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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > WWII > Genocide > Nature > India > Sexuality > Literature > France > Against The Storm (1938 - 1942/Flicker Alley Blu-ray)/All That Breathes (2022*)/Orlando: My Political Biography (2023/*both Criterion/Janus Contemporary Blu-rays)

Against The Storm (1938 - 1942/Flicker Alley Blu-ray)/All That Breathes (2022*)/Orlando: My Political Biography (2023/*both Criterion/Janus Contemporary Blu-rays)

Picture: B/B-/B- Sound: B-/B-/B Extras: B-/C/C Films: B/B-/B-

Now for a new set of documentary releases...

Against The Storm (1938 - 1942) features the remarkable documentary work of Herbert Klein, who pretended (at great risk with his assistant) to be a Nazi sympathizer to film something people were not widely aware of, the Nazi invasion of Europe. He was only in his twenties when he did this and it became the first of many and many very important documents of what resulted in the permanent, priceless, incredible, remarkable and impossible to overly praise works that are even more valuable now than ever.

Crisis: A Film Of ''The Nazi Way'' was the original result, issued in 1938, then the duo went to Warsaw, Poland and England for a follow-up and Lights Out in Europe (1940) was the amazing result. They set the high standards for which all other such films that followed met and they have been restored very nicely here, sometimes with vivid images that brings back the impact of how bad this all was. These are must see films and cheers to Flicker Alley, The Museum of Modern Art, Sunset Foundation and National Center for Jewish Film for re-protecting and restoring some of the most important documentary films ever made.

Extras include:

  • Audio Commentary for Crisis by cultural historian Thomas Doherty

  • Audio Commentary for Lights Out in Europe by film historian Maria Elena de las Carreras

  • Peace! The Four Power Conference (1938) - A Pathe Gazette newsreel

  • The White Eagle (1942) - Directed by Eugeniusz Cekalski, this Academy Award-nominated documentary short

  • Image Gallery

  • and another high quality Souvenir Booklet - A new essay by Thomas Doherty & Conservation notes by Dave Kehr.

Shaunak Sen's All That Breathes (2022) is a look at how two brothers in New Delhi are going out of their way to save various birds of prey from pollution, high human population, industrialization and even each other in a compelling-enough 98 minutes of this real life story about how two men make a huge difference in the lives of people and these animals. They really care and Sen really captures that, which is why it has been received so well.

Now whether that is your kind of documentary is another story and the text on the case tries to say it 'reinvents' the environmental documentary' but I would argue it does not need to, does not and this cycle has been strong for many years, especially when most of the mainstream news is not going far enough (thanks to big oil companies or the like? Hmm?) and really just adds to the canon of such motion picture texts worldwide. For me, once was enough, but it is not easy to dis miss and I'm glad it got made and got what has to be an unexpectedly larger reception than any independent release gets these days.

Extras include a paper with an essay by Michael Joshua Rowin, while the disc adds...
• Meet the Filmmaker, a new interview with director Shaunak Sen

and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Finally, we have Paul B. Preciado's Orlando: My Political Biography (2023) deals with how the character (Tilda Swinton played the title character in a feature film not too long ago) has become an icon for gay and transgender persons looking for acceptance, meaning, identity, life, living, comfort, a future and connection through Virginia Woolf's enduring character.

The result is a compilation, pastiche and even deep study on how the character and what the character represents for so many, including freedom and the chance to develop an individuality not solely based on a fixed sexuality. The result Preciado paints a portrait of a unique kind of character study that has touched lives that deserves to have more love and life. It is also about the real politik of human sexuality today, how regressive hate-mongering and regressive politics (among other things) have unnecessarily ruined lives and created a situation where really, some fine people who never harmed anyone are being used as a test ground to go after all kinds of people for no good reason except cheap political gain and worse.

Skipping that, we get to see some nice, fine people finding new ways to think and feel and that is a triumph in itself. Glad I saw this one too.

Extras include a paper with an essay by Michael Joshua Rowin, while the disc adds...
• Meet the Filmmaker, a new interview with director Paul B. Preciado

and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on the Strong Blu-ray can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of these films on home video, while all the monophonic sound here is presented in PCM 2.0 Mono. Despite some roughness in small parts as expected, this looks really good and I was glad to see it looking so.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Breathes is an HD shoot and has some softness and even color limits, but is consistent and fine as intended. The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Orlando is also an HD shoot and goes for more color to its advantage, but is also a little soft throughout just the same. Both offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless sound mixes and the Hindi on Breathes is fine but quiet, while the French on Orlando is more active and surprisingly lively, making it the sonically best release here.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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