DVD Roundup #3

Chacal De NahueltoroOf all the works of Third Cinema I have seen, this is one of the most brutal and poetic. Miguel Littin's film -- Chile's first feature -- concerns the life and eventual death of an illiterate man who murders a widow and her five children when drunk. I've only seen the film once -- thirteen years ago in a course in Latin American cinema (taught by Christine Holmlund). The film has been unavailable for years -- I've searched for it on vhs and, later, DVD, all to no avail. Recently I found a bootlegger who was going to score it for me... when he ran across this, its first appearance on video. For me this is the most exciting DVD release to-date this year.

Country Blue The Tallahassee Film Society has recently released Jack Conrad's "groundbreaking saga of crime and punishment in the rural South." While the film is pretty standard sub-Corman drive-in fare on one level (car chases, T&A, etc), its status as an early (1973) stab at Southern cinema might make it a curio of interest to historians of independent and/or regional film. Film critic Mark Hinson's introduction does a nice job of providing a historical context and some enjoyable trivia about the movie. Legendary soundman Richard Portman worked on the film and provides audio commentary with mixed results -- his interviewer repeatedly interrupts him. Transfer quality is well below average, but this might be the best we can hope to get from a regional film of this era. You can read more about the production history here.

November Depending on the circles you run in, this film's primary claim to fame is either a) that it stars Courtney Cox or b) that its Sundance award-winning cinematography was done with the Panasonic DVX-100A. If you have an interest in digital cinematography, it's worth a look -- both because there are some great images, and also because it's instructive to see that venerable camera pushed past its limiations. Ultimately, I enjoyed the movie more by listening to the commentary by DP Nancy Schreiber and writer-director Greg Harrison. Courtney Cox has more range than her stint on TV would suggest, but if that's why you're here you might just rent this again.

Room to Dream: David Lynch and the Independent Filmmaker This is a promotional DVD put out by DigiDesign touting Avid non-linear editors. What sets it apart from other corporate propaganda is that the chief touter is David Lynch. Mainly, Lynch talks about how his filmmaking has been revolutionized by using DV, and there's quite a bit of behind-the-scenes footage of Lynch shooting with a PD-170 (or 150). Lynch is famously tight-lipped about his films and working methods, so it's intriguing to see him at work, even if the scene being filmed is, as David Lowery notes, a stinker. What Lynch has to say about the filmmaking process itself isn't nearly as weird, hallucinatory, or eye-opening as his movies can be. Indeed, the oddest thing about the DVD is the soft sell, at least for infotainment: The pitch for Avid products doesn't come until very late in the program, and even then it can be skipped. Now, that's surreal. Click here for a free copy.