Posts Tagged ‘Arrow Academy’

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 02:07:36

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

2.0 English Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3434 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: 2.0 Italian Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English, English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.90 Mbps

Note: This package also includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

While The Legend of the Holy Drinker isn’t quite as remarkable as Il Posto or The Tree of Wooden Clogs, it is certainly a worthy (and essential) entry into Ermanno Olmi’s distinguished filmography. This winner of the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival was adapted from a novella by Joseph Roth and tells a relatively simple story that concerns a homeless man named Andreas Kartack who is living under the bridges of Paris. He is lent 200 franks by an anonymous stranger and is determined to pay back this debt. However, his own circumstances and personal demons are an enormous obstacle that proves incredibly difficult to overcome.

In order to realize this life-affirming but incredibly somber cinematic portrait of human frailty, Olmi casted Ruger Hauer as Kartack and was rewarded with an astonishing performance of subtlety and depth that rivals the realistic portrayals that nonfactors had given him in the past, and the supporting cast (which includes Anthony Quayle, Sandrine Dumas, and Dominique Pinon) was equally effective. The final result is a film that recalls the flavor and tonal attributes achieved by the neorealist films of the forties, and this is probably the highest praise that anyone could bestow upon it. What else could one want from a film of this kind?

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by __ and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay written by Helen Chambers (author of Joseph Roth in Retrospect: Co-existent Contradictionse) and a number of archival stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The collector’s booklet includes information about the disc’s new 4K restoration transfer, and one’s expectations are immediately ratcheted up after reading it.

The Legend of the Holy Drinker has been exclusively restored by Arrow Films and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1… All restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a pin- registered Arriscan and was graded on Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Image stability was also improved…” –Collector’s Booklet

The resulting image has been transferred to Blu-ray utilizing a maxed out bitrate and the result is extraordinary. There is a natural grain texture and the overall effect is extremely filmic. Depth is excellent and contrast is beautifully rendered. The fine detail inherent in Dante Spinotti’s original cinematography is consistently on glorious display—although there is an intentional softness to the image. Colors seem to represent the filmmaker’s original intent (although it is impossible to know for certain). In any case, it all looks rather remarkable.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow gives the viewer the choice of three tracks. There is a 2.0 English Linear PCM audio option, a 5.1 English DTS-HD master audio mix, and an Italian dub in the 2.0 LPCM audio format. Both of the English tracks are superior to the Italian dub, and one doubts if most people will choose this particular option. The 5.1 improves the presence of the film’s music and adds a more dynamic presence to the atmospherics—especially in the exterior sequences. Dialogue is well prioritized and consistently clear in both tracks, and there aren’t any real issues to report about either option. The Italian dub has the synch issues one expects from a dubbed version of a film, and the mix isn’t quite as natural. However, this is nearly always the case with dubbed tracks.

SS04

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Interview with Rutger Hauer (Actor) – (1080P) – (09:20)

Rutger Hauer’s “exclusive” interview is an interesting but not comprehensive discussion about how the film fits into his career. It is a nice appreciation and a happy bonus for viewers to enjoy, but one does wish that it was a more in-depth examination of his work in the film.

Interview with Tullio Kezich (Screenwriter) – (1080I) – (25:47)

Tullio Kezich’s interview is more detailed examination of the process of writing the film and even goes into some information about the production. It is easily the best of Arrow’s three supplemental offerings.

Theatrical Trailer

Every Blu-ray release should, at the very least, include a film’s theatrical trailer, but this practice seems to be slowly dying off. It is very nice to see that this disc continues the tradition.

SS05

Final Words:

Legend of a Holy Drinker is an extremely interesting film that should appeal to those who enjoy Ermanno Olmi’s other work, and Arrow Academy’s restoration transfer is incredible. This disc earns an enthusiastic recommendation.

SS06

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: September 05, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:52:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.33:1

Bitrate: 34.96 Mbps

Title

“The struggle for self-determination, the struggle for what a character wants his life to be…I look for characters who feel strongly enough about something not to be concerned with the prevailing odds, but to struggle against those odds.” -Robert Aldrich

“The struggle for self-determination” pervades The Big Knife, a film based on a relatively successful play by Clifford Odets that made its Broadway debut at the National Theatre on February 24, 1949. Under the direction of Lee Strasberg, the stage production would last for 109 performances. The screenplay for the film by Robert Aldrich would be adapted by Odets and James Poe.

Aldrich follow-up to Kiss Me Deadly (which was made that same year) finds Charles Castle (Jack Palance), one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, at a crossroads in his life. His marriage is falling apart and his wife is threatening to leave him if he renews his contract with a philistine producer named Stanley Shriner Hoff. Meanwhile, Hoff knows of several incriminating skeletons in the actor’s closet and threatens to expose them to the world if he doesn’t sign on for future productions with his studio.

The film won the Silver Lion award at the 1955 Venice Film Festival, but the film wasn’t an overwhelming success in its day—and this is despite an excellent tile design by Saul Bass and a strong cast who gives excellent (if sometimes overwrought) performances. The theatricality of both the story and the performances is what ultimately dates the film, and it isn’t one of Aldrich’s best efforts. It is, however, an enjoyable diversion and a solid entry in the filmographies of every participant.

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay written by Nathalie Morris and a number of archival stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s 2K restoration transfer looks incredible but unfortunately falls short of absolute perfection due to variances in clarity, a few anomalies created by the ravages of time, and what many will perceive to be a thicker than usual layer of grain. However, none of this gets in the way of the transfers strengths. For instance, the level of fine detail is still pretty impressive, contrast is well rendered, and there aren’t any unfortunate compression issues to distract the viewer.

This transfer does seem to have one curious and unfortunate negative aspect in that there is approximately sixty-six seconds of missing footage. This isn’t noticeable unless one compares it to other releases of the film.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

No one should expect this talky film to feature a truly dynamic experience, but the Linear PCM track is reasonably solid despite its narrow range. Dialogue is certainly clean and clear, and there aren’t any age related issues. It might not impress modern viewers, but it serves the story.

SS04

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary by Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton

As I am not usually a fan of third party commentary tracks, this discussion between Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton has limited appeal despite the fact that they cover a lot of information here. It is better than many similar tracks, but it isn’t as instructive as it might have been if it featured one or some of the actual filmmakers. We do, however, get a lot of general information about such topics as Robert Aldrich’s filmmaking legacy, comparisons to the play, background information about the cast, and other pertinent subjects. It is nice that Arrow goes to the trouble of producing commentaries for these older films (even if some of the participants featured in them can seem rather arbitrary).

Bass on Titles (1977) – (33:46)

If this interesting documentary hadn’t been included, the rating for this aspect of the disc would have been 2 or 2.5 stars. Needless to say, it is the disc’s best supplement. It finds Saul Bass discussing some of his title designs before that particular title sequence (or a clip of that sequence) is shown. Unfortunately, many of his titles aren’t included here at all. This is the programs largest weakness. It feels like a missed opportunity.

Television Promo – (04:59)

Also interesting is this vintage television EPK that serves as a glimpse behind the scenes—but only in the most superficial manner. It is basically an introduction to the film’s distinguished cast, but it is much more interesting than it would be if it wasn’t produced in 1955.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:28)

The trailer typically exploits its successful stage origins and the more sensational elements of the story, and the result is a trailer that never really distinguishes itself. It simply tries to appeal to the more sophisticated “high-brow” viewers who enjoy literate stage plays as they cater to the least common denominator by exploiting the more scandalous plot points. By covering all exploitable territories in a single trailer, the film in question seems to have no distinguishable personality. However, it is certainly interesting to watch.

SS05

Final Words:

The Big Knife isn’t one of Robert Aldrich’s better films, but it is a diverting adaptation of the Clifford Odets stage play. Meanwhile, Arrow’s Blu-ray release is the best it has looked on home video.

SS06

Blu-ray Review

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Region: Region A & B

Length: 01:43:06

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 French Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 34.87 Mbps

Note: This package includes a DVD copy of the film.

Title

The Love of a Woman (L’amour d’une femme) was the final feature of the great French filmmaker Jean Grémillon, concluding a string of classics that included such greats as Lady Killer (Gueule d’amour), Stormy Waters (Remorques), and The Strange Madame X (L’Étrange Madame X).

The film tells the story of a young doctor named Marie. She arrives on the island of Ushant to replace its retiring physician but experiences prejudice from the mostly male population. She works hard to earn their respect and acceptance, and still has time to fall in love with an engineer named André. Unfortunately, André sees Marie’s career as a threat to their happiness and eventually gives her an ultimatum: it is either him or career. She eventually makes the right decision.

Starring Micheline Presle, whose impressive career has encompassed French, Italian and Hollywood cinema, and Massimo Girotti (best-known for his performance in Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione), The Love of a Woman seems ahead of the times for a film released in 1953.

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay entitled “The Love of a Woman” written by Ginette Vincendeau.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The Love of a Woman was a restoration by Gaumont pictures, but Arrow’s information about this restoration was rather vague. In any case, the transfer has a filmic appearance with a natural and well resolved layer of grain. Fine detail is at times impressive and always adequate, and the same can be said about the contrast (which leans towards the dark end of the spectrum). There are some unfortunate shifts in clarity making it difficult to make a blanket statement about this aspect of the image, but this never becomes distracting to the viewer. It is certainly a clean image free from the anomalies usually evident in older films (such as scratches, warps, dust, and etcetera). This is no doubt do to the restoration work done on the film.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The Linear PCM rendering of the original mono sound elements sounds great. It’s obviously not the dynamic experience modern viewers have come to expect from a film, but that shouldn’t even be a consideration. The film is dialogue driven and priority is righty given to these elements, and the result is a clean and clear dialogue throughout. The music might have benefited from a more dynamic mix as it can sometimes sound a bit muddled as can some of the more aggressive sound effects. This isn’t really problematic and it never becomes distracting.

SS04

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

In Search of Jean Grémillon – (01:36:10)

A La Recherche de Jean Grémillon (In Search of Jean Grémillon) is the only supplemental feature on the disc, but it is quality rather than quantity that really counts. This made for television documentary from 1969 serves as a career profile for Jean Grémillon, and it is more instructive than most supplemental packages all on its own. René Clair, Pierre Brasseur, Micheline Presle, Henri Langlois, and several other pertinent participants discuss various aspects of Grémillon’s work.

SS05

Final Words:

The Love of a Woman is a simple but affecting story by Jean Grémillon and should interest devotees of French cinema. Better yet, it has been given a loving restoration by Gaumont and a solid transfer from Arrow.

SS06

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:20:39

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Note: This title was release by MGM Home Video in the DVD format, but this marks the film’s Blu-ray debut in North America.

Title

The name Joseph H. Lewis probably doesn’t carry a lot of weight for anyone who doesn’t have a proclivity for B-movies, but Lewis made a string of interesting low-budget features in the film noir (The Big Combo, Gun Crazy, and My Name is Julia Ross) and western (A Lawless Street, 7th Cavalry, and The Halliday Brand) genres. Many of his films are extremely underrated and have earned a well-regarded place in B-movie history, but his final feature—Terror in a Texas Town—may very well be his most interesting.

The director had earned the nickname “Wagon Wheel Joe” for his use of artistic composition (he framed one shot through a wagon wheel), but he might be better remembered for the confident economy with which he told his stories. This economy was very much on display in Terror in a Texas Town, which told the simple tale of a greedy hotel owner named McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) who wants to take control of a town called “Prairie City.” Keen to drive the local farmers of their land, McNeil hires a gunman named Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young), which results in the death of an old Swedish émigré. The dead man’s son, George Hansen (Sterling Hayden), arrives in town to inherit the farm and set the stage for revenge—armed with only his father’s old whaling harpoon.

Of course, some credit should go to the legendary Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten that were blacklisted by the film industry during the dark ages of McCarthyism. The film was credited to Ben Perry, but anyone paying attention should be able to grasp some of the relevant thematic elements that saturate this forgotten gem. The film’s political agenda might be seen as Trumbo’s authorial signature.

None of this should suggest that Terror in a Texas Town is a flawless overlooked masterpiece, because it never even approaches this level of brilliance. The film is laced with all kinds of problems. One doesn’t wish to criticize such a well-respected actor, but Sterling Hayden’s turn as the younger Swede might very well be this film’s weakest element. His accent is never really convincing, and his vocal rhythms are simply more suitable for hard boiled American characters. However, the blame for this should be directed towards the film’s casting director.

In any case, the film’s problematic elements never obliterate its strengths, and anyone who isn’t fond of B-movies (or B-Westerns) might be surprised by this particular film. It never rises above its bargain basement origins, but it is really much better than anyone has any right to expect.

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. This reviewer prefers the original artwork to the new Zimakov design, but it is always nice to have a choice. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay by Glenn Kenny.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s maxed out Blu-ray transfer shows an increase in information on the left and right edges of the frame when one compares it to earlier DVD releases of the film, an there is a pleasing and organic looking layer of grain evident that never becomes problematic and doesn’t inhibit fine detail (which is impressive). The video looks beautiful in motion and one feels that this is probably the best that the film can look on this format.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s Mono linear PCM audio track is a solid, clean, and well balanced reproduction of the film’s original elements. Gerald Fried’s score is given ample room to breathe in the disc’s uncompressed environment and dialogue is consistently clear and well prioritized. There really isn’t any reason for complaint.

SS04

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Introduction by Peter Stanfield – (13:10)

Peter Stanfield is the author of a number of film related books—including a few about the western genre and one about the Blacklist era. These books include “Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy,” “Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s,” “‘Un-American’ Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era,” “Mob Culture: Hidden Histories of the American Gangster Film,” “Maximum Movies―Pulp Fictions: Film Culture and the Worlds of Samuel Fuller, Mickey Spillane, and Jim Thompson,” “Body and Soul: Jazz, Blues, and Race in American Film 1927-63,” and “The Cool and the Crazy: Pop Fifties Cinema.”

While introductions rarely seem as if they are worth the effort, Stanfield’s contextual insights frame Terror in a Texas Town amongst other films in the Joseph H. Lewis filmography (The Big Combo and Gun Crazy are specifically mentioned). Comparisons with other filmmakers are made and the inevitable result is a marginal improvement in our appreciation for the material.

Scene-Select Commentaries by Peter Stanfield – (14:14)

Stanfield also provides a few short commentaries on a number of the film’s scenes and pays close attention to shot composition. It is interesting to hear his analysis (even if one doesn’t particularly agree with everything he says).

Theatrical Trailer – (01:55)

The film’s original theatrical trailer completes the disc’s supplemental line-up quite nicely, and fans of the film will be happy to have it included here.

SS05

Final Words:

Arrow Academy’s new Blu-ray transfer is the best that the film has ever looked on home video, and anyone with an affection for B-Westerns will certainly want to add this release to their collections. It should also be of interest to anyone who admires the work of Dalton Trumbo.

SS06

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:32:34

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1536 kbps, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 26.86 Mbps

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.

Title

“What pleases is what is terrible, gentle, and poetic.” -Georges Franju

While Spotlight Without a Murder isn’t Georges Franju’s most pleasing film, it is essential viewing for anyone who admires any of the director’s more popular efforts. The story isn’t particularly unique but it captures and holds the viewers interest with confident simplicity. When the terminally ill Count Hervé de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur, Goto, Isle of Love) vanishes without trace, his heirs are told that they have to wait five years before he can be declared legally dead, forcing them to devise ways of paying for the upkeep of the vast family château in the meantime.  While they set about transforming the place into an elaborate son et lumière tourist attraction, they are beset by a series of tragic accidents—if they are really accidents.

This was Franju’s third feature length effort after having already made Head Against the Wall and Eyes Without a Face and is a generally playful romp through Agatha Christie territory. Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac—who had penned the source novels for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo—returned to pen the screenplay for the director after the success of their previous collaboration on Eyes Without a Face. Boileau and Narcejac were obviously well versed in murder-mystery clichés and they gleefully exploit as many of them as possible while also blending Gothic elements into the film’s expertly woven fabric. To be honest, the Boileau-Narcejac connection should be enough reason for serious film buffs to experience this somewhat obscure film—even if opinion will be divided between those who see it as a hidden gem and those who see it as a hidden curiosity.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. In this instance, it should be said that Strain’s new artwork is gorgeous and certainly superior to the alternative. There is also an attractive booklet that features a few essays that enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The included collector’s booklet contains very little information about the work that went into the film’s transfer, but does claim that “‘Spotlight on a Murderer’ was digitally restored by Gaumont from original film elements.” Happily, this vague information doesn’t seem to reflect any deficiencies in the quality of the film’s image. The image quality is always solid and often beautiful. It exhibits rich blacks and natural gradients between the various shades of grey. Contrast is also well handled and there is a natural and well resolved layer of grain that lends a filmic texture to the proceedings. Clarity isn’t particularly consistent, but this seems to be a direct result of the production elements. There aren’t many age relate artifacts, but the ravages of time does occasionally mar what is an otherwise gorgeous image. However, these rare anomalies never become distracting.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 2.0 Linear PCM mono audio supports the film’s visuals admirably. The various elements are all given enough room to flourish. Fidelity is commendable and there isn’t any noticeable distortion. Some viewers might lament the lack of a more dynamic sound mix, but purists will be thrilled to have the original audio reproduced so faithfully in high definition.

SS04

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Le Courrier du Cinema – (27:14)

This excellent 1960 episode of a French television program documents the film’s production. The show is obviously geared towards promoting the film’s release, but it is rare to see “behind the scenes” documentary footage of films as old as this one. Obviously, this makes the viewing experience a fascinating one (especially if one is a fan of French cinema or Georges Franju). The program includes interviews with Georges Franju, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Pascale Audret, Marianne Koch, Pierre Brasseur, and Dany Saval. It is a shame that the footage isn’t more probing, but it is nonetheless a fascinating and instructive pleasure to watch.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (03:33)

The film’s theatrical trailer is another happy addition to Arrow Academy’s small but satisfying supplemental package.

SS05

Final Words:

This release is essential for admirers of French cinema, Georges Franju, or the old-school mystery genre.

SS06.jpg

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Noroit02:14:40

Duelle 02:00:41

Merry-Go-Round02:40:20

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

NoroitFrench Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Duelle French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Merry-Go-RoundEnglish & French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio:

Noroit1.85:1

Duelle 1.85:1

Merry-Go-Round1.37:1

Bitrate:

Noroit37.31 Mbps

Duelle 37.17 Mbps

Merry-Go-Round 32.98 Mbps

Note: This package includes DVD editions of all three titles.

Jacques Rivette

“[Noroît and Merry-Go-Round] might very well have been released; but it so happened that Gaumont, in its capacity as distribution house, didn’t think they would bring in a large audience. Maybe they’re right, from their point of view… But in a sense—and this is a very selfish point of view—I didn’t really do anything to ensure their release. Because the release for instance of Duelle, which was not an easy film to release, was done so clumsily that I would almost have preferred if the film had stayed in its boxes … I was more handicapped, personally, even purely egoistically, by the failure of Duelle than I was by the non-release of Noroît and Merry-Go-Round. It gives one a stronger sense of rejection, of error of course too. No, what’s really bothersome is that nearly all directors are at the mercy of such things…” –Jacques Rivette (Cahiers du Cinema, May-June, 1981)

When considering the illustrious filmmakers that came out of the French New Wave, it is easy for one to overlook Jacques Rivette’s name on a list that includes François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Éric Rohmer—but the movement might not even exist without Rivette. Production on Paris Belongs to Us began well before Truffaut, Godard and Chabrol began shooting their films (even if it wasn’t released until 1961).

As a matter of fact, Rivette would often have trouble with the release of his films (as is evidenced by the three films included in this set. In 1975, Jacques Rivette reunited with Out 1 producer, Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff, with the idea of a four-film cycle. He would create a quartet of interconnected films, Scènes de la vie parallèle. Each film would be in a different genre and revolve around two different female characters. Unfortunately, Rivette had a nervous breakdown and succumbed to exhaustion after completing only two of the four films. The second and the third entries of the intended tetralogy were the only films completed: Duelle (une quarantine) sees Rivette in fantasy territory, cross-pollinating Val Lewton, Jean Cocteau, and film noir as the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) battle over a magical diamond that will allow them to continue their existence in present-day Paris.. Its parallel film, Noroît (une vengeance) is a pirate tale about revenge—and a loose adaptation of The Revenger’s Tragedy. It stars Geraldine Chaplin and Bernadette Lafont.

Rivette was three days into the filming of Marie et Julien—the first film in the series (they were not produced in order)—when he collapsed and the production was shut down. It took a long time for the director to recover and when he was finally able to return to filmmaking, he was able to secure financing to make one of the two remaining films in his series. He decided that if he couldn’t make both films, he wouldn’t make either one of them. Instead, Rivette borrowed some of the elements of Duelle and Noroît and came up with Merry-Go-Round. Joe Dallesandro (The Climber, Trash, Flesh for Frankenstein) and Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris, The Passenger) are summoned to Paris, which leads to one of the most surreal and mysterious tales in a career that was dominated by surrealism and mystery.

In his essay about Jacques Rivette, Saul Austerlitz speaks despairingly about this period in the director’s career:

“The next period of Rivette’s career, between Celine and Julie and the renewed triumphs of La Bande des quatre and La Belle Noiseuse (1991), is for the most part disappointing. Duelle (1976) was pictorially lovely, and La Pont du nord (1982) and L’Amour par terre (1984) featured continued reflections on the relationship [between] art and reality, but in comparison to the peaks of Rivette’s filmmaking, these films (and also Noroit [1976], Merry Go Round [1980], and Hurlevent [1985]) are mere footnotes.” -Saul Austerlitz (Senses of Cinema)

Considering that Noroit and Merry Go Round never received a proper release and that Duelle’s release was given extremely problematic and limited distribution, one can understand how a surface level analysis might lead Austerlitz to discount these films. However, he never gives any evidence to support his claims that these films are mere footnotes—and it is our privilege to dispute his claims. These films were perhaps financially unsuccessful, but they are rich and rewarding cinematic experiences that experiment with form, content, and improvisation.

SS01

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s packaging for this release is simple but attractive. Four items are held in a very sturdy box featuring attractive cartoon-like drawings by Ignatius Fitzpatrick. Three of these items are clear cases which hold the Blu-ray and DVD discs. Each case features its own reversible decorative sleeve. The first case houses the discs featuring Duelle (une quarantaine), the second features Noroît (une vengeance), and the third features Merry-Go-Round. The fourth item included in the box is a small perfect-bound book featuring three essays: “Moving Backstage” by Mary M. Wiles, “Rivette x 4” by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gilbert Adair, and Michael Graham, as well as “Vagabond Charm” by Nick Pinkerton. Each of the essays offers instructive information and analysis that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the films in this set.

All of these discs contain menus that are somewhat different than those on most Arrow releases, but they are all attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

All three transfers in this set are the result of digital restoration work which was detailed in liner notes included in the back of the collector’s booklet:

“The original camera negatives were scanned, graded, and restored at 2K resolution. The majority of the picture restoration work was conducted on Diamant Film Restoration systems, with Phoenix and Flame software used on selected sequences.

Picture issues such as dirt, debris, and scratches, torn frames, damaged splices, instability, and mold were all corrected or minimized.

Color grading was carried out using a P3 DCI color space. 35mm original prints were used as a visual reference throughout by the colorist.” –Collector’s Booklet

The result is an extremely strong image that reflects the filmmaker’s intention admirably. Colors are beautifully rendered and almost always impressive while black levels are deep and attractive. There might be some very slight crushing, but it is impossible to determine whether this is the result of the original photography or if this is a minor flaw in the restoration. Either way, this is never distracting to the viewer. Fine detail often impressive and the picture is incredibly crisp. One feels that any softness is a result of the filmmaker’s original footage and this usually suits the aesthetic needs of the film. The high bitrate ensures that each film is presented in the best possible manner and fans of the director will be very appreciative.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The mono sound mixes are perhaps less impressive than the image transfers, but they were given the same loving treatment.

“The original magnetic reels were too damaged for use, so the soundtracks were sourced from the original optical sound negatives and, in some cases, digital Betacam tapes produced in the 1990s. The majority of this work was carried out by L.E. Diapason in Paris.” –Collector’s Booklet

Duelle and Noroit are French language tracks and Merry Go Round was made with a mixture of English and French. It is difficult to determine the clarity of the French language elements because English speaking ears are likely to miss nuances in the language. However, it certainly seems like the dialogue is clearly represented in these three audio tracks. The jazz-style music in the three films also sounds fantastic, although Merry Go Round is marred somewhat by anomalies such as the occasional dropout and hiss. The track seems to be slightly muffled at times making this the least impressive of the three tracks. Having said this, these issues never distract the viewer or inhibit their enjoyment of the film.

SS04

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers – (51:43)  

Scenes from a Parallel Life is without question the most significant supplement included in this package. The first segment was completed on May 4th, 1990 in Paris by Karlheinz Oplustil while the second segment was completed in 2004 by Wilfried Reichart. These two archival interviews with Jacques Rivette find the director discussing his unfinished Scènes de la vie parallèle tetralogy (including the completed Duelle and Noroît) and Merry-Go-Round. It is essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in the director’s work.

Remembering Duelle – (11:00)

Bulle Ogier and Hermine Karagheuz talk about the production of Duelle (1976) and their work on the project. Of the two participants, Bulle Ogier takes the prize for providing the most information. Hermine Karagheuz seems to have fewer memories but discusses Rivette’s vague approach to directing her in the role. It is a relatively short piece, but it does provide some interesting information that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

Interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum – (22:25)

Rosenbaum reported from the sets of both Duelle (une quarantaine) and Noroît (une vengeance) and his recollections provide the viewer with some incredible information about the production and some general analysis. This is well worth the viewer’s time.

SS05

Final Words:

This is an important release that showcases three underappreciated film’s by a too-often overlooked voice in the French New Wave. Arrow Academy should be commended for their efforts.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: May 09, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Eros + Massacre: Theatrical Version – 02:45:15

Eros + Massacre: Director’s Cut – 03:36:25

Heroic Purgatory – 01:58:07

Coup D’Etat 01:49:51

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

Main Audio:

Eros + Massacre: Theatrical Version – Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Eros + Massacre: Director’s Cut – Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 768 kbps, 16-bit)

Heroic Purgatory – Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 768 kbps, 16-bit)

Coup D’Etat Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 768 kbps, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio:

Eros + Massacre: Theatrical Version – 2.35:1

Eros + Massacre: Director’s Cut – 2.35:1

Heroic Purgatory – 1.33:1

Coup D’Etat 1.33:1

Bitrate:

Eros + Massacre: Theatrical Version – 31.88 Mbps

Eros + Massacre: Director’s Cut – 25.99 Mbps

Heroic Purgatory – 23.49 Mbps

Coup D’Etat 24.49 Mbps

Notes: This release includes DVD editions of each film. In total, there are seven discs included in this package (three Blu-rays and four DVDs).

SS01

“One could say that in this film there are two times, chronologically speaking: ours and that of fifty years ago—Osugi’s time.  In this sense, one could say that it deals with the problem of time, but for me what’s important is the present. Reflecting on the present is also reflecting on the future: it is at the same time wanting to change the present and seizing a hold of that which will become the future. This is the subject of the film and not Osugi as a historical character per se. The fundamental theme is: how to change the world, and what is it that needs to be changed?  Reflecting on the present situation through the medium of an era already past, I came to believe that Osugi’s problems continue to be ours.

Osugi is very well known in Japan—one could say almost legendary: he is someone who spoke of free love.  He was assassinated in 1923 by an official of the state, massacred by the power of the state. This is what all Japanese historians believe, but this historical estimation only enlightens the past and not the future. In making this film, I wanted to transform the legend of Osugi by means of the imaginary. Sure enough, Osugi was oppressed by the power of the state in his political activities. But most of all, he spoke of free love, which has the power to destroy the monogamous structure, then the family, and finally the state. And it was this very escalation that the state could not allow. It was because of this crime of the imaginary (or ‘imaginary crime’) that the state massacred Osugi. Osugi was someone who envisioned a future…

… I would like to remind you of the murder attempt [during] the second part of the film—the knife penetrating Osugi’s neck, filmed in a realistic manner: this is the plain and simple representation of the narrative.  In filming this attempt a second time, my intention was to destroy this narrative, to deform the actual event, in order to enter into Osugi: I thought that maybe Osugi preferred to be killed—in contrast to what the first version of the attempt showed. It comes right after he starts to consider the destruction of the revolution he desired; it was after this destruction that he began to speak of free love, in other words, of an imaginary crime. In this version of the attempt, then, it should not come about because of jealousy, not due to a psychological element, but from a political cause.  Thus I had Osugi say: ‘Revolution is only the renunciation of the self,’ or ‘in love and terror, there is ecstasy.’ In having Osugi say this, I wanted the spectator to feel the absence of revolution in the present situation. For the third version of the attempt, I tried to show the contrary view, namely Noe, the attacker. In opposition to Kurosawa, it is always the renunciation of the self that is important for me: it is only this way that communication with Noe and Itsuko is possible, and only by means of it that one is able to think the future.” –Yoshishige (“Kiju”) Yoshida (Cahiers du Cinéma, October 1970)

As the above quote about Eros + Massacre—undoubtedly the strongest entry in the director’s trilogy of Japanese radicalism—suggests, Yoshida’s trilogy is both innately political and extremely sexual (not that either of these traits is mutually exclusive).

A contemporary of Nagisa Oshima (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses) and Masahiro Shinoda (Pale Flower, Assassination), Kiju Yoshida started out as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before making his directorial debut at age 27. In the decades that followed he produced more than 20 features and documentaries, yet each and every one has proven difficult to see in the English-speaking world.

Perhaps this is because one must have at least a general contextual knowledge of Japan’s socio-political landscape during the nineteen sixties and seventies to fully appreciate his work. Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory, and Coup D’Etat form a loose trilogy united by their radical politics and an even more radical shooting style. Eros + Massacre (presented here in two different versions) tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist (and free love advocate) Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists. Their stories interact and intertwine—resulting in a complex work that is arguably Yoshida’s masterpiece. Heroic Purgatory pushes the dazzling cinematic language of Eros + Massacre even further, presenting a bleak but dreamlike investigation into the political discourses taking place in early seventies Japan. Coup d’état returns to the past for a biopic of Ikki Kita, the right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the government in 1936. Yoshida considered the film to be the culmination of his work and temporarily retired from feature filmmaking following its completion—though he would return to the director’s chair over a decade later to make A Promise in 1986.

SS02

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s packaging for this release will no doubt impress anyone with a fondness for classic Japanese cinema. Four items are held in a very sturdy box featuring an attractive design. Three of these items are clear cases which hold the Blu-ray and DVD discs. Each case features its own reversible decorative sleeve. The first case houses the Blu-ray and DVD Editions of the Director’s Cut for Eros + Massacre, the second holds that same film’s Theatrical Version, and the third actually includes a Blu-ray disc featuring both Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’Etat and two DVD discs (one for each of these two films).

The fourth item included in the box is a small limited edition softbound book featuring essays about Yoshishige Yoshida and the films included in the set. Contributors include David Desser (co-editor of the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema), Isolde Standish (author of Politics, Porn, and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s) and Dick Stegewerns (author of Kiju Yoshida: 50 Years of Avant-Garde Filmmaking in Post-War Japan). Each of the essays offers instructive information and analysis that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of these films.

Disc 1 - Menu

Disc 2 - Menu

Disc 3 - Main Menu

Disc 3 - Heroic Purgatory Menu

Disc 3 - Coup D'Etat

All of these discs contain menus that are somewhat different than those on most Arrow releases, but they are all attractive and easy to navigate.

SS03

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

With the exception of the director’s cut of Eros + Massacre, each of these transfers offers equally solid transfers. The director’s cut is more than three and a half hours in length resulting in a slightly lower bitrate than was used for the theatrical version (which was only two hours and forty-five minutes in length). However, we feel that the significant decrease in picture quality is the result of an inferior source print. The longer director’s cut is noticeably too bright and blown out—which reduces fine detail significantly.

The rest of the three transfers are much better with Heroic Purgatory being marginally superior to the others. All feature strong contrast with nice black levels and showcase a fair amount of fine detail. The image isn’t as razor sharp as contemporary films, but one feels that these represent the originals rather faithfully. Coup D’Etat features a few moments of disappointing clarity but it really isn’t anything to complain about.

SS04

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Each film features a solid lossless mono track—with the theatrical version of Eros + Massacre given a slightly more technically robust transfer. Each track represents its respective film nicely and the sound design featured in each of the films is often quite interesting. Some will no doubt lament the lack of a more dynamic mix of these films, but all that matters to this reviewer is that each track is a reasonably flawless reflection of the original source, and these tracks certainly fall in line with those expectations.

SS05

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

8 Scene Commentary Tracks for Eros + Massacre (Theatrical Version) by David Desser

9 Scene Commentary Tracks for Eros + Massacre (Director’s Cut) by David Desser

10 Scene Commentary Tracks for Heroic Purgatory by David Desser

7 Scene Commentary Tracks for Coup d’etat by David Desser

These scene commentaries by David Desser will fascinate anyone with an interest in Japanese cinema (especially if they also happen to have a fondness for scholarly analysis). Each is highly informative and make valuable contributions to one’s understanding and appreciation of these films.

Yoshida …or: The Explosion of the Story – (30:10)

It is nice to find a documentary about Eros + Massacre included on this set—especially one that features Yoshishige Yoshida himself! This French production also includes contributions from Mathieu Capel and Jean Douchet. It is a very strong addition to the disc.

Introduction to Heroic Purgatory by Yoshida – (06:08)

Introduction to Coup d Etat by Yoshida – (05:22)

Yoshida offers slightly more substantial introductions to Heroic Purgatory and Coup d Etat than one might expect. Introductions usually don’t provide much in the way of valuable information or analysis, but these are actually worth the viewer’s time and the disc space that they occupy.

Eros + Massacre (Theatrical Version): Discussion with David Desser – (11:21)

Eros + Massacre (Director’s Cut): Discussion with David Desser – (09:08)

Heroic Purgatory: Discussion with David Desser – (09:14)

Coup d’etat: Discussion with David Desser – (08:51)

David Desser’s exclusive discussions are also well worth the time that it takes to watch them. Desser is the author of Eros + Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave and obviously has a passion for Japanese cinema (even if he can come off as a bit dry). Much like his scene commentaries, the information that he reveals along with some analysis adds to one’s appreciation of these films.

Eros + Massacre Theatrical Trailer – (03:30)

Heroic Purgatory Theatrical Trailer – (03:04)

Coup d Etat Theatrical Trailer – (02:58)

One always hopes that the original trailers will be included in a Blu-ray package—especially when the films are as obscure and unusual as these happen to be.

SS06

Final Words:

Devotees of Japanese cinema should certainly see this interesting trilogy and Arrow’s wonderful boxed set is currently the only way to make this happen

Review by: Devon Powell