Despite all the range and popularity of streaming and VOD services, for some of us here at 4:3 there’s still no substitute for physical media, even as it becomes increasingly niche or mainly a collector’s market. For the adventurous or discerning home viewer there’s no greater pass to the wealth of world cinema than a region-free Blu-ray or DVD player. With a large number of boutique studios and labels putting out tremendous films in incredible packages on the regular, Brad Mariano has the monthly round-up for the best of the best.
Criterion releases one of their most impressive packages of the year in their edition of Howard Hawks’s Red River – one of their rare excursions into the Western genre with a film that I’d call Howard Hawks’ best and one that I’d put forth as Exhibit A in the case against the old argument that John Wayne couldn’t act. If the plot doesn’t scintillate on paper – one of the first cattle drives – it certainly does on screen, with the rivalry between the characters of Wayne and newcomer Montgomery Clift in a star-making turn dominating the film, along side Wayne’s increasingly desperate, paranoid and tyrannic obsession with the journey that to a modern viewer seems like a precursor to Klaus Kinski’s similar fool’s errand in Aguirre, Wrath of God. Of special note is the alternate version Criterion provides, the cut preferred by Hawks that has rarely been seen since release – six minutes shorter, omitting the chapter stops from Borden Chase’s original novel and makes other edits. The other version is also included to make for an interesting comparison, and as a great addition, a paperback pressing of the long out-of-print source novel! Other Criterions slated for this month are Kiarostami’s recent film Like Someone in Love, Ace in the Hole (featured here from its UK release last month) and adding to their contentious and extensive Wes Anderson collection with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou receiving a Blu upgrafe.
On the Aguirre note, 2014 is looking to be a hell of a year for Herzog fans. In May, BFI in the UK are releasing limited edition steelbooks of Aguirre and Herzog’s extraordinary remake of F W Murnau’s Nosferatu, with an intense performance by Kinski as Count Orlok among the films considerable merits. This Nosferatu is also released in the US as well this month. The considerable caveat I’d put on these is the fact that mammoth Herzog sets (one is 18 films!) are being released both in the UK and stateside over the next few months.
In a strong UK month, Artificial Eye is releasing a particularly awaited Leos Carax Collection, featuring the French maverick’s 2012 arthouse sensation Holy Motors as well as the earlier Mauvais Sang and Boy Meets Girl – also notable as all star the irreplaceable Denis Lavant. Carax is a rare talent whose films were made for Blu-Ray – I only hope we see his remarkable Lovers on the Bridge put out in HD soon! Elsewhere in the UK Masters of Cinema are releasing some classics this month, being Lindsay Anderson’s landmark If…. and the coincidentally topical Nashville, which of course screens in June for the Sydney Film Festival. Arrow has some great selections as well, from Elio Petri’s debut film, L’Assassino with Marcello Mastroianniand one of the great films of Roger Corman and Vincent Price’s run of Edgar Allen Poe inspired film, Pit and the Pendulum, also available in steelbook. To top it all off, Second Run, a really fascinating boutique focusing a lot on releasing plenty of Eastern European classics, is releasing Polish auteur Andrzej Wajda’s epic Man of Marble.
Plain Archive, a curious boutique based in Korea specialising in collectible, limited edition presentation of films on Blu-Ray, isn’t exactly prolific but every time they release something, it’s worth taking note. This month they’re releasing Lars von Trier’s Melancholia in a spectacular edition full of not just the standard special features but some great exclusive art work, with a release you could spend as much time looking at the packaging as the film itself. It has a very limited run so get in quick, and have a look at their other current release, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler in a stunning steelbook edition.
Last but not least, Madman are bringing to Blu-Ray and DVD (locally) Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, the follow up to his acclaimed cult classic Donnie Darko and one of the most inexplicable, polarising films you’re ever likely to see. It had an infamously hostile reception at Cannes, but a cult internet shelf life has seen it re-evaluated, if not entirely understood. We’re planning to write on the film more extensively (a piece of this length couldn’t even begin to give even an adequate plot overview) in the coming weeks, but it’s a film that we at 4:3 are pretty fascinated by, and thrilled to see on home video – if ever a film was meant to be seen multiple times it’s this one.