August 26, 2008

DVDs, 8/26.

The Set-Up "[I]n the long history of the cinema, how many pictures, let alone boxing pictures, can have been based on a poem?" asks Jefferson Hunter. "The story of what Hollywood did with and to The Set-Up is complicated, as complicated and intriguing as [Joseph Moncure] March's poem itself, and as much a mixture of dogged fidelity with shabby betrayal, of keeping the faith with making a buck."

Also in the 60th anniversary issue of the Hudson Review (via Perlentaucher / signandsight), Joseph Epstein (PDF): "Whence derived Fred Astaire's sublimity, his magic? That is the great, happy question at the center of this essay."

"Big news today," announces Lou Lumenick: "20th Century Fox Home Video, which offered the Cinephile event of the 2008 with the release of Ford at Fox, will follow up with a box set devoted to Ford's contemporary Frank Borzage, a well-placed source tells me."

Errol Flynn Westerns Errol Flynn's "final western, the little-known Rocky Mountain, turns out to be a small discovery," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "Like several westerns of the period, Rocky Mountain is defined by a very unwestern sense of claustrophobia and entrapment. With the slightest push, the picture would be a film noir, and its climax is appropriately somber.... The western, in its infinite richness, continues to yield surprises."

"[However devilishly deceptive Please Vote for Me is or is not, it's too easy to accept the film's implicit proposition that democracy is impossible, and all political action becomes inevitably corrupted," writes Michael Atkinson for IFC, where he also reviews Primo Levi's Journey: "[Davide] Ferrario didn't seem to have any idea of what would come of the voyage, and the resulting movie is engaging amorphous and contemplative, folding in chunks of Levi's memoir (read by Chris Cooper) and simply observing the state of Eastern Europe as it is now, and as it both echoes and departs from Levi's experience of it during the last days of the war."

"Look no further than Sun Chung's 1982 Human Lanterns for the grimmer side of the [Shaw Brothers'] interiors, where palatial sprawl and intimate village alleyways are given such a treatment of wide-angle lenses and handheld camera that the mise-en-scène becomes far too unstable and disturbing for a normal film, and actors and extras are less characters than ghosts stalking a set abandoned at night for demonic concerns." Daniel Kasman.

Also in the Auteurs' Notebook, Glenn Kenny's "Monday Morning Foreign Region DVD Report": "It's not often that a Hungarian film from the mid-60s brings Richard Price to mind, but the universal truth that some methods of police work are eternal came home while watching Miklós Jancsó's 1966 [The Round-Up] set in a detention camp in 1869."

A Tale of Springtime "If A Tale of Springtime is generally interesting and enjoyable in its very Rohmer-like treatment of character and incident, it is less consistent on a cinematic level," writes Ed Howard.

David Mamet's Redbelt is "the smartest, sharpest and most unashamedly pure melding of personal filmmaking and genre filmmaking since Walter Hill's Undisputed, another magnificent fight film," argues Sean Axmaker in the Parallax View.

"Even with mediocre acting, earnest dialogue sometimes bordering on the heavy-handed, and predictable hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold asides, American Gigolo is still a fine slice of celluloid cheese, containing camerawork both sleek and fluid and that sexy sing-along anthem ('Call Me'!) complete with Debbie Harry's French coos," writes Lauren Wissot at the SpoutBlog. "Incidentally, I've always been a fan of male prostitutes as well. So why is it that I've never been a fan of this flick?"

"Part Billy Elliot, part pint-sized Rushmore, part Gilliam-esque boosterism on the value of imagination amidst grim surroundings, Son of Rambow never finds its own voice, and generally fails to live up to its reckless promise," writes Bryant Frazer. "Still, the film has its charms, including an entertaining young cast."

Noir of the Week: Where the Sidewalk Ends.

DVD roundups: Sean Axmaker, Richard Brody (New Yorker), Paul Clark (Screengrab), DVD Talk, Film Experience, Ambrose Heron, Vince Keenan, Noel Murray (Los Angeles Times), PopMatters and Slant.

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Posted by dwhudson at August 26, 2008 12:34 PM