not going for consistent but experimental in nature.

AUDIO:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Don’t expect Godard to go on easy on the audiophile as the lossless audio can get a bit frenetic.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” comes with the following special features:

  • Canon Europe Interview – (46:19) Featuring an interview with Jean-Luc Godard about the making of “Goodbye to Language” and more.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:27) The theatrical trailer for “Goodbye to Language 3D”.

Leave it to Jean-Luc Godard to explain his movie and making it seem so simple.

Godard said about his 2014 film, “It’s about a man and his wife who no longer speak the same language.  The dog they take on walks then intervenes and speaks.”

In many ways, I can understand where Godard is coming from.  A failure of a marriage and relationship is often due to the lack of communication, often the differences between the individuals.

But unlike earlier Godard films in which the relationship is straightforward, “Goodbye to Language” is not.

In fact, I think “Goodbye to Language 3D” as a film for Godard to take on new technology, to take on the growing number of 3D films and break convention and as always the rebel, buck away from traditional Hollywood practices and give us his version of a 3D film.

Working with cinematographer Fabrice Aragno who decided to do away with the 3D technology employed in Hollywood, opting for DSLR’s and mini-digital recorders, “Goodbye to Language 3D” is an interesting experiment with these technologies to create a narrative of two couples, who look very much like each other but the circumstances are similar and also very different.  Like the red and blue of 3D glasses, they work similarly but the colors are very different.

Throw in a professor, a young man and woman and a dog who then occupies most of the film and we are left with a movie that is intellectually unforgiving, a movie that is possibly to some incomprehensible and for others, leaving them with a smile on their faces, because Godard has created a film that few will truly understand (or so they think they do).

What I can best say about “Goodbye to Language 3D” is that it is a film about multiple stories, which reference to many other multiple stories and despite having watched this film several times, even I can’t tell you what I watched, because one time I focused on the couples, then I found myself focusing on the dog and then I found myself zeroing on the references, may they be archival and another time, I tried to see if the experimentation used in the film served any major purpose.

The answer is yes, but how they correlate, I’m not even sure myself if they are supposed to.

While watching this film, there are parts of me that want to give off this maniacal laugh because I feel like other Godard films, there is a subtle “Fuck you” message from the filmmaker who could care less whether or not you understand the film or not.

Once can read a plethora of reviews from those who get the film, yet each give off their own different perception of what the film is about.  I have watched the film several times now and I find myself fighting what I thought what I thought was what the film was, just to find out that I came up with another new perspective.

And while my best memories of the film are naked people and a dog having fun in the country, the narration is complex, thought-provoking and I keep going back to it, because there are many references but I try to zero-in on the message.

Every Godard film that I have watched, I found a message, no matter how complex or political, I got it.  “Goodbye to Language 3D” is problematic for me as a reviewer because it’s a first for me to watch a Godard film and yet, fighting my every thought of the film which I think I understand, but really don’t.  Maybe that was intentional, like the experimental use of video and audio for the film.  You take things as they are, whatever your interpretation is and go with it.

Overall, “Goodbye to Language 3D” is an entertaining, complex and yet cerebral film.  One that requires multiple viewings, a film that requires you to be fully in the zone and not distracted as you may miss certain important references or dialogue.

And while this may be a first for me watching a Godard film in which I continually contradict each perspective I originally had for the film, perhaps that is a good thing.  But yet, I can’t help but give out a maniacal laugh to Jean-Luc Godard for creating films that people will love, hate, a film they will understand or not understand but yet, creating a film that he wants to do, the way he wants it to be, under his own terms and could care less whether or not you get it.

And with over 70-years of dedication of cinema, Godard has managed to challenge the cineaste and will continue to do so as long as he is creating cinema.

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is recommended for the cineaste ready for a challenge!

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The Retrieval (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

theretrieval

“The Retrieval” is an engrossing film with solid writing/directing by Chris Eska and wonderful performances from its actors. “The Retrieval” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 September Morning, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Retrieval

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Original Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: February 3, 2015


Written and Directed by Chris Eska

Executive Producer: Denis Chateau, Philippe Diaz

Produced by Alain Dahan

Associate Producer: Marvin J. Chomsky

Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier

Editing by Nelly Quettier

Casting by Helene Bernardin

Production Design by Jacques Dubus, Thomas Peckre, Michel Vandestien

Set Decoration by Bernard Leonard

Costume Design by Dominique Gregogna, Martine Metert, Robert Nardone


Starring:

Ashton Sanders as Will

Tishuan Scott as Nate

Keston John as Marcus

Bill Oberst Jr. as Burrell

Christine Horn as Rachel

Alfonso Freeman as Isaac

Raven Nicole LeDeatte as Abby

Jonathan Brooks as Royce


1864: as war ravages the nation, on the outskirts of the civil War, it is business as usual for slave-owners and traders. The Retrieval follows Will (Ashton Sanders), a fatherless thirteen-year-old boy who survives by working with a white bounty hunter gang. They send him to earn the trust of runaway slaves in order to lure them back to the south.

On a dangerous mission into the free north to find Nate (Tishuan Scott), a fugitive freedman, things go wrong and Will and Nate find themselves on the run. As the bond between them unexpectedly grows, Will becomes consumed by conflicting emotions as he faces a gut-wrenching final decision. Thrilling, but grounded in historical research, The Retrieval serves as an insight into the grey period between slavery and freedom and the horrific moral dilemma that comes with being forced to betray your fellow man.


From writer and director Chris Eska comes the film “The Retrieval”, which was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

A film that takes place a year before the end of the Civil War, the story begins with a young 13-year-old Black boy named Will (portrayed by Ashton Sanders) coming to a farmhouse alone.

He is escorted to the barn where other slaves are hiding and sleeping.  But as the slaves sleep, Will sneaks out and finds his uncle Marcus (portrayed by Keston John) and slavehunter Burrell (portrayed by Bill Oberst Jr.) and his posse waiting for him.

Will gives the slavehunters the information and immediately, Burrell and his men capture the slaves.

We learn that Will has been working with with Marcus as Black slavehunters in hopes they can get money but also secure their freedom.

Burrell gives Marcus a mission, he must find a man named Nate (portrayed by Tishuan Scott), who works as a gravedigger for the Union and bring him back to Burrell.  In return, he and Will will be released of their obligations of working for him.  If they fail, he will find and kill them.

Knowing this, Marcus and Will head out to find Nate.  While Will doesn’t like ratting on other slaves and doesn’t like how Marcus thinks about himself, he knows that to survive, Marcus is all he has for family.

When they find Nate, they tell him a story that his brother is dying and wants to see Nate one last time before he dies.  And that they risked their lives to give him that information.

Weary of following them, Nate decides to believe them and heads out with them to go back down South.

But what happens when during the journey back home, Will starts to like Nate but also face the dangers of the battle between the North and the South?


VIDEO:

“The Retrieval” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. While the picture quality is clear and full of detail, especially during the closeups, it’s important to note that the film feels to clear as it seems as if it was made for television.  Granted, the process of converting a digital film to look like film is a laborious process and very expensive.

But with that being said, the film looks great but has a different visual feel than what you would come to expect from a Civil War film.  The colors are intentionally muted and are not vibrant, but for the most part, picture quality is very good!

AUDIO:

“The Retrieval” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  There is a lot of whispering in the film, so some scenes are hard to understand at times.  But fortunatelyy, the majority of the film features crystal clear dialogue and ambiance of the outdoor surroundings which you can hear through the surround channels, including the sounds of cannons and guns being shot from afar.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Retrieval” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Chris Eska
  • Deleted Scene – (4:08) The only deleted scene from the film.
  • Deleted Scene with Commentary – (4:08) Director Chris Eska’s commentary of why the scene was deleted.
  • SAG Foundation Actors Conversation – (49:08) Q&A with director Chris Eska, actors Tishuan Scott, Keston John, Bill Oberst Jr., Christine Horn and Alfonso Freeman.
  • Interviews from the Leeds International Film Festival – (3:50) Featuring interviews with director Chris Eska and the Australian viewers who watched the film.
  • Press Booklet (BD-Rom Only)
  • Stunt Rehearsals(5:57) Featuring the actors practicing their stunts.
  • Trailer – (2:27) The theatrical trailer for “The Retrieval”.

When it comes to “Civil War” films, there is somewhat of an expectancy of storyline, may it be Union vs. Confederate or the adversities of the slaves or from a soldier from either side.  But “The Retrieval” is rather interesting because it’s a storyline that you don’t usually see in film.

The story about two Black slavehunters helping out their boss by infiltrating locations and betraying Black slaves is something that may seem too taboo to even see in a film.

But fortunately, writer and director Chris Eska put a lot of thought into the development of his characters.

Will, the young boy who doesn’t make the decisions, he does whatever his Uncle Marcus tells him.

Marcus is only concerned about the money and nothing else.  But knows Will depends on him because Will has no other family.

And for Will, his reason for doing what he does, is hopes that he can reunite with his father.

And when the two are given the task to find a man named Nate and bring him back to their slavehunter boss, it’s not going to be an easy retrieval because the war is near it’s end, and the war has become violent, bloody and they are in the middle of it.  Walking through fields and gunfire between the warring soldiers.

For Marcus, he just wants Will to do his job but for Will, he starts to grow to like Nate.  To see someone who is a good man and something much different than his Uncle Marcus.

And the more he bonds with Nate, he begins to feel guilty and remains conflicted.  Because while he likes Nate as a person, he knows that if he doesn’t turn him in, their slavemaster boss will kill them.

“The Retrieval” is a heartfelt, thrilling film that does give insight in the gray area of slavery and freedom but the way the film is structured is well-done.

While many may question why the men would bring Nate back when they are already with the Union, it goes to show in that era, not knowing how much power the slavehunter has over them and the threat of being hunted down and also them hunting your loved ones is not an easy decision to make, especially for a young boy like Will who has conflicted emotions about the entire ordeal.

The performance by Ashton Sanders and Tishuan Scott was great but if there was one small caveat for me, it’s more of the visual display of the film.  For a Civil War film, it appears that the HD makes the film too clear, while watching on film, gives the impression that lends to an era’s credibility, “The Retrieval” looks too clean for its own good.

Still, the film looks very good on Blu-ray and the lossless soundtrack does showcase ambiance from the outdoor environments and you also get a few special features such as commentary and director/cast Q&A included as well.

Overall, “The Retrieval” is an engrossing film with solid writing/directing by Chris Eska and wonderful performances from its actors.

“The Retrieval” is recommended!

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