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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Art > Artist > Painting > Advertising > Politics > Counterculture > History > Film > Art Bastard (2015/Concannon Blu-ray)/A Boatload Of Wild Irishmen: The Life Of Robert Flaherty (2011/Icarus DVD)/One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film (2015/Warner Archi

Art Bastard (2015/Concannon Blu-ray)/A Boatload Of Wild Irishmen: The Life Of Robert Flaherty (2011/Icarus DVD)/One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film (2015/Warner Archive DVD)/To Tell The Truth: Working For Change/Strategy Of Truth (2012/Icarus DVD)/The Witness (2016/Kitty Genovese/FilmRise Blu-ray)



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



PLEASE NOTE: The Witness Blu-ray is now only available online and can be ordered from our friends at Movie Zyng via the order button atop this review or on top of our right hand sidebar, while the Bogdanovich DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.


Now for another fine set of documentary releases you should definitely know about...



Victor Kanfsky's Art Bastard (2015) has claimed to be (and reviewed as) the film about the most successful artist you have never heard of and that is correct. Robert Cenedella is a painter, et al, who has always had a strong point of view, has been an artist since at least the 1950s, was there even sending up Warhol and Pop Art (quitting so he was not part of another variant of it) as well as being involved with innovate ad campaigns and much more. If you never heard of him, you have likely seen his work over the years and even other art influenced by him.


Besides an uncanny knack for visuals, his politics and humor are priceless, he never sold out, he is as for real as Banksy and still as bold and cutting edge as anyone out there. This remarkable program manages to cover his life with great interviews, stock footage and the art itself, plus the great stories are a big plus along with boldly still protesting against bad things including the over-commodification of the art world itself. This program could not have arrived at a more opportune or important time.


He is a true American Original with a story to tell and never holds back on anything, being as authentic and even as personable as one can get. This is ever rare in any of the arts and though the title might be overkill, it reflects how badly he has been treated by an establishment (particularly since the 1980s) that wants to pick and choose who belongs in the art establishment versus how anyone could be part of it back in the 1950s - 1970s when it was a more for real world in general. This is worth going out of your way for, especially in the limited edition Blu-ray version available while supplies last.


Extras include a very well-illustrated 32-page booklet on the film including informative text and Cenedella's amazing art (our copy came with a signed piece by him, which we include as part of our high extras rating), while the Blu-ray adds Deleted Scenes, Extended Interviews, 2 mini-documentaries and a really nice Art Gallery that lets you get a closer look at his amazing work.



Next is a look at two great, yet underrated filmmakers. Mac Dara O Curraidhin's A Boatload Of Wild Irishmen: The Life Of Robert Flaherty (2011) makes the case that the man behind the surprise box office hit Nanook Of The North (1922) and one considered the inventor of what we now know as the documentary did not find worldwide fame as a fluke. Instead, he was a serious, for real filmmaker with real talent, even an auteur and one with a special talent that was woefully under-recognized in his time.


His knack for capturing nature and the real world went beyond genre, beyond formula and we see clips of all of it, further backing up and proving the point. Nanook is in all serious film classes worldwide, but this proves that does not go far enough. With classic stills, film clips and new interviews, et al, this well done 84 minutes-long work gets better and better as you watch and restores Flaherty to his higher rightful place in cinema history. It could have gone on longer as far as I was concerned, but we get a gem of a piece here and you should go out of your way to see it.


Extras include a 16-page illustrated booklet on the films including informative text, while the DVD adds Ricky Leacock's Final Filmed Interview, J.C. Boudreaux (the child actor in Flaherty's film Louisiana Story) interviewed recently and an additional set of interviews.



Bill Tech's One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film (2015) is a great documentary about one of the greatest and now most underrated filmmakers in Hollywood history. Now written off as a film scholar, fan and historian who can act at times (The Sopranos) and had some 'big hits' a 'while ago' (were talking blockbusters like What's Up Doc?, surprise hits like Paper Moon and a brilliant classic like The Last Picture Show) unfairly, the truth is Bogdanovich can still make great films (like the highly underrated Cat's Meow) when he has the chance and that some of his other films have been dismissed too quickly.


While telling us the story of his life, his loves (Cybill Shepherd, then Dorothy Stratten, who was horrifically killed as her star was rising) and how the loss of the latter devastated him, yet he remained a serious artist, great man and handled it as best he could, we also see after the studios backed him strongly when he had his run of critical and commercial hits, the critics then turned on him and he struggled (including against a sort of purging of serious talent of his by the 1980s, but that's a separate essay) to stay on track without the tragedy of Miss Stratten's murder.


Before that happened, she managed to star in Bogdanovich's little-seen film They All Laughed, which was bought back by him when the distributing studio released it in a way he was not happy with. His redistribution was too ahead of its time, but it is supposed to be a good film. From what we see of it, it looks pretty good, but the pone question that the film does not pick up on is why it has not received a big rerelease (legalities and money notwithstanding) since the male lead is John Ritter (Three's Company) who died too young and has a big fan following. You'd think that would make this enough of a curio for it to return just on his talents alone, plus, the film has a solid cast.


Right now, this is only available on DVD via Warner Archive, but makes for a great portrait of a major talent who made American films fun and great in the 1970s, whose influence is still with us and managed to endure against the impossible. It is also a great look at the art of filmmaking and the industry then and now, so any serious film fan should go way out of their way to catch this one.


There are sadly no extras.



To Tell The Truth (2012) features two films dealing with news, information, propaganda and documentary filmmaking: Calvin Skaggs' Working For Change and David Van Taylor's Strategy Of Truth, released the same year. The purpose is to explore how films (and now all media) communicate ideas, their credibility and their effect during The Great Depression and WWII respectably. Obviously, they make a good match being about eras that are back to back, though intersecting might be more accurate. They are well done, smart and worth your time, but I had just wished they were both longer. They leave more to say and deal with, but the point is to lay a basic groundwork for a basic discourse in each respective case and in that, they succeed well. This is a 2-DVD set and worth your time. If your not certain, then know that extras include a big section of interviews on the documentaries and issues they present, plus we get two bonus films from WWII: John Huston's Let There Be Light and The Autobiography Of A 'Jeep' by Irving Lerner & Joseph Krumgold.



Finally we have James Solomon's very challenging The Witness (2016) that decides to return to investigate one of the most painful murders of the last century, the brutal killing of Kitty Genovese in New York City, made worse by the sense that a few dozen people 'saw' it and did nothing about it. Her brother is the investigator, with an amazing story of his own, influenced by the loss of his mother and rightly anting answers no one seems to have asked or investigated deeply enough.


The myth of all these people watching and doing nothing by an 'expert' is soon dispelled (most people only heard what was going on, including elderly people who could not do much about it or did not feel safe trying; some were Holocaust survivors) and the more he looks into things, the more evidence (some shocking) that turns up. This includes the truth about the killer and those modern enablers trying to deny he killed anyone despite being a repeat offender.


At 90 minutes, it is very strong, intense and whether you know the case or not, it is well spelled out in how it was originally presented to the public and now, what really happened., This really needs to be seen in schools all over the world, criminal law, legal and otherwise. Why the press has not picked this one up more to show how inaccurate they were for half of a century is unfortunate, but I hope audiences catch up with it because it is a very key work that stayed with me for days.


Extras include Additional Scenes, a Post Screening Q&A segment, Bill Genovese Interview and a ton of archival materials never before scene including Photos, Crime Scene Footage, Rare Documents from the Case like Trial Transcripts, Detective Reports and more. Impressive!




The 1080p 1.78 X 1 High Definition image transfers on Art and Witness have their share of old, rough stock footage and even some with motion blur, but they are the best performers here as expected and the newer footage looks the best (though Art has some other motion blur issues, but they are tolerable). The old video on all five releases have analog videotape flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color where applicable, faded color and tape damage. That and some old flaws in their film footage affect the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image Wild and Truth more than I would have liked, but they are still very watchable, though Day (with the same video presentation) is the better performer with better film and video clips, plus nicely shot new footage.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 on Art is the only lossless mix here, well mixed and presented, but is too quiet and refined some times and a little rough (location audio issues) in others, so the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Witness comes closer to sounding as good, though I wished this were lossless so we could hear a few parts better. It is on par with the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Day and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Wild, but the same type of 2.0 Stereo on the Truth set is a little lower in volume transfer than I would have liked. Be careful of volume witching and high levels in most of these releases.



To order the Warner Archive Bogdanovich DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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