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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Politics > Satire > Silent Cinema > Austria > Melodrama > Literature > Abuse > Korea > Relati > City Without Jews (1924/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)/Clara's Heart (1988*)/Dodsworth (1936/Samuel Goldwyn/*both Warner Archive)/House Of Hummingbird (2018/Well Go Blu-ray)/Marriage Story (2019/Netflix

City Without Jews (1924/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)/Clara's Heart (1988*)/Dodsworth (1936/Samuel Goldwyn/*both Warner Archive)/House Of Hummingbird (2018/Well Go Blu-ray)/Marriage Story (2019/Netflix/Criterion Blu-ray)/The Sin Of Nora Moran (1933/Film Detective Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Sin Of Nora Moran Blu-ray is limited to 1,500 copies, while Clara's Heart and Dodsworth Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here are a new set of drama releases, half of which are must-see classics, two of those nearly lost forever...

H.K. Breslauer's The City Without Jews (1924) is based on the book by Hugo Bettauer, a priceless silent film classic made in Austria (one of the most important films their cinema will EVER make) about a city that decides to ban Jews form their society, only to see it spectacularly and financially backfire. Done with some lite comedy and great energy, the film was lost until very recently, it was a few years ahead of the actual thing happening only a few years later and as we all know, in the ugliest, most vulgar, bloodies, most violent way. Bettauer was way ahead of his time on the subjects of civil rights, freedom and sustainable community, including advocation for a woman's right to have abortions and a fair society. A man who was an early member of the Nazi Party killed him not long after this film was released.

Yet the film makes its points against greed and hate well, not necessarily being any kind of Marxist diatribe either, just dealing with the real politik of the situation and why it should never happen (some of this is shockingly prophetic), even though it happened and especially recently, keeps happening. Turns out people in Austria (et al) were offended by the film's message of hope, which sadly led to WWII, the Holocaust and other permanent scars on our world. With a fine cast, some fine editing, some well-timed humor, solid dramatic moments, montages that work and smart dialogue (for a silent film), the film was way ahead of its time and nearly a century later, STILL is. It proves the heart and soul was always out there to be against the horrors of war, hate and genocide, but yet, people somehow still keep capitulating to such garbage and you can see the latest results as this posts. Definitely see this film!!!

Extras (as the press release finely details too) include a Collector's Edition Souvenir Booklet - Limited edition booklet with new essays by Ernst Kieninger, Armin Loacker, and Cynthia Walk on the film's history and significance, as well as articles on the comprehensive reconstruction and restoration process by Anna Dobringer and Fumiko Tsuneishi; and an introduction to the edition's unique bonus features by Margrit Frolich, while the disc adds Victims of Hatred (Opfer des Hasses) (1923) - A semi-documentary feature additionally restored by Filmarchiv Austria about the Jewish refugees who fled pogroms in Russia, produced by the Judisches Hilfswerk - the Jewish Relief Organization in Vienna. Music composed and performed by Donald Sosin. ONLY IN THIS EDITION!, A Conversation with Dr. Nikolaus Wostry, Filmarchiv Austria (2019) - Dr. Margrit Frolich moderates an in-depth interview with Dr. Nikolaus Wostry, managing director and head of film collections at Filmarchiv Austria, discussing the challenging history of the film and its legacy in the Republic of Austria today. ONLY IN THIS EDITION!, Saving ''Die Stadt ohne Juden'' (2016) - Filmarchiv Austria's crowdfunding campaign video for the digital scanning of The City without Jews (Die Stadt ohne Juden), an integral step in the process of rescuing and preserving this landmark of Austrian silent cinema. ONLY IN THIS EDITION! and ''The City without...Jews, Muslims, Refugees, Foreigners''... The chilling images featured in this slide show of the 2018 exhibition at METRI Kinokulturhaus document both the historical context of the film and its truly expansive contemporary relevance. ONLY IN THIS EDITION!

Robert Mulligan's Clara's Heart (1988) is the kind of melodrama Hollywood used to make and stopped trying in recent years, unless it was in a manipulative form, mainly soulless. On the other hand, the 1980s saw way too many 'feel good' films that tried to 'warm your heart' and that helped kill the more ambitious and hopeful attempts like this one. Goldberg was moving between films like this and broad comedies hoping to duplicate Eddie Murphy's success, though she could match him for that kind of funny work, those films did not work and hurt her commercially until her comeback with Ghost a few years later.

Here, she is very convincing as a wise Jamaican woman who can see foolishness around her, but tolerates it where necessary, which helps when she needs to help a family slowly breaking apart. She is hired by one such couple (Kathleen Quinlan, Michael Ontkean) who needs help with their housekeeping and their son. Though the film was not a big hit as was hoped, the film introduced one of the best and most successful actors of his generation, Neil Patrick Harris, soon to be a TV, Broadway and movie star, as well as icon. He is 5-years-old here.

The cast has chemistry and I like the performances, as well as the relationship between Clara and Harris' slightly precocious David. He never totally becomes the young know-it-all way too many 1980s sitcoms were annoying us with and though some of this is obvious and predictable, it still has some real moments that work that we rarely see at any time in most such films. However, the film and its screenplay (despite some good directing) cannon break free and somehow go further and find the next level (dealing with racism more might have been an option, but there are other dynamics one could imagine) so the film is trying to play it safe or just stick to what it was doing. Still, it is at least a curio worth a look if you have not seen it for what does work with a group of professionals making a film for mature, intelligent people, which seems like more of an achievement of late.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

William Wyler's Dodsworth (1936) is based on the Sinclair Lewis novel about a wealthy industrialist and car manufacturer (Walter Huston) who sells his successful auto company, making him even wealthier. Thus, he and his wife (Ruth Chatterson) go take a trip to Europe, but the marriage is unhappy and he now having more time on his hands as it may be too late to fix what has suffered while he became such a success, though she obviously helped in some ways.

They both start looking for new people to be with, not necessarily telling each other about it, with some interesting results. Mary Astor plays the woman he becomes interested in and with a supporting cast that includes no less than Paul Lukas and David Niven, you can see why this is a true classic and one of the early films that put independent producer/filmmaker Samuel Goldwyn on the map. A classy, remarkable work in its time, very little about it has dated and most of the film still works very clearly.

It can also rightly claim to be an early, honest look at marriage in sound cinema, so consider it a must-see, especially now that it has been so well restored.

The only extra is a Lux Radio Theater radio drama version of the film from April 1937 in lossless DTS sound with Walter Huston is the only extra and runs nearly an hour.

Eun-hee (Ji-hu Park) is your typical 14-year-old-girl who want to just be a girl, like all the other girls to have fun, enjoy life and to be herself, but never mind how she is ignored by her parents or abused by her brother and how the rest of the world expects her to be someone she is not. As she lives day by day she searches for a bit of joy, friends and someone to look up to, looking for some sweetness in life, but it's hard to find sweetness when everything is bitter or a facade in Bora Kim's House Of Hummingbird (2018).

Set in 1994 Seoul, Korea, Eun-hee is a girl who lives in Korean, she studies hard and works hard, following the rules, supports her family, but because she IS a girl she is ignored by her parents because they think her brother (a male) is more important than a girl. Even though she studies harder and gets better grades, her brother secretly beats her for making him look bad and her parents continues to ask her to support him. And while she works hard at the family store, her father is hardly there and spends their hard-earned money having affairs. Her mother is worn by life and broken by her loveless marriage.

Meanwhile, school, society and teachers expect her to be a model student and the future of Korea, they teach her banning fun and free thought and that the younger generations (and particularly females) has to make 'sacrifices' while the older generations make none, but the truth is, girls are taught and raised to be 'good' and obedient 'wives' and treated as less than furniture and to be used and beaten and to be taken in silence. The only person Eun-hee is able to respect and look up to is her private tutor who tells her that society isn't fair, but whatever she does is her own achievement and that anyone who hurts her she had the right to fight back. Eun-hee discovers she has cancer lump growing behind her ear, her life is like the cancer, unexpected and unfair and yet through it all the one thing that she does learn, the more bitterness you have in life the sweeter is the sweetness when you find it.

This movie is about a girl's life and gives insight to the Korean culture and society. While many things you can relate to the characters life, there are many that are more alien like gender inequality, unfairness in a society that teaches girls to sacrifice and martyrdom in silence. Extras include trailers.

Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story (2019) is one of the ambitious director's most successful films of many that were never about selling junk or being blatantly commercial boredom. In this sometimes surprising post-modern look at marriage, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play a loving couple in trouble with a son and is a character examination of them, their marriage, their friends, their socio-economic situation and even the current world we live in (pandemic notwithstanding).

The actors are fine and most of this is believable and the new approach does yield some honest, fine moments, but there is also humor and great pain here, sometimes at the same time. There are also a few moments that do not work and go overboard, affecting the flow of the film, but otherwise, it is still one of the best films of 2019 and once again proves that both leads are extremely formidable talents despite the massive commercial success both have rightly experienced. This has a great supporting cast too.

Cheers to the unlikely risk-taking support of Netflix, which only until recently seemed to only be about handling others works. Now that they have put their money where the art is, the results have been surprisingly strong and we look forward to seeing what they back next. Glad they are doing their disc releases with no less than Criterion.

Extras include (extrapolation from the press release) a high quality paper foldout with tech information and notes on the film by novelist Linn Ullmann, while the disc adds a new interview with Baumbach, The Players, a new program featuring interviews with actors Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty, and Ray Liotta The Filmmakers, a new program about the production of the film, featuring interviews with Baumbach, editor Jennifer Lame, production designer Jade Healy, costume designer Mark Bridges, and producer David Heyman, The Making of "Marriage Story," a new program featuring behind-the-scenes footage, new interviews with composer Randy Newman and Baumbach about the film's score, a new program featuring Baumbach walking the viewer through a key location from the film and Original Theatrical Trailers.

Finally, we have Phil Goldstone's The Sin Of Nora Moran (1933) saved from being a lost orphan film, a low-budget melodrama gem with more music and visual form than music than most early Soundies where the title character (Zita Johann) is on death row. We learn (throughout its rich 65 minutes) that she is innocent, about to get the chair for murder and her life from childhood to showbiz to the dilemma she faces now. Especially with its low budget, it is impressive filmmaking in any era.

I liked the optical effects and montage work, while the acting style may throw some off, it plays like a darker version of all versions of A Star Is Born, as well as a few other backstage dramas and musicals. This is not a musical, though it again knows what to do with music. I also like the cinematography in general and it employs a few other tricks I will not go into, but it is not a film of a bunch of tricks. Instead it is trying to tell this sad story in a way that is making socially relevant points and that is ultimately the reason to see it. Serious film fans and especially filmmakers need to put this one on their list.

Extras include (as the press release goes into as well) an exclusive illustrated booklet on the film with commentary on the production of and response to the film, while the disc adds the featurette The Mysterious Life Of Zita Johann, narrated by film historian and producer Samuel M. Sherman, an original documentary where Johann's illustrious career takes center stage from Daniel Griffith at Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. Know too the original poster (as shown on the Blu-ray cases cover) is considered a classic in itself.

Now for playback performance. Three of the films are here in 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers and look remarkable. Of course, they can show the age of the materials used, but City (a remarkable restoration saving a long long, likely censored film) and Sin (a 4K scan from the remarkably surviving 35mm original camera negative, with only a few frames jumping in the beginning and end) are excellent presentations with solid Video Black, fine gray scales, impressive depth and detail (especially for their age) even have a few demo shots and you would never know either orphan film was ever in jeopardy. Dodsworth was always part of the Samuel Goldwyn catalog and has had fairly good releases before, but this new transfer is from a 2019 restoration that shows how any film as old as these needs work now, no matter who owns it, how it was stored or if it even is part of a known collection.

All offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless mixes, but City has a new music score as it is a silent film and we guess the older music was lost or incomplete if any such recordings survive, so it is in Stereo, albeit labeled 'German' despite no language to be heard anywhere on the soundtrack. The DVD of City in 1.33 X 1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is fine for the format, but cannot match how impressive the Blu-ray is. That leaves the other two theatrical monophonic sound films in 2.0 Mono, sounding good and likely as good as they ever will.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Heart can show the age of the materials used in small spots, but I have not seen the film look better and it was lensed by the legendary Director of Photography (and sometimes director himself) Freddie Francis, so this is a top-rate looking film. The sound shows its age a little more, presented here in a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix from its original analog, Dolby System, vintage A-type noise reduction theatrical release. Thus, it is the kind of film you play in Pro Logic or one of its updated variants. The film has music, but is often dialogue-based.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on House is the only HD shoot here and looks very fine, clean, clear and consistent in detail, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless sound mix is as clean, clear and has great fidelity. We do not know if this is a mixdown from a 12-track soundmaster or this is the soundmaster, but it is as modern as any of its kind.

Finally, the 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image on Marriage was shot entirely on Kodak Vision 3 35mm color camera negative photochemical film (200T and 500T), looking vivid, very detailed and having its share of demo shots. Editing might remind one of live TV of the 1950s, but color is good, though some of the greens are a little too much or off. Otherwise, well done. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is very well recorded and we do get music, but this is dialogue-based and sounds good.

To order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, Clara's Heart and Dodsworth, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and Ricky Chiang (House)


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