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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Holocaust > History > Filmmaking > Biography > Literature > Art > A Film Unfinished, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within & Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010/Oscilloscope DVDs)

A Film Unfinished, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within & Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010/Oscilloscope DVDs)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: B     Films: A/B/B



Since opening up shop, Oscilloscope Laboratories have been releasing an interesting mix of films, both theatrically and for the Blu-ray and DVD markets.  Their main focus for the moment seems to be on giving distribution to newer domestic and foreign material that other companies might see as being difficult to market - but the doors appear to be wide open for anything and everything – so long as they, themselves, like it.  It's rare to find a company that is so attached to the material they distribute, yet still caters to so many tastes, rather than dispensing only one or two types of films.  Currently, their catalog contains everything from documentaries like those we'll be covering here, to narrative films with big name actors, such as Howl & The Messenger.  There's even some niche market stuff like Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a Finnish horror film that saw limited release this past holiday season.


Among their most important titles stands A Film Unfinished, a documentary revealing the truth behind Nazi propaganda footage obtained from the Warsaw ghetto in 1942.  The film was shelved, only partially edited, and left incomplete, and for many years was erroneously represented as a factual portrayal of life for the Jewish people gathered there.  This is the first time that this film has been presented in an honest light, with outtakes proving that a number of scenes were staged, shot and re-shot in order to better serve the goals of the filmmakers.


The purpose of this altered record isn't fully known, as documents regarding its creation have been nearly impossible to come by.  However, almost certainly it was designed to falsely illustrate to the German people undesirable or despicable traits of the Jews, and impress upon them that the annihilation of these people was the only solution.


Also included is the 1945 Billy Wilder short film, Death Mills.  This document shows the concentration camps as they were just after the allied forces arrived and freed those who endured the torture and starvation imposed upon them.  It, too, is equally important in coming to understand the horrors committed by the Nazis, and both of these films deserve to be seen by everyone, and are important in educating the world about just what occurred.


Speaking further to the company's commitment to pushing relevant material, we also take a look at two more documentaries - William S. Burroughs: A Man Within and Exit Through The Gift Shop.  The Burroughs doc becomes especially interesting when you see the vastly different personalities who have been touched by his work, and contributed interviews here.  It is narrated by Peter Weller, who portrayed a version of Burroughs in David Cronenberg's 1991 adaptation of Naked Lunch.  Actors, directors, writers, poets, musicians and other artists all share their opinions on the man.  Many were personal friends of his, and shed light on the inner workings of this incredibly shielded person who rarely left himself open to be scrutinized.


Exit Through The Gift Shop rounds out this review, and is a film by the graffiti artist known as Banksy.  It purports to be a documentary about Theirry Guetta, a Los Angeles clothing store owner obsessed with taping every waking second of his life.  He eventually stumbles into the world of underground street art through his cousin, a French mosaic artist known as Invader.  This then leads him on a journey to become something of an artist himself, complete with gallery showings of this work, where many pieces sell for thousands of dollars.


It is so well crafted, that after viewing it, I'm still unable to say for certain that it is truth or fiction.  Whether it's true or not, that does not change the fact that it is good, and has a broad appeal.  It should be looked at, and many audiences will appreciate it for its real look into the world of graffiti, as well as for its humorous qualities.


All three films are presented in an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio, but come from various sources, so video quality is all over the place.  Sound, too is rather varied, with a 5.1 surround sound mix for Exit Through The Gift Shop, though parts remain in stereo.  The other films have stereo mixes, but since all three have been recorded under varied conditions, it is difficult to grade them.


Bonus content is good across the board, with printed essays included on the packaging for A Man Within and A Film Unfinished.  There are also bonus interviews and deleted scenes from the films, as well as a PDF study guide to accompany A Film Unfinished.


I highly recommend getting all three of these releases, and if your budget allows, joining up with The Circle of Trust, Oscilloscope's DVD subscription service.  Members receive the company’s next 10 releases for $150.00, in addition to getting reduced prices on back catalog titles.  If you've seen and enjoyed any of their features, I'd say that being part of their club is a smart move.  Oscilloscope does not seem to trifle with things other like-minded people are not going to enjoy, and if these films are any indication of what else they have in store, I can't wait to see it.



-   David Milchick


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