Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jonathan Rosenbaum's global dvd discoveries

My favourite cyberspace reading this morning: Jonathan Rosenbaum's column in Cinema Scope 49 on "Global Discoveries on Dvd: about 40 More Items (or Thereabouts)". Whets my appetite to see many of the releases discussed even when I know the films well. Jonathan Rosenbaum has a good grip on his rambling web column format. There is no lack of space, and thanks to the limitlessness there is a relaxed approach and no need to omit the exciting detail. Artists and releases discussed include James Benning, Miklós Jancsó, Manoel de Oliveira, Jackie Raynal, Treasures 5: The West, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Fanny and Alexander the full version, Chantal Akerman, Peter Thompson, Françoise Romand, Lucy Massie Phenix, Ernie Kovacs, Claude Chabrol, Prima della rivoluzione, Cœur fidèle, Criterion's The Complete Jean Vigo, Elizabeth Marton's Swedish movie in German: Ich hiess Sabina Spielrein / My Name Was Sabina Spielrein, Landmarks of Early Soviet Film, Eclipse's Leningrad Cowboys collection, Víctor Erice's La Morte Rouge, rare Hollywood movies on Spanish labels, Jerzy Skolimowski, André Delvaux, Matt Porterfield, Warner Bros.'s Citizen Kane the 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition blu-ray release, Straub & Huillet, The Savage Eye, and Un condamné à mort s'est échappé. Incredible.

I copy here Rosenbaum's remarks on Víctor Erice's masterpiece La Morte Rouge, which was screened in the Kiarostami Erice Correspondances exhibition only, and is now available for the first time for the general audience on dvd.

Jonathan Rosenbaum on La Morte Rouge: "Soon after I arrived in San Sebastian to serve on the New Directors jury, I picked up Víctor Erice’s La Morte Rouge (2006) on the Rosebud label at FNAC, and watched this 33-minute masterpiece with English subtitles soon afterwards, for the first time, in my hotel room. It’s my wholly unexpected good luck that the principal location of this autobiographical essay about the first movie Erice ever saw, Roy William Neill’s The Scarlet Claw (a creepy 1946 Sherlock Holmes opus dubbed into Spanish), is the Kursaal, visible from my room—a one-time casino (until gambling was outlawed) that also housed an ornate cinema. (The French title refers to the imaginary French Canadian town where The Scarlet Claw is set.)"

"There are many other things about this film that kept me spellbound: not just the sumptuous beauty and mystery of the (mainly black-and-white) images and the entrancing rhythm of their succession, but the uncanny closeness of Erice’s childhood experience to my own first book, Moving Places: A Life at the Movies, whereby the mix of newsreel and fantasy conjures up an indelible sense of contemporary actuality (in Erice’s case, postwar Franco Spain). I was also fascinated by the recurring Spanish theme of perceiving the Franco period through the metaphor and vehicle of horror films that’s also evident in Pere Portabella’s Cuadecuc-Vampir, Umbracle (both 1970), and the beginning of his Informe general (1977), not to mention Erice’s own The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)."

"On the same disc, among a rich profusion of extras, is Erice’s 11-minute Alumbramiento/Lifeline (2002), also in black and white, his fictional contribution to the sketch feature Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet—in some ways even more ambitious and jam-packed, albeit much less immediately accessible, at least to me. (Linda Ehrlich’s detailed essay about it, “The Promise of Time”—another extra, also included in the second edition of her invaluable collection, An Open Window: The Cinema of Víctor Erice—offers a lot of useful contextual information.) There’s also a 53-minute conversation between Erice and Manuel Asin included, and everything comes with optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles." (End of the Jonathan Rosenbaum quote).

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