Friday, June 14, 2019

Poemquotes 12 - "I. Benediction" by Charles Baudelaire



my translation

===

I. Benediction - The Flowers of Evil
[I. Bénédiction] [Les fleurs du mal]

When, by a decree of the supreme powers,
The Poet appears in this troubled world,
His mother, horrified and full of blasphemies,
Clenches her fists towards God, who sheds pity upon her:

—“Ah! that I littered a whole nest of vipers,
Rather than feed this derision!
Cursed be the night with ephemeral pleasures
Where my womb conceived my expiation!

Since you’ve chosen me among all women
To be the disgust of my sorrowful husband,
And which I cannot throw back in the flames,
Like a love-note, this stunted monster,

I will make your hate that afflicts me spurt
Onto the accursed instrument of your spites,
And I’ll so twist this miserable tree,
That it will be incapable of emitting its blighted buds!”

So she swallows the foam of her hatred,
Not comprehending the eternal designs,
She herself is preparing deep down in Gehenna
Stakes dedicated to maternal crimes.

And yet, under the invisible tutelage of an Angel,
The disinherited Child gets drunk on the sun,
And inside of all that he drinks and all that he eats
Discovers ambrosia and vermilion nectar.

He plays with the wind, chats with the cloud,
And gets drunk singing of the way of the cross;
And the Spirit following him in his pilgrimage
Weeps to see him cheerful as a bird in the woods.

All those he would love observe him with fear,
That or, gathering the courage from his tranquility,
Vie with each other in prying from him a moan,
And practice on him the experiments of their ferocity.

In the bread and wine destined for his mouth
They mingle ashes with polluted sputums;
With hypocrisy they throw away what he touches,
And blame themselves for having put their feet in his steps.

His wife is off crying on public squares:
“Since he finds me beautiful enough to adore me,
I will practice the profession of antique idols,
And like them I want to gild myself over;

And I’ll get drunk on nard, incense, myrrh,
Genuflections, meats, and wines,
To know whether I can, in an admiring heart,
Usurp divine homages while laughing!

And, when I get bored of these irreverent farces,
I’ll place upon him my hand, frail and strong;
And my nails, just like the nails of harpies,
Will know how to clear a pathway to his heart.

Like a new young bird trembling and twitching,
I will extract this full red heart from his breast,
And to satisfy my favorite beast,
I will throw him to the ground with disdain!”

Towards Heaven, where his eye sights a splendid throne,
The serene Poet raises his pious arms,
And the vast inspired-flashes of his lucid mind
Thieve him of the sight of furious races:

“Be blessed, my God, who provide suffering
As a divine remedy for our impurities
And as the best and the purest essence
That prepares the strong for holy delights!

I know that you keep a place for the Poet
In the blissful rows of the holy Legions,
And that you invite him to the eternal celebration
Of Thrones, Virtues, Dominations.

I know that pain is the unique nobility
Into which the earth and hells will never sink their teeth,
And that in order to braid my mystical crown one must
Impose every time and every universe.

For it will only be made out of pure light,
Pushed to the holy foyer of primitive rays,
And whose mortal eyes, in their entire splendor,
Are but obscured and plaintive mirrors!”

====

Monday, June 10, 2019

La madre (Troisième version)



Straub Alone



(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Grasshopper Blu-ray.)

===

This is the "Troisième version," the "third version," of Straub's film La madre [The Mother]. The music is a love-Lied by Gustav Mahler, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ["I Came Lost to the World"], that plays in its entirety over black leader. The soul weeps, the id poses questions under the force of duration.

The dialogue is a setting of a text by Cesare Pavese in Dialoghi con Leucò [Dialogues with Leucò]. Meleagrus (Dario Marconcini) and Hermes (whose name is never mentioned), in female form (played by Giovanna Daddi), converse beneath the shade of trees and bushes. "Listen now, Meleagrus. You are dead. The flame, the burning, are past things. You are less than the smoke that was plucked from that fire. You are almost nothingness. Resign yourself."

The mother is the wife. And: "I am still an ember," Meleagrus asserts. "I lived in front of a hearth, and when I was born my destiny was already closed in the firebrand that my mother stole." Meleagrus speaks of animals and youths beyond the mountains and rivers who live toward strange destinies. "They all had a mother, Meleagrus," Hermes replies, "and labors to accomplish. And a death awaited them, for the passion of someone. No-one was master of himself, nor ever knew anything else."

To Atalanta, Meleagrus screamed during the attack on the boar: "Return home — return with the women, Atalanta. This is not the place for girls' whims. [...] 'O son of Altea,' she said, 'the skin of the boar will lie on our wedding bed. It will be like the cost of your blood, and of mine.'"

In close: "But then why did they kill us?"

Hermes: "Ask why they made you, Meleagrus."

— For all women who stare into the fire.

===

Other pieces on Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at Cinemasparagus:

Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter [The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp] [1968]

La madre (Troisième version) [The Mother (Third Version)] [2012]


===

The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp



Die Zeiten ändern sich



(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Grasshopper Blu-ray.)

===

Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter [The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1968] is fragmentary adaptation of Ferdinand Bruckner's '20s Krankheit der Jugend [Sickness of Youth] that treats the phenomenon of prostitution as a symptom and result of class warfare, where the whole itself stands as correlative for, or allegory of, political assassination.

===

Other pieces on Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at Cinemasparagus:

Der Bräutigam, die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter [The Bridegroom, the Actress, and the Pimp] [1968]

La madre (Troisième version) [The Mother (Third Version)] [2012]


===

Friday, June 07, 2019

April and May 2019 - Best Disc Supplements


Every month I highlight some of the best Blu-ray and DVD supplements, along with Criterion Channel features. Too often these pieces are overlooked or given the most cursory mention in reviews (or on sites like DVDBeaver where they take a back seat to "A/V" assessment and are usually copy-and-pasted from the Special Features text from the relevant label's website, or the guy reviews the essay by saying the essay gave him "great contextual info"). Pieces cited don't necessarily hail from new releases; rather come from whatever I've been watching that particular month. They represent, in my opinion, the best in supplementary material — critical, historical, personal — above and beyond the status quo.

===

• Not Necessarily in That Order: The Birth & Death & Resurrection of Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie by Jessica Hundley / 2018 essay included in the booklet for Arbelos's 2019 edition of Hopper's film. She writes the way film criticism should be written, following the trail of crumbs that are intuitively interesting and not just strung out like party lights, virtue of facts without true anecdotal interest, rather she knows what makes bar talk good.

• Wizard Work / 5-minute 1964 promotional studio documentary narrated by Joseph Cotten, included on the Blu-ray for the 2019 Masters of Cinema edition of Aldrich's Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, capturing the director at work on-set with the actors.



===

Best Films Included Alongside a Title Feature:

By Sidney Lumet
by Nancy Buirski, 2015
included in the 2019 Carlotta Ultra-Coffret edition of Network

The Frontier Experience
by Barbara Loden, 1975
included in the 2019 Criterion edition of Wanda

I Am Wanda
by Katja Raganelli and Konrad Wickler, 1980
included in the 2019 Criterion edition of Wanda

Scene Missing: The Story of Dennis Hopper's Last Movie
by Alex Cox, 2018
included in the 2019 Arbelos edition of The Last Movie

Some Kind of Genius
by Paul Joyce, 1986
included in the 2019 Arbelos edition of The Last Movie

Alla ricerca di Tadzio [In Search of Tadzio]
by Luchino Visconti, 1970
included in the 2019 Criterion edition of Death in Venice






===

Cover and Package Design:

• Sidney Lumet's Network
Carlotta - Joachim Roncin (original artwork) and Dark Star (design), 2019

• Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky
Criterion - Connor Willumsen (original artwork) and Eric Skillman (design), 2019

• Barbara Loden's Wanda
Criterion - Eric Skillman (design), 2019

• Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie
Arbelos - Dylan Haley (design), 2019

• Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice
Criterion - Cliff Wright (original sculpture) and Eric Skillman (design), 2019






===

Monday, June 03, 2019

Battle Cry



Whooping Cough



"They're shaping into a real outfit — they're beginning to look like Marines."

"He's not a soldier — he's a Marine."

"So long, Marine."

"It's rather hard to say what Timmy looks like."


Those are some lines of dialogue pulled from Raoul Walsh's 1955 Battle Cry, but they just might have popped up in any other of the militaristic Marine-sponsored flicks. As bad as they read, I'll note there's no opposing forces within the mise-en-scène to take the armed American macho frat down a notch.

Unlike what Fuller once did label Full Metal Jacket to Jonathan Rosenbaum in good faith, Battle Cry is actually a true recruitment film: selling the services experience with sex on liberty in San Diego, Pacific crossfares, — but then the problem of having a sweetheart back home and the vicissitudes round a woman's staying in love while being married to a Marine.

I'm watching a 2h 28m narrative film from 1955 of the emotional development of robots, the romanticization of the American clod, the manifestation of the bird-brain...

James Whitmore is a cross between Lloyd Bridges and William Bendix.

A black velvet painting of the Natives of our land, and the same materiel as the eyepatch pestled in Walsh's socket by Montezuma's cock.

One of the best reviews of Battle Cry I've read recently comes from a member of Letterboxd name Fred Pahlke. It sums up the problems with almost all of the blockbuster pictures then or now. About Battle Cry, he writes, in whole:

"Standard war film. Do not have the movie."

===

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Home from the Hill


"What You Feel Now Is Nostalgia and Liquor"



I'm going to walk through the plot, based off a screenplay based off a novel by William Humphrey, to illustrate the power of the melodrama at play, a distant emulsification of Douglas Sirk and William Faulkner, bound earlier in that director's own adaptation of The Tarnished Angels.

"Theron" Hunnicutt (George Hamilton, a weak-link in the Ricky Nelson tradition; another 1960 mama's boy resembling physiognomically Anthony Perkins) takes to his father, Wade (Robert Mitchum's), teaching him at 18 how to be a man in spite of his belle mom the goy Hannah (Eleanor Parker's) coddling. The couple struck a deal years back: she'd marry Mitchum, but the boy would be hers to rear. How to construct an epic of the low-South (in the sense of "low-fantasy vs. high-") — introduce an agent of change, of chance — introduce a stinking boar. Theron on its trail blasts its snout right off, and Wade, satisfied his boy's growing hair on his chest, holds a roasting-dance. Through the virile proxy (broxy?) Rafe (George Peppard), Theron invites Libby Halstead (Luana Patten) to attend the fête, 'cept her daddy Albert (Everett Sloane) don't want her to go, so they meet on the sly at the library, fall in sympathetic love, fuck in the woods on a picnic blanket. Now Wade's the one with the reputation for womanizing, and Albert Halstead's always had an inkling. See how this goes in a town that jumps for spring cleaning the local cemetery? Throw in Hannah's admission to Theron that Rafe's Wade's illegitimate son, and Minnelli's melodrama's now fully charged: Theron goes off like a soprano Bates before his father over what his half-brother should be rightly owed. Wade swats aside the impertinence: "His mother was a tramp — a sand-hilled tacky having her child by the edge of a ditch."

Mirrorings of illegitimate children, proxy matchmakers, and neglected wives panel the homestead of this musky contrivance, solid in its rank among Minnelli's strongest films.

===



Monday, May 27, 2019

Ludwig


Keep Him in Mind



Perhaps Visconti's supreme achievement, in its as-close-to-as-intended length of 4 hours 18 minutes. A game of rooms, mansions, castles, a subterranean swan lake, the Neuschwanstein spire, passing through all the major themes of Visconti's oeuvre, such that the film-work itself represents the super-palace of Luchino's ego, so dense with signs made out of the opulent appointments (surely the most singularly lavish film in the history of cinema, outdoing even Kubrick's Barry Lyndon) that were it not for the more overt talkings-to-camera, the picture's Marxist precedents might be perceptible solely in its 'system of things.'

===

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Thing from Another World


BURN THE FLORATUS / WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A VEGETABLE BOIL IT



(All images are details from iPhone photos taken of the film playing from the Warner Bros. Blu-ray.)

===

No big stars among the Air Force 2 crew, mostly character actors you might recognize from a handful of RKOs, and a humanoid alien of eight feet in length trapped under ice.

The confines onboard the plane when the squad brings back the pick-axed chunk of ice-submerged humanoid are pretty tight, a reset of the Air Force set, and one of the guys reading "Air Force Magazine”... Grazing over the Arctic this is literally the Cold War, no sign of Korea just yet but...

But some good-natured ripostes shoot through the crew: ribbing the captain’s sartorial discipline an underling gets clapped back — “Would you like to do double-guard-duty tonight?” A visiting camp nurse once made as big an impression on the fellas as this ice-encased xenonoid: “Say, what ever happened to that nurse?” Good healthy stuff.

A nervous humor among nervous men.

Preposterous, service-men dorms where colleagues electric-shave, but how else could it be, even in the face of extraterrestrial derangement? This one NDO (nondescript officer), he comes through, alerts the pork-faced lead, smudged Gabin (Kenneth Tobey) that he's starting to be able to see through the ice at these hands... They talk to each other looking at their watches like ‘50s homosexuals whispering at the eleventh hour...

Then the nightclub ambience, the only menopausal woman out of two, Margaret Sheridan, better even than ever-exhausting Ann in Hawks’ previous picture, I Was a Male War Bride; the rental period for Golden Exits has ended... ”You can tie my hands if you want?" "That might not be such a bad idea..." "I mean that." "You suggested it." "Alright, I'll bring a rope." One of the most erotic exchanges in Hollywood cinema since Josef von Sternberg or Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat. She ties Tobey up to an office chair and all but promises to shove a cake-mixer in his crotch. Jump forward four minutes and it’s Karl Freund’s The Mummy (the anglo bumbling male jack-ass wasn’t invented in ‘90s media). Romero, J-horror... Carpenter... “A smear of… plant-sap….” — As Rivette wrote in his first published article, “Nous ne sommes plus innocents” (“We Are No Longer Innocent”), in 1950 at the age of 22: “on réalise des films de synthèse, inexperte encore et naïve, d’où toute sève s’était enfuie.” He was not speaking of Hawks here (he hadn’t encountered him fully by this early point due to circulation-scarcity outside of the ciné-clubs; give the hitchcocko-hawksiens a couple more years to embellish their program) or even other unnamed in anything but what I take to be a neutral register. Dr. Carrington: “There are only phenomena to study...” ‘Are,’ then ‘why??’ —

The secret lives of plants, the movies themselves: forever silent over subtext, but apply the stethoscope and you hear “almost the screaming of a newborn child who’s hungry...” — movies, or cinephiles? The creature here is made of Beyond Meat, and this “thing” about whether Hawks produced and helmed, or did Nyby co-realize: I always imagine Christian Nyby resembling Lee Harvey Oswald…

“What’s Carrington doing with 35 units of blood-plasma, Nikki?”



===

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

So Dark the Night


Footprints


1946. A film that in the first half hour has the feel of a series ("the Inspecteur Cassin movies" if you will), then continues in the milieu of a Clouzot or Whale, all the while consistently exhibiting the invention of a Lewis (Joseph or Jerome).

A twist premise shifts into a conceit in which Cassin commits his own homicide...

===

Previous pieces on Joseph H. Lewis at Cinemasparagus:

My Name Is Julia Ross [1945]

===

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My Name Is Julia Ross


Fingerprints




(All images are iPhone photos taken of frames of the film playing off The Criterion Channel.)

1945. No passwords to escape the house that beetles o'er its base: neither preceding, contemporary, or prophetic: not Gaslight; The Lady Vanishes; Rebecca; Suspicion; Notorious; Secret Beyond the Door...; Sisters...

Precipices in the "woman's hysteria" film drasticize the plunge and the drown and plasticize the stately manor exterior as the shell of the internal labyrinth: a hidden room for rape the-while Nina Foch’s knocked out. Menace us all, the shadow of the hand (George Macready's, Paths of Glory) across the landscape of Julia's breast, when come the end his claw lies limp in one last close-up, erased by the surf.



===

Previous pieces on Joseph H. Lewis at Cinemasparagus:

So Dark the Night [1946]

===

Sunday, April 14, 2019

While the City Sleeps


Newsprints


(All images are iPhone photos taken of frames of the film playing off the Warner Blu-ray of the film.)

The title of Fritz Lang's second-to-last American film not only suggests the midnight killer but also the night-shift of the newspaper/TV office whose craven figures jump to break details on the menacing killer story as soon as quick. —

"Item 7 — You're a mama's boy." This address from the TV by Dana Andrews in his best Orson Welles, as the killer watches in PJs, certainly constitutes one of the most wrecking and complicated mixed-up portrayals ever "committed" to film in this messy '56 when it needed to most be so. Fritz Lang had one shoulder over the velvet shoulder-padding, and he wanted to examine youth-horror crime more if he could literally see, and get the insurance through to do so, throughout the '60s. Slick PJs-Johnny doesn't know if he's a boy or he's a girl, like in "Sheila Take a Bow", that Smiths song.

Creepy-crawly business in the second-half about whether the husbands' and wives' affairs' can be rationalized... Lang goes back to this thing about dialogue dukings-out in living rooms, as, big, drama! And yet — the characters don't recognize these rooms as the rocket-chambers of Frau im Mond.

The whole office goes sex sick. "Put Nancy's picture in the paper." Why bother? She storms out on Mobley/Andrews and the Lipstick Killer's already ready to pounce! "The final insolence. Broad DAYLIGHT!" Daytime during work-hours in NYC apartments with bleaching sun! White terror wallpaint, white terror curtain gaps! Then the climax —

Terror re: a tunneled train. You might ask yourself: 'Where have I seen this before?' Unsure myself, but audiences first saw it here: While the City Sleeps.

... — And yet 15 minutes still to go. In this final act we're clued to the skullduggery in the politics of ink-and-print, Ida Lupino making her final gesture, a tonality closer to Milestone's The Front Page than Hawks' His Girl Friday.

===

Previous pieces on Fritz Lang at Cinemasparagus:

Der müde Tod [1921]

Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod [1924]

Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache [1924]

Spione [1928]

Frau im Mond. [1929]

M [1931]

Human Desire [1954]


===

March 2019 - Best Disc Supplements


Every month I highlight some of the best Blu-ray and DVD supplements (along with Criterion Channel features upon its return in April 2019). Too often these pieces are overlooked or given the most cursory mention in reviews (or on sites like DVDBeaver where they take a back seat to "A/V" assessment and are usually copy-and-pasted from the Special Features text from the relevant label's website). Pieces cited don't necessarily hail from new releases; rather come from whatever I've been watching that particular month. They represent the very best in supplementary material — critical, historical, personal — above and beyond the status quo.

===

• The House of Lang / 2017 20-minute video essay by the always terrific David Cairns included on the 2018 Arrow Secret Beyond the Door disc. A thorough overview of Lang's Career of Themes with a special focus on the director's Hollywood period: its presiding visual aesthetic: "the starkness: bare walls and barren places"; the prominence of Fate and of Guilt; the rivalry (second phase of agon?) with Hitchcock, most obviously in Secret Beyond the Door's relationship to Rebecca; the house as metaphor for for Lang’s psychological interior (Michael Redgrave's character's surname “Lamphear” derives from the Welsh for “great house").

• Restoring Detour / 2018 11-minute interview piece with Mike Pogorzelski, director of the Academy Film Archive, and film preservationist Heather Linville, also of the archive, discussing the hurdles across ten years of searching for elements to execute a proper pristine 4K restoration of Ulmer's film. Included on the 2019 Blu-ray of Detour from Criterion.



===

Best Films Included Alongside a Title Feature:

Directed by Andrej Tarkovskij
by Michał Leszczyłowski, 1966
included in the 2018 Kino edition of The Sacrifice



===

Cover and Package Design:

• Joseph H. Lewis's The Big Combo
Arrow - Scott Saslow, 2018


• Robert Siodmak's Phantom Lady
Arrow - designer unknown?


• Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour
Criterion - illustrator Jennifer Dionisio and designer Eric Skillman


===

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Poemquotes 11


"An eye closes // At the back pushed up against the wall / the thought not taking leave // Of ideas vanishes steadily // One could die / What I hold between my arms could leave // A dream"
-Pierre Reverdy, "Auberge" [Inn], from Les ardoises du toit [The Roof's Slates], 1918, my translation

"O unwisely the spring / Piles up its dangerous architecture!"
-John Ashbery, "Why We Forget Dreams", 1948, from Uncollected Poems

"Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much, / The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion"
-Walt Whitman, "Beginning My Studies", from Leaves of Grass, "Inscriptions", 1855-1892

" "Mother of heaven, regina of the clouds, / O sceptre of the sun, crown of the moon, / There is not nothing, no, no, never nothing, / Like the clashed edges of two words that kill." "
-Wallace Stevens, "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle", from Harmonium, 1923/1931

"That’s all you’ll have left of my pathetic lines, / My literature you didn’t give a flying shit about; / It’s all you’ll have left to remind you of the men, / Those past fuckwads of yours who’ll never look your way again; / It’s the only mirror you won’t be ugly in — / It’s guaranteed for eternity. / Good old Ronsard was no fool / When he said that to his stuck-up bitch..."
-Serge Gainsbourg, "Ronsard 58", from Du chant à la une!... [Songs Torn from the Front Page!...], 1958, my translation

"I wander on, and wave my hands, / And sing, and shake my heavy locks. / The grey wolf knows me; by one ear / I lead along the woodland deer; / The hares run by me growing bold. / They will not hush, the leaves a-flutter round me, the beech leaves old."
-W. B. Yeats, "The Madness of King Goll", from Crossways, 1889

"Pull my daisy, / Tip my cup, / Cut my thoughts / For coconuts,"
-Allen Ginsberg, "Fie My Fum", 1949, from Empty Mirror: Gates of Wrath (1947-1952) in Collected Poems: 1947-1980 (itself collected in its entirety within Collected Poems: 1947-1997)

===

Saturday, March 02, 2019

February 2019: Best Disc Supplements


Every month I highlight some of the best Blu-ray and DVD supplements (along with Criterion Channel features upon its return in April 2019). Too often these pieces are overlooked or given the most cursory mention in reviews (or on sites like DVDBeaver where they take a back seat to "A/V" assessment and are usually copy-and-pasted from the Special Features text from the relevant label's website). Pieces cited don't necessarily hail from new releases; rather come from whatever I've been watching that particular month. They represent the very best in supplementary material — critical, historical, personal — above and beyond the status quo.

===

• Burden of Faith: Tarkovsky's Final Sacrifice / 2018 35-minute conversation included on the 2018 Kino The Sacrifice disc with editor and filmmaker Michał Leszczyłowski conducted by Robert Sweeney on editing and shooting The Sacrifice while Tarkovsky was slowly dying. A great document not only of the final passage of Tarkovsky at work (who, by the way, looked as healthy and on-point as could be during the making of the movie), but of loyalty and sensitivity in last devotion to get Tarkovsky's job done.

• Audio Commentary by Godfrey Cheshire on Gabbeh / Feature-length audio commentary recorded for the 2018 Arrow Blu-ray set Mohsen Makhmalbaf: The Poetic Trilogy: three films beautifully restored by Arrow and Makhmalbaf from new scans. A lucid, systematic analysis of Makhmalbaf's 1996 masterpiece. Cheshire passes through the history of Iranian cinema with a special focus on post-Revolutionary works, discussing such topics as the usage of color as a political act (and statement with regard to expressive freedoms in the cities versus the rural areas and the populace of nomadic tribespeople); the women presented here in finery beyond the chador; pre-Islamic monuments and tombs; Mohsen Makhmalbaf performing in woman's dress; Iranian cinema and restrictions on violence; "one of the greatest cuts in all of cinema"; looks cut by the censors, lest they suggest desire. (This is the only film of the three features included in the Arrow set to be accompanied by an audio commentary.)




===

Best Films Included Alongside a Title Feature:

Directed by Andrej Tarkovskij
by Michał Leszczyłowski, 1966
included in the 2018 Kino edition of The Sacrifice


===

Cover and Package Design:

• Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition
Arrow - designer unknown, 2016


===

Saturday, February 02, 2019

January 2019: Best Disc Supplements


Every month I highlight some of the best Blu-ray and DVD supplements (along with Criterion Channel features upon its return in April 2019). Too often these pieces are overlooked or given the most cursory mention in reviews (or on sites like DVDBeaver where they take a back seat to "A/V" assessment and are usually copy-and-pasted from the Special Features text from the relevant label's website). Pieces cited don't necessarily hail from new releases; rather come from whatever I've been watching that particular month. They represent the very best in supplementary material — critical, historical, personal — above and beyond the status quo.

===

• Laine and Abel: An Interview with the Driller Killer / 2016 18-minute conversation with Abel Ferrara conducted by an off-screen Brad Stevens, shot for the Arrow edition of Ferrara's The Driller Killer, presented in a 4K Arrow restoration from the original camera negative. Abel speaks from a screening room about early films as warm-up- and preamble-movies, the problems with making pornos in the '70s in the US, and how you don't need an Olivier to play the fucking Driller Killer.

• Audio Commentary with Abel Ferrara and Brad Stevens on The Driller Killer / 2016 feature-length audio commentary between Abel and Brad for the Arrow edition of the film — entirely different from the commentary recorded back in the day for the Cult Epics DVD release. Freewheeling and full of anecdotes around late 1970s New York, and the economics of life and independent film at the time in the place. "She killed the cinematographer."

• "The Pre-Release Version" by Brad Stevens / 2016 essay in the booklet for Arrow's The Driller Killer detailing all the shots and their respective lengths cut from Abel's "pre-release version" of the feature (which also appears on the release in a 4K restoration, with Ferrara's blessing) for the "theatrical version," which AF prefers on the basis that it's at once tighter and, in small parts, more ambiguous.

• "The Ship with Eight Sails and with Fifty Black Cannon" by Zoë Tamerlis Lund / 1993 essay in the booklet for Drafthouse's Ms .45, originally published in the January 2001 issue of New York Waste. An incredible text that deserves to go down as one of the definitive feminist manifestos. She was a light-year beyond the knee-jerk/reactionary contingent of "Me Too!"...

• Abel Ferrara and Ms .45 / 2013 8-minute interview with Abel that appears on the Drafthouse release of Ms .45.

• Audio Commentary with Abel Ferrara on King of New York / 2004 feature-length audio commentary on the Lionsgate Blu-ray of the film — one of the all-time classic commentaries.

• Audio Commentary with Abel Ferrara and Ken Kelsch on Bad Lieutenant / 2009 feature-length audio commentary for the Lionsgate Blu-ray of the film. Ditto the above.

• Abel Edits The Addiction / 1994 or '95 footage of Abel in the editing room, included on the Arrow disc of The Addiction (which also includes the fabulous 2018 documentary by Ferrara made for inclusion on this release, Talking with the Vampires).

• Audio Commentary with Abel Ferrara on The Addiction / 2018 feature-length audio commentary on the Arrow Blu-ray of the film.

• Audio Commentary with Whit Stillman and Main Crew / 2012 feature-length audio commentary on the Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray of Stillman's Damsels in Distress, which also includes a good 28-minute panel on the film with Stillman and cast moderated by Peter Hammond.

• "An Introduction to Jean Rouch" by Paul Stoller / 2017 essay revised from a 2004 essay published in Rouge, appearing in the 2017 booklet to Icarus Film's Eight Films by Jean Rouch. Contains a brief report of Rouch's attendance at the Rouch 2000 event at NYU — but also recounts the afterward, wherein he heads up to Harlem. A scene is described of the word spreading among the present West African community at an open-air market that the filmmaker is in attendance, and folks line-up to express their respect... My favorite film is Jaguar, Mine is Petit à Petit...! Beautiful...

• "On the Set of Andrei Rublev" / 1965 silent color footage totaling 5 minutes, on the Criterion Blu-ray of the 2004 Mosfilm HD restoration of the feature. Tarkovsky directs, Yusov shoots, and we get to see the beautiful plums and beiges and reds of the Tatar and peasant wardrobes.

• Robert Bird on Andrei Rublev / 2018 interview with the critic and writer on the material reality of the film-world: a key aspect of Tarkovsky's movie which goes back to the not-the-frame-but-the-aquarium concept centrifuged by... who is it I'm thinking of? I reached out to Andy Rector to see if he could recall any specific source, but it turns out there was a proliferation of thought on 'the Aquarian'. I might have been thinking of Alain Bergala by way of Bill Krohn, but Andy in an email response lifts the lid to reveal species Bazin, Daney, Malraux, Straub, Agnel, Mourlet, Renaudin. Here's hoping Andy posts this mini-anthology on Kino Slang in the near future.










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Best Films Included Alongside a Title Feature:

Luchino Visconti: Man of Three Worlds
by Francis Coleman, 1966
included in the 2010 Criterion edition of Senso
(shot for the BBC Sunday Night program during Visconti's production on the omnibus film Le streghe)

Mulberry St.
by Abel Ferrara, 2010
included in the 2018 Arrow edition of The Driller Killer

Talking with the Vampires
by Abel Ferrara, 2018
included in the 2018 Arrow edition of The Addiction

Jean Rouch, cinéaste aventurier [Jean Rouch: Adventurer Filmmaker]
by Laurent Védrine, 2017
included in the Icarus edition of Jean Rouch: Eight Films

Katok i skripka [The Steamroller and the Violin]
by Andrei Tarkovsky, 1960
included in the 2018 Criterion edition of Andrei Rublev

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Cover and Package Design:

• Frank Borzage's Moonrise
Criterion - Illustration by Greg Ruth, Design by Eric Skillman, 2018

• Abel Ferrara's The Driller Killer
Arrow - Illustration by The Twin Evils, 2016

• Abel Ferrara's Ms .45
Alamo Drafthouse - designer unknown?

• Abel Ferrara's The Addiction
Arrow - Artwork by Peter Strain

• Luchino Visconti's Senso
Criterion - Cover Illustration by Glen Orbik, Design by F. Ron Miller, 2010

• Andrei Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood
Criterion - Design by Neil Kellerhouse, 2013 (Blu-ray reissue of 2007 DVD release)

• Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev
Criterion - Design by Nessim Higson








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