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La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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I absolutely enjoyed “La chienne” for its wit, Renoir’s writing and direction, the performance of Simon and Mareze. Without a doubt, “La chienne” is a film that gives us a fantastic glimpse of the auteur that Jean Renoir would one day become. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1931 Establissements Braunberger-Richebe/1974 Les Films du Jeudi. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818

YEAR OF FILM: 1931

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:19:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, French Monaural with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Film/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 14, 2016


Based on the Novel by Georges de La Fouchardiere

Directed by Jean Renoir

Adaptation by Jean Renoir

Produced by Pierre Braunberger, Roger Richebe

Cinematography by Theodor Sparkuhl

Edited by Denise Batcheff, Pal Fejos

Art Direction by Marcel Courmes

Set Decoration by Gabriel Scognamillo


Starring:

Michel Simon as Maurice Legrand

Janie Marese as Lucienne Pelletier

Georges Flamant as Dede

Roger Gaillard as L’adjudant

Romain Bouquet as Henriot

Pierre Desty as Gustave

Mlle Doryans as Yvonne

Alexandre Rignault as LAngelard

Lucien Mancini as Wallstein

Henri Guisol as Amedee

Max Dalban as Bernard


Jean Renoir’s ruthless love triangle tale, his second sound film, is a true precursor to his brilliantly bitter The Rules of the Game, displaying all of the filmmaker’s visual genius and fully imbued with his profound humanity. Michel Simon cuts a tragic figure as an unhappily married cashier and amateur painter who becomes so smitten with a prostitute that he refuses to see the obvious: that she and her pimp boyfriend are taking advantage of him. Renoir’s elegant compositions and camera movements carry this twisting narrative—a stinging commentary on class and sexual divisions—to an unforgettably ironic conclusion.p.


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Considered an auteur, there is no denying that within the oeuvre of Jean Renoir is several cinematic masterpieces.

From his films “The Lower Depths” (1936), “La Grande Illusion” (1937), “La Bete Humaine” (1938) and “The Rules of the Game” (1939), a decade before, Renoir was known for his silent films.

But with many careers ending from the transition from silent film to the talkies, with the success of Renoir’s “purge bebe” (1931), he would experiment with sound and trying to create a film quickly within a budget.

And so, Renoir would work on his next film, which included music being recorded in the studio during the acting, and once again, taking on a challenge with a longer film with sound.

And the result was “La chienne” (which translates to “The Bitch”), a film that Renoir had dreamed of making because it would feature one of his favorite actors, Michel Simon and it was also a film that utilized darkness via nighttime photography which would later become an influence in cinema.

“La chienne” also was a goal for Renoir to create a film that was adapted from a novel and a play.  An adaptation of Georges de La fouchardiere’s novel, unfortunately “La chienne” wasn’t a box office draw, the film is seen as Jean Renoir’s starting point for cinema with sound and be appreciated by film critics many decades later.  And a darker US adaptation would be made in 1945, directed by Fritz Lang, known as “Scarlet Street“.

“Le chienne” is a film starring Michel Simon (“L’Atalante”, “Port of Shadows”, The Passion of Joan of Arc”, “Boudu Saved From Drowning”), Janie Mareze (“Mam’zelle Nitouche”, “Le collier”, Amours viennoises”) and Georges Flamant (“The 400 Blows”, “Blind Venus”, “Midnight Tradition”).

“La chienne” would also be the final film of actress Janie Mareze, who was killed in a car accident (driven by actor Georges Flamant) shortly after the completion of the film.

Considered as a Renoir film that is not well known, “La chienne” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“La chienne” begins with a party featuring a cashier named Maurice (portrayed by Michel Simon) and his co-workers.  His co-workers tease Maurice because he doesn’t like to have fun, he always heads home and is often greeted with hostility by his uncaring wife Adele (portrayed by Magdeleine Berubet).

In his spare time, Maurice loves painting and his wife dislikes his paintings that litter the house.

After the party, as Maurice is going home, a couple Andre “Dede” Govain (portrayed by Georges Flamant) and his prostitute girlfriend, Lucienne “Lulu” Pelletier (portrayed by Janie Marese) are arguing as Dede needs money to pay off his gambling debts.  When Lulu tells him that she has no money, he beats her.

But immediately, Maurice comes to her rescue and brings Lulu home.

Fastforward weeks later and we learn that Maurice has purchase an apartment for Lulu with new furniture and gives her spending money.  We learn that Lulu is using Maurice, but she looks at this arrangement of being with Maurice necessary to save money but also to give Dede the money he needs, in order to strengthen their relationship.

As Maurice’s wife pushes him to rid of his paintings, he gives it to Lulu and puts it on the walls of her place.  Needing money to pay off his debts, Dede sees the paintings and creates a story that Lulu is the true painter and needless to say, collectors start to purchase the paintings.

But as Dede tries to get Lulu to squeeze more money out of Maurice, Maurice who is unable to keep up with Lulu’s new lifestyle, begins to steal money from his company.


VIDEO:

“La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818” is presented in 1:19:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness. Black levels are nice and deep, white and gray levels are well-contrast.  It’s important to note that because of the aspect ratio, the screen size is smaller.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution from a 35 mm safety fine-grain made from the original 35 mm nitrate neagtive.  The film was restored in 2K resolution at Digimage Classics by Les Films du Jeudi and of the Franco-American Cultural Fund DGA – MPA – SACEM – WGAW.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818” in French LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio. The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm optical soundtrack negative and restored by L.E. Diapason.”

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818” comes with the following special features:

  • Jean Renoir Introduction – (2:43) An introduction to “La chienne” by director Jean Renoir from 1961.
  • On Purge Bebe – (52:01) Jean Renoir’s first sound film from 1931 starring Michel Simon.  This version is the newly restored version.
  • Christopher Faulkner – (25:24) Jean Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner discusses the filmmakers transition from silenfilm to talkies and the importance of “La chienne”.
  • Jean Renoir le patron: “Michel Simon” – (1:35:13) A 1967 French television program featuring a conversation between Renoir and Simon, directed by Jacques Rivette.

EXTRAS:

“La chienne – The Criterion Collection #818” comes with a poster foldout which comes with the essay “He, She, And the Other Guy” by Ginette Vincendeau.


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Every filmmaker has their beginning, but for Jean Renoir, despite having a successful silent film career, the early 1930’s, was a new beginning for filmmakers as it would lead many to experiment with spoken voices.

While the era of the talkies was not kind to many filmmakers and talent, for Renoir, having success with his first experimental sound film “purge bebe”, his film “La chienne” would be an important film.  Some for good reasons but also for things that are not all that good.

For one, his dream was to work with actor Michel Simon, to create a film that was an adaptation of a novel and play and hope for a film that would jumpstart his career.

Unfortunately, “La chienne” would be devastating for Renoir, as his partnership of having a film starring his wife Catherine Hessling would end.  Thus causing problems within his marriage.

The film was not a box office success, as he would gain the reputation of creating good films, but films that don’t do well in the box office.  While Renoir was later told by a friend that a filmmaker must have failures, and those who have failures receive sympathy from audiences.

“La chienne” would also bring even more heartbreak as lead actress Janie Mareze would be killed in an accident with co-star and boyfriend, Georges Flamant, shortly after the making of the film.

If anything, the film made him humble but also made him serious of creating films with better scripts.  And eventually, several years later, Jean Renoir would create his well-known masterpiece from the mid-to-late ’30s.  And eventually creating films in the United States a decade later.

So, many people could see “La chienne” being important in cinema as a brand new start for Jean Renoir as a filmmaker.

As for the film, while I have been spoiled by Fritz Lang’s 1945 darker remake “Scarlet Street”, Lang’s film is definitely film noir, while “La chienne” can be appreciated for Renoir’s artistic vision, Michel Simon and Janie Mareze’s performance.

As Lang’s “Scarlet Street” felt American, tragic and truly film noir, “La chienne” had the feeling of being French from its romanticism, comedy and irony, especially the Renoir’s use of dialogue to its technical use of shooting in darkness, shooting behind windows, its montage.  But most of all, an ending that fits perfectly with French cinema and feels right.

I enjoyed this Renoir film a lot because it’s a complete film in so many levels.

Overall, I absolutely enjoyed “La chienne” for its wit, Renoir’s writing and direction, the performance of Simon and Mareze.   Without a doubt, “La chienne” is a film that gives us a fantastic glimpse of the auteur that Jean Renoir would one day become.

Recommended!

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Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Le Amiche” may be looked at as a different Michelangelo Antonioni film in the fact that it’s less alienating and not about the psychology of people but more of the focus on relationships and detachment. But what can appreciate “Le Amiche” is for its daring approach of being different from the norm of films which were focused on Italian Neorealism during that time. A precursor to Antonioni masterpieces that would come years later, “Le Amiche” is an early Antonioni film worth watching!

Image courtesy of © Titanus 1955. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817

YEAR OF FILM: 1955

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Italian Monaural with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Film/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2016


Based on the Novel by Cesare Pavese

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Screenplay by Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Michelangelo Antonioni

Collaboration by Alba De Cespedes

Story by Dorothy B. Hughes

Produced by Robert Lord

Associate Producer: Henry S. Kesler

Music by George Antheil

Cinematography by Burnett Guffrey

Edited by Viola Lawrence

Art Direction by Robert Peterson

Set Decoration by William Kiernan

Costume Design by Jean Louis


Starring:

Eleanora Rossa Drago as Clelia

Gabriele Ferzetti as Lorenzo

Franco Fabrizi as Cesare Pedoni, The Architect

Valentina Cortese as Nene

Yvonne Furneaux as Momina De Stefani

Madeleine Fischer as Rosetta Savoni

Anna Maria Pancani as Mariella

Luciano Volpato as Tony

Ettore Manni as Carlo


This major early achievement by Michelangelo Antonioni bears the first signs of the cinema-changing style for which he would soon be world-famous. Le amiche (The Girlfriends) is a brilliantly observed, fragmentary depiction of modern bourgeois life, conveyed from the perspective of five Turinese women. As four of the friends try to make sense of the suicide attempt of the fifth, they find themselves examining their own troubled romantic lives. With suggestions of the theme of modern alienation and the fastidious visual abstraction that would define his later masterpieces such as L’avventura, L’eclisse, and Red Desert, Antonioni’s film is a devastating take on doomed love and fraught friendship.


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Before Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni would be known as the “Master of Alienation” and would direct well-known films “Blow Up” (1966), “Red Desert” (1964), “L’Eclisse”(1962), “La Notte” (1961) and “L’Avventura” (1960), he directed his fourth feature film, “Le Amiche” (1955).

An adaptation of Cesare Pavese’s 1949 novel “Tra donne sole”, his film would star Eleanora Rossi Drago (“Violent Summer”, “David & Goliath”, “Dorian Gray”), Gabrielle Ferzetti (“L’Avventura, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”), Fabrico Fabrizi (“I Vitelloni”, “Ginger and Fred”, “Death in Venice”), Valentina Cortese (“Day for Night”, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”, “The Barefoot Contessa”), Yvonne Furneaux (“La Dolce Vitta”, “Repulsion”, “The Mummy”), Madeleine Fischer (“The Day the Sky Exploded”, “Class of Iron”) and Anna Maria Pancani (“The Bachelor”, “Piccola Posta”, “Operazione Notte”).

And now this early Michelangelo Antonioni film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

The film revolves around Clelia (portrayed by Eleonora Rossi Drago), a successful woman who is planning to open a branch of a Rome fashion salon in her native city of Turin.

While she is overseeing the grand opening, when she goes to her hotel, her maid tells her that a young woman in the next room is dead.  Clelia goes to check on the young woman, Rosetta Savoni (portrayed by Madeleine Fischer) and sees that she tried to overdose on sleeping pills and tried to commit suicide.

While Clelia is being interviewed by police, Rosetta’s friend Momina De Stefani (portrayed by Yvonne Furneaux) comes to visit and finds out that her friend tried to kill herself.

Clelia and Momina become friends and she is introduced to her wealthy friends including an artist named Nene (portrayed by Valentina Cortese) who lives with her less successful fiance, a painter named Lorenzo (portrayed by Gabriele Ferzetti) who envies his girlfriend’s success.  But because his jealousy is pushing him away from his wife, he ends up becoming closer to the emotionally unstable Rosetta.

And their other wealthy friend, Mariella (portrayed by Anna Maria Pancani) is flirtatious and just loves the attention of men.

Meanwhile, Clelia starts to fall for Carlo (portrayed by Ettore Manni), assistant of the salon’s architect, Cesare Pedoni (portrayed by Franco Fabrizi).  But because Carlo is a member of the working class and Clelia is financially successful, both are from two walks of life.

But with the class of ego’s, unfortunate advice by one of the women would eventually lead to tragedy.


VIDEO:

“Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness.  Black levels are nice and deep, white and gray levels are well-contrast.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Supervised by film historian Carlo Di Carlo in 2008, this 2K restoration was undertaken by L’Immagine Ritrovata, with funding provided by the Gucci and The Film Foundation, from the 35 mm original camera negative.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817” in Italian LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio. The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at L’Immagine Ritrovata from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive printed from the original soundtrack negative.”

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817” comes with the following special features:

  • David Forgacs and Karen Pinkus – (27:01) Featuring scholars David Forgacs and Karen Pinkus discussing “Le Amiche” and its themes, visual style and adaptation.
  • Eugenia Paulicelli – (22:25) Film scholar Eugenia Paulicelli talking about the significance of fashion in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni.

EXTRAS:

“Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817” comes with a six-page foldout which comes with the essay “Friends – Italian Style” by Tony Pipolo.


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A film about friendships, relationships but also a modern and fashionable look of successful independent women.

Unlike other Antonioni films that delves into the psychology of a relationship and the alienation of its character, this film is about independent women making choices, independent and wealthy women and their relationships that appear strong based on their free spirit and lifestyle.

But the more one delves into each of the women’s thoughts throughout the film, you realize they are much different and for some, not as strong-willed as it may seem.

The film follows the character of Clelia, who left Turin to make a life for herself. And she has become successful and now returns back to the city of Turin to open up a Rome fashion salon but to find out how much she has changed from the city she grew up in.

Where psychology is important in an Antonioni film of trying to understand a character’s alienation, “Le Amiche” is different in the fact that it delves into a bourgeois facade of life being much better for those who are wealthy and are able to sport popular fashion brands.

And one should remember that this is all quite fascinating because Italian cinema was focused on humanity and post-war suffering of the Italian people.  Italian neorealism showcased many people, many families who had not much to survive.

While “Le Amiche” is much different as it showcased women who were independent, wealthy and successful.  But at the same time, their perceptions towards life is less about family and moreso about finding a man, having fun and being stylish.

But Clelia, one of the wealthy, successful women, who is just in the city of Turin to visit, starts to see the bad with these women that she has befriended.  Clelia is independent, successful through hard work, other women she has befriended try to find themselves a wealthy man to take care of them.  She is not that type of person.

The film also tries to show viewers why, among these friends, the character of Rosetta is suicidal and unstable but why her friends are so uncaring of one of their own.

But things are not all good with only the women, a few of the men have succumbed to their own bouts of insecurity.  Lorenzo is a talented painter, but nowhere as successful as his girlfriend Nene.  And with Nene’s career blossoming, his jealousy starts to consume him.  Pushing him towards the arms of the unstable, Rosetta.

Meanwhile, Clelia starts to fall for Carlo, the assistant to the architect.  But Carlo knows that his place in society, is much different than Clelia.  And as both do have feelings for each other, both know that they are from two different worlds.

The camerawork and also Antonioni’s choreography of where people should be on film was also great to see, especially being an earlier Antonioni film.

As for the Blu-ray, “Le Amiche” looks fantastic in HD, with the clarity of the overall picture to be wonderfully contrast and sharp.  While lossless audio is free of any hiss or crackle.  You also get two special features, one that goes into the film and its difference to the novel, while the other featurette focuses on the fashion featured in Antonioni films.

Overall, “Le Amiche” may be looked at as a different Michelangelo Antonioni film in the fact that it’s less alienating and not about the psychology of people but more of the focus on relationships and detachment.  But what can appreciate “Le Amiche” is for its daring approach of being different from the norm of films which were focused on Italian Neorealism during that time.

A precursor to Antonioni masterpieces that would come years later, “Le Amiche” is an early Antonioni film worth watching!

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In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you love film noir, the Criterion Collection’s release of “In a Lonely Place” is worth watching and owning. Showcasing the wonderful performance by both Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame and also fantastic direction by filmmaker Nicholas Ray, you’ll see why “In a Lonely Place” is considered a classic. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1950, renewed in 1977.  Columbia Pictures Industries, LLC. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810

YEAR OF FILM: 1950

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2016


Directed by Nicholas Ray

Written by Andrew Solt

Adaptation by Edmund H. North

Story by Dorothy B. Hughes

Produced by Robert Lord

Associate Producer: Henry S. Kesler

Music by George Antheil

Cinematography by Burnett Guffrey

Edited by Viola Lawrence

Art Direction by Robert Peterson

Set Decoration by William Kiernan

Costume Design by Jean Louis


Starring:

Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steel

Gloria Grahame as Laurel Gray

Frank Lovejoy as Det. Sgt. Brub Nicolai

Carl Benton Reid as Capt. Lochner

Art Smith as Agent Mel Lippman

Jeff Donnell as Sylvia Nicolai

Martha Stewart as Mildred Atkinson

Robert Warwick as Charlie Waterman

Morris Ankrum as Lloyd Barnes

William Ching as Ted Barton

Steven Geray as Paul

Hadda Brooks as Singer


When a gifted but washed-up screenwriter with a hair-trigger temper—Humphrey Bogart, in a revelatory, vulnerable performance—becomes the prime suspect in a brutal Tinseltown murder, the only person who can supply an alibi for him is a seductive neighbor (Gloria Grahame) with her own troubled past. The emotionally charged In a Lonely Place, freely adapted from a Dorothy B. Hughes thriller, is a brilliant, turbulent mix of suspenseful noir and devastating melodrama, fueled by powerhouse performances. An uncompromising tale of two people desperate to love yet struggling with their demons and each other, this is one of the greatest films of the 1950s, and a benchmark in the career of the classic Hollywood auteur Nicholas Ray.


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From Nicholas Ray, the legendary filmmaker of “Rebel Without a Cause”, “Johnny Guitar”, “King of Kings” and “Bigger Than Life” is his 1950 film noir “In a Lonely Place”.

The film is an adaptation by Edmund North which is based on the novel of the same name by Dorothy B. Hughes.

The film would star Humphrey Bogart (“Casablanca”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, “The Big Sleep”), Gloria Grahame (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Oklahoma!”, “The Big Heat”), Frank Lovejoy (“The Adventures of McGraw”, “House of Wax”, “The Hitch-Hiker”), Carl Benton Reid (“The Little Foxes”, “The Great Caruso”, “Pork Chop Hill”), Art Smith (“Letter from an Unknown Woman”, “Quicksand”), Jeff Donnell (“Sweet Smell of Success”, “Tora! Tora! Tora”), Martha Stewart (“Daisy Kenyon”, “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”, “Doll Face”) and Robert Warwick (“Sullivan’s Travels”, “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “The Awful Truth”).

Considered as one of Humphrey Bogart’s finest performances in a film, the film has been included in top 100 lists and in 2007, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

And now “In a Lonely Place” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection May 2016.

The film revolves around Dixon “Dix” Steele (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart), a Hollywood screenwriter who has a violent temper and has not had a hit screenplay since before the war.

While Dix is driving to meet with his agent, Mel Lippman (portrayed by Art Smith), he gets into a confrontation at the stoplight with another driver in which Dix threatens to fight the man.

As Dix and Mel meet, Mel tries to convince Dix to adapt a book for a film.  Dix meets the hat-check girl, Mildred Atkinson (portrayed by Martha Stewart) and she reads his screenplay which she loves.  Meanwhile, Dix has another violent outburst when a young director bad mouths Dix’s friend Charlie (portrayed by Robert Warwick), who has not had any success in a very long time and is considered a washed-up actor.

Too tired to read the novel, he invites Mildred to come home with him and read it.   As the two walk towards his apartment, they pass by one of the new tenants, Laurel Gray (portrayed by Gloria Grahame).  As Dix and Mildred enter his home, Dix tries to let her know that she is there to read and he’s not trying to seduce her.  But as she describes the book, Dix loses interest and thinks the book is trash and tells Mildred to go home, giving her cab fare, as he is tired.

The following morning, his old army friend and currently a police detective, Brub Nicolai (portrayed by Frank Lovejoy) comes to visit and tells Dix that he needs to come downtown for questioning by Captain Lochner (portrayed by Carl Benton Reid).

They explain to Dix that Mildred, the hat-check girl was found murdered and that Dix is the subject.  Meanwhile, Laurel Gray is brought in to confirm that Dix and Mildred came home together, which she confirms.

While Brub doesn’t think Dix is guilty, Captain Lochner is not put off by the fact that Dix is not showing any sadness, sympathy or emotion towards the death of Mildred.  But the Captain is not aware that after the questioning, Dix anonymously sends two dozen white roses to Mildred.

When Dix goes home, he connects with Laurel and finds out that she is an aspiring actress.  They eventually start to fall in love and Dix gets the passion to write the screenplay adaptation.  But Laurel starts to notice Dix’s violent outbursts and starts to question her relationship with him but also wondering if he may be responsible in the murder of Mildred Atkinson.


VIDEO:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This 2K digital transfer was created on a Spirit datacine from a new 35 mm fine grain master positive made him from the original camera negative.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” in LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio.  The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24 bit from the original 35 mm soundtrack negative at Chace Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, California, under the direction of Grover Crisp and Bob Simmons.  Additional restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring the audio commentary by film scholar Dana Polan.
  • I’m a Stranger Here Myself: A Portrait of Nicholas Ray – (40:33) A 1975 documentary about director Nicholas Ray, presented in a slightly condensed form.  Featuring interviews with Ray, filmmakers Francois Truffaut and actors Natalie Wood and John Houseman, among others.
  • Gloria Grahame – (16:39) Author Vincent Curcio (“Suicide Blonde: The Life of Gloria Grahame” discusses her talents, her marriage to Nicholas Ray and her unforgettable life.
  • “In a Lonely Place”: Revisited – (20:23) Filmmaker Curtis Hanson discussing “In a Lonely Place” and why its an enduring cinema classic.
  • Suspense Episode 287 – (59:56) (audio) A radio adaptation of Dorothy B. Hughes novel which differs from Nicholas Ray’s film.  Priginally broadcast on March 6, 1948 as part of the CBS radio series “Suspense”.  Stars Robert Montgomery and Lurene Tuttle.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “In a Lonely Place”.

EXTRAS:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” comes with a six-page foldout which comes with the essay “An Epitaph For Live” by Imogen Sara Smith (author of “In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City” and “Buster Keaton: The Persistence of Comedy”).


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Years after “In a Lonely Place” debuted in theaters, the film has become a film noir classic.

Beloved by classic film fans for the performances by legendary actor Humphrey Bogart and actress Gloria Grahame.

But for cineaste, many found it to be as captivating because of the director Nicholas Ray and how the two characters in the film, were inspired by the real life relationship and failed marriage between Ray and his wife, the film’s lead actress, Gloria Grahame.

A film that would make one wonder, is the character Dix innocent or is he actually guilty for murder?  Known for his violent temper, the way Nicholas Ray would manage to find balance in trying to portray the character as possibly innocent and possibly worked to the film’s efficacy.

But for actress Gloria Grahame, this is probably the film that would showcase the actress in a whole new light, allowing her to be the leading lady of a screen legend but showing that she is fully capable to take on a lead role in which the character goes through many emotional highs and lows.

The film benefits from the cinematography of Burnett Guffey, for example, one scene in which Bogart describes how Mildred may have been murdered, he is able to shine a light on Bogart, making the character visually frightening as the character of Dix starts to beam during his discussion of something quite macabre.

I also have to say the film also incorporates great writing and the quotes are memorable, especially:

“I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me.”

As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, the film does a great job of honoring both Nicholas Ray and his return to filmmaking after leaving the industry while he was one of the most wanted directors in Hollywood but also the good times and also the troubled life of actress Gloria Grahame (and how her fourth marriage would be to her ex-husband, Nicholas Ray’s son).  You also get a the radio episode from 1948 of “In a Lonely Place” included as well!

As expected from the Criterion Collection, the picture quality of the film features wonderful clarity and sharpness and a clear soundtrack.  No damage and the film looks and sounds great in HD.

Overall, if you love film noir, the Criterion Collection’s release of “In a Lonely Place” is worth watching and owning.  Showcasing the wonderful performance by both Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame and also fantastic direction by filmmaker Nicholas Ray, you’ll see why “In a Lonely Place” is considered a classic.  Recommended!

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Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you have been exposed to Whit Stillman’s films such as “Metropolitan”, “The Last Days of Disco” and his more recent “Damsels in Distress”, each of these films have an undercurrent of intelligent storytelling, fascinating conversations but also interesting characters. “Barcelona” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1994 Film Barcelona, Inc. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807

YEAR OF FILM: 1994

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English 2.0 Surround with English SDH Subtitles

COMPANY: Warner Bros./THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2016


Directed by Whit Stillman

Written by Whit Stillman

Produced by Whit Stillman, Antonio Llorens, Jordi Tusell

Associate Producer: Edmon Roch, Cecilia Kate Roque

Line Producer: Victoria Borras, Rosa Romero

Music by Mark Suozzo

Cinematography by John Thomas

Edited by Christopher Tellefsen

Casting by Billy Hopkins, Simone Reynolds

Production Design by Jose Maria Botines

Costume Design by Edi Giguere


Starring:

Taylor Nicholas as Ted Boynton

Chris Eigeman as Fred Boynton

Tushka Bergen as Montserrat Raventos

Mira Sorvino as Marta Ferrer

Pep Munne as Ramone

Hellena Taylor as Greta

Nuria Badia as Aurora Boval

Thomas Gibson as Dickie Taylor


Whit Stillman followed his delightful indie breakthrough Metropolitan with another clever and garrulous comedy of manners, this one with a darker edge. A pair of preppy yet constitutionally mismatched American cousins—a salesman and a navy officer—argue about romance and politics while working in the beautiful Spanish city of the film’s title. Set during the eighties, Barcelona explores topics both heady (American exceptionalism, Cold War foreign policy) and hilarious (the ins and outs of international dating, the proper shaving method) while remaining a constantly witty delight, featuring a sharp young cast that includes Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, and Mira Sorvino.


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For filmmaker Whit Stillman, his experience living in Spain during the early ’80s, would lead him to create his first studio-financed film, “Barcelona”.

The film would reunite Stillman with his “Metropolitan” actors Taylor Nichols (“Jurassic Park III”, “Boiler Room”, “Godzilla”) and Chris Eigeman (“Maid in Manhattan”, “Arbitrage”, “The Last Days of Disco”).

The film would also star Tushka Bergen (“Swing Kids”, “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”, “Journey to the Center of the Earth”), Mira Sorvino (“Replacement Killers”, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”, “Mimic”), Hellena Taylor (best known for the voice of video game character, “Bayonetta”), Pep Munne (“Lovers of the Arctic Circle”, “The Fish Child”) and Thomas Gibson (“Dharma & Greg”, “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Criminal Minds”).

And now Whit Stillman’s film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“Barcelona” is set in the early 1980’s when anti-American sentiment is high.

The film revolves around an uptight Chicago salesman Ted Boynton (portrayed by Taylor Nichols) who finds out that the cousin he doesn’t care much for, Fred Boynton (portrayed by Chris Eigeman), a naval officer, is coming to stay with him unexpectedly for a short amount of time.

Fred tells Ted that he has been sent to Barcelona to handle public relations on behalf of a U.S. fleet schedule to arrive later.  And he is need of Ted’s help to introduce him to the area, so he can scout the territory.  And as the two look at various popular locations, Ted warns Fred of the “trade show girls”, who often frequent the bars and clubs in Barcelona.

Throughout the film, we learn about how these two cousins have many years of conflict and are total opposites.  Both develop relationships with women in Barcelona. Despite Ted having numerous bad experiences with them, thus he swears off dating beautiful women.

For Fred, he is dating the opinionated Marta Ferrer (portrayed by Mira Sorvino), a Trade Fair employee.  While Ted is dating Montserrat Raventos, a blonde local working at Fira de Barcelona (Barcelona Traid Fair), but also lives with her lover Ramon (portrayed by Pep Munne), a journalist who is not so fond of Americans.

And as Fred’s one day of staying with Ted starts to transition into multiple days, will these cousins grow to appreciate each other or will they drive each other nuts?

Also, will Ted and Fred find their true calling in Barcelona?


VIDEO:

“Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807” is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is fantastic as skin tones are natural, black levels are nice and deep, while outdoor scenes are vibrant.  There is good amount of detail and for the most part, picture quality is an improvement from the old Warner Bros. DVD release.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Supervised by Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner fro the 35 mm a/B original camera negative, at MTI Film in Los Angeles.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices , and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807” is presented in lossless English 2.0 surround.  Dialogue and disco music are crystal clear through the front channels.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original 2.0 surround sountrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm original magnetic tracks.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.  Pleas be sure to enable Dolby Pro Logic decoding on your receiver to properly play the Dolby 2.0 surround soundtrack.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring the 2002 audio commentary with director Whit Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols.
  • Video Essay – (20:50) Film critic Farran Smith Nehme looks at the themes and characters of Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan”, “The Last Days of Disco” and “Barcelona”.
  • The Making of “Barcelona” – (5:32) A brief documentary shot on location during the film of “Barcelona” in 1993.
  • Deleted Scenes – (2:52) Featuring three deleted scenes with optional audio commentary  with director Whit Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols.
  • Alternate Ending – (4:26) The alternate ending with optional audio commentary  with director Whit Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols.
  • Today – (5:09) A 1994 episode of The “Today” Show with host Katie Couric and director Whit Stillman about “Barcelona”.
  • The Dick Cavett Show – (24:32) An interview from January 22, 1991 between host Dick Cavett and director Whit Stillman.
  • Charlie Rose – (13:31) A July 29, 1994 episode of “Charlie Rose” featuring an interview with Rose and director Whit Stillman.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Barcelona”.

EXTRAS:

“Barcelona – The Criterion Collection #807” comes with a five-page foldout which comes with the essay “Innocence Abroad” by Haden Guest.


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Watching “Barcelona”, while a much different film compared to my Whit Stillman favorite, “Metropolitan”, the intelligent conversations are just as important in this film and I found it to be quite delightful.

Ted and Fred are men with different perspectives in life, with Ted who is often serious and talks to everyone else, as if he was talking with a like-minded academic with similar ideals.  He doesn’t dumb down his ideals or intellect for anyone, but while it looks like his life is fully-adjusted, in truth, Ted is trying to find his own way in Barcelona.

Worried about his sales performance and losing his job, he also has had failed relationships and hopes to meet a woman that would change his life.  And in that, he has found Montserrat Raventos, a beautiful blonde local.  And as much as you think these two have got a good thing going, she drops a bombshell that she lives with her lover, Ramone, a “not so fond of Americans” journalist.

But while you think Ramone would be the perfect antagonist in the storyline, the true opposite and rival is Ted’s cousin, Fred.  The two have had conflicts since childhood but yet are not able to agree.  Each time they are together, their conversations are almost as each are trying to one-up each other.

The film also draws from director Whit Stillman’s life in Barcelona during the ’80s.  Stillman when discussing the film has talked about the anti-American sentiment in Spain during the early ’80s and it’s a sentiment that is seen quite often in the film as Ted champions capitalism, Fred on the other hand is proud to support the military, despite both of them being with Barcelona women, opinions towards them are not too high.

The more you watch this film, you start to learn that the film is in truth two men trying to find their own way.  Despite the cousins being the odd couple, both are essential to each other in their pursuit of self-discovery and what is around them.

As for the Blu-ray release of “Barcelona”, the film looks fantastic in HD as picture quality shows much better color and clarity, as well as detail compared to the old DVD release.  Lossless audio is crystal clear, while special features for “Barcelona” features more features that tend to celebrate Whit Stillman’s career as a filmmaker, primarily for his first three films.

Overall, if you have been exposed to Whit Stillman’s films such as “Metropolitan”, “The Last Days of Disco” and his more recent “Damsels in Distress”, each of these films have an undercurrent of intelligent storytelling, fascinating conversations but also interesting characters.

“Barcelona” is recommended!

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The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates – The Criterion Collection #808 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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An intimate portrayal not typical of documentaries of its time, “The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates” will be remembered for its groundbreaking documentary style and filmmaking.  And is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Drew Associates Inc. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates – The Criterion Collection #808

YEAR OF FILM: Primary (1960), Adventures of the New Frontier (1961), Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963), Faces of November (1964)

DURATION: Primary (53 Minutes), Adventures of the New Frontier (52 Minutes), Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (53 Minutes), Faces of November (12 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural LPCM 1.0

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: April 26, 2016


Primary (1960)

Directed by Robert Drew

Written by Robert Drew

Produced by Robert Drew

Cinematography by Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles

Adventures on the New Frontier (1961)

Directed by Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker, Kenneth Stilson

Executive Produced by Robert Drew

Produced by Bo Goldman

Edited by Robert Farren, Peggy Lawson, Larry Moyer, Anita Posner

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963)

Directed by Robert Drew

Executive Producer: Robert Drew

Producer: Gregory Shuker

Faces of November (1964)

Directed by Robert Drew


Starring:

Primary (1961)

Robert Drew

Hubert H. Humphrey

Joseph Julian as Narrator (voice)

Jacqueline Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy

Adventures on the New Frontier (1961)

McGeorge Bundy

Paul B. Fay Jr.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Arthur Goldberg

Richard Goodwin

Albert Gore Sr.

Walter W. Heller

Hubert H. Humphrey

Joseph Julian

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Jacqueline Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy

Evelyn Lincoln

John J. McCloy

Kenneth P. O’Donnell

Pierre Salinger

Haile Selassie

Theodore Sorensen

John Steinbeck

Gerhard Mennen Williams

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963)

John F. Kennedy

George Wallace

Robert F. Kennedy

Vivian Malone 

James Hood

Michael LeMoyne Kennedy

Burke Marshall

Nicholas Katzenbach

John Dore

Jack Greenberg

Creighton Williams Abrams

Kerry Kennedy

Peyton Norville

Henry Graham

Dave McGlathery

James Lipcomb (Narrator)

Faces of November (1964)

Lyndon Johnson

Caroline Kennedy

John Kennedy Jr.

Peter Lawford


Seeking to invigorate the American documentary format, which he felt was rote and uninspired, Robert Drew brought the style and vibrancy he had fostered as a Life magazine correspondent to filmmaking in the late fifties. He did this by assembling an amazing team—including such eventual nonfiction luminaries as Richard Leacock, D. A. Pennebaker, and Albert Maysles—that would transform documentary cinema. In 1960, the group was granted direct access to John F. Kennedy, filming him on the campaign trail and eventually in the Oval Office. This resulted in three films of remarkable, behind-closed-doors intimacy—Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, and Crisis—and, following the president’s assassination, the poetic short Faces of November. Collected here are all four of these titles, early exemplars of the movement known as Direct Cinema and featuring the greatest close-up footage we have of this American icon.


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When it comes to American documentaries, Robert Lincoln Drew is considered a pioneer of the genre.

Also called the father of “cinema verite” (a.k.a. “Direct Cinema”), Drew said in a 1962 interview that he wanted to create “a form of documentary that would ‘drop word logic and find a dramatic logic in which things really happened’.  It would be ‘a theater without actors; it would be plays without playwrights; it would be reporting without summary and opinion; it would be the ability to look in on people’s lives at crucial times from which you could deduce certain things and see a kind of truth that can only be gotten from personal experience.”

Drew would recruit filmmakers with the same view to crew Drew Associates” which included filmmakers Richard Leacock (“Queen of Apollo”, “A Stravinsky Portrait”, “Lulu in Berlin”), D.A. Pennebaker (“Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back”, “The War Room”, “Monterey Pop”), Terence Macartney-Filgate (“Lewis Mumford on the City”, “Blood and Fire”, “Vladimir Nabokov”) and Albert Maysles (“Grey Gardens”, “Gimme Shelter”, “Salesman”).

Among Robert Drew and his associates most famous works were focused on President John F. Kennedy and the Criterion Collection will bring four of his films on Blu-ray titled “The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates”.

The first is titled “Primary” and is a 1960 Direct Cinema documentary film about the Wisconsin primary election between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey for the United States Democratic Party nomination for the President of the United States.  The film was directed by Robert Drew and shot by Richard Leacock and Albert Maysles and edited by D.A. Pennebaker.

This documentary was seen as a major breakthrough in documentary film style as it gave viewers much more intimacy thanks to the use of mobile cameras and lighter sound equipment.

And the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1990 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

The second documentary featured is “Adventures on the New Frontier” which gave a rare and candid glimpse inside the Oval Office and follows John F. Kennedy on his daily work routine.  The film was aired on ABC television as part of its “Close-Up!” series in 1961.

The third documentary “Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment” centered on the University of Alabama’s “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” integration crisis and focused on President John F. Kennedy, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, Alabama governor George Wallace, deputy attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach and students Vivian Malone and James Hood.  Wallace would do what he can to block the two black students from enrolling in the university, while the JFK administration discusses on the best way to react to Wallace’s promise.  The documentary was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress” in 2011 as it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

The fourth documentary is “Faces of November” and is a 12-minute short film covering the Kennedy’s state funeral and capturing the family mourning but also the many people mourning the death of JFK.


VIDEO:

“The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates – The Criterion Collection #808” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio in black and white and presented in 1080p High Definition. The film looks amazing as the picture quality is well-contrast in some footage, but with different film sources, picture quality differs from scene-to-scene.  But for the most part, black levels are nice and deep, white and grays are sharp and the film looks fantastic in HD!

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Scanity film scanner.  ‘Primary’ and ‘Cris’ were created from Academy Film Archive – preserved 16mm fine-grain positives; ‘Adventures on the New Frontier’ from an Academy Film Archive – preserved 16 mm fine-grain positive; and ‘Faces of November’ from the original 16mm A/B camera negative.  Preservation of the three Academy Film Archive fine-grain positives was done by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in collaboration with The Film Foundation.  2K digital restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates – The Criterion Collection #808” is presented in English monaural LPCM 1.0.  Dialogue is clear without any buzzing, hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit.  ‘Primary’ was remastered from a 16mm magnetic track; ‘Adventures of the New Frontier’ from a 16mm optical soundtrack print; ‘Faces of November’ from a 35mm optical soundtrack print; and ‘Crisis’ from the original 35mm soundtrack negative.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4”.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates – The Criterion Collection #808” comes with the following special features:

  • Robert Drew in His Own Words – (34:13) Featuring multiple interviews with filmmaker Robert Drew to present a portrait of the man who conceived a new way of creating nonfiction cinema, then marshaled an amazing array of talent to realize his vision.
  • Jill Drew and D.A. Pennebaker – (26:22) Drew Associates general manager Jill Drew interviews D.A. Pennebaker and his working relationship with Robert Drew and the joys and challenges of filming the President of the United States.
  • Andrew Cohen on Crisis and Its Outtakes– (46:24) Historian Andrew Cohen, author of “Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History” discusses what was and what was not included in the film.
  • Sharon Malone and Eric Holder – (26:16) Sharon Malone, sister of Vivian Malone (the female student in “Crisis”) and her husband, former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, discuss the film and her sister’s place in history.
  • Richard Reeves – (27:13) Historian Richard Reeves, author of “President Kennedy: Profile of Power” discusses JFK’s primary campaign and the inner workings of his White House.
  • Drew Associates at the Museum of Tolerance – (26:41) In October 1998, at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences premiered restorations of Drew Associates’ Kennedy films.

EXTRAS:

“The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates – The Criterion Collection #808” comes with a 28-page booklet with the essay “Capturing the Kennedys” by Thom Powers.


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The Criterion Collection is best known for their dedication in bringing out titles to the masses, films which are important classic and contemporary films.

“The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates” is a collection of several films by American documentarian Robert Drew and his fellow filmmakers who had their own respective careers in filmmaking: Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker and Kenneth Stilson.

Robert Drew is looked at as the pioneer for Cinema Verite and his crew were known for bringing an intimacy towards its subjects that has never before been seen in a non-fiction film.

In “Primary”, viewers get to see the behind-the-scenes Democratic primary between John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey; “Adventures on a New Frontier” featuring a day-in-the-life of President John F. Kennedy in the oval office; “Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment” which prominently features President JFK’s brother Robert F. Kennedy as we see the strategy of Governor George Wallace trying to prevent two Black students from getting an education at the University of Alabama and RFK and staff doing what they can to counter him.  It’s quite fascinating to watch the two differing perspectives.

For “Faces of November”, the video is short footage capturing family and friends of the Kennedy’s and the many people (of all ages, of all races) who are mourning President Kennedy.

The collection of these four films are no doubt early examples of Direct Cinema but the significance of what Robert Drew and his crew were able to accomplish was magnificent.  And to know that the other talents who were part of Drew Associates, would go on to create big things for their own respective careers.

Leacock, Maysles, Pennebaker and Stilson were documentary legends in their own right and people love and respect their work in the present.

The Blu-ray release features very good picture quality, despite the difference of scenes showing better clarity.  The monaural LPCM 1.0 soundtrack is clear with no signs of hiss.  And special features are captivating as Criterion Collection did a remarkable job in paying tribute to Robert Drew and his associates.

As a person who is fascinated by John F. Kennedy’s life and presidency, it’s great to see a collection that pays tribute to the legendary filmmaker Robert Drew, his crew of talented filmmakers but most of all bringing together these four Kennedy films to a new generation of audiences who may be familiar with John F. Kennedy but want to see these politicians in their true natural state.

An intimate portrayal not typical of documentaries of its time, “The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates” will be remembered for its groundbreaking documentary style and filmmaking.  And is highly recommended!

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Bicycle Thieves – The Criterion Collection #374 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” is a brilliant film of the Italian neorealism genre and a true masterpiece of not just the genre but of cinema in general. Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1972 by Richard Feiner and Company, Inc. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Bicycle Thieves – The Criterion Collection #374

YEAR OF FILM: 1948

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Italian Monaural with English SDH Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2016


Directed by Vittorio De Sica

Based on the novel by Luigi Bartolini

Story by Cesare Zavattini

Screenplay by Oreste Biancoli, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Vittorio De Sica, Adolfo Franci, Gherardo Gherardi, Gerardo Guerrieri, Cesare Zavattini

Produced by Giuseppe Amato

Music by Alessandro Cicogini

Cinematography by Carlo Montuori

Edited by Eraldo Da Roma

Production Design by Antonio Traverso


Starring:

Lamberto Maggiorani as Antonio Ricci

Enzo Staiola as Bruno Ricci

Lianella Carell as Maria Ricci

Gino Saltamerenda as Baiocco


Hailed around the world as one of the greatest movies ever made, the Academy Award–winning Bicycle Thieves, directed by Vittorio De Sica, defined an era in cinema. In poverty-stricken postwar Rome, a man is on his first day of a new job that offers hope of salvation for his desperate family when his bicycle, which he needs for work, is stolen. With his young son in tow, he sets off to track down the thief. Simple in construction and profoundly rich in human insight, Bicycle Thieves embodies the greatest strengths of the Italian neorealist movement: emotional clarity, social rectitude, and brutal honesty.


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Considered as one of the greatest films of Italian neorealism and one of the greatest films of all time, “Ladri di biciclette” (Bicycle Thieves) receives the HD treatment on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

Directed by Vittorio De Sica (“Umberto D.”, “Indiscretion of an American Wife”, “Boccaccio ’70”), the 1948 film stars Lamberto Maggiorani (“Mamma Roma”, “Attention! Bandits!”, “Don Camillo e l’on  Peppone”), Enzo Staiola (“The Barefoot Contessa”, “Times Gone By”, “Lucky Nick Cain”), Lianella Carrell (“The Gold of Naples”, “Love and Troubles”, “Me, Me Me…and the Others”) and Gino Saltamerenda (“When Love Calls”, “The Thief of Venice”).

“Bicycle Thieves” is set in post-World War II Val Melaina in Rome.

Antonio Ricci (portrayed by Lamberto Maggiorani) is down on his luck about not making any income for his family and he is becoming desperate.

One day, he is offered a job to post advertising bills, but there is one thing he needs to get the job…he must own a bicycle.

His wife Maria (portrayed by Lianella Carell) sells the family bedsheets to a pawn shop which she acquired as part of the dowry and is the family’s prized possession.  And the money they get back is enough for Antonio to purchase a pawned Fides bicycle.

The couple are excited and can’t wait to be making money, meanwhile his son Bruno (portrayed by Enzo Staiola) is concerned about the bikes maintenance.

On the first day of work, Antonio out on a job is posting an advertising bill and his bicycle is stolen by a thief.  And as Antonio tries to chase him down, he is thrown off the trail by one of the thief’s comrades, who pretends to be a good Samaritan that is helping out Antonio.

While Antonio goes to the police, they don’t do anything.  Desperate to get his bicycle back, as he needs it to work, Antonio and a friend check out Piazza Vittorio market, where many stolen bike parts are sold.

Persistent about getting his job back, how far will Antonio go to find it?


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VIDEO:

“Bicycle Thieves – The Criterion Collection #374” is presented in 1:37:1 aspect ratio in black and white and presented in 1080p High Definition. The film looks amazing as the picture quality is well-contrast.  Black levels are nice and deep, white and grays are sharp and the film looks fantastic in HD!

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scannity film scanner from a 35 mm optical safety fine-grain master made from the original nitrate negative.  The restoration was performed by Digital Film Restore in Chennai, India.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Bicycle Thieves – The Criterion Collection #374” is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0.  Dialogue is clear without any buzzing, hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bicycle Thieves – The Criterion Collection #374” comes with the following special features:

  • Working with De Sica – (22:40) Interviews with film scholar Callisto Cosulich and “Bicycle Thieves” co-screenwriter Suso Cecchi d’Amico and actor Enzo Staiola.
  • Life As It Is: The Neorealist Movement in Italy – (39:56) Film scholar Mark Shiel, author of “Italian neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City” discusses the history of Italian neorealism and the place of “Bicycle Thieves” within the movement.
  • Cesare Zavattini – (55:38) A documentary directed by Carlo Lizzani, exploring writer Cesare Zavattini’s career and more.

EXTRAS:

“Bicycle Thieves – The Criterion Collection #374” comes with a 36-page booklet with the essay “A Passionate Commitment to the Real” by Geoffrey Cheshire, “Bicycle Thieves: Rememberances” by Vittorio De Sica, Lianella Carell, Luisa Alessandri, Sergio Leone, Manuel De Sica and Maria Mercader.


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Actor Vittorio De Sica is well-known in Italian cinema, considering De Sica has appeared on the big screen since 1917.

His big break as a director would begin in 1940 with “Rose scarlatte” but his big break would come in 1944 with “The Children Are Watching Us”, the first collaboration with writer Cesare Zavattini.

Exploring real struggles during post-war Italy, Italian neorealism showed audiences the struggles which Italians faced.  And while Roberto Rosselini would be started by Roberto Rossellini’s 1945 film “Rome, Open City”, De Sica and Zavattini wanted to give viewers a new degree of realism.

By 1945, De Sica would show the world the destruction of childish innocence with his film “Shoeshine”.

But it’s his 1948 film “Bicycle Thieves” and followed by his 1952 film “Umberto D.” which resonates strongly with audiences and also with me.

What makes these films work is that the emphasis is not purely on the characters but the unfortunate times they are living in.  Post-war Italy was no doubt desperate times as work was scarce, families starved and it pushed people to do things they would have never have done.

De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” utilizes the mise-en-scene style of his previous film “Shoeshine” by combining realistic elements and a storyline that is no less gutwrenching.  It’s one thing to have a desperate father wanting to provide for his family, but you have a young boy who will do anything to help his father and you see the eyes of a boy who absolutely adores his father, start to see his desperate father change.

De Sica’s characters are representative of not a single person but they represent the people of Italy who were no doubt suffering and were desperate.  The portrayals were genuine but yet the film was met with hostility because many felt it portrayed Italians in a negative way.

Granted, it’s understandable why the creator of “Bicycle Thieves” ala the novel was upset because of the departure of De Sica’s patriarch from the novel version which “the protagonist was a middle class intellectual and the theme was the breakdown of civil order in the face of anarchic communism” (according to Robin Healey’s “Twentieth-Century Italian Literature in English Translation: An Annotated Bibliography 1929-1997”).

Personally I felt that as an actor De Sica knew how to bring out a character thanks to his trusting of hiring non-actors for the role of Antonio and Bruno. Both Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola are able to genuinely bring out the bond but also the emotions of these characters, making us believe in the characters but also making us understand where they are coming from.

Could you imagine “Bicycle Thieves” portrayed by popular actors?  It could have happened as David Selznick offered to finance the film if De Sica cast Cary Grant for the leading role.

But “Bicycle Thieves” was planned methodically.  De Sica choreographed the market vendors, the crowd scenes, down to casting his talent based on facial expressions and walking mannerisms.

But the film showed us that non-actors, no elaborate sets were needed to create a captivating film.  A film no doubt which many can see various types of messages, may it be political, socioeconomic issues for that time or even a transition of the bonding between father and son, one can find various messages with each viewing of the film.

As for the 2016 Blu-ray release of “Bicycle Thieves”, having owned this film on LaserDisc and then later via DVD, the Blu-ray is fantastic in the way the film shows much more clarity and sharpness.  The contrast and detail are superb and the lossless audio is free from hiss or crackle.  While the special features are not numerous, you still get a lengthy documentary on writer Cesare Zavattini, a look at Italian neorealism and “Bicycle Thieves” place for the genre and more.

Overall, Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” is a brilliant film of the Italian neorealism genre and a true masterpiece of not just the genre but of cinema in general.

Highly recommended!

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A Poem is a Naked Person – The Criterion Collection #805 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Intimate, casual and intriguing, Les Blank’s “A Poem is a Naked Person” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © Les Blanks Films, Inc. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: A Poem is a Naked Person – The Criterion Collection #805

YEAR OF FILM: 1974

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural with English SDH Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2016


Directed by Les Blank

Written by Les Blank

Produced by Denny Cordell, Leon Russell

Executive Producer: Harrod Blank

Cinematography by Les Blank

Edited by Les Blank


Starring:

Leon Russell

Eric Anderson

David Briggs

Ambrose Campbell

Pete Drake

Mary Ega

Jim Franklin

George Jones

Charlie McCoy

Bill Mullins

Willie Nelson


Les Blank considered this free-form feature documentary about beloved singer-songwriter Leon Russell, filmed between 1972 and 1974, to be one of his greatest accomplishments. Yet it has not been released until now. Hired by Russell to film him at his recording studio in northeast Oklahoma, Blank ended up constructing a unique, intimate portrait of a musician and his environment. Made up of mesmerizing scenes of Russell and his band performing, both in concert and in the studio, as well as off-the-cuff moments behind the scenes, this singular film—which also features performances by Willie Nelson and George Jones—has attained legendary status over the years. It’s a work of rough beauty that serves as testament to Blank’s cinematic daring and Russell’s immense musical talents.


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American documentary filmmaker Les Blank is well-known for his portraits of American traditional musicians.

Known for his musical and non-musical works which include “Dizzy Gillespie” (1965), “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe” (1980), “Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers” (1980), “Burden of Dreams” (1982), “In Heaven There is No Beer?” (1984), to name a few, Les Blank is a filmmaker renown for his freeform style of filmmaking.

But one of his films, “A Poem is a Naked Person” (1974) is interesting, moreso because its release was delayed for 40 years due to creative differences and also music clearance problems.

Focusing on Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musician Leon Russell (best known for the song “A Song for You” which has been covered by over 40 artists including Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, the Carpenters, etc.) from 1972-1974.

Blank’s documentary gives people an insight look into the world of Leon Russell, life in northeast Oklahoma at the time and the music of Leon Russell and performing live on tour.

Because of the disagreement between Leon Russell and filmmaker Les Blank, the film was only shown to an audience for free and only when Les Blank was present.  But unfortunately, the film would not be shown again until Blank’s son and documentary filmmaker Harrod Blank worked with the permission of Leon Russell and Les Blank (who would pass away  due to bladder cancer a few months later).

With Les Blank asking Harrod to remaster the film, but also doing necessary edits for its 40th anniversary screening.  And the film received critical acclaim.

And now this documentary, a time capsule full of music and off-the-cuff moments behind-the-scenes of Leon Russell and friends during the early ’70s arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.


VIDEO:

“A Poem is a Naked Person – The Criterion Collection #805” is presented in 1:33:1 color and in 1080p High Definition. The film shot in 16 mm looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

As expected with 16 mm, there is a good amount of grain but also showing the film as it was meant to be.  No color degradation, no warping, no major issues with picture quality.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner from the original 16 mm reversal check point.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “A Poem is a Naked Person – The Criterion Collection #805” is presented in English LPCM 1.0 without any buzzing or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 16 mm monaural mixed magnetic stripe track.   Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“A Poem is a Naked Person – The Criterion Collection #805” comes with the following special features:

  • Harrod Blank and Leon Russell – (26:40) Harrod Blanks and musician Leon Russell talk about the film’s production in the early ’70s and its release in 2015.
  • Les Blank – (8:38) Shortly before Les Blanks death in Feb. 2013, the following is a discussion with the audience of family and friends at Pixar Animation Studios in Northern California.
  • A Film’s Fourty-Year Journey: The Making of “A Poem is a Naked Person” – (36:45) A 2015 documentary produced by the Criterion Collection with interviews with Harrod Blank, sound recordist and assistant editor Maureen Gosling and Jim Franklin, the artist who was featured prominently in the film.
  • Out in the Woods – (12:58) While in production of “A Poem is a Naked Person”, sound recordist and assistant editor Maureen Gosling shot her own Super 8 footage between 1972-1974, with excerpts from letters she wrote to family.
  • Trailers – Trailers (theatrical, extended and alternated/unused) for “A Poem is a Naked Person”.

EXTRAS:

“A Poem is a Naked Person – The Criterion Collection #805” comes with a five-page foldout with the essay “I Shall Be Released” by Kent Jones.


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Between 1972-1974, documentary filmmaker Les Blank and his assistant Maureen Gosling would turn their focus to musician Leon Russell, filming at his recording studio on Grand Lake in Oklahoma.

Shooting many hours of footage of Leon Russell in concerts, rehearsals and interviews, the film would also capture the mood and surroundings but also capturing people in the area of that time period.

But unlike music documentaries that would solely feature on an artist, the film would feature on the people of Oklahoma, underground artist Jim Franklin (who was painting a mural in Russell’s empty swimming pool) and also capturing music and life of that era.

But unfortunately, despite Les Blank putting a lot of his time and effort in creating the film “A Poem is a Naked Person”, due to a disagreement between Leon Russell and Les Blank, the film would never receive a major release.

In fact, it was only released via a few free screenings due to a loophole, that allowed Les Blank to show the film for free, if he was present.

Fastfoward 40 years later, as Les Blank was dying of bladder cancer, he always wanted “A Poem is a Naked Person” to be screened and thanks to his son, documentary filmmaker Harrod Blank, he would receive permission from Leon Russell to screen the film.

While a few edits were made and Harrod keeping to his father’s promise to remaster the film, “A Poem is a Naked Person” would be screened but unfortunately, Les Blank would die of cancer.

But the film would receive critical acclaim four decades later and many consider the film to be Les Blank masterpiece.

And with the release of “A Poem is a Naked Person” from the Criterion Collection, the film is no doubt a unique time capsule of life in Oklahoma but also watching Leon Russell and friends performing and rehearsing.  And because of the many people featured and the diversity of the mesmerizing scenes utilizing vérité realism and also diverting from usual musical documentary footage by interviewing non-musicians and giving viewers a perspective from that time period during the early ’70s.

Aside from concert and rehearsals, its interesting to hear locals old and young who are into the music of Leon Russell, also because of its time period, seeing little remnants of the hippie movement, to seeing a snake crush a chick, the demolition of a building, a celebration in a small town, country music legend George Jones performing and much more!

The film is no doubt a treasure trove of yesteryear musically and culturally and its wonderful to see this film released, remastered and looking wonderfully in HD.

There are no problems with picture quality nor any issues with its lossless audio.

But this Criterion Collection Blu-ray release is not only a celebration of the film, the musical career of Leon Russell or this work of Les Blank, but the special features included, also puts into perspective of why this film was important for Les Blank and the hurt and healing that took place within those 40-years until its release.

Overall, “A Poem is a Naked Person” is wonderful documentary that I enjoyed because of its variety of coverage and people feature.  In a way, it’s a hybrid of what you expect from a music and non-music documentary, but an interesting look at the music of Leon Russell but also the sign of the times courtesy of filmmaker Les Blank.

Intimate, casual and intriguing, Les Blank’s “A Poem is a Naked Person” is recommended!

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Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Paris Belongs to Us” is a Jacques Rivette film that will no doubt make French cinema fans in the U.S. say, “About time!”. The French filmmaker’s debut film is mysterious take on a woman succumbing to disillusionment and conspiracy theories. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1961 Les Films du Carrosse. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802

YEAR OF FILM: 1961

DURATION: 141 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, French Monaural with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2016


Directed by Jacques Rivette

Written by Jacques Rivette, Jean Grault

Produced by Roland Nonin

Co-Producer: Claude Chabrol

Music by Philiippe Arthuys

Cinematography by Charles L. Bitsch

Edited by Denise de Casablanca


Starring:

Jean-Claude Brialy as Jean-Marc

Betty Schneider as Anne Goupil

Biani Esposito as Gerard Lenz

Francoise Prevost as Terry Yordan

Daniel Crohem as Philip Kaufman

Francois Maistre as Pierre Goupil


One of the original critics turned filmmakers who helped jump-start the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette began shooting his debut feature in 1958, well before that cinema revolution officially kicked off with The 400 Blows and Breathless. Ultimately released in 1961, the rich and mysterious Paris Belongs to Us offers some of the radical flavor that would define the movement, with a particularly Rivettian twist. The film follows a young literature student (Betty Schneider) who befriends the members of a loose-knit group of twentysomethings in Paris, united by the apparent suicide of an acquaintance. Suffused with a lingering post–World War II disillusionment while also evincing the playfulness and fascination with theatrical performance and conspiracy that would become hallmarks for the director, Paris Belongs to Us marked the provocative start to a brilliant directorial career.


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Filmmaker Jacques Rivette has numerous beloved films in his oeuvre.

From “Celine and Julie Go Boating”, “The Gang of Four”,”Va Savoir” and what many consider his masterpiece, “La belle noiseuse”.

But every filmmaker has a first film which many cineaste are curious to compare many of their films too.  And for Rivette, his first film was rather fascinating because like other French New Wave filmmakers that wrote for “Cahiers du Cinema”, many of them went on to create masterpieces earlier in their careers.

With Rivette, of the 29-films he had made, it was his later films that people would strongly resonate with (a similar situation with filmmaker, Eric Rohmer).

The film which was created in 1957 but without a distributor, “Paris Belongs to Us” would not be released theatrically until 1961, and thus not becoming one of the first films of the French New Wave.  Because of this, the film was deemed as old-fashioned because the setting of French cinema had changed within four years after the film was created.

Nevertheless, “Paris Belongs to Us” is a first film that is interesting because it was produced by Claude Chabrol and the film would feature cameos by Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy and also Rivette.

And now “Paris Belongs to Us” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

“Paris Belongs to Us” focuses on Paris’ bohemian underground and follows a university student, Anne Goupil (portrayed by Betty Schneider).

As she meets and has communications with people, many are talking as if there is a conspiracy that is happening with people they know and within society.

Everyone appears to be fatigued, paranoid and in some sort of disillusion with life begin to take its toll on Anne.


VIDEO:

“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” is presented in 1:37:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution from the original camera negative on an ARRISCAN film scanner equipped with wet-gate processing.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” is presented in French LPCM 1.0 without any buzzing or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” comes with the following special features:

  • Richard Neupert – (24:48) Featuring a 2015 interview with Richard Neupert, professor of film studies at the University of Georgia and author of “A History of the French New Wave Cinema” discusses the themes and legacy of Jacques Rivette’s debut feature, “Paris Belongs to Us”.
  • Le Coup Du Berger – (29:00) A 1956 short film by Jacques Rivette about an adulterous wife and her lover’s attempt to figure out how she will explain his gift of a mink coat to her husband. Featuring cameos by Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut.

EXTRAS:

“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “Nothing Took Place But the Place” by Luc Sante.


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For those watching “Paris Belongs to Us”, Jacques Rivette’s first film is no doubt a complex mystery film.

From the beginning, when we are introduced to the character of Anne, a student who is tired of studying, but no different from any other student going to college, the major difference are the characters she comes in contact with.

Her neighbor talks about the death of individuals and if her brother is Pierre.  Her brother Pierre tells her about a party which Anne attends and everyone is wondering of why a young Spanish composer named Juan has committed suicide.

Everyone around seems depressed and bitter, from the drunken Philip Kaufman (an American journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who has been exiled to France as a victim of blacklisting during the McCarthy era), we see Philip slapping the face of Terry Yordan, Juan’s lover and blaming her for his suicide.

We are then given a break of fresh air when Anne comes across an old classmate, Jean-Marc (portrayed by Jean-Claude Brialy), who has come to Paris for a career in theater and takes Anne to a barn for a production of Shakespeare’s “Pericles”.

Theater director Gerard Lenz has a difficult time because the entire cast never shows up at one time and so he uses Anne to fill in and she immediately becomes a member of a production when an actress doesn’t show up.

But as they need a guitar score, it becomes a search for why Juan really killed himself.

And then suddenly people that Anne knew begin to disappear and Anne gets caught up wondering why these individuals are disappearing.  To the point it becomes an obsession for her.

The film is interesting in the fact that in ways, the film is a style of French New Wave in the fact that Rivette, like his other contemporaries, goes against traditional Hollywood cinema by not making certain situations obvious.  Is this scene taking place in the present, the past, the future.  Are these people sane or insane?  Are these people good or bad?

One can simply chalk this film up to Anne getting involved with shady people and becomes to immersed by these people that she starts questioning life, motivations and eventually, driven to find out why certain people are gone?  Is it by murder?  Did they leave on their own accord?  Why the hell does Anne care so much, when other people don’t?

Thrown in cameos by fellow writers/filmmakers Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and even Rivette makes an appearance in the film, there is no doubt that these men were in the cusp of making groundbreaking cinema.   But because Godard, Chabrol, Truffaut and other contemporaries were able to explode into the cinema scene and were on fire, because of the lack of distribution, Rivette’s “Paris Belongs to Us” did not receive the same following.

It came out four years late and for Rivette, he may not be known worldwide as Godard or Truffaut but for those who follow French cinema, know very well of how magnificent of a filmmaker he truly is.  And the fact that even in his reviews, unlike other writers who champion a filmmaker’s more popular films, Rivette never followed the pack, choosing to write and watch the more underappreciated films of other directors.

Similar to his taste in films, Rivette slowly caught on with cineaste and while a winner for the Sutherland Trophy for “Paris nous appartient” (1961) and “L’amour fou” (1969) at the British Film Awards and nominated for a Palme d’Or in 1966 for “La religieuse”, it wasn’t until 1989 where he would win the FIPRESCI Prize for “La bande des quatre” at the Berlin International Film Festival and 1991 until his film would win the Grand Prize of the Jury for “La belle noiseuse”.

And while there are cinema fans late to the game of discovering the films of Jacques Rivette, for cineaste, it has been a long time coming, but finally a Jacques Rivette film has been released by the Criterion Collection and one can hope for more releases in the very near future.

The Blu-ray release of “Paris Belongs to Us” looks very good with picture quality showcasing wonderful contrast and sharpness.  Lossless monaural audio with no signs of crackling or hiss and you get two special features, which includes Rivette’s 1959 short film, “Le coup du berger”.

Overall, “Paris Belongs to Us” is a Jacques Rivette film that will no doubt make French cinema fans in the U.S. say, “About time!”.  The French filmmaker’s debut film is mysterious take on a woman succumbing to disillusionment and conspiracy theories.

Recommended!

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I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Antonio Pietrangeli’s “I knew her well” is tragic comedy of a young woman slowly consumed and suffocated by society. And it’s one of the two finest films created by the Commedia all’italiana filmmaker. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1965 Titanus.  2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801

YEAR OF FILM: 1965

DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, Italian Monaural with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: February 23, 2016


Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli

Written by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli, Ettore Scola

Produced by Turi Vasile, Luggi Waldfeitner

Music by Benedetto Ghiglia, Piero Piccioni

Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi

Edited by Franco Fraticelli

Production Design by Maurizio Chiari

Set Decoration by Bruno Cesari

Costume Design by Maurizio Chiari


Starring:

Stefania Sandrelli as Adriana Astarelli

Mario Adorf as Emilio Ricci aka Bietolone

Jean-Claude Brialy as Dario Marchionni

Joachim Fuchsberger as The WRiter

Nino Manfredi as Cianfanna

Enrico Maria Salerno as Roberto

Ugo Tognazzi as Gigi Baggini

Karin Dor as Barbara, the lady friend of Adriana

Franco Fabrizi as Paganelli


Following the gorgeous, seemingly liberated Adriana (Divorce Italian Style’s Stefania Sandrelli) as she chases her dreams in the Rome of La dolce vita, I Knew Her Well is at once a delightful immersion in the popular music and style of Italy in the sixties and a biting critique of its sexual politics and the culture of celebrity. Over a series of intimate episodes, just about every one featuring a different man, a new hairstyle, and an outfit to match, the unsung Italian master Antonio Pietrangeli, working from a script he cowrote with Ettore Scola, composes a deft, seriocomic character study that never strays from its complicated central figure. I Knew Her Well is a thrilling rediscovery, by turns funny, tragic, and altogether jaw-dropping.


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Filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli (“The Bachelor”, “Phantom Lovers”, “The Girl From Parma”, “The Visit”) is best known for the work as a film reviewer for Italian cinema magazines such as “Biano e nero” and “Cinema” but moreso as a writer for other well-known filmmakers.

From “Obsessione” directed by Luchino Visconti, “Fabiola” by Alessandro Blasetti, “Europa ’51” by Roberto Rosselini and “La Lupa” by Alberto Lattuada.

But he will be known for his two films: “Adua e le compagne” (1960, a.k.a. “Adua and her friends”) and “Io la conoscevo bene” (1965, a.k.a. “I knew her well”).

A filmmaker who was known for his films and working with female talent in the commedia all’italian genre, Antonio Pietrangeli will be known as a director with so much potential, but also as a filmmaker who died while working on a film (his 1968 film, “Come, quando, perche”).

And now, “I knew her well” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

The film stars Stefania Sandrelli (“Divorce Italian Style”, “The Conformist”, “Seduced and Abandoned”), Mario Adorf (“The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum”, “The Tin Drum”, “Rossini”, “Lola”), Jean-Claude Brialy (“A Woman is a Woman”, “Claire’s Knee”, “The Phantom of Liberty”), Franco Fabrizi (“Fellini i Vitelloni”, “Ginger and Fred”, “Death in Venice”, “Il Bidone”), Nino Manfredi (“Ugly, Dirty and Bad”, “Bread and Chocolate”) and many more.

“I knew her well” is a film that follows a young Italian woman named Adriana and her dreams of becoming a movie star.

And like her clothes and hairstyle, the men often change as she moves from job to job, from man to man and we watch this beautiful young woman slowly becoming devoured by the world that she thought she had desired.


VIDEO:

“I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801” is presented in 1:85:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this 4K digital restoration was created in partnership with the Cineteca di Bologna from the 35 mm original camera negative and a 35 mm fine-grain positive.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801” is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0 without any buzzing or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801” comes with the following special features:

  • Stefania Sandrelli – (9:24) Featuring a Sept. 2015 interview with actress Stefania Sandrelli.
  • Luca Barattoni – (21:51) Film scholar Luca Barattoni examines the career of filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli.
  • Sandrelli’s Audition – (5:17) Stefania Sandrelli’s audition for the role of Adriana in “I knew her well”.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “I knew her well”.

EXTRAS:

“I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “city girl” by Alexander Stille.


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In some ways, “I knew her well” is reminiscent of stories of starry eyed Hollywood hopefuls who unfortunately get caught up in the wrong things and end up destroying their lives in some sort of way.

For the main character Adriana of Antonio Pietrangeli’s “I knew her well”, the beautiful young woman is stylish and every man is attracted to her.

The problem is that Adriana looks withdrawn and with each glimpse of her life, from her alcoholic father and her passionless visit to her home on the farm, to the many men who seem to want to be with her, but in essence, want to only have sex with her.

There are too many moments of where we see Adriana switching from man to man, with almost a new look each time.

Living a facade of luxury and happiness, but each time, we know she is not happy.  She is fueled by temporary happiness, but long-term happiness does not exist with her.

And one can call her naive, but the more we see her move from man to man, the more we feel bad for her because she is often used in some sort of way. She only lives for the moment, nothing more and nothing less.

As the film features numerous songs of Italian classics from Mina, Peppino DiCappri, Mia Genberg, Sergio Endrigo to name a few.  And the music lends to the vibrancy of the film and often enhances the moments that Adriana takes part in, the film goes from vibrant to slowly transitioning to alienation, taking a page from Michelangelo Antonioni and we eventually witness a young woman slowly being compromised by her unhappiness.

The film is rather interesting when compared to Pietrangeli’s “Adua and her Friends”, as the characters try to escape their lives as prostitutes and try to start a new life running a hotel and eatery, but their past catches up to them.  But with each of the women featured in that film, there is hope.  With Adriana, we’re not even sure if she is hopeful for anything in life, because she just lives for the now and whether becoming an actress or some man’s sexual object, we don’t know what is in her mind set until the film gets closer to its ending.

But fortunately, Piatrangeli slowly gives us information with super quick flashbacks that come from nowhere to show us a life that she had lived.  Meanwhile, Stefania Sandrelli does a magnificent job of becoming Andriana and wearing the many emotions and society that slowly consumes the young woman.

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray looks fantastic as the film features wonderful contrast and sharpness.  No sign of banding, artifacts or any video or audio problems.  You get a few featurettes including a recent interview with Stefania Sandrelli plus an interview with film scholar Luca Barattoni about the career of Pietrangeli and more.

Overall, Antonio Pietrangeli’s “I knew her well” is tragic comedy of a young woman slowly consumed and suffocated by society.  And it’s one of the two finest films created by the Commedia all’italiana filmmaker.

Recommended!

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The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Kid” is a Charles Chaplin masterpiece which any cineaste or silent film fan should have in their collection.  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799

YEAR OF FILM: 1921/1922

DURATION: 53 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white/color-tinted, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Monaural

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2016


Directed by Charles Chaplin

Written by Charles Chaplin

Produced by Charles Chaplin

Music by Charles Chaplin


Starring:

Carl Miller as The Man

Edna Purviance as The Woman

Jackie Coogan as The Child

Charles Chaplin as A Tramp


Charlie Chaplin was already an international star when he decided to break out of the short-film format and make his first full-length feature. The Kid doesn’t merely show Chaplin at a turning point, when he proved that he was a serious film director—it remains an expressive masterwork of silent cinema. In it, he stars as his lovable Tramp character, this time raising an orphan (a remarkable young Jackie Coogan) he has rescued from the streets. Chaplin and Coogan make a miraculous pair in this nimble marriage of sentiment and slapstick, a film that is, as its opening title card states, “a picture with a smile—and perhaps, a tear.”


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In 1921, Charles Chaplin released his first full-length film as a director titled “The Kid”.

The film is produced, written, directed and music composed by Charles Chaplin, the film would feature the America’s first child star Jackie Coogan  (who would become popular three decades later as Uncle Fester in the hit TV series “The Addams Family” from 1964).  The film would also star Edna Purviance, an actress who would play the leading lady in many of Charlie Chaplin’s early films.

In 2011, “The Kid” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is considered one of the greatest films of the silent era.

And now “The Kid” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“The Kid” begins with an unwed woman (portrayed by Edna Purviance) leaving a charity hospital with her newborn son.  Meanwhile, the father is shown looking at her photo and the photo falling into the fireplace and would burn up.

Struggling with a decision to abandon her child, the woman leaves her baby in the back seat of an expensive automobile and she leaves behind a note with him about caring and providing love for the baby.

As the woman leaves, two thieves steal the car, unaware a baby is in the back seat.  Meanwhile, the woman has second thoughts and when she returns back to get her baby, she sees the car no longer there.    When she goes to the wealthy home where the car was parked, she finds out from the chauffeur that the car was stolen and the woman faints.

As the two thieves drive to an area of town, they hear the baby cry and put the baby near a trash can.

The baby is found by the tramp (portrayed by Charles Chaplin).  While the tramp tries to rid of the child onto other people, with police walking nearby, he is unable to and decides to raise the baby after seeing the note that came with him.

Five years later, the child (portrayed by Jackie Coogan) has been raised with street smarts, thanks to the tramp.  The tramp has taught the boy to be his partner in crime, making money by the boy breaking windows and the tramp being paid to fix them.

Meanwhile, the child’s real mother has become a successful and wealthy star.  But despite her financial success, she contributes her time doing charity work with the poor as a way to make amends for abandoning her child.

But one day, she ends up going to the neighborhood where the Tramp and child are living.


VIDEO:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” is presented in 1:33:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.

The film is a new 4K digital restoration of Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 re-release version of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new high-definition digital transfer was created from a 35 mm first-generation 1921 element preserved by the Cineteca di Bologna.  The element was scanned on an ARRISCAN film scanner and edited to match Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 rerelease; for a severely decayed 370-foot portion for the film, a first-generation 1921 fine-grain from the collection of Roy Export was used instead.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” is presented in LPCM 1.0 and features Charles Chaplin’s original score. The soundtrack is fantastic and Chaplin’s score as conducted by composer Timothy Brock is just great to listen to in HD without any buzzing or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Features English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Chaplin historian Charles Maland.
  • Interviews – Featuring interviews with Jackie Coogan (11:04), Lita Grey Chaplin (10:00), cinematographer Rollie Totheroh (7:48 – audio only) and distributor Mo Rothman (9:42 – audio only).
  • Jackie Coogan: The First Child Star – (19:09) A video essay by Charles Chaplin scholar Lisa Haven about the first child star Jackie Coogan and the legacy he left behind to other child actors.
  • A Study in Undercranking – (25:09) Featuring silent film specialist Ben Model discussing how films were made and how cameras were cranked by hand.
  • Charlie Chaplin Conducts the Kid – (2:04) Brief footage shows Charlie Chaplin conducting his newly composed score for “The Kid” in 1971.
  • From the 1921 Version – (7:22) The deleted scenes Chaplin made when revisiting the film in 1971, removing three scenes featuring “The Woman” Edna Purviance.  Also, including the original First Nationa opening titles, various intertitles and closing card.
  • “Charlie” On the Ocean – (4:00) A newsreel which documents Charlie Chaplin’s first trip back to Europe after relocating to the US from England in 1914 to become a movie actor.
  • Nice and Friendly – (10:53) Filmed at Pickfair, the home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in 1922, as a wedding present for Lord and Lady Mountbattten, this short features Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan and the newlyweds.  Featuring a new score by composer Timothy Brock.
  • Trailers – Theatrical trailers for “The Kid”.

EXTRAS:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “The Grail of Laughter and the Fallen Angel” by Tom Gunning.


thekid-c

“The Kid” is a silent film that I have adored for many years but watching it on Blu-ray and seeing the detail and the beauty of the film in HD, I have fallen in love with this film once again.

It’s no doubt a masterpiece from Charles Chaplin, who wrote, starred, directed, produced and even composed the music for the film.  Going through strains of a marital breakdown and literally so much personal drama, he was able to craft a film showing how much of a cinema genius at the time.  And even now, not far from a century since this film was released in theaters we can only marvel of how well-crafted “The Kid” really is.

In fact, there were high expectations for this film, so much that Ralph Kettering, representative of Jones, Linick & Schaefer Co. stated, “The First National exhibitions’ circuit paid over to Mr. Chaplin $800,000 in gold for the purchase of this picture and we have paid an enormous sum to secure the first screening anywhere on earth here in Chicago”.

But the high expectations for Chaplin was because gossip of his divorce and his life had captivated America who hasn’t seen much of the actor.  But when his six-reeler was released, film critics were positive of his film.

The legendary silent film critic Carl Sandburg of the Chicago Daily News wrote, “‘The Kid’ is a masterpiece and should satisfy either those who want knock down and dragout or something the whole family will enjoy.”

But one must have to admit that what made this film work was finding the right child actor.  Watching many silent film with child actors, not many have that skillset as the young Jackie Coogan.  I’ve read of how mature this child was at such a young age, so much that Chaplin and other well-known silent film talents included the child in a personal film together made for a friend, but it’s the fact that this film features a wide-range of emotion and Chaplin was able to bring that out with the young Jackie Coogan.

Also, what makes this film so relevant today is the fact that the situations featured in “The Kid” still resonate strongly today.  Single parent unable to afford their child, struggles to give their baby up.  Edna Purviance as the mother who lives with her decision and is able to change her life and give back to charity in order to make amends, is something that viewers can sympathize with.

Similar to Coogan, Purviance has had a long career with Chaplin and like the short films, he is able to showcase her talent and emotions with efficacy.

But it’s that fatherly role which Chaplin provides to the kid that makes us feel laughter, sadness and just knowing that for the tramp, despite being poor and not living in the best conditions, he does what he can to parent the child and raise him.

As for the Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection, this is a fantastic release with a good number of special features and in depth look into the film thanks to audio commentary by Chaplin historian Charles Maland, a wonderful featurette about Jackie Coogan courtesy of Chaplin historian Lisa Haven and more.

The Blu-ray is the best I have seen of “The Kid” by far.  The details and sharpness are magnificent in HD, the new score by composer Timothy Brock is fantastic!

But I have to mention that this Blu-ray release features the 1972 re-release version of the film.  An older Chaplin wanted to make some revisions for the re-release, so if you want the full version of the film, a complete version was released on LaserDisc long ago.  But the good news is that “The Kid” features the deleted scenes in the special features.

For those who owned the 2004 Warner Bros. DVD, you still want to hang on to that DVD for the Chaplin and Coogan shorts.  But it’s definitely worth upgrading to the Criterion Collection Blu-ray as this release is magnificent.

Overall, “The Kid” is a Charles Chaplin masterpiece which any cineaste or silent film fan should have in their collection.  Highly recommended!

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