Afterhours DVD)/The 400
Import Region B Blu-ray)/The
(2013/Criterion Blu-ray w/DVD)/L'Immortelle
Past (2013/Sony Blu-ray
w/DVD)/To Chris Marker, An
& C+/B/B- & C/C+ Sound: C+/B-/B & B-/C+/B & C+/C+
Extras: C/C/B-/B-/B-/D Main Programs: B-/B/C+/B-/B-/B
Import Blu-ray is Region B, can only play on players capable of
handling that version of the format, is now only available from our
friends at Umbrella Entertainment and can be ordered from the link
coincidence, we have just received a fine indie and foreign films,
mostly French, plus a recent Italian comedy/drama and an American
indie you should go out of your way for...
film is Rola Nashef's Detroit
(2013), a remarkable comedy/drama set in the title city and centered
around gas stations. He opening scene takes place a few years ago
(you can tell by the lower gasoline prices) has an gas station
owner/operator taking care of things on the night shift, business as
usual until a robbery occurs. A few years later, his sons have taken
over the business, now struggling against a flashy new gas station,
both run by Arab American parties, but the older cousin Mike (Mike
Batayeh from Breaking
in a very funny turn) doing what he can to make the place profitable,
dreaming of a chain of stations and juggling a second job.
(E.J. Assi in a breakthrough role) takes the other shift Mike cannot,
but he is not very happy and wonders what else he could do, truly
thinking of other, better possibilities with his life. He is holding
it together and steady, including some denial and self-oppression
until he meets Najlah (Nada Shouhay in a terrific turn) who works for
a cell phone store run by a friend of Mike's (and her brother), but
Sami is more interested in her than phone cards. What follows is
funny, honest, impressive and except for some a few problematic
montage sequences that sabotage its pace, one of the best independent
films I have seen in a while. Could Nashef be on the frontier of a
distinctive new voice in cinema, one that brings out the character of
She can direct, write and handles the actors is top rate and we get
energy, chemistry and consistency that is so badly missing from many
similar major studio releases we have seen in recent years. This is
a new talent that deserves to be seen and heard. With Detroit
she is off to a great start.
include a Behind The Scenes featurette, Original Theatrical Trailers
and Deleted Scenes.
speaking of the lives of teen and young adults, Francois Truffaut's
(1959) is obviously a breakthrough film for the naturalistic look at
such people, a key classic of the French New Wave that put Truffaut
in at the top of the filmmakers in the movement with Alain Resnais
and Jean-Luc Godard and began a remarkable and still-unmatched series
of autobiographical films that came to be known as the Antoine Doinel
only is it beautifully shot on black & white film by Henri Decae,
it was shot in Dyaliscope, a newer version of CinemaScope that gave
the frame a new freedom and natural look without as much distortion.
When the film arrived, its visuals were a shocking, stunning
revelation that along with its writerly way of telling of a personal
life was landmark resulting in an international sensation that made
Truffaut an instant master of cinema. Jean-Pierre Leaud plays Doinel
at 12 years old and is totally convincing, showing us this life in
simple, yet remarkable terms. He is a troubled child, but he has one
thing going for him, a calling and unconditional love of pure cinema,
of film and the film ultimately becomes a love letter to love, life
and art that changed filmmaking forever and for which the phenomenal
success of Spielberg's most profitable films would have never been
like the film very much, yet it is not among my favorite Truffaut
films, but the one for which I judge his entire output. Seeing it in
such a great print on Blu-ray has me appreciating and enjoying it in
ways I has not in years and as it slowly makes the format worldwide
(Criterion has issued two Blu-ray editions!), it can be rediscovered
as it should be.
include the Original Theatrical Trailer and Les
a 1957 short film directed by Truffaut.
speaking of Criterion, they have issued a new Blu-ray/DVD set of
Paolo Sorrentino's The
Italy's 2013 entry for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award.
Sorrentino gave us the underrated 2008 gem Il
and Sean Penn's risk-taking This
Must Be The Place
(2011, both reviewed elsewhere on this site), so this time out, he
examines aging, fantasy, reality, class division, culturally (and
religiously) immune walls and regrets as Jep (Toni Servillo) is out
partying on his 65th
Birthday, only to be haunted by the past, the surreal and we get
flashbacks along with many images that range from gaudy to deathly to
religious to humorous to erotic.
liked the ambitions of the film, but besides covering ground we have
seen covered in many other films, its visuals are too often in the
Fellini mode without the wonderment and sometimes even the point.
The look of the film is a decent Super 35mm shoot and the scope lens
is well utilized, but by sticking to only one Kodak stock, it holds
the films often impressive visuals back a bit. This is not to nit
pick, but I just wanted more and got some uneven results in an
otherwise smart, ambitious work. Now you can see for yourself.
in this slipcase packaging include a DigiPak with both format discs
are a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative
text and the essay Dancing
by Phillip Lopate, while the discs adds the Original Theatrical
Trailer, Deleted Scenes, new separate interviews with Servillo &
Screenwriter Umberto Contarello and new interview with Director
Servillo and Italian culture critic Antonio Monda.
ambitious film I thought had limits despite being more successful was
Alain Robbe-Grillet's L'Immortelle
(1963), directed by the author of Alain Resnais' French New Wave
Year At Marienbad
(1961, though that was written after this film was) involving a loner
(Jacques Doniol-Valcroze) visiting Istanbul and falling for a
beautiful, mysterious woman (Francoise Brion) who he instantly
obsesses about and is determined to be with. However, she is
mysterious and is connected to the darker side of the city in ways he
could never initially imagine.
ideas of time, space and memory intersecting in ways that are complex
and challenging are often successful here, but this is not always
successful, is haunted by Hitchcock (especially Vertigo
and juggles writerly aspirations with a readerly plot with some
success. It is a warm up for Marienbad and has its moments, as well
as being a major debut for Robbe-Grillet that remains one of his most
successful films. Despite some shortcomings, it is worth a good
include a Robbe-Grillet trailer gallery, plus new trailer announcing
his films from Kino/Redemption and a 32+ minutes interview with
Robbe-Grillet on his career and this film in particular.
(2013) is the director's impressive follow-up to his 2011 film A
Separation (reviewed elsewhere on this site) presenting a complex
tale about an upset, somewhat neurotic divorced woman (Berenice Bejo
in a departure from her fine work in The
who receives a visit from her ex-husband (Ali Mofassa) so they can
complete their divorce, but she has taken up with a younger man
(Tahar Rahim) who is upsetting their older daughter (Pauline Burlet)
as the circumstance in which he is free (his wife is in a coma from a
bizarre incident) and by so much unresolved on her part. Other
younger children who are theirs are affected too.
first, this might sound like a predictable melodrama, but the
screenplay has a few nice, even clever surprises and the cast is top
rate and totally convincing in their roles as the film slowly
develops and is sly in how it builds into a rich, personal experience
that is hard to turn away from once you start watching it. I wished
Bejo's star benefitted the film and the film herself because she is a
major actress and movie star who deserves more success and holds her
own among many challenging performances. Farhadi continues to show
his mastery of filmmaking and I hope more people see this one soon.
It is worth going out of your way for.
include a Director's Guild Q&A with Farhadi, Making Of featurette
and feature length audio commentary track by Farhadi.
we have To
Chris Marker, An Unsent Letter
(2013) whose short films La
by Hitchcock's Vertigo
and the basis for Gilliam's 12
were just released as a double feature from Criterion, passed away.
This release has seven shorts read by various friends and fans of the
late filmmaker, artist and multi-media innovator taking about his
life, work, innovations, love of the arts, cinema and life, plus
showing clips of his work throughout with the likes of film scholar
David Thomson and 12
screenplay co-writers Janet & David Peoples.
are no extras, but this is a fine look at an underrated, challenging
and sometimes overlooked artist more people should know about and see
the work of. I've liked most of Marker's work and we have covered
several of them on this site. If you are unfamiliar with him, this
is a great place to start and even if you are, you should catch this
of our Blu-rays look really good, though the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital
High Definition image transfer on Past
can show look a bit softer than the rest despite being shot on the
versatile Arri Alexa HD camera, though I wonder if some of that is
the style chosen. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 black and white digital High
Definition image transfer on 400
can show the age of the materials used a bit, but this is far
superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and even has
some demo shots. I did not get to compare to the Criterion Blu-ray,
but this is impressive for the most part.
1080p 1.66 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image transfer
can show the age of the materials used, but this also not only is far
superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film, but
actually surprised me with some of its shots of Istanbul. An extras
on the disc notes this was made at the same time (released the same
year) as the Technicolor James Bond classic From
Russia With Love
(reviewed on Blu-ray and more elsewhere on this site) and holds its
own against that extensive restoration. I has small issues with that
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Beauty
is the newest film shoot in Super 35mm as noted above, with Director
of Photography Luca Bigazzi definitely shows his talents here and I
don't think this would look as good as an HD shoot despite my
reservations with the faster stock.
anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the Detroit
(shot on a RED HD camera), Past
DVDs should be about equal, but Beauty
is a bit softer for some reason than the others. Oddly, the simply
HD shot, anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Marker
look a bit better.
the sound department, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix
are easily the sonic champs despite their dialogue-rich tendencies
with the former sometimes louder than expected and the latter with a
consistent soundfield. Both also sport finely recorded music scores
that are a plus without being overbearing.
the Criterion Blu-ray version is a PCM 2.0 Mono release, Umbrella has
decided to make their 400
Blu-ray with a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is odd and does not
always work and is itself an upgrade from the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0
Mono of their old DVD. However, the PCM 2.0 Mono on L'Immortelle
is somehow weaker, partly from its age, but can compete with the
lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on both Detroit
The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Beauty
fares better and that leaves lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 simple stereo on
passable and nothing spectacular, but competent just the same.
Umbrella import Blu-ray, go to this link for it and other great
titles (often hard to find) at: