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 seems to pull out something special just about every month, but June in particular is pretty impressive and has a couple of my most awaited releases of the year. Here at 4:3 we have some pretty differing film preferences and tastes, but one of our communal favourites is the legendary Douglas Sirk, whose exquisite All That Heaven Allows is being released on Blu-Ray, and whose colourful melodramas in the 1950s make up some of the greatest films ever made. Upgraded from the previous DVD, All That Heaven Allows has new, stunning cover artwork and new supplements such as Mark Rappaport’s essay film Rock Hudson’s Home Movies. There are masterpieces of all stripes throughout cinema history; All That Heaven Allows is one of the few films that I’d call perfect and should look stunning in high definition. I hope it’s not ungrateful to hope that Criterion upgrades their Written on the Wind and Magnificent Obsession as well, though the most necessary upgrade now becomes his final film, Imitation of Life. The other highlight is Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse also receiving the Blu treatment, released on the same day. I actually haven’t yet seen this film and have a relevant excuse. So taken by his other masterworks – L’Avventura, The Red Desert, Blowup, etc – and their sheer beauty and vision, I promised not to see L’Eclisse until I could see it either in a cinema or on Blu-ray, whichever opportunity came first. Now’s my chance, and I hope you’ll join me. In any other month for any other company, Criterion’s releases of Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night, George Franju’s Judex or Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock would be highlights, so let’s take a moment to admire the LeBron James of home video before reverting to our monthly complaints about neglecting personal favourites.
I’ll stop short of saying epidemic, but there is an absolute plethora of UK boxsets coming out over the next couple months, any number of which would end up on most years’ lists of best releases. Alain Robbe-Grillet may not be a household name and most cinephiles probably know him best (if at all) as the screenwriter of Alain Resnais’ classic Last Year in Marienbad, but he was actually a prolific and idiosyncratic director and novelist and six of his most acclaimed film made between 1964 and 1974 have been remastered for a boxset courtesy of BFI. Lars von Trier sees his Antichrist, Breaking The Waves, Melancholia and both parts of Nymphomaniac constitute the Lars Von Trier Collection from Artificial Eye, whose impressive year continues with a release of Jeanne Moreau starring, Miles Davis scored Elevators to the Gallows (also known as Lift to the Scaffold) by the great Louis Malle. The last of these boxsets is from boutique label Soda Pictures who have some very interesting projects in the pipeline for the next couple months, but for now, have The Chris Marker Collection – 10 films from the acclaimed director of La Jetee, and although only two on Blu-ray, most of these are making their home video debuts and look to be available at a very reasonable price.
Of course, there are always some more miscellaneous options – Facets DVD is releasing the rare documentary The People vs Paul Crumb, a harrowing look at law and order gone wrong in a film by William Friedkin of pre-French Connecton and The Exorcist fame, in a film that precedes Errol Morris’ classic The Thin Blue Line. Another personal pick would be Jerry Lewis’ most known film, The Nutty Professor and its release on Blu-Ray, the first of any of his directed films. Lastly, one of the most startingly original television events in recent memory also hits the home video market – True Detective Season 1, that terrific miniseries that was pretty groundbreaking television and probably the centrepiece work of the McConaissance.
Locally, Accent are continuing to release some of world cinema’s most controversial films (making their global debut in HD), like Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible and Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs, one of the most sexually explicit mainstream feature films ever made.
Madman’s ever impressive anime line-up is bolstered with Attack on Titan Collection 1, and they are also releasing Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, which was one of the two best loved films from Cannes last year – the other, Blue Is The Warmest Colour is getting a release from Transmission. I probably slightly prefer the Sorrentino, but both are worthy additions to any home video library. One last Cannes 2013 film from Madman – Guillame Canet’s Blood Ties is getting a release as well, though for many film buffs it won’t be the director’s name that grabs you so much as the screenwriter’s – 4:3 fave, James Gray.
Next month is a big one – with no less than three major filmmakers receiving comprehensive Blu-Ray sets and many film buff’s favourite television series of all time getting the Blu treatment, it’s worth starting to save the pennies now. On top of that is the bi-annual Barnes & Noble Criterion sale, as important a time in the cinephile’s calendar as any Festival or awards night – we’ll have our own guide and picks for that as well!