Archive for the ‘DVD’ Category

DVD Round-up: August 28, 2007

Tuesday, August 28th, 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.

LOL
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.

Hooray for Nollywood!

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Intrepid reader Ben Hartman alerted me to a fine, if all too short, article in Wired about the third largest film industry in the world. Where is that, you ask? Nigeria.

The article is really a tease — and an effective one at that — for two recent US-produced documentaries, Welcome to Nollywood and This is Nollywood.

Until I can get my hands on those documentaries, and some actual Nollywood movies, here are some articles that I enjoyed reading today as I educated myself about the Nigerian film industry.

Cinema of Nigeria page on Wikipedia.

Welcome to Nollywood. An extensive article from The Guardian.

Nollywood drought at Fespaco. BBC article discusses allegations of snoobery at Africa’s most prestigious film festival towards Nollywood pix.

Step Aside, L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood. NYT article from 2002(!).

The Nollywood Phenomenom. Article found on the World Intellectual Property Association website (WIPO’s website tells me that it is a “specialized agency of the United Nations”).

Rest in Peace, Edward Yang

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

Via the Filmmaker Magazine blog, I’ve just learned that writer-director Edward Yang has died of complications from colon cancer. He was 59 years old.

In 2006 I started to catch up with Yang’s films. The first one I saw was 1991’s A Brighter Summer Day. The film is not available commercially anywhere in the world, but I had managed to secure a 2-DVD bootleg of the 237 minute epic. I was laid up in bed, sick, with nothing else to do, so I figured a four-hour movie would be a good way to pass the time.

It’s a stunning film, but when it was over — well before it was over, actually — the devastating impact the film had on me was buoyed by my thrill at discovering a filmmaker so in control of the medium.

Still, even that film did not prepare me for Yi Yi, which I caught up with late last year after Criterion released it on DVD. As I mentioned in my year-end posting, the experience of watching Yi Yi at home last winter was the best moviegoing experience I had all last year.

One of the reasons I would never want to be a full-time movie reviewer or critic is my inability to put into words experiences like seeing Yi Yi. Peter Bowen’s post over at Filmmaker quotes A.O. Scott’s review of it in the Times, and that gives a hint of what I myself felt:

As I watched the final credits of Yi Yi through bleary eyes, I struggled to identify the overpowering feeling that was making me tear up. Was it grief? Joy? Mirth? Yes, I decided, it was all of these. But mostly, it was gratitude.

There’s something so exciting about discovering the work of a new artist whose work you hold close to your heart: There’s the thrill of going through the back-catalog, hoping that there are more treasures to discover. And, if that artist is still alive, still working, there’s the eager anticipation of looking forward to their new work, which is a kind of joy in its own right.

Today, when I heard the news of Yang’s death on June 29th, I — and all of his fans — lost the chance to feel that latter kind of joy. All that’s left for us is the chance to appreciate the work Yang created while he was here.

It may take years before I can see all of his films — none besides Yi Yi are available on DVD — but however long it takes, I’ll be thankful they remain to be seen. Yes, “gratitude” is the right word.

Thank you, Edward Yang. Rest in peace.

***

If, like me, you’re coming late to Edward Yang’s work here are some ways to learn more:

Online Resources:

    Edward Yang: IMDB entry

    Edward Yang: Senses of Cinema biography — this includes several links to interviews, essays, etc.

    Edward Yang: Wikipedia entry

    Edward Yang: AP Obituary

    Added 7.3.07:

    Edward Yang: NYT Obituary [Manohla Dargis]

    Edward Yang reflections on GreenCine

    Jonathan Rosenbaum reviews of Edward Yang films

Books:

    Edward Yang

DVD:

    Yi Yi is the only film of Yang’s to be commercially released on DVD, either in the USA or (to the best of my knowledge) abroad. Bootleg DVDs for at least some of Yang’s other films are known to be available on the internet.

Head Trauma Re-Mix in Philly

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Yo, Philly readers:

Here’s a screening that would make William Castle’s head spin: Lance Weiler’s Head Trauma will screen with a live soundtrack, featuring performances by Bardo Pond, members of Espers, Fern Knight and DJ Chief Wreck’em. Some theatrics are being thrown in for good measure and there will also be some interactivity. Bring your cell phone.

Details can be found at I-House (the venue) and on the Head Trauma website. Or check out the flyer here.

I’m not a connoisseur of horror and suspense films, but I enjoyed the film when I caught it on DVD last fall. I certainly I wish I could be there for the extravaganza on Saturday. Hopefully Lance will discuss the process of setting the show up, as well as the results, on his great Workbook Project site.

Killer of Sheep

Monday, March 26th, 2007

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep in my rave of Eagle Pennell’s The Whole Shootin’ Match. Funny timing: Yesterday, Dave Kehr had an all-too-short article in the NYT about the process of bringing to home video this legendary film that, in Burnett’s words, “was never meant to be shown in public.”

I had known the film was going to be released to DVD at some point — it’s been rumoured for at least a few years (held up, as Kehr notes, by music licensing issues) — so it’s nice to know we won’t have to wait much longer.

What I didn’t know was that the film is getting a release at the IFC Center starting on Friday. It will also be playing in select cities throughout the summer. If you’re anywhere near a screening, this is something you’re not going to want to miss.

To learn more about the film, check out the new Killer of Sheep website that Milestone Films has launched. If you’re a Burnett fan, make sure you click on the “Buy the DVD” tab — it reveals some very exciting news.