'This elegantly beautiful supercut on “the tactile world of Robert Bresson” by Kogonada for Criterion shows the great French director’s notoriously precise skill is applied even at the slightest hand gesture. There are no faces in this video yet the drama of these scenes is palpable.'
In 1959, MOSFILM released "Ballad of a Soldier," made during the Khrushchev Thaw . It chronicles a young soldier, Alyosha, and his six-day trip home from the front during World War II, which "sweeps you, with feeling, into the physical and psychological world of Russians at war." And it is on YouTube. [more inside]
The art house review/criticism series Brows Held High decided to tackle Nicolas Roeg/David Bowie's 1976 The Man Who Fell To Earth by reviewing it as a karaoke medley of Bowie's greatest hits.
Simon is a deeply religious man in the 4th century, who wants to be nearer to God, so he climbs a column. The devil wants him to get down on earth an is trying to seduce him. But Simon recognizes him every time. So the devil takes him to a nightclub in New York of the 1960s (1965, 43 minutes, with English subtitles). [more inside]
For All Mankind "Al Reinert’s documentary For All Mankind is the story of the twenty-four men who traveled to the moon, told in their words, in their voices, using the images of their experiences. Forty years after the first moon landing, it remains the most radical, visually dazzling work of cinema yet made about this earthshaking event." "For All Mankind is irreplaceable: one of a kind and likely to remain so. It is, formally, among the most radical American films of the past quarter century and, emotionally, among the most powerfully affecting. It makes its impossible title stick. In For All Mankind, we all lift off together, and we all come home the same way, and few movies have captured so well the rhapsodic absurdity of our common voyage." 1 :: 2 :: 3 :: 4 :: 5 :: 6 :: 7 :: 8
Basically, the big hurdle on this title was a clause in the contracts stating that the likenesses of both Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster MUST appear, and both MUST be the same size. And given the power imbalance between the two characters in the film, the idea of having the two of them just standing there, on equal footing with each other, felt really wrong… Eric Skillman on working with artist Sean Philips on the cover for the Criterion edition of Sweet Smell of Sucess.
Regarding Luis Buñuel (Criterion, 1:37, subtitled) "All my life I've been harassed by questions: Why is something this way and not another? How do you account for that? This rage to understand, to fill in the blanks, only makes life more banal. If we could only find the courage to leave our destiny to chance, to accept the fundamental mystery of our lives, then we might be closer to the sort of happiness that comes with innocence." -- Luis Bunuel, "In Curiosity" Bunuel wanted to rebel against the dogmatic structures of the Church that said, There is no salvation or grace outside the Church. He wanted a kind of Protestant surrealism in which grace was directly attainable like in Nazarin or Viridiana -- Carlos Fuentes "He is a deeply Christian man who hates God as only a Christian can and, of course, he's very Spanish. I see him as the most supremely religious director in the history of the movies." -- Orson Welles "I'd like to be able to rise from the dead every ten years, walk to a newsstand, and buy a few newspapers. I wouldn't ask for anything more. With my papers under my arm, pale, brushing against the walls, I'd return to the cemetery and read about the world's disasters before going back to sleep satisfied, in the calming refuge of the grave." -- Luis Bunuel
Nobuhiko Obayashi's House (also called Hausu) has been a cult film legend pretty much since its 1977 release in Japan. As director, Obayashi alchemizes the usual horror trappings (seven pretty young girls, each defined by one personality trait, visit a mysterious aunt who lives in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere) into a glorious, barely coherent, eminently watchable fever dream. The film has been discussed by those in the know for some time, but unless one knew who to ask, or lucked into the right festival, actually seeing the movie outside of the trailer or scenes on Youtube has been a bit of a difficult task. This particular injustice has officially been remedied, in a move for which very few people were calling out, but more might have if they'd known about it: House has been released on region 1 DVD and Blu-Ray by no less an entity than the Criterion Collection, finally taking its rightful place in cinematic history alongside such films as Rashomon, The Seventh Seal, and Olivier's Hamlet. Just in time for that Halloween party! Provided you not only want your guests to be entertained but also thoroughly bewildered and maybe slightly shellshocked.
And how did DVDs get commentary tracks? Let Bob tell you: You have to understand how much of this stuff is accidental. I knew the guy who was the curator of films at the LA County Museum of Art, and I brought him to New York to oversee color correction. He’s telling us all these amazing stories, particularly about King Kong, because it’s his favorite film. Someone said, “Gee, we’ve got this extra sound track on the LaserDisc, why don’t you tell these stories?” He was horrified at the idea, but we promised we’d get him super stoned if he did, and he gave this amazing discussion about the making of King Kong, which we released as the second sound track.... [via snarkmarket] [more inside]
To promote their upcoming Charlie Chaplin releases, Janus Films asked Kate Beaton (of Hark! A Vagrant fame) to produce a poster. In her LiveJournal thread announcing the job, a commenter linked to this story about the discovery of an unknown Chaplin film called "Zepped." [hat tip to Rosie Shuster]
The theatrical release of White Dog (directed by Samuel Fuller) was supressed by Paramount in 1981 over concerns that the film would be interpreted as racist, although Fuller intended the movie as a denunciation of racism. It was only released in 2008 by The Criterion Collection on DVD. The film features Kristy McNichol, Burl Ives, and Paul Winfield as the black trainer determined to reform the killer dog. The score by Ennio Morricone (improbably released as a double album with Morricone's score for the 1981 designer jeans comedy So Fine) is unsettling yet sublime.
The Criterion Collection has begun adding some of the finest films of its collection to Netflix's Streaming Library. Which is super awesome. [more inside]
Criterion Collection Top Ten Lists as chosen by Jonathan Lethem ll Steve Buscemi ll Patton Oswalt ll Peter Cowie ll Jean-Pierre Gorin ll Diablo Cody ll D. A. Pennebaker ll John Lurie ll Paul Schrader ll Nathan Lee ll Ricky Jay ll and many more.
"Understanding that "A" and "M", and perhaps "X", in Marienbad are all holographs would enrich our enjoyment of an otherwise incomprehensible film ... Without Morel, Last Year at Marienbad is mostly an exercise in formalism; however, with the intertextual juxtaposition of the two, it becomes another, different work. It becomes an early false reality film, perhaps the first ... we now have a flood of these ontological vertigo films - Total Recall, Dark City, The Matrix, Existenz, The Thirteenth Floor, The Truman Show." Last Year at Marienbad: An Intertextual Meditation. (Now available on Blu-Ray!)
The Auteurs is a new web site (in beta) for film lovers--and, for those film lovers, Criterion has relaunched their site. Now with the ability to watch (some of) their films online for $5 (good for a week's worth of watching one title). The viewing cost is also applicable to the cost of buying the same title on DVD.
Eric Skillman, art director / designer of many of Criterion's DVD packages, has a design process blog. There, he often discusses his work for the company.
Harold "Herk" Harvey, a director of educational and industrial films for the Centron Corporation, was driving through Utah when he spotted the derelict Saltair Resort squatting on a mudded lakebed. The sight charged him with ideas, and when he returned home he recruited his Centron colleages and an unknown method actress to make a psychological horror movie. The atmospheric result, shot over three weeks at locations in Kansas and Utah, was 1962's Carnival of Souls. [more inside]
241 titles on 282 disks, just $4,995 (after discount). It's the Criterion Collection Holiday 2004 Gift Set, exclusive from Amazon, all of the series' published DVD's through October*. One wonders who has the money for such a thing. (Not many -- current sales rank 26,154). Heck, for that kind of dough you can get one of these contraptions. Or, alternatively, you could feed 72 third world children for a year. Now, Criterion does great work, but as the comments point out, this supposedly complete collection does not include its out of print titles like John Woo's "The Killer" (current eBay bid: $148) and, sadly, the beloved This is Spinal Tap (High bid: $61). (At least it's a good investment). So, subtract the ones I already own and love, like The Third Man and some that are simply awful you could probably save scads with some selective shopping. Sure, it would be satisfying to own so much great film, but I find more and more I have no use for re-watching movies, unless I am joined in my satellite of love by some good companions. Anyway, happy consumer month!