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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Sexuality > Documentary > Censorship > Oppression > Politics > Surrealism > France > Martial Arts > Sony Pictures Classics: 30th Anniversary Collection 4K Box Set (Call Me By Your Name (2017)/Celluloid Closet (1995)/City Of Lost Children (1995)/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)/Devil's Backbone

Sony Pictures Classics: 30th Anniversary Collection 4K Box Set (Call Me By Your Name (2017)/Celluloid Closet (1995)/City Of Lost Children (1995)/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)/Devil's Backbone (2000)/Orlando (1992)/Run Lola Run (1998)/SLC Punk (1999)/Still Alice (2014)/Synecdoche, New York (2008)/Volver (2006))

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ (Closet: B, Lola & Volver: A-) Sound: B/B-/B/B+/B/B-/B+/B-/B/B/B+ Extras: B/B/C/C/B/B/C+/B/C/C/C+ Films (see below):

In the early 1990s, one of the greatest mini-major studios ever, Orion Pictures was about to fold. Despite huge commercial and critical smash hits with Dances With Wolves and The Silence Of The Lambs, the studio had films that were only doing modest business, big budget films that disappointed (Great Balls Of Fire and the first sequels to Bill & Ted and Robocop) resulting in others that were barely released (the Car 54, Where Are You? revival) and a few gems that were delayed for too long to potentially reverse the companies fortunes (State Of Grace, Blue Sky) so they were gone. With this folding, their great subdivision, Orion Pictures Classics, was also gone. In their wisdom and smartest decisions they have made to date, Sony decided to pick up where Orion left off and Sony Pictures Classics has created a subdivision taking just as many risks and having the same highest quality cinema standards.

The new Sony Pictures Classics: 30th Anniversary 4K Box Set offers eleven of the hundreds of films they have released in this period and they are a solid sampling of the successes. We have reviewed almost all of them over the decades we've existed and the films (including links to our previous coverage where applicable) are:

Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name (2017) B-

Written by James Ivory (who won a writing Academy Award for this) stars a then-unknown Timothee Chalamet as Elio, now 17 years old and living with his family in Italy, in 1985, when his father has another scholar fly in from overseas to work on a cataloging art project with him, et al. The up and coming scholar turns out to be an American maned Oliver (Armie Hammer, a great actor now sadly sidelined by personal issues) who is happy to be there and can even speak a little Italian.

However, Elio becomes interested in him, and soon, vice versa. Because of the age difference, things do not happen immediately and Oliver, who turns out to be bi-sexual, rightly expects disaster if they should get involved. Then they actually fall in love.

Well, much was made of the film as being an honest portrayal of such a relationship and some still rightly brought up that Elio might not be quite of age, though legally speaking, that age oddly (and in some ways, oddly) varies from state to state in the U.S., for instance, but it is a factor to seriously consider. The leads are good here, as is the supporting cast and the locales are inarguable. There were just a few things about the relationship I did not totally buy (more exposition would have helped) and the ending and one particular revelation was so off, that it could have been a separate movie.

On this issue, Lolita comes to mind, with this film falling somewhere between the Kubrick version and more problematic Adrian Lyne remake (reviewed elsewhere on this site) in realism and consequences. In that, Oliver is not any kind of predator and the actors create some chemistry that makes this film work more than it might otherwise. It is worth a look for those interested.

Ron Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Celluloid Closet (1995) B+

This outstanding documentary about the oppression of homosexuality in cinema, especially with the start of the Hollywood Code in the mid-1930s is an amazing compilation of the crazy ways the subject was ignored, played as 'different' in the worst ways, or for comedy, or outright as a sickness or by making such persons evil killers or the like. 27 years later, some things have changed, but not by as much as they should have. Lily Tomlin is among the narrators or this must-see work for anyone serious about cinema, the arts, humanities or filmmaking.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's City Of Lost Children (1995) C

Jeunet is a good filmmaker, but not a great one and this film is very popular still and has a unique, almost autueristic style. However, it jumps the shark a few times due to repetition despite some solid production design and acting as our pair of leads (including the always reliable Ron Perlman) have to get into a boy's dream state to save him. Wild images include a dark Santa Claus, but it never added up for me any more than Delicatessen, Amelie (despite an appealing lead) or his original cut of Alien Resurrection. He just seems to get carried away with no point.

Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) C

Original 4K release


4K Steelbook Edition




Still not a big fan of the film and never will be, this is the best I have ever seen it to its credit, outside of 35mm film prints and I will not say it looks bad, plus better now than his endless Ultra HD and faster frame-rate experiment films that always seem mechanical and on auto pilot.

Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone (2000) B-

Criterion Blu-ray


Australian Import Blu-ray


I like most of del Toro's work and though he cannot make a bad film, many of his great efforts only do so much for me. This is one of the more successful ones and those curious should catch it ASAP with its mix of fantasy, history and politics.

Sally Potter's Orlando (1992) C+

PAL Import DVD


Tilda Swinton still had the advantage of being mostly unknown outside of Derek Jarman's films and plays a few variants of the title character. The time and gender switching plays like Woody Allen's Zelig meets Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, Shakespeare and some of Jarman's own period pieces. It looks great and is remarkable that it was made on the budget it was produced with, but she breaks the fourth wall just one too many times for my taste, but it is based on a book and is rather faithful to it. Now that she is bigger Oscar-winning actress (she claims she is not an actor, which I half agree with in a good way, but a chameleon) this is now a curio. Only a David Bowie or Annie Lennox (of Eurythmics) could have done this role at the time. Billy Zane also stars.

Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run (1998) C+

U.S. Blu-ray


Australian Import Blu-ray


People still talk about this sometimes surreal thriller with Franka Potente and Moritz Bieibtreu, rightly making them international movie stars with solid careers to date. I still think the film is a bit overrated and tries too hard to imitate Godard's Breathless (1959, reviewed elsewhere on this site) yet was never so impressed by it seeing it in 4K. I was missing the impact of the image, even from 35mm film clips I saw, let alone several video releases.

James Merendino's SLC Punk (1999) B-

Though not exactly any kind of art film, this comedy about a few lone punk rockers in the Utah city of the title (Salt Lake City, if you did not figure it out by now) dealing with stuffy people, religious people, righteous people, boring people or any combination of the above. Of course, the standout is Matthew Lillard in a role so defining, people probably think he is this wild in real life. The underrated Annabeth Gish, Devon Sawa, fearless Christopher McDonald and the introduction of three of the best actors we have now (Adam Pascal, Jason Segal and Til Schweiger) means the film has appreciated in value more than anyone thought at the time.

Add recent events and it is probably a more important film than ever and more of the humor holds up than many may have expected. Though no masterpiece and it shows its low-budget origins sometimes, it is definitely worth a look and one of the big surprises of this set.

Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's Still Alice (2014) C+



Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart are still great casting in this film that had mixed results, but it is worth a look if you have not seen this Alzheimer's Disease drama. Sadly, eight years later and the disease is just as horrid as ever.

Charlie Kaufmann's Synecdoche, New York (2008) C



A great cast in a drama about acting that did not work for me, but seeing it again reminded me of what an amazing actor we lost in Philip Seymour Hoffman, though I am no fan of much of Kaufmann's work. Still worth a look for new reasons that did not exist when first released.

and Pedro Almodovar's Volver (2006) B-

Original Blu-ray release


Penelope Cruz's long series of collaborations with Almodovar do not always result is a film I like, but this is one of the ones that works well enough.

Now for playback performance. All films are presented in 2160p HEVC/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image and look as great as they can in the 4K format, with Lola (1.85 X 1) and Volver (2.35 X 1) being the real standouts and not just because of their superior use of color, because Orlando and even Tiger (both at 2.35 X 1, Tiger in Dolby Vision for the first time here) also have great color, yet not as effective by a narrow margin. Celluloid (1.85 X 1) only has the lowest image rating because of all the stock footage and older film clips, but to its credit, they were all done very well in their time and hold up well under the circumstances.

The other aspect ratios to each film are Call Me By Your Name, City Of Lost Children, The Devil's Backbone, Orlando, Run Lola Run, Still Alice (all 1.85 X 1,) SLC Punk and Synecdoche, New York (both 2.35 X 1.) I'll add that they all have demo moments and Tiger repeats the solid 4K transfer of the previous releases.

All the films repeat the same soundtracks they have had in previous Blu-ray and even 4K releases, with Tiger repeating its lossless Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) upgrade from the Steelbook edition. This also shows its limits, so it is no replacement for its original 5.1 mix, but an alternate choice. Most of the films offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, save Celluloid and Orlando, with DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes and Dolby Pro Logic encoding. Volver was PCM 5.1 in its older Blu-ray release, but has been changed to DTS-MA as well and sounds as dynamic as before, so that is only a codec switch and not an outright change. I cannot imagine any film here sounding better than it does in these releases.

Extras in this great fold-out-in-the-middle slipcase packaging include a high quality illustrated book on the first three decades of Sony Pictures Classics, each film here, a list of most films released by the subdivision since its advent and an essay by the great David Thompson. Each movie repeats its extras from its previous Blu-ray (and in the case of Tiger, 4K) releases including extras we covered before, a few offer band new items and they (per the press release too) all are:


Audio Commentary with Actors Timothee Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg

Snapshots of Italy: The Making of Call Me by Your Name Featurette

In Conversation with Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Luca Guadagnino Featurette

"Mystery of Love" Music Video by Sufjan Stevens

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


Audio Commentary with Filmmakers Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Lily Tomlin, producer Howard Rosenman, and editor Arnold Glassman

Additional Commentary with Author Vito Russo

Collection of Outtakes

Interview with Vito Russo

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


Audio Commentary with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Actor Ron Perlman

NEWLY ADDED: Audio Commentary with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Making-Of Featurette

"Les Archives de Jean-Pierre Jeunet"

Interview With Costume Designer Jean-Paul Gaultier

Theatrical Teasers

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


Audio Commentary with Director Ang Lee and Writer / Producer James Schamus

Audio Commentary with Cinematographer Peter Pau

Introduction by Director Ang Lee

7 Deleted Scenes (in 4K HDR)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: A Retrospective

The Making of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

English ''A Love Before Time'' Music Video

Mandarin ''A Love Before Time'' Music Video

A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh

Photo Gallery

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro

Audio Commentary with Director Guillermo del Toro and Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro

Guillermo del Toro Introduction

Director's Thumbnails Track

Director's Notebook

Que es un fantasma? Featurette

4 Deleted Scenes with Director Commentary

Sketch, Storyboard, Screen: 6 Scenes

Making-Of Featurette

Summoning Spirits Featurette

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


Feature Length Audio Commentary with Director Sally Potter and Actress Tilda Swinton 

Select Scenes Commentary

Orlando Goes to Russia

Orlando in Uzbekistan

Jimmy Was an Angel

Venice Film Festival Press Conference

An Interview with Sally Potter

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


Audio Commentary with Director Tom Tykwer and Actor Franka Potente

NEWLY ADDED: Audio Commentary with Director Tom Tykwer and Editor Mathilde Bonnefoy &

Making-Of Featurette

Still Running Featurette

''Believe'' Music Video

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


NEW: Revisiting SLC PUNK: a new interview with Director James Merendino

Audio Commentary with Director James Merendino and Actors Matthew Lillard & Michael Goorjian

Comic Book Gallery

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


3 Deleted Scenes

Directing Alice Featurette

Finding Alice Featurette

Interview with Composer Ilan Eshkeri

and an Original Theatrical Trailer


The Story of Caden Cotard Featurette

NFTS/Script Factory Masterclass

Infectious Diseases in Cattle Roundtable

In and Around Synecdoche, New York Featurette

and an Original Theatrical Trailer



Audio Commentary: Director Pedro Almodovar and Actor Penelope Cruz

Making of Volver Featurette

Interview With Pedro Almodovar

Interview with Penelope Cruz

Interview With Carmen Maura

Tribute to Penelope Cruz

and an Original Theatrical Trailer

- Nicholas Sheffo


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