Monday, 27 July 2015

Films that Deserve a Blu ray Release

In recent years, there has been an incredible surge of quality home video releases. Companies like Arrow Video, Eureka (Masters of Cinema), and BFI have released incredible sets like the magnificent Late Mizoguchi Box set, Rossellini's War Trilogy, Metropolis Ultimate Edition and the forthcoming Yoshida box-set. Lesser known companies like Third Window Films and Anime Limited also have their fair share of quality releases, specializing in 21st century live-action films (Shion Sono lovers :D) and anime releases respectively. Here's a list of 13, that I'd like these companies to release.

NOTE- If the title is a box-set, the films in the set are the ones in the paragraph in bold.

Emir Kusturica Early Works

This Yugoslavian director is mostly forgotten in recent years, with his last film released in 2007, and his last acclaimed film released back in 2004. But delve far back into his filmography and you'll find some hidden gems. His film début 'Do You Remember Dolly Bell?' (1981), Palm D'Or winner 'When Father was away on Business' (1985), and the epic 'Time of the Gypsies' (1988) are all excellent films, even better than his most known films: 'Underground', 'Life is a Miracle', and 'Black Cat, White Cat', in my opinion. His zany Fellini-esque antics appear in his early works, full in force. Artificial Eye released the first two on DVD (since out of circulation), and they released 'Time of the Gypsies' way back on VHS.

Chances are: Unlikely (3/10). Artificial Eye rarely seem to go back and upgrade their DVDs. Maybe if Kusturica releases a new film, it may give someone an incentive.

The Travelling Players 

Theo Angelopoulos's flawless masterpiece. Since reviewing this on the blog, it has stayed in my mind for a while. The film tells main events in the history of Greece between 1939 and 1952 through the eyes of a group of travelling players. These events include the Metaxas's fascist dictatorship, The Second World War and the British occupation. It's very rare for a film to be long and epic, while keeping all of the auteur's unique trademarks throughout.

Chances are: Possible (4/10). There is a Japanese blu ray, so the HD materials exist. But again, Artificial Eye has the rights, and have released the film in a DVD box-set.

Shuji Terayama Box-set

Terayama is the king of the Japanese New Wave, with his ultra-insane visuals, content and techniques. He unfortunately died at 47, but left some phenomenal films, including 'Throw Away Your Books and Rally in the Streets' (1971), 'Pastoral: To Die in the Country' (1974), 'The Boxer' (1977), and 'Farewell to the Ark' (1984). They're all great, and combine shocking visuals, with Fellini-esque content and some great soundtracks. 'Throw Away Your Books and Rally in the Streets' has a punk "fuck the world" attitude, which includes scenes of rioting, weed smoking and rampant sex. 'Pastoral' really impressed me when I first watched, and has a moment half way through the film which is rule-changing.  'The Boxer' is a copycat, but far better version of 'Rocky'. While 'Farewell to the Ark' is a really great last film.

Chances: Eventually (6/10). Arrow said they will think about releasing some Terayama if the Yoshida set sells well. There is a blu ray in Japan as well.

A Brighter Summers Day (1991)

Edward Yang's four hour Taiwanese New Wave Epic, desperately needs a release. Have you seen the available copy? Its been filmed on a potato. But great news, the film has been restored by the World Cinema Project, a magnificent organisation that restores and exhibits films from all over the world, that have been severely neglected over the years. It is strange that a film from 1991 needs to be restored, but what they have done is extraordinary. The film has a big following from those which have watched it.

Chances: Its Coming (9/10). It should be released as part of The Masters of Cinema Collection, either as a stand-alone release or as a part of The World Cinema Project Volume 2. Whether it comes by the end of 2015 or up to 2020, who knows?

The Complete Don Hertzfeldt

Don Hertzfeldt is the ultimate auteur. As an animator, he draws, directs, edits and voices his own films. He also draws every frame. Now that is dedication. This also means there isn't a lot of work and his films can be viewed in 3 hours or so. 'Rejected' is his most known work, and was a mini-viral hit on YouTube a few years ago. As time passed his films have become more mature, resulting in the three-part 'Its Such a Beautiful Day' and Sundance hit 'World of Tomorrow'. I have no idea if the films would look good on blu ray, but having the option to replay those two films would make me, and other fans, incredibly happy.

Chances: Little chance (2/10). A region 2 release is unlikely as Hertzfeldt distributes his own films (what a talented guy), however he recently begun a Kickstarter to release some of his films on blu-ray, so a region 2 release isn't particularly needed. This Kickstarter will be the only chance to get the films on blu ray (and is region free), so funding it now is necessary.

Frederick Wiseman- Early Works

Wiseman is always mentioned when people list the best documentaries, but they are notoriously hard to find. I saw 'National Gallery' at its Toronto International Film Festival Premier last year, even asked Wiseman a question at the Q&A, but I have had no luck looking for the rest of his 42 films. He may be the only director who can make a 3 hour documentary about the National Gallery without boring the viewer. Wiseman focuses on institutions in his work and is most well known for his study on Massachusetts Correctional Institution in 'Titicut Follies' (1967). This is his début film, so a box-set of his earliest work would be a great introduction to the world of Wiseman. A box-set of films he made around this time would be monumental, and should include 'High School' (1968), 'Law & Order' (1969) and 'Hospital' (1970).

Chances: Unlikely (1/10). Wiseman's films are currently distributed through the Zipporah films website, where each film is $30 (+ big fee for shipping), and on DVD.

Marketa Lazarova

The finest Czechoslovakian film as voted by a 1998 poll of Czech critics, and I whole-heartedly agree with them. This film has a unique and grand vision, set in the Middle Ages, with perfect black and white cinematography. This film is always credited to be found by The Criterion Collection (where they released it on blu), but was released 5 years prior by Second Run on DVD in the UK. Second Run are a fantastic company, that release completely unknown (mostly Eastern-European) films in the UK.

Chances: Not as unlikely as you may think (4/10). If Second Run ever release a blu-ray, this is likely to be it. 'Marketa Lazarova' has a bigger following then you may think. I wish they would, but they're audience is on DVD so it is unlikely.

Hou Hsiao-Hsien Childhood Trilogy

Possibly the greatest working director, Hou is still relatively unknown in the West. Three of his early works have recently been restored: 'A Summer at Grandpa's' (1984), 'A Time to Live and a Time to Die' (1985) and 'Dust in the Wind' (1986). 'A Summer at Grandpa's' is based on Chu Tien-Wen's childhood memories, 'A Time to Live and a Time to Die' is based on Hou's, while 'Dust in the Wind' is based on Wu Nien-Jen's. All 3 are must sees, and are incredible. The Taiwanese DVDs I own have very bad Picture/Audio quality, so I would jump on any release.

Chances: Possible (5/10). There has to be a reason why they haven't been released thus far. Its possible the rights issues are because the films may be financed partially by the Taiwanese Mafia. There are recent restorations of all 3 and the last two have been included in a Taiwanese blu ray box-set. I'm going to Taiwan in August, so I'll grab it if I can.

Ocean Waves/Only Tomorrow

These are the final two Studio Ghibli films yet to be released on UK blu ray. For those collecting them, there are two gaps, and there has been for a while. While they may not be seen as the best of the bunch, they are Ghiblis and, therefore, are necessary to watch. I would say Ocean Waves is better than people give it credit for.

Chances: Likely (7/10). Why wouldn't Studio Canal release these? Ghibli releases sell a lot of units. 'The Wind Rises' was released on blu ray in October 2014, and by February 2015, they were still selling over 3,000 copies a month. Most releases sell 500 or so a month. So it should be a no-brainer.

Hou Hsiao Hsien's Historical Trilogy

These are 'A City of Sadness' (1989), 'The Puppetmaster' (1993) and 'Good Men, Good Women' (1995). They are equally as good as his childhood trilogy, but are far more ambitious, with a larger/more epic scope. 'A City of Sadness' is Hou's most acclaimed film, and won the Golden Lion in Venice. The film is historical, with the story revolving around the "White Terror" when the KMT government massacred thousands of Taiwanese. 'The Puppetmaster' is Hou's least accessible film, and is a biopic on Li Tienlu. Li also stars in the film, as a narrator/interviewee. All 3 of these films show Hou in his prime. Feel the power of the long takes.

Chances: Unlikely (3/10). No restorations and lots of rights issues. But one can dream eh?

Day for Night (1973)

Francois Truffaut's best film has only been released in the UK on VHS. Its another fellini-esque film based on the process of making a film, but is brilliant in every way possible. Truffaut knows how to direct a film, and this insider, and satirical, look is utterly wonderful.

Chances: Unlikely (3/10). Warner Bros never release back catalogue titles on blu ray in the UK. Criterion are releasing it in August, you lucky Americans.

Yoji Yamada's 70s Films

Yamada is known in the West for his samurai trilogy, including the critically acclaimed 'The Twilight Samurai'. In the East, Yamada is known for writing/directing most of the 48 Tora-San films. However, if you delve deeper into his work, you'll come across some incredible and breath-taking films which include: 'Where Spring Comes Late' (1970), 'Home from the Sea' (1972), 'The Yellow Handkerchief' (1977) and 'A Distant Cry from Spring' (1980). These films are some of the most well-crafted and enjoyable ever made. Yamada has directed 84 films thus far and needs more attention outside of Japan.

Chances: Never going to happen (1/10). Arrow have been releasing risky films, but this, I feel, is too risky for any of the UK labels. Maybe in 10 or 20 years when they run out of films to release, but now its just a dream of mine.

Peter Greenaway's Remaining films from 1985-2000

Peter Greenaway has always despised the mainstream, and even his audience, with his bleak "cinema is dead!!!" outlook on life, but his films are so peculiar and far from the ordinary, they beg to be seen. Even if his early Avant-Garde work is brilliant (and maybe even more self-indulgent) then his post-1980 films, these films are classics and would look far better in glorious high-definition. These films are 'The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover' (1989), 'Prospero's Books' (1991) and 'The Pillow Book' (1996). As literary, over-indulgent, inaccessible and sexually gratuitous as his films are, they are undoubtedly incredible.

Chances: Probable (7/10). There is no real reason they haven't been released yet, so they'll come eventually... hopefully...

Friday, 24 July 2015

Super Fast Reviews for People in a Hurry Part 5

  Sorry for the long break. Finishing university, and applying for jobs... But now I'm back! And ready to review films. It has been a good few months. Since the last review, there has been my Birthday, Mother's Day, and Easter (this is going somewhere) which of course celebrates (wait for it)...

The Life of Jesus (1997)
Bruno Dumont

  See what I did there. For a film called 'The Life of Jesus', it has nothing to do with religion or faith. The story follows Freddy, a delinquent teenager, as he hangs out with friends, screws his girlfriend, chases the local Arab and gropes a fat girl. Yeah, I'm not kidding, this film is far from "ordinary" or "standard", particularly for a coming of age story. For beginners Freddie, is a nasty protagonist. Quiet and starey in presentation, but he contains a vile, racist and aggressive hidden-side. He is an unusual character,  unlike anything portrayed in cinema before (well done David Douche, you defy your name).
  There are many people who dislike Dumont due to his films being well photographed, but have a slimy feel to them. Big factors in this are the ugly characters that feel like they haven't washed for weeks, as well as nudity and violence are infrequent but strong in his films. All feature in his films including the slogging 'Humanite' and 'The Life of Jesus'.
  So what actually works in the film? I'm not sure. Everything just clicks into place. The characters may be despicable, but I was always intrigued what happened next. They are fully fleshed-out characters, superbly acted. The location of a dull and small village in Northern France is used well, showing the green country and the brick houses. Not beautiful but different. The film is a view into a strange world through a pessimistic and warped auteur.


The Missing- Series 1 (2014)
Tom Shankland
United Kingdom

  I was looking forward to this James Nesbitt Mystery/Drama which critics (and my nan) says is top stuff. So the credits role and I see the name Tom Shankland, and I think his name is familiar. I Google his name and find he directed 'The Children', which I reviewed in the first part and gave a horrendous rating of 18. But fortunately, things improved.
  Events start very standard. Happy family on holiday. The story is told in the present, with flashbacks to the past. Films and TV series told like this tend to become unnecessarily and over complicated quickly, however this makes sense and never boggles itself down. As a plot device it works very well, and is used fantastically. The best part of this series is where a flashback shows where the episode will end up, BUT IT LIED. As far fetched as this is, and as miffed as some may feel, I thought it was a brilliantly genius way of tricking the audience.
  So the child goes 'Missing' and events develop gradually with each episode. James Nesbitt frequently uses his hilarious angry face and, despite being top-billing, gets out-acted by Tcheky Karyo, who plays the French detective who's presence on-screen improves the viewing experience immensely. If anyone wants to have some fun while watching, feel free to play the "Missing Drinking Game". Take a shot if:
-James Nesbitt makes an angry face.
-James Nesbitt shouts "OLLIE".
-Someone asks "Do you speak English" or something similar.
  The whole idea of a child being stolen is terrifying, and is what drives the drama. Every episode is gripping and is left with suspenseful cliffhangers that will make you bulk watch. The ending is satisfying, minus the final needless 15 minutes.  I can see influences from Sluizer's 'Spoorloos', which is far more horrifying (and better). So finally, the series is good and satisfying, but contains little that is outstanding.


Van Gogh (1991)
Maurice Pialat

  Pialat is a remarkably skilled and frank director which I admire and have respect for, although at the same time manages to be a mixed bag of a director. I'm getting closer to completing his filmography, and nothing particularly stands out. Most notable so far is the incredibly depressing 'La Guele Oeverte', where a lady goes from talking joy to quivering mind-dead vegetable through a terminal cancer. I wont forget that one in a hurry.
  'Van Gogh' may be his best film, but once again, is nothing special. The film follows the artist as he moves to a village and struggles with depression. At 2 1/2 hours, the film is lengthy and slow-moving, where most of the action is indoor-conversations. Most people, including those with short attention spans, may do well to avoid this, however, if you can sit back and relax, its easier to get entangled into the story. Events are told which are mostly true, so the film works as a worthy biopic.
  The greatest feature of the film is by far the 19th century setting. The world is one where there is little to do, especially if your profession is a painter. So its great to see realistic, and great looking backdrop. Its not distracting at all, and helps the viewer focus on getting immersed into the film.  The long-duration and slow story-development doesn't make for rivetting viewing, even if the setting is perfection. In the end, the film is a character study, and that is exactly what it does.


Repast (1951)
Mikio Naruse

  Repast chronicles the crumbling marriage of Michiyo and Hatsunosuke Okamoto played by Setsuko Hara and Ken Uehara. This is a film, like many of Naruse's work, that focuses on the female characters and their struggles through life. Not like most films in general which are told through a male perspective and especially not like Argento who likes to kill his women in various bloody ways (another discussion for another time). This is a film of extraordinary performances, where Hara gives her career best, although she was always incredible. Hara expresses her emotions through repressing, so its easy to see her thoughts and intentions from her slight actions and reactions. Her character doesn't shout or argue, but instead channels her emotions through slight facial reactions, quiet actions and well-written dialogue. 'Repast' could be compared to 'Voyage to Italy', with their realistic view on a failing marriage, but 'Repast' is far superior, with far better acting, direction, cinematography and writing.


Edvard Munch (1974)
Peter Watkins
Sweden/Norway/United Kingdom

  'Edvard Munch' is a four hour television film, based on the life of the Norweign artist who painted The Scream. As a famous figure who I knew nothing about, I left this film with a lot of knowledge about his life. The film is one of the most depressing I've seen, as Munch lived a sad and lonely life. His sister and mother died of illnessess when he was an early age, and Munch was sick for many months as a child. This and the fact that his macabre visions expressed through his painting were detested and spat on by the public and critics at the time, made for a depressing life. After all there isn't much to do in 19th Century Norway, exept to wander around/paint/reminisce on bad times. The hatred towards his work is similar to Van Gogh. I could have made this a "Crazily Obscure World Cinema Review Painter Special!!!" I guess...
  There is an evolution in Watkins career, particularly from his previous works of 'The War Game' and 'Culloden'. Both are pseudo-documentaries, and are excellent films, like 'Edvard Munch' but Munch is far more ambitious and experimental. It's an incredible watch and fully deserving of its 8.5 IMDB score.