January 5, 2010
It’s time to stagger into the new year with eyes thrust forward. No more list-making and list-arguing and dwelling on the decade that was. Let us break free from our immediate history and nostalgia’s uncomfortably warm grip to embrace the rambunctious year to come. We’re going to squeeze out its tender juices one month at a time, with a touch too much enthusiasm that will emit a pungent, ripe scent of dreams yet to be dashed. Yes, these are the images I will rush to imbibe in the first quarter (and a bit more) of 2010:
A Sixth Part of the World (1926) & The Eleventh Year (1928) (DVD, Edition Filmmuseum)
(DVD, Edition Filmmuseum)
Available now from the Edition Filmmuseum, this damnably seductive looking package contains the films Dziga Vertov made immediately prior to his epochal Man With a Movie Camera. The Filmmuseum describes the first as a “poetic travelogue”, and the second as a “visual symphony.” Michael Nyman provides the score, and bilingual booklets are included. This is an all-region release, and is 29.95 Euros, which is more USD than I can afford. I take donations.
Sweetgrass, (Theatrical, Cinema Guild)
I’ve been aching to see this elegiac nature film ever since it premiered at the New York Film Festival. Opening this week in NYC and then slowly rolling out across the country in limited release, it tracks two modern-day cowboys as they drive a herd of sheep through the Montana mountains. Recently it nabbed the cover of my favorite film magazine, Cinema Scope, which has a fascinating interview with the director, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, an assistant professor in Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard. Cinema Guild is looking like the film distributor of the year. Along with Sweetgrass, they’ve also acquired Jacques Rivette’s superb Around a Small Mountain and critical favorite Everyone Else.
Legion (Theatrical, Screen Gems)
Ever since the ridiculously pulpy trailer hit a few months back, I’ve been intoxicated with its possibilities. Visual effects guru Scott Stewart (Iron Man, Sin City), graduates to the director’s chair and opts for total insanity. God deems the human race a lost cause, and sends his angels to destroy the world. Paul Bettany still has love for the flesh, so he swoops in, tears off his wings, and defends the denizens of a roadside bar (including Dennis Quaid and Charles S. Dutton) from annihilation. Somehow flamethrowers are involved.
King Lear (DVD, E1)
Orson Welles performs as Lear for this episode of “Omnibus” broadcast live on CBS in 1953.
Ever since Film Forum in NYC held a retrospective of British film noir a few months back, I’ve wanted to dig in further. I know nothing about these two other than this: The Slasher stars Joan Collins and received an IMDB comment of “Risible”. Twilight Women stars Laurence Harvey as a nightclub singer accused of murder. Sounds promising enough for me…
Also on this date:
*Clint Eastwood: 35 Years, 35 Films at Warner Brothers (DVD, Warner Brothers)
*Contempt (Blu-Ray, Lionsgate)
*Lola Montes (Blu-Ray, Criterion)
*Ran (Blu-Ray, Lionsgate)
Shutter Island (Theatrical, Paramount)
Scorsese’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s insane asylum ghost story was pushed out of Oscar season into the dumping grounds of February. This looks more like horror movie material than award-bait, which leaps this entry up the list. DiCaprio is a Boston cop investigating the disappearance of an asylum inmate. Then he starts to go crazy himself, presumably, with shades of Shock Corridor. From the trailer it looks like Scorsese is having fun – working with waking hallucinations and impish performances from Max Von Sydow and Ben Kingsley.
A ridiculous booty of home video releases:
*M (Blu-Ray, Masters of Cinema)
*Make Way For Tomorrow (DVD, Criterion)
Note: Make Way for Tomorrow is one of the greatest movies ever made, and its image heads this post.
Greenberg, (Theatrical, Focus Features)
Going in blind because of my fondness of Ben Stiller and respect for Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale). It reads like a rote mid-life crisis comedy, but I’ll have some faith in the combined talent here.
Vincere, (Theatrical, IFC Films)
My good friend assures me this is a sub par work from Marco Bellocchio, and its melodramatic trappings don’t sound suited to his bitterly sardonic gifts. It’s the story of Ida Dalser, the wife whom Benito Mussolini discarded and ignored. But having thoroughly enjoyed his last three features: The Wedding Director, My Mother’s Smile, and Good Morning, Night, I’m going to have an open mind.
March 22 (the day my wallet begs for mercy)
*Bigger Than Life (Blu-Ray, Criterion)
*Days of Heaven (Blu-Ray, Criterion)
*Red Cliff (Blu-Ray [2-Disc International Version], Magnolia)
One of my favorites from last year was released in a truncated version stateside, which cut out over 2 hours of material. Magnolia is releasing the whole behemoth on Blu-Ray, where the scope of Woo’s accomplishment becomes more apparent. Every element is essential to this ancient war epic. You can read my more ponderous thoughts on this film at Moving Image Source.
Letters From Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa (DVD, Criterion)
One of the most important and divisive filmmakers working in the world finally gets his home video due in the U.S. This includes Ossos (1997), In Vanda’s Room (2000), and Colossal Youth (2006). A trilogy of films where Costa charts the lives of immigrants living in the slums of Fontainhas, near Lisbon. I’ve only seen Colossal Youth, which is a monumental, demanding work. I only saw it on a muddy screener, so I don’t even feel like I’ve truly experienced its languorous rhythms. Anyway, sure to be one of the most important releases of the year.
Piranha (DVD, Shout! Factory)
Piranha 3D (Theatrical, Dimension)
After I receive my Joe Dante education, I can try Alexandre Aja’s (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes (’06)) take on the material. In 3D. With an out-of-retirement Christopher Lloyd and my new favorite character actor, Adam Scott.
MacGruber (Theatrical, Universal)
In this SNL-derived parody of MacGyver, Val Kilmer plays a villain named Dieter Von Cunth. That’s enough for me. Also, director Jorma Taccone is part of the “Lonely Island” trio that produces all of SNL’s digital shorts, for a long time the only worthwhile part of the show.
Piranha (Blu-Ray, Shout! Factory)
Oh, Shout! Factory, you’re really playing with my emotions here. Wait until May just to watch the Blu-Ray? OK, fine. But I’m seeing the Aja version first.