DVD Reviews

Global Discoveries on DVD: Lessons in Oppression

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / June 21, 2022

Apart from those few who managed to escape from totalitarian regimes and occupied countries, most North Americans know as little about living under a dictatorship and/or in an occupied territory and what that entails as I do.

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Circumstantial Encounters

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / March 21, 2022

My pandemic home-viewing choices are invariably and inescapably matters of chance and accident—basically, what turns up and when. In different ways, all of the dozen items discussed below are examples of what I mean.

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Deliveries of Smart Dialogue by Dieterle and Others

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / January 4, 2022

fantasies by William Dieterle that I’ve seen is how literary they are. This adjective often has negative connotations in this North American neck of the woods, apparently because “literary” and “cinematic” are supposed to be antithetical—though clearly not for Orson Welles, nor for Godard, who devoted his first piece of film criticism to defending Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and virtually ended his 2 x 50 Years of French Cinema (1995) with his appreciative survey of literary texts that (for him) were an essential part of cinema, “from Diderot to Daney.” 

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Heroines, Heroes, Dogs, Filmmakers

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / September 9, 2021

The way the Internet Movie Database tells it, two pairs of writerly brothers worked with Josef von Sternberg on his first talkie, Thunderbolt (1929), recently released on a Kino Lorber Blu-ray (with a knowledgeable audio commentary by Nick Pinkerton that I’ve so far only sampled). Charles and Jules Furthman are both credited for “story,” though Jules, the younger of the two, gets a screen credit for the actual script; Herman J. Mankiewicz is credited for “dialogue,” while his younger brother, Joseph L., is credited for “titles.”

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DVD | Reclaiming the Dream: Joyce Chopra’s Smooth Talk

By Beatrice Loayza / April 5, 2021

Her reflection comes as a revelation. In the safety of her bedroom, Connie (Laura Dern), the 15-year-old protagonist of Joyce Chopra’s 1985 feature debut Smooth Talk (recently released on a Criterion Blu-ray), adjusts her new halter top in the mirror, its strings crisscrossed down the middle of her chest to hang limp over her exposed midriff. The camera observes her in profile as she spins and arches her back, her gaze glued to the supple body in the reflection, luxuriating in her new possession.

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Global Discoveries on DVD: The Importance of Not Being an Auteur

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / December 22, 2020

By Jonathan Rosenbaum Teaching an online course on Agnès Varda at the School of the Art Institute this fall for 39 students has put me in regular touch with Criterion’s superb 15-disc Blu-ray box set The Complete Films of Agnès Varda, every week. The packaging reminds me in some ways of the handsome 78 rpm…

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Global Discoveries on DVD | Presumptions & Biases

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / September 22, 2020

We already know from his imaginary conversations with his very own “Orson” in The Eyes of Orson Welles (2019) that the presumptions of Mark Cousins respect no natural boundaries apart from those of his own hubris.

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Global Discoveries on DVD | Diverse Kinds of Do-it-Yourself Subterfuge, Mainly American

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / June 23, 2020

Well before the coronavirus pandemic kicked in, I’d already started nurturing a hobby of creating my own viewing packages on my laptop. This mainly consists of finding unsubtitled movies I want to see, on YouTube or elsewhere, downloading them, tracking down English subtitles however and whenever I can find them, placing the films and subtitles into new folders, and then watching the results on my VLC player. The advantages of this process are obvious: not only free viewing, but another way of escaping the limitations of our cultural gatekeepers and commissars—e.g., critics and institutions associated with the New York Film Festival, the New York Times, and diverse film magazines (including this one), not to mention the distributors and programmers who pretend to know exactly what we want to see by dictating all our choices in advance.

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Second Thoughts & Double Takes

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / March 20, 2020

I find it astonishing, really jaw-dropping, that Midge Costin’s mainly enjoyable Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019),available on aUK DVD on the Dogwoof label, can seemingly base much of its film history around a ridiculous falsehood: the notion that stereophonic, multi-track cinema wasinvented in the ’70s by the Movie Brats—basically Walter Murch, in concert with his chums George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola—finally allowing the film industry to raise itself technically and aesthetically to the level already attained by The Beatles in music recording.

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Women, Men, Progressive and “Progressive” Thinking

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / December 29, 2019

By Jonathan Rosenbaum Some of Roman Polanski’s early features—Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and Tess (1979)—are centred on vulnerable women, but as Bitter Moon (1992) makes abundantly clear, these are all films predicated on the male gaze, as are the more recent and more impersonal films of his that come closest to qualifying as Oscar…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Compulsively Yours (including a few real-life confessions/admissions)

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / September 23, 2019

Due to my recorded enthusiasm for Maurizio Nichetti’s first slapstick feature, Ratataplan (1979), and his no less loony and hilarious fifth, The Icicle Thief (1989), I was handed a restoration of his equally loony but less hilarious third, Domani si balla! (Tomorrow We Dance, 1983), co-starring Nichetti and Mariangela Melato, on a PAL DVD with optional English subtitles (not always idiomatic or grammatical) released by Collana Forum Italia.

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Extras and Streaming, Now, Then, and There

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / June 27, 2019

Readers of Movie Mutations, the 2003 collection I co-edited with Adrian Martin, will know that the Jungian notion of global synchronicity has long been a preoccupation of mine.

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Flukes & Flakes

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / March 26, 2019

By Jonathan Rosenbaum In retrospect, I’m sure that an important part of what excited me about John Updike’s second novel, Rabbit, Run, when I read it in high school circa 1960, was the fact that it was recounted in the present tense, thus giving it some of the immediacy of a movie—rather like the thrill…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Some Blessings and Curses of Cinephilia

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / January 2, 2019

By Jonathan Rosenbaum  Since I don’t have much investment in parsing Arnaud Desplechin’s arsenal of “personal” references, I had to look elsewhere for the intermittent pleasures of Ismaël’s Ghosts (2017), available on a two-disc Blu-ray from Arrow Films. I often find myself so hard put to navigate Desplechin’s multiple allusions to and borrowings from Philip…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Auteurist Updates

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / September 28, 2018

By Jonathan Rosenbaum Paul Verhoeven gives exceptionally good audio commentary, especially on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray of Spetters (1980), a powerful feature about teenage motocross racers in a small Dutch town that I’ve just seen for the first time. Speaking in English, Verhoeven tells us a good deal about Dutch culture and life at the…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: First Looks, Second Thoughts

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / July 2, 2018

By Jonathan Rosenbaum 1. Second Thoughts First In the introduction to my forthcoming collection Cinematic Encounters: Interviews and Dialogues, I make the argument that although Truffaut’s book-length interview with Hitchcock doesn’t qualify precisely as film criticism, it nonetheless had a decisive critical effect on film taste. By the same token, on Criterion’s very welcome Blu-ray…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: A Few Peripheral Matters

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / March 16, 2018

By Jonathan Rosenbaum. Let me start by paraphrasing and slightly expanding a comment of mine appended to my 2017 ten-best list for DVD Beaver. A major reason for listing Criterion’s Othello first is that it includes the digital premieres of not one, not two, but three Orson Welles features: both of his edits of Othello…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Fantasies and Favourites

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / December 19, 2017

By Jonathan Rosenbaum Circa 1978, while I was living in a San Diego suburb and teaching a film course, I wrote a letter to Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel), who lived in another San Diego suburb, inviting him to come to my class and talk about The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), which he co-wrote…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Bologna Awards and Mixed & Unmixed Blessings

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / September 28, 2017

By Jonathan Rosenbaum.    I Il Cinema Ritrovato DVD Awards Jurors: Lorenzo Codelli, Alexander Horwath, Lucien Logette, Mark McElhatten, Paolo Mereghetti, and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Chaired by Paolo Mereghetti. PERSONAL CHOICES Lorenzo Codelli: Norman Foster’s Woman on the Run (1950, Flicker Alley, Blu-ray). A lost gem rescued by detective Eddie Muller’s indefatigable Film Noir Foundation. Alexander…

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DVD Bonus | Capital, City: Three Films by Lino Brocka

By Lawrence Garcia / September 28, 2017

By Lawrence Garcia On September 23, 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos plunged the Philippines into a period of martial law that would last nearly a decade. Characterized by economic stagnation and rampant human rights abuses, the years that followed—during which Marcos consolidated his brutal kleptocracy—saw massive infrastructure developments in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: A (Mainly) Alphabetical Listing of 24 Items

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / June 22, 2017

By Jonathan Rosenbaum Blow-Up (Criterion Blu-ray). I’ve always had somewhat mixed feelings about Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1967 Swinging London hit: awe and admiration for his uncanny handling of space, colour, mood, and non-narrative stasis in juxtaposition with his metaphysical detective story, and irritation about the show-offy, fashion-plate ambience that seemed far more responsible for the movie’s…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Clarifications and Spring Cleaning

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / March 24, 2017

  By Jonathan Rosenbaum  Probably the most important DVD release of last year, inexplicably overlooked by me when I made out my lists for Sight and Sound and DVD Beaver, is Josef von Sternberg’s The Salvation Hunters (1925) and The Case of Lena Smith (fragment, 1929) on a single all-region disc from www.edition-filmmuseum.com for 19.95…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Mostly Items from Overseas

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / December 19, 2016

By Jonathan Rosenbaum 1. A package of wonderful releases arrived from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series in the UK, all of them with exceptional extras. Here are the most exciting of these packages, in alphabetical order: Andre De Toth’s Day of the Outlaw (1959), in dual formats—a masterpiece of disequilibrium and the starkest of black-and-white…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Awards and Extras

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / September 25, 2016

By Jonathan Rosenbaum. DVD Awards 2016, Il Cinema Ritrovato Jurors: Lorenzo Codelli, Alexander Horwath, Lucien Logette, Mark McElhatten, Paolo Mereghetti, and Jonathan Rosenbaum. (Although Mark McElhatten wasn’t able to attend the festival this year, he has continued to function as a very active member of the jury.) BEST SPECIAL FEATURES Coffret Nico Papatakis (France, 1963-92)…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: Ways of Seeing

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / June 27, 2016

By Jonathan Rosenbaum. J.P. Sniadecki’s feature-length The Iron Ministry (2014), available on DVD from Icarus Films, is by far the best non-Chinese documentary I’ve seen about contemporary mainland China. (Just for the record, the best Chinese documentary on the same general subject that I’ve seen is Yu-Shen Su’s far more unorthodox—and woefully still unavailable—Man Made…

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Global Discoveries on DVD | Hosannas and Quibbles

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / December 21, 2015

By Jonathan Rosenbaum I can easily understand why some of Abel Ferrara’s biggest fans have certain reservations about his Pasolini (2014), available now on a splendid Region 2 Blu-ray from the BFI.  Even if it’s a solid step forward from the stultifying silliness of Welcome to New York (2014), it lacks the crazed, demonic poetry…

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