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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Historical > Romance > War > Nuclear Holocaust > WWII > WWI > Fantasy > Fairy Tale > Comedy > French > G > Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959/Criterion Blu-ray)/Love Unto Death (1984)/Life Is A Bed Of Roses (1983 Alain Resnais Double Feature/Cohen Media Blu-ray Set)/The Remains Of The Day (1993/Sony/Columbia/Twilig

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959/Criterion Blu-ray)/Love Unto Death (1984)/Life Is A Bed Of Roses (1983 Alain Resnais Double Feature/Cohen Media Blu-ray Set)/The Remains Of The Day (1993/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Remains of The Day Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, it is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last from the links below.

These new releases of ambitious filmmaking that includes two filmmakers and two masterworks of cinema.

Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) was a shocking film in its time for not just being about the nuclear bombing of the Japanese city of the Allies as Hirohito would not let the country go when it was obvious he and his Axis friends were losing WWII, but because it dealt with its mortality, disturbing commodification, results and did this through groundbreaking visuals and an abstract love story that was so ahead of its time that cinema and the world have still not totally caught up to it.

The love story happens between a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) and French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) that we are introduced to in nude images juxtaposed to dead bodies and images in between while the duo debate what they have and have not see of life and the actual bombing. Originally meant as a short like Resnais' Night & Fog (1955) about The Holocaust, both films show how it is impossible to capture such horrid events on even exceptional films and how we need more complex approaches to deal with such devastation instead of falling short in thought or action. That can allow equally awful things to happen too.

Criterion has issued an incredible Blu-ray of the film as they had with the horrifically out of print Last Year At Marienbad (get it if you see it!!!) that deserves a reissue after having its rights pulled, complete with priceless extras and the best upgrade of the film I have ever seen. It is as relevant as ever with the nuclear situation and the bad way more crisis than ever are dealt with happening as we post this review. The film is in smart sections as scripted by Marguerite Duras and is one of those landmark films that never ceases to amaze. Yet too few people have seen it and I hope this new release will change that. If you have not seen it in a long time or especially if you have never seen it, you MUST catch this great new release of this all-time classic. It is one of the best from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

Over the years, Resnais would continue to make a mix of more classics, followed by a few films here and there that would be more experimental whether they would break through or not. After his remarkable Mon Oncle D'Amerique (1980, reviewed elsewhere on this site), he decided to get more experimental with two odd films made with some of the same lead actors and crew. Cohen Media has issued Resnais' Love Unto Death (1984)/Life Is A Bed Of Roses (1983) (backwards for some reason) as a double Blu-ray set in upgraded editions.

To look at them in release order, Roses jumps between three periods from pre & post WWI to the present of the film. The WWI scenes are shot on the oldest Eastmancolor 35mm film stocks he could find to have a slight haze to the scenes, yet push lush color throughout (foregoing Ilford, Agfa, Ansco, Ferrania and other color film formats besides Kodak for whatever reasons) and the present is shot on Fuji 35mm color stocks (clearer and sharper, but with flatter color save green that class too much attention to itself and in this digital age of colors being mindlessly manipulated or idiotically drained, has a fakeness to it not intended) is contrasting the harsh realities we rarely see of WWI in the film with the lush life of those who made it happened.

Somewhat a comedy, it is concerned with the idea of fantasy and fairy tales, which it examines with some irony and looks at the banality of all the eras. Resnais is also referencing filmmakers like Georges Melies, Eric Rohmer and Marcel L. Herbier, but the film jumps around too much and is a little too self-amused (bringing us in on the jokes all the time does not help) resulting in an uneven work that did not stay with me years ago and has not improved since. Still, it is ambitious and the work of a superior master of filmmaking.

Death (shot all on new Eastmancolor 35mm film stocks) is much slower, much less humorous ands wants to really go the long, long, slow way in dealing with death, denial, mortality and is very segmented by two images: snow slowly falling in a background and/or just black emptiness in its tale of people being affected by very close relationships, emotional loss and mortal loss. It too has some good moments, but despite good acting and cast like the other film, it gets too lost and almost becomes too choppy for its own good. If it is trying to make us feel a sense of death, angst or mortality, it has mixed results there too and is not as convincing in this matter as Bergman or Kubrick are. Still, like Roses, it is worth a look and the use of the widescreen scope frame only increases the isolationism here.

Fanny Ardant, Sabine Azema, Pierre Arditi and Andre Dussollier appear in both films, with Geraldine Chaplin and Vittorio Gassman also in Roses to push its comic side more, which they do.

Last but absolutely not least is James Ivory's The Remains Of The Day (1993), a film that manages to defy the expectations (i.e., stuff, slow-moving art house filmmaking that the Ismail Merchant/James Ivory team become know for when active) of the past Merchant/Ivory releases and is easily their masterpiece. Anthony Hopkins gives one of the greatest performances of his career, as well as of all time, as the highly efficient, highly professional butler Mr. Stevens. Working for Lord Darlington (James Fox) as his father had, he was born into this life, servitude and social-economic situation and stuck with it to a fault instead of striking out on his own for whatever reasons.

His father (the great Peter Vaughan) is still there, but his health is starting to slowly fail, but that is the least of Stevens' problems. Darlington is entertaining the Nazis in the early years of Hitler's regime thinking it will be like WWI where it will be a gentlemen's war where everything can be reasoned out. Darlington is wealthy, has a massive mansion and an art collection among other things the Nazis secretly want. Darlington's British friend/enablers even know of concentration camps and The Holocaust (as well as many of its causes) constantly haunt and inform the film throughout, but Stevens is unable to say or do anything to stop what will be one of the worst mistakes England ever made. On top of that, needing new help in the face of all this, a new employee is hired (Emma Thompson so brilliant that I still go into shock to see her in action, especially opposite Hopkins) who not only disrupts Stevens' sense of order with her humanity, sense of justice and humanity, but because he is falling in love with her and hides behind the many layers of denial that has made his whole life possible.

But the film does not stop there. Scenes minus Hopkins and Thompson are just as powerful, do not give us any breathers and show us more of what is going on from Nazis secretly planning to dupe the UK in there stylized visit, to several strong subplots including Christopher Reeve as the American businessman who I part of the Darlington/UK/Nazi meeting calling the Nazis out for what they really turn out to be without even he himself realizing how bad it will get. His get-up-and-go American common sense in that one scene why the United States will succeed the UK as the new world power.

Add amazing acting turns by Hugh Grant, Ben Chaplin, Michael Lonsdale, Brigitte Kahn, Lena Hedley, Tim Pigott-Smith, Peter Eyre, Patrick Godfrey, Peter Halliday and a cast that is so incredible that they help make this one of the greatest British films of all time alone, it is an all-time classic that only becomes more relevant with age and and is an all-time must see masterwork everyone serious about film needs to have on their list.

The two classics here are from great new 4K upgrade transfers, with the 1080p 1.66 X 1 black & white, digital High Definition image on Amour meticulously restored and cleaned up without hardly any compromise and having superior Video Black and grey scale. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Day comes from prime Super 35mm elements lensed by Director of Photography Tony Pierce-Roberts, B.S.C. For 70mm blow-up presentation. Merchant/Ivory films are known for looking good, but they really topped themselves here in the best looking film their collaborations ever produced and color range impresses. Rarely can you tell the age of the materials used, so the presentations of both are not only far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on video, they are like high quality film prints and serious Ultra HD Blu-ray candidates.

That leaves the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Roses (by DP Bruno Nuytten of Godard's Detective, Brubaker, Jean de Florette & Manon Of The Spring) and 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Death (by legendary Sasha Vierny in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision) restored, but not to the same extent, including some print damage and spots of dirt that remain. However, the color is often good, consistent and the nuances intended can finally be seen. We still get some great shots, but I cannot lie about the work some parts of the materials still need.

All the films here, save Remains, are theatrical mono releases with Amour in really nice and clean PCM 1.0 Mono and the later Resnais films in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes that are not as good, but fine for their age. Remains was originally designed as a 5.1 film and was issued digitally as such in Dolby Digital and even better Sony Dynamic Digital Sound, plus 70mm 6-track Magnetic stereo prints (apparently without any Dolby noise reduction). The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix here is an excellent presentation rendering all previous home video presentations obsolete and showing off how smart, clever and masterful this soundtrack really is. Richard Robbins' score is a big plus too.

Extras for all releases include illustrated booklets on each respective film including informative text with Amour adding a Kent Jones essay & vintage Resnais interview, while Day adds another solid Julie Kirgo essay and feature length audio commentary tracks, with Amour offering a brilliant track by the amazing Peter Cowie, Wade Major & Andy Klein offering good-enough commentaries on the other Resnais films and Day repeating the Ivory, Merchant & Thompson commentary from an earlier DVD that holds up very well. Amour also adds 1961 & 1980 on-camera Resnais interviews, 1959 & 2003 Riva interviews, a Tim Page interview about the film's music, author/Resnais scholar Francois Thomas on the film & man and 2013 featurette Revoir Hiroshima about how the film was saved & restored. Only new reissue trailers are added tot he Resnais double feature.

Day also offers an Isolated Music Score of Richard Robbins' superior score, the Original Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes with optional audio commentary on them and two Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes: The Filmmaker's Journey and Blind Loyalty, Hollow Honor: England's Fatal Flaw.

To order The Remains Of The Day limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and many more exclusives while supplies last at these links:




- Nicholas Sheffo


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