DVD Round-up: August 28, 2007

This edition of DVD round-up features five very different DIY features.

Stranger Than Paradise / Permanent Vacation
Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984) is generally considered one of the key films of the American independent film movement of the 1980s, occupying the same rarefied historical space as The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980) and She’s Gotta Have It (1986). Unlike those films, however, this was not Jarmusch’s debut (though it is often erroneously attributed as such). That film, Permanent Vacation, is finally being released on DVD in this deluxe Criterion Collection release.

Inland Empire
David Lynch abandoned studio filmmaking to write, shoot, direct, and edit a three-hour DIY feature with a Sony PD-150. The plot? Lynch’s tagline says it concerns “a woman in trouble.” Let’s leave it at that. To promote the movie, which he self-distributed (in partnership with 518 Media and Rhino), Lynch sat out on a street corner in Hollywood with star Laura Dern and a Cow. No word on whether footage of this is included on this 2-disc edition.

Four Eyed Monsters
Arin Crumly & Susan Buice’s Four Eyed Monsters has gained as much, if not more, attention for the filmmakers’ promotional efforts and DIY theatrical distribution campaign as it has for the film itself. I finally caught up with it after its release on DVD a few weeks ago. Buice and Crumly have produced a work that is impressive for its inventive marriage of cinematography and digital effects — it feels at once hand-made and digital. Story-wise, I was less interested — for me Buice and Crumly fall prey to indulging in the very narcissistic tendencies that they criticize in so many other self-obsessed couples. See for yourself, though. MySpacers identify with it, which makes me wonder if I’m just too old to fully appreciate it. Available from B-Side or via the filmmakers themselves.

What a difference a year and a half makes. In April 06 I was interviewing Joe Swanberg, Kevin Bewersdorf, and Chris Wells about LOL, which I had just seen at the Philadelphia Film Festival. At the end of the evening, Joe handed me a self-burned, Sharpie-labeled copy of the DVD. Now, sixteen months later, I hold in my hands a deluxe DVD release of LOL, the first from the new DVD label Benten Films. It’s a beautifully put together release — lots of special features and my favorite DVD cover image of the year. I’ve avoided writing much lately about Joe Swanberg and the other filmmakers featured in IFC Center’s New Talkies series. I think Anthony Kaufman has a point when he writes that much hype could hurt movies intimate and small-scale as, say, LOL. (Indeed, hype can kill our ability to appreciate any movie or any other work of art.) Still, this is a quality release worth mentioning and, good as it is, it suggests even bigger and better things to come from both Swanberg and the Benten Films label.

4 Responses to “DVD Round-up: August 28, 2007”

  1. martinmcd Says:

    david lynch only had the cow. not laura dern, though he did have a giant poster with her head on it.

    her performance in IE is staggering.

  2. Paul Says:

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Your comment reminded me that this was not the first time that Lynch and cows have been news: http://www.davidlynch.de/eatmyfear.html

    Standout quote from the article: “Don’t you think when people tell you you’re allowed to do whatever you want as long as it’s not sexually X-rated that they should stand behind their word and show your cow?”

  3. Daniel Kremer Says:

    Hi Paul,

    Criterion also recently released an awesome Carlos Saura film called CRIA CUERVOS. I highly recommend seeing that. Kino also released their second Avant-Garde Cinema set, with their “piece de resistance” being Jean Isidore Isou’s Lettrist feature-film VENOM AND ETERNITY.

    I saw INLAND EMPIRE when it played the IFC in New York. What an experience…one of the highlights of my moviegoing year! Check out this article: http://www.slate.com/id/2172678/. Seeing the film on the small screen is well and good, but seeing it on the big screen–quite simply, you are trapped with nowhere to turn but to look at the screen. That “hyperreal” PD150 video look on a print made it look suitably more disturbing than it normally would have been otherwise. On the DVD, there are some rather entertaining extra features with Lynch cooking a dish called quinoa and likening it to directing a film. Also, there is a 40-minute extra which is an extensive look at Lynch directing the film.

  4. Daniel Kremer Says:

    Oh, and I told you about PERMANENT VACATION when you were still at Temple. Frankie Faison, who was in GINA, is in PV. Opinion about PV is varied. I, for one, appreciated it. I am looking forward to seeing it restored Criterion-style.