DVD reviews

EARLY MURNAU: FIVE FILMS, 1921-1925     EUREKA EKA70222

Early MurnauF. W. Murnau, was one of the greatest film directors of the silent film era and part of the influential German expressionist movement of the 1920s. Unfortunately, much of his output has been lost but those films that survive are widely regarded as masterpieces. Born Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe, Murnau took his directorial name from a town in Germany. After making Phantom, The Grand Duke’s Finances, Nosferatu, Der Letze Mann (also known as The Last Laugh and Faust (his last German film), Murnau emigrated to Hollywood in 1926 to direct the wonderful Sunrise. Eureka Entertainment has now released this definitive three-disc box set of five masterpieces created by one of the greatest directors of all time: Schloß Vogelöd, Phantom, Die Finanzen des Großherzogs (The Grand Duke’s Finances), Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) and Tartuffe. In the sinister mystery Schloß Vogelöd, terrible secrets from the past threaten a group of aristocrats’ gathering at a country manor. In the delirious Phantom, an aspiring poet’s chance encounter with a beautiful woman leads into obsession and deception. The delightful Die Finanzen des Großherzogs sees a rakish-but-impoverished duke setting out to rebuild his fortune via blissfully comic high adventure on the Mediterranean coast. In Der Letzte Mann, an undisputed masterpiece of the silent era, Emil Jannings gives an overwhelming performance as a hotel porter with dreams of a higher station in life. The film was a stylistic breakthrough for both Murnau and cinema in general. Finally, the slyly satiric Tartuffe features Jannings as Molière’s iconic creation in a morality tale film-within-a-film as only Murnau could conceive. Extras with these new high-definition transfers of the films, created by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, include The Language of the Shadows: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and His Films - a 31-minute video piece by Luciano Berriatúa on the early works of Murnau; Audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat on The Grand Duke’s Finances; The Making of The Last Laugh - a 41-minute documentary by Murnau expert Luciano Berriatúa; and Tartuffe: The Lost Film - a 37-minute documentary by Berriatúa. The 100-page accompanying book features writing by Charles Jameux, Lotte H. Eisner, Janet Bergstrom, Tony Rayns, and archival imagery. ‘The greatest poet the screen has ever known.’ - French film theorist and director Alexandre Astruc.

SHAKESPEARE - AS YOU LIKE IT (BLU-RAY)    OPUS ARTE OABD7066D

As You Like ItWilliam Shakespeare wrote his jaunty pastoral comedy, As You Like It, in 1599 or early 1600. Based upon the early prose romance Rosalynde by Thomas Lodge, its heroine Rosalind falls in love with Orlando at a wrestling match then flees persecution in her usurping uncle’s court, disguised as a boy and accompanied by her cousin Celia and Touchstone the court jester, to to seek out her father, find safety and eventually love in the Forest of Arden. The play features one of Shakespeare’s most famous and often-quoted speeches, ‘All the world’s a stage’, and is the origin of the phrase ‘too much of a good thing’. Director Thea Sharrock’s irresistible production of Shakespeare’s popular romantic comedy stirs wit, sentiment, intrigue, poetry, slapstick and love into a charming confection which challenges the traditional rules of romance. At its heart, a feisty but intelligent and feminine Rosalind (the charming Naomi Frederick), a knowing Celia (Laura Rogers) and a shambolic, endearingly naïve Orlando (Jack Laskey), with distraction provided by Dominic Rowan as hilarious Touchstone, and Tim McMullan, whose sonorous tones are perfectly suited to the lugubrious wit of Jaques. Filmed in High Definition and true surround sound live at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London, in 2009. Extras with this Blu-ray release include a cast gallery and famous speeches.

ONIBABA - KANETO SHINDO        EUREKA EKA40103

onibabaKaneto Shindô’s Onibaba uses black and white photography to stunning effect in its portrayal of murder, jealousy and the darkness of the human soul during a brutal period of Japan’s history when the country was ravaged by civil war. Weary from combat, samurai are drawn towards the seven-foot high susuki grass fields to hide and rest themselves, whereupon they are ambushed and murdered by a ruthless mother (Nobuko Otowa) and daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura). The women throw the samurai bodies into a pit, and barter their armour and weapons for food. When Hachi (Kei Sato), a neighbour returning from the wars, brings bad news, he threatens the women’s partnership. Erotically charged and steeped in the symbolism and superstition of its Buddhist and Shinto roots, Onibaba is in part a modern parable on consumerism, a study of the destructiveness of sexual desire and - filmed amid a mesmerising and claustrophobic sea of grass - one of the most striking films ever made. Kiyomi Kuroda won the Blue Ribbon Award for his cinematography and the memorably frenetic drumming soundtrack was scored by Hikaru Hayashi. This newly restored high-definition transfer to DVD is accompanied by a full-length audio commentary by the director and the stars of the film, Kei Sato and Jitsuko Yoshimura, as well as an introduction by Alex Cox. Other extras include footage shot on location by Kei Sato, the original trailer and a booklet containing an English translation of the Buddhist fable that inspired the film. Onibaba is part of the Masters of Cinema Series that also includes Shindô’s haunting 1968 horror story, KURONEKO (Eureka EKA40104).

CINEMA PARADISO       ARROW FILMS FCD378 (BLU-RAY)

Cinema ParadisoThis multi award-winning homage to the love of cinema tells the story of Salvatore, now a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. The sad circumstances jolt Salvatore (played as a child by Salvatore Cascio, as a teen by Marco Leonardi, and as an adult by Jacques Perrin), into contemplating his childhood and the hours he spent in the projection booth of his adored Cinema Paradiso. Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), owner of the cinema, befriended and encouraged young Salvatore, known as ‘Toto’ as he grew up in his small Sicilian home town, ravaged by the horrors of the war. The cinema offered escape and fantasy to the townspeople, including Toto’s mother, a grieving war widow. In one breathtaking scene a popular comedy is projected onto the walls of the town square and the entire town glows in the dreamy light of projected celluloid, washing away the harsh realities of poverty and grief. As Toto grows to manhood, his friendship with his mentor deepens. With the love and guidance of the aging man, Toto navigates the trials of first first love affair with the beautiful Elena and builds on his ever-growing passion for the cinema. Ultimately, it is Alfredo who convinces Toto to leave his village to pursue his dreams of becoming a director. But as Salvatore thinks back on his youthful romances and his innocent love of movies, he comes to realise that perhaps his success has come at a high price. A beautifully filmed tribute to the power of movies that captivated an entire generation of filmgoers, Director Giuseppe Tornatore’s bittersweet 1988 film is a celebration of youth, friendship, and the everlasting magic of the movies. Extras with this Blu-ray release include a documentary, the original trailer, a photo gallery and Ennio Morricone’s memorable score in uncompressed stereo.

MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN       DOGWOOF

‘I’m still the Hitler of the times. This Hitler has only one objective; justice for his people, sovereignty for his people. If that is Hitler, right... then let me be a Hitler ten fold.’ - Robert Mugabe. As a result of President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party’s violent ‘Land Reform’ programme, intended to reclaim 4000 acres of white-owned land and redistribute it to poor black Zimbabweans, formerly thriving farms that employed thousands now sit derelict while poverty and hunger are rife amongst the majority of the country’s citizens. One of a handful of white farmers still left in the country, 74-year-old Michael Campbell, refuses to back down. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous 2008 presidential election, Mugabe and the White African follows Mike and son-in-law Ben Freeth’s harrowing and unprecedented attempt to take Mugabe to the South African Development Community International Court for racism and violation of their human rights. Upon the outcome of the case rests not only Mike and his family’s future, but also the future of millions of ordinary Zimbabweans who continue to suffer at the hands of one of the world’s most infamous tyrants. Mike and his son remain impressively calm and determined, despite bogus delays and intimidation, in this David and Goliath story of resolution in the face of tyranny. Much of this emotionally charged film, made by British directors Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, was shot covertly, so if they had been caught it would have meant imprisonment. Their powerful and effective, though understandably partial, documentary made a huge impact on its theatrical release, winning Best Documentary at the British Independent Film Awards and being nominated for both a BAFTA and an Oscar. Special features include a director’s commentary, the trailer and a feature about how the film was made. ‘Harrowing, unsparing, incensing and often, as an example of courage beyond the call, inspiring.’ - Financial Times.

FELLINI’S CASANOVA        MR BONGO FILMS MRBDVD026

Fellini’s Casanova (Il Casanova di Federico Fellini) was directed by Federico Fellini in 1976 and shot entirely at the Cinecittà studios in Rome. Adapted from the autobiography of the 18th century adventurer and writer Giacomo Casanova, this stylish film begins with a carnival in Venice as the prelude to a series of erotic encounters that follow Casanova through Europe as his life becomes a phantasmagoric journey into sexual abandonment. Any meaningful emotion or sensuality is eclipsed by increasingly strange situations. In Venice, he ‘defiles’ a fake nun for the pleasure of a rich voyeur. In Paris, he attempts to convert a mature woman’s soul into a man’s using sex. The narrative presents Casanova’s many adventures in a detached, methodical fashion, as the respect he yearns for is constantly undermined by more basic urges. The script also highlights other incidents from Casanova’s life, including his escape from a Venetian prison and his unhappy visit to a London frost fair. Fellini thought this was his best film, and was heartbroken when it was not well received by critics in America. Donald Sutherland inhabits the lead role superbly, even when wearing a flaming headdress, and Tina Aumont is irresistible as the mysterious Henriette, cello player extraordinaire. Adele Angela Lojodice is remarkable as Rosalba the mechanical doll in a fine Felliniesque finale. There are many other moments of visual daring and imagination in this version of Casanova’s world seen as an outrageous fairground ride. With lush cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno, a score by long-standing collaborator Nino Rota, and Academy Award winning costume design by Danilo Donati, this is the director’s nostalgic paean to a bygone era of classic Italian cinema - a melancholy, hauntingly beautiful and poetic experience. ‘Sutherland’s performance is the most astonishing piece of screen acting since Brando’s Last Tango In Paris’ - Time Out.

ZEMLYA (EARTH)      MR BONGO FILMS MRBDVD025

Ukrainian director Alexander Dovzhenko was one of the most important and celebrated early Soviet filmmakers, along with Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin. His most highly regarded film is Earth (Zemlya literally translates as ‘Soil’), made in 1930 as the third part of his ‘Ukraine Trilogy’ following Zvenigora (1928) and Arsenal (1929). Dovzhenko had been commissioned to make what was intended to be a minor propaganda film to encourage the establishment of farming collectives, and Earth tells the story of a group of farmers in a Ukrainian village who unite to purchase a tractor. The leader of the peasants is later killed by a kulak, or landowner, who considers them a threat to his long-established authority. The events fade into memory, but the long-ranging effects of the peasant revolt - like the earth itself - last forever. Earth is Dovzhenko’s celebration of life and an ultimate prayer to nature, the land and those who toil on it. The film unfolds using a series of stunning visuals to reflect the constant cycle of birth, growth and death resulting in a truly poetic masterpiece. Simultaneously lauded and derided by Soviet authorities, the film at times has an ambiguous political message and its remarkable symbolism is open to various interpretations. Propaganda is transformed into poetry in a series of stunning images that explore the struggle of progress against reaction, oppression, death and the earth itself. An unforgettable experience, the film was voted one of the 100 Best Films of the Century in Time Out and has been named as one of the top ten greatest films of all time by the International Film Critics Symposium. ‘Combining lyrical beauty with simple, truth, this is a masterpiece with a soul’ - Radio Times.

THE UNLOVED      ICA FILMS

In this compassionate and powerful film, the directorial debut of actress Samantha Morton, we get an intimate child’s eye view of life in the British care system. Eleven-year-old Lucy has been neglected by her estranged parents and is placed in a Nottingham children’s home after a brutal beating from her controlling father, convincingly played by Robert Carlyle. Left with nothing except for the clothes on her back Lucy has to learn to fend for herself in a hostile environment, turning to her older streetwise roommate Lauren for support and protection. But when Lucy witnesses her friend being sexually abused by the home’s manager she runs away and ends up at the home of her unstable mother (Susan Lynch). Morton, who also co-wrote the screenplay, elicits remarkable performances from the two young leads - Molly Windsor as Lucy and Lauren Socha as Lauren, who were cast through a series of open auditions held across Nottingham schools, drama groups and at The Television Workshop (which Morton herself attended aged 12). Initially shown on television to huge critical acclaim, followed by a successful theatrical release in 2010, The Unloved is now available for the first time on DVD. Unflinchingly observed and understated, this is a moving account of life for children lost in a mostly uncaring world. ‘A bold, emotionally piercing personal statement’ - Time Out.

WELCOME HOME, ROXY CARMICHAEL     NETWORK 7953168

She doesn’t want much. Just a whole new life. Surrounded by people who don’t understand her, Dinky Bossetti is the Ohio town of Clyde’s rebellious teen - an unhappy loner, artist-to-be and devoted animal lover. She believes herself to be the abandoned daughter of Roxy Carmichael, a minor movie star who left town for Hollywood fifteen years earlier after giving birth to an illegitimate baby. Denton Webb, Roxy’s former lover and father of her child, is the only one who can answer Dinky’s question - and he’s not talking. As the date for Roxy’s return draws nearer, Dinky becomes more and more desperate to prove that she is her daughter, visiting the star’s childhood home (now maintained as a museum), and obsessively questioning Denton about what happened the night she left. On the day that Roxy is due to arrive, Dinky packs her suitcase and goes to the welcoming ceremony in a beautiful dress... Jeff Daniels is excellent as Denton Webb and the elfin Winona Ryder gives a luminous performance in this moving, funny and often surreal look at adolescent self-discovery amid small-town morality and sensibilities. Directed by Jim Abrahams, the film has a soundtrack by Academy Award-winning composer Thomas Newman featuring the song ‘In Roxy’s Eyes’, sung by Melissa Etheridge.

SKY WEST AND CROOKED       NETWORK 7953169

This charming 1966 film was largely a family affair, starring the delightful Hayley Mills, unfussily directed by her father John Mills, and co-written by her mother Mary Hayley Bell. Hayley Mills plays seventeen year old Brydie White, who lives in a village in the idyllic West Country of England. She suffers from arrested development after her involvement when she was a child in a shooting accident that she now can’t remember. Though physically mature she retains the mentality and social connections of a teenager, and a fascination with dead animals and burial. The locals mostly see her as a bad influence and think her commitment to an institution is inevitable. Brydie’s involvement with a handsome young gypsy (played by Ian McShane in one of his earliest film roles) complicates matters further... Hayley Mills’ emotionally compelling performance is at the heart of this touching, poignant and often humorous film, which also stars Annette Crosbie as Brydie’s alcoholic mother, Laurence Naismith as the grudge-bearing Mr Dacres, and Geoffrey Bayldon, excellent as the beleaguered but sympathetic vicar, Reverend Moss. Not to mention a scene-stealing performance by Hamlet the dog. With evocative cinematography by Arthur Ibbetson and a haunting score by Malcolm Arnold, this is a charming film that will appeal to admirers of The Railway Children.

RESISTANCE[S]         LOWAVE 017

Resistance[s]This excellent DVD compilation features eight films and videos from Middle Eastern and North African artists, showing a wide range of contemporary experimental creativity. Using images to lead the narrative, each artist raises fundamental questions relating to humanity, politics and aesthetics. What unites these films is their determination to resist the narrow stereotyping of Islam and of the Middle East prevalent in Western media, and a creative use of images and sounds to invent a more nuanced, multifaceted understanding. Highlights include Dansons, a amusingly subversive video by Algerian Zoulikha Bouabdellah. Bouabdellah in which she expresses her dual Algerian and French identity by dancing to the awkward rhythms of La Marseillaise and ‘Dieu Me Pardonne’, where the Moroccan artist Mounir Fatmi creates a beautiful and disturbing collage of sexual imagery, bombs, guns, explosions, masked gunmen, riots and fighting in the streets. ‘Allahu Akbar’, by the American-based filmmaker ‘Usama Alshaibi’ features stunning abstract kaleidoscopes of animation that reflects traditional geometric themes of Islamic art and the irresistible, pulsating soundtrack of popular Iraqi music. In ‘Transit’, Taysir Batniji uses a simple slide show of photographs to show the endless ordeal of waiting endured by Palestinians and Egyptians attempting to travel between Gaza and Egypt. ‘Wet Tiles’, by Lamya Gargash from United Arab Emirates, is an obscure film about a young woman apparently being prepared for an arranged marriage. ‘Untitled Part 3B: (as if) Beauty Never Ends..’ is a brilliant film by Canadian Jayce Salloum, inspired by the moving monologue of a Palestinian refugee returning to his destroyed house. ‘K3 (Les Femmes)’ is an experimental piece by French filmmaker Frédérique Devaux. The longest work in this collection is ‘Ça Sera Beau, From Beyrouth with Love’, by Lebanese filmmaker Waël Noureddine, and this ambitious, cinematic portrait of the mutilated city and people of Beirut has gained added poignancy in the light of recent tragic events. Essential viewing.

MIX-UP OU MELI-MELO - FRANCOISE ROMAND       LOWAVE

This unique and critically acclaimed documentary, Mix-Up ou Meli-Melo, follows the true story of two English women who as babies were accidentally switched in the hospital in 1936 and 20 years later discovered that they had been raised by the wrong sets of parents. French director Francoise Romand enlists all the surviving family members (including the delightfully eccentric Charles) in her haunting and bizarre investigation, which involves not only a recounting but a reenactment of all the significant events in the two daughters’ emotional histories. The seriousness and thoroughness with which she pursues her approach create a formal beauty and a witty precision in framing, pacing, editing, use of music and mise en scene that is inseparable from the film’s ethical and philosophical project. It’s a story that encompasses courage, humour, love and a six-year correspondence with George Bernard Shaw. The mix-up of the title refers not only to the putative subject but to many stylistic and formal collisions: fiction versus fact, French versus English, memory versus imagination. What might have been a plodding documentary in other hands is transformed into an intriguing and inventive film in which even the final credits are memorable. The film is in English with optional subtitled in French, German and English. Extras include interviews with Francoise Romand and the American film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum as well as biographies, filmographies and a slide show. ‘A deliciously oddball movie’ - New York Times.

THE CLOUDED YELLOW      EUREKA EKA40317

This entertaining 1951 British noir crime thriller stars Trevor Howard as David Somers, a fired British Secret Service who finds unlikely work cataloguing the butterfly collection at a country house occupied by an upper class couple and their beautiful but troubled niece, Sophie, played by Jean Simmons. The film’s mysterious title refers to a variety of butterfly found in a meadow near the house. When an obnoxious local handyman (Maxwell Reed) is murdered, suspicion falls on Sophie, who David has by then grown fond of. He helps her to escape arrest as they go on the run together to London, Newcastle, the Lake District and Liverpool, with the intention of leaving the country by ship. All ends satisfactorily following an exciting rooftop chase when the true identity of the murderer is revealed. With elements of Gaslight and Hitchcock’s 39 Steps, this neat psychological thriller benefits from having unusual and interesting characters. Jean Simmons is excellent as the fey Sophie and Trevor Howard brings a convincing edginess to the hero. The supporting cast of British actors includes such stalwarts as Kenneth More, Barry Jones, Richard Wattis, André Morell, Sonia Dresdel, platinum blonde Sandra Dorne and the inevitable Sam Kydd. Director Ralph Thomas went on to remake The 39 Steps in 1959 and also directed many Doctor in the House and Carry On comedies. The underrated Clouded Yellow is released here on DVD uncut for the first time.

CITY GIRL   EUREKA MASTERS OF CINEMA (BLU-RAY) EKA70014

City GirlAfter the visual fireworks of Sunrise and the now-lost splendour of 4 Devils, F.W. Murnau turned his attention to this vivid, painterly study of an impulsive and fragile marriage among the wheatfields of Minnesota. Innocent farmer’s son Lem goes to Chicago to sell the wheat his family has grown on their farm and meets the lonely waitress Kate. They fall in love and marry before going back to the farm, where Kate is rejected by his hostile father, who believes she married for the money. The reapers arrive and quickly they make things even more complicated by making their move on Kate. Lem misunderstands the situation and believes Kate is actually interested. In despair she leaves the farm and Lem goes looking for her. Tenderly romantic and tough-minded in equal measure, City Girl is one of cinema’s great pastorals, featuring some of the most delicate performances Murnau ever directed and influencing filmmakers such as Terrence Malick and Jean Vigo. Charles Farrell and Mary Duncan are outstanding in the lead roles and this poetic film is both technically brilliant and emotionally sensitive. This special edition Blu-ray release in Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Series features a beautifully restored high-definition transfer of the silent version by 20th Century Fox of Murnau’s penultimate film. Extras include a new score, composed and arranged by Christopher Caliendo; full-length audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat; and a 40-page illustrated booklet.

M - FRITZ LANG   EUREKA MASTERS OF CINEMA (BLU-RAY) EKA40308

In this iconic contribution to the film noir genre, a psychotic child murderer stalks the streets of Berlin and the police, under great public pressure, are unable to catch him. Their intense investigations disturb the city’s ‘normal’ criminals, who decide to help find the serial killer as quickly as possible. Of all Fritz Lang’s creations, none have been more innovative or influential than M, the film that launched German cinema into the sound era with stunning sophistication and mesmerising artistry. Peter Lorre gives an unforgettable performance as the murderer, Hans Beckert, and Lang encompasses social tapestry, police procedural and underworld conspiracies in an astonishingly multi-faceted and level-headed look at a deeply incendiary topic. One of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time, M remains as fresh and startling after almost 80 years. It was chosen by the Association of German Cinémathèques as the most important German film of all time, and is thought to be Lang’s favourite among his own work. Special features with this superb two disc Masters of Cinema Blu-ray release include restored sound; two audio commentaries (one by German film scholars Anton Kaes and Eric Rentschler; the other featuring film restoration expert Martin Koerber, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, historian Torsten Kaiser and excerpts from Bogdanovich’s 1965 audio interviews with Lang); the original 1932 British release version of M in its entirety - recently rediscovered after 70 years, featuring different actors, alternate takes and Peter Lorre’s first performance in English; Zum Beispiel Fritz Lang, a 1968 documentary with the director discussing his career in German cinema; and a 48-page illustrated booklet, including writing by Fritz Lang, historian Robert Fischer, details of a missing scene, behind-the-scenes stills and production drawings.

LORD OF THE RINGS - BLU-RAY BOX SET    ENTERTAINMENT IN VIDEO EBR 5141

J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel, The Lord of the Rings, began as a sequel to his earlier fantasy book The Hobbit and was written in stages between 1937 and 1949. Originally published in three volumes in 1954 and 1955, it has since been reprinted many times and been translated into dozens of languages, becoming one of the most popular works in 20th-century literature. Three film adaptations have been made, the first being by animator Ralph Bakshi in 1978 and the second an animated television special by Rankin-Bass in 1980. The best-known and most ambitious film adaptation has been Peter Jackson’s extraordinarily successful live action trilogy, produced by New Line Cinema and released in three instalments as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). The films chronicle the struggle of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) as he battles against the Dark Lord Sauron to save his world, Middle-earth, from the grip of evil. Frodo and his fellowship of friends and allies embark on a desperate journey to rid Middle-earth of the source of Sauron’s greatest strength, a ring that has the power to enslave the inhabitants. Jackson’s trilogy became the highest grossing adventure film franchise ever and the most publicly recognised brand image of its time, and this six-disc box set contains the theatrical-release versions in Blu-ray format of all three films as originally seen in cinemas. Besides Wood, the films stars include Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean and Ian Holm, with Andy Serkis as Gollum. A host of extras includes eight documentaries, music videos, trailers and Behind the Scenes features.

LAXDALE HALL     PANAMINT CINEMA PCM6001

This rarely seen British comedy (known as Scotch on the Rocks in the USA) is a classic tale of the canny Highlanders versus sassenachs - a theme similarly explored in films such as Whisky Galore and Local Hero. The few residents of a remote Scottish Highland community called Laxdale who own cars are refusing to pay their road fund licence because of the poor state of the only road which links them to the rest of Scotland. A parliamentary delegation including Samuel Pettigrew, M.P (the excellent Raymond Huntley) and Andrew Flett (a remarkably young Fulton Mackay) is dispatched to quell the rebellion. Along the way they encounter resistance from the locals, including school teacher Morag McLeod (Prunella Scales, in her first film) and her roguish dad (Jameson Clark), but it doesn’t take long for the delegates go native, seduced by the Laxdale way of life. There is a brief appearance by Rikki Fulton, making his film debut as a salmon poacher, and a hilariously impassioned sermon by Kynaston Reeves as Rev. Ian Macaulay on the lessons to be learned from the Lord’s plumb line. Roddy Macmillan plays a perpetually pessimistic undertaker with an unreliable gift of second sight, waiting in vain for his father’s body to be brought from the mainland. Directed by John Eldridge and produced by the legendary John Grierson, Laxdale Hall was filmed amongst the beautiful scenery of the Applecross peninsula in 1953. This Ealing-style comedy is a delight, high on charm and gently knowing humour. The DVD also includes The Glen is Ours, a classic from 1946 with Ealing stalwarts Edie Martin and Anthony Baird. In this timeless parable of politicians at odds with their electorate, the recently de-mobbed Hector Andrews takes to the hustings to stop Cadisburn Glen being converted from a beauty spot into an amusement park. An article by Brian Pendreigh in the booklet details the making of Laxdale Hall.

OSS-117: LOST IN RIO     ICA ICA041DVD

Hubert Bonnisseur de la Bath - code-name OSS-117 - is France’s first line of defence in the Cold War. He’s a master of disguise, deadly with a weapon, invincible in hand-to-hand combat and irresistible to women, though small on brains. Created by Jean Bruce in 1949, four years before the publication of the first James Bond book, OSS-117 has been the hero of 265 novels, selling 75 million copies worldwide. Eight feature films have seen him played by a variety of actors, and Lost in Rio is the latest box office hit featuring Jean Dujardin as the suave, sophisticated and utterly clueless French spy. The year is 1967 and de Gaulle’s France requires OSS 117 to travel to Brazil and track down a former high-ranking Nazi, who wants to sell a microfilm of names listing French collaborators during the World War II. Armed with an arsenal of weapons including classic good looks, matchless charm and unrivalled stupidity, he joins forces with Dolores, a charming Mossad agent also on the trail of underground Nazis, but with the aim of bringing them to justice. Together they travel across all Brazil from Rio to Brasilia and to the Iguazu Falls. Will they find their man, will the microfilm be returned to France and will OSS 117 conquer his fear of heights? Lost in Rio is a sparkling comic satire that sends up every conceivable cliche of the espionage genre. ‘This naughty, silly and wildly non-PC film is easily the equal of the Clouseau adventures.’ - The Guardian.

EDWARD II        SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD3172

Director Derek Jarman’s daring and sometimes shocking 1991 film stars Steven Waddington, Oscar winning Tilda Swinton and Andrew Tiernan, and is loosely based on the eponymous Elizabethan play by Christopher Marlowe. The plot revolves around handsome homosexual Plantagenet King Edward II of England’s infatuation with the ambitious Piers Gaveston, first Earl of Cornwall, rather than his wife Queen Isabella. This led to a civil war and proves to be the downfall of both of them, thanks to the machinations of Mortimer. The film is staged in a postmodern style, using a mixture of contemporary and medieval props, sets and clothing - the date ‘1991’ appears on a royal proclamation at one point. The gay content of the play is also brought to the fore by Jarman, notably by adding a homosexual sex scene and by depicting Edward’s army as gay rights protesters. Provocative, elegantly photographed and darkly erotic, Jarman’s radical film also has Annie Lennox singing Cole Porter to parallel the injustice of the King with prevailing modern-day homophobia. Extras with this remastered DVD of the film include ‘Derek’s Edward’, a documentary featuring interviews from producers Steve Clark-Hall and Anthony Root, Steven Waddington, cinematographer Ian Wilson and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. ‘A mesmerising film that bristles with fury, sexuality and radical wit.’ - Rolling Stone.

SOUNDS OF SAND      BLUEBELL BLB024

Based on Marc Durin-Valois’ prize winning novel Chamelle, Sounds Of Sand (Si le vent soulève les sables) is an enthralling tale of the life-and-death struggle of an African family traversing a hostile desert in search of water. Forced to flee their desert village due to severe drought and the threat of war, the stoic Rahne (Isaka Sawadogo), his wife Mouna (Carole Karemera) and their three children reluctantly head off on an unknown quest for water and safety. With only a handful of sheep and a few goats, Sawadogo, the only literate villager, chooses to travel in the opposite direction to his fellow migrants, and the family are faced with a treacherous and uncertain journey across the pitiless desert in fierce relentless sun in the hope of survival. Belgian director Marion Hänsel’s heart-rending parable is a vividly told and sometimes harrowing account of a family courageously attempting to survive in turbulent and aggressive surroundings. The stunning landscapes are beautifully photographed and there are fine performances by the partly amateur cast. Extras include an excellent ‘making of’ documentary containing interviews with the director and photographer as well as Marc Durin-Valois.

LIVE AND BECOME      BLUEBELL BLB018

Live And Become (Va, vis et deviens) is a gripping story of deception and survival; a beautifully crafted coming of age tale about the fate of a young refugee told with warmth and humour. Ethiopia 1984: civil war and famine rage. As thousands of displaced Africans crowd into Sudanese refugee camps, American and Israeli troops organise ‘Operation Moses’, a mission aimed at relocating the wandering Falashas, Ethiopian Jews who claim direct lineage back to King Solomon’s days, to Israel. Forced by his Christian mother to declare himself Jewish to escape starvation, young Solomon (Moshe Agazai) is swept away to Israel. Live And Become is a moving and heart-wrenching story of a boy bravely confronting ignorance. Radu Mihaileanu, the director of ‘Train de Vie’, has here created a stimulating, informative and deeply humane masterpiece, winner of three awards at The Berlin International Film Festival.

THE MERRY GENTLEMAN     UNIVERSAL 8275312

Michael Keaton’s first film as director is an unconventional romantic fable, photographed and performed with great style and precision. Disillusioned, suicidal hitman Frank Logan meets adorable Kate Frazier (Kelly MacDonald) when he finds her trapped beneath a fallen Christmas tree. Haunted by the troubling choices he has made, Frank discovers an unlikely kindred spirit in the younger Kate, and for a moment the two seem destined to redeem and remake each other. As the holidays and New Year pass against an urban landscape that seems both breathtakingly beautiful and starkly quiet, their friendship becomes one of necessity and survival for these two lost spirits. But neither lonely soul can escape the lives they have left behind. As events unfold and the painful truth slowly emerges, Frank is forced to face the man he really is, while Kate struggles to be the stronger woman she needs to be. The Merry Gentleman is a heady mix of suspense and quiet humour - a gripping, entertaining tale of forgiveness and redemption that blends a hopeful spirit with a surprisingly dark heart. Keaton plays the enigmatic Frank with considerable subtlety and Kelly MacDonald is captivating as Kate. There are also outstanding performances from Bobby Cannavale as Kate’s husband, and, especially, Tom Bastounes as an alcoholic cop with a crush on Kate. This tender, cleverly scripted film is a moving and melancholy triumph for Keaton and everyone else involved. Highly recommended.

THE DIVORCE OF LADY X      NETWORK 7953138

Divorce Of Lady XIn this overlooked British comedy from 1938, Laurence Olivier plays Everard Logan, a handsome, cynical lawyer who falls in love with the beautiful Leslie Steele (played by Merle Oberon). They find themselves stranded during a pea-souper London fog in an already overcrowded hotel where Leslie commandeers Logan’s palatial bedroom suite, relegating him to a mattress on the floor, then in the morning eats his breakfast and sneaks off leaving only a note: ‘Goodbye, Lady X’. The next day she overhears Logan making disparaging remarks about women in divorce cases and decides that with the aid of her friends Lord and Lady Mere (Ralph Richardson and Binnie Barnes) she will teach the misogynist a lesson. The film’s sparkling script was adapted by Lajos Biró from a 1933 stage play, Counsel’s Opinion, which had previously been made into a film also produced by Alexander Korda, with Binnie Barnes appearing then as Leslie. Olivier is not usually renowned for his comedy performances but his scenes here with the enchanting Merle Oberon are delightful, while Ralph Richardson enjoys himself hugely and is effortlessly brilliant as always. The Divorce of Lady X is a solidly produced ‘screwball whimsy’ in which Korda used an early three-strip Technicolor technique to give the film its softly glowing lustre. Highly recommended.

LOOK AT LIFE      NETWORK 7953154

Look at Life was a regular monthly series of short documentary films produced in the 1960s by the Special Features Division of the Rank Organisation for showing before the main feature in their Odeon and Gaumont cinemas from 1959-68. It replaced the circuit’s newsreel, Universal News, which had become increasingly irrelevant in the face of more immediate news media, particularly television. They were invariably light and breezy in style and depicted many aspects of life in Britain at that time. Over 500 Look at Life films were made altogether and this four disc set from Network complies 54 of the most memorable dealing with a wide range of transport. Digitally restored in bright 1960s colour from the original film elements, they vividly capture the vibrancy of the Swinging Sixties. Narrators include Raymond Baxter and Eamonn Andrews and it’s a pleasure to see the world again through the more optimistic eyes of an era when hovercraft were being invented, British Rail was being modernised and people were thrilled by a coach trip to Italy. Among the highlights other are a look at the daily life of ‘trolley dollys’, a visit to the Motor Museum at Beaulieu and a celebration of the London to Portsmouth railway line. These beautifully filmed glimpses of contemporary life in the 1960s have been transformed into fascinating snapshots of history.

PASSCHENDAELE      HIGH FLIERS HFR 0070 (DVD) AND HFR 0070B (BLU-RAY)

The Battle of Passchendaele was one of the major battles of the First World War. It consisted of a series of operations starting in June 1917 in which troops under British command attacked the Imperial German Army for control of the village of Passchendaele near the town of Ypres in West Flanders, Belgium. During the battle, fought in atrociously muddy conditions, British troops launched several massive attacks but never succeeded in breaking through the well-entrenched German lines until the Canadian Corps ended the battle by taking Passchendaele on 6 November 1917. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides were killed or injured and Passchendaele came to symbolise the horrific nature of the war Adolf Hitler was a Gefreiter in the battle and its last surviving veteran, Private Harry Patch, died on 25th July 2009. Directed, written and starring Paul Gross, the multi-award winning ‘Passchendaele’ was Canada’s highest-grossing film of 2008. Gross plays the shell-shocked and badly wounded Sergeant Michael Dunne who is shipped back home and falls for Sarah, the nurse who helps him recuperate. Declared medically unfit for the front line, he joins a local recruiting office and encounters Sarah’s asthmatic brother David who is unable to sign-up because of his condition. Desperate to prove his worth, he uses a fraudulent medical certificate to enlist and is posted to Passchendaele. Michael has no choice but to follow David and try as best he can to ensure that he survives. The pair are re-united but during a heavy German artillery attack Michael is astonished to find Sarah has enlisted as a nurse again. When David goes missing, Michael searches desperately for him and a hush descends as all eyes are trained across the hell of No-Man’s Land... Beautifully shot, with many memorable images, this intensely emotional film explores profound relationships and gives an authentic glimpse into the hellish nature of war. The acting is superb, especially by Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas as Sarah and Joe Dinicol as David. Now available on DVD and Blu-ray, bonus features include a Making Of Passchendaele documentary.

KATALIN VARGA       ARTIFICIAL EYE ART472DVD

Katalin Varga (a remarkable performance by Hilda Péter) has been married for nearly eleven years when her husband angrily throws her out of the house after learning that he is not the father of their son Orbán (Norbert Tanko). Katalin is left with no other choice than to set out by horse-and-cart on a quest to find her son’s biological father. Taking Orbán with her under the pretence of visiting a sick relative, she travels through pine trees and hay meadows of the Carpathian countryside which was once her home, reopening a sinister chapter from the past to take her revenge. The hunt leads her to a place, she prayed eleven years prieviously that she would never set foot in again. Beautifully photographed and acted, Katalin Varga also stars Tibor Pálffy, Roberto Giacomello and Melinda Kantor. It was the first feature film by Budapest-based British writer and director Peter Strickland, who used the money from a bequest from his uncle to fund the project. Made over several years in a Hungarian-speaking part of the Romanian region of Transylvania, his award-winning film was completed for an astonishing £25,000. The result is a gripping, Dostoyevskian tale of vengeance and menace, based on a traditional Transylvanian ballad, leading to a memorably brutal climax. DVD extras include commentary by Peter Strickland and Ian Hayden Smith, The Making of Katalin Varga, an interview with the director, and a stills gallery. ‘Haunting, eerily beautiful’ - The Guardian.

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS       SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD3173

Mary Queen Of Scots is a long lost classic costume drama on an epic scale. Mystifyingly unavailable since its original theatrical release almost forty years ago, when it was nominated for five Oscars, the film finally makes its DVD premiere. Vanessa Redgrave is superb in the title role opposite Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth I, with a fine supporting cast that includes Ian Holm as a doomed minstrel, the handsome Nigel Davenport, Daniel Massey, Trevor Howard, the awesomely cool Patrick McGoohan and Timothy Dalton, excellent as the foppish Lord Darnley. Originally released in 1971, this lavish Tudor power play tells the story of Queen Mary, the last Catholic ruler of Scotland, who faces religious prejudice from the Protestant community and, in particular, her half-brother James Stuart (McGoohan) leader of the Protestant faction. Throughout her reign she is faced with a fierce adversary, her cousin the Queen of England Elizabeth I. Mary Queen Of Scots is a passionate and energetic costume drama that makes for powerful viewing. Bonus features include: Isolated John Barry music track with commentary by film historians Nick Redman and Jon Burlingame, overture and intermission music, and a promotional featurette. John Hale’s screenplay takes a few liberties with history but this is an atmospheric and beautifully acted version of a compelling story.

PHANTOM & THE GRAND DUKE’S FINANCES    EUREKA EKA40263

Two of F W Murnau’s greatest silent films feature in this special two-disc edtion in Eureka’s terrific Masters of Cinema series. Phantom (1922) tells the story of Lorenz (played by Alfred Abel), a town clerk and would-be poet who is almost driven to insanity when he sees an apparition of a girl driving a team of white horses. With debts piling up and his promised literary career failing to materialise, Lorenz descends into obsession, deception, and, ultimately, a criminal act in this delirious film that stands as an early precursor of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The powerful final scenes of atonement and redemption are particularly moving. Die Finanzen des Großherzogs (in English, The Grand Duke’s Finances) was made in 1924 and tells the story of a rakish duke whose lifestyle has emptied his noble coffers. When word arrives about the existence of valuable sulphur deposits on his tiny duchy of Abacco, it inspires a comic adventure of high-seas intrigue, ‘animal impersonators’ and the Crown Princess of Russia. The Grand Duke is played by Harry Liedtke and Max Schreck (the mysterious actor who was Nosferatu’s Count Orlok two years earlier) appears in a minor role as one of the Duke’s arch-fiends. The best and funniest performance is by Alfred Abel as a wealthy eccentric friend of the Duke. These excellent film restorations, directed by the F.W. Murnau Foundation in Germany, have original tinting and German-language intertitles with newly translated optional English-language subtitles. Extras include audio commentary by Murnau expert David Kalat on Die Finanzen des Großherzogs, and a lengthy booklet containing an essay on both films by professor and UCLA film-scholar Janet Bergstrom.

THE COMPLETE FRITZ LANG MABUSE BOX SET     EUREKA EKA50040

From the early stages of his career across five decades to his final film, Fritz Lang directed a trilogy of paranoiac thrillers focused on an entity who began as a criminal mastermind, and progressed into something more amorphous: fear itself, embodied only by a name - Dr. Mabuse. This box set in Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Series brings together for the first time on DVD all three Mabuse films in their complete and restored forms. Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler) was made in 1922 and is a two-part, nearly 5-hour silent epic detailing the rise and fall of Dr. Mabuse in Weimar-era Berlin. Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse) is a 1933 tour-de-force thriller rife with supernatural elements, all converging around an attempt by the now-institutionalised Mabuse (or someone acting under his name) to organise an ‘Empire of Crime’. Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse (The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse) was Lang’s final film, made in 1960, in which hypnosis, clairvoyance, surveillance, and machine-guns come together for a whiplash climax that answers the question: Who is channelling Mabuse’s methods in the Cold War era? A great array of extras includes the original German-language intertitles for Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, along with newly translated English-language subtitles for each film; Audio commentaries on all the films by Fritz Lang expert David Kalat; Three featurettes (on Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, the creation of Norbert Jacques’ ‘Mabuse’ character, and the motifs running throughout the works); An interview with Wolfgang Preiss, the star of Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse; An alternate ending to Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse taken from the French print of the film. Three lengthy booklets contain a new translation of Lang’s 1924 lecture on ‘Sensation Culture’, an essay by critic and scholar Michel Chion on the use of sound in Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, new writing on Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse by critic David Cairns, extracts from period interviews with Fritz Lang, as well as production stills, illustrations and marketing material. This sumptuous collection is a timely reminder of the work of one of cinema’s greatest and most influential filmmakers.

A CLOSED BOOK     CENTURION CENTD0003

Chilean born director Raoul Ruiz rose to international prominence in the early 1980s and has proved to be one of the most exciting and innovative filmmakers of recent years. His uncompromising intellectual style and artistic experimentation have seen him compared to Jean-Luc Godard and Orson Welles. He was an avant-garde playwright before moving into filmmaking with the release of his first feature, Tres tristes tigres, in 1968. A committed supporter the Marxist government of Salvador Allende, Ruiz was forced to flee his country during the coup of 1973 and went to live in exile in Paris, where his first European success came with L’hypothèse du tableau volé (1979). A Closed Book is a chilling psychological thriller in which Sir Paul (Tom Conti), a distinguished author and critic, blinded in a horrific accident, who lives reclusively in part a huge inherited house. He advertises for an amanuensis, an assistant to help him write his autobiography, and employs the amiable Jane Ryder (Daryl Hannah) to be his eyes as he revisits scenes from his past and works on what he intends to be his final work. She appears to be ideal: attractive, intelligent, and unruffled by her employer’s abrupt eccentricities. But gradually we become aware that Jane has another agenda. Sir Paul’s familiar surroundings are altered, his housekeeper is diverted away and strange things happen around the house as he becomes increasingly dependent on his new assistant. Tension builds in a genuinely disturbing way in this dark, twisted tale, scripted by Gilbert Adair from his own novel. Conti and Hannah are brilliant together in what is essentially a two-hander, though they receive fine support from Miriam Margoyles and Elaine Paige as they explore dark secrets and play psychological mind games.

COMPANY LIMITED & THE STRANGER    MR BONGO FILMS

The Indian film director Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta into a Bengali family prominent in the world of arts and letters. He began his career as a commercial artist before being drawn into independent filmmaking after meeting the French director Jean Renoir and seeing Vittorio De Sica’s poignant Italian neorealist film Bicycle Thieves. Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali (1955), won eleven international prizes, and together with Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) it became part of ‘The Apu Trilogy’. Ray was one of the greatest auteurs of 20th century cinema, directing thirty-seven films in all, including features, documentaries and shorts. He was also a writer, poet, publisher, illustrator, composer, graphic designer and film critic. Company Limited (Seemabaddha), is the second film in his Calcutta trilogy and tells the story of Shyamal, an ambitious marketing manager in the fan division of a British firm in Calcutta. Living in a smart company flat above the heat and dust of the city with his young wife, he has become increasingly westernised and aspires to be a director of the company, aware that he will have to compete with a colleague who has a relative on the board. His attractive sister-in-law Tutal arrives from Patna and quickly becomes Shyamal’s confidant, at the expense of his wife. As his chances for promotion are jeopardised, he realises that he must make difficult choices that will save either his job or his relationships. Beautifully written and superbly acted, Company Limited is a profoundl and thought-provoking experience. In this new release it has been lovingly restored by The Academy in LA. The Stranger (Agantuk) sees the charming Anila receive a letter from a man claiming to be her uncle, a man who suddenly disappeared 35 years earlier. He turns up at her family home professing to be an anthropologist, a globally seasoned traveller en route from the United States to Australia. The family are suspicious of the stranger, believing he may be an impostor intending to make a financial gain at their expense. After a grilling from the family’s lawyer, the mysterious and temperamental uncle leaves as unexpectedly as he arrived, leaving behind a stunned family and some very insightful observations. This late masterpiece from 1991 was Satyajit Ray’s final film and the only one he made in colour. ‘A gentle exquisitely realised comedy, beautifully observed, sweet, enriching!’ - New York Times. See also Satyajit Ray’s Goddess and Two Daughters.

GODDESS & TWO DAUGHTERS   MR BONGO FIMS

Two of Indian film director Satyajit Ray’s finest and most moving films have been released on DVD - Goddess (Devi) and Two Daughters (Teen Kanya). In Goddess, a seventeen year old bride Doyamoyee (played by Sharmila Tagore) is left alone with her husband’s ageing father-in-law, a devout worshipper of the goddess Kali. One evening, the widower she cares for has a dream that she is an avatar of Kali, and must be worshipped. Word spreads, and others come to believe that she is an incarnation of the deity. Hearing this alarming news, her atheist husband, Umprasad, returns only to find Doyamoyee herself beginning to believe that she is an avatar; a belief which soon turns to tragedy. This intricate film, beautifully shot in black and white, explores the differences between religious superstition and true spirituality. Ray’s 1962 film, Two Daughters (Teen Kanya), tells two tales. The first is about Nandal (Anil Chatterjee), a young man who leaves Calcutta to work as a postmaster in an isolated, malaria-infested village. His only solace in the village is in teaching his host, Ratan (Chandana Banerjee), how to read and write. The second story, starring Soumitra Chatterjee and the beautiful Aparna Sen, is about a student, Amulya, who returns to his village after finishing his exams. His widowed mother is very anxious for him to marry, and has already picked out a girl. Yet he rejects his mother’s choice and, being forced to choose some girl, marries a lively tomboy who is not ready to give up her freedom. Originally called Three Daughters when it was made with three unrelated short stories by Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, this restored version has only two stories of the original three. ‘Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon’ - Akira Kurosawa.

THE ANTONY I. GINNANE HORROR BOX SET      BRITFILMS

The prolific Australian filmmaker Antony I. Ginnane has been involved in the film industry for more than 30 years, producing 54 features and mini series. The three films included in this ‘Ozploitation’ box set are particular favourites of horror and B-movie fans. In Thirst, a global network of vampires who call themselves the HymaCult are running out of the precious blood they need to survive. To ensure that they can feed the cult creates farms, where they keep kidnapped teenagers alive for the purpose of feasting on their blood. Harlequin is a modern twist of the Rasputin story. A mysterious stranger, Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell) miraculously cures the ill son of politician Nick Rast (David Hemmings). He gradually installs himself in to the family circle and gains their trust in order to manipulate the politician, though other more deadly forces have their eyes on the career of Nick Rast. Actor David Hemmings directed the third film in this set, an underrated version of James Herbert’s best-selling novel, The Survivor, shot on location in Adelaide with a strong cast that includes Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter and Joseph Cotten in his last film. Moments after take off, an airliner crashes killing all 300 people on board except its pilot ‘Keller’ (Robert Powell) who miraculously walks out alive. After the investigation declares that no one should have survived the crash, Keller is tortured with guilt and sets out to discover who was responsible and how he managed to live. This intriguing paranormal drama has echoes of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable as well as the Lockerbie disaster that took place a few years later. Ginnane’s entertaining and sometimes shocking trio of films shows why his work has influenced a generation of filmmakers, including Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

MID-AUGUST LUNCH        ARTIFICIAL EYE ART466DVD

Gianni is a middle-aged unmarried man, the only son of his widowed mother, with whom he lives in an old house in the picturesque central Roman district of Trastevere. Living under the tyranny of this impoverished aristocrat, his life drags on between housework and going to the local bar. The day before the 15 August celebration of the bank holiday of Ferragosto the condominium manager asks him to take his mother into his home for the two days of the holiday. In exchange, he will write off some of the condominium debts Gianni has run up over the years. Gianni is forced to accept but the manager treacherously turns up with two women as he doesn’t know where to take his aunt and brings her along too. Gianni is overwhelmed by the clash between these three dominant characters. He does his best to make them happy and at a certain point he feels faint. He calls a friend of his who is a doctor, who reassures Gianni but foists his own elderly mother on him while he is on shift at the hospital. Gianni goes through 24 hours of stress and when at last it’s time to say goodbye, the women have other ideas… Gianni di Gregorio’s captivating low-budget comedy won its director the Luigi De Laurentiis prize for Best First Film at Venice as well as the Satyajit Ray Award at the London Film Festival in 2008. Mid-August Lunch (aka Pranzo di Ferragosto) tells its charming, bittersweet story with perceptive wit while raising serious social questions about personal fulfillment, the burdens of old age and how we treat the elderly. The film stars Gianni Di Gregorio, also making his directorial debut at the age of 59, and Valeria De Franciscis as his demanding mother.

FLICK     HIGH FLIERS HFR 0066

One-armed Memphis cop Lieutenant McKenzie, played in true Hollywood style by Faye Dunaway, is called in to investigate a series of strange deaths and weird sightings following the alleged resurrection of a murder victim from the 1950s. Back in 1960, bullied Teddy-boy Johnny ‘Flick’ Taylor (Hugh O’Connor) goes to the local Palace Dance Hall in the hope of securing a dance with Sally (Hayley Angel Wardle), the beautiful girl he longs for. Things soon turn ugly as Johnny is beaten up by local thugs and in a vengeful rage stabs several of his tormentors before speeding away in his Hillman Minx then crashing it into a river. Forty years later, Johnny reawakens and sets about taking bloody revenge on those who once mocked him. This is a fantastical, gory fairytale told in great comic-book style, stylishly written and directed by David Howard with wonderfully lurid photography. Despite its modest budget, this offbeat British film has an impressive cast. As well as Hugh O’Connor and the starry Dunaway it features Liz Smith, Michelle Ryan, Mark Benton (cleverly underplaying as a local detective), Terence Rigby, the excellent John Woodvine, and Julia Foster as the grown up Sally. Flick is an unusual and imaginative zombie horror-comedy that highlights the lethal possibilities of rockabilly music.

TO HELL AND BACK   SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD3170

Audie Murphy, born the son of poor Texas sharecroppers, became the most highly-decorated American soldier of the Second World War. He saw 27 months of combat action and received the Medal of Honour - the U.S. military’s highest award for valour - for jumping onto a burning, abandoned tank and single-handedly saving his company by successfully repelling the Germans with the tank’s machine gun. He also won 32 other U.S. and foreign medals and citations, including five from France and one from Belgium. After seeing the young hero’s photograph on the cover of Life Magazine, the great James Cagney invited Murphy to Hollywood in 1945. Murphy suffered from severe combat fatigue resulting from is wartime experiences and his early career as an actor was difficult. He became disillusioned by lack of work and it wasn’t until his part in the 1951 adaptation of Stephen Crane’s novel, The Red Badge of Courage, that he earned critical success. To Hell And Back, made in 1955, is based on his autobiography and tells the story of his incredible courage displayed in action. Always modest and self-effacing, Murphy was reluctant to play himself - he recommended Tony Curtis instead - but was eventually persuaded to star in the picture and, due to this extra level of intimacy and personal insight into the reality and horrors of war, the film was an enormous commercial and critical success. In addition to an acting career in which he made a total of 44 films, many of them westerns, Murphy was a successful businessman and rancher, breeding thoroughbred horses, as well as a songwriter who penned hits for Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold and Charley Pride among others. He died aboard a private plane in 1971 when it ran into thick fog near Roanoke, VA, and crashed into the side of a mountain. He was buried with full military honours in Arlington National Cemetery, where the only grave site visited by more people is that of President John F. Kennedy. ‘The stuff of heroism…the explosive fury of combat and, occasionally, the terror and loneliness of men exposed to sudden death’ - The New York Times.

SEVEN SINNERS     NETWORK

This 1936 Hitchcock-like comedy thriller was written by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, who also wrote Hitchcock’s classic The Lady Vanishes, made two years later. The action of both films involves much skulduggery and takes place on trains. In Seven Sinners, American actors Edmund Lowe and Constance Cummings play a wisecracking private eye and his female assistant as they investigate a European crime wave, following a trail of corpses as they confront a sinister criminal network which will stop at nothing, even causing huge train crashes to cover their crimes. Seven Sinners was a remake of an earlier (1928) film called The Wrecker, also based on a story by Arnold Ridley, who wrote the original Ghost Train play and would later star in Dad’s Army. Trivia fans may like to note that the brilliantly staged crash took place on the Basingstoke and Alton railway at Lasham, the same line used to film the wonderful Oh Mr Porter. Launder and Gilliat’s sophisticated dialogue sparkles wittily and the two leads develop a fine rapport. Constance Cummings acted in more than twenty films but was dissatisfied with the parts she was getting, so in 1934 she moved to England to continue her illustrious stage and film career. Edmund Lowe is less well known but played many parts in a long movie career that began in 1915. Seven Sinners is an entertaining and amusing thriller that successfully blends classic elements of farce with suspense and action.

GAMBIT      SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD3168

Ronald Neame’s frothy, glamorous confection stars Michael Caine in his first Hollywood role (Gambit was released the same year as Alfie) and Shirley MacLaine at the kooky height of her fame and power. Caine insouciantly plays Harry Dean, a charming cockney conman with the perfect plan to steal a priceless statue owned by one of the world’s wealthiest men, the debonair recluse Ahmad Shahbandar (a shrewd and sophisticated performance by Herbert Lom). MacLaine plays Nicole Chang, a Eurasian showgirl lured into the plot as an essential accomplice to pose as Dean’s wife. Of course events do not unfold as planned and nothing is quite what it seems in a gripping crime caper/romantic comedy that recalls other 1960s Hollywood classics such as Charade and How to Steal a Million. The ingeniously structured plot twists in unexpected ways, taking both Dean and the audience by surprise as Nicole turns out to be smarter than she seems for the first 29 minutes, during which MacLaine never speaks. Special features with this thoroughly entertaining film include and audio commentary by director Ronald Neame. ‘First rate suspense comedy, cleverly scripted, expertly directed and handsomely mounted’ - Variety.

BOOM!     SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD3169

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sizzle in Joseph Losey’s cult classic based on Tennessee Williams’ play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here, which flopped on Broadway in 1963. Taylor plays the ageing, self-obsessed beauty Sissy Gosforth, a terminally ill widow who has taken up residence on a secluded Mediterranean island to see out her final summer. She spends her days dictating her sensational memoirs to her put upon secretary (the excellent Joanna Shimkus), flying into rages and screaming insults at all around her. In constant pain she numbs herself with drink, pills and drugs administered by a doctor. Her reclusive existence comes to an end when a handsome poet named Chris Flanders (Burton, in a role turned down by Sean Connery and originally intended for James Fox) unexpectedly arrives by boat and survives a guard dog attack to make her acquaintance. But a dinner with her only close friend (Noel Coward) reveals that the mysterious stranger is known as the Angel of Death due to his uncanny ability to arrive at the home of wealthy women just as they are about to die and relieve them of their valuable possessions. Boom! was the eighth of eleven films starring on-off husband and wife Burton and Taylor after the pair met and fell in love on the set of Cleopatra. Losey also has a strong pedigree, having directed a trio of classic British films scripted by playwright Harold Pinter after he fled McCarthy’s communist witch hunt in the US. Stunningly photographed by Douglas Slocombe in Sardinia, the film has built a cult following since its original release in 1968 and is master of camp director John Walters’ favourite film. Tennessee Williams stated that it was the best film version of any of his plays that was ever produced, though the public seemed not to agree and this expensive production bombed spectacularly at the box office. ‘Supremely offbeat’ - Channel4.com.

CHRISTIANE F    ARROW FILMS FCD385

This powerful and shocking film is based on a bestselling book telling the true story of Christiane F, a fourteen-year-old girl who lives with her mother and younger sister in a high-rise concrete apartment building on the outskirts of West Berlin. Bored and alienated, Christiane turns to drugs and prostitution to escape the banality of life on her grey council estate. Although underage, she dresses in high heels and make-up and goes with her friend to Sound, a sleazily glamorous disco in the city centre, where she meets Detlef and his clique. She begins experimenting with drugs, soon becoming drawn deeper into a squalid world of heroin addiction and prostitution. Superbly acted by a cast of unknowns, including fourteen-year-old Natja Brunckhorst in the title role and Thomas Haustein as Detlev, this gritty and disturbingly accurate film also features David Bowie (appearing as himself), who also wrote much of the music. Christiane F, the first film made by the award winning German director Uli Edel, is dark and disturbing and pulls no punches in its depiction of Berlin’s sordid drug scene. Far more realistic than Trainspotting or more sensationalist attempts to portray this devastating world, Christiane F is a film that will stay in your mind long after the credits have rolled.

MICHAEL SHEEN PRESENTS YOU’RE THE BOSS     WARNER HOME VIDEO

Football just wouldn’t be the same without the brains and tactics of the football manager. Constantly under scrutiny, at the mercy of fickle fans and interfering chairmen, and oftrn vilified, everyone thinks they can do the job better and isn’t afraid to say so. It’s lonely and insecure, but someone has to do it and the pay is good while it lasts. If you’re lucky you could even end up as a footballing legend. Bob Paisley won an astonishing 19 major titles in nine seasons. Alex Ferguson has won seven championships in nine years and was the first to record three in row. Jock Stein was the first man to manage a British side to the European Cup final, and his Celtic team won a staggering 25 Domestic and European titles. The incorrigible Brian Clough took modestly sized clubs Derby and Nottingham Forest to the League title. Matt Busby presided over two of the all-time great teams at Manchester United and Bill Shankly created one of the most revered footballing dynasties at Liverpool. Stan Cullis, the ‘Iron man ‘ of football, ruled the superb Wolverhampton side of the 1950s, taking them to ‘floodlit’ friendly victories over Real Madrid and Honved. Alf Ramsey guided England to the 1966 World Cup and people have been talking about it ever since. But even the best managers have their off days and strange moments, often brought on by the constant stresses of doing a tricky job in public. Fresh from his critically acclaimed portrayal of the Brian Clough in The Damned United, actor Michael Sheen here presents a highly entertaining look at some of the most memorable football bosses - the highs, the lows and just the plain bizarre moments. You’re The Boss follows the hilarious, shocking and often mad side of some of football’s most lauded bosses: the famous gum chewing of Alex Ferguson and Mourinho’s dark frown, Arsene Wenger’s goal celebrations and the famous Busby Babes. We also see the emotions and reactions from Shankly, Revie, Benitez, Clough, Paisley, Stein, Ramsey, Robson and many others. The DVD features football action including some classic games and managerial reactions - the good times, the goals, the celebrations and the achievements, as well as the rants, the feuds and the scandals. An ideal Christmas present for any fan of ‘the beautiful game’.

SPEECHES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD  STRIKE FORCE ENTERTAINMENT/CHERRY RED RECORDS SNFILM6678

A recent survey of the American public revealed that the world’s five greatest orators were ranked (in order) as follows: Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and, er, Bill Clinton. The first four are included in this DVD, which features newsreel footage together with memorable speeches made by some of the most important figures in public life over the past 80 years. Powerful speeches can equally be hymns to democratic freedom or their darker counterpart - despicable tirades of hate and prejudice. The earliest speech here is a rant by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels in 1933 against the Jewish population, encouraging students to burn books banned by the Nazis. The high point of the Nazi calendar was the annual Party Rally in the city of Nuremberg where Hitler gave a passionate speech in 1934 to the German youth organisation, the Hitlerjugend. British Prime Minister Nevile Chamberlain’s famous ‘Peace of our Time’ speech in 1938 is followed by his successor, Winston Churchill with his ‘blood, sweat and tears’ speech at the outbreak of war. ‘The battle of France is over, The Battle of Britain is about to begin,’ were his stirring words after the British retreat from Dunkirk. Then, after the Battle, his speech celebrating the valour and honour of ‘the few’ RAF fighter pilots. American President Roosevelt’s ‘Day of infamy’ speech after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 is included with General Douglas MacArthur’s acceptance of Japan’s surrender aboard the Missouri and his final ‘Old soldiers never die’ speech. Other famous orators include Charles de Gaulle, Emperor Hirohito, Vyacheslav Molotov, Mahatma Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, President J.F Kennedy during the Cuba crisis and his famous ‘ich bin ein Berliner’ speech in Berlin. Martin Luther King’s inspirational ‘I have a dream’ and Richard Nixon’s classic ‘There will be no whitewash at the Whitehouse’ assurance during the Watergate scandal of 1972 are also included and this stirring collection ends with President Barak Obama’s inaugural speech in 2008. ‘Be sincere; be brief; be seated.’ - Franklin D. Roosevelt.

BRITISH MOTOR SHOWS OF THE 1950s      STRIKE FORCE ENTERTAINMENT SN6663

British Motor Shows 50sThe first British Motor Show organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders was held at Crystal Palace, London, in 1903, before moving to Olympia and then Earls Court in the years until 1976. From 1978 it took place at Birmingham’s NEC as a biennial event until returning to London in 2006 where it was rehoused at the Excel Centre. For over a hundred years the British Motor Show has been the showplace for every new car built in Britain, as well as the ‘get-together’ for the great and good of the domestic motor industry. The first show of the post-war era featured the debut of the Morris Minor, which would become Britain’s first million selling car, and from the 1950s to 1970s the show was dominated by British manufacturers, particularly Ford and BMC/British Leyland. Almost every notable British-made car was either launched at the show or had a prominent position at the following event. In 1954, no less than forty new cars made their debut, including the beautiful Jensen 541. During the 1950s and 60s, as more people could afford to buy cars, the shows became increasingly popular and manufacturers often hired glamorous female models to add fashionable allure to their stands. This DVD takes a detailed look at cars of the 1950s, when British manufacturers showed off their latest wares at The Earls Court motor shows, The Paris show and even New York, where British cars were greatly anticipated. Featured cars are Rolls-Royce and Bentley, the new Austin A30, Ford Consul, Citycar, the Standard 8, Morris Minors, the Ford Anglia, the MGA and the new Mini. These were years of austerity, when a good car might cost a few hundred pounds and a Rolls Royce would set you back about ten thousand. Bonus features include the 1950 and 1958 Commercial Motor Shows and ‘British Motor Corporation Cars Against The Clock’, a remarkable speed and endurance test of five BMC production cars, including Ron Flockhart in a resonant Austin Healey 3000. Strike Force Entertainment/Cherry Red Records has also released BRITISH MOTOR SHOWS OF THE 1960s (SN6664), a nostalgic look at the years of high expectation after the long years of austerity. Newsreels now came in colour and the models’ skirts grew shorter by the day. Featured cars include Bentley and Daimler, the Rover Gas Turbine, the Ford Zephyr and Zodiac, the Triumph Spitfire, the all new Morris 1100, the Hillman Imp, James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, the MGB, and the new Vauxhalls. Extras include news of the 1960, 64 and 68 Commercial Motor Shows, as well as the Tokyo, Geneva and Amsterdam shows.

THE JIM JARMUSCH COLLECTION, VOL. 1     OPTIMUM OPTD1231

American director Jim Jarmusch was born in 1953 in the industrial city of Akron, Ohio. He left his hometown at the age of 17 for New York City, where he was accepted into NYU’s prestigious Tisch Film School, despite having no prior film experience. Before graduating, Jarmusch decided to drop out and use his scholarship funds to pay for his first feature film, Permanent Vacation, which introduced audiences to the droll, deadpan style that he would later develop in Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law. He had worked as a teaching assistant to the revered director Nicholas Ray while at NYU and as a production assistant on Wim Wenders’ tribute to Ray, Lightning Over Water. Jarmusch’s first major film, Stranger Than Paradise, was released in 1984 to critical acclaim (winning the Camera D’Or for Best First Film at Cannes). Telling a strange journey of three disillusioned youths from New York via Cleveland to Florida, the film broke many conventions of traditional Hollywood moviemaking and became a landmark in modern independent film. In 1986, Jarmusch wrote and directed the iconic Down by Law, a film about three convicts in a New Orleans jailhouse. This stars musicians-turned-actors Tom Waits and John Lurie, who also contribute to the soundtrack. The epitome of laid-back cool, Jarmusch writes all of his own scripts and often works with the same bunch of eclectic actors, musicians, artists and technicians, producing work of distinct visual and narrative appeal that has earned him a loyal cult audience, as well as international acclaim and box office success. This invaluable collection from Optimum includes all three of his first feature films. Extras include a Stranger than Paradise in Cleveland featurette, deleted scenes from Down by Law, and Tom Waits ‘dance’ video for It’s Alright With Me, also directed by Jarmusch. This collection is essential viewing of work by one of the world’s most original, compassionate and funny ‘indie’ directors.

JIMMY CARTER: MAN FROM PLAINS    ARTEFACT ARTF0116

James Earl ‘Jimmy’ Carter, Jr. was the thirty-ninth President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He put a strong emphasis on human rights and successfully negotiated a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt but the final year of his presidential tenure was marked by major crises and he lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. After leaving office, Carter and his wife Rosalynn founded The Carter Center to work for the advancement of human rights and he has travelled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, he maintains a particular interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Man From Plains is an intimate, surprising encounter with 83 year old President Jimmy Carter made by director Jonthan Demme. This award-winning documentary reveals a complex individual - articulate, honest, modest, intelligent and often very funny. He travels energetically and often courageously all over the country to publicise his controversial book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, and get his message across, even though that creates a media onslaught in which his credibility and judgment are called into question. Man From Plains explores both the private and public sides of Jimmy Carter, whose intense sense of justice compels him to pursue his lifelong and deeply spiritual vision of reconciliation and peace. This is an absorbing and touching portrait of a truly saintly man who still carries his own suitcase.

STREET FIGHT      ARTEFACT ARTF0112 

This Oscar-nominated documentary chronicles a riveting story about the underbelly of American democracy. When Cory Booker, a 32-year-old Yale Law grad, bravely takes on the four-term mayor of Newark, NJ, he gets an education in the politics of the streets. The city’s political machine unleashes a campaign of harassment and voter intimidation, and the race unfolds amid accusations of terrorism, a Watergate-style burglary, and sexual scandal. When the election becomes racially charged - a surprising twist for a battle between two African-American candidates - voters are forced to ask what it means to be ‘really black’ in America today. This extraordinary film, brilliantly directed by Marshall Curry, is a gripping exploration of streetfighting US politics and gains a special resonance following the recent Presidential election. ‘A nailbiter worthy of The Best Man’ - The Guardian.

A STORY OF CRADLEY HEATH - BLOOMER & SMITH     H-ARTS

A Story Of Cradley HeathThis outstanding documentary celebrates the small forgotten Black Country town of Cradley Heath (pronounced ‘Crayd-ley’). Warren Smith began to film the town in 2006, concentrating on the changing landscape, especially old shops, housing, historical buildings, community buildings, pubs and greenland that were being destroyed to make way for a new by-pass and giant Tesco supermarket. He contacted his friend Harry Bloomer to help and inspired by the work of Philip Donnellan they began the ambitious task of video documenting the lives and thoughts of the Cradley Heath people. Hundreds of residents took part in the film. including Beatrice Richards, born in 1898, who sadly passed away during the latter stages of production. Directed, photographed and brilliantly edited by Harry Bloomer and Warren Smith, the documentary tells the story of Cradley Heath by means of historic photographs and film, contemporary footage, evocative artwork, music and, above all, the bostin folk of Cradley Heath. Much has changed in recent years but the town’s residents remain friendly, hard-working, sparky, resilient, resourceful and justifiably proud. It’s their testimony that makes the film so special as they share their invariably shrewd opinions and often poignant memories. The documentary also immortalises the town’s old buildings, such as pubs, churches and cinemas, many of which have been lost. The resulting film, like the town’s residents, is warm-hearted, funny and totally engaging. In addition to the documentary, this two-hour DVD also includes ten short films dealing with subjects as varied as unicycling, Christmas and ‘walking the ways’. The DVD (RRP £12.99 + P&P) is available from: Black Country Bugle, Black Country Living Museum, Blackheath Market, Broadfield House Glass Museum, Redhouse Glass Cone, Dudley Art Museum, Haden Hill House Museum, Dudley Libraries, Action Heart Centre and the TeeT Shirt Shop, as well as by Telephone: 01384 635969. Highly recommended.

DER LETZE MANN    EUREKA EKA40262

Der Letze Mann has been voted the second greatest film of all time in international critics’ polls and is one of the most brilliant of German Expressionist silent films. Director F. W. Murnau uses a constantly moving and subjective camera to capture the emotional anguish of a man whose life is suddenly devoid of meaning. Because of his age, an elderly doorman (played by Emil Jannings) at the Atlantic Hotel finds himself ignominiously demoted to washroom attendant. Particularly galling to the poor man is the loss of his uniform, which gives him pride and prestige. Crestfallen, he spends the day wandering the city, getting drunk and dreaming of suicide, mourning the loss of his dignity, and trying desperately to hang on to a shred of hope. The director shows his flair for storytelling by using no title cards for this film, except for one just before the unlikely epilogue that was forced on Murnau by studio executives, who also pressed him and screenwriter Carl Mayer to change the film’s title from ‘The Last Man’ to ‘The Last Laugh’. With its masterful visual storytelling, great cinematography by Karl Freund, and groundbreaking technical innovations, this landmark work has been hugely influential in the history of the cinema. Emil Jannings is superb and there is a touching performance by Georg John as his friend, the night watchman. Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Series features the original German domestic version of the film, meticulously restored, with extras that include a documentary by Murnau expert Luciano Berriatúa and a lavishly illustrated 36-page booklet with writing by film scholars R. Dixon Smith, Tony Rayns and Lotte H. Eisner. Also newly available on DVD is Fritz Lang’s amazing, though little-known epic, FRAU IM MOND (EUREKA EKA40238), in which a scientist believes that there is gold on the moon and builds a spaceship to fly to there to find it. Frau im Mond was the first feature-length film (made in 1929) to portray space-exploration in a serious manner and was Fritz Lang’s last silent film. It enjoyably combines espionage, melodrama and comic-book sci-fi into a storyline that is by turns delirious, hushed and deranged. This DVD features Frau im Mond newly restored to its near-original length of almost three hours. Extras include The First Scientific Science-Fiction Film (a documentary about Frau im Mond made by Gabriele Jacobi) and a 36-page booklet containing analysis by Michael E. Grost of the film and of Fritz Lang’s work.

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE    TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX 3462501000

The world’s favourite dysfunctional family’s big screen debut reveals Homer’s heroic stupidity in all its glory as the family and fellow residents of Springfield wreak their usual havoc in this critically-acclaimed full-length film, now released on DVD. Homer must save the world from a catastrophe he himself created when his pet pig triggers a disaster the likes of which Springfield has never experienced. As Marge is outraged by Homer’s monumental blunder, a vengeful mob descends on the Simpson household and the calamity draws the attention of U.S. President Arnold Schwarzenegger (voiced by Harry Shearer). With the fates of Springfield and the world hanging in the balance, Homer embarks on a personal odyssey of redemption - seeking forgiveness from Marge, the reunion of his splintered family and the salvation of his hometown. Starring Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe, Apu, Chief Wiggum) and Harry Shearer (Mr Burns), plus guest voices Albert Brooks, Green Day and Tom Hanks, this joyous film is essential viewing for new and committed fans alike. DVD extras include audio commentaries and deleted scenes. The Simpsons Movie successfully captures the spirit and quality of the show’s best years and proves to have been well worth the wait.

JOHN OSBORNE AND THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP   DIGITAL CLASSICS DC10020

John James Osborne was born in London in 1929, the son of a copywriter and a Cockney barmaid. After a private education, he tried his hand at journalism before joining Anthony Creighton’s provincial theatre touring company as a stage manager and actor. His first play, The Devil Inside Him, co-written with Stella Linden, was written in 1950. He changed the face of British theatre forever when his emotionally charged play, Look Back in Anger, was first staged in 1956. Set in a scruffy flat in the Midlands and featuring anti-hero Jimmy Porter as the archetypal angry young man railing at national apathy, the play captured the imagination of a disillusioned post-war British public. It was immediately recognised as a theatrical landmark and helped British theatre throw off the formal constraints of previous generations. A unique aspect of this celebratory two-hour film about the playwright is the recent discovery of extracts from some of the original stage performances of his most famous plays: Laurence Olivier hoofing it in The Entertainer, Albert Finney mesmerising in Luther, Nicol Williamson in Inadmissable Evidence, Robert Stephens in Epitaph For George Dillon, Jill Bennett in A Patriot For Me, with a young John Osborne as Reidl. The DVD also features behind-the-scenes footage from Osborne’s Oscar-winning film Tom Jones and contributions from, among others, Richard Burton, David Hare, Kenneth Tynan, Claire Bloom, Kenneth Tynan, Tony Richardson, Natasha Richardson, John Heilpern (Osborne’s authorised biographer) and the late Helen Osborne. Misunderstanding and controversy surrounded the playwright’s career until he died at the age of 65 and was buried at Clun in Shropshire alongside his last wife, Helen. Tony Palmer’s riveting and sympathetic film interweaves extraordinary footage from Osborne’s plays with contributions from his friends and colleagues to create a loving portrait of this great if sometimes difficult man. Other highly recommended Tony Palmer films from Digital Classics include SALZBURG FESTIVAL (DC10016), with performances from 1920 to the present day and interviews current stars such as Plácido Domingo and Simon Rattle, and TESTIMONY (DC10010), a controversial feature starring Ben Kingsley and based on the dramatic relationship between Shostakovich and Stalin.

NODDY'S MAGICAL CHRISTMAS ADVENTURES    UNIVERSAL

Noddy was created by British children’s author Enid Blyton in a series of books originally published between 1949 and 1963. The first book, Noddy Goes to Toyland, explains his origins. Carved by a woodsman, he ran away after the man began to make a wooden lion, which Noddy was scared of. As he wanders through the woods he meets Big Ears, a friendly brownie, who decides that Noddy is a toy and takes him to live in Toyland. The little wooden boy with the jingly blue hat has since become one of the most loved children's characters of the modern era and several generations of children have grown up enjoying the stories either through books, television or the stage. Over 200 million Noddy books have been sold in over 30 languages (600,000 annuals each year in France alone) as well as over a million DVDs, and since the first puppet series in 1954 Noddy has had several more TV incarnations. To mark his imminent 60th birthday, Universal Pictures has released this new DVD featuring three of his great adventures: Noddy’s Magical Christmas Adventures, Noddy Saves Christmas and Catch a Falling Star. As an added bonus, the DVD also contains two games: Pathfinder and Spot the Difference. Children’s fads come and go but the popularity of Enid Blyton’s mischievous little boy - together with Big Ears, Mr Plod and the other residents of Toytown - remains undimmed, so he looks set to go on for at least another 60 years.

LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN – OPHULS   SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD 3104

Letter from an Unknown Woman, made in 1948, was based on a novel by Stefan Zweig and adapted by Howard Koch. It tells the story of a man who, while reading a letter written by a woman he does not remember, gets glimpses into her life story as she remembers it. Starring Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians and Marcel Journet, this bittersweet tale of obsessive love is perhaps the greatest of the twenty films Max Ophüls directed. Convincingly and sympathetically told, it has soulful performances by Fontaine and Jourdan, wonderfully romantic music by Daniele Amfitheatrof and exquisite black and white photography by Franz Planer. DVD extras include an insightful video essay by the film historian Tag Gallagher. Other films in the excellent Max Ophuls Collection series of DVDs from Second Sight are THE RECKLESS MOMENT, a sophisticated film noir starring James Mason and Joan Bennett at their best (2NDVD 3105), LE PLAISIR, which Jean-Luc Godard called the ‘the greatest film made in France since the liberation’ (2NDVD 3107) and a dazzling masterpiece based on three Guy de Maupassant stories, MADAME DE... (2NDVD 3106). Together they make a splendid tribute to one of cinema’s great visual stylists.

DOUBLE INDEMNITY - BILLY WILDER     UNIVERSAL 8232965

DOUBLE INDEMNITYJames M. Cain’s ‘hard-boiled’ 1943 novella was originally published in serial form in Liberty Magazine. Adapted for the screen by director Billy Wilder and writer Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity became a film noir masterpiece - a cynical, witty thriller about sex, corruption and murder. The story was based on a real-life crime of 1927 when a New York housewife persuaded her young lover to kill her husband after having him take out an insurance policy with a double-indemnity clause. One of the greatest films of all time inexplicably received no Academy Awards even though nominated in seven categories (including Best Picture, Actress and Director). The flawless cast includes the superb Edward G. Robinson (in a supporting role as the shrewd, fast-talking claims investigator, Barton Keyes), Barbara Stanwyck (magnificent in a blonde wig and sleazy gold anklet as the beautiful femme fatale, Phyllis Dietrichson) and Fred MacMurray playing against type as tempted insurance salesman Walter Neff. This near-perfect film about a near-perfect crime was Billy Wilder’s personal favourite among his own work and although it has inspired countless imitations, including The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Last Seduction, Double Indemnity has never been surpassed. This new DVD comes with an introductory booklet by Glenn Mitchell containing a history of the making of the film as well as entertaining trivia. An undisputed classic, not to be missed.

THE GODFATHER: THE COPPOLA RESTORATION     PARAMOUNT

Director Francis Ford Coppola’s phenomenally successful 1972 film, The Godfather, was based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel of the same name. Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton and Sterling Hayden, the film chronicles the activities of the Corleone crime family from 1945 to 1955. Hugely entertaining and impeccably made, it set the standard for mafia films and inspired both Hollywood and contemporary culture. The Academy Award winning screenplay was by Puzo, Coppola and an uncredited Robert Towne and The Godfather also received Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actor (Brando). A box office and critical success, odten ranked as one of the greatest films in American cinematic history, it was followed by two sequels: The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Godfather Part III (1990). This superb 5-disc collection from Paramount brings together these three classic films, fully restored using state-of-the-art digital technology under the supervision of Coppola himself, and including a newly remastered version of The Godfather: Part III. This box set also has a host of special features, including director commentaries for all three films, theatrical trailers, character and cast biographies, a look at the complexities of the restoration process, and new information about how the film almost didn’t get made. Other featurettes include ‘When the Shooting Stopped’ and ‘Godfather World, which explore The Godfather’s influence on popular culture today. This is a definitive collection that justly celebrates one of the great landmarks in American cinema.

COLOURS! CLOUDS! & GOD!      BLUE DOLPHIN BDVD 2011

This DVD contains three fascinating documentaries on the subject of fractals, mathematics and geometry. ‘Colours of Infinity’, presented by Arthur C. Clarke, delves into the wonderful world of the Mandelbrot set and fractal geometry: a discovery that could only be realised fully with advanced computers, without which they could never be seen. A simple mathematical formula promises to lead to amazing uses in many branches of science, medicine, computer graphics, weather reporting and analysis, geography, topography and even economics. The music is by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. ‘Clouds Are Not Spheres’ tells the story of the life and work of the highly regarded maverick mathematician, Benoît Mandlebrot - a great innovator and discoverer of the Mandlebrot set as well as fractal geometry, which he named. ‘Is God A Number?’ is a fascinating account of the science of mathematics and its connection to mind and consciousness. Presented in inimitable style by Michael Barnsley and featuring Sir Roger Penrose, the film looks at the mystery of consciousness, whilst exploring the links between mathematics, mind and the physical, observable universe. All titles were produced and directed by Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon. Available for the first time on DVD, these three extraordinary films are filled with beautiful images and profound thoughts that will open your mind. Also on the DVD is a bonus ‘chill-out’ film featuring further astonishing images and the music of David Gilmour.

THE CEMENT GARDEN SPECIAL EDITION – BIRKIN   ARROW

Ian McEwan’s critically acclaimed 1978 novel, The Cement Garden, was adapted into this memorable 1993 film by Andrew Birkin. A family of four fatherless children hides their mother’s death to avoid going to an orphanage, with the eldest two thinking that they are capable of assuming the mature roles forced upon them. Parenthood and maturity, however, are superceded stronger urges, which brother Jack and sexy sister Julie find hard to resist. Dreamy visuals, a haunting soundtrack and near perfect performances make this film a feast for the imagination. Andrew Robertson takes the leading role of grumpy teenager Jack and there are outstanding performances by Sinead Cusack as the dying mother and the luminous Charlotte Gainsbourg as long-legged Julie. The Cement Garden is a dark, compelling and occasionally funny film, with a powerful yet subtle erotic message. Filmed mostly in and around a bleak concrete house, with sometimes stark sexual imagery, the film shows how social rules and regulations can lead to the dissolution of an already disintegrating family. Extras include additional scenes and a pithy commentary by the director. ‘A positive triumph’ - The Guardian.

THE ROUND-UP – JANCSO    SECOND RUN

Hungarian film director and screenwriter Miklós Jancsó studied but avoided a legal career and moved to the capital Budapest, wher he received his Diploma in Film Directing at the Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in 1950. He achieved international prominence as a director in the 1960s, most notably with My Way Home, The Round-Up, and The Red and the White. His films are characterised by strong visual stylisation, elegantly choreographed shots and long takes, and frequent themes include the nature of power and how it is abused. His most famous works are set in historical periods but are often assumed to be allegories of contemporary Hungary under Communism. Set in a detention camp in Hungary 1869 at a time of guerrilla campaigns against the ruling Austrians, The Round-Up (Szegénylegények) shows attempts by the authorities to weed out those who took part in the rebellion. The brutal, dictatorial methods depicted were seen by many as an analysis of the clampdown that followed Hungary’s failed uprising against Russian-imposed Communism in 1956. The film was shot in widescreen in black and white by regular Jancsó collaborator Tamás Somló and uses the director’s favourite setting, desolate and usually burning landscape of the Hungarian puszta (plain), shot in characteristically oppressive sunlight. A profound influence on filmmakers from Sergio Leone to Béla Tarr, The Round-Up is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of world cinema. Jancsó deliberately avoids conventional heroics to focus on the persecution and dehumanization manifest in a time of conflict, using his formidable technique to create a remarkable and terrifyingly bleak picture of war and the abuse of power that can still shock, and which speaks eloquently to audiences today. On many writers, critics and filmmakers Best Film lists, this is the first ever DVD release of this provocative, haunting film in the English-speaking world.

DUCK SOUP – MARX BROTHERS      UNIVERSAL CLASSICS

Duck Soup‘Remember, you’re fighting for this woman’s honour, which is probably more than she ever did.’ - Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup, directed by Leo McCarey in 1933 and featuring the Marx Brothers at their anarchic best. Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo (his last film as one of the brothers) are joined by the wonderful Margaret Dumont, Raquel Torres, Louis Calhern and Edgar Kennedy. Compared to the Marx Brothers’ previous films, Duck Soup was a disappointment at the box-office after opening to mixed reviews but is now considered one of the funniest films of all time. The small Ruritanian state of Freedonia is in financial trouble after borrowing a huge sum of cash from wealthy widow Mrs Teasdale (Dumont). She insists on replacing the current president with the outrageous Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) and mayhem ensues. To complicate matters, a neighbouring state of Sylvania sends in inept spies Chicolini and Pinky (Chico and Harpo) to obtain top secret information and cause further chaos. Highlights include the beautifully timed mirror sequence (a vaudeville classic) and the relentless stream of one-liners, puns and riddles (‘what has four pairs of pants, lives in Philadelphia, and it never rains but it pours?’). This satire on politics and warmongering is one of four early Marx Brothers’ films – the others are Monkey Business, Animal Crackers and Horse Feathers – included in a range of essential films released on DVD by Universal under the banner Cinema Classics. They include ‘the greatest film of all time’, Citizen Kane (with a brilliant optional commentary by film historian Ken Barnes), the irrepressible Mae West in Belle of the Nineties, Hitchcock classics such as family Plot and The Trouble With Harry - a total of 31 award winners, from Film Noir (see below), Thriller, Comedy, Westerns, Horror and Sci-fi, War, Drama, Romance and Musicals.

FILM NOIR – UNIVERSAL CLASSICS

From the early 1940s to the late 1950s, Hollywood made a series of great crime dramas that came to be known as Film Noir. The term was first applied by the French critic Nino Frank in 1946, although most of those involved in the making of the classic Noirs later professed to be unaware of having created a distinctive type of film. What these stylish movies had in common was an emphasis on moral ambiguity and sexual motivation. Often made on a modest budget, these Hollywood films had low-key black-and-white photography influenced by German Expressionism and featured stories derived from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that flourished in the United States during the Great Depression. With tough guys, tougher – and gorgeous – women, alongside hard-bitten police and cynical, wise-cracking private eyes, the Film Noir genre was pioneered by Universal and other studios and has been one of the most enduring of all modern film genres. Universal’s new Cinema Classics range celebrates these much-loved films by re-issuing some of the finest examples, including A Touch Of Evil (starring Orson Welles, Janet Leigh, Charlton Heston and an uncredited Marlene Dietrich), The Killers (a definitive noir with one of the greatest opening sequences in film history), Double Indemnity (directed by Billy Wilder, screenplay by Raymond Chandler, starring the wonderful Babara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson and Edward G. Robinson as Barton Keyes), The Blue Dahlia (starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake and also written by Chandler), The Glass Key (with Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd), a Philip Marlow tale, Murder My Sweet (aka Farewell My Lovely) and This Gun For Hire (an early example of the genre, based on a Graham Greene novel). ‘Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman, and I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?’ - Walter Neff.

SLEUTH – KENNETH BRANAGH      PARAMOUNT

Michael Caine and Jude Law star in the gripping remake of the 1972 classic, stylishly directed by Kenneth Branagh, with a sharply adapted script by Nobel prizewinner Harold Pinter. The film was produced by Jude Law, who plays Milo Tindle opposite Caine as Andrew Wyke (Caine starred as Tindle opposite Laurence Olivier’s Wyke in the original). This is the second film in which Law takes on a role originated by Caine - the first being Alfie. Although classed as a ‘remake’, this new version is very different from the original both the original Anthony Shaffer play and the earlier film, which Pinter had not seen prior to writing his screenplay. Locked up in a high-tech English manor, bound in a deadly duel of wits Wyke Tindle come together as English gentlemen to discuss the matter of Wyke’s wife; the woman both men are sleeping with. But as wit becomes wicked and clever becomes cut-throat, their game of one-upmanship spirals out of control in an escalating series of cat and mouse twists that can only lead to a deadly outcome. The Pinteresque dialogue crackles enjoyably and Branagh’s direction elicits all the menace and sly humour. Caine gives one of his finest recent performances, revealing a real chemistry as he spars verbally and otherwise with Jude Law in this fascinating two-hander. Special features with the DVD include commentaries by Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine and Jude Law, as well as behind the scenes documentaries.

THE KING OF KONG – GORDON     REVOLVER

In the cutthroat world of Donkey Kong only one man can rule. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a documentary that follows newcomer Steve Wiebe as he tries to take the world high score for the classic arcade game Donkey Kong from long-reigning champion Billy Mitchell, who doesn’t intend to relinquish his crown without a fight. This is the stuff of gladiatorial battle: good versus evil, right versus wrong, nerd versus…super nerd? Skilfully directed by Seth Gordon, this hilarious and perceptive film received great critical acclaim on its release last year and has gained a huge fanbase in the gaming world. The South Park episode 1109 (‘More Crap’) is loosely based on The King of Kong and includes a scene where a previous world record holder, Bono, sends in an unverified video to steal his challenger’s thunder. One of the best documentaries seen in years, this wonderfully weird film is essential viewing for anyone who loves rooting for the underdog. A host of special features with this DVD include a commentary by director Seth Gordon, producer Ed Cunningham, associate producer Clay Tweel and associate producer Luis Lopez, bonus footage, extended interviews with the participants, and A Really, Really Brief History of Donkey Kong. ‘Insanely funny’ - Rolling Stone.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON - SINGTON      4DVD  F4DVD90105

The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. It was the fifth human spaceflight of the Apollo program and the third human voyage to the moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon, while Collins orbited above, fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to reach the moon by the end of the 1960s. Between 1968 and 1972, nine American spacecraft voyaged to the Moon, and twelve men walked on its surface - the only human beings ever to have stood on another world. Filmmaker David Sington’s critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning documentary, In the Shadow of the Moon, includes breathtaking never before seen footage from the NASA archives and brings together for the first, and possibly the last, time surviving crew members from every Apollo mission which flew to the Moon, allowing them to tell their story in their own riveting words. The many DVD extras include ‘Behind the Shadow’ showing unseen footage and astronaut stories, ‘Scoring Apollo’ a featurette presented by composer Philip Sheppard and the theatrical trailer. A favourite with critics and cinema audiences alike, this uplifting movie is an intimate epic that vividly captures the spirit, daring and passion of an extraordinary era. Highly recommended.

THE ANDRZEJ WAJDA WAR TRILOGY      ARROW FCD323

Polish film director Andrzej Wajda’s first three full-length films are among the greatest war films of all time. Pokolenie (aka A Generation, 1955), Kanal (aka Canal, 1957) and Popiól i diament (aka Ashes and Diamonds, 1958) were groundbreaking films that helped usher in the Polish School movement. Although often been regarded as a trilogy, each film boldly stands on its own as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the struggle for personal and national freedom. Pokolenie is about a generation of youth coming out of age during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The superb Kanal (winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes) was the first film made about the Warsaw uprising and brought its director an international reputation. The Popiól i diament is a complex masterpiece set in the early days of Soviet occupation following Second World War. Zbigniew Cybulski (Poland’s James Dean, rarely seen without dark glasses) won international fame in the role of a young rebel hit-man. This indispensable set of essential films also includes an interview with Andrzej Wajda, who received an honorary Academy Award in 1999 for his body of work, which consists of more than thirty-five features.

HORROR & SCI-FI - UNIVERSAL CLASSICS

Universal Horror is the name given to the distinctive series of horror films made by Universal Studios in California from the 1920s through to the 1950s. With their iconic gallery of monsters, the films of this major Hollywood studio created a lasting impression on generations of avid moviegoers around the world. Such great horror films as Tod Browning’s Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi) and James Whale’s Frankenstein (with the unforgettable Boris Karloff), together with sci-fi and several titles from the master of horror, Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Frenzy and The Birds), are now available on DVD in the Universal Classics series. Along with these universally famous and much parodied films there are many lesser-known ones, such as Dracula’s Daughter, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (again with the wonderfully spooky Bela Lugosi), She-Wolf Of London (a young woman suspects she may be responsible for a series of ghastly murders), Son Of Frankenstein (with Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi), Bride Of Frankenstein (with Esa Lanchester as the monster’s sexy mate), Creature From The Black Lagoon (a prehistoric Gill-man falls in love with the beautiful fiancé of a scientist), James Whale’s The Invisible Man, The Phantom Of The Opera (starring Claude Rains as the obsessed musician haunting Paris’s Opera House), The Wolf Man, Werewolf Of London (a doctor subconsciously goes on nightly rampages through the city) and Slaughterhouse-Five (based on Kurt Vonnegut’s famous anti-war novel). Many of the horror genre’s most conventions - the creaking staircase, the cobwebs, the swirling mist and the mobs of peasants pursuing monsters with torches - originated with these immensely enjoyable films.

BORSTAL BOY - SHERIDAN         REVOLVER

In Brendan Behan’s autobiographical novel, Borstal Boy, published in 1958, he memorably related his experience of imprisonment at Hollesley Bay for carrying explosives into the United Kingdom on a mission for the IRA.. The story takes its name from the Borstal, a British jail for juveniles, of which Hollesley was one. The book was banned in Ireland on the grounds of obscenity but in 1967 it was adapted as an award-winning play by Frank McMahon and staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. In 2000, the book was adapted again for this film by its director Peter Sheridan. An emotionally moving coming-of-age drama, the film stars the talented young American actor Shawn Hatosy as sixteen year-old republican Behan on a bombing mission from Ireland to Liverpool during the Second World War. His mission is thwarted when he is apprehended and sent to a Borstal in East Anglia, where he is forced to live face-to-face with those he perceived as ‘the enemy’. This confrontation reveals deep inner conflict and forces self-examination that is both traumatic and revealing as events take an unexpected and tragic turn. In the emotional vortex, Brendan finally faces up to the truth. Shawn Hatosy gives a remarkable performance as the teenager gone wrong and the ensemble cast also includes the excellent Danny Dyer as an openly gay sailor, Michael York as the warden, Eva Birthistle as the warden’s beautiful daughter and a brief appearance by Ronnie Drew (of Dubliners fame). Sheridan has taken a few liberties with Behan’s original book but this is a touching, thoughtful and engrossing film. Extras include a documentary with comments by the actors and director plus a brilliant short film, ‘The Breakfast’, also directed by Peter Sheridan. Official website: http://www.borstalboy.co.uk

BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ – FASSBINDER     SECOND SIGHT

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s amazing Berlin Alexanderplatz was originally broadcast in 1980 as a 14-part television series set in Germany between the two World Wars. In 1983, it was released theatrically - playing two or three episodes a night - and soon acquired a cult following for the longest narrative film ever made. This epic film explores the character of Franz Biberkopf, ‘hero’ of Alfred Döblin’s acclaimed novel, as well as the Alexanderplatz area of Berlin that he inhabits. Franz (brilliantly played by Gunter Lamprecht) gets out of prison following a four-year sentence for the manslaughter of his girlfriend and becomes involved in the decadent Berlin of the 1920s, with pimps, prostitutes, Nazis and psychotic small-time crook Reinhold (Gottfried John). Facing these temptations, Franz is too easily led by others. Following a massive restoration project overseen by the original editor, Berlin Alexanderplatz is now available for the first time on DVD in this superb six-disc box set. Extras include special features: ‘Making Of, A Mega-Movie And Its’ Story’, ‘The Restoration’ - before and after, stills and productions photos gallery and the Berlinale trailer. The remastered version received its world premiere in February 2007 at the Berlin International Film Festival, when the first two episodes were shown. This remarkable 15½ hours long masterpiece becomes an even more intense and powerful experience when seen over two or three days rather than over several weeks as originally shown on television. ‘The work of a genuine master’ - Time Out.

THE NEO-REALIST COLLECTION BOX SET     ARROW FCD252

Bicycle ThievesThe Italian neo-realist film movement is characterised by stories set amongst the poor and working class as the country grappled with the difficult postwar economical and moral conditions The films, shot on location and frequently using non-professional actors, reflected changes in the Italian psyche and the conditions of everyday life: defeat, poverty, and desperation. Realism is always emphasised, and performances are mostly devoid of the self-consciousness that amateur acting usually entails. The movement started in about 1943 and became a global phenomenon in 1946 when Roberto Rossellini’s Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City), based on real events that took place in Nazi-occupied Italy in 1944, won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Vittorio De Sica’s poignant 1948 film Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) was another landmark film that defined the Italian Neorealist approach with its brutal portrayal of post-war working-class life, its truthful acting, its compassion and poetic rhythm. This box set features five powerful and beautifully shot films that paint an unforgettable picture of ‘real’ Italian life. As well as Rome, Open City and the wonderful Bicycle Thieves, this set includes Vittorio de Sica’s Miracle in Milan (1951, telling the story of Toto, a newborn discovered in a cabbage patch) and Umberto D (1952, a simple and moving portrayal of attachment, dignity and suffering) and Frederico Fellini’s award-winning I Vitteloni (1953, a compassionate semi-autobiographical film detailing the lives of a group of young bloods drifting aimlessly and dreaming of escape from their small seacoast town). This splendid collection celebrates a period of film history that was deeply influenced by the political ideals and social history of its time and has become immortal thanks to some of the greatest films ever made.

THE OPEN ROAD – CLAUDE FRIESE-GREENE    BFI FILMS BFIVD739

Claude Friese-Greene was born in 1898 in London. . His father, William Friese-Greene, was possibly the inventor of Kinematography and by 1889 had patented his ‘chronophotographic’ camera. His system produced Biocolour, where black and white films were given the illusion of colour by passing them through red or green filters. Unfortunately, William’s creation was too crude to succeed and he sold the rights, due to bankruptcy, for just £500. Claude eventually continued with his father’s work and pursued a career as a filmmaker, cinematographer and technician. In 1924, he set off from England’s southern tip, Land’s End in Cornwall, and travelled 1600 miles to the most northern point of Scotland, John O’Groats, and went on to produce a series of 26 short films that together made up ‘The Open Road’. This journey took Claude and his friend Robin Haywood Booth three years to produce, while travelling across the English countryside in an open top Vauxhall D-type. This glorious time-honoured work has us seeing the people and their different environment during the time of peace between the First World War and before the depression era of the 1930s and before the build up to the Second World War. This unique travelogue was intended to be shown weekly at the cinema but although creating an initial impact when it was first exhibited at trade shows in 1925, Claude’s experimental colour process failed to reach a large audience owing to heavy flicker and colour fringing. The original negatives were deposited with the BFI for preservation in the late 1950s. Great enthusiasm for the film was created by the documentary series The Lost World of Friese-Greene, a co-production with the BBC that was televised in 2006 and released by the BFI on DVD. Now the BFI National Archive has restored a special compilation of highlights from the journey, using digital intermediate technology (the Archive’s first such project) to remove the technical defects of the original. The Open Road is important both as a landmark in the development of colour on film but also as a fascinating social record of inter-war Britain. The film is presented on this DVD with a new score by pianist Neil Brand and renowned violinist and silent film accompanist Günter Buchwald. The restoration remains true to the original colour while using the latest technology to create a clearer image with a remarkable reduction in the flicker and colour fringing. This ‘cinematic postcard’ of Britain in the 1920s is fascinating and the films speak much more resonantly for themseves without the superfluous commentary that marred the television series. Extras include a short aerial tour of the West Country in ‘Across England in an Aeroplane’ (UK, 1919-20, silent) and an illustrated 17-page booklet with background notes, details on the digital reconstruction of the film and musician biographies.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER/PRIVATE EYE/PLUMBER’S MATE ICON 10135

Stanley Long, born in South London in 1933, became one of Britain’s most prolific filmakers. He began his career as a photographer, before producing 8mm striptease shorts or ‘glamour home movies’, with titles such as Peachy Paula and Cuddly Carole. Long – sometimes known as Stanley A. Long – also worked (uncredited) with Roman Polanski on Repulsion (1965) and with David Bailey. Beginning in the late fifties, his feature film career spanned the history of the British sexplotation era, from coy nudist films of the 1950s to these three sex comedies made in the 1970s. Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1975), Adventures of a Private Eye (1977) and Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate starred the indefatigible Barry Evans playing essentially the same character (called North, South and West), together with a wide range of British acting talent that included Diana Dors, Irene Handl, Harry H. Corbett, Liz Fraser, Fred Emney, Robert Lindsay, Judy Geeson, Brian Wilde, Arthur Mullard and Ian Lavender. Not to mention surprising cameos from the likes of Elaine Page and William Rushton. Produced with miniscule budgets - Taxi Driver cost just £30,000 - the films’ quaint mixture of silly plots, slapstick humour and beautiful girls was a box office hit in the UK (Adventures of a Taxi Driver even outperformed Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver when they were released in the same year). The series was sold to over 30 countries worldwide and made millions for Stanley Long’s distribution company Alpha Films, which became one of the most successful independent distributors of the era. Extras with this three-disc set from Icon include theatrical trailers and a revealing commentary by Stanley Long.

REMEMBER ME – MUCCINO    BLUEBELL BLC013

Gabriele Muccino’s bittersweet drama Remember Me (aka Ricordarti Di Me) concerns the dysfunctional Italian middle-class family Ristuccia. Middle-aged executive Carlo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) has a stalled, monotonous life without passion and his wife Giulia (Laura Morante) is a frustrated woman because she gave up of being an actress in her youth to dedicate her time to the family. Their son Paolo (Silvio Muccino) feels lost and rejected, trying to find who he is and flirting with a schoolmate. Seventeen-year-old daughter Valentina (Nicoletta Romanoff) wants to work in a television show and is fighting to have an audition. The family is blown apart when Carlo meets his former sweetheart, Allessia (the beautiful Monica Belluci), after meeting her in a class reunion. They confess to each other that their marriages are in crisis and begin an affair. Meanwhile Giulia is invited to an audition in a stage production, Paolo tries to make friends using marijuana in his birthday party and Valentina has sex in order to become a dancer on a successful TV show. Their relationships change when Carlo has an accident. Superbly written and directed, this engrossing and poignant film tells the story of a normal family struggling to keep a balance between personal fulfillment and the need they have for each other. Fabrizio Bentivoglio is perfect as a decent man in crisis and Laura Morante is sensationally good as his wife, a woman teetering on the edge of a breakdown yet essentially strong. Remember Me was nominated for ten Donatello Awards, and won Best Producer, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (for Bellucci) from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. ‘Its deceptively light farcical elements give it dignity and emotional power’ - Time Out.

HALF NELSON – RYAN FLECK    AXIOM FILMS AXM560

An inner-city teacher struggling with addiction forms an unlikely bond with a young student who catches him in a compromising position in director Ryan Fleck's feature-length adaptation of his own award-winning short film Gowanus, Brooklyn. Despite his dedication to the junior-high students who fill his shabby classroom, idealistic inner-city teacher Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) leads a secret life that the majority of his students will never know. Day after day, he somehow finds the energy to inspire his 13 and 14-year-olds to examine everything from civil rights to the Civil War with a new enthusiasm. Rejecting the standard curriculum in favour of an edgier approach, Dan teaches his students how change works and how to think for themselves. When his drug-soaked nightlife begins to bleed over into his daytime hours and troubled student Drey (Shareeka Epps) makes a startling discovery, the tenuous bond that forms between the pair leads to a warm friendship that could either lead them down a dangerous path or provide the human companionship needed to see things from a fresh perspective and start life anew. The film received rapturous critical acclaim on its release, finding its way on to many top ten films of 2006 lists. Ryan Gosling gives a mesmerising performance as the disillusioned teacher and young Shareeka Epps is astonishingly good as the struggling student. From the classroom to the basketball court, to the painful addiction scenes, Epps and Gosling make Half Nelson come alive with anger, pain and the true pathos of life in America today. The generous array of extras includes commentary from writer/director Ryan Fleck and writer/editor Anna Boden, Fleck and Bodens Sundance award-winning short film ‘Gowanus, Brooklyn’ (also starring the remarkable Shareeka Epps), interviews with Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Q&A with Fleck and Boden at the Everyman Cinema in London, cast audition footage, out-takes, deleted and extended scenes, a photo gallery and trailer.

PALMS – ARISTAKISIAN        SECOND RUN DVD026

Artur Aristakisian (born in Kishinov, capital of Moldova) is the first hippie of the Russian film community. It took him eight years to be accepted into the Moscow Film School (VGIK), where he lived in classrooms and cooked his food while hiding behind the curtains during his classmates’ rehearsals. For four years he struggled to complete Palms (Ladoni), an astonishing portrait of people who live outside ‘society’ and exist on the margins of life. Between 1986 and 1990, Aristakisian lived among the tramps and beggars of Kishinov, studying them and empathising with their plight. This documentary follows a series of case studies - all disadvantaged in some way - as they go about their daily business of struggling to eke out an existence in a cruel and hostile world. Aristakisian takes a philosophical, almost spiritual, view of his subjects but, by way of rationalising, he likens them to Christ and his disciples, whose outsider status was part of their uniqueness. Aristakisian’s sensitive narration is that of a father intoning truths to his unborn child, while the monochrome photography perfectly captures the former Soviet city in all its desolate glory. Palms is one of the most remarkable debuts of recent years and this unique and magical documentary has won many awards, including the 1994 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Ecumenical Jury Prize and San Francisco Film Festival Satyajit Ray Prize. DVD extras include an interview with the director and a booklet with an interesting essay by Graeme Hobbs.

BARAKA & CHRONOS - RON FRICKE   SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD 3112

Baraka takes its title from an ancient Middle Eastern word meaning ‘a blessing’, or ‘breath of life’. This visually stunning and inspirational film was shot over 13 months in 24 countries and is an overwhelming experience that spans the geographical, cultural and social diversity of our changing planet. A journey of rediscovery, Baraka is the power, the beauty and the rage of life itself. Often compared to Koyaanisqatsi (to which Ron Fricke’s pioneering time-lapse photography techniques contributed hugely), Baraka uses footage of landscapes, churches, ruins, religious ceremonies and cities, filmed with time-lapse photography to capture the pulse of humanity as it flocks and swarms in daily activity. In addition to making comparisons between natural and technological phenomena, the film searches for a universal cultural perspective. DVD extras include ‘The Making of Baraka’, crew interviews and the original trailer. Ron Fricke’s Chronos was originally released in 1985 in IMAX theatres. The 42-minutes long film has a soundtrack consisting of a single continuous piece by composer Michael Stearns and was also shot in dozens of locations on five continents. Chronos relates to the concept of time passing on different scales - covering the history of civilisation from pre-historic Stonehenge via Egypt, Rome and Late Antiquity to the rise of Western Europe in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the modern era. Other time scales reflect changing seasons, the passing of night and day, and the movement of shadows of the sun or the passing of people on the street. There are awe-inspiring shots of the American mid-West, the grids of motorways and the conveyor-belt imagery of humans caught-up in the neon-lit rush of New York City. This was Fricke’s debut film as a director, made using innovative cameras and rigging built to handle the unusually long and smooth time-lapse shots, such as a 24-hour expanse of a desert captured while evenly panning 180 degrees. Michael Stearns, while composing the experimental soundtrack, used an extraordinary custom-made instrument called ‘The Beam’ - 12 feet long and made of extruded aluminium with 24 of 19-22 gauge piano strings. On this DVD, optional subtitles can be selected which list the location of each shot, such as The Pyramids, Mont St. Michel, St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, Nôtre Dame in Paris, The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Pompeii, The Acropolis and The Louvre. Other extras include commentary by Ron Fricke, Michael Stearns and production manager Anton Walpole about the techniques employed and the difficulties faced in making this breathtaking film. Now available together in this box set, Baraka and Chronos are unforgettable experiences.

OF MICE AND MEN – MILESTONE       ARROW FILMS FCD347

John Steinbeck novella, Of Mice and Men, was first published in 1937 and tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant workers searching for a safe haven from the cruelties of the world during the 1930s. The title was taken from Robert Burns’ poem, To a Mouse (The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley) and is an ironic allusion to the problems of the main characters. Quick-witted George looks after the disabled, possibly autistic Lennie and dreams of escaping to a better life. Lennie Small, despite his name, is a very big man physically but with the dreams and attributes of a child. He dreams of ‘living off the fatta’ the lan’ and being able to tend to rabbits. Having the mental ability of a child and the strength of a ‘bull’ leaves him unable to control or judge his own strength, resulting in a series of accidental killings as he mauls things to death when they try to escape. Set in California’s bucolic Salinas Valley, Of Mice and Men paints a bold, vivid picture of life during the Great Depression and has been filmed several times. This classic 1939 adaptation is the definitive version, with fine black and white cinematography and Lon Chaney Jr. as Lennie alongside Burgess Meredith as George, who had previously played the part in over 200 performances on Broadway. Directed by Lewis Milestone, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original score by the great American composer Aaron Copland. Meredith and Chaney are superb in the roles of their careers and receive great support from Charles Bickford, Noah Beery Jr., veteran Bob Steele as the hot-headed Curley and Betty Field as his bored wife.

CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN     REVELATION FILMS PAR61347

This subtle, stylish film stars Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart and tells the bittersweet story of a couple whose reunion at a wedding reception ignites a mysterious attraction for each other that is deeper and more emotionally perilous than they are willing to admit. At a New York City wedding reception two guests, seemingly strangers, become entangled in a sexually-charged battle of wits. But as the night carries on in a cigarette smoke haze, the nameless couple’s repartee deepens to reveal the passion of their two decades past love affair. Escaping the party for a hotel room, the two are soon gripped by their mutual past and the individual choices that lead them to the present. Director Hans Canosa’s feature debut is shot entirely in split-screen, a technique pioneered in 1913 by Lois Weber’s short film Suspense and French director Abel Gance’s 1927 silent epic, and featured most recently in the television series 24. In the wrong hands this could prove an annoying gimmick but here it adds to the romantic mystery as the couple’s story gradually unravels and is understood by the audience. Conversations With Other Women is an unconventional and poignant love story with spirited performances by the Helena Bonham Carter as a woman on a mission and Aaron Eckhart as the charming if somewhat immature man. This film won a Special Jury prize and Best Actress prize for Bonham Carter at the 2005 Tokyo Film Festival, and Gabrielle Zevin received a nomination for Best First Screenplay at the 2007 Independent Spirit Awards. DVD extras include interviews with the actors and director, a trailer, a discussion on the merits of split-screen, and a photo gallery.

SEX & FURY – NORIFUMI SUZUKI     FABULOUS FILMS FHED1989

This prime example of Japanese sexploitation stars the beautiful and sultry Reiko Ike as Ocho Inoshika, a gambler, pickpocket and swordswoman in early 1920s Meiji Era Tokyo. At a young age, Ocho witnessed the brutal murder of her father, killed in cold blood by the local Yakuza. As the tale unfolds Ocho uses her deadly swordplay and female sexuality to outsmart her assailants and extracts cold hearted revenge for the death of her father, in a bloody climax of sex and violence. Director Norifumi Suzuki creates visually stunning scenes featuring wild colour and expressive movement, with spectacular photography throughout. The film has a good deal of nudity along with the violence but this is a key part of the genre and the final shot stunning of Ocho in the falling snow is supremely memorable. Sex & Fury may seem strangely familiar if you are a fan of the Kill Bill series. Quentin Tarrentino has acknowledged his considerable debt to this movie as well as to its follow up, FEMALE YAKUZA TALE (FHED1990). The latter was directed by Teruo Ishii and Reiko Ike returns to play the lead as Ocho, gambler and underworld mover and shaker who gets caught up in a complicated tale of kidnapping, murder and drug trafficking. All hell breaks lose in this fast paced, delirious blend of sex, violence and pop cinema. Less surreal and psychedelic than Sex and Fury, the sequel features a remarkable opening sequence involving a naked Ocho slaughtering multiple opponents in slow-motion, and the film builds to another fantastic climax. Sex & Fury and Female Yakuza have acquired a period charm and are essential viewing for all fans of 1970s exploitation cinema. DVD extras include theatrical trailers and other promotional material. ‘Reiko Ike became the ultimate cult queen’ - Jonathan Ross.

THE CLASSIC HORROR COLLECTION   CLASSIC ENTERTAINMENT CE104

In the early 1930s, American producers, particularly Universal Pictures, popularised the horror film with successful Gothic features that included Dracula, The Mummy, James Whale’s Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. Some actors built entire careers in such films, most notably Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Both of these stars appear in several of the 21 classics included in this splendid 7-DVD box set. Among the highlights are the excellent Horror Hotel (a.k.a. The City of the Dead, with Christopher Lee and a spooky Valentine Dyall), The Terror (a Roger Corman exploitation quickie with Karloff and a young Jack Nicholson), The Corpse Vanishes (Lugosi), House on Haunted Hill (Vincent Price), The Ghoul (Karloff), A Bucket of Blood (brilliant beatnik horror comedy), Little Shop of Horrors (another early appearance by Nicholson), the wonderfully eerie Carnival of Souls, the hilarious Mesa of Lost Women (Jackie Coogan), Creature from the Haunted Sea (a horror comedy from Roger Corman), Dementia 13 (one of Francis Ford Coppola’s first films as director), Shock (film noir shocker with Vincent Price) and Attack of the Giant Leeches (enjoyable nonsense with the lovely Yvette Vickers). This excellent value box set provides 25 hours of delicious late-night entertainment.

HIGH HOPES – MIKE LEIGH    FABULOUS / FREMANTLE FHED2019

Set mostly in King’s Cross, London, Mike Leigh’s 1988 film explores the lives of a working-class couple, Cyril (Philip Davis) and his girlfriend Shirley (superbly played by Ruth Sheen), and their friends, neighbours and family. Motor-cycle courier Cyril reads Karl Marx and is an old-style socialist who despairs of his working-class but Tory-voting mother, her ghastly yuppie neighbours, his pretentious, social-climbing sister and her insensitive, philandering car-salesman husband. Wayne left home because of an argument about pies and finds himself lost in London. Cyril would like to machine gun the royal family. Rupert and Laetitia Boothe-Brain play sex games, while deep in suburbia Valerie fails to arouse her husband Martin with a suggestion that he be Michael Douglas and she a virgin. Cyril’s mother gets locked out of her house and is criticised by her snobbish neighbour for selfishly occupying a whole house in an increasingly fashionable area. Shirley wants a baby, but Cyril is reluctant, feeling that the world should be spared more babies until everyone has a job, a place to live and enough to eat. This disparate cast of characters swim in an out of each others lives, seamlessly orchestrated by director Mike Leigh in his inimitable slice-of-life style. DVD extras include on-set news footage, an interview with Mike Leigh, the original production notes, biographies, stills and a poster gallery. This funny and touching film poignantly evokes the bleakness of the third term of Margaret Thatcher’s government.

CLOSE-UP – KIAROSTAMI      SODA

Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s film tells the story of the real-life trial of a man who impersonated film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, conning a family into believing they would star in his new film. It features the people involved, acting as themselves, and the dialogue is in Persian. Kiarostami is the most influential and controversial post-revolutionary Iranian director and Close-Up was one of the first of films that brought him international attention. Set around the time of the 1990 Iran earthquake, Kiarostami’s film invites the creative participation of its audience, interrupting the expected dramatic flow of the story-line with minor characters whose lives are not considered dramatic or important. The director mixes fact and fiction in such a way that it is impossible to separate the two. The non-chronological order of the scenes in the film which offer different points-of-view urge the audience to make sense of the story (putting it in their order), as well as asking them to judge the characters on their own terms. Close-Up not only refers to the role of cinema in Iran as a means of power, popularity, and social mobility, but it also confronts the viewer with her/his own relationship to cinema. Kiarostami thus criticises the role of media and the media-maker in deceiving the audience. In this film more than his other films, Kiarostami reveals the characters through their lies and performances, and the final beautiful scene confirms the director’s compassion for his subject and makes this essential viewing for all cineastes. Hossain Sabzian gives a remarkable performance as ‘himself’ and ‘Mohsen Makhmalbaf’. DVD extras include: ‘Close-Up in close up’ hosted by Geoff Andrew and ‘The Opening Night of Close-Up’ (II Giorno della prima di Close Up), a short film by Nanni Moretti.

TAKE CARE OF MY CAT – JAE-EUN JEONG   BLUEBELL

Five girlfriends in their early twenties live in the dingy Korean port town of Inchon. A close-knit circle in high school, their paths begin to diverge as they step into the adult world and struggle against the weight of family expectations and class prejudice. Hee-joo leaves Inchon for the bright lights of Seoul, Ji-young and Tae-hee dream of studying overseas and bubbly twins Bri-ryu and Ohn-jo eke out a living selling hand made jewellery. Despite their brave efforts can the girls retain the bond they once had or will their growing ambition cause them to lose sight of that once precious friendship? This touching, warm and witty coming of age movie deals sympathetically and subtly with universal and profound themes yet remains engaging and highly accessible. There are delightfully natural performances by the young cast, especially Doona Bae as the optimistic Tae-hee. Director Jae-eun Jeong studied film at the Korean National University of Arts and before making this graceful and perceptive film she directed several shorts, including Yujin’ Secret Codes, which won the Grand Prix of the Women’s Film Festival in Seoul. Take Care of My Cat (Goyangileul butaghae) is a gem of a film and a highly accomplished feature debut by this young director.

THE CLAUDE CHABROL COLLECTION: VOLUME 2     ARROW FCD304

Along with François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol’s name is famously associated with the Cahiers du Cinéma and the rise of the French New Wave. Born in Paris in 1930, Chabrol was evacuated during the Occupation to a village in the Massif Central, where he and a friend set up a makeshift cinema in a barn. Returning to Paris after the Liberation, he studied law and began attending the thriving postwar ciné-clubs and cinémathèques where he met Truffaut, Godard and Eric Rohmer. A fan of Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock, he was invited to contribute articles to Cahiers and supported himself by working at the Paris publicity office of 20th Century-Fox. He directed his first film, the revolutionary Le Beau Serge, in 1958 and became known for his chilling Hitchcock-influenced tales of murder. The films in this second collection from Arrow Films encapsulate Chabrol’s jaundiced attitude towards the French bourgeoisie. La Rupture (The Breach, 1970), with its sensational opening, forms part of the ‘Hélène cycle’ that he made with his second wife Stéphane Audran. Inspired by Charlotte Armstrong’s pulp novel, The Balloon Man, it centres on the abuse suffered by a former stripper at the hands of drug-addicted husband Jean-Claude Drouot and father-in-law Michel Bouquet, as they try to discredit her divorce suit. Chabrol’s regular screenwriter, Paul Gégauff, plays an equally monstrous spouse in Une Partie de Plaisir (Pleasure Party, 1974), which disconcertingly co-stars his ex-wife Danielle as the target of his murderous rage after a demand for an open marriage backfires. The best laid plans of a treacherous partner also go awry in Les Innocents aux Mains Sales (Innocents with Dirty Hands, 1975), as no sooner have the beautiful Romy Schneider and St Tropez lover Paolo Giusti killed her rich and boorish husband (Rod Steiger) than he keeps coming back to haunt them. A hybrid of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Les Diaboliques, this nasty chiller finds echo in the policier Poulet au Vinaigre (Cop au Vin, 1984) and the savage exposé of middle-class morality and France’s guilty past, La Fleur du Mal (The Flower of Evil, 2003). There’s a lighter tone to the espionage caper, La Route de Corinthe (The Road to Corinth, 1967), in which Jean Seberg has to find the black boxes that will prove she didn’t kill spy husband, Christian Marquand. Extras include trailers and presentations of Fleur du Mal and Poulet au Vinaigre by Joel Magny, an interview of Caroline Eliacheff (co-scriptwriter of Fleur du Mal) and Lecon de Cinema with Claude Chabrol’s commentary on selected scenes of both films. Chabrol is one of France’s most prolific filmmakers, having directed more than fifty-five films in five decades, so this set of six DVDs is a welcome chance to catch up on some favourites and some that you may have missed. THE CLAUDE CHABROL COLLECTION: VOLUME 1 (ARROW FCD272) is another superb box set that includes eight films, mostly from the late 1960s and early 1970s: Les Biches (a polysexual menage-à-trois set in Paris and St Tropez), La Femme Infidèle (a study of jealousy, infidelity and murder), Que La Bête Meure, the brilliantly disturbing Le Boucher, Juste Avant La Nuit, Les Noces Rouges (a deadly tale of forbidden love), excellent political thriller Nada, and Madame Bovary (starring Isabelle Huppert).

EISENSTEIN COLLECTION, VOLUME ONE      TARTAN TVD3742

The revolutionary Soviet film director and theorist Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein was born in 1898. His father was an affluent architect of Jewish descent who converted to Orthodox Christianity (young Sergei was raised in the Orthodox faith) and his mother was Russian. Eisenstein studied at the Institute of Civil Engineering in Petrograd and after the fall of the tsar in 1917 he worked as an engineer for the Red Army before joining the Moscow Proletkult Theater as a set designer and then director. The Proletkult's director was Vsevolod Meyerhold and as a film director Eisenstein furthered Meyerhold’s theories with his own ‘montage of attractions’ - editing a sequence of pictures to produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of its parts. He explained his methods in detail in many articles and books and made an enormous impact on film makers in the 1920s. In his first films he used non-professional actors and his narratives were less concerned with individuals than with broad social issues such as class conflict. This DVD box set from Tartan Video is the first of three issued to celebrate the great auteur’s career and mark the 90th year since the Russian Revolution. Volume One features his three most important early silent films: Strike (1925), Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October, or Ten Days That Shook The World (1927). Strike was Eisenstein’s first full-length feature and depicts a strike by the workers of a factory in pre-revolutionary Russia, showing their subsequent suppression. The hugely influential Battleship Potemkin is a masterpiece, providing a glorified account of a real-life uprising that occurred in 1905 when the crew of a Russian ship rebelled against their oppressive officers. The international success of Battleship Potemkin led to Eisenstein being chosen to direct October, one of two films commissioned by the Soviet government to honour the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. Strike and Battleship Potemkin are released here with their original soundtracks and new scores by Ed Hughes (October has the original soundtrack only). Other DVD extras include behind the scenes footage of Ed Hughes recording the new soundtracks. Eisenstein’s popularity and influence has waxed and waned with the passage of time but this collection proves again that he was the master of metaphor and allusion.

THE HAROLD LLOYD COLLECTION       OPTIMUM OPTD0

The great American film actor and director Harold Clayton Lloyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska, in 1893. He began acting at an early age with theatrical repertory companies, making his film debut as an extra in a 1913 one-reel film before joining the influential Hal Roach Company. In 1917 Lloyd found the idea that became his trademark and changed him from a good comedian into a major star. Shedding grotesque comedy clothes and characterisations, he created an American archetype - an optimistic and determined go-getter sporting horn-rimmed spectacles and a toothy smile. He retained this ‘Glasses Character’ (as he called his comic persona) throughout the rest of his career, which spanned 34 years and around 200 films, both silent and ‘talkies’. Harold Lloyd’s comedies often contained ‘thrill sequences’, including car chases and such memorable daredevil physical feats as hanging from the hands of a clock high above the street in Safety Last! (1923). Lloyd did many of these dangerous stunts himself, despite having been injured during the filming of Haunted Spooks (1920) when an accident with a prop bomb resulted in the loss of the thumb and index finger of his right hand (disguised on film with the use of a special prosthetic glove). Safety Last! and Haunted Spooks are just two of the films in this comprehensive 9-DVD boxset of the great man’s work. Among the others included here are Grandma’s Boy (much admired by both Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton), The Kid Brother (Lloyd’s own favourite of all his films), Movie Crazy, The Freshman (his most popular and arguably funniest film) and Speedy (‘Speedy’ was Harold Lloyd’s real-life nickname), along with many other gems and exclusive extras. With new orchestral scores and restored, digitally re-mastered prints, this splendid collection is a fitting celebration of one of cinema’s most inspired and enduring comic geniuses.

A LITTLE TRIP TO HEAVEN – BALTASAR KORMAKUR    REVOLVER REVD2044

Baltasar Kormákur was born in 1966 and is one of Iceland’s most popular young actors as well as being a director and successful theatre impresario. He directed his first feature, 101 Reykjavík, in 2001 and his most recent film, Mýrin (Jar City), has been widely acclaimed. A Little Trip to Heaven is a dark, moody thriller from 2005, set in the USA but shot almost entirely in Iceland. After a suspicious fatal car accident in rural northern Minnesota where the identity of the victim was forged, the Quality Life insurance company sends a smart and dogged investigator Abe Holt (a curiously-accented Forest Whitaker) to identify the body. The unique beneficiary of the one million dollars death benefit is the victim’s sister, Isold (played by the beautiful Julia Stiles), who lives with her son Thor (Alfred Harmsworth) and husband Fred (a subtly menacing performance by Jeremy Renner) in a poor cabin in the middle of nowhere. As the investigation progresses, Abe discovers the truth about the fraud but feels sorry for Isold and tries to help her, with tragic consequences. The three leading actors are excellent and there are fine supporting performances by Peter Coyote, Philip Jackson, Anne Reid, Phyllida Law and Joanna Scanlan as a sleazily sexy bartender. Part noir, part Coen Brothers, this haunting film is stylishly photographed by Óttar Guðnason.

RIFIFI – JULES DASSIN       ARROW FILMS FCD127

The 1955 film ‘Du rififi chez les hommes’ was released in the English-speaking world as Rififi, a word that means fighting or brawling. Famously, the film features an audacious 30-minute robbery sequence that occupies a quarter of the running time and is played without dialogue or music. It was directed by Jules Dassin, who made many American film noir classics such as The Naked City, Thieves’ Highway and Night and the City, but had to leave Hollywood after being blacklisted by HUAC. He filmed Rififi on a low budget on the streets of Paris in realistic lighting and in black and white it looks particularly stunning in this new digital transfer. The Bogartesque Jean Servais is superb as Tony le Stephanois, a master thief with a battered face and a tubercular cough, souvenirs of a recent spell in prison. The cynical, aging Tony is reluctant to return to a life of crime, but when he realises his girlfriend has thrown him over for a rival gangster, he agrees to attempt one last job. Together with three collaborators - a young father (the excellent Carl Mohner), an extrovert Franco-Italian and a sentimental Milanese safecracker (played by Dassin himself) - Tony meticulously engineers his biggest heist yet: robbing the most heavily guarded jewellery store in Paris. With glamorous photography by Philippe Agostini, beautiful women, ruthless crooks, shiny automobiles, relentlessly mounting tension and a satisfyingly cathartic ending, this is a true classic that stands the test of time. François Truffaut called Rififi ‘the best film noir he had ever seen’ and it has influenced many other directors, including Stanley Kubrick, Louis Malle and Quentin Tarantino. The film is an unmissable treat and extras on this superbly produced DVD include a Q&A with Jules Dassin at the NFT, TV review and Jules Dassin interview, the original (English-dubbed) theatrical trailer and a sequence of fine production stills.

CHRONOS – RON FRICKE      SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD 3115

Ron Fricke’s pioneering time-lapse photography techniques contributed hugely to the success of Godfrey Reggio’s 1983 cult film, Koyaanisqatsi, with its remarkable images clouds, waterfalls and mountains with a complementary score by composer Philip Glass. Chronos is an abstract film with no actors or dialogue and created with custom-built time-lapse cameras. Originally released in IMAX theatres, the 42 minutes long film has a soundtrack consisting of a single continuous piece by composer Michael Stearns. Filmed in dozens of locations on five continents, Chronos relates to the concept of time passing on different scales - covering the history of civilisation from pre-historic Stonehenge via Egypt, Rome and Late Antiquity to the rise of Western Europe in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the modern era. Other time scales reflect changing seasons, the passing of night and day, and the movement of shadows of the sun or the passing of people on the street. There are awe-inspiring shots of the American mid-West, the grids of motorways and the conveyor-belt imagery of humans caught-up in the neon-lit rush of New York City. Fricke’s debut film as a director was made using innovative cameras and rigging built to handle the unusually long and smooth time-lapse shots, such as a 24-hour expanse of a desert captured while perfectly-evenly panning 180 degrees. Michael Stearns, while composing the experimental soundtrack, used an extraordinary custom-made instrument called ‘The Beam’ - 12 feet long and made of extruded aluminium with 24 of 19-22 gauge piano strings. On this new DVD, optional subtitles can be selected which list the location of each shot, such as The Pyramids, Mont St. Michel, St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, Nôtre Dame in Paris, The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Pompeii, The Acropolis and The Louvre. Other extras include commentary by Ron Fricke, Michael Stearns and production manager Anton Walpole about the techniques employed and the difficulties faced in making this breathtaking film.

THE BEAST MUST DIE – PAUL ANNETT    OPTIMUM OPTD0810

The British film company Amicus Productions, founded by American producer and screenwriter Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, was based at Shepperton Studios and is best known for horror anthologies such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The House That Dripped Blood. Amicus films are sometimes mistaken for the output of the better-known Hammer Films, to which they are similar in visual style, and with which they share many stars, including Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Unlike the period gothic Hammer films, though, Amicus productions were usually set in the present day and now enjoy a considerable cult following of their own. The Beast Must Die was directed by Paul Annett in 1974 and tells the story if eccentric millionaire tycoon Tom Newcliffe (Bahamian-born Calvin Lockhart), a big game hunter with a dream of capturing the biggest prey of his life - a werewolf! To this end, he invites a number of guests to his estate, all of whom have shady and suspicious pasts, in the belief that one among them - the one that will become the hunted - is about to become a blood-crazed werewolf. When an outbreak of violence occurs on the first night, Newcliffe informs his guests that they must remain throughout the cycle of the full moon. The servants have been dismissed, the phones disconnected. They are captives at the mercy of each other’s beastliness. As the horrors mount, the fearless hunter begins to realise that he is a mortal pitted against powers beyond man’s understanding. This enjoyably silly mystery thriller - complete with a ‘werewolf break’ to make up your mind which guest really is the beast - also stars a curiously-accented Peter Cushing as an expert on lycanthropy, sultry Marlene Clark, a young Michael Gambon, the suave Charles Gray, Anton Diffring and the beautiful Ciaran Madden. The excellent cinematography is by Jack Hildyard. Other classic horror films newly issued by Optimum include I, Monster (another Amicus production, with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee), Ghost Ship and Dr Crippen.

ARTEMISIA – AGNES MERLET     BLUEBELL FILMS BLB004

Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome in 1593 and received her early training in art from her father, Orazio Gentileschi, as well a friend of his, Agostino Tassi. Artemisia became one of the first women artists to achieve recognition in the male-dominated world of post-Renaissance art. When most female artists were limited to portrait painting and imitative poses, she was the first woman to paint major historical and religious scenarios. In 1612, her father brought suit against Tassi for raping Artemisia, which resulted in a highly publicised seven-month trial. The trauma of this rape and trial greatly affected Artemisia’s painting as she attempted to deal with the physical and psychic pain. Her style was heavily influenced by dramatic realism and marked chiaroscuro (contrasting light and dark) of Caravaggio. After her death, she drifted into obscurity, her works often attributed to her father or other artists, but in recent years she has been more widely recognised as one of the world’s greatest female artists. This controversial French film, directed by Agnes Merlet in 1998, tells the story of Artemisia Gentileschi’s youth, when she was guided and protected by her father, played by Michel Serrault. Professional curiosity about the male anatomy, forbidden for her eyes, led her to the knowledge of sexual pleasure, and the traumatic events of the rape and its consequences make up the central theme of the film. This true story of an extraordinary woman occasionally plays fast and loose with the historic facts but remains a fine, sumptuously photographed romantic drama, with an excellent central performance by the beautiful Valentina Cervi.

JIMMY AND JUDY      REVOLVER REVD2026

The ultimate teenage outcast road trip movie, Jimmy and Judy charts the path of a pair of outsiders who fall in love and out of control as they travel across an American landscape dotted with hypocrisy, materialism, drugs and violence. Starring Edward Furlong and Rachel Bella, this unconventional love story offers a fresh take on classic adolescent themes such as rebellion, love and anger. Jimmy is a passionate outsider doing whatever he wants, documenting every detail of his life on video camera. Judy falls in love with him, fuelling their most intimate and self-loathing emotions. The partnership intensifies and drives their love of violence, drugs, sex and ultimately murder. One fateful evening a tragedy sets off a domino effect of trouble, forcing them to run away from their homes and embark on an explosive journey. Each move they make brings them closer together, yet further away from redemption. Written and directed by Randall K. Rubin and Jon Schroder, the film eschews conventional cinematic grammar in favour of an intense, verite style of narrative. The directors use the immediacy of hand-held video to give an unprecedented intimacy into the adventures of this modern day Bonnie & Clyde. The film is set up as an ongoing video diary, first of Jimmy’s sociopathic pranks, then of the couple’s blossoming romance and subsequent flight into a violent and anarchic middle-American wilderness. The two leading actors have a real chemistry on screen and there are fine performances by Chaney Kley as an intoxicated meth-head and William Sadler as Uncle Rodney, the predatory leader of a drug besotted commune dedicated to the ‘garbage culture’. Clearly influenced by films such as Wild at Heart, Natural Born Killers and Badlands, Jimmy and Judy could become another cult classic.

THE COVENANT – RENNY HARLIN    SONY

Renny Harlin, the most successful Finnish film director in the history of Hollywood, making such box-office hits as A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone (nominated for 3 Oscars), Deep Blue Sea and The Long Kiss Goodnight. The Covenant, released in 2006, tells the story of the Sons of Ipswich, four young students at the elite Spenser Academy who are bound by their sacred ancestry. As descendants of the original families who settled in Ipswich Colony in the 1600s, the four boys have all been born with special powers. When the body of a dead student is discovered after a party, secrets begin to unravel which threaten to break the covenant of silence that has protected their families for hundreds of years. Starring some of Hollywood’s hottest and fittest, up-and-coming young actors, this low-budget horror film explores the world of witchcraft, magic and psychological horror without going over the top with excessive gore (one of the most frightening moments is created by an army of spiders). This may not be the kind of film that wins Academy Awards but it’s a glossily enjoyable popcorn movie with suitably all-American performances by Steven Strait, Taylor Kitsch (last seen in Snakes on a Plane) and Laura Ramsey. Pierre Gill’s excellent photography relishes the swirling fog, dark nights, heavy rain, ominous forests and inevitable raging thunderstorm. DVD extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette (Breaking the Silence: Exposing the Covenant) and a director commentary.

THE RISE AND RISE OF MICHAEL RIMMER    DIGITAL CLASSICS DC10036

This brilliant British political satire stars Peter Cook as the mysterious young Michael Rimmer, who appears at a small advertising agency and takes over from the hapless employees, who including the bumbling Pumer (played by John Cleese), skiving boss Ferrett (Arthur Lowe) and sexy secretary Tanya (the statuesque Valerie Leon). Rimmer rises through the ranks of the agency and soon moves into politics, acting as a spin doctor for the leader of the Tory opposition. With chicanery, manipulation, and relentless opinion polls, the Machiavellian Rimmer becomes MP for Budleigh Moor and acquires a trophy wife before rapidly working his way up, with charismatic deception, to even greater heights as his ‘policy-light’ style of leadership somehow wins the hearts of the nation. Co-written by Peter Cook with John Cleese, Graham Chapman and director Kevin Billington, The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer also has a superb supporting cast that features stalearts such as Denholm Elliott, Harold Pinter and Dennis Price. Way ahead of its time (it was made in the mini-skirted, flared-trousered world of 1970), this funny and serious film remains strikingly relevant in the current climate of British political spin, taking a subversive look at the road to political success. Digitally restored, this sharply-observed classic is now available for the first time on DVD. Bonus material includes a picture gallery and the original film poster.

INTO GREAT SILENCE – PHILIP GRONING      SODA SODA033

This quiet, contemplative film examines life inside the Grande Chartreuse, head monastery of the reclusive Carthusian Order in France. Nestled in a beautiful valley deep in the French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. The Order of the Carthusians was founded by Saint Bruno of Cologne in 1084 and this order of hermits has been located in the mountains near Grenoble ever since. Themonks dedicate themselves entirely to the service of God and to spiritual life, in permanent silence. The monastery was buried under an avalanche in 1132 and came close to being destroyed by fire eight times in its history (the present-day structure was built in 1688). In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, without crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months - filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one - it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage. What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, Into great Silence (Die Grosse Stille) dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it’s a rare, transformative experience. This long, intimate and almost wordless portrait of an ordered, cloistered world is immensely touching and provides true insight into another way to live one’s life. Extras with this two-disc set include a making-of documentary, over three hours of additional scenes, stills, sound and document galleries, including the original 1984 film outline.

ROMEO, JULIET AND DARKNESS – JIRI WEISS   SECOND RUN DVD 028

Romeo, Juliet and Darkness is a tragic love story that is also a thriller and a social commentary. Set during the German occupation of Prague in 1942 the film is an unconventional treatment of the Anne Frank theme, telling the story of a young student, Pavel, who shelters a Jewish girl, Hanka, in his apartment building’s attic. He is her only link to the outside world and over time their relationship grows. When the two are discovered by Pavel’s mother, she forces the residents of the apartment building to decide whether Hana can remain. Wonderfully shot by Václav Hanuš in beautiful black and white photography, the film examines the consequences of the young man’s act of compassion in the face of the Nazi occupation. Director Jirí Weiss perfectly captures the fear of living under such conditions and there are fine performances by Ivan Mistrík as Pavel and Daniela Smutná as Hanka. During the mid-1950s, before the Prague Spring ushered in the Czechoslovak new wave cinema, there were several film directors who were able to make imaginative films, mostly by avoiding contemporary themes. Weiss, born in Prague’s German-speaking Jewish community, was one of best directors of that generation and this poetic, moving and compassionate film, released in 1960, is one of his greatest achievements. Digitally re-mastered and newly subtitled in English, this is the first time that Romeo, Juliet and Darkness has been available on DVD.

GHOSTS – NICK BROOMFIELD     TARTAN TVD 3729

This extraordinary film tells the story of a young girl, Ai Qin, who pays $25,000 to be smuggled into the UK in order to support her family back in China and becomes just another one of three million migrant workers. After a gruelling six-month overland journey, she is forced to live with eleven other Chinese in a small house in Thetford, Norfolk, working in factories and fields preparing food for British supermarkets. Nick Broomfield is best known for his idiosyncratic documentaries and this is only his second dramatic feature - his first being the unsuccessful Diamond Skulls in 1989. He brings his great skills as a documentary maker to Ghosts, using non-professional actors, hand-held cameras, natural light and real life locations. The film was inspired by the Morecambe bay tragedy of 2004, when a gang of Chinese cockle-pickers found themselves trapped by the fast-moving tide. This horrendous event, resulting in 23 deaths, lifted the lid on an invisible immigrant workforce who toil as virtual slaves in this country. Broomfield’s first experience of migrant life was in a house in Liverpool, where Guardian writer Hsiao-Hung Pai introduced him to a group of Chinese workers. The genuine relationships fostered among the actors (who actually lived for several weeks in the run-down house they nicknamed the ‘Big Brother Chinese House’) adds authenticity to their remarkable performances. Ai Qin is outstanding as the film’s heroine and the rest of the amateur cast are equally convincing. The film concludes with the violence and tragedy that took place among the cockle pickers, filmed by Broomfield in the real Morecambe Bay at a night. A strong riptide threatened to put the cast and crew in danger and the white van that the actors cling to in the water was actually lost in Morecambe Bay, where it remains today. This is a gripping, thought-provoking and moving film that should make everyone think again about how workers at the bottom of the heap are treated.

BECKET – PETER GLENVILLE   SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD3119

This 1964 film adaptation of the play by Jean Anouilh was directed by Peter Glenville and stars Richard Burton as Thomas Becket and Peter O’Toole as King Henry II. Others in the stellar cast include John Gielgud, Donald Wolfit, Martita Hunt, Pamela Brown, Siân Phillips, Felix Aylmer and the marvelous Wilfrid Lawson. The original Anouilh play premiered in Paris in 1959 and opened on Broadway with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn in a production that was also directed by Peter Glenville. The film, made at Shepperton Studios and stunningly photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth on location at Alnwick Castle, Bamburgh Castle and Bamburgh Beach in Northumberland, received twelve Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor for both Burton and O’Toole and Best Supporting Actor for Gielgud, and won the Best Screenplay Award for Edward Anhalt. The film is a leisurely-paced epic that tells of the tempestuous yet passionate friendship between King Henry and his trusted companion Becket, to whom he gives the position of Archbishop of Canterbury in the hope that this will provide him with control over the church. However, Becket takes his new duties seriously and his devotion to God brings him into direct conflict with the state and his lifelong friend. Their rift endures prompting Henry’s damning exclamation ‘Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?’ and the Archbishop’s subsequent murder. Previously unavailable for 20 years, Becket has been rediscovered and beautifully restored with the aid of Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and is now available for the first time on DVD. Extras include a Peter O’ Toole commentary, an interview with editor Anne V. Coates (recent recipient of the BAFTA Fellowship award) and an interview with the composer Laurence Rosenthal. O’Toole and Burton give typically idiosyncratic performances and John Gielgud is wonderfully mischievous as the waspish French King Louis VII. ‘Exhilarating’ - The Sunday Telegraph.

BLACK BOOK – PAUL VERHOEVEN      TARTAN TVD 3726

The Dutch director, screenwriter and producer Paul Verhoeven is best known for his American feature films RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers. After making films in the United States for twenty years, he returned to the Netherlands to make Black Book with screenwriter Gerard Soeteman. They had been working on the script for fifteen years but only resolved their problems with the story by eventually changing the main character from a man to a woman. Unlike Verhoeven’s earlier film about the Second World War, Soldier of Orange, Black Book is not a true story, although the director states that many of the events shown in it are true. Set in Nazi-occupied Holland during the last months of the war, the film tells the story of a beautiful young Jewish chanteuse called Rachel Stein (played by Carice van Houten). When her temporary safe house is destroyed by a bomb, she joins fellow refugees in an attempt to reach safe Allied territory by boat. Tragedy strikes when a Nazi patrol intercepts their escape, ruthlessly killing everybody onboard including Rachel’s family, so only she escapes the massacre. Embittered and desperate for revenge, she joins the Resistance where, assigned a new identity as the blond Ellis de Vries, she is charged with infiltrating the German security service by seducing senior officer Muntze (subtly played by Sebastian Koch). Without warning she becomes entangled in a deadly web of double-dealing and betrayal. Twenty years in the making, this sexy thriller finds Paul Verhoeven back in peak form. Entertaining, well-acted and fast-paced, this is an epic tale of courage and fierce emotion. Black Book was the most awarded film at the Netherlands Film Festival in 2006 and is the most expensive, as well as most commercially successful, Dutch film ever made. The outstanding performance of actress Carice van Houten in the demanding central role is a revelation and Waldemar Kobus is excellent as the evil Günther Franken. DVD extras include interviews with Verhoeven and van Houten as well as the original theatrical trailer.

THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS – JAN NEMEC  SECOND RUN DVD 020

Czech film-maker Jan Němec studied at the state film school in Prague in the 1950s, when Czechoslovakia was ruled by a Soviet-controlled puppet government and artists were subject to extreme censorship. Němec became part of the underground, subversive movement in film-making, art and literature that became known as the Czech New Wave. After directing the influential Holocaust-themed Diamonds of the Night, he made his most controversial film, ‘O slavnosti a hostech’, in 1966. Literally translated as ‘About Celebration and Guests’, the plot revolves around a group of friends on a picnic who are invited to a bizarre banquet by a bullying sadist who eventually forces them into blind conformity and brutality. Belatedly released during the short-lived liberalisation of early 1968, the film was formally ‘banned forever’ in 1973 until Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution of 1989. The widespread assumption, shared by Antonín Novotný, the country’s President at the time of production, was that the film was a direct attack on the Communist government and therefore too dangerous to show. In fact, ‘The Party and the Guests’ is really more of an absurdist satire, influenced by the work of Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco as well as by the surrealist films of Luis Bunuel. As a result of the ban by the Czech authorities this film has long been unavailable and rarely seen but has now been released on DVD for the first time by Second Run, with restored image and sound. Extras include a newly filmed appreciation by Peter Hames and improved English subtitles. Excellently acted and with superb black and white photography, this bold satirical fable has humour and true psychological depth. ‘An acute piece of historical insight and a marvellous idea’ - Time Out.

HITCHCOCK: THE EARLY YEARS     OPTIMUM OPTD0726

Alfred Hitchcock had been interested in cinema from an early age and during the early 1920s he began to design title cards for silent films and soon acquired a thorough grounding in all aspects of film making, including writing, design and direction. He directed his first feature, The Pleasure Garden in Germany in 1925 and received immediate critical acclaim. By the age of twenty-seven with several successes behind him he was regarded as one of the mot promising young film directors in all Europe, with a reputation for being a patient, polished, highly intelligent director who showed more subtlety and imagination in his work than most of his contemporaries. The most famous of the nine films in this Special Edition box set is Blackmail, featuring Anny Ondra (Hitchcock’s first ‘Blonde’) in the famous scene with the bread knife. Originally shot as a silent film, when sound became available during the course of shooting, Hitchcock re-shot certain scenes with sound, making it the Master of Suspense’s first talking film. It also includes one of the first of his trademark cameo appearances (being bothered by a small boy on the underground). The other films here are Hitchcock’s early expressionist classic The Ring (1927), The Farmer’s Wife (1928), the frothy love-story Champagne (1928), The Manxman (1928), the experimental Murder! starring Herbert Marshall (1930), The Skin Game, based on a play by John Galsworthy (1931), the darkly comic Rich & Strange (1932), and Number Seventeen (1942). There are picture galleries for all the films and introductions by the French director and film historian, Noel Simsolo. The Ring, Champagne, The Farmer’s Wife and The Manxman have been fully re-mastered and feature new soundtracks. Other extras include an alternative ending to Murder!, a scene from the original, silent version of Blackmail, Anny Ondra’s vocal audition by a mischievous Hitchcock, and a fascinating documentary about the director’s early work, featuring Claude Chabrol and Bernard Eisenschitz.

ESMA’S SECRET (GRBAVICA) - JASMILA ZBANIC    DOGWOOF ALT114

Grbavica, this film’s title in its native Bosnia, is a neighbourhood in Sarajevo where several acts of ethnic cleansing took place and where life has still not returned to normal after the Balkan war. Jasmila Zbanic’s powerful and affecting film tells the story of Esma (Mirjana Karanovic), a single mother, and her headstrong 12-year-old daughter Sara (eloquently played by Luna Mijovic). Unable to survive on government benefit, Esma takes a job as a cocktail waitress in a night club to help pay for the school outing to which Sara is looking forward. A discount on the trip is offered for ‘shaheeds’ - people whose fathers died as martyrs in the war - so Sara has to submit official papers regarding her father’s death, which leads directly into the traumas that still dominate the realities of everyday life. This touching film won the Golden Bear at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for best World Cinema at the Sundance Film Festival. Esma’s Secret is a warm and at times a heart-rending film that gives a memorable portrait of a mother-daughter relationship, with a wonderfully subtle performance by Mirjana Karanovic in the central role. Esma and Sara’s lives are touched by love, helping both of them to accept their past, face the future and to allow Esma to finally reveal her agonising secret. Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic’s first major feature film is a remarkable achievement - emotionally harrowing at times yet ultimately providing an uplifting experience. Highly recommended.

BUSTER KEATON - THE COMPLETE SHORT FILMS, 1917-1923  EUREKA EKA40211

Joseph Frank Keaton Jr. (1895-1966), more usually known by his professional name as Buster Keaton, was arguably America’s greatest silent-film comic actor and filmmaker. With his trademark physical comedy and deadpan expression, earning him the nickname ‘The Great Stone Face’, he performed and directed some of the most sophisticated, innovative and influential work in the history of cinema. In February 1917, Keaton met Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle at the Talmadge Studios in New York City, where Arbuckle was under contract to Joseph M. Schenck, and was hired as a co-star and gag-man. After his successful work with Arbuckle, Schenck gave Keaton his own production unit where he made a series of two-reel comedies, including One Week (1920), Cops (1922), The Electric House (1922), and The Playhouse (1921). Based on the success of these shorts, he graduated to full-length features, making him one of the most famous comedians in the world. This magnificent four-disc box set contains thirty-two films, with a running time of over 740 minutes, and documents Buster Keaton’s short films made between 1917 and 1923. Starting with The Butcher Boy, this collection captures Keaton’s first steps in front of a camera, charting his early association with ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle through to starring in his own box office hits. Using Chaplin’s old Hollywood studio, Keaton created a succession of the most timeless, classic comedy shorts ever realised. This Masters of Cinema Series collection includes audio commentaries by Joseph McBride on six of the films as well as an excellent 180-page book. ‘A comedian does funny things. A good comedian does things funny’ - Buster Keaton.

SIR HENRY AT RAWLINSON END       DIGITAL CLASSICS DC10028

Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995) was an English musician, painter, singer, broadcaster, songwriter, poet, writer, wit, and raconteur, best known for his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and for narrating Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, Stanshall’s surreal exploration of the British upper classes, came to the public’s attention in the 1970s when he recorded several sessions for BBC Radio One’s John Peel show in which he elaborated, with a mixture of eloquence and irreverence, on the weird and wonderful adventures of the inebriated and blimpish Sir Henry Rawlinson, his dotty wife Great Aunt Florrie, his ‘unusual’ brother Huber, old Scrotum the wrinkled retainer, Mrs E, the rambling and unhygienic cook, and many other inhabitants of the crumbling Rawlinson End. The Rawlinson family had been populating Stanshall’s surreal imagination for some time, appearing (in name, at least) for the first time on the Bonzos’ 1967 track The Intro & The Outro: ‘Great to hear the Rawlinsons on trombone’. An LP released in 1978, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, reworked some of the material from the Peel sessions and this sepia-tinted black and white film version, starring Trevor Howard as Sir Henry, and Stanshall himself as Hubert, appeared in 1980. Crammed with extraordinary one-liners (‘If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink – I’d spend it on drink’), this shambolic tour de force also stars Patrick Magee, Denise Coffey, Sheila Reid, J.G. Devlin as the memorable Old Scrotum, Harry Fowler, Jeremy Child, Suzanne Danielle and Liz Smith as Lady Phillipa of Staines. Available for the first time on DVD, with bonus material including a trailer and a commentary by director Steve Roberts with actors Sheila Reid and Jeremy Childs. ‘A comic masterpiece’ – NME.

TIDELAND – TERRY GILLIAM        REVOLVER  REVD1972

Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel of the same name, Tideland was co-written and directed by Terry Gilliam and is a macabre, surreal film about an abandoned child named Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland). Described by Gilliam as ‘Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho’, the story centres on the girl’s solitary adventures during one summer in rural Texas while staying at a rundown farmhouse, focussing on her increasingly dark, imaginative fantasy life - a world where fireflies have names, squirrels talk, and the heads of four dolls, long since separated from their bodies, keep her company. Both Jeliza-Rose’s parents are junkies, and when her mother (Jennifer Tilly) dies, she embarks on a strange journey with her father, Noah (Jeff Bridges), a washed-out rock musician. The film drifts between reality and fantasy as Jeliza-Rose escapes the loneliness of her new existence into her fantasies and meets Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), a mentally damaged young man with the mind of a ten-year-old. Dressed in a wet suit and diving mask, he spends his days hiding out in a junk heaped wig-wam turned submarine, waiting to catch the monster shark that inhabits the railway tracks. Then there’s his older sister Dell (Janet McTeer), a tall ghost-like figure dressed in black who is blind in one eye from a bee sting and hides behind a beekeeper’s mesh hood. Tideland premiered at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, since when it has received a mixed response from both viewers and critics, ranging from ‘Brilliant…an unforgettable experience’ (The Times) to ‘gruesomely awful (Entertainment Weekly). This ‘poetic horror film’ is one that people either love or hate, and you really need to see this unsettling film for yourself to decide. Expect a bizarre, phantasmagorical nightmare, with wonderfully creepy performance by Jodelle Ferland as the modern day Alice. A host of extras on this double DVD include an introduction by Terry Gilliam, commentary with Gilliam and scriptwriter Tony Grisoni, interviews with Gilliam and producer Jeremy Thomas, a 60-minute documentary of The Making of Tideland, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted Scenes, a Q&A with Mitch Cullin and Terry Gilliam, and the theatrical trailer.

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH – DE MILLE     PARAMOUNT

This dazzling 1952 film set in the circus world was produced, directed and narrated by Cecil B. DeMille. It stars energetic Betty Hutton (Holly) and debonair Cornel Wilde (‘The Great Sebastian’) as trapeze artists competing for the centre ring, with Charlton Heston in his first big break as the tough circus manager running the show. As Holly and Sebastian indulge in their dangerous one-upmanship in the ring, he pursues her on the ground. Subplots involve the secret past of Buttons the Clown (James Stewart, who never removes his makeup) and the efforts of racketeers to muscle in on the game concessions. The film also features such Hollywood stalwarts as Dorothy Lamour (in a sarong), wonderful Gloria Grahame as the elephant girl, Henry Wilcoxon as an FBI Agent, Lyle Bettger and Lawrence Tierney. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby have fleeting cameo roles as popcorn-eating spectators in the crowd. The Greatest Show on Earth is a typically full-on Cecil B. DeMille spectacular and makes a lively tribute to an American institution: the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Controversially, the film won Oscars for Best Story and Best Picture in 1952 (in opposition to Singin’ in the Rain, High Noon and The Quiet Man, among others) but this was more a tribute to a lifetime’s work by DeMille, who famously directed the first Hollywood film, The Squaw Man, forty years earlier. With its colourful characters, purple dialogue, lions and elephants, exciting circus acts, a train wreck and splendid photography, this brash extravaganza remains an irresistible treat.

REDS – WARREN BEATTY         PARAMOUNT PHE9056

This ambitious, award-winning film tells a moving and heroic love story set against a backdrop of New York intellectualism, Bolshevik revolution and the politics of war. One night in 1912 the writer Louise Bryant goes to a lecture given by a radical journalist, John Reed. Although a respectable married woman, she leaves her husband for the charismatic Reed and becomes an important feminist and radical in her own right, becoming involved with labour and political disputes. The couple travel to Russia in time for the October Revolution in 1917 and return to the USA hoping to lead a similar revolution. Writer-director Warren Beatty knew he faced a challenge when he took on the task of bringing to life the story of one of history’s greatest socialists, but by using his commercial success and box office pulling power he succeeded. This epic film stars Beatty himself as John Reed, together with Jack Nicholson (brilliant as the playwright Eugene O’Neill), Diane Keaton (marvellously sexy as Louise Bryant, a part Beatty originally intended for Julie Christie), Paul Sorvino, M. Emmet Walsh and Gene Hackman in a cameo role as Pete Van Wherry. Nominated for twelve Academy Awards, Reds won four Oscars for Art Direction, the terrific Cinematography of Vittorio Storaro, Best Supporting Actress for Maureen Stapleton and Best Director for Beatty, securing his place as a leading powerhouse in film-making. With a Steven Sondheim score and first-rate cast, Reds is as poignant now as ever. This two disc special edition set features new interviews with Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Vittorio Storaro and the composer. The film itself includes interspersed interviews with well-known social activists, many of whom were contemporaries of Reed and Bryant.

NATASHA      WARNER VISION 5101199292

The charming Russian ballet dancer and actress Natalya Romanovna Makarova was born in 1940 in Leningrad, where she performed with the Kirov Ballet from 1956 to 1970. After defecting to the West while on tour in London in 1970, she performed with the American Ballet Theatre in the USA and with the Royal Ballet in England. Although keen to expand her range by dancing in works by modern choreographers she remains most identified with classical ballets such as Swan Lake and Giselle. With the ABT she worked extensively with Tudor, Balanchine, Robbins and Tetley. With The Royal Ballet her repertoire included Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphides, Manon, Song of the Earth, A Month in the Country, Elite Syncopations, Checkmate and Les Biches. Makarova has also appeared as a guest artist with many leading ballet companies throughout the world, including the Paris Opera Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Stuttgart Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, London Festival Ballet, and Roland Petit’s Ballets de Marseille. Her television appearances have included an acclaimed Ballerina Series for the BBC and this 1985 television special, Natasha, which shows off Makarova’s delightful personality as well as her astonishing range and artistry as a dancer. Some of her most acclaimed interpretations, including Natalya Petrovna in Ashton’s A Month in the Country and Juliet in MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet are featured here alongside dances created especially for her. Highlights include and extract from her Tony Award-winning performance in the musical On your Toes, an erotically-charged Carmen pas de deux with Denys Ganio, the Prelude to Les Sylphides and an amazingly fluid interpretation of the Saint-Saëns Dying Swan solo by Fokine. The dance programme is stylishly linked by Makarova herself, making this a fascinating visual biography of one of the greatest female dancers of our time.

BERKELEY IN THE SIXTIES - MARK KIRCHELLE    DIGITAL CLASSICS LIB6051

Berkeley, the oldest (founded in 1868) campus of the University of California system, came to the world’s attention during the 1960s with its reputation for student activism. The Free Speech Movement began at Berkeley in 1964 as an impromptu response to the university’s ban on campus political activity, and Student protests continued into the early 1970s. One of the most publicised events was the People’s Park protest in 1969, when students and city residents took over a plot of land belonging to the university and turned it into a community park. The university decided to reclaim control by bringing in law enforcement sending in bulldozers. Governor Ronald Reagan called in National Guard and more violence erupted, resulting in many people being hurt. One student died, a police officer was stabbed and a bystander blinded. This Oscar nominated 1990 documentary produced by Mark Kirchelle tells the remarkable story of this small group of students who challenged the establishment and changed the face of America. This outstanding film brings 1960s California back to life with its civil rights marches and anti Vietnam protests, showing how it evolved from the 1950s HUAC communist witch-hunt and led to the rise of feminism, hippiedom and the Black Panthers. Archive footage is brilliantly combined with specially filmed interviews and commentary by people such as Jack Weinberg, Frank Bardacke, Susan Griffin and Bobby Seale, who all participated in bringing about profound changes over half a century ago. Interest in political film making has lately been revived and ‘Berkeley In The Sixties’ was the forerunner of today’s radical documentary making, providing a snap shot of a time when a nation of youth found it’s voice and defied the establishment. As well as inspiring and sometimes shocking archival visual images, the film also features evocative music from the era, including The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Band, Joan Baez and Jefferson Airplane. This invaluable documentary is essential viewing for anyone wishing to understand the 60s counterculture and it consequences. Highly recommended.

A LONG WEEKEND IN PEST & BUDA – KAROLY MAKK    SECOND RUN 021

The veteran film director and screenwriter Károly Makk was born the son of a cinema projectionist in Hungary in 1925. In a career of more than 60 years he has worked on over 40 films, making his first feature as a director in 1954. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 had a profound effect on him, and in 1970 he tackled the subject of political repression in his masterpiece, Love (Szerelem), winner of a special award at Cannes in 1971. This moving commentary on life under political tyranny made no direct reference to 1956, although this is the context in which the film is inevitably seen. A Long Weekend in Pest & Buda reunites the director with two of Hungary’s greatest actors, Mari Törõcsik and Iván Darva, who starred in Love over 30 years earlier. They were once a couple who meet again when he visits her after she falls terminally ill. This beautifully-photographed (cinematographer Elemér Ragályi) film reflects honestly in a Bergmanesque manner on age, memory and how we reinvent ourselves. Emotionally mature and often moving, the romantic drama is set in picturesque Budapest and shows how, despite our best efforts, we can never quite escape our past. A Long Weekend in Pest & Buda won the 2003 Moscow International Film Festival Golden St George prize, and Mari Törõcsik’s superb performance earned her the 2003 Bulgaria Film Festival best actress award. There are strong performances too by Eszter Nagy-Kálózy as the discovered daughter and Eileen Aitkins as the neglected wife. Extras on this DVD release include filmed interviews with Károly Makk and co-writer/exec producer Marc Vlessing, as well as a booklet featuring Mari Törõcsik speaking about Károly Makk and an essay by author John Cunningham.

NORMAN MCLAREN – THE MASTERS EDITION    SODA PICTURES

Norman McLaren (1914-1987) was a pioneering Scottish animator and film director, best known for his work for the National Film Board of Canada. Born in Stirling, Scotland, he studied set design at Glasgow School of Art and his early experiments in animation included scratching and painting on the the actual film stock. After working as a cameraman in Scotland and England, he went to Spain to film the Civil War then emigrated to the USA in 1939 before moving to Canada in 1941 to work for the NFB at the invitation of the hugely influential John Grierson, with whom he had earlier worked at the famous GPO film unit. He started an animation studio to train Canadian animators and make his own films. These included Neighbours (1952), which won both the Canadian Film Award and the Academy Award. Besides the brilliant combination of visuals and sound, the film has a strong social message against violence and war. Neighbours used a style of animation known as pixilation, where the camera films people and objects a few frames at a time, and McLaren continued experimenting with image and sound as he developed his techniques for combining and synchronising animation with music. Other groundbreaking films included Pas de Deux (1968), Line: Horizontal (1962) and Opening Speech (1960, featuring McLaren himself in live action). This definitive seven DVD ‘Masters Edition’ box set of immaculately restored films from Soda Pictures brings together for the first time all of McLaren’s surviving work, as well as many tests, works in progress, 15 original thematic documentaries and an 88-page booklet. The perfect tribute to a creative genius who influenced and inspired artists, animators and filmmakers from Picasso and Truffaut to Lucas and Linklater. ‘Movies move! How it moves is as important as what moves’ - Norman McLaren.

THE BAKER STREET DOZEN       ORBIT MEDIA ORB10121

Sherlock Holmes the world’s most frequently filmed fictional character (in second place is Dracula) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal detective has appeared in almost 200 films to date, the first being Sherlock Holmes Baffled, a one-reel film made in 1900 and running less than a minute. Perhaps the most memorable incarnation of Holmes and Watson was in Universal’s entertaining Rathbone/Bruce series of movies made during the early 1940s ‘based on characters created by Conan Doyle’. All twelve were newly written and not contained in the original published series. Basil Rathbone’s career as Holmes began with The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, both made by 20th Century Fox and released in 1939. As well as his film performances, Rathbone also played Holmes 219 times on radio, as well as on television and the stage. The Universal series transported Holmes and Watson to a contemporary setting that sometimes pitted him against Nazi agents. South African born Rathbone nevertheless portrays Conan Doyle’s detective brilliantly, partly due to his remarkable resemblance to Sidney Paget’s Strand illustrations that accompanied the original stories. Nigel Bruce - the son of a baronet and a descendant of Robert the Bruce - played Watson as more of a bumbler than Doyle intended but made his character wonderfully genial. This box set of six double feature discs features all of the original Universal films, in which Holmes goes to Washington, Faces Death, meets The Spider Woman and finds Terror by Night. In Pursuit to Algiers, Holmes and Watson manage to find thicker fog on a ship than in London and Nigel Bruce gets to sing Loch Lomond (surprisingly well). Highly recommended.

STYLE WARS – TONY SILVER    WIENERWORLD WNRD2412

Filmed in New York in 1982, this seminal film, originally broadcast on PBS, documents the golden age of youthful creativity and exploding hip-hop subculture. Young graffiti artists were transforming the city with their unique art, ‘writing’ their ‘pieces’ to create a new visual language and using the city's dilapidated subway system as a canvas. Unfortunately, their art was deemed vandalism to Mayor Ed Koch, the NYPD and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, all of whom opposed a movement that physically transformed the urban landscape and invented a new visual language to express both the artists individuality and the voice of the community. Style Wars brilliantly captures the look and feel of New York’s ramshackle subway system as the graffiti writers’ public playground and battleground. Meanwhile, MC’s, DJ’s and B-Boys were rocking the city with new sounds and new moves, as street corner break-dance battles became performance art. The film’s soundtrack features classic performances by The Sugar Hill Gang, The Treacherous Three, The Fearless Four, Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five, Trouble Funk, Rammellzee/K-Rob and Dion. Directed by Tony Silver and produced by Tony Silver and photographer Henry Chalfont, Style Wars was awarded the Grand Prize for Documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival in 1984 and in 2003 it was acclaimed at New York’s Tribeca Festival and at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film has been remixed for the DVD in 5.1 surround sound, and has more than three hours of additional documentary and artistic material, earning it the title of Best DVD of the Year by The Onion. Beautifully shot and edited, with an outstanding soundtrack, this exhilarating film is a fascinating time capsule and makes essential viewing for all fans of early hip-hop culture. Bonus Features on this double DVD set include over 23 minutes of outtake footage, feature commentary and interview with the director and producer, 32 artist galleries including new interviews, trains and rare photos, tributes to Dondi and Shy 147, guest interviews with Fab 5 Freddy, Goldie, Guru, DJ Red Alert and photographer Martha Cooper, and a ‘Destroy All Lines’ 30 min. loop of over 200 cars and burners. ‘A breakthrough documentary’ - New York Times.

YASUJIRO OZU: VOL. 4     TARTAN TVD3702

Volume 4 in Tartan’s excellent series of work by the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu features his last film, An Autumn Afternoon, made in 1962 (the year before he died). Known in Japan as Sanma no Aji, this meditative film stars Chishu Ryu (an Ozu regular who also featured in Tokyo Twilight) as the widower patriarch of the Hirayama family who lives with his daughter (played by Shima Iwashita). She is happy to care for him but he is determined to find her a husband and sets about arranging a suitable marriage. The strength of this touching and unforgettable film rests in Ozu’s ability to observe events without passing judgement, and An Autumn Afternoon contains the main themes prominent in most of his work – the generation gap, Westernisation and marriage. In this final masterpiece, Ozu finds quiet poetry in the urban landscape and interiors, exquisitely shot in colour, and explores love and the human predicament with his usual wisdom and subtlety. Look out too for a scene-stealing performance by Eijiro Tono as an old school teacher known as ‘The Gourd’. The other film included here is Late Autumn (Akibiyori), made two years earlier. This takes a lighter look on the director’s favourite theme of intergenerational conflict and differing expectations as a woman gives up thoughts of marriage in order to care for her widowed mother (Setsuko Hara). However, the mother wishes her daughter (Yoko Tsukasa) to marry even though this means a lonely old age for her. Soon however suitors are being sought for both generations, often with misunderstandings and comical confusions. Both films feature the delightful Mariko Okada and are highly recommended for anyone who admires the work of one of the world’s finest directors. Volume 3 in this series can be seen here

HELLZAPOPPIN’ – H. C. POTTER     SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD 3113

The ground-breaking and hugely influential comedy classic Hellzapoppin’ was a hit revue on stage from 1938 to 1941, becoming then the longest-running Broadway musical with 1,404 performances. A frenetic comedy hodgepodge full of sight gags and slapstick, the show was continually rewritten during its run to remain topical and a circus atmosphere prevailed, with midgets, clowns, trained pigeons and much audience participation. The book was by Olsen & Johnson (John ‘Ole’ Olsen and Harold ‘Chic’ Johnson), a comedy team more like Crosby and Hope than Laurel and Hardy. The movie version was made in 1941, directed by H.C. Potter and depicting Ole and Chic making a movie for the fictitious studio Miracle Pictures (‘If it’s a good picture, it's a Miracle!’), and featuring Olsen & Johnson (playing themselves), the loud and indefatigable Martha Raye, Misha Auer, Elisha Cook and the very funny Hugh Herber. The special effects were innovative for their time and the frantic dance routine performed by dancing of the Harlem Congeroo Dancers has never been bettered. The songs have corny lyrics typical of their period and are nothing special, and some of the humour has dated, but you there is no time to analyse as you are swept along to the next gag before you know it. Brief respites from the madness come in the form of variety acts and synchronised swimming, and the funniest sneezing ever seen in a movie. Hellzapoppin’ was way ahead of its time and its zaniness inspired generations of comedians to come, including Danny Kaye, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in show. ‘Outstrips the works of the Marx Brothers’ - Time Out.

MAN PUSH CART – RAMIN BAHRANI       DOGWOOF PICTURES ALT109

Ramin Bahrani’s memorable and refreshing film tells the story of Ahmad, a Pakistani immigrant living in New York. Every night while the city sleeps, he laboriously drags his heavy push cart along the streets to a corner in Midtown Manhattan where he sells coffee and donuts to a city he cannot call his own. A former rock star in his own country, he now ekes out a living from his cart to hurried New Yorkers by day and by night supplements his income selling pirate pornographic DVDs. He carefully saves his money in the hope that he will one day raise enough to purchase a place of his own and reunite with his estranged son. Times are tough in the city and hard-working Ahmad (played by Ahmad Razvi) soon strikes up a tentative friendship with fellow countryman Mohammed (Charles Daniel Sandoval) and Spanish newsstand worker, Noemi (Leticia Dolera). As Ahmad, Mohammed, and Noemi gradually begin to socialise together, a tragedy in Ahmad’s past prompts the struggling newcomer to question the true nature of his current relationships. Iranian-American director Bahrani was named ‘US Star of Tomorrow’ by Screen International and Man Push Cart is his feature film debut, earning many awards including Best Film at the London Film Festival. Beautifully observed, Man Push Cart is a subtle and technically accomplished film, wholly original in subject, location and characters. Haunting and insightful, this poignant film gives a revealing picture of a rarely depicted community in the Big Apple - the sort of people others pass by every day without really seeing them. Michael Simmonds’s cinematography is superb and a there is a wonderfully convincing performance by Ahmad Razvi as the push cart vendor, perhaps because he is not a professional actor but is able to draw on personal experience. Highly recommended. ‘A hymn to New York’s invisibles’ - Daily Telegraph.

DRIVING LESSONS - JEREMY BROCK   TARTAN TVD 3700

This is a coming of age story about Ben, an unhappy, shy teenage boy whose world changes dramatically when he goes to work for a grandly eccentric retired actress, ‘Dame’ Evie Walton, who teaches him about girls, driving and life on the road to the Edinburgh festival. This odd couple – a sort of British ‘Harold and Maude’ – are played by flame-haired Rupert Grint and national treasure Julie Walters. Writer-director Jeremy Brock based the story on his own experience, as a teenager, with Dame Peggy Ashcroft. Julie Walters giving is hilariously over the top as the imperious, foul-mouthed Evie and Rupert Grint, a sixteen year old actor previously known as Harry Potter’s best friend Ron, makes his curiously acquiescent character ultimately sympathetic. There are fine performances too by Nicholas Farrell as Ben’s tortured vicar father and Laura Linney is brilliant (with a perfect English accent) as the possessive, unhinged mother. Michelle Duncan plays a cheerfully obliging Scottish lass and Jim Norton is taciturnly effective as the mysterious delinquent, Mr Fincham. The plot is sometimes implausible and sentimental, and the denouement frankly ludicrous, but this is essentially a wise, warm-hearted and likeable film. The imaginative soundtrack features Sufjan Stevens, John Renbourn, Scottish folk band Salsa Celtica, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake and Chopin’s First Nocturne in B flat Minor. DVD extras include a commentary by Jeremy Brock, interviews with Julie Walters and Rupert Grint, deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer.

JUNEBUG - PHIL MORRISON         EUREKA EKA40219

British-born Chicago art dealer Madeleine (coolly and elegantly played by Embeth Davidtz) travels to rural North Carolina with her handsome new husband George (Alessandro Nivola) to close a deal with a reclusive artist David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor) and to be introduced to George’s close-knit working-class family. Unfamiliar with their southern lifestyle, Madeleine enters the house with an open mind but George’s possessive mother Peg (Celia Weston), his kindly, taciturn father Eugene (Scott Wilson) and embittered younger brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie) react to the new bride with bemusement and hostility. Johnny’s lonely wife Ashley (Oscar-nominated Amy Adams), whose marriage has produced an unhappy pregnancy, welcomes the glamorous visitor as a sister and steers her through this insular community with her non-stop conversation. Ashley’s openness and generosity help to heal the rifts between brother and sibling, parent and child. Director Phil Morrison’s wise and intimate study of Southern morals and manners is a deft evocation of an unsophisticated yet deeply spiritual backwater. Body language is as important as dialogue in expressing emotions and the acting is wonderfully subtle throughout, particularly by Ben McKenzie and the brilliant Amy Adams. Nothing much happens on the surface in Junebug but every moment rings true and the film seduces the viewer with its languorous tone before delivering an unexpectedly emotional climax. Morrison and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan have created a complex, sympathetic portrait of small-town life that avoids cliches and remains in the memory. As well as an excellent transfer of the film, the double DVD also includes an audio commentary by Amy Adams and Embeth Davidtz, Q&A with Amy Adams, deleted scenes, behind the scenes documentaries and casting sessions.

HELL (L’ENFER) - DANIS TANOVIC   MOMENTUM MP574D

In Paris in the 1980s, a man, fresh from his release from prison, is rejected by his wife. After a violent confrontation he throws himself from his apartment window, witnessed by his three young daughters. In present day Paris, the sisters, now grown up, live their own separate, lonely lives and the family bonds are broken. Sophie (the stunning Emmanuelle Beart), the eldest, is married with young children and suspects her husband of having an affair. Repressed middle sister Celine (a brilliantly subtle performance by Karin Viard) lives a solitary life, caring for her difficult mother (Carole Bouquet) who is the mute resident in a care home outside Paris. The youngest sister, Anne (Marie Gillain) is a student involved in a doomed relationship with one of her tutors at the Sorbonne. It takes a handsome stranger (Guillaume Canet) to make change things, gradually drawing them together again and back into their shared, tragic past. Hell is based on the second part of a planned trilogy (Heaven, Hell and Purgatory) originally conceived by the late Polish writer/director Krzysztof Kieslowski with his collaborator Krzysztof Piesiewicz. The first, Heaven, was shot by Tom Tykwer. Bosnian director Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2002 and with this harrowing yet enormously rewarding film he pays due homage to the much acclaimed Kieslowski. Laurent Dailland’s lush cinematography perfectly captures the moody interiors and the acting is superb throughout, especially by Beart and Viard, with touching cameos from Jean Rochefort as a fellow inmate of the mother and Georges Siatidis as a sympathetic train porter. Special features include a ‘making of’ documentary and a trailer. Not to be confused with L’Enfer (1994), directed by Claude Chabrol and also starring Emmanuelle Beart). ‘A masterclass of French fine acting’ - Empire.

FELLINI BOX SET       INFINITY ARTHOUSE INF216

Federico Fellini (1920-1993) was one of the most influential and revered Italian film-makers of the 20th century. His films, most famously La Dolce Vita and Amarcord, combine memory, dreams, fantasy, humour and desire in a uniquely exuberant style. This splendid six-disc box set from Infinity Arthouse features three of his later works together with a host of extras - self portraits of Marcello Mastrioianni and Fellini and a brilliant series of films documenting the director’s life. Orchestra Rehearsal (Prova d’orchestra), made in 1978, is a sharp musical satire created for television on the single set of a Medieval Roman chapel that is now an oratorio. We meet most of the members of an orchestra as it rehearses a piece composed by the Fellini’s long-time associate Nino Rota before the musicians eventually revolt, only to rediscover the consolations of music. And The Ship Sails On (E la nave va), starring Freddie Jones and Barbara Jefford, is rare and haunting Fellini fable set on board a luxury liner that leaves Italy in July 1914 with the ashes of the famous opera singer Tetua (Janet Suzman). The egocentric passengers include aristocrats, diplomats and a band of opera singers, who indulge their follies and fancies both vocally and romantically, but their gilded world is about to receive a chill blast of reality. The story somehow also includes a sick rhinoceros, a hypnotised chicken and duelling tenors. Ginger and Fred (1986) is Fellini’s award-winning take on the world of small time show business. Two former dancers from the 1940s, Ginger (Giulietta Masina) and Fred (Marcello Mastroianni), who imitated the dance routines of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, reunite after retiring for over twenty years to appear on a TV variety show. The film is both a touchingly nostalgic journey into the past and a viciously satirical attack on television, portraying it as a mindless freakshow. ‘The sense of the miraculous is Fellini’s greatest gift to cinema’ - Financial Times.

BALLETS RUSSES      REVOLVER ENTERTAINMENT

The Ballets Russes, established in 1909 by the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, was resident first in the Théâtre Mogador, Paris, and then in Monte Carlo. It created a sensation and went on to become the most influential ballet company of the 20th century. Directed with consummate invention and infused with anecdotal interviews from many of the company’s glamorous stars, this fascinating documentary treats modern audiences to a rare glimpse of the remarkable merger of Russian, American, European, and Latin American dancers, choreographers, composers and designers that transformed the face of ballet for generations. Unearthing a treasure trove of archival footage, Emmy Award winning filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller show the company’s Diaghilev-era beginnings in turn-of-the-century Paris when artists such as Dame Alicia Markova, Frederic Franklin, Nijinsky, Balanchine, Picasso, Miro, Matisse and Stravinsky united in an unparalleled collaboration. Rare magical performances, home movies, letters and diaries are intercut with intimate interviews with former stars, bringing to life the extraordinary journey of the company and the individuals who danced in it. The film culminates with the first and only Ballets Russes Reunion Celebration, held in 2000 in New Orleans, bringing together almost a hundred surviving dancers, most of whom had not seen each other in more than fifty years. Their undimmed enthusiasm, touching reminiscences and general perkiness make a convincing case for the power of dance. Extras include an extensive photo gallery, additional archive footage and interviews with Frederic Franklin, Alicia Markova, George Zoritch, Maria Tallchief and Alan Howard. This splendid and joyful documentary, released on DVD on August 21, celebrates a glorious period of cultural history and makes essential viewing for anyone interested in the art of dance. ‘Riveting’ - The Guardian.

THE RIVER - JEAN RENOIR     THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE BFIVD619 

Jean Renoir was born in 1894 the Montmartre district of Paris, France, as the second son of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. As a film director and actor, Jean Renoir made over forty films from the silent era to the end of the 1960s. The River was filmed in India in 1951 and helped launch the careers of Satyajit Ray, who was an assisted on the film, and Subrata Mitra, Ray’s cinematographer. It was produced by Kenneth McEldowney, a florist and real estate agent from Los Angeles, to prove to his wife, an MGM publicist, that he could make a better film than Hollywood. The River, which opened in 1951 in New York to public and critical acclaim, was based on a novel by the writer of Black Narcissus, Rumer Godden. It is an autobiographical coming-of-age tale of an adolescent girl living with her English family on the banks of West Bengal during the waning years of British colonial life. Exquisitely shot in luminous Technicolor by Renoir’s nephew Claude, The River is a visual tour de force and a glorious, meditative tribute to the sights and sounds of Indian culture. Its central character (and the film’s narrator) is fourteen-year-old Harriet (Patricia Walters), the eldest of five children. Harriet and her beautiful, slightly older friend Valerie (Adrienne Corri) experience the intensity of first love when Captain John (Thomas E. Breen) comes to stay with their neighbours, a mixed-race family with a daughter, Melanie (Radha), of similar age. Captain John, who has lost a leg in active service, captivates the three teenagers, each of whom develops romantic feelings towards this heroic and enigmatic young man. Perhaps Renoir’s most symbolic and spiritual film, The River is a vital and stunningly beautiful work. Following its theatrical re-release at the NFT in 2006, bfi Video has now released on this DVD a new, high-definition digital transfer of The River in its original aspect ratio. It was mastered from the film restoration by the Academy Film Archive, carried out in association with the British Film Institute and Janus Films. Extras include a specially commissioned filmed introduction by Indian filmmaker Kumar Shahani and seven rarely-seen short films set in India, including a surprisingly fascinating documentary about the huge jute industry and two films in Technicolor by great British cinematographer Jack Cardiff. An accompanying illustrated booklet includes a film essay and Rumer Godden interview by David Thompson and a biography of the director as well as notes on all the short films. This is an immaculate release of a beguiling, profound and beautiful film by one of cinema’s most gifted and humane directors.

PASSENGER - ANDRZEJ MUNK      SECOND RUN DVD 018

The film director and screenwriter Andrzej Munk was one of the leading artists with Andrzej Wajda at the Polish Film School in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Munk was born in Kraków in 1921 and moved to Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland, forced to hide because of his partly Jewish ancestry. In 1944 he took part in the Warsaw Uprising and after the war he graduated from the Łódź Film and Theatre School before making films such as Man on the Tracks, Heroism and Bad Luck. Andrzej Munk died in a car accident near Łowicz in 1961 while on his way home from Auschwitz concentration camp where he was finishing his last film, Passenger (Pasażerka). This haunting and dream-like film tells the story of a German woman (played by the excellent Aleksandra Slaska) on a cruise ship coming back to Europe who recognises the face of another woman. She tells her husband how she tried to protect the girl from her vicious captors but we later learn in flashback what really happened. Passenger was completed by his friends after the director’s death, leaving parts of the story unexplained. What remains is shocking yet essential viewing as one of the most audacious fictions ever made about the Holocaust, and this is the first digitally restored DVD release of Munk’s film. Extras include a documentary about the director with contributions from Roman Polanski and Andrzej Wajda, and a booklet detailing the making of the film. ‘I can think of no other movie to compare with Munk’s, in the precise and harrowing balance of romantic beauty and profound terror’ - NY Times.

YASUJIRO OZU: VOL. 3     TARTAN TVD3565

The great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu is famous as much for the technical style and innovation of his films as for their humane narrative content. He did not conform to most Hollywood conventions, such as the 180-degree rule where an imaginary line is drawn between two characters in a dialogue-scene, which the camera does not cross. Also, rather than use typical over-the-shoulder shots in his dialogue scenes, the camera gazes on the actors directly, which has the effect of placing the viewer in the middle of the scene. Instead of using typical transitions between scenes, Ozu shows shots of static objects or uses direct cuts, rather than fades or dissolves. His camera, rarely, if ever moved. He also invented the ‘tatami shot’, in which the camera is placed on the ground, where it would be if one were kneeling on a tatami mat, so it comes as no surprise to discover that his favourite film was Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. Ozu made his first film in 1927 and went on to direct 55 more before his death in 1963. As a director, he was eccentric and a notorious perfectionist. Regarded as one of the ‘most Japanese’ film-makers, his work was rarely shown overseas before the 1960s. Today, he is recognised as one the world’s finest directors, renowned for his deceptively quiet, formalist style, and his intensely moving Tokyo Story was voted the greatest film ever made by Halliwell’s 1000 Greatest Films. This collection features three of his classic movies from the late 1950s: the darkly beautiful masterpiece Tokyo Twilight (Ozu’s last film made in black and white), Equinox Flower (his first film in colour) and Good Morning (an updating of his earlier silent film I Was Born, But...). Superbly mastered prints, original theatrical trailers and extensive film notes reveal a true genius of world cinema. Essential viewing.

KONG: RETURN TO THE JUNGLE     BKN HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Ever since the original King Kong fell to his tragic death off the Empire State Building there has been a fascination with this greatest of all the apes. BKN Entertainment’s engaging, CGI-animated feature sees the return of Kong as a huge gorilla recreated by combining the DNA of the original with a human. He is now able to mind-link with his ‘brother’ Jason, making him even more powerful than his predecessor. He lives on remote Kong Island together with various dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, safely protected until a sinister hunter and a scientist with a grudge against Kong capture him and other island creatures – including a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex – to take to a futuristic zoo in New York. Once there, the animals escape and cause havoc in the city. Amid the plot’s many twists and turns it’s down to Jason and Kong to save the remarkable animals and restore them to their island home. Kong, Return to the Jungle is primarily suited to an audience aged 4-8 but the imaginative storytelling and rollicking action make this is a movie anyone can enjoy.

BOB DYLAN - THE UNAUTHORISED DOCUMENTARIES  WIENERWORLD DR-4525

Born on 24 May 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, Robert Alan Zimmerman grew up in nearby Hibbing. ‘The Greatest Songwriter Ever’ has released more than 40 albums since his 1962 debut, Bob Dylan. His second release, 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, featured many classic songs and began a series of albums that completely changed the world’s perceptions of popular music. Around five hundred songs later (Like a Rolling Stone was voted the best song of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine and the NME) Dylan continues to surprise, challenge, mystify and fascinate in equal measure as he pursues his ‘Never Ending Tour’. Despite countless words written about him over the years, the coolest man on the planet remains, partly by his own choice, an enigma. This box set from Wienerworld features three films documenting the major tours of Dylan’s life, brought together for the first time on DVD. The set includes the CD soundtrack to Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years and nine excellent photograph postcards. In Bob Dylan 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years, director Joel Gilbert reveals these monumental periods of Bob Dylan’s life and music through insider portraits, exclusive photos, concert footage and location visits as well as interviews with, among others, boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Bob Dylan World Tours 1966-1974 features the work of Barry Feinstein, who was the exclusive tour photographer on Bob Dylan and The Band’s legendary 1966 and 1974 world tours. Joel Gilbert chronicles these tours with 150 selections of Feinstein’s finest portraits, visits to Big Pink and Woodstock, and interviews with D.A. Pennebaker, rock journalist Al Aronowitz and the obsessive ‘Dylanologist’ AJ Weberman. Bob Dylan 1966 World Tour, The Home Movies features drummer Mickey Jones, who toured the world in 1966 with Dylan and The Band and captured on film what became known as ‘the tour that changed rock and roll forever’. Joel Gilbert updates this release with exclusive interviews with Charlie Daniels, Johnny Rivers, Trini Lopez and soundman Richard Alderson. Dylan followers are notoriously ‘completist’ so these fascinating DVDs are sure to be essential viewing for many of his fans.

KZ – REX BLOOMSTEIN     SHOOTING PEOPLE FILMS

KZ is the German for concentration camp. In this groundbreaking film, veteran British documentary maker Rex Bloomstein examines the distubing phenomenon of ‘Holocaust tourism’ as his camera lingers over the parade of guides and visitors to the former Nazi concentration camp in the Austrian town of Mauthausen on the banks of the River Danube. The picturesque town and its beautiful surroundings contrasts with the horrors of the camp, a place that attracts busloads of tourists, including schoolchildren, from around the world. The documentary uses no archive footage, commentary, music, reconstructions with actors, or testimony from survivors, but instead tells the story of how we interpret historical events today, what our relationship is with them and how individuals respond when they encounter places with an extraordinary past. Tour guides come to work at the camp every day while nearby the locals go about their daily lives. This is a place where many thousands of people from over 30 nations were tortured and murdered. How does it feel to be a tourist at a former concentration camp? How does it feel to work here as a guide, day in, day out? How does it feel to live here as a local with the dark secrets of the past? And what of those who've chosen this town to be their new home? There are no shocking visuals but the words eloquently express the dreadful horrors of the camp. This haunting film provides no easy answers but asks questions that remain profoundly disturbing. ‘Perhaps the first postmodern Holocaust movie’ - The Jewish Chronicle.

FAUSTO 5.0 - ISIDRO ORTIZ       NUCLEUS FILMS NUC0004       

This unusual and disturbing fantasy horror film, in which the Faust myth is retold in a futuristic Barcelona, forms the third part of a trilogy of productions based on Faust from the Spanish theatre group La Fura Dels Baus. The others are a stage play (Faust Versio 3.0) and an opera (The Damnation Of Faust). Fausto 5.0 tells the story of Dr Fausto (played by Argentine actor Miguel Ángel Solá), who is resident surgeon in an experimental ward specialising in terminal cases. Being constantly surrounded by the dead and the dying has resulted in the doctor becoming alienated and weary of life. One day he meets the charismatic Santos Vella (brilliantly portrayed by Eduard Fernández) who claims that the doctor saved his life eight years previously and says that he will do anything to repay him, including granting his every wish. Santos insistently leads Dr Fausto in an exploration of the city, showing him the light and dark realms of human desire. Both lead actors are excellent and the beautiful Najwa Nimri gives a subtle and convicing performance as the doctor’s assistant. The film is an unusual collaboration between the three directors - Álex Ollé and Carlos Padrisa (both members of the La Fura dels Baus) and Isidro Ortiz. It exudes an oppressive sense of death and decay and is reminiscent of the work of Davids Cronenberg and Lynch. A strange, erotic and darkly atmospheric film, the award-winning Fausto 5.0 generates a nightmarish vision of the future, with excellent cinematography by Pedro del Ray and an effective soundtrack. The enhanced widescreen presentation is accompanied by options for Dolby Digital 5.1 or stereo sound, and DVD extras include English subtitles, a ‘Making of Fausto 5.0’ feature, the theatrical trailer and trailers for other Nucleus Films releases.

BALANCHINE     KULTUR D2448

George Balanchine was one of the last century’s most important and influential choreographers, his work forming a link between classical and modern ballet. He was born Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1904. While still in his teens he choreographed his first work, a pas de deux called La Nuit (1920, music by Anton Rubinstein). After the Russian revolution, he performed with his group in Europe and defected to become ballet master in Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company. After Diaghilev’s death, Balanchine moved to the United States, where in 1934 he founded the School of American Ballet, later to become the New York City Ballet. By the time of his death in 1983, he had created over 400 works and was ranked among the greatest choreographers in the history of ballet. Originally produced for the PBS series, Dance in America, this DVD celebrates George Balanchine’s remarkable artistry and pays tribute to the themes of his ballets. By means of rare archival audio and video footage, interviews, film and photographs, the documentary traces Balanchine’s life from his youth at the Maryinsky Theater, through his work for Hollywood and Broadway, to his work with the New York City Ballet. It also examines Balanchine’s thoughts on dance making and features selections from some of his many ballets, including Chaconne, Agon, Symphony in C, Apollo, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Western Symphony. ‘A thrilling experience’ – New York Daily News.

HOTEL DU NORD – MARCEL CARNE   SODA PICTURES SODA017

French film director Marcel Carné (1906-1996) was born in Paris and began his career in silent film as a trainee with director Jacques Feyder. By the age 25, he had directed his first film and begun a successful collaboration with the surrealist poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert that lasted for more than a dozen years during which they created films that defined French cinema of the day. Under the German occupation of France during the Second World War, Carné subverted the regime’s attempts to control art by filming his masterpiece, Les Enfants du Paradis. Hotel du Nord was the second in Marcel Carne’s trio of ‘fatalistic romantic melodramas’, the other two being Quai des Brumes and Le Jour se Leve. The story for Hotel du Nord is based on a novel of the same name by Eugene Dabit, whose parents operated the hotel around which the film is built and where much of the shooting took place. Renee (an extremely effective performance by Annabella) and Pierre (Jean-Pierre Aumont) take a room at the shabby Parisian Hotel du Nord with the intention of seeing through a suicide pact. However, Pierre shoots Annabella, but cannot turn the gun on himself. Seedy pimp Monsieur Edmond (Louis Jouvet) and his mistress Raymonde (Arletty) help Aumont to escape the authorities, but he can’t escape from himself. Beautifully photographed and acted, with a fine screenplay by Jean Aurenche. the bittersweet Hotel du Nord is a true classic, revealing a Paris wonderfully alive and filled with both comedy and tragedy. DVD extras include a stills gallery, theatrical trailer, and an introduction by the film historian Paul Ryan. Highly recommended for, among many other things, Raymonde’s famous riposte ‘Atmosphere, atmosphere, do I look like an atmosphere?’

BEFORE THE NICKELODION   THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE BFIVD577 

Edwin Stanton Porter (1870-1941) was an influential early American film pioneer. In the late 1890s he worked as a projectionist and mechanic, eventually becoming director and cameraman for Thomas Edison and the Edison Manufacturing Company. Influenced by England’s ‘Brighton School’ and the films of Georges Méliès, Porter went on to make important shorts such as the hugely popular and imaginative Life of an American Fireman (1903) and The Great Train Robbery (1903), one of the cinema’s first Westerns. The latter was also groundbreaking for its use of cross-cutting in editing to show simultaneous action in different places. In these films and many others, Porter helped to develop the modern concept of continuity editing and he is credited with discovering that the basic unit of structure in film was the shot rather than the scene, paving the way for D.W. Griffith’s advances in editing and screen storytelling. In an attempt to resist the new industrial system born out of the popularity of nickleodeons, Porter left Edison in 1909 to form his own production company and became an investor in Adolph Zukor’s company Famous Players, where he directed features starring Pauline Frederick and Mary Pickford. This award-winning documentary explores the work of the illustrious pioneer from telephone operator to projectionist and finally prestigious film director, based on research by the leading scholar of early American film, Charles Musser, who also co-wrote and directed it. Porter was a product of a system that was emerging out of the years of invention and would feed the thousands of nickelodeons, or cheap cinemas, which mushroomed across American from 1907. As narrator Blanche Sweet acknowledges, to study Porter’s fortunes is to witness the emergence of the American cinema industry. He made over 200 films between 1901 and 1908, and this documentary has excerpts from Life of an American Fireman, Jack and the Beanstalk (1902) and The Great Train Robbery. The accompanying illustrated booklet has an introduction as biographies of Porter, Charles Musser and Blanche Sweet, a talented actress who started work at Biograph with D.W. Griffith in 1909.

INTIMATE LIGHTING - IVAN PASSER      SECOND RUN DVD 009

The Czech director Ivan Passer was an important figure in his country’s short lived New Wave cinema, working as scriptwriter on many Milos Forman films. He made his directorial debut with a look at football fanaticism in A Boring Afternoon before going on to make his first feature, Intimate Lighting (Intimní osvetlení) in 1965. Shot during a sultry summer on real locations in Tabor, the film was premiered in 1966 at Cannes, where it took the Youth Prize, and subsequently won a special award from the American Society of Film Critics. After the Soviet invasion in 1968, Passer fled Czechoslovakia and eventually moved to the USA, to direct offbeat films such as Cutter’s Way. The wry and sympathetic Intimate Lighting remains his most personal and most successful work, showing the visit of professional cellist Petr (played by Zdenek Bezusek) and his beautiful girlfriend Stepa (Vera Kresadlova, wife of Milos Forman) to his melancholic old friend Bambas (Karel Blasek), head of the music school in a small country town, where Petr has been engaged to solo with the rustic orchestra. In anecdotal fashion, the film reflects on the sophisticated urbanity of the visitors and the homely simplicity of the villagers. Instead of creating drama or portraying unusual situations, Passer focuses on the humour of the ordinary as Intimate Lighting shows true affection and understanding for all its characters, even in the midst of petty bickering and resentments. Played mostly by non-professional actors the film is beautifully shot (by Miroslav Ondricek and Jan Strecha) and acted and music seems to permeate every frame. Nothing much happens, but we see the universal in the banal and this wise, gentle film becomes more moving and unforgettable with repeated viewing. The DVD includes an excellent print and a revealing interview with Ivan Passer. The sleeve notes are by Phillip Bergson and more information can be found on the Second Run website. ‘One of the ten films that have most affected me’ - Krzyzstof Kieslowski.

LES VALSEUSES - BERNARD BLIER    SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD 3102

French writer-director Bertrand Blier based his controversial debut film, Les Valseuses (Going Places), on his own novel. It was a huge hit in France on its release in 1974, bringing the charismatic Gérard Depardieu to the world’s attention and establishing Blier as a major new talent. Stuffed with a typically French robust and rustic sense of humour, the film details the plight of two aimless drifters (Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere) who spend their days wandering the French countryside in search of women and an outlet for their petty criminal tendencies. Their hedonistic spree of debauchery frequently results in them fighting or running their way out of trouble. After temporarily leaving a girl who is unable to have an orgasm, they approach an older woman just out of prison, on the assumption that she must be dying for it (which she is, literally). With a couple of deaths sending them on the run, their rambling delinquency takes on rather more romantic fugitive connotations. The delinquent pair are joined by a supporting array of characters, played by the wonderful Jeanne Moreau, irresistible Miou-Miou and a very young Isabelle Huppert in one of her earliest roles. One of the key French films of the seventies, Les Valseuses (literally The Testicles, in English) uses grim humour to portray unbridled sex, violence and criminality as the two anti-heroes romp unashamedly through the French countryside. ‘A revolutionary film’ - Pauline Kael.

DICKENS BEFORE SOUND     THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE  BFIVD526

Many Charles Dickens works were adapted for the stage during his own lifetime and there have been well over 200 films based on his novels, beginning with the silent short film Death of Nancy Sykes in 1897. The most memorable are probably the musical Oliver! and two classic David Lean films: Oliver Twist (1948) and Great Expectations (1946). Almost a hundred film versions of Dickens’ stories were made before the coming of sound, mainly in Britain and the USA, but also in countries such as France, Italy, Russia, Germany and Denmark. Only about a third of them have survived and most have rarely been seen. This splendidly produced double DVD features eleven rare films showing how early cinema storytelling developed, as practitioners of this new art form struggled to transform a tale from page to screen. Here you can find the first existing Dickens movie adaptation, Scrooge; or Marley’s Ghost (W R Booth, UK, 1901) photographed only thirty-one years after the author’s death. Other highlights include an entirely original attempt to animate a series of beautiful original lantern slides depicting the story of Gabriel Grub; the first Dickensian sound film, with Bransby Williams as the character Grandfather Smallweed from Bleak House (Hugh Croise, UK, date unknown); and a 74-minute version of Oliver Twist (Frank Lloyd, USA, 1922) featuring two great performers of the silent screen, Jackie Coogan and Lon Chaney. The films have been given new scores by the composer and pianist Neil Brand, and Ken Campbell speaks the words of Dickens over Gabriel Grub and a highly enjoyable excerpt from The Pickwick Papers (Larry Trimble, USA/UK, 1913). There is a commentary by screenwriter Michael Eaton on The Cricket on the Hearth (D W Griffith, USA, 1909). Other extras include an excellent illustrated 40-page booklet with an introduction, notes on each film and original production stills, and a downloadable essay by Dickens scholar Graham Petrie.

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA - KALIRAI   PECCADILLO PICTURES PPD118

This colourful farce is set in Preston, where the Chopra family's only son Jimi (Chris Bisson) foolishly allows himself to be persuaded to get engaged to the beautiful Simran (Jinder Mahal), who has come from India and is the daughter of an old friend of the family. The problem is that Jimi is already in love and living with Jack. Jimi can’t bring himself to break his family’s heart or give up Jack but fate intervenes when a series of accidents and misunderstanding leads Simran to believe that Jimi is father to eight year old Hannah (a film-stealing performance by Katy Clayton). Jimi is thrown into more confusion when his family propose that instead he will marry Vanessa, his landlady and Hannah’s mother (played by Sally Bankes). Mayhem and misunderstanding reigns at the ceremony but, as with all good farces, everything works out in the end. The screenplay for Chicken Tikka Masala was produced by 18 year old Roopesh Parekh and directed by Harmage Singh Kalirai. Occasionally the low budget and inexperience shows but the film's warm-heartedness and pacey humour generally keep the unlikely story bubbling along. Highlights include stirling performances by veteran actor Saeed Jaffrey as Jimi's father, Zohra Sehgal as his outrageous grandmother and Harish Patel as, inimitably, Harish Patel. In the tradition of My Beautiful Launderette and Bhaji On The Beach, this inspired piece of independent film making has enough twists and turns to keep you entertained until the end.

THE SHIRLEY TEMPLE COLLECTION      TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Shirley Jane Temple was born in 1928 in Santa Monica, California. During the 1930s she became the most famous child actress of all time, starring in more than forty films. She began her career at the age of three, appearing in two series of shorts for Educational Pictures. She signed to Fox Film Corporation (later to become Twentieth Century Fox) in 1933 and became the studio’s most lucrative player, ranking as the top-grossing box office star in America for four years in a row. Even at the age of five, the hallmark of her acting work was her professionalism: she always had her lines memorised and dance steps prepared when shooting began. Even in her earliest films she could handle complex tap choreography and was teamed with the famed Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, who coached and developed the choreography for many of her films. After leaving show business Shirley Temple Black became involved in Republican Party politics and held several diplomatic posts, serving as American ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. These new releases from Twentieth Century Fox feature six of her most famous films, all expertly re-mastered and colourised, giving a whole new perspective on Hollywood’s favourite curly-haired girl. Each DVD also contains the original black and white version, and comes with a different charm bracelet. The films included are Bright Eyes (featuring the famous ‘On The Good Ship Lollipop’), the hilarious Baby Take A Bow, The Little Colonel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Dimples, and The Littlest Rebel (in which our heroine meets President Lincoln). Shirley Temple was a remarkable phenomenon who lightened up the world at a time when such cheerfulness was much needed. These attractively presented DVDs - available as two box sets or individually - make a fitting tribute to a beguiling talent that still seems fresh after more than seventy years.

PRISON - INGMAR BERGMAN        TARTAN TVD3578

Also known as Fängelse or The Devil’s Wanton, this fascinating early film by Ingmar Bergman was the first one he directed from his own original screenplay. In it a film director is persuaded by a professor of his that the world is controlled by the devil. He decides to make that the theme for his next movie and passes the idea on to a writer, who is coincidentally is going through his own hell on earth with his prostitute lover - a haunting performance by Doris Svedlund. Trying to make a new start, she is hounded and tormented by her sadistic ex-pimp while dream, nightmare and reality merge. Bergmanesque themes of suicide and faith are addressed and Gunnar Fischer’s hard-edged expressionist cinematography, sometimes reminiscent of film noir, captures Stockholm’s old city locations brilliantly, effectively complementing the harsh subject matter. Shot on a miniscule budget in 1949 Prison was Bergman’s first masterpiece and remains his most experimental film. With its daring structure and unflinching exploration of often uncomfortable ideas, this remarkable work is essential viewing for anyone interested in twentieth century film-making. Tartan’s Ingmar Bergman Collection series on DVD also now includes MUSIC IN DARKNESS (TVD3559), starring Birger Malmsten and the beautiful Mai Zetterling. The director here takes his inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy to tell the story of a handsome young pianist, blinded in a military accident, and his developing relationship with his pupil. Love wins through in the end and Bergman’s fourth feature, made in 1948, proved a popular success in Sweden at the time, helping to establish him as one of the world’s great film-makers. DVD extras include trailers, filmographies and notes by Philip Strick.

 

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