DVD Spotlight: 10/28.


(Originally appeared on GreenCine Daily.)

The Thin Red Line Terrence Malick "has been trying to forge a new way to express concepts other films don't dare approach," writes Bilge Ebiri. "Sometimes these attempts come off as clichéd, but that may also be because he is, in effect, portraying a failed human attempt to give voice to something that cannot be named or spoken." Then, echoing Malick's own comments on Heidegger, "if Malick resorts to his own peculiar language, it is because ordinary cinema does not meet his purposes; and it does not because he has new and different purposes."

Also at Moving Image Source, Michael Atkinson relates the "possibly apocryphal tale" of a slightly, somewhat, maybe even vastly different version of The Thin Red Line that no one except Malick has ever seen: "How much does authorial intention matter? Does it make a difference that perhaps the film's current form isn't what Malick finally wanted? Does the possibility of Malick crafting the film as almost a defiant nose-thumbing, after he'd wanted to make a more traditional movie, affect how we see the film? If a director's cut ever surfaces (there's an online petition for its release, with over a thousand names), will it be less Malickian? Or more so? Would it be a better film, or less distinctive, less poetic? Which one would be the 'real' film?"

Related offline reading: The Thin Red Line, a volume in Routledge's Philosophers on Film series.

More Michael Atkinson, here reviewing Flight of the Red Balloon for IFC: "Let's begin by dumping the unhelpful category 'minimalism' - Hou [Hsiao-hsien] films, as with Ozu's and Tsai Ming-liang's and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's and Abbas Kiarostami's and Carlos Reygadas's, can hardly be summed up as having relative dearth of material within them; usually, they are spectacularly rich and sometimes inexhaustible. As viewers in this rigorous corner of film culture - the cinema of real time and actual space and mysterious unseen forces - we help drive the bus, we are not merely passengers. (As J Hoberman wrote about Flight of the Red Balloon, the new Hou film 'encourages the spectator to rummage.') Hou is very much the paradigm's Renoir, its master of lyrical sympathy."

MST3K @ 20 There's also a new 20th Anniversary Edition of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Atkinson finds the whole project to be "both a sophomoric trifle, an official codification of amateur real-life couch potato heckling and a bottomlessly fascinating avant-garde process by which forgotten films are repurposed and reinvented, given a new layer of text and mocked in their helpless void."

In the Eclipse set Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women, "All of his major creative phases are covered," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "the romantic, Expressionist-tinged work of the silent and early sound periods; the politically engaged work of the postwar period, influenced by Italian neo-realism; and the final creative surge of the 1950s, in which a distanced, contemplative tone conveys an infinite solicitude for human suffering, balanced by a sense of its insignificance in the cosmic order."

Josef Braun reviews Aki Kaurismäki's Proletariat Trilogy, which "wasn't originally intended as such, and indeed, their themes, like the ubiquitous rock and roll performances, always happening somewhere in Helsinki's bars, can be found in many other Kaurismäki movies. But they do share certain remarkable similarities that reward consecutive viewing: their quiet tributes to the haggard dignity and, in two out of three cases, redeeming solidarity of the working class; their endlessly playful interweaving of old Hollywood genre conventions, homages to Sirk, Ray and Hawks, into what would seem an ill-fitting aesthetic; and the use of starkly lyrical opening sequences constructed from images of hard work, sequences that instantly beguile and set the tone every time out."

Billy the Kid Cullen Gallagher, writing at Hammer to Nail, finds an antidote to Juno in Billy the Kid.

John McElwee revisits both versions of The Killers.

Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume 6, features "an entire DVD devoted largely to "patriotic" cartoons from the World War II era in which, among other things, Bugs Bunny impersonates Joseph Stalin, viewers are encouraged to buy bonds and an animated Adolf Hitler invariably gets whacked on the head with a mallet," notes Jen Chaney in the Washington Post. More from Glenn Kenny.

For the Wall Street Journal, David Propson celebrates the "Lubitsch Touch" in To Be or Not to Be. Via Movie City News.

Paul Matwychuk enjoys Bright Lights, Big City "for its time capsule qualities."

13 Screentests Online viewing tip #1. From the cinetrix: "Warhol's screentests are being released on DVD in early '09 with a Dean and Britta score."

Online viewing tip #2. Via Fimoculous, the trailer for the Justice doc A Cross the Universe, coming out on DVD on November 24.

DVD roundups: Sean Axmaker ("Halloween 2008 edition"), Monika Bartyzel (Cinematical), Paul Clark at Screengrab, John DeFore (Austin Movie Blog), Ambrose Heron, Noel Murray (Los Angeles Times) and James Van Maanen ("Two Wheat, Two Chaff").

And of course, as always, the Guru.

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