All posts tagged: Criterion Collection

DVD Review: A “Bigger Than Life” Criterion Roundup

Once again Popdose didn’t send me to Cannes, and I imagine Toronto, Venice, and Telluride are off my itinerary. (If you think it should, start a Facebook campaign, or Twitter. I’d also like to host SNL.) But, thanks to a small pile of Criterion Collection discs on my desk, I feel like I’m perpetually on the Croisette, given an eclectic selection of titles. It goes without saying that they’re top of the line, with outstanding transfers and superlative extras, and I didn’t have to dodge volcanic ash to watch any of them. Here’s what I viewed with un certain regard on my player. (On DVD and Blu-ray) All I can say is, kids today. No one says you have to like “old” movies, but you’d think young filmmakers would find Nicholas Ray, the director of Rebel Without a Cause, a kindred spirit and inspiration. Ray’s best films went against the happy families norm of Hollywood filmmaking, and Bigger Than Life (1956) tasers the status quo. Contemporary films and TV shows huff and puff and spend …

DVD Review: “Revanche” is a Disc Best Served Cold

Note to self: Sentiment outranks everything else when picking a Best Foreign Language Film winner in the Oscar pool. I’m not-so-secretly pleased that the stone-cold, auteurist-approved White Ribbon didn’t blue-ribbon it, despite critical hosannas. But my favorite, A Prophet (Un prophète), didn’t make it, either. The Academy has no problem nominating tough-minded movies for the category, but the codgers who largely vote are a bunch of old softies when it comes time to decide. When reviews of this year’s winner, Argentina’s The Secret in Their Eyes, noted that it has a sentimental side, I should have known better than to bet against it. By the same token, last year’s nominee from Austria, Revanche, had no chance against Japan’s tear-jerking Departures. But Revanche has had its revenge, being issued as a typically impressive Criterion Collection DVD (a two-disc set) and Blu-ray. Justice runs hot and cold in the movie, however. Writer-director Götz Spielmann has been making films since 1984 (his award-winning student short, Foreign Land, is included on the second disc of supplements) but is pretty …

DVD Review: “Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy”

Roberto Rossellini’s status as a father of neorealism is eclipsed by his notoriety as the father of Isabella Rossellini. His adulterous affair with Ingrid Bergman in the 50s touched off a Brangelina-sized scandal that filled the tabloids through their subsequent marriage, the birth of their three children, and divorce in 1957. But you can’t really be blamed for fuzzier memories of his work. Criterion, which put out a box set of his made-for-television history films of the 70s through its Eclipse line, has now addressed the cornerstone of his reputation with a spectacular collection that is sure to be one of the year’s finest releases. The “War Trilogy”—Rome Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany Year Zero (1948)—bundles classics that, print-wise, had not stood the test of time, and existed in barely watchable condition. Martin Scorsese’s enthralling survey of his beloved Italian cinema, My Voyage to Italy (1999), devoted much of its four hours to Rossellini, and to these films, but decent presentations remained frustratingly out of reach. There are many splendid extras here—but the …

DVD Review: Revisiting “Paris, Texas”

1984 was a great year for foreign-language and independent cinema in the U.S. Off the top of my head I can recall seeing the following at Chicago’s Fine Arts Theater, sadly defunct by the turn of the century: the Coen Brothers’ debut, Blood Simple; Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense and Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap; Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise; Alan Rudolph’s Choose Me; Giorgio Moroder’s take on Metropolis; Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander; Bertrand Tavernier’s A Sunday in the Country. Not to mention Wim Wenders’ Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, Paris, Texas which as its title suggests is a mix of both strains, an English-language film made by German and French talent in the American Southwest. But I didn’t much care for Paris, Texas. In fact I remember getting into arguments about it. A typically thorough and insightful Criterion Collection DVD has made me see the error of my ways, but it also confirmed that I was right the first time. While there is a Paris, Texas the film, written by Sam Shepard, …

DVD Review: A Second Look at “Gomorrah”

The Criterion Collection has an agreement with IFC Films to put some of its more noteworthy acquisitions on DVD, and so we have Matteo Garrone’s outstanding Gomorrah. I reviewed the film back in March. Earlier this year I didn’t feel ready to commit to a proper Top 10 list for films released in 2008, but having seen just about everything worthwhile since then, I’d certainly slot in Gomorrah. “Gomorrah is frightening in the best sense: Moral,” I wrote. Garrone’s adaptation of a searing bestseller leaves the capos and capers behind to concentrate on how syndicate control pervades Italian society at every level, and reaches outward. It tells five stories of pitiless corruption, with the only exposition coming afterwards. I likened it to a “waking nightmare” for the middlemen, workers, and impressionable kids caught in the crossfire, and I left the theater uneasy. The film comes to DVD in a standard two-disc package or as a Blu-ray. In standard format the first disc is dedicated to the movie, with a new HD digital transfer that squeezes …

DVD Review: Robert Redford in “Downhill Racer”

After a more than a decade in Hollywood 33-year-old Robert Redford broke through as a major star in 1969’s smash hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But he had two other key roles that year. One was in Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, a Western whose social consciousness is embedded in his multi-hyphenate career. The other, Downhill Racer, defines a facet of his screen personality, and has received the Criterion Collection treatment on standard DVD. Outside of Butch Cassidy and The Sting, Redford has always been one of the most introspective stars—not for him the more declarative, chest-beating style of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, or other actors of his remarkable generation. He’s inwards, not outwards. Cautious—and, in the eyes of some critics, vague, or timid. (Brad Pitt, the star of Redford’s A River Runs Through It and co-star in Spy Game, was once called “the new Robert Redford,” but it’s as difficult to imagine Redford appearing in True Romance, Twelve Monkeys, and Inglourious Basterds as it is thinking of Pitt …

DVD Review: “Jeanne Dielman,” a Woman Out of Time

A 201-minute Belgian film described as a “domestic 2001” could inspire reams of pretentious criticism, but I found Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) pretty easy to relate to. Dielman, a widow, lives a narrow, routine-dominated existence, given over entirely to domestic tasks and responsibilities, which over the course of three days we observe in real time. She makes the beds, cooks the meals for her and her mopey teenage son (whose questions about his father and other niggling subjects she deflects), minds a neighbor’s baby, and does the shopping. Between 5-5:30pm she turns a trick, to keep the finances afloat. One day, she finds herself with a free hour, with nothing to due but ruminate—and her carefully regimented life crumbles. As a stay-at-home dad with various tasks to complete on any given weekday, Jeanne, I hear you. (I prostitute myself by writing DVD reviews). How things change; I was in no way the target audience when the film premiered. Directed by the 25-year-old Chantal Akerman, Jeanne Dielman was written by Danae …