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
August so far has been a particularly hectic month for 4:3 and Australian cinephiles more broadly – among Melbourne International Film Festival and Possible Worlds Film Festival, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there was still essential home video releases coming out. But there are always great home video releases coming out. It never stops, and we will never stop.
Our featured release of the month is from relative newcomers Soda Pictures who have been thrusting themselves into the limelight recently with some stellar releases, and this month’s centrepiece might be their best yet. Their Kelly Reichardt Collection is big news – she’s one of our favourite working directors, and we were lucky enough to interview her very recently. Someone who lives, breathes, teaches and shoots films, Reichardt’s movies are distinctly her own – slow, character based films shot in her beloved state of Oregon. A timely release considering her latest film, the terrific Night Moves, just played at MIFF and is set for a theatrical release, this set brings together her previous three films – Meek’s Cutoff (2011), Wendy and Lucy (2008) and Old Joy (2006) in one set, the latter two on High Definition for the first time, which should bring the most out of their elegiac, textured visuals. But what might make the set essential for Reichardt fans is the inclusion of her first feature, 1994 film River of Grass. Although this feature is only offered on DVD, it’s a very welcome addition – it hasn’t ever been released on DVD in the UK or Australia, and even in the frontier of the less legal avenues of the internet, this film is near impossible to track down.
Masters of Cinema have two excellent looking releases this month, as their output of German silent films on HD increasingly becomes less a penchant of theirs than a damn near monopoly. F W Murnau’s retelling of Faust gets a gorgeous dual-format edition worth buying for the cover art alone, and their valiant quest further into Fritz Lang’s legendary career produces a Dual-Format edition of Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon), his last silent epic and one of the early landmarks in science-fiction storytelling cinema. One of our favourite labels, Masters of Cinema have also just recently revamped their site into a spiffy looking page, and to celebrate they have 10% off everything in their web store. I don’t want to assume responsibility for any vast amount of money that you might spend there, but I’ll just leave that link right here…
Criterion has a very interesting slate this month also. Of the five films, my pick would be John Cassavetes Love Streams – often considered his final personal opus, with terrific performances from Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, it’s one of the best films of the 1980s. Also released are Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz, Shohei Imamura’s Vengeance Is Mine, Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! And a film that many have been clamouring for ever since Criterion dropped clues years ago, Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mama Tambien.
One noteworthy title that was on many people’s must-have list from the days Blu-ray was invented is Out of the Past, a wonderful noir with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas that comes to Blu courtesy of Warner Archive. In a perfect world, the big studios would license these titles out to Criterion, MoC and other boutiques all the time (there are no notable special features here), but Tourneur in HD is enough of a reason to celebrate for us. Flicker Alley also has two promising collections in HD – Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies and the Mack Sennett Collection, Vol. 1. More silent comedy on HD, please, and this is a great start.
On the home front, particularly exciting news – Madman are releasing a boxset (separate Blu-ray and DVD editions) of the films of Jacques Tati. That is to say, ALL the films of Jacques Tati. It’s exciting news, but we’ll be looking at that set much more in depth very shortly, with a review forthcoming.