Symphony Of A Great City
(1927/Flicker Alley Blu-ray)/Boston:
(2017/First Run DVD)/Marx
(2013/First Run DVD)
B-/C+/C+/B-/C+ Sound: C+/C+/C+/B-/C+ Extras: C+/C/C-/B/C-
Main Programs: C+/B/C+/B/B
have been around for about as long as film itself and this
wide-ranging group covers over 90 years and counting of telling both
telling AND showing us what we should know...
begin with Carl Mayer's Berlin,
Symphony Of A Great City
(1927) that is still ever impressive and remarkable nearly a century
later, part of a great cycle of 'city films; that showed how great
these new cities with their opportunity, new industry, new technology
and hopes for a better future shine here as much as they would have
in any other country at the time. Few knew we were in between two
world wars, but this is about hope, good people and a new sense of
filming, cinematography (by the legendary Karl Freund!), angles,
editing (it is split into five sections) and other choices are top
rate, ahead of their time and especially since most of what you see
here was insanely annihilated because the Nazis took power and had to
be stopped, a rare portrait of the brief greatness that once was
there. Sure, Berlin managed to rebuild, but after watching this, you
can see some very special things, ideas and ways of life were lost
forever. What a fine gem!
(2017) is made to deal with the ugly, evil, horrific bombing that hit
the Boston Marathon a few years ago. It also inspired a solid
feature film, but the smart thing I liked about this compelling 114
minutes is it shows how the race has been going on for 120 years
(!!!) and how this also plays into the history and building of the
city as one of the greatest the world has ever known. To top this
off, it has excellent narration by one of the few men who would know
and understand this best and first hand: Matt Damon.
the end, it succeeds in making the big statement about not only
Boston, but all great cities that have and will sadly, soon
experience awful, nightmarish terrorist attacks as that is the era
with a lack of leadership we are in and how the cities (New York
being the big example from 9/11) are not just going to cease existing
because horrible people who have ceased to be human find ways to
justify such violence, none of which have, are or ever will be valid.
Very impressive, consider it a must see ASAP!
(2011) only lasts 52 minutes, but it is as good and to-the-point
explanation of what Karl Marx discussed, how it could return as a
stronger discourse and is not bad for that, but the references to The
films make this one a bit silly. The animation for this is also a
bit of a mixed bag, but I guess the idea is to introduce these ideas
to younger people, even though that actual capitalist blockbuster
movie trilogy is not necessarily compatible with the ideas here.
maxed-out on Marx (or is that Marxed-out?) and pretty much knew
everything here as what to expect, but some purists might object.
Either way, it is not so long and I liked the shorter extra better
(see more below).
Hurwitz and Barney Rosset's Strange
(1948) is a very significant film that was also ahead of its time,
showing the ugly side of the United States that still
remains and tends to go underground, then resurface as the face of
racial hate. It is also the hate that built this country on slavery
and how hate gets revived every few decades (starting 1915, 1980,
recently) because some people like holding onto power as cheaply as
possible. Despite African American men helping us to win WWII in the
U.S., they were still neglected, treated like garbage and won a
victory that changed nothing in the U.S. in its segregationist ways,
institutionalized racism and how the country was behind (always?) its
greatest promises. Worse, the murder and violence with no legal or
other remedy continued, Jim Crow laws, police brutality, the rise of
the KKK, wholesale murder, neglect, irresponsibility and other ugly
things the film is willing to go into.
footage of the WWII triumph with Holocaust footage and horrid living
conditions (et al, The Great Depression hurt persons of color even
worse than white persons, unless they were sympathizers to all
people) and it took WWII to help get the U.S. out of that awful
financial period that should have never happened to begin with. Of
course by the 1950s, the makers were witch hunt targets and like Salt
Of The Earth
(1954, reviewed elsewhere on this site), the film was a financial
failure and was almost lost.
this priceless, honest document about the dark underside of the U.S.
survived and has been restored by several parties, including
Milestone Video, releasing this landmark work on Blu-ray that should
be required viewing for all history classes. Its reissue in late
2018 could not have been better timed!
Paul Goldsmith's TVTV:
(2013) tells us of another important independent-minded TV troop that
innovated the medium, but is less know than cutting-edge comedy teams
from the time (though Bill Murray and Harold Ramis were briefly part
of this, as well as John Belushi showing up, thus alumni from
were not far from all this) and like original Punk Rockers and access
cable groups, found the idea of using increasingly cheaper (relative
to the behemoth videotape cameras with 2-inch videotape the big three
networks, PBS and local TV stations eventually took on as successors
to 16mm film) more than serviceable.
of the early work is in black and white like the portable Sony
cameras that had to be plugged into a separate reel-to-reel videotape
unit and had distortion like nothing since the early kinescope days
of live TV, but TVTV started at the 1968 political conventions and
they already had an effect when they got anti-war protesters into the
Republican show not knowing Ron Kovic (later played by Tom Cruise in
Oliver Stone's Born
On The Fourth Of July)
in what landed up being a big fight and shouting match.
would flow up by covering several other key events and cover them in
a way that was ahead of what we were seeing on TV, including the
Oscars (1976 for 1975 films) and a Super Bowl (The Steelers
clobbering the Cowboys in what would be a long-term rivalry) and more
that I do not want to ruin. The way they collapsed is that they got
commercial, tried comedy, left the documentary work they thrived in
and though the documentary does not say this, got tricked by NBC into
putting themselves into a cover and self-destructing. What a loss,
but was it a political and financial hit job? That's for another
way, this crew was way ahead of their time and though you may not
have ever heard of their names before, they deserve a huge debt of
gratitude for what they did and it is nice they are finally getting
some credit for it. See this one soon too!
1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image
transfers on Berlin
are all shot on 35mm film (flammable nitrate for that matter!), and
though they can show the age of the materials used, they look better
than the three later productions despite some minor damage and
issues. And this is not just because they are the two Blu-rays here.
That leaves the
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the three DVDs (Boston,
with a mix of film and videotape (digital & analog, plus some HD)
all well edited and showcasing their stories and ideas clearly.
However, you do get some videotape flaws including video noise, video
banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color
and tape damage that are unavoidable.
for sound, both Blu-rays offer PCM 2.0 Mono that is just fine for
their age (Berlin
with more recently recorded music) and the three DVDs settle for
lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. They are about as good as you
can expect with the multiple sources involved (save Berlin
music score for its great silent footage).
are included on all releases except TVTV,
having a feature length audio commentary track by filmmaker Alex
has a piece about its music score and its world premiere screening on
adds the great animated full-color short cartoon by Ruiz called Marx
adds the most extras, including...
Hurwitz's stunning 1964 epilogue to Strange
celebrating Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.
Hurwitz speaking about Strange
courtesy of Ingela Romare, from her 1992 film, On
Time, Art, Love, and Trees: A Meeting with Leo T. Hurwitz.
Rosset speaking about Strange
courtesy of CUNY TV City Cinematheque and interviewer Jerry Carlson.
six amazing films from Hurwitz's years as a member of the Worker's
Film and Photo League and Nykino, Courtesy of the Museum of Modern
Hunger March 1931
(starring Elia Kazan!)