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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Politics > Government > Betrayal > Murder > Argentina > WWI > French > Comedy > Death > Sweden > Filmmak > Eva Doesn't Sleep (2015/Film Movement DVD)/J'Accuse (1938/Olive Blu-ray)/A Man Called Ove (2015/Music Box DVD)/Mia Madre (2015/Music Box DVD)/Neither Heaven Nor Earth (2015/Film Movement DVD)/Pierrot

Eva Doesn't Sleep (2015/Film Movement DVD)/J'Accuse (1938/Olive Blu-ray)/A Man Called Ove (2015/Music Box DVD)/Mia Madre (2015/Music Box DVD)/Neither Heaven Nor Earth (2015/Film Movement DVD)/Pierrot Le Fou (1965/Umbrella PAL Import DVD)/Private Vices, Public Virtues (1976/Mondo Macabro Blu-ray)



Picture: C/B-/C+/C+/C/C+/B Sound: C+/Vices: B- Extras: D/D/C/C+/C+/D/C+ Films: C+/B/C+/B-/C+/B/C+



PLEASE NOTE: The Pierrot Le Fou Import DVD is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can only play on Blu-ray players that can handle the PAL DVD and can be ordered from the link below.



Here's a new group of foreign films, including three past films of note, for you to know about....



Pablo Aguero's Eva Doesn't Sleep (2015) is an ambitious work that combines archive footage of Eva Peron's rise, sudden death and enduring legacy with a portrait of Argentine politics that is almost darkly amusing. The approach is repetitive and eventually does not hold up to even 86 minutes of this film, but is interesting and effective enough to give it a look.


The film start out with dark images and a man (Gael Garcia Bernal) complaining angrily, hatefully of some evil woman who has ruined his life and adult political intents. He turns out to be a solider and it is Eva Peron he complains about. Even dead, she is still a thorn in his side and that of his Right-wing/militarist work/life and that sets the tone for how her legacy created a permanent left-of-center discourse in the country (the musical Evita does not even skip this) that always keeps coming back to haunt it, foil the other side's political domination and has become a permanent discourse there, even if some could argue that she was not as far Left as many believe.


It does not matter. It is the memory, life and what could have been if she did not die so early that not only makes her a martyr for those with limited wealth and power, but (not unlike the Kennedy legacy in the U.S.), a permanent (early?) peak of this left-ness. I just wish there was variation at the first and/or second thirds of the film because I bet there is more to show and say. Otherwise, I like its ambitions.


There are sadly no extras.



Abel Gance's J'Accuse (1938) is the great French director's dark examination of the First World War, its consequences and even who is to blame for such mass murder. Released as 'the war to end all wars' was turning out to be a fraud as WWII was around the corner, Gance rightly was trying to prevent the next international disaster and even if the film did not stop WWII or war in general, it has very powerful, graphic, haunting and influential things to say about the war that are as relevant today as they were nearly 80 years ago.


Still one of the most important war film ever made, it is one of the few WWI film that still stand out (like Kubrick's Paths Of Glory, Renoir's Grande illusion or Milestone's All Quiet On The Western Front) that deal with the conflict so well. We see the people who fought, suffered, were betrayed, who lived, died, barely lived and much more as Gance is determined to focus on the human factor involved. That makes it the best kind of anti-war film, but the mortality has not been dimmed by age a bit.


This is a remake of Gance's own 1919 silent film and it has a freshness that is remarkable. Because WWI is on the brink of being too forgotten like the Korean War, et al, this Blu-ray release is an important one. One of the best releases on this list, it makes me want to see the 1919 version.


There are sadly no extras, though I should make an odd note that WWI will get a new round of curiosity soon as the upcoming Wonder Woman film is set during WWI instead of WWII, when the character debuted. Hope that is some kind of gateway for viewers to want to see the great WWI films like this.



Hannes Holm's A Man Called Ove (2015) is a well-acted, well cast Swedish dark comedy (based on the hit Fredrik Backman book) about an older man (Rolf Lassgard in the title role of Ove) who has little to live for and is sick of the 'happy' community he lives in, especially when agism has his company drop him. That is only the beginning of the injustices against him, we learn many more in several flashback sequences, though I did not buy some as they were eventually too predictable and some seems legally implausible. That would give away too much, so that's for another time and place.


He's about to kill himself in his home by hanging when he keeps getting interrupted by things like happy new neighbors moving in, but he is far from happy and being the local fix-it guy, keeps getting asked for all kinds of other help when he ironically cannot help himself. The results of this still-likable 116-minutes romp is very uneven, which ironically made it more commercially viable in a watered-down market, but I was also disappointed it did not hold together better.


Extras include a Director/Cast Q&A after a screening of the film at Scandinavia House NYC, Make-up Gallery, Make-Up Time Lapse, Original Theatrical Trailer and The Ove In All Of Us making of featurette.



Nanni Moretti's Mia Madre (2015) is the best of the new releases with Margherita Buy as a film director having personal strife with her beloved mother sick in bed while she is trying to complete a political drama (its labor versus a corporation as the film opens with a massive protest fight that turns out to be her film) that also recruits a name U.S. actor (John Turturro in a hilarious turn that helps make the film better) who is in decline, stuck on himself and cannot get into character no matter what. He brags about working for Kubrick, but never names the film and she has to put up with this.


I also enjoyed the side plot of her simply trying to make the film and the dramatic moments do work, even though the comedy can be very funny. Moretti (who also plays a role in the film) is able to juggle all very well. Despite some flaws, I was glad I saw it.


Extras include an On Set Set featurette, Deleted Scenes, Behind The Scenes with John Turturro as Barry Huggins and ''The Torture Of An Actor'' outtakes.



Clement Cogitore's Neither Heaven Nor Earth (2015) is the other French war drama on the list, this time with French Soldier dealing with current battles and terrorism in the Middle East. Jeremie Renier play the Army Captain stuck between Afghanistan, Pakistan and whether the people they are trying to help include some trying to kill them. Instead of shades of The Battle Of Algiers or even J'Accuse, it plays more like a French version of this kind of film we have seen too often out of Hollywood and the U.S., though it is never totally 'war porn' or a war film pretending to be a drama when it is trying to brainwash its audience that war is natural and we should accept it all the time.


It should also be said that this adds little visually or narratively to these stories as genre or history, so despite some interesting moments, the film did not stay with me and seemed a bit repetitive.


Extras include a Director's feature length audio commentary track and bonus short film Among Us.



Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot Le Fou (1965) is the great French New Wave director's amusing, work during his peak run about the married title character (Jean-Paul Belmondo) getting sick of his life, bored with its domesticity, feeling stuck, yet being interested in the family babysitter Marianne (Anna Karina), so they land up killing someone and going on the run. This is done tongue-in-cheek with many visual and linguistic subversions as Godard jumps into his world view, is again explicitly about his politics, is devilishly humorous about it all and the bring colors meant to express joy are another kind of trap (capitalist and as petty bourgeoise as domesticity; note the interplay of red and blue throughout) in a film with plenty of classic Godard moments.


My curiosity with this new Umbrella Import DVD of the film was more concerned with the transfer than the film itself, though it is remarkably the first time we ever covered it. There have been several old versions that are obsolete on DVD, et al, a recent Studio Canal edition on Blu-ray and DVD that offered a flat, greenish transfer few liked and the Criterion Collection transfer the great Director of Photography Raoul Coutard supervised for the company that is now long out of print. So which print is here?


Remarkably, it is the Criterion/Coutard print with some variances we'll get into below in the technical section, but if you just want the film in a basic edition minus all the great Criterion extras, but with the transfer and proper colors Coutard wanted, now you can get it cheaper than the Criterion versions are going for. As of this posting, that was $70 - 90 a copy!


There are sadly no extras.



Finally we have Miklos Jancso's Private Vices, Public Virtues (1976), a very sexually explicit version of the ''Mayerling Incident'' where the rich and powerful are playing along with free sex, wacky situations, parties and more that quickly go from fun to outrageous and the sex is all over the place as far as sexuality goes. Right wing militarism is not far away in ending the party soon. The result is a mix of memorable, odd and not-as-effective-as-they-think scenes that caused outrage when the film was released.


Those who were not offended by the sexuality were offended by the lack of substance or lack of a serious new point at the end of the film, especially because Jancso (as so well explained in the extras) was considered such a big, major international filmmaker at the time. This went over so badly and split up audiences all over that it hurt his reputation beyond the film itself. The actors are not bad either, nor is the production design, costumes or period feel.


The other issue is that Jancso is entering territory that is more the realm of Pasolini, Bunuel, De Sica, Bertolucci and even Fellini, so by not adding anything new to those Auteur's world visions in the same territory, the wrath he felt was quick. Fortunately, Mondo Macabro has now issued the uncut version of the film on Blu-ray and you can judge for yourself. Just expect some bizarre moments and situations you won't find in most films.


Extras include three separate on-camera interviews with Writer Giovanna Gagliardo, Actress Pamela Villoresi & Film Historian Michael Brooke, plus an Original Theatrical Trailer.



The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on J'Accuse can show the age of the materials used of course, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and though I wonder if wetgating the copy could have banished more scratches, this plays very well and I have never seen it look so good.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Vices can show the age of the materials used as well, but not as much with great color that is true and naturalistic, in keeping with the way the film should look. That makes it the visual champ on the list, despite the use of soft light and fusion at times.


In the DVD department, the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Eva and anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Earth can show some style, but are a little softer than the rest of the releases here, so they tie for last place in playback performance. They were just watchable, but expect both to be slightly off. The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Ove is just clear enough not to tie for last place with them, yet some shots are not as good as others.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Mia is the best of the new theatrical releases here with good color, depth and detail for the format, enough that I would like to see this one on Blu-ray.


That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Fou is from the original Techniscope (though it was an EastmanColor and not Technicolor release) 35mm negative (and optical mono soundmaster) that Coutard supervised. As compared to the Criterion DVD, this has some aliasing errors, shadow detail issues, less fine detail and less depth, but better color, which makes since as PAL tends to have better color range than NTSC DVDs. However, until it is reissued on a new Blu-ray, skipping Studio Canal's odd Blu-ray version, the Criterion Blu-ray is the best edition. This new DVD will do until then for those who want it cheap and/or in print.



As for sound, all the DVDs have equally good lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mixes, but Fou has a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that benefits from the restoration and can compete with the newer mixes, oddly. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on J'Accuse is the oldest soundtrack here and though efforts were made to clean it up, it cannot hide its age and sonic limits, or pass up the sonic qualities of the DVDs.


Thus, the sonic winner here is actually the Italian PCM 2.0 Mono on Vices, which simply sounds cleaner, better, warmer and more consistent than the rest. The English option does not sound as good, but its here for those who cannot handle subtitles. None of the releases are sonic wonders, but perform about as well as can be expected.



To order the Pierrot Le Fou Umbrella import DVD, go to this link for it and other hard to find releases at:


http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/



- Nicholas Sheffo


Marketplace

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