July 23, 2008

DVDs, 7/23.

Satantango Let's start with lists because, as much as I try to keep the Daily not about me, to be asked to draw one up by Criterion is pretty damn exciting. The second list to mention is Simon Augustine's terrifically annotated "Most Spiritually Affecting Buddhist Movies" at the main site.

Now then: "The behemothic, almost impossible to see, hardcore-critic-exalted art film legends keep coming at us on DVD - will there be any Holy Grails left? - but it's likely that no movie has been awaited as intensely and with as high expectations as Béla Tarr's Satantango (1994)," writes Michael Atkinson at IFC. "Finally, after literally years of rumors and broken promises and restoration troubles, Facets has brought this cathedral of a movie to disc, and we can all explore its frontiers at will.... Films like Satantango may not necessarily change your life, but they cannot help but become a part of it once they are experienced." Updates, 7/24: Jason Anderson for Artforum: "It may sound absurd to say that a seven-hour movie has hardly a wasted moment - as famously insisted by Susan Sontag - but Tarr's minimalism has maximum impact, especially when the film's satiric nature becomes more prominent in the final hour." Armond White in the New York Press: "Out of the many words expended by journalists and scholars attempting to describe and catalog this epic-length art-film, the definitive assessment actually came from film critic Dennis Delrogh who astutely noted, 'It could be a great film if it was edited.'" Update, 7/26: Cullen Gallagher in the L Magazine.

Also reviewed: Eagle Shooting Heroes, "a Hong Kong self-parody that's as utterly goofy and bubbly and schticky as any Keystone Kops two-reeler, but packed with ordinarily stoic stars (Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Leslie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Ka Fai, etc) making ridiculous hay of their screen personas and the entire wuxia pian genre."

Fight Club "One of the (many) reasons I probably connect so strongly with David Fincher's Fight Club (1999) is that, by capturing clinical depression more accurately than any other movie I've ever seen (though Laurent Cantet's Time Out and Eric Steel's The Bridge delve mighty deep into that abyss), it helped shake me out of the grips of a depression that was sucking me down at the time." Jim Emerson: "I was the only person in the theater convulsed with laughter from beginning to end, because it was liberating, exhilarating, to see the truth of my own inner experience reflected back at me in its funhouse mirror."

With the American Film Theatre series re-released as a box set, Michael Barrett explains the concept behind the works produced between 1973 and 1975.

Don't Change Your Husband Michael W Phillips Jr enjoys Cecil B DeMille's Don't Change Your Husband, "generally a smooth, arch, enjoyable romp; the action moves quickly, there are real sparks between [Gloria] Swanson and [Lew] Cody, and the cross-cutting between [Elliot] Dexter's transformation from schlub to hunk and Swanson's realization that the grass is always greener is particularly good."

That Spaced set sounds like quite a package. It comes "complete with all the extra material created for the British special editions," notes Grady Hendrix. "Also included are new commentaries from fans of the series such as Quentin Tarantino; Matt Stone of South Park; Diablo Cody, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Juno, and director Kevin Smith. It's a dizzying display of talent lined up to worship at the altar of a half-hour sitcom about two loser roommates who pretend to be married in order to land an apartment." More from Noel Murray (AV Club) and Craig Phillips (Guru), while Alison Willmore rounds up more linkage.

Electroma Back in the New York Sun, Bret McCabe: "Think of Electroma as equal parts THX 1138 and Zabriskie Point - a meditation on the terrible vulnerability of being human and alone in this world, told entirely with robots. It might not be what Daft Punk's fans were expecting to see, but in its own powerful way, it's a minor masterpiece of personal filmmaking." More from Mike Plante in Filmmaker.

Bill Weber in Slant on André Téchiné: 4-Film Collector's Edition: "The bare-bones treatment doesn't make this representative selection from a major auteur's sober, elegiac vision of late 20th-century French life any less valuable."

"My Darling Clementine envisages the Western as the American answer to Shakespearean tragedy, and so culminates Ford's movement away from the democratic laughter-space of his earlier films," writes Billy Stevenson.

Daisies "Daisies is the kind of film that just sweeps one along in its antic merriment," writes Marilyn Ferdinand.

"If there's one film that epitomizes the power of environment over libido, it has to be Lawrence Kasdan's directorial debut, the totally-80s noir Body Heat, which takes place during a Florida heat wave (does it get any hotter than that?)." Lauren Wissot at the SpoutBlog.

"[W]atching Mad Men, my mind kept going back to one of my favorite Manhattan movies, 1957's Sweet Smell of Success," blogs James Rocchi; "like Mad Men, it takes place in New York's dog-eat-dog media world, and like Mad Men it's a celebration of good times and bad people - there's plenty of drinking, carousing and blunt behavior in it, and it gets plenty of mileage out of men in elegant suits doing inelegant things. Starring Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster, I heartily recommend Sweet Smell of Success to anyone who's got the Mad Men bug... or, for that matter, for anyone who loves a great movie."

Beyond R1:

The River

  • "The greatest of Frank Borzage's silent films, The River (1929) gave Hollywood's foremost exponent of melodrama (I realize that I am slighting Griffith - I suspect that Borzage would not have approved of my disrespect) a hint of realism on which to hang his hat, as well as ample opportunity for abstraction and extremism." Dan Sallitt in the Auteurs' Notebook.

  • The Siren fumes at studios for sitting on prints while foreign DVD distributors scramble to make what they can available on DVD: "What becomes of a great film if it is confined to highly expensive overseas orders, bootleg copies made by friends, a late-night Turner Classic Movies screening or the occasional festival screening? You might as well take the score for Beethoven's String Quartet No 14, stick it in a closet and bring it out once a decade. You're slowly killing the potential audience for the lesser-known movies, virtually guaranteeing that the broad taste for classics as something more than antique curios is fated to wither and die."

  • Glenn Kenny's "Monday Morning Foreign-Region DVD Report": "For its first hour or so, The Devil, Probably, Robert Bresson's 1977 film, seems like the most difficult of the inimitable master's works, for the most banal of reasons: that is, the viewer really just wants to give its putative protagonist a sharp smack in the chops."

The Threepenny Opera Online viewing tip. Kevin Lee comments on GW Pabst's The Threepenny Opera, with a special emphasis on Lotte Lenya's Brechtian performance. Further notes.

DVD roundups: Sean Axmaker (MSN), Monika Bartyzel (Cinematical), Paul Clark (Screengrab), DVD Talk and Peter Martin (Cinematical).

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Posted by dwhudson at July 23, 2008 2:39 PM


"Diablo Cody, the Academy-Award winning screenwriter of Juno."

Why isn't Quentin Tarantino described like this? Why Diablo Co...

I'm sorry. No matter how many times I see that name in print I cannot help but thinking that it is the dumbest f'in name I have ever heard. Really. Seriously. Like, totally.

Posted by: at July 23, 2008 4:08 PM