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Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Giuseppe De Santis’ “Bitter Rice” takes a different path compared to other Italian neorealism films and its focus on two female leads and balancing sex, romance, socioeconomic status with a crime thriller.  It’s a memorable, classic Italian film which I highly recommend!

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


TITLE: Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792

YEAR OF FILM: 1946

DURATION: 109 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: January 12, 2016


Directed by Giuseppe De Santis

Story by Giuseppe De Santis, Carlo Lizzani, Gianni Puccini 

Written by Corrado Alvaro, Carlo Musso, Ivo Perilli

Produced by Dino De Laurentiis

Cinematography by Otello Martelli

Edited by Gabriele Varriale

Production Design by Carlo Egidi

Costume Design by Anna Gobbi


Starring:

Vittorio Gassman as Walter

Doris Dowling as Francesca

Silvana Mangano as Silvana

Raf Vallone as Marco

Checco Rissone as Aristide

Nico Pepe as Beppe

Adriana Sivieri as Celeste

Lia Corelli as Amelia

Marie Grazia Francia as Gabriella


During planting season in Northern Italy’s Po Valley, an earthy rice-field worker (Silvana Mangano) falls in with a small-time criminal (Vittorio Gassman) who is planning a daring heist of the crop, as well as his femme-fatale-ish girlfriend, played by the Hollywood star Doris Dowling. Both a socially conscious look at the hardships endured by underpaid field workers and a melodrama tinged with sex and violence, this early smash for producer extraordinaire Dino De Laurentiis and director Giuseppe De Santis is neorealism with a heaping dose of pulp.


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From Italian filmmaker Giuseppe De Santis (“Tragic Hunt”, “Obsessione”, “Men and Wolves”) is his 1949 classic Italian neorealism style film, “Bitter Rice” (Riso Amaro).

Co-written with De Santis and Carlo Lizzani, the film stars Vittorio Gassman (“Sleepers”, “Big Deal on Madonna Street”, “Il Sorpasso”, “Scent of a Woman”), Doris Dowling (“The Lost Weekend”, “The Blue Dahlia”, “Othello”), Silvana Mangano (“Dune”, “Teorema”, “Oedipus Rex”, “Death in Venice”) and Raf Vallone (“The Italian Job”, “El Cid”, “The Godfather: Part III”).

The film was nominated for an “Academy Award for Best Story” in 1950 and was selected as one of the “100 Italian Films to be Saved” (established by Venice Days at the 65th Venice International Film Festival in collaboration with Cinecitta Holding and the support of Ministry of Cultural Heritage).

And now, Giuseppe De Santis’ film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection in January 2016.

“Bitter Rice” begins with an introduction of how hundreds of women head to northern Italy during the rice-planting season for work.

Meanwhile, Walter (portrayed by Vittorio Gassman) and Francesca (portrayed by Doris Dowling) are on the run after stealing a diamond necklace.

As the two head to the crowded trains, in order to hide from the authorities, Francesca keeps the necklace, while Walter tries to evade police by dancing with peasant rice worker, Silvana (portrayed by Silvana Mangano).

But Walter is discovered by authorities and both he and Francesca go on their separate ways in separate trains.

As Francesca tries her best to hide the diamond necklace, she befriends Silvana who knows that she and Walter are being trailed by police.  As Silvana tries to get information about Walter from Francesca, Francesca tells her that he nearly got her killed.

As Francesca needs a job, Silvana eventually tries to introduce Francesca to work in the rice field.  But Francesca doesn’t have a work permit and she and others (deemed as “illegals”) who don’t have a permit, are looked down upon because documented workers feel the illegals are stealing money away from them.

While arriving to the field, they run into the servicemen who occupied the rooms and are leaving.  Marco (portrayed by Raf Vallone) flirts with Silvana but while the two are talking, Silvana starts to suspect that Francesca is hiding something.

As Francesca goes to get the pillows and blankets for her bed, Silvana discovers what Francesca was hiding and that they were the diamond jewels that was reported stolen.

This leads to a division between both women, as Silvana despises thieves and works to make things difficult for Francesca (who is an undocumented worker) at the rice field.

Meanwhile, Walter and a few other thieves arrive to the fields, so he can connect with Francesca but he immediately turns his attention towards Silvana.


VIDEO:

“Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792” 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.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain and jitter.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792”. The film is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0 and according to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the optical track print.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792” comes with the following special features:

  • Giuseppe De Santis – (52:33) Featuring a 2008 documentary by Carlo Lizzani, the primary screenwriter of “Bitter Rice” and frequent collaborator of Giuseppe De Santis, covers the career of the director.
  • Carlos Lizzani – (6:36) A 2002 interview with “Bitter Rice” screenwriter Carlos Lizzani.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Bitter Rice”.

EXTRAS:

“Bitter Rice – The Criterion Collection #792” comes with a eight-page foldout with the essay “A Field in Italy” by Pasquale Iannone.


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When it comes to Italian neorealism style films, Giuseppe De Santis “Bitter Rice” is perhaps one of the most memorable films because of its female leads.

Away from the city and focused on a rice field, the film focuses on two women, among hundreds who come to northern France to make money for a little over a month planting or gathering rice.

Everyone wants a fair share of making money to bring home to their families and are willing to undergo the hardships of working on the field.

But we clearly see the division between documented and non-documented workers, which pits the film’s two female leads, Francesa and Silvana.

It just happens to be that the actress playing the roles are no doubt cinematic bombshells.  Francesca Dowling captivates you with her emotions of being unemployed and wanting to be accepted and her transformation of the girlfriend and accomplice of a thief to a person who wants to try to do the right thing.

Meanwhile Silvana Mangano is the curvy bombshell with sex appeal.  Quickly captivating viewers with her sexy dances moves and attracting the men of the film.

The film’s Italian neorealism touches upon poverty and how far thieves would go to make money to whichever length necessary.

I enjoyed this film because it’s unlike the dreary storylines that take place during post-war era.  Poverty, unemployment and women leaving home to make money for their family, is a realistic portrayal of a damaged economy.  And we see the troubles these women endure from beginning to the end of their 40-day work period.

Personally, I felt the film was well-cast as Doris Dowling and Silvana Mangano were wonderful, sexy and brought added dimension for their character and making us believe in their situation and transformation.  The film incorporates crime elements, a little of the darkness one would typically see in noir but for the most part, poverty and worries about one’s livelihood is quite prominent in this Italian neorealistic film.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for the film was wonderful as the grays and whites were well-contrast, black levels were nice and deep but the sharpness and detail of watching the film in HD is quite noticeable.  Lossless audio is in monaural LPCM 1.0.  And you get a few special features included on this Blu-ray release.

Overall, Giuseppe De Santis’ “Bitter Rice” takes a different path compared to other Italian neorealism films and its focus on two female leads and balancing sex, romance, socioeconomic status with a crime thriller.  It’s a memorable, classic Italian film which I highly recommend!

 

Gilda – The Criterion Collection #795 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Gilda” should be watched, not only because of Rita Hayworth but watched as a well-done noir film that manages to have a great balance of acting and cinematography. And is no doubt a shining gem of Hollywood film noir. Recommended!

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


TITLE: Gilda – The Criterion Collection #795

YEAR OF FILM: 1946

DURATION: 110 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: January 19, 2016


Directed by Charles Vidor

Story by E.A. Ellington

Adaptation by Jo Eisinger

Screenplay by Marion Parsonnet

Produced by Virginia Van Upp

Cinematography by Rudolph Mate

Edited by Charles Nelson

Art Direction by Stephen Gooson, Van Nest Polglase

Set Decoration by Robert Priestley


Starring:

Rita Hayworth as Gilda Mundson Farrell

Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell/Narrator

George Macready as Ballin Mundson

Joseph Calleia as Dt. Maurice Obregon

Steven Geray as Uncle Pio

Jow Sawyer as Casey

Gerald Mohr as Capt. Delgado

Mark Roberts as Gabe Evans

 


“Gilda, are you decent?” Rita Hayworth tosses her hair back and slyly responds, “Me?” in one of the great star entrances in movie history. Gilda, directed by Charles Vidor, features a sultry Hayworth in her most iconic role, as the much-lusted-after wife of a criminal kingpin (George Macready), as well as the former flame of his bitter henchman (Glenn Ford), and she drives them both mad with desire and jealousy. An ever-shifting battle of the sexes set on a Buenos Aires casino’s glittering floor and in its shadowy back rooms, Gilda is among the most sensual of all Hollywood noirs.


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Rita Hayworth, one of the most popular actress in America, a sex symbol who would win audiences with her performance in the 1946 film “Gilda” and would have a career that featured 61 films shot in 37 years.

Known in her earlier years as Rita Cansino, the half Spanish and half actress was born in a family full of entertainers.  Her father was a flamenco dancer, her mother was an original Zeigfeld girl, her parents were a source for her to pursue acting and dancing.  Father and daughter would become the “The Dancing Cansinos” and she would eventually catch the eye of the head of the Fox Film Corporation, Winfield Sheehan and Rita was signed to a short-term contract.

Because of her Spanish look, studios were not reluctant to hire her, so Rita would go through several procedures to change herself and when she returned to screen test for Columbia Pictures, the actress who now had red hair and would change her name to Rita Hayworth (her mother’s maiden name) would make her brand new return in 1939 and eventually would get a small but yet important part in the Cary Grant film “Only Angels Have Wings”.  And eventually, her career would blossom from then on.

In fact, during World War II, Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable would become the popular pin-up girls for military serviceman.  She also had a “no nudity” policy which boosted her popularity during the 1940′s and by 1944, Hayworth was the big box office star in Hollywood.

And her 1946 film “Gilda” is considered as Rita Hayworth’s best film that she has starred in and regarded by cinema fans as one of the sexiest noir films ever created.

As the film was remastered and restored in 2013, the film will now debut in HD via Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection in January 2016.

“Gilda” would feature director Charles Vidor (who worked with Hayworth in “Cover Girl” and would feature a story by E.A. Ellington, a screenplay by Marion Parsonnet and adaptation by Jo Eisenger.  The cinematography was done by the highly respected Rudolph Maté who worked with Carl Th. Dreyer films “The Passions of Joan of Arc” (1928) and “Vampyr” (1932), costume designer Jean Louis and choreographer “Jack Cole” and feature the vocals of Anita Ellis (note: Rita Hayworth’s singing vocals were always dubbed).

“Gilda” is a film narrated by gambler named Johnny Farrell (played by Glenn Ford).  Johnny recounts the time he moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina and how he won a lot of money by cheating in craps.  After collecting his winnings, Johnny is nearly robbed by a gunman until Ballin Mundson (played by George Macready) saves him.  Ballin tells him that there is an illegal high-class casino in the area but he should never use his cheating skills there.

Johnny doesn’t listen and ignores his advice and cheats while playing Blackjack and wins again.  But as quickly as he wins, he is caught by men working at the casino and is taken to meet their boss, who happens to be Ballin.  Ballin tells Johnny that he warned him.    Before anything can happen to him, Johnny tries to show his worth to Ballin by beating up one of his men and telling him that with his skills, he can protect the casino and eventually leads to Ballin hiring Johnny to be his right-hand man at the casino.  And everyone appears to be impressed by Johnny, with the exception of Uncle Pio (played by Steven Geray), the washroom attendant who is not afraid to call Johnny a “peasant”.

As business is going well and Johnny is well-liked by his boss, when Ballin returns from a business trip, he surprises Johnny by telling him that he has married a woman named Gilda (played by Rita Hayworth).  A woman who was Johnny’s girlfriend from the past and is surprised that she is back in his life, albeit being the wife of his boss.  And to make things even more difficult is that Johnny must watch over her and complicating matters even further, Gilda knows how to press Johnny’s buttons by flirting with men.

For Ballin, he can sense that Gilda despises Johnny but also that Johnny despises her.  Unaware the two knew each other long ago, he is puzzled why the two have hostilities towards each other.

Meanwhile, two German men have paid a visit to Ballin and want their money.  The men and Ballin have worked together on a project financing a tungsten cartel and to avoid being detected by authorities, everything is under Ballin’s name.  and now both men want ownership of the project which Ballin is unwilling to concede.

As Argentinian government agent Obregon (played by Joseph Calleia) is investigating the matter and thinks that Johnny may know if there is a connection between Ballin and the German men, during a party, one of the German’s end up dead (actually killed by Ballin).

As Johnny goes to find Ballin and tell him about the death of the man, he encounters Gilda and the two get into a heated argument of why they hate each other so much.  But while doing so, the two end up kissing each other and hear a knock.  Both realize that Ballin must have seen them kiss.

From that day forward, the lives of Johnny and Gilda will never be the same.


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VIDEO:

“Gilda” is presented in 1:33:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition.   Although over 65-years-old, the film is a sexy noir film that looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

The film was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in cooperation with Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Library of Contress and The National Film and Television Archive (U.K.).

According to the Criterion Collection, “The new high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from a 35 mm fine-grain master made from the original camera negative”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Gilda” is presented in LPCM 1.0 monaural.

 

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm soundtrack negative.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gilda – The Criterion Collection #795” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Richard Schickel.  Richard Schickel is a film critic for Time Magazine, writer and documentary filmmaker.  His commentary is very informative.
  • Martin Scorcese and Baz Luhrmann on “Gilda” – (16:05) Director Martin Scorsese talks about the allure of Rita Hayworth and growing up watching “Gilda” while filmmaker Baz Luhrmann talks about how wonderful the scenes are and how he tried to capture parts of “Gilda” in his film “Moulin Rouge”.
  • “Hollywood and the Stars: The Odyssey of Rita Hayworth'” – (25:11) A 1964 episode of “Hollywood and the Stars” about Rita Hayworth and her career.
  • Eddie Muller – (22:14) Featuring an interview with film noir historian Eddie Muller.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:11) The original theatrical trailer for “Gilda”.

EXTRAS:

“Gilda – The Criterion Collection #795” comes with a poster of Rita Hayworth on one side and the essay “The Long Shadow of Gilda” by Sheila O’Malley.


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I don’t anyone who has disliked “Gilda”, for the most part, everyone I have talked to, have all discussed how Rita Hayworth literally captured our attention from her first appearance in the film when she lifts her head and you see the popular hair toss scene.  Hayworth radiates onscreen.

And while she gives a strong performance throughout the film, it’s those certain scenes, for example, when she performs her famous nightclub song with her dark blue gown that literally grabs your attention, demands your attention and literally, you are seduced by her beauty and sexuality. “Gilda” was a film that further builds upon Hayworth’s WWII pinup status and shows us that she’s more than just a woman who can dance, but she’s also an actress that can give one hell of an emotional performance.

Hayworth not only succeeds in playing the female fatale, there is just this confidence that you see onscreen and Hayworth ultimately shines.  Confidence, vulnerability, sexiness, depressed..

Glenn Ford is the anti-hero Johnny Farrel and similar to when James Cagney shoves a grapefruit on his wife’s face, when Johnny slaps Gilda, you know this is a man that is knows nothing but harsh realities.  He is a man that is not to be trusted but nor is Gilda.  Brash, confident, consumed by his love for Gilda to the point that he despises her.

These two characters have much more in common with each other, flawed individuals who despise each other but at the same time, have this intense chemistry that yearns for each other.

In most cases, the screenplay could have fared worse if another actress or actor was cast.  “Gilda” was a film in which I am unable to picture anyone else (if the film was shot a decade later, then possibly Marilyn Monroe) but it’s a film that succeeds because of Hayworth but also the wonderful direction of Charles Vidor, the beautiful cinematography by Rudolph Mate, along with costume and set design.  There is no doubt even 64-years later that “Gilda” is one of the sexiest noir films out there that easily stands out amongst the many noir films ever created not just in the U.S. but one of the finest films created during that time around the world.  And in 2010, this film still is captivating now as it was then.

As for this new Blu-ray release, not only do you get a newly restored version of the film and yes, Hayworth’s musical performance of “Put the Blame on Mame” looks and sounds wonderful in HD.  It’s one of the more recognized scenes in the film and it’s great to finally watch it in HD!

“Gilda” doesn’t suffer the DNR that the original first DVD release had received.  In fact, the Blu-ray release features sharper and more detailed picture quality as grays and whites are well-contrast and black levels are nice and deep.  The monaural soundtrack doesn’t have any issues as dialogue is clear and no sound of warping, hiss or crackle.

As for special features,  included is an audio commentary by Richard Schickel and a featurette by Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrmann.  Compared to the 2013 Sony Pictures DVD release, the Criterion Collection Blu-ray features two more special features such as the 1964 episode of the TV show “Hollywood and the Stars” and an interview with film noir historian Eddie Muller.

Overall, “Gilda” is the film that turned me on to Rita Hayworth and like many other viewers throughout the decades, have just fallen in love with Rita Hayworth and her magnificent performance in the film.  “Gilda” doesn’t have a magnificent storyline but what it does feature are complexities between two individuals who probably came from the wrong side of town and someway they found each other before.  And of course, it’s that buil-up of sexual tension is what captures us from beginning to end.

“Gilda” should be watched, not only because of Rita Hayworth but watched as a well-done noir film that manages to have a great balance of acting and cinematography.   And is no doubt a shining gem of Hollywood film noir.

Recommended!

 

Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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While my favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last!”, I enjoy “Speedy” in a much different level, mainly for the adventure that Harold Lloyd takes the viewer and enjoying New York City of that era but also the fascinating stunts and scenes that will surely entertain generation after generation. A wonderful Criterion Collection silent comedy Blu-ray release that I recommend!

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


TITLE: Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788

YEAR OF FILM: 1928

DURATION: 86 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: December 8, 2015


Directed by Ted Wilde

Story by John Grey, Lex Neal, Howard Emmet Rogers

Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd  Hayes

Producer: Kevin Brownlow, David Gill

Associate Producer: Peter Langs

Cinematography by Walter Lundin

Edited by Carl Himm

Art Direction by Liell K. Vedder


Starring:

Harold Lloyd as Harold “Speedy Swift

Ann Christy as Jane Dillon

Bert Woodruff as Pop Dillon – Her Grand-daddy

Brooks Benedict as Steve Carter

Babe Ruth


Speedy was the last silent feature to star Harold Lloyd (Safety Last!)—and one of his very best. The slapstick legend reprises his “Glasses Character,” this time as a good-natured but scatterbrained New Yorker who can’t keep a job. He finally finds his true calling when he becomes determined to help save the city’s last horse-drawn trolley, which is operated by his sweetheart’s crusty grandfather. From its joyous visit to Coney Island to its incredible Babe Ruth cameo to its hair-raising climactic stunts on the city’s streets, Speedy is an out-of-control love letter to New York that will have you grinning from ear to ear.


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Harold Lloyd, one of the three kings of silent comedy in the United States has entertained many with films such as “Safety Last!” (1923), “The Freshman” (1925), “The Kid Brother” (1927), to name a few.

But in 1928, he would create his final silent comedy, “Speedy”, which was directed by longtime Harold Lloyd confidant and director, Ted Wilde (his final film as he would die of a stroke at the age of 36 while working on another film project).

Beloved by silent comedy fans, especially for its footage from Hollywood and New York City and the film was one of the films to be nominated for the short-lived “Academy Award for Best Director of a Comedy”.

The film would star Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy (“Halloween”, “The Love Charm”, “Dream House”), Bert Woodruff (“Spring Fever”, “Children of the Dust”, “The Delicious Little Devil”), Brooks Benedict (“The Freshman”, “Follow the Fleet”, “What Price Hollywood?”) and baseball great, Babe Ruth (as well as a very short cameo from fellow New York Yankees, Lou Gehrig).

While the film will be known as Harold Lloyd’s final silent film, the film also gets its reputation for Harold Lloyd showing off his middle finger (possibly the first middle finger gesture seen in a film).  But for its extensive location shooting, it is one of the best films to capture New York City during the late 1920’s.

Considered as one of his highlights of his oeuvre, “Speedy” was released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Speedy” revolves around Harold “Speedy” Swift (portrayed by Harold Lloyd), a man who can’t keep a job for more than a week and is dating Jane Dillon (portrayed by Ann Christy).

Her father Pop (portrayed by Bert Woodruff) is the owner of a horse-drawn streetcar, one of the last ones in the city.  But the wealthy railroad entrepreneur Steve Carter (portrayed by Brooks Benedict) wants to build a trolley system in the city, but unfortunately the route is being used for many years by Pop Dillon.  And the only way he can lose it, is if he doesn’t provide rides on the route for 24 hours.  Something that Pop has not missed since starting his business.

But when Pop is willing to negotiate for $10,000 for the route and streetcar, seeing a newspaper article of how badly Steve Carter needs the route, Speedy changes the $10,000 to $70,000 which Carter refuses to pay.

Now Steve Carter will do all he can to prevent Pop from operating his streetcar and force him out of business.  But wanting to protect Pop’s business, Speedy decides to operate the street-car.

Featuring a day between Speedy and his girlfriend Jane at Coney Island, watching a New York Yankees game and also giving New York Yankees star, Babe Ruth a ride, “Speedy” is one of Harold Lloyd’s most memorable silent films ever created.


VIDEO:

“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” is presented in black and white and color-tinted (1:33:1 aspect ratio). The film is well-preserved and looks fantastic compared to its earlier DVD set release in the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection”.  The film features better picture quality, better sharpness and detail for the characters.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a safety fine-grain master positive deposited at the UCLA Film & Television Archive by the Harold Lloyd estate; certain insert segments were scanned in 4k from the archive’s preservation negative.  The film was restored by Digital Film Restore in Burbank, California.”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788”. The soundtrack features the musical score by composer Carl Davis from 1992, synchronize dand restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo.

Intertitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary with Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum and Scott McGee, director of program production at Turner Classic Movies.
  • “In the Footsteps of ‘Speedy'” – (31:06) A short documentary featuring Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York Film Forum and founder of Rialto Pictures visiting and discussing several of the key New York locations in “Speedy”.
  • Babe Ruth – (40:25) Featuring David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, presenting and discussing a selection of rare Hearst Metrotone newsreel footage featuring Babe Ruth from the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
  • Narrated Stills: Deleted Scenes – (4:24) Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum narrates a selection of rare stills featuring scenes that were deleted from the final release version of “Speedy”.
  • Home Movies – (17:46) Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd narrates a selection of home movie footage shot around the time that “Speedy” was made.
  • Bumping Into Broadway – (25:51) A 1939 Harold Lloyd short shot entirely in Los Angeles and the first two-reeler to star Lloyd’s glasses character.

EXTRAS:

“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “The Comic Figure of the Average Man” by Phillip Lopate.


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A final silent comedy by Harold Lloyd before he became interested in creating talkies a year later with “Welcome Danger”, “Speedy” is a film in which the well-known silent film director/actor wanted to go grand by shooting in New York.

Featuring wonderful video footage of scenery of New York City long ago, and utilizing hidden cameras to shoot various scenes, especially Harold Lloyd and Ann Christy’s adventures in Coney Island, one can easily marvel on how Harold Lloyd was able to pull this film off.

As thousands of people became the film’s extras, many crowds gathering…and would typically stop film production and stunt scenes that were risky and dangerous, “Speedy” was no doubt an ambitious film but yet still within the scope of focusing on create an entertaining and riveting silent comedy film.

But in terms of being even more ambitious, what was supposed to be Lloyd’s final silent film in 1929 with “Welcome Danger”, Lloyd chose to reshoot and utilize audio technology for its time and create a Harold Lloyd comedy for the “talkies” era.  While “Welcome Danger” did well in the box office as moviegoers were excited to hear this new technology and wanting to hear what Harold Lloyd sounds like, his talkies afterward, would never achieve the same success as his silent films.

So, here we are with “Speedy” now released in HD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.  The film looks absolutely fantastic compared to its Warner Bros. DVD counterpart.  The sharpness and detail are much better, as can be expected.  But its the subtle details in watching in HD that you see things in the background that catch your attention.

And this is where “Speedy” is quite effective because of its location shooting throughout New York City, you get to see New York of yesteryear.  There are a few films, especially from Harold Lloyd that showcase a city background and in many ways, historically are significant for capturing the lifestyle and pop culture of that era.  And “Speedy” has so much to give, as the characters are seen in Coney Island and New York City, not for a short moment, but for a significant amount of time.

The audio retains the 1992 Carl Davis musical score, which will leave purists happy and there are a number of special features that really go into the making of the film but also showcasing New York Yankees slugger, Babe Ruth and really going into details of the legend’s career as a player and manager.

Also included are glimpses of home movies and also the two-reeler “Bumping into Broadway” featuring the 2004 musical score by Robert Israel.

For silent comedy fans, the Harold Lloyd films released by the Criterion Collection have been wonderful and timing has been perfect as Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton have been the focal point of many Blu-ray releases, it’s great to have Criterion Collection honoring the third king of silent comedy with another release in HD.

While my favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last!”, I enjoy “Speedy” in a much different level, mainly for the adventure that Harold Lloyd takes the viewer and enjoying New York City of that era but also the fascinating stunts and scenes that will surely entertain generation after generation.

A wonderful Criterion Collection silent comedy Blu-ray release that I recommend!

 

Burroughs the Movie – The Criterion Collection #789 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Burroughs the Movie” is a fascinating documentary as one of the greatest American writers, William S. Burroughs discusses the good and bad of his life.  Filmmaker Howard Brookner made sure that nothing is left unsaid and confronts Burroughs on his success but also his failures. 

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


TITLE: Burroughs the Movie – The Criterion Collection #789

YEAR OF FILM: 1983

DURATION: 90 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: December 15, 2015


Directed by Howard Brookner

Produced by Howard Brookner

Executive-Produced: Edouard Douek

Cinematography by Howard Brookner, Richard Camp, Tom DiCillo, Cathy Dorsey, James A. Lebovitz, Larry Shlu, Mike Southon

Edited by Ben Morris, Scott Vickrey


Starring:

Mortimer Burroughs

William S. Burroughs

Lucien Carr

Jackie Curtis

Allen Ginsberg

John Giorno

James Grauerholz

Brion Gysin

Patti Smith

Terry Southern


Made up of intimate, revelatory footage of the singular author and poet filmed over the course of five years, Howard Brookner’s 1983 documentary about William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch) was for decades mainly the stuff of legend; that changed when Aaron Brookner, the late director’s nephew, discovered a print of it in 2011 and spearheaded a restoration. Now viewers can enjoy the invigorating candidness of Burroughs: The Movie, a one-of-a-kind nonfiction portrait that was brought to life with the help of a remarkable crew of friends, including Jim Jarmusch (Down By Law) and Tom DiCillo (Living in Oblivion), and that features on-screen appearances by fellow artists of Burroughs’s including Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Patti Smith, and Terry Southern.


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William S. Burroughs II, the great American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter and spoken word performer and is best known as one of the prominent figures of the Beat Generation is revered for his influence in pop culture and literature.

Best known for his novels, “Junkie” (1953), “Naked Lunch” (1959) and popularized the literary cut-up technique (text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text) for “The Nova Trilogy” (1961-1964).

In 1983, Burroughs was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and in 1984, was ordered the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France.

In 1983, filmmaker Howard Brookner (“Arena”, “Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars”, “Bloodhounds of Broadway”) would release his documentary “Burroughs the Movie” to celebrate the work of William S. Burroughs.  The film would be the first and only documentary of the Beat Generation writer and exploring his career with his contemporaries such as Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, Francis Bacon, Herbert Huncke, Patti Smith and Terry Southern.

The film explores William S. Burroughs, still influential, still working and also focusing on his relationships, such as his working relationship with American poet and Beat Generation leading figure, Allen Ginsberg; his relationship with his assistant (and partner) James Gaureholz and also his relationship or lack of relationship with his son, Billy.

The film also goes into the Beat Generation, his drug addiction and the murder of his common-law wife Joan Vollmer.

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


VIDEO:

“Burroughs the Movie – The Criterion Collection #789” is presented in color and black and white (1:33:1 aspect ratio).  The film is well-preserved with no major damage or color issues.  Skin tones look natural and there is a fine layer of grain throughout the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new high definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine film scanner from a 35 mm print held by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  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, “Burroughs the Movie – The Criterion Collection #789”. The film is presented in English monaural 1.0.  Dialogue is clear and no distracting hiss or crackle.

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

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Burroughs the Movie – The Criterion Collection #789” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who served as a sound recordist on “Burroughs: The Movie”.
  • Howard and Uncle Bill – (15:35) Interview with filmmaker Aaron Brookner, director Howard Brookner’s nephew.
  • Howard Brookner – (23:48) Audio excerpts from a July 1985 interview with director Howard Brookner about the making of “Burroughs: The Movie” conducted by William S. burroughs biographer Ted Morgan.
  • Outtakes – (20:23) Featuring five outtakes: New York City, Weapons, Nova Convent-on, Interviews and Travel
  • New York Film Festival, 2014 – (26:47) A Q&A at the premiere of “Burroughs: The Movie” at the New York Film Festival in 2014.
  • Robert E. Fulton III Edit – (23:39) Two years of filming, director Howard Brookner brought inventor and photographer Robert E. Fulton II a trunkful of his William S. Burroughs footage to see if Fulton could re-edit the film.  The result is a 23-minute cut.

EXTRAS:

“Burroughs the Movie – The Criterion Collection #789” comes with a poster/foldout with the essay “Burroughs, That Proud American Name” by Luc Sante.


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Literary genius or audacious writer, William S. Burroughs will be revered as one of greatest and most influential writers of the 20th century.  Others may see him as the most scandalous writers of the 20th century and there are others who refuse to acknowledge Burroughs for his excessive drug use, homosexuality and the murder of his common-law wife.

Excusing the latter, “Burroughs the Movie” is a peek into the life of William S. Burroughs, his accomplishment in his life, his failures in his life but filmmaker Howard Brookner’s film gives those who admire his work a peek into his life.

The film features those who have worked with Burroughs but also those who have had a strong relationship with him.  But also a film that pays respect to Burroughs as a writer, his use of cut-up text and how he inspired many people including musicians.

But the film doesn’t explore William S. Burroughs and his writing oeuvre, the film also explores many facets of his life, good and bad and Burroughs is not afraid to talk about it.  The film shows us a man who has battled with his own personal demons throughout his life.  Growing up addicted to drugs, being homosexual and enjoying nights out with friends, not all is about the fun Burroughs had.  In someway, there is a sense that he is never free from his addiction or past sins.

But there is no denying that he is intelligent, an eloquent speaker and accomplished so much in his life, but the film also exposes the darker side of the life of one of these men who came from the Beat Generation.  Where a lot of documentaries make you feel happy for one’s accomplishments, not “Burroughs the Movie” because while the film shows us his success, the film paints us the true colors of this human being who has lived through tough times and instead of placing him on a pedestal for his accomplishments, the film showcases the humanside of William S. Burroughs.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good and there is no sign of discoloration or major damage.  Lossless audio is monaural and features crisp, clear dialogue and there are a number of special features that pays respect to William S. Burroughs’ work but also to filmmaker Howard Brookner posthumously.

Overall, “Burroughs the Movie” is a fascinating documentary as one of the greatest American writers, William S. Burroughs discusses the good and bad of his life.  Filmmaker Howard Brookner made sure that nothing is left unsaid and confronts Burroughs on his success but also his failures.

 

The Apu Trilogy – The Criterion Collection #782-785 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Satayjit Ray’s “The Apu Trilogy” is one of the greatest trilogies ever made.  This Blu-ray release is one of the best Criterion Collections sets ever released.  If you are a cineaste, you owe yourself to have “The Apu Trilogy” in your cinema collection.  Highly recommended!

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


TITLE: The Apu Trilogy – The Criterion Collection #782-785

YEAR OF FILM: Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956), Apuru Sansar (1959)

DURATION: Pather Panchali (125 Minutes), Aparajito (110 Minutes), Apuru Sansar (106 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2015


Pather Panchali

Directed by Satayjit Ray

Based on the Novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay

Screenplay by Satyajit Ray

Music by Ravi Shankar

Cinematography by Subrata Mitra

Edited by Dulal Dutta

Production Design by Bansi Chandragupta

Aparajito

Directed by Satayjit Ray

Based on the Novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay

Screenplay by Satyajit Ray

Produced by Satayjit Ray

Music by Ravi Shankar

Cinematography by Subrata Mitra

Edited by Dulal Dutta

Production Design by Bansi Chandragupta

Apur Sansar

Directed by Satayjit Ray

Based on the Novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay

Produced by Satayjit Ray  

Co-Produced: Aminyanath Mukherji

Screenplay by Satyajit Ray

Music by Ravi Shankar

Cinematography by Subrata Mitra

Edited by Dulal Dutta

Production Design by Bansi Chandragupta

Art Direction by Bansi Chandragupta

Set Decoration by Subodh Das, Chhedilal Sharma


Starring:

Pather Panchali

Kanu Bannerjee as Harihar Ray

Karuna Bannerjee as Sarbojaya Ray

Chunibala Devi as Indir Thakrun

Uma Das Gupta as Durga

Subir Banerjee as Little Durga

Reba Devi as Seja Thakrun

Aparna Devi as Nilmoni’s Wife

Tulsi Chakraborty as Prasanna, School Teacher

Aparajito

Kamala Adhikari as Mokshada

Lalchand Banerjee as Lahiri

Kali Bannerjee as Kathak

Kanu Bannerjee as Harihar Ray

Karuna Bannerjee as Sarbojaya Ray

Hemanta Chatterjee as Professor

Smaran Ghosal as Apu (adolescent)

Apur Sansar

Soumitra Chatterjee as Apurba Roy

Sharmila Tagore as Aparna

Alok Chakravarty as Kajal

Swapan Mukherjee as Pulu

Abhijit Chatterjee as Aparna’s Brother

Dhiren Ghosh as Landlord


Two decades after its original negatives were burned in a fire, Satyajit Ray’s breathtaking milestone of world cinema rises from the ashes in a meticulously reconstructed new restoration. The Apu Trilogy brought India into the golden age of international art-house film, following one indelible character, a free-spirited child in rural Bengal who matures into an adolescent urban student and finally a sensitive man of the world. These delicate masterworks—Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Aparajito (The Unvanquished), and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu)—based on two books by Bibhutibhusan Banerjee, were shot over the course of five years, and each stands on its own as a tender, visually radiant journey. They are among the most achingly beautiful, richly humane movies ever made—essential works for any film lover. Pather Panchali  The release in 1955 of Satyajit Ray’s debut, Pather Panchali, introduced to the world an eloquent and important new cinematic voice. A depiction of rural Bengali life in a style inspired by Italian neorealism, this naturalistic but poetic evocation of a number of years in the life of a family introduces us to both little Apu and, just as essentially, the women who will help shape him: his independent older sister, Durga; his harried mother, Sarbajaya, who, with her husband away, must hold the family together; and his kindly and mischievous elderly “auntie,” Indir—vivid, multifaceted characters all. With resplendent photography informed by its young protagonist’s perpetual sense of discovery, the Cannes-awarded Pather Panchali is an immersive cinematic experience and a film of elemental power. Aparajito  Satyajit Ray had not planned to make a sequel to Pather Panchali, but after the film’s international success, he decided to continue Apu’s narrative. Aparajito picks up where the first film leaves off, with Apu and his family having moved away from the country to live in the bustling holy city of Varanasi (then known as Benares). As Apu progresses from wide-eyed child to intellectually curious teenager, eventually studying in Kolkata, we witness his academic and moral education, as well as the growing complexity of his relationship with his mother. This tenderly expressive, often heart-wrenching film, which won three top prizes at the Venice Film Festival, including the Golden Lion, not only extends but also spiritually deepens the tale of Apu. Apur Sansar By the time Apur Sansar was released, Satyajit Ray had directed not only the first two Apu films but also the masterpiece The Music Room, and was well on his way to becoming a legend. This extraordinary final chapter brings our protagonist’s journey full circle. Apu is now in his early twenties, out of college, and hoping to live as a writer. Alongside his professional ambitions, the film charts his romantic awakening, which occurs as the result of a most unlikely turn of events, and his eventual, fraught fatherhood. Featuring soon to be Ray regulars Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore in star-making performances, and demonstrating Ray’s ever more impressive skills as a crafter of pure cinematic imagery, Apur Sansar is a moving conclusion to this monumental trilogy.


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Trilogies.  When often you talk to people of their favorite trilogies, you get the usual answer of sci-fi films such as the “Star Wars”, “Back to the Future”, “Lord of the Rings”, “The Matrix” films often mentioned or even films such as “the Jason Bourne Trilogy”, “The Dollars Trilogy” or the animated “Toy Story” trilogy.

But for cineaste, there are trilogies from outside of the United States that have captivated audiences such as Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors: Blue, White and Red”, the late Stieg Larsson’s “Millenium” Series, Fritz Lang’s “Dr. Mabuse” trilogy, Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Alienation” trilogy, Ingmar Bergman’s “Trilogy of Faith”, to name a few.

But there is one trilogy that is seen as one of the best trilogies ever created and that is Satyajit Ray’s masterpiece, “The Apu Trilogy”.

Three films based on two Bengali novels by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, the films include “Pather Panchali” (1955, Song of the Little Road), “Aparajito” (1956, The Unvanquished) and “Apur Sansar” (1959, The World of Apu).  Each considered one of the greatest films ever created in Indian cinema.

And now, all three films as a Blu-ray set titled “The Apu Trilogy” will be released in November 2015 courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

The first film titled “Pather Panchali” was produced with a low-budget featuring an amateur cast and crew.  The film went on to win many awards internationally including seven awards from the Cannes, Berlin and Venice Film Festivals.

“Pather Panchali” introduces us to a poor family in rural Bengal.    We are introduced to Harihar Roy (portrayed by Kanu Banerjee) who tries to support his family as a pujari (priest), but his dreams is to have a better career as a poet and playwright, so he often leaves his family in order to earn extra income.

While Harihar is gone, his wife Sarbajaya (portrayed by Karuna Banerjee) raises their daughter Durga (portrayed by Uma Dasgupta) and son Apu (portrayed by Subir Banerjee), along with the elder cousin of Harihar, Indir Thakrun (portrayed by Chunibala Devi).

Sarbajaya is often concerned with their lifestyle.  Their home is in dire need of repairs, without any money, they are often starving and she is often at odds with her daughter Durga, who takes fruit from nearby orchards thus leading to their family to be frowned upon by neighbors.

Seeing that Durga does it for her elder aunt, it also puts Sarbajaya in odds with Indir.

We watch as Durga and Apu grow older and the bond between siblings but also seeing the difficult that the family faces in poverty.

But even love is not enough for Sarbajaya to protect her family, as Harihar’s long journey without sending money back to the family may take its toll.

In 1956, the sequel “Aparajito” was released in theaters, receiving critical praise worldwide and winning 11 international awards include the Golden Lion and the Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival.

As tragedy has led Harihar to leave their home in Bengal and move to an apartment in Varanasi, Harihar has found a new job as a priest, while Sarbajaya works as a maid.

But not long after the family is getting accustomed to life in the city, despite the family now making money, while Harihar is out for work, he comes back home and is ill.

Thinking that it’s a regular fever and having gotten over it, Harihar goes back to work and collapses.

Unfortunately, the family faces another tragedy which forces Sarbajaya and Apu to move back to Bengal and settle in the small village of Mansapota.

Back in a rural area, Apu who was educated by his father, wants to go to school, so his mother sends Apu to school.

The film then progresses to a older teen Apu who has become one of the top students at his school.  As the school sees his talent, he receives a scholarship to go to Calcutta for high school but will his mother allow him?

For Sarbajaya, she fears being alone and away from Apu, but she knows that Apu can have a better life if he goes to college.

But will the road for Apu’s search for upper education lead him to a better life or heartbreak?

In 1959, the final film of “The Apu Trilogy” titled “Apu Sansar” was released.  The film would focus on the early adulthood of Apu and life after college.

The film would win international awards which include “Best Foreign Language Film” by the National Board of Review and “Best Feature Film” at the National Film Award.

Apu (portrayed by Soumitra Chatterjee) has graduated from high school and to his surprise, he has not been able to get a job and remains unemployed.  While his teacher advise him to continue his education and go to a university, unfortunately Apu can’t afford it.  So, he tries to find any job that he can get.

As Apu’s goal is to write a novel based on his life experiences but also about love, his friend Pulu (portrayed by Swapan Mukherjee) criticizes Apu because he has never been in love with a woman, let alone had a girlfriend.

But Apu feels that he doesn’t have to be in a relationship to write about love, Pulu disagrees.

Meanwhile, Pulu gets Apu to join him on a trip to his home village in Khulna as his cousin Aparna (portrayed by Sharmila Tagore) is getting married.

As the two are in Khulna and Apu dozes in the sand, as Aparna’s husband-to-be arrives, it is realized that the man she is to married has serious mental health issues.  While the family of the man try to say that he hasn’t eaten and the long ride to Khulna has got to him, Aparna’s mother refuses her to marry a person that may be mad.

But because of their Hindu custom, Aparna must get married before the end of the day (of the appointed auspicious hour) or else she must remain unmarried all her life.

Pulu feels there is one person who can save Aparna, and that is Apu.  Pulu, Aparna’s father and the villagers beg Apu to marry his daughter, but Apu thinks that the custom is ridiculous and not modern.  But seeing how his life at home has been miserable, knowing that Pulu can help him get a job, he agrees to marry Aparna, if Pulu helps him.

And sure enough, Apu and Aparna are married.

And despite being poor and not living in a big place, like she is living now, Aparna is dedicated to being a loyal wife for Apu and as they spend more and time together, the two fall in love.

But will the happy marriage stay strong between Apu and Aparna?


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VIDEO:

“The Apu Trilogy – The Criterion Collection #782-785” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). The film is presented in black and white and the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release features much better sharpness, clarity and also a good amount of grain. I didn’t notice any major aging or any dirt or debris while watching the film.

But it’s important to note that the restoration process of each of these films were difficult and came from various sources.  While I found each of the films too look magnificent on Blu-ray, the third film did not receive the same treatment as the first two films.

Because a lot of Ray’s films were shot on triacetate, the film was in danger of deteriorating in warm temperatures.  After Satyajit Ray received his Academy Honorary Award in 1992, the Academy was dismayed that there were few prints and masters of Ray’s films in the US and many were now incomplete or in bad condition.  So, the Academy decided to create a catalog of the surviving elements of Ray’s films in the US and to assess what was in good condition or what films would be lost.

After Ray’s death, a project was initiated to restore many of the films, including those in the “Apu Trilogy”.

According to the Criterion Collection, “Several of the film’s original negatives were shipped to London’s Henderson’s Film Laboratories.  But then, tragically, in July 1993, a massive fire at the lab spread to the film vaults, destroying more than 25 original negatives of important British classics and burning several of Ray’s films, including the original negatives of ‘The Apu Trilogy’.  Any ashes, fragments, or film cants that could be identified as belonging to Ray’s films were sent to the Academy Film Archive at the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but “The Apu Trilogy” negatives were deemed unprintable, as there were no technologies available at the time that were capable of restoring such deeply damaged film elements”.

“When the Criterion Collection began working on this restoration with the Academy Film Archive, the negatives were in storage and hadn’t been seen in 20 years.  Many portions were indeed burned to ash, and what remained was startingly fragile, thanks to deterioration and the heat and contaminants the elements had been exposed to.  Head and tail leaders were also often missing from reels.  Yet significant portions had survived, from which high-quality images might be rendered.”

The Criterion Collection would go on to say that “using fine-grain masters and duplicate negatives preserved by the Academy Film Archive, the Harvard Film Archive and the BFI National Archive, excellent replacements were found for the unusable or missing sections of the original negatives.  In the end, 40% of ‘Pather Panchali’ and over 60% of ‘Aparajito’ were restored directly from the original negatives.  The two surviving reels of ‘Apur Sansar’ were too damaged to be used in the restoration, so all of that film was restored from a fine-grain master and a duplicate negative.

Over the course of nearly eight months of steady work, the Criterion Collection restoration lab handled digital restoration, including eliminating dirt, debris, warps and cracks.  Emphasis was placed on retaining the look and character of the original material, preferring when necessary to leave damage rather than overprocess digital images that might lose the grain and feel of the film.”

For, “Pather Panchali” and “Aparajito”, the Criterion Collection used for “Pather Panchali” a 35 mm duplicate negative from the Academy Film Archive and a 35 mm fine-grain from the BFI National Archive, additional film elements used for “Aparajito” included two 35 mm duplicate negatives, one from the Academy Film Archive and one from the Harvard Film Archive.  For “Apur Sansar”, a new 4K digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner from a 35 mm fine-grain positive from the British Film Institute and a 35 mm safety duplicate negative from the Academy Film Archive.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Pheonix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Apu Trilogy – The Criterion Collection #782-785”. The film is presented in Bengali LPCM 1.0. Dialogue and music are crystal clear.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the following elements: for ‘Pather Panchali’, a 35 mm safety magnetic track from the Academy Film Archive; for ‘Aparajito’, a 35 mm print from the Venice Film Festival and a 35 mm fine-grain from the Academy Film Archive; and for ‘Apur Sansar’, two 35 mm prints and a 35 mm magnetic track from the BFI National Archive.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotop RX 4.”.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Apu Trilogy – The Criterion Collection #782-785” comes with the following special features:

  • A Long Time on the Little Road – (14:37) An audio recording of Satyajit Ray’s article for the British magazine Sight & Sound.
  • Soumitra Chatterjee – (7:14) “Apu Sansar” actor Soumitra Chatterjee (adult Apu) talks about working on Satyajit Ray’s films and the impact “Pather Panchali” made on him.
  • Shampa Srivastava – (16:29) Featuring a 2015 interview with actress Shampa Srivastava who plays the young Durga in “Pather Panchali”.
  • Soumendu Roy – (12:34) A 2013 interview with Ray’s main camera operators, Soumendu Roy, who worked on “Pather Panchali”.
  • Ravi Shankar – (5:56) Excerpts from the 2003 documentary “The Song of the Little Road” with musician Ravi Shankar, who worked on “The Apu Trilogy”.
  • The Small Details – (11:27) Film writer Ujjal Chakraborty discusses the many symbolic details throughout “Aparajito”.
  • A Conversation with Satyajit Ray, 1958 – (14:31) In 1958, director Satyajit Ray attended the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar in Vermont on the US release of “Pather Panchali”.  The following is an audio recording.
  • Making “The Apu Trilogy”: Satyajit Ray’s Epic Debut – (37:46) A video essay, written and narrated by Satyajit Ray biographer Andrew Robinson and produced in 2015.
  • The Creative Person: “Satyajit Ray” – (29:00) A 1967, Canadian documentarian James Beveridged traveled to Kokata to film director Satyajit Ray at work.  The half-hour program was featured on the public television sereis “The Creative Person”.
  • Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore – (15:07) A 2015 interview with Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore talking about their experience working with director Satyajit Ray.
  • “The Apu Trilogy”: A Closer Look – (43:33) Filmmaker, producer, teacher and former head of the British Film Institute Mamoun Hassan explores both the formal techniques and themes of “The Apu Trilogy”.
  • Honorary Oscar – (3:03) A clip from the 1992 Academy Awards with director Satyajit Ray receieving an honorary Oscar for his lifetime of achievement in filmmaking.
  • Restoring “The Apu Trilogy” – (12:31) Featuring a short and longer cut detailing the restoring of “The Apu Trilogy”.

EXTRAS:

“The Apu Trilogy – The Criterion Collection #782-785” comes with a 44-page booklet with the essays “Every Common Sight” by Terrence Rafferty and “Behind the Universal” by Girish Shambu.  Also, Ray’s storyboards for “Pather Panchali” are included.


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Poetic, visually mesmerizing, these are the earlier films of Satyajit Ray.  But these earlier films go to show why he is considered one the greatest auteurs of all time.

Satyajit Ray.  The Indian Bengali filmmaker was known for his non-traditional Indian films.  Having directed 37 films in his lifetime, many which won multiple awards internationally and his contribution to cinema has earned him an Academy Honorary Award in 1991, his films are beloved by many and many have hoped to see his films receive the Blu-ray treatment in the U.S.

And finally, “The Apu Trilogy” has received the Criterion Collection treatment as this trilogy masterpiece has been long awaited by arthouse fans and what a glorious release this box set has come to be.

When I first watched “The Apu Trilogy” many years ago, it was the film that introduced me to Indian filmmaking.  Unlike the Bollywood films that tends to be associated with Indian films, Satyajit Ray films are moving, humanistic and an artform capturing Indian life with stories that are moving, heartbreaking but also full of hope.

The film “Pather Panchali” was a film that I felt was humanistic, moving and an honest portrayal of rural Bengali life.  Inspired by Italian neorealism, when I first discovered this film, I understood that the film would probably go into detail of living in poverty and trying to survive.

But the first film in “The Apu Trilogy” was much more than that.  While the mother of Apu worried about finances, the primary focus was on the children, the daughter Durga and the little brother Apu.

Durga was the primary focus as you see this young girl, who may not be seen as a good girl, because she steals fruits from orchards to give to her ailing elderly aunt.  But she is a girl that we can see is trying to enjoy life with what she has, but also seeing her in various states of jealousy of those who have things that she doesn’t have.

We see that by her choices, how it frustrates her mother, to the point that she often is admonished or punished.

But still, she is full of vitality and her younger brother Apu, just looks up to her, adores her.  But unfortunately, when the father travels to find work to make money and leaves his family behind with not much to live on, nor did he do what was necessary to fix up the home they live in, the worries that the mother had throughout the film, begin to become reality.

And that is the tragedy that we often see in Italian neorealism films, people in poverty doing all they can to enjoy life during the darkest times, but unfortunately, reality catches up and when you have nothing to live on, especially if you have a family (or pets), quite often in these films, you know that happiness turns into tragedy.

By the time we get to the sequel “Apajarajito”, tragedy drives the family of Apu to the city.  And just when you think things are going well with the family, now that they do have some means to make money.  Living in the city brings in problems that the family never had to experience from their rural town and unfortunately, for the hardworking father figure in the film, all the hardwork unfortunately takes its toll and once again, tragedy overcomes the family.

And once again, the family, which has been decimated, now returns back to another rural area with the mother needing to raise the only person that she has in her life, her son.

But like father, like son, Apu carries on the flame of his father who was a priest wanting to become a writer.  Educated and having a chance to do something with his life, his mother allows him to travel to Calcutta to attend school on a scholarship.

While difficult for the mother, she believes its the right decision and we watch as Apu has become a teenager and so busy with education, he is unaware of his mother’s health, let alone how heartbroken she is being alone at home, wanting her son nearby.

When we get to the third film, “Apuru Sansar”, Apu has graduated from school, unemployed and having no one but himself.  Unable to afford the cost of going to the University, while educated and bright, no one is hiring.

While the young adult Apu has great plans to write a novel (somewhat autobiographical, but in his novel, his character finds love), his friend tells him that he must experience love before he can write about it.

It’s not until circumstances lead Apu to getting married.  But this young woman that he ended up marrying, takes him as is, no questions about his lack of making money, she accepts him for him and as the two live together, they grow together and fall in love.  Like a lovestory with two soulmates that discover each other, Apu and Aparna are a wonderful couple and we can’t help but support this union on screen.

But as the first two films had it fair share of tragedy, I remember when watching the third film, would Satayjit Ray also have the third and final film go down a tragic path?

And I knew in my heart, something was going to happen and sure enough…Apu and tragedy collide once again.  And while I don’t want to spoil the ending of the third film, I will say that “hope” is in every one of the films of “The Apu Trilogy”.

The first film is hope for a better life, the second film is hope for a better future and the final film is hope for a new beginning.

While the film adaptation of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s two novels were brought to life by Satayjit Ray, it’s his attention to detail and bringing out the characters and their mannerisms that make the film so realistic and so captivating.  It’s the balance of happiness and tragedy that stirs us emotionally but no matter how tragic the story becomes, you know that there is always a glimmer of hope and that’s what makes “The Apu Trilogy” so magnificent.

Which leads us to “The Apu Trilogy” release by The Criterion Collection so important, so anticipated and I can’t speak enough of how magnificent this set is.

It’s probably the first time I have seen the Criterion Collection go through a major effort to acquiring and restoring films.  This was an effort that I’m not only grateful but also happy to see the company go all out in the sake of restoration but to bring the films out to the public in the best effort that is technologically possible today.  And obviously, for any cinema fan, one knows that restoration is expensive.

So, I’m grateful for the Criterion Collection doing all that is possible for bringing out all three films with the best picture and audio quality for this Blu-ray release set.  Also, for the many included interviews, audios and archived footage that were presented in all three Blu-ray discs and a wonderful booklet included as well.

Overall, Satayjit Ray’s “The Apu Trilogy” is one of the greatest trilogies ever made.  This Blu-ray release is one of the best Criterion Collections sets ever released.

If you are a cineaste, you owe yourself to have “The Apu Trilogy” in your cinema collection.  Highly recommended!

 

Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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D.A. Pennebaker has made fantastic documentaries which have stood strong against time and appreciated for its content.  The same can be said about “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back” in the sense that you get that rare view of mid-60s Bob Dylan in his element and just be in awe of his persona and his dedication to his music.  “Dont Look Back” is one of the best music documentaries ever made and no matter how many decades have passed by since this film’s theatrical release, it remains to this day an awesome musical documentary worth watching!

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


TITLE: Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786

YEAR OF FILM: 1967

DURATION: 96 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: November 24, 2015


Directed by D.A. Pennebaker

Written by D.A. Pennebaker

Produced by Carlos Ponti

Music by Armando Trovajoli

Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis

Edited by Raimondo Crociani

Production Design by Luciano Ricceri

Set Decoration by Luciano Ricceri

Costume Design by Enrico Sabbatini


Starring:

Bob Dylan

Albert Grossman

Bob Neuwirth

Joan Baez

Alan Price

Tito Burns

Donovan

Derroll Adams


Bob Dylan is captured on-screen as he never would be again in this groundbreaking film from D. A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop, Company). The legendary documentarian finds Dylan in London during his 1965 tour, which would be his last as an acoustic artist and marked a turning point in his career. In this wildly entertaining vision of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists thrust into the spotlight, Dylan is surrounded by teen fans; gets into heated philosophical jousts with journalists; and kicks back with fellow musicians Joan Baez, Donovan, and Alan Price. Featuring some of Dylan’s most famous songs, including “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” Dont Look Back is a radically conceived and shot portrait of an American icon that has influenced decades of vérité behind-the-scenes documentaries.


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Bob Dylan, the famous singer, songwriter, musician and artist is one of the best selling artists of all time.  Back in the ’60s, his work and his popularity was at an all-time high despite others trying to pigeon-hole the artist as a folk singer, in truth, Bob Dylan was a man who did whatever he wanted to do and was very much a freewheeling artist who did music his way, no matter how many peopled supported or criticized his work.

D.A. Pennebaker is a documentary filmmaker who is known for his work such as “Monterey Pop” in the 1968 and the Depeche Mode ’80s documentary “101”.  But also non-music documentaries such as “The War Room” following Arkansas governor Bill Clinton’s run for the presidency.

But the film that would expose Pennebaker’s work to an international audience was his 1967 documentary “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back” (the lack of an apostrophe in “don’t” is intentional, as was the typographical errors during the opening cuecard sequence), considered as one of the greatest music documentaries of all time, but also featured Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” sequence, which is considered to be the precursor to music videos.

The film was included in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1998 as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and has been voted as one of the top documentaries of all time.

And the film will now be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Don’t Look Back” features Bob Dylan during his 1965 concert tour in England.  Giving people a chance to see how Bob Dylan was during the tour, during his interviews with Time Magazine’s London art and science correspondent Horace Freeland Judson, Dylan talking with the Animals Alan Price of why he left the group?, Dylan with then girlfriend, music artist Joan Baez, creating music in a hotel room, Dylan having a discussion with “science student” Terry Ellis (who would one day become the co-founder of Chrysalis Records).  Dylan’s feelings towards Donovan and performing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” after Donovan’s performance of “To Sing for You”.


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VIDEO:

“Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). The film is presented in black and white and the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release features much better sharpness, clarity and also a good amount of grain. I didn’t notice any major aging or any dirt or debris while watching the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner from the 16 mm A/B original negative.  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, “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786”. The film is presented in English LPCM 1.0. Dialogue and music are crystal clear.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original quarter-inch magnetic masters. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 4”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring a 1999 audio commentary by director D. A. Pennebaker and artist Bob Neuwirth.
  • Dylan on Dont look Back – (9:55) A 2000 interview with Bob Dylan about “Dont Look Back”.
  • 65 Revisited – (1:05:28) Outtakes from “Dont Look Back” that were not used in the final cut of the film.
  • Greil Marcus and D.A. Pennebaker – (17:49) A conversation between music journals and cultural critic Greil Marcus and director D.A. Pennebaker.
  • “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (Alternative Take) – The third alternative take of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.
  • Additional Audio Performances – Featuring five live performances record by Robert Van Dyke during Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour not featured in the final version of “Don’t Look Back” – “It Ain’t Me”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, “To Ramona”.
  • D.A. Pennebaker: A Look Back – D.A. Pennebaker’s early documentaries:  “It Stars With Music” (featuring a documentary with director D.A. Pennebaker, Jim Desmond, Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus) (29:06), “Daybreak Express” (5:25), “Baby” (6:00) and “Lambert & Co.” (13:44).
  • D.A. Pennebaker and Bob Neuwirth – (33:58) Featuring a discussion between director D.A. Pennebaker and Bob Dylan’s tour manager, Bob Neuwirth.
  • Snapshots from the Tour – (26:04) Even more footage of Bob Dylan and friends not used in the final cut.
  • Patti Smith – (13:58) A 2015 interview as Musician Patti Smith talks about Bob Dylan, working with Bob Neuwirth and meeting Bob Dylan for the first time.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back”.

EXTRAS:

“Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back – The Criterion Collection #786” comes with a 40-page booklet with the essay “Everybody Loves You For Your Black Eye” by Robert Polito.


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I am a fan of Bob Dylan’s music.  While most people I know are blasting Kanye, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift and whoever is popular on the charts, I’m still listening to Bob Dylan’s “Another Side of Bob Dylan”, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” and “Highway 61 Revisited” on repeat constantly.

I am also a big fan of the work of D.A. Pennebaker, who’s work I was introduced to through Depeche Mode’s “101”, which was one of the most amazing music documentaries I have ever watched as an older teen.

And while I enjoyed “Monterey Pop” and “The War Room”, one music documentary I have watched dozens of times is “Dont look Back”. But then, it’s not a documentary in the sense that people probably were expecting back then, clips with interviews with Dylan and friends.  With “101”, D.A. Pennebaker showcases behind-the-scenes footage, concert footage but interviews as well.

The interviews by Pennebaker are something people won’t be seeing in “Dont Look Back” and I’m not surprised. Considering that he’s focused on music and could care less of being subjected to the camera, Dylan’s involvement is due to the cajoling of his road manager, Rob Neuwirth.

But for those wanting something deep in terms of coverage of the singer/songwriter/musician, this is not a deep film.  In fact, the music documentary was not well-received by critics, but it’s those watching it years later and witnessing the genius of Bob Dylan coming up with songs on the fly, constantly focused on his work, typing his lyrics, playing guitar, playing piano and often creating new music.   But we also see Dylan feeling a bit of anxiety before a performance and being electric on stage as a light switched was turned on and he delivers wonderful performances.

And who can ever forget the performance of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” right after Donovan pleases people in the room with “To Sing for You”.

This film is fantastic because it showcases Bob Dylan in various states of mind but always managing to keep things cool.  Even with a small drunken blowout after someone threw a glass on top of a limousine in the film, Bob Dylan keeps it cool.  Whenever he meets fans or journalists, he keeps it cool with short bursts of what you might think he is ticked off, in reality, he’s calm and keeps his focus on the music.

Of course, it’s also enjoyable to watch a young Joan Baez in the film, singing a long with Dylan when the two were together (and sometime during this tour, the two broke up) and you obviously notice signs that things weren’t as peachy between the two during the film.

But when I watch this film over and over, and still don’t grow tired of it.  I see Bob Dylan on camera…and I think superstar status right here.  This guy is passionate about his music, his work and it’s quite inspiring.    I don’t think there is anyone like him or anyone comparable in musical talent and all-out aura.  Bob Dylan is pure musical genius and watching him in “Dont Look Back” is just beyond awesome.  This is not an act, this is cool and stoic, Bob Dylan.

As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, this Blu-ray is awesome in terms of the content included.  You get the outtakes, the three versions of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” cue card sequence, five audio recordings of Dylan songs not used in the film, recent interviews with Pennebaker, audio commentary, a 2000 interview with Bob Dylan, a documentary about the evolution of Pennebaker’s filming style and so much more!

Overall, D.A. Pennebaker has made fantastic documentaries which have stood strong against time and appreciated for its content.  The same can be said about “Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back” in the sense that you get that rare view of mid-60s Bob Dylan in his element and just be in awe of his persona and his dedication to his music.  “Dont Look Back” is one of the best music documentaries ever made and no matter how many decades have passed by since this film’s theatrical release, it remains to this day an awesome musical documentary worth watching!

 

Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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The films featured in “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44” are entertaining classics, showing us a side of Duvivier taking advantage of the latest cinema technology at the time and running wild with creativity. What he was wanting to accomplish at the time with his films in terms of visual effects were well-done for that time and his able to focus on human emotion was also a highlight showcased in each of these four films. Personally, you can’t go wrong with this latest Eclipse Series set. “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44”. If you love classic French cinema, this DVD set is highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series 44

YEAR OF FILM: David Golder (1930), Poil de Carotte (1932), La Tete D’Un Homme (1933), Un Carnet De Bal (1937)

DURATION: David Golder (95 Minutes), Poil de Carotte (92 Minutes), La Tete D’Un Homme (93 Minutes), Un Carnet De Bal (110 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, French with English subtitles, 1:19:1 and 1:331 aspect ratios

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASED DATE: November 3, 2015


David Golder (1930)

Directed by Julien Duvivier

Based on the novel by Irene Nemirowsky

Written by Julien Duvivier

Produced by Charles Delac, Marcel Vandal

Music by Walter Goehr

Cinematography by Georges Perinal, Armand Thirard, Ganzli Walter

Edited by Robert Dalva, Carolyn Hicks

Art Direction by Lazare Meerson

Poil de Carotte (1932)

Directed by Julien Duvivier

Adaptation by Jacques Feyder 

Based on the Novel by Jules Renard

Cinematography by Ganzli Walter

Production Design by Fernand Delattre

La tete d’un homme (1933)

Directed by Julien Duvivier

Written by Pierre Calmann, Louis Delapree, Julien Duvivier 

Based on the Novel by Georges Simenon

Produced by Charles Delac, Marcel Vandal

Cinematography by Nurith Aviv, Affonso Beato, Bob Carr

Music by Jacques Belasco

Cinematography by Armand Thirard

Edited by Marthe Poncin 

Art Direction by Georges Wakhevitch

Un carnet de bal (1937)

Directed by Julien Duvivier

Written by Julien Duvivier, Henri Jeanson, Yves Mirande, Jean Sarment, Pierre Wolff, Bernard Zimmer 

Produced by Jean-Pierre Frogerais

Music by Maurice Jaubert

Cinematography by Philippe Agostini, Michel Kelber, Pierre Levent

Edited by Andre Versein

Production Design b Jean Douarinou

Set Decoration by Paul Colin, Serge Pimenoff


Starring:

David Golder (1930)

Harry Baur as David Golder

Paule Andral as Gloria Golder

Jackie Monnier as Joyce Golder

Jean Bradin as Prinz Alec, Joyce Verlobter

Gaston Jacquet as Graf Hoyos

Jean Coquelin as Fischel

Poil de Carotte (1932)

Henry Krauss as Monsieur Lepic

Charlotte Barbier-Krauss as Madame Lepic

Andre Heuze as Francois Lepic dit Poil de Carotte

Fabien Haziza as Felix

Renee Jean as Ernestine

Lydia Zarena as Annette

Suzanne Talba as Maria

La tete d’un homme (1933)

Harry Baur as Commissaire Jules Maigret

Valery Inkijinoff as Radek

Alexandre Rignault as Joseph Heurtin

Gaston Jacquet as Willy Ferriere

Louis Gauthier as Le Juge

Henri Echourin as Inspecteur Menard

Marcel Bourdel as Inspecteur Janvier

Frederic Munie as L’avocat

Armand Numes as Le Directeur de la police

Charles Camus as L’hotelier

Rene Alexandre as Le Chauffeur

Un Carnet De Bal (1933)

Harry Baur as Alain Regnault

Marie Bell as Christine Surgere

Pierre Blanchar as Thierry Raynal

Fernandel as Fabien Coutissol

Louis Jouvet as Pierre Verdier

Raimu as Francois Patusset


Remembered primarily for directing the classic crime drama Pépé le moko, Julien Duvivier was one of the finest filmmakers working in France in the 1930s. He made the transition from silents to talkies with ease, thanks to a formidable innate understanding of the cinematic medium, and he married his expressive camera work to a strikingly inventive use of sound with a singular dexterity. His deeply shadowed, fatalistic early sound films David Golder and La tête d’un homme anticipate the poetic realist style that would come to define the decade in French cinema, while the small-town family drama Poil de Carotte and the swooning tale of love and illusion Un carnet de bal showcase his stunning versatility.

These four films—all featuring the great stage turned screen actor Harry Baur—are collected here, each evidence of an immense and often overlooked cinematic talent.

FOUR-DVD BOX SET INCLUDES: DAVID GOLDER The first sound film by Julien Duvivier also marked his first collaboration with the marvelous actor Harry Baur. Together, they brought to life the vivid protagonist of Irène Némirovsky’s best-selling first novel, an avaricious, self-interested banker whose family life is as tempestuous as his business dealings. Directed with visual panache, this grim yet arresting tale showcases Duvivier’s preternatural cinematic maturity during a transitional phase for the French film industry. POIL DE CAROTTE Julien Duvivier remade his own silent adaptation of a popular turn-of-the-twentieth-century novella for the sound era, resulting in one of his most beloved films. In a tremendously moving performance, Robert Lynen plays the neglected young François, mockingly called Poil de Carotte (“Carrottop”) by his family for his mop of red hair. Duvivier sensitively charts the rural daily life of a boy desperate to connect with others, especially his distracted father, played by the chameleonic Harry Baur. LA TÊTE D’UN HOMME This meticulously crafted adaptation stars Harry Baur as novelist Georges Simenon’s indelible creation Inspector Maigret, investigating the odd circumstances surrounding the killing of a wealthy American woman in Paris. Every bit Baur’s equal is the Russian émigré actor Valéry Inkijinoff, cast as a nihilistic, reptilian medical student. Julien Duvivier gives the viewer one evocative image after another, constructing a work of sinister beauty. UN CARNET DE BAL A rich widow, nostalgic for the lavish parties of her youth, sets off across Europe to reconnect with the many suitors who once courted her. In doing so, she embarks on a journey of discovery, both of herself and of how greatly the world has changed in two decades. Julien Duvivier’s smash hit is a wry, visually inventive tale of romantic pragmatism that deftly combines comedy and drama.


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Julien Duvivier is a French filmmaker who would be known for films such as “Pepe le Moko”, “La Bandera”, “Voice le temps des assassins”.

A prominent silent film director in the late teens and the 1920’s, by the 1930’s, Duvivier would team up with Marcel Vandal and Charles Delac (founders of “Film d’Art”) and would take part in the era of the talkies.

But while he would be known for his dark films in his oeuvre, it was the subject matter that he was interested in bringing to the big screen and would give him opportunities during World War II to work in the United States.

And up to his death in 1967 (due to a traffic accident), he had worked on nearly 70 films.

And as for his earliest films when he transitioned into the talkie era, they finally will be released in North America courtesy of the Criterion Collection via their Eclipse Series for their 44th volume, “Julie Duvivier in the Thirties”.

The set will included his first talkie, the 1930 film “David Golder”; his 1932 film “Poil de Carotte”, his 1993 film “La Tete D’Un Homme” and his 1937 film “Un Carnet de Bal”.

The first film “David Golder” stars Harry Baur, Paule Andral and Jackie Monnier and is an adaptation of Irene Nemirovsky’s 1929 novel of the same title as the film.

The film revolves around a successful Jewish businessman named David Golder (portrayed by Harry Baur) and is known for being a shrewd, money hungry businessman.  He could care less about others, just as long as he is making money, which his wife and daughter approve of, because they depend on his money to afford their lavish lifestyle.

But when he suffers a heart attack and is told that he can no longer work because it will kill him, he decides that if he is to survive, he needs to stop his business, which means no income coming in and he would have to live with what he has made.  But what happens to David when his wife and daughter must deal with the financial setback?

For “Poil de Carotte”, the 1932 film stars Henry Krauss, Charlotte Barbier-Krauss and Andre Heuze.

The film revolves around pre-adolescent Francois Lepic (called by his mother, “Carrottop” because of his hair color).

While Francois may seem like an energetic and happy kid, in truth, he is lonely and depressed because his father, Monsieur Lepic, the mayor, is more concerned about his work and hunting, so he’s never around.

His mother Madame Lepic despises him and only cares about her two older children.

And as a kid that desperately wants to be loved, he is unhappy at home and that unhappiness may push him towards a darker place in his life.

For the 1933 film “La Tete D’un Homme”, the film features Harry Baur playing Commissaire Jules Maigret who is investigating a case in which a woman is found murdered.

As the case leads them to a man named Willy Ferriere (who is broke) and has a mistress.  One day, while drunk, he says that he would give 100,000 francs to get rid of his wealthy aunt.  And someone ends up doing it.  But who is the person responsible for the murder?

The final film titled “Un Carnet De Bal” (also known as “Dance Program”) which stars Harry Baur, Marie Bell, Pierre Blanchar, Fernandel and many more.

The film revolves around a lonely widow named Christine Surgere (portrayed by Marie Bell) who feels that she wasted her life by marrying a man, who may have given her wealth but she often wonders about the one man she let get away…Gerard.

Having dreams of the men in her past, she decides to visit all her former boyfriends and see what has become of them.

But once she goes to visit them, she realizes that she may have impacted them more than she was aware of.


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VIDEO & AUDIO:

Each of the films presented in “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties” are presented in black and white in French monaural with English subtitles.

Three of the films are presented in 1:33:1 while “David Golder” is presented in 1:19:1 aspect ratio.

It’s important to note that unlike the films that are released on the Criterion Collection which go through significant remastering and cleanup, films released on the Eclipse Series are not.  Possibly due to damage on the original negatives or not in the best shape to meet the standard for a Criterion Collection release.

So, you’ll notice that during the viewing of these films, some look better than others, but there are scratches, dust/dirt, sometimes the film jumps around and it may seem that some scenes are missing.

For example, “Un Carnet De Bal” for the most part, looks good, but towards the end, there are times the frames jump up and down and when it gets to the final reveal, the scene just cuts out and goes to the final last scene/minute of the film.

Fortunately, the damage does not prevent one from enjoying the films but it’s important to make a clear distinction between a Criterion Collection product vs. their Eclipse Series products.  For older films that have not received any restoration or remastering work, you’re not going to get perfect picture quality.

Also, the good news for each of these films, audio quality is good with no significant signs of hissing or crackle.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Eclipse Series DVD’s unfortunately do not come with any special features. But with each DVD, there is an insert of information or information printed on the interior DVD cover (which can be read since the DVD slim cases are clear) on the film.


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As a person who has enjoyed Julien Duvivier’s “Pepe le Moko”, knowing that he has had a lengthy film career, it’s wonderful that Duvivier’s earlier 1930’s films will be released on DVD.

Each of the four films featured in “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44” are highly entertaining and are not as dark as Duvivier’s later work, but it goes to show signs of his leaning to darker material through these ’30s films but also to see the auteur utilize his express camera work, his utilization of sound but also to showcase his poetic realist style which he is very much known for.

Watching the four films that were included in the set, I can wholeheartedly say that each of these films are wonderful to watch but how different they are from each other.

“David Golder” is a film that still has relevance in today’s modern world.  As one man who has lived his life as a businessman who made a lot of money, unfortunately his age, stress and lifestyle has led to him having health problems and now he must quit his work or else he will die.

Knowing that no work means no more income, he knows it will take his family to a downward spiral, which they do not want to see happen.

His wife and daughter are incredibly spoiled and the thought of David not working, takes its toll on his spoiled family.  But I found the film amusing because you see how his family is so corrupted by money and how they act as if they can no longer live without excess.

“Poil De Carotte” is a film that seems jovial and fun but it’s one of the first films in the 1930’s that I have seen that takes on children contemplating suicide.

In the case of the young boy known as “Carrottop”, he yearns to have a happy family but in truth, his father, the mayor of the town, has no time for anyone but himself.  His mother doesn’t love him at all and only cares for his older siblings, that he is left alone and trying to hide his loneliness and depression through telling jokes and trying to act on his own, as if it is a cry for attention.

Another film by Duvivier that is still relevant in today’s society as many children continue to live this way, especially in a two-income family and parents are often gone.  But in this case, while Carrottop’s father wants to love his son but is busy trying to appeal to others, his mother is a different story and adds to the darkness towards this film, because of her attitude towards her youngest son.

But it’s very interesting of how Duvivier handle’s the young boy’s conflicting emotions and his tender moments with his future fiance-to-be.

The third film “La Tete D’un Homme” revolves around Georges Simenon’s iconic inspector Maigret, hot on the trail of a murderer.  And through his investigation, it leads him to a possible suspect.

While it was great to see an early French investigative film, while entertaining for the majority of the film, it’s hindered by lack of common sense and poor timing of unbelievable inaction.

But the film was interesting to me seeing the character of Radek, portrayed by Valery Inkijinoff.  In silent film, Valery (who is half Russian and Buryat) often played the role of a Mongolian man in “Storm Over Asia” and made me wonder if he was one of the first Asian actors in cinema.

And my favorite film of the Eclipse Series DVD set is “Un Carnet De Bal” starring Marie Bell, best known for her work on the film “Le grand jeu”, shot a few years earlier.

Bell plays the character Christine Surgere, who is wealthy and a widow.  Having contemplated if she has married the wrong man and should have married the one she truly loved, it leads Christine to a path of trying to find former boyfriends or people she had dated, and to realize how much of an impact her life has had on these men that she was with.

In some aspect, Christine is the equivalent of the “Vamp” of silent films, which were often stories of a woman who were just poison to men that they had a relationship with.  The man losing all their wealth, losing their lives and in some aspects, the men that were with Christine did not all fair well.

Many of them have fallen for Christine, but she made the decision to marry a man for wealth and money, not for love.  And it has haunted her ever since.

As for the DVD’s, the films are in good shape, with some having more scratches, dirt and jitter.  So, while not Criterion Collection quality, one should be grateful that these ’30s films of Julien Duvivier are being released in North America at all.  And if you have been following Eclipse Series releases, you come to expect that the films are not always going to be in the greatest quality but yet, they are still very good and do not suffer from major degradation.

The only scene that made me wonder if there were missing scenes was “Un Carnet De Bal” in which it’s final scene seems to be missing quite a few frames.  So, not too sure how much is lost as the transition for the final scene was rather abrupt.

But overall, the quality of the films are still enough to enjoy these Duvivier classics.  Dialogue is also clear with no major crackle or significant hiss.

Overall, the films featured in “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44” are entertaining classics, showing us a side of Duvivier taking advantage of the latest cinema technology at the time and running wild with creativity.  What he was wanting to accomplish at the time with his films in terms of visual effects were well-done for that time and his able to focus on human emotion was also a highlight showcased in each of these four films.

Personally, you can’t go wrong with this latest Eclipse Series set.  “Julien Duvivier in the Thirties – Eclipse Series #44”. If you love classic French cinema, this DVD set is highly recommended!

 

A Special Day – The Criterion Collection #778 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ettore Scola’s “A Special Day” was a wonderful reunion of Italy’s top talents: Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.  Two talents that are known for their magnificent performances onscreen and when they are together, the two are able to create magic.  “A Special Day” may not be Scola’s best film but it is no doubt a special, captivating and honest film that I highly recommend.

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


TITLE: A Special Day – The Criterion Collection #778

YEAR OF FILM: 1977

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, Italian Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: October 13, 2015


Directed by Ettore Scola

Screenplay by Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola

Produced by Carlos Ponti

Music by Armando Trovajoli

Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis

Edited by Raimondo Crociani

Production Design by Luciano Ricceri

Set Decoration by Luciano Ricceri

Costume Design by Enrico Sabbatini


Starring:

Sophia Loren as Antoinietta

Marcello Mastroianni as Gabriele

John Vernon as Emanuele, huband of Antoinietta

Francoise Berd as the Caretaker

Patrizia Basso as Romana

Tiziano De Persio as Arnaldo

Maurizio Di Paolantonio as Fabio

Antonio Garibaldi as Littorio

Vittorio Guerrieri as Umberto

Alessandra Mussolini as Maria Luisa


Italian cinema dream team Sophia Loren (Marriage Italian Style) and Marcello Mastroianni (La dolce vita) are cast against glamorous type and deliver two of the finest performances of their careers in this moving, quietly subversive drama from Ettore Scola (The Family). Though it’s set in Rome on the historic day in 1938 when Benito Mussolini and the city first rolled out the red carpet for Adolf Hitler, the film takes place entirely in a working-class apartment building, where an unexpected friendship blossoms between a pair of people who haven’t joined the festivities: a conservative housewife and mother tending to her domestic duties and a liberal radio broadcaster awaiting deportation. Scola paints an exquisite portrait in sepia tones, a story of two individuals helpless in the face of fascism’s rise.


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Filmmaker Ettore Scola will be remembered for his films such as “Il Sorpasso”, “La Famiglia and “The Dinner”, but he will also be remembered for “Una giornata particolare” (A Special Day).

The film stars Sophia Loren (“Matrimonio all’italiana”, “La ciociara”, Pret-a-Porter”), Marcello Mastroianni (“La Dolce Vita”, “8 1/2”, “La Notte”, “Divorce Italian Style”) and John Vernon (“Dirty Harry”, “Topaz”, “Animal House”, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”).

“A Special Day” won multi-awards.  The film would win a Cesar Award for “Best Foreign Film”, would win three Nastro d’Argento awards in Italy for “Best Actress”, “Best Music”, “Best Script”, two David di Donatello awards for “Best Actress” and “Best Director” and would win a “Golden Globe Award” for Best Foreign Language Film.  The film was also nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Actor” and “Best Foreign Language Film” and also nominated for a Golden Palm at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival.

And now “A Special Day” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

The film is set on May 8, 1938.  Adolf Hitler is visiting Mussolini in Rome and for homemaker Antonietta (portrayed by Sophia Loren), she is busy taking care of the family which includes her fascist husband Emanuele (portrayed by John Vernon) and her six spoiled children.

As her husband and children go to the parade to see Hitler and Mussolini, the apartment building is empty except for a neighbor across from her complex where Gabriele (portrayed by Marcello Mastroianni) lives.

Gabriele is a gay radio broadcaster and was fired from his job for being anti-fascist and a homosexual and is to be deported to Sardinia.

But when the family’s mynah bird escapes, Antonietta sees it across from her building, near Gabriele’s window.

When she goes to recover the bird, the two meet.  Then they have coffee and throughout the day, become closer and closer.

Antonietta is shocked because unlike her fascist husband, Gabriele is the opposite.  He is intelligent, sensitive to her feelings and unaware that he is gay, she finds herself drawn to him.

But as the two become close with one another, what will these two learn about each other and themselves?


VIDEO:

“A Special Day – The Criterion Collection #778” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film is presented in color but leaning more towards a sepia tone with wonderful blacks and details. The HD release of the film features much better sharpness and clarity.  I didn’t notice any major aging or any dirt or debris while watching the film.

The cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis (“Romeo and Juliet, “Death in Venice”, “The Damned”) is beautiful and manages to capture the emotions from the wonderful performances of Loren and Mastorianni.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The restoration was undertaken by the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia–Cineteca Nazionale in Rome in 2014. This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35mm original negative at L’immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, where, under the supervision of director Ettore Scola, the film was also restored.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “A Special Day – The Criterion Collection #778”. The film is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0. Dialogue and music are crystal clear.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm sound negative.  Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation and iZotope RX 4”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“A Special Day – The Criterion Collection #778” comes with the following special features:

  • Ettore Scola – (21:06) A 2015 interview with director Ettore Scola.
  • Sophia Loren – (14:34) A 2015 interview with Sophia Loren.
  • The Dick Cavett Show – (28 minutes per episode) Featuring two Dick Cavett episodes featuring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni on October 10, 1977 and November 4, 1977.
  • Human Voice – (25:28) A short film from 2014 starring Sophia Loren inspired by Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play “La voix humane”.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “A Special Day”.

EXTRAS:

“A Special Day – The Criterion Collection #778” comes with a six-page foldout featuring the essay “Small Victories” by Deborah Young.


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When it comes to onscreen couples, the working relationship between Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni is well-known to Italian cineaste.

One of my favorite films featuring the two are “Ieri, oggi, domani” (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) and the film no doubt shows how these two talents have wonderful chemistry with one another.

And over a decade later, the two reunited for “Ieri, oggi, domani”.  For most cineaste that love Italian films, the attraction of the film is to watch another Ettore Scola film but also to watch these two talents together.  While others, probably were shocked to watch “The Dick Cavett Show” and heard rumors that Marcello Mastroianni said the F-word on television.

But its interesting to watch these two “lost” characters discover something important while together.

While for the modern viewer, the film probably has much different meaning today than it was back in 1977.

In many ways, this was a bold film that was ahead of its time as it dealt with a woman who’s job was only to work and clean and give birth to children and the character of Antoinetta feeling dissatisfied with her place at home. During the making of this film, it was two years after the courts abolished the legal dominance of the husband in Italy in 1975.

But even today, women are still expected to stay at home and take care of the children and the country still has the lowest employment for women compared to other countries in Europe.

While Gabriele is an intelligent and reserved man, but also a man who stuck to his beliefs, he is also a homosexual man that is outed during the time of Hitler/Mussolini.

Gabriele’s homosexuality and his anti-facism stance during the regime of Benito Mussolini would mean persecution, public admonition or confinement.

So, the film touches upon inequality which was bold for its time and what better to pull something off by than having two of Italy’s well-known talents together and the film literally rides on their shoulders to deliver.  And both give commanding performances onscreen.

But the film is far from perfect.  We see Antoinetta’s life play on screen for the first 15 minutes or so and understand why she seems so tired.  Meanwhile, Gabriele’s life, we don’t know if he’s just a reserved individual or he is actually depressed of what would become of his life after the day is over?  And would the scene between the two towards the end actually happen?

Still, it’s fascinating to see these two individuals reveal themselves to each other and the viewer to learn about them with each revelation shared, we know deep in our hearts and the life they live during that era, is most unfortunate for both individuals because there is no escape, there is no acceptance and there is no equality.  And for those of us who have watched enough Italian neorealist films know that Italy was in terrible financial shape after World War II and families had not much to live on.  The film is able to capture the mutual oppression of its characters with efficacy.

As for the Blu-ray release, “A Special Day” looks much better than it ever has.  Featuring a restoration that brings out the clarity of the film and shows no sign of aging, the film looks impressive in HD.  The lossless soundtrack is clean and is devoid of any hissing or crackle.  And you also get 2015 interviews plus the two 1977 Dick Cavett episodes as well.

Overall, Ettore Scola’s “A Special Day” was a wonderful reunion of Italy’s top talents: Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.  Two talents that are known for their magnificent performances onscreen and when they are together, the two are able to create magic.  “A Special Day” may not be Scola’s best film but it is no doubt a special, captivating and honest film that I highly recommend.

 

Kwaidan – The Criterion Collection #90 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kwaidan” is a true masterpiece by filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi. A captivating Japanese horror anthology that features a smart adaptation, wonderful visuals and fantastic performances make this film on Blu-ray definitely worth owning! “Kwaidan – The Criterion Collection #90” is highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Kwaidan – The Criterion Collection #90

YEAR OF FILM: 1964

DURATION: 183 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Japanese Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: October 20, 2015


Directed by Masaki Kobayashi

Screenplay by Yoko Mizuki Based on the novel by Lafcadio Hearn (Yakumo Koizumi)

Produced by Shigeru Wakatsuki

Associate Producer: Takeshi Aikawa, Naotomo Kome, Minoru Tabata, Yoshishige Uchiyama

Music by Toru Takemitsu

Cinematography by Yoshio Miyajima

Edited by Hisashi Sagara

Art Decoration by Shigemasa Toda

Set Decoration by Dai Arakawa

Costume Design by Masahiro Kato


Starring:

Michiyo Aratama as the first wife (Kurokami)

Misako Watanabe as the second wife (Kurokami)

Rentaro Mikuni as Husband (Kurokami)

Kenjiro Ishiyama as Father (Kurokami)

Tatsuya Nakadai as Mi Nokichi (Yuki-Onna)

Keiko Kishi as Yuki the Snow Maiden (Yuki-Onna)

Yuko Mochizuki as Minokichi’s Mother (Yuki-Onna)

Katsuo Nakamura as Hoichi (Miminashi Hoichi no Hanashi)

Tetsuro Tanba as Warrior (Miminashi Hoichi no Hanashi)

Takashi Shimura as Head Priest (Miminashi Hoichi no Hanashi)

Yoichi Hayashi as Attendant (Miminashi Hoichi no Hanashi)

Eiko Muramatsu as Kenreiinmon (Miminashi Hoichi no Hanashi)

Kunie Tanaka as Yasaku (Miminashi Hoichi no Hanashi)

Kazuo Kitamura as Taira no Tomomori (Miminashi Hoichi no Hanashi)

Kan’emon Nakamura as Kannai – a Guard (Chawan no Naka)

Osamu Takizawa as Author/Narrator (Chawan no Naka)

Haruko Sugimura as Madame (Chawan no Naka)

Noboru Nakaya as Shikibu Heinai (Chawan no Naka)

Kei Sato as Ghost Samurai (Chawan no Naka)


After more than a decade of sober political dramas and social-minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi (The Human Condition) shifted gears dramatically for this rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. This version of Kwaidan is the original three-hour cut, never before released in the United States.


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Back in the early 1900’s, author Lafcadio Hearn (also known in Japan as Yakumo Koizumi) introduced a variety of books featuring a collection of old Japanese texts of ghost stories.

Fast forward 60-years later and a Japanese anthology film directed by Masaki Kobayashi (“Harakiri”, “The Human Condition”) was created.  Based on the stories from Lafcadio Hearn’s books, four of the stories, all separate with no connection to each other, would be compiled to a film and would win the “Special Jury Prize: at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival and also receiving an Academy Award nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film”.

Released by the Criterion Collection back in the late ’90s, “Kwaidan” will now be released on Blu-ray in October 2015, 50-years afer the film was released in theaters.

The first story titled “The Black Hair” is based on Hearn’s “The Reconciliation” (featured in his 1900 book “Shadowings”).  The film would revolve around an impoverished swordsman (portrayed by Rentaro Mikuni) who leaves his first wife (portrayed by Michiyo Aratama) in order to take a better position to make more money.

He ends up taking another wife (portrayed by Misako Watanabe) but despite rising in the ranks to become a district governor and making better money, in the back of his mind, all he can think about is his first wife and her beautiful black hair.  And not at all interested in his second wife who is more shallow.

But what happens when the swordsman goes back home to visit his first wife?

In the second storyline titled “The Woman of the Snow” which is an adaptation from Hearn’s 1903 book, “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things”, the story begins with a woodcutter named Minokichi (portrayed by Tatsuya Nakadai) and his older mentor Mosaku who take refuge in a fisherman’s hut during a snowstorm.

While freezing, he sees Mosaku being killed by a Yuki-onna (portrayed by Keiko Kishi), who is about to kill Minokichi but decides to spare his life because of his youth.  But she comes with a condition for saving his life, to never mention to anyone on what has happened or she will come back to kill him.

Minokichi manages to keep his word and marry a young woman named Yuki and they have three children and live happily ever after for ten years.  But despite everyone getting older, they are in awe of how come Yuki has not aged.  But what happens when Minokichi decides to tell his wife about the story of Yuki-onna?

The third story titled “Hoichi the Earless” is an adaptation of Hearn’s “Kwaidan” and begins with a song sung by a blind musician singing about the tale of the Battle of Dan-no-Ura and the war between two rival clans during the final phase of the Genpei War (a full depiction of the battle and the losing clan, its young emperor and workers all jumping off their boats and drowning in the red ocean).

Hoichi (portrayed by Katsuo Nakamura) loves to play his instrument and sing and lives and works for a priest (portrayed by Takashi Shimura).  But one day, the spirit of a warrior of the fallen clan takes the blind musician to play for the spirits of the royal family, meanwhile the priest and the others that work with him wonder where Hoichi is going in the middle of the night.

In the final story, titled “In a Cup of Tea”, which is an adaptation of Hearn’s 1902 book “Kotto: Being Japanese Curious, with Sundry Cobwebs”.

The story begins with a writer waiting for his publisher and wondering why a book ends with no real ending and reads the story about a warrior who drinks tea and each time he looks in a cup, he sees someone’s face.  But when the person shows up and visits the warrior in their secured compound, the warrior tries to fight with the man who disappears and runs through the walls.

Not knowing what is going on, one day, he is visited with three more warriors (who are ghosts) warning him that their master will return to avenge himself.


VIDEO:

“Kwaidan – The Criterion Collection #90” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). Having watched the older Criterion Collection DVD, one thing you will notice with this Blu-ray release is how much colorful the film is in HD.  How the film showcases better clarity for closeups and backgrounds and the film looks so much cleaner.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer of the original full-length version of the film was created in 2K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the original 35 mm camera negative and a 35 mm interpositive.  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, “Kwaidan – The Criterion Collection #90”. The film is presented in Japanese LPCM 1.0. Dialogue and music are crystal clear. The lossless soundtrack just sounds much better than the original Criterion Collection DVD release and I heard no hiss or crackle at all.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The complete monaural soundtrack for this 183-minute version was assembled from a variety of archival sources by Toho Co., Ltd. and remastered at 24-bit.  Further restoration was done by the Criterion Collection using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX4.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kwaidan – The Criterion Collection #90” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – A 2015 audio commentary with film scholar Stephen Prince, author of “The Warrior’s Cinema”.
  • Masaki Kobayashi – (15:17) A 1993 conversation with director Masaki Kobayashi and filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda about the making of “Kwaidan”.
  • Kiyoshi Ogasawara – (21:41) A 2015 featurette featuring “Kwaidan” assistant director Kiyoshi Ogasawara about working with director Kobayashi and the original 183-minute version of the film.
  • Lafcadio Hearn – (17:14) A 2015 featurette by the Criterion Collection, English literature scholar Christopher Benfey, editor of “Lafcadio Hearn: American Writings” profiles Hearn.
  • Trailers – Theatrical trailers for “Kwaidan”.

EXTRAS:

“Kwaidan – The Criterion Collection #90” comes with a five-page foldout featuring the essay “No Way Out” by Geoffrey O’Brien’

.


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When I first watched “Kwaidan”, I found myself mesmerized.

Japan has many ghost stories but Kobayashi’s way of visual storytelling and its adaptation of Lafcandio Hearn’s novels and bringing out the elements of traditional Japan with a slight eeriness in its ownright is fantastic. It’s the visual aspect that captivates you immediately.

From its first story of a swordsman who leaves his wife because he is tired of being impoverished.  His loving wife begging to not leave her but the man chooses status over being poor, to find out that the grass is not greener on the other side and missing the woman he left behind.  But once he goes back to visit her years later, it’s that dark hair that remains strong in ghost stories (especially a lot of traditional Japanese art and modern Japanese horror such as “The Ring”) and it was an important sign of horror back then.   Also, I think for those not familiar with traditional Japanese culture and how women’s eyebrows were shaped and the use of “Ohaguro” (tooth painting, often in black as a sign of higher status) may surprise a lot of people.

The second story about Yuki-onna (snow girl) and a tale that has been around and has possibly crept up in other horror folk tales about the lady in white.  In this case, the snow girl telling a man that she has saved to never discuss what she had done or anything that happened that day.  But a promise that he decides to discuss with his new wife a decade later.  The visual aspect of the Yuki-onna’s movements as if she is floating on the ground was wonderfully done.

But it’s the third story about “Hoichi the Earless” that is absolutely stunning.  From the visual battle of Dan-no-Ura and watching the Taira warriors being defeated and everyone committing suicide and the song being sung by deaf musician Hoichi.  But not knowing that the person who visits him each night to perform in front of the Royalty are all ghosts of the Taira warriors is chilling, but also beautifully done.  I don’t want to spoil this part of the anthology film but it’s absolutely wonderful to watch.

The final story “In a Cup of Tea” is short and about a man who goes crazy after seeing a man in the reflection from his tea and being haunted by that person.

The entire film is a wonderful observation of traditional Japanese culture but its ghost stories and how it intersects with Buddhism and Shinto beliefs.  The structure of the film is captivating, eerie but wonderfully crafted by filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi and its many talents who gave a wonderful performance.  Once again, I was captivated by the movie, not just back then, even many years later.  Watching it once again, I’m still in awe about this film and absolute enjoyed it.

The new Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection is cleaner and the colors are much bolder in this latest remastering.  The monaural soundtrack is crisp and clear with its dialogue and musical score and you also get new additional special features on this Blu-ray release as well.

Overall, “Kwaidan” is a true masterpiece by filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi.  A captivating Japanese horror anthology that features a smart adaptation, wonderful visuals and fantastic performances make this film on Blu-ray definitely worth owning!

“Kwaidan – The Criterion Collection #90” is highly recommended!

 

Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Moonrise Kingdom” is yet another magnificent Wes Anderson film. Brilliantly written, awkward characters but yet a film so enjoyable, that you don’t mind watching it again and again. “Moonrise Kingdom” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2012 MOONRISE LLC. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776

YEAR OF FILM: 2012

DURATION: 94 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Color, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 Surround, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2015


Directed by Wes Anderson

Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

Executive Producer: Sam Hoffman, Mark Roybal

Produced by Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, Scott Rudin

Co-Producer: Eli Bush, Molly Cooper, Lila Yacoub

Associate Producer: Octavia Peissel

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman

Edited by Andrew Weisblum

Casting by Douglas Aibel

Production Design by Adam Stockhausen

Art Decoration by Gerald Sullivan

Set Decoration by Kris Moran

Costume Design by Kasia Walicka-Maimone


Starring:

Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp

Edward Norton as Scout Master Ward

Bill Murray as Mr. Biship

Frances McDormand as Mrs. Bishop

Tilda Swinton as Social Services

Jared Gilman as Sam

Kara Hayward as Suzy

Jason Schwartzman as Cousin Ben

Bob Balaban as The Narrator

Lucas Hedges as Redford

Charlie Kilgore as Lazy-Eye


An island off the New England coast, summer of 1965. Two twelve-year-olds, Sam and Suzy, fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As local authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing offshore . . . Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the young couple on the run, Bruce Willis as Island Police Captain Sharp, Edward Norton as Khaki Scout troop leader Scout Master Ward, and Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s attorney parents, Walt and Laura Bishop. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban. The magical soundtrack features the music of Benjamin Britten.


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In 2012, Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” was released in theaters.

The film would go on to receive critical acclaim and also an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Screenplay” and with a budget of $16 million, the film would earn over $68 million in the box office.

Wes Anderson (best known for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”) co-wrote the film along with Roman Coppola (“The Darjeeling Limited”, “CQ”).

While the film would become the film debut for young actors Jared Gilman (“Two-Bit Waltz”, “Elsa and Fred”) and Kara Hayward (“Quitters”, “The Sisterhood of Night”), “Moonrise Kingdom” would also feature an all-star ensemble cast which included Bruce Willis (“The Sixth Sense”, “Die Hard”, “The Fifth Element”), Edward Norton (“Fight Club”, “American History X”, “The Illusionist”), Bill Murray (“Groundhog Day”, “Lost in Translation”, “Ghostbusters” films), Frances McDormand (“Fargo”, “Almost Famous”, “Mississippi Burning”), Tilda Swinton (“Adaptation.”, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”) and Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”).

While the Blu-ray was originally released back in 2012 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment, the 2015 Blu-ray release is given the Criterion Collection treatment.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is set on a New England island known as New Penzance and takes places in 1965.

12-year-old orphan Sam Shakusky (portrayed by Jared Gilman) who is attending a Khaki Scout summer camp at Camp Ivanhoe decides that he’s not interested in being in the Khaki Scouts any longer and decides to leave the camp without notifying anyone.  With a missing child, this prompts Scoutmaster Randy Ward to contact authorities about the missing boy.

Meanwhile, 12-year-old Suzy Bishop lives in the island with her father Walt (portrayed by Bill Murray) and her mother Laura (portrayed by Frances McDormand) and her three brothers.  Despite coming from a good family, she decides she has had enough of living at home with them and she runs away.

We eventually learn that both Sam and Suzy met each other a year before and both share same qualities of being smart and introverted, but also mature for their age.  And have been pen pals and eventually through occasional correspondence, becoming very close.  The two have made a secret pact to reunite and run away together.  And are determined to make sure no one stands in their way.

Meanwhile, the Khaki Scouts are ordered to capture them, Captain Duffy Sharp (portrayed by Bruce Willis) is trying to look for them and Social Services (led by Tilda Swinton), see Sam as a bad kid and want him to go through “Juvenile Refuge” and receive shock therapy, which Captain Sharp is very much against.

But how long can Sam and Suzy be together without being caught?


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VIDEO:

“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks very good in HD, as cinematographer Robert Yeoman gave a special look towards this film (to make it look like it takes place in 1965) and was shot with a Super 16mm film using an Aaton Xtera and A-Minima cameras.    The film is well-saturated, features a good amount of grain and no blemishes whatsoever.  Picture quality is fantastic!

According to the Criterion Collection, the film is “Supervised by director Wes Anderson, this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution from the original camera negative”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776”. The film is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music are crystal clear.  The film utilizes ambiance from the children’s surroundings for its surround channels, but the film is primarily dialogue and music-driven.  I heard no hiss or any problematic issues with the lossless soundtrack.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original 5.1 soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD”.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary – A 2015 audio commentary with director Wes Anderson, co-writer Roman Coppola and stars Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Jason Schwartzman.
  • The Making of “Moonrise Kingdom” – Featuring “Exploring the Set”, “Storyboard Animatics and Narrator Tests”, “Auditions” and “Miniatures” (1:39).
  • Welcome to New Penzance – (4:02) A short featurette about the setting of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
  • Set Tour with Bill Murray – (2:59) Featuring Bill Murray discussing his character, working with Wes Anderson and having fun on the set of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
  • Benjamin Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde” – (1:53) Benjamin Britten singing “Noye’s Fludde”.
  • Eleven iPhone Videos by Edward Norton – (20:48) Featuring Edward Norton showcasing 11 home movies during the shooting of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
  • Animated Books – (4:15) Narrator Bob Balaban and an animated version read by the cast of the film.
  • Cousin Ben – (2:03) A featurette with Cousin Ben and the troopers introducing “Moonrise Kingdom”.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Moonrise Kingdom.

EXTRAS:

“Moonrise Kingdom – The Criterion Collection #776” comes with a 24-page booklet with the essay “Awakenings” by Geoffrey O’Brien, “With The Right People in Your Life, You Won’t Feel Misunderstood” by Isobel Folger, “Life Everything in the World is in Order” by Austin Guest, “A Place from from Earth” by Nicolas Schwed, “There was something about Sam…” by Kika Kovaleski, “It’s not Realistic but it Looks Good” by Costa Demy.  Also, included is a double-sided map, a photo card and sheet for Noye’s Fludde.


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If there is one recurring thing that a cineaste can depend on Wes Anderson, that is a consistency of enjoyable, well-written, intelligent, yet odd films.

Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” is unique and full of imaginative creativity that one can only marvel of how he and Roman Coppola came up with this storyline about two very smart yet introverted kids, who have run away together and will do whatever they can to thwart those who try to stop them.

The character of Sam is very interesting as he is a knowledgeable Scout, awkward and wears large eyeglasses, while Suzy is a book reader who is bored with home and appreciates Sam as a person, but also how he treats her.

The two have plotted their escape, Sam running away from camp and Suzy escaping her family and Sam provides the camping and survival gear, while Suzy has her books, her kitten and her borrowed portable 45 rpm record player.

And while these two children were fun to watch, because they are both awkward, the film is further boosted by star power as Bill Murray (a Wes Anderson film regular) and Frances McDormand play the parents of Suzy, Edward Norton plays the concerned Scout Master, Bruce Willis plays a cop who has always loved Suzy’s mother, but instead, she has chosen Murray’s character.

We have Tilda Swinton playing Social Services and is determined in wanting to capture Sam and give him shock therapy.

But it’s a lot of fun to see how these two kids are able to stay together, despite everyone wanting to capture them.  But the journey of watching all these characters interact is enjoyable and also a big part of Wes Anderson films.  But because of the odd way things are portrayed, the film plays out like fantasy than reality and for the most part, the film is quite unique and enjoyable.

As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, while picture and audio quality continues to be magnificent as the Universal Studios 2012 Blu-ray release, the special features have more content including audio commentary and the home videos by Edward Norton and more.  Also, a pretty enjoyable read with the included booklet (also included is a map).

Overall, “Moonrise Kingdom” is yet another magnificent Wes Anderson film.  Brilliantly written, awkward characters but yet a film so enjoyable, that you don’t mind watching it again and again.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is highly recommended!

 

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