DVD Spotlight

Criterion's Thief of Bagdad.

Cross-posted from GreenCine Daily.

The Thief of Bagdad "[F]or all of its implication in its historical moment, The Thief of Bagdad plays - in the newly remastered DVD from the Criterion Collection - like a timeless fantasy, a pure and naï expression of, as Sabu puts it in his famous curtain line, the search for 'some fun and adventure, at last!'" writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times.

"Re-watching The Thief of Bagdad... is not unlike rereading Treasure Island," suggests Gary Giddins in the New York Sun. "Conceived to enchant children, they both requite the adult longing for formative influences that withstand disillusionment and fashion. Unlike Treasure Island, an exemplary display of English prose and plotting, with one of the finest first sentences in fiction, The Thief of Bagdad (1940) occasionally sputters, losing tempo and continuity; yet it, too, survives as a model of its kind, reveling in cinematic craftsmanship - not least the then-novel techniques of color and trick photography - and boasts one of the most magisterial opening shots in cinema."

Blog entry 05/27/2008 - 12:58pm

GreenCine's proud to offer an eclectic collection of short films by an underappreciated independendent filmmaker, straight from San Francisco.s Microcinema DVD.


"Plotnick's penchant for irreverent goofiness and stunning send-ups of American pop culture limns the edges of high and low, and this may be part of his success in generating lively audiences." -Filmmaker Magazine


Warts & All: The Films of Danny Plotnick (Comedic Missives from The American Underground, 1986-2001) is 100 minutes of mayhem featuring films shot on 16mm, super 8 and digital video. Danny Plotnick roared into the underground film world in the 1980s. Fueled by his love of punk and alternative culture and infected with d.i.y. spirit, he started making films that captured a similarly snarly attitude. His films were pegged as bawdy, bad-mouthed and beautiful, straddling the line between high-brow and low-brow art.

Blog entry 05/22/2008 - 2:51pm

"In his extraordinary film, Great World of Sound, [Craig] Zobel takes the hypocrisy of the [American] dream and brings it to the grassroots, to the embryonic moment when the expectation of fame meets the con of possibility," writes Tom Hall at Hammer to Nail.

Read more about what critics and film bloggers are saying about new (and old) DVDs in this week's spotlight.

Blog entry 05/20/2008 - 3:37pm

(As first seen on GreenCine Daily.)

The Big Trail "Had it been even marginally successful, Raoul Walsh's 1930 epic western, The Big Trail might have changed the course of film history." Dave Kehr explains in the New York Times. Fascinating stuff. Also: reviews of two films by Mitchell Leisen, "[t]he very model of the crack studio director": "the 1937 Easy Living, with Jean Arthur and Ray Milland in a romantic comedy written by Preston Sturges, and the 1939 Midnight, a Parisian farce with Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore, from a screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett."

"Like Luis Buñ, and in particular, like Buñ's main heir, Manoel de Oliveira, Resnais's career trajectory seems to have been to quickly abandon evocations of a subjective consciousness in favor of a blatantly theatrical, questionably objective style that dryly notes the precise behavior of delusional people acting only on the logic of their own emotions, which isn't very logical at all," writes David Pratt-Robson in the Auteurs's Notebook, reviewing Mé. "But only for Resnais has the move been frequently disastrous, with his hypocrites way too systematically hypocritical, and with his occasional attempts to sympathize with these idiots via cute camera tricks and sound effects coming off as feeble nods to avant-garde roots by a man who is himself mired in outdated Vaudeville gimmickry."

Blog entry 05/15/2008 - 10:37pm

(reposted from GreenCine Daily.)

Frontier(s) "There's enough blood in the unrated French horror film Frontier(s) to satiate even the most ravenous gore hounds," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "The real surprise here is that this creepy, contemporary gross-out also has some ideas, visual and otherwise, wedged among its sanguineous drips, swaying meat hooks and whirring table saw."

"Xavier Gens may pledge allegiance to 70s grindhousers, but like the garbage hauled out at least once a year from Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production house, or the two-headed, razor-studded dildo formed by Hostel and Hostel II, the style of the French director's career-making torture porn is very much a sign of our times: a capitulation to base pop appetites," writes Ed Gonzalez in Slant.

Blog entry 05/10/2008 - 10:29am

(Cross posted on GC Daily)
Morris Engel The Films of Morris Engel (with Ruth Orkin) represent "such an unassuming clutch of cinema that it'd be easy to overlook the revolution they represented . without Little Fugitive, there might not have been a French New Wave or John Cassavetes, and therefore, perhaps, no new wave movement at large," writes Michael Atkinson on the IFC. Further up that same page, Bamako: "Malian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako may have made the one African film everybody needs to see - at least for its disarming fugue of frank political awareness and state-of-the-quotidian African life."

In the New York Times, Dave Kehr reviews Abel Gance's 1922 film La Roue, which "still fascinates as a grab bag of experimental techniques, which do not all belong in the same movie, but which clearly dazzled audiences of the time with the formal possibilities of this still relatively new medium."

Blog entry 05/06/2008 - 4:05pm

New DVDs, and old, from around the globe, are reported on in this week's installment of DVD Spotlight. Including this bit:

Silent Ozu


"Ozu made a lot of films in the 30s, many of which are silent, some of which are lost, and these early films are seldom screened, so the new Eclipse series release, Silent Ozu: Three Family Comedies, is valuable in that it lets us see the genesis of his refined late style," writes Dan Callahan at the House Next Door.


Read more, much more, by clicking below:

Blog entry 04/30/2008 - 1:22pm

(Cross-posted with GreenCine Daily.)

Daisy Kenyon For James Wolcott, Daisy Kenyon "is a fascinating chamber drama shot in deep-volumed noirish black and white (every room looks like a cove), with dialogue that tears through sentimentality with sharp little teeth and a clutch of tough, wary, ultra-observant performances by Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews (even more prickly with postwar dissatisfaction than in The Best Years of Our Lives), and a deceptively easy-going Henry Fonda.... If you haven't seen Daisy Kenyon (and you probably haven't, being so buried under the backlog of all your Wire and Battlestar Galactica DVDs), you really must give it a dark whirl."

"As with pre-codes, a lot of smaller musicals along the lines of Born to Dance had to wait until the emergence of TCM before fans could really enjoy them again," writes John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows. "DVD release has done the rest. Warner's Classic Musicals From The Dream Factory series has been the fulfillment of dreams for fans who've waited lifetimes to see these favorites truly showcased as they deserve."


Blog entry 04/22/2008 - 10:48am

Blast of Silence David Pratt-Robson in the Auteurs' Notebook: "By the time of Blast of Silence, Walter Benjamin, if not Edgar Allan Poe himself, had long ago laid the connection between detective fiction and flâurs, and a new type of consciousness (emblematized specially by the modern phenomenon of movie-going), in which the crux of identity lies in nothing innate and little lasting, but in the act of perceiving, and, perceiving, in particular, the city: detective's work. Yet neorealism would seem to be a necessary condition for flâur movies, which, despite Night and the City's influence, may be why relatively few major noirs followed in Benjamin's tradition, devoted entirely to cutting through swaths of city spaces and social milieus, to exploring parties and restaurants and businesses around town in an ostensible search for clues, and to depicting a man as he finds or loses himself - perhaps the same thing - in urban phantasmagoria.... But, if long post-Poe, Allen Baron's Blast of Silence still did it all years ago."


Blog entry 04/15/2008 - 1:23pm

The Rabbit Is Me At Movie Morlocks, Jeff reviews First Run's DEFA Collection. Related: James Van Maanen at the Guru on The Rabbit Is Me and Robert Horton's "East German Cinema Guide." Somewhat related browsing: Iron Curtain Call.

"Grand Guignol does not get much grander than in Inside, one of the latest in a new wave of extremely violent horror films coming from France," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. More from Steve Erickson in the City Paper: "Directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo may have made it as a réméadder - their next project is a remake of Clive Barker's Hellraiser - but they don't lack ambition or talent."

"Forget what anyone else says, Night and the City (1950) is Jules Dassin's finest film," insists Anthony Frewin. "It's a noir masterpiece, no ifs or buts."


Blog entry 04/15/2008 - 1:03pm

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