Saturday 31 March 2018

On Blu-ray - David Hare welcomes a new edition of Michelangelo Antonioni's THE PASSENGER (1975)

First two screens (left and below right, click to enlarge) show Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider in situ of a seemingly lunar landscape, in fact the rooftop of the Casa Mila ("la Pedrera") in Barcelona. 

The last two screens (below) are the beginning and the end of Antonioni's devastating seven minute take which ends his last American film, produced by Carlo Ponti, The Passenger(1975). 

The beautiful new 35mm source provided to Indicator (UK) label from Sony looks like near pristine Metro/Eastmancolor, and the 1080p grading and encode for the new Blu-ray is flawless. One could only hope to see this turn up one day in 4K/HDR. The near to final shot seems to be suggesting a parallel dimension in which life itself disappears or is replaced by an alternate life, while an apparently indifferent universe simply fills the void around pointless human endeavor. This and the final montage of unpopulated streetscapes in L'Eclisse are Antonioni's most radical and formally arresting excursions into pure science fiction. Only Resnais and Marker come close to matching this thematic preoccupation with the abstract as reality with so much sheer sensual beauty. 
MA was a giant, his like will never be seen again. For one alternately branded by detractors over the years as "modish" or even "shallow" his films today resonate into an infinite future in which, if the human race survives viewers will continue to be seduced by his gaze and his impeccable sense for image. 
The disc comes recommended without reservation, noting only in passing several truckloads of extras down to no less than three audio commentaries, including the 2010 track recorded by Nicholson for Sony's DVD release that year, another by writer Mark Peploe and another brand new commentary by Oz expat critic Adrian Martin.

Digitisations, Restorations and Revivals (34) - Wenders, Curtiz, Clouzot & Mizoguchi

Associate Editor (Restorations and Revivals) and member of the CINEMA REBORN Organising Committee, Simon Taaffe has come across the following films being screened at institutions around the world.  So…folks  time to resume a Film Alert tradition…

Wim Wenders
A selection of eight early and mid-career Wim Wenders at Lyon’s Institute Lumière. Includes a personal favourite, the director’s quite remarkable Patricia Highsmith adaptation The American Friend based on the great lady’s second Ripley novel “Ripley’s Game”. If you can get to Lyon check out the Wenders restorations

At New York’s Film Forum a rare treat of Laurel and Hardy. Stan and Ollie star in four newly restored shorts: BRATSTHE CHIMPHOG WILD, and BERTH MARKS. Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Hog Wild restored to its original Vitaphone aspect ratio. Brats and Berth Marks restored to their original Vitaphone soundtrack. I f you can get to New York head for the Film Forum.

I still remember a wonderful screening of G W Pabst’s Pandora's Box at Sydney’s State Theatre with a marvelous live score by Jen Anderson, If you are in London  you can see a new copy of the film at the BFI. The website Silent London reports: The version that will be shown is a 2K DCP of the 1997 Munich Film Museum restoration, not the more recent one, which is slightly disappointing, but that said, I saw this version on a big screen recently and it really is grand. The print really does well by Gunther Krampf’s complex patterns of light and shade in his cinematography, and there is enough detail to highlight all the nuances and symbols lurking in the background. Louise Brooks sparkles as she ought to, of course. Details here

The Sea Wolf
Also at the Film Forum Michael Curtiz’s 194 The Sea Wolf described thus “From out of the frying pan... Post-collision at sea, Ida Lupino is rescued — but by Edward G. Robinson’s Wolf Larsen. With John Garfield as the inevitable rebel, as the oppression, mutinies, and sacrifices ensue.” If you read Barrie Pattison’s book on Curtiz you get an enthusiastic response to one of the major Curtiz films, now playing on DCP in a complete uncut pre-release version, with 14 minutes of restored footageDetails here.

Kenji Mizoguchi
Finally three more screenings at the esteemed Film Forum H G Clouzot's Quai des Orfèvres and two by Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi Sansho the Bailiff…. and fresh from its screening in a lovely 35mm print at the 1980 Melbourne Film Festival to a packed house at the Palais Chikamatsu Monogatari

Thursday 29 March 2018

In New Orleans - Rod Bishop happens across a remarkable documentary BEYOND ALL BOUNDARIES (David Briggs, 2009)

National WW2 Museum, New Orleans
In a city of brilliant live music (cheap and often free); unique Creole and Cajun cuisine; a world-famous Mardi Gras; a Jazz Festival that draws 100,000; African-Americans who mask as Indians; high school brass bands who compete for $40,000 (Class Got Brass); and more festivals than a city with a population of 300,000 could reasonably be expected to support, the number one tourist attraction is rather surprisingly the USA’s National World War II museum.

Higgins Boat
Located in New Orleans as a tribute to the Higgins boat, those flat-bottomed D-Day landing craft originally designed for the bayous, the museum is housed in several brutalist buildings and occupies most of a city block. A lot of the exhibits are big and detailed but underwhelm and lack basic coherency.

But there’s one short film, “the 4D experience” Beyond All Boundaries, screening to 250 people a session on a gigantic transparent gauze screen (35 metres by 9 metres) and for production value alone, it’s almost worth the price of admission. Before entering the purpose-built Solomon Victory Theater to view the film (which can only be seen in this location), the 250 audience members are herded into a darkened space by overzealous attendants, the majority forced to stand, tightly pressed against each other. It’s borderline claustrophobic and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one expecting a Nazi gas chamber simulation.

Instead, producer and narrator Tom Hanks appears on multiple small screens to tell us about the USA in the 1930s when it was 18th in the world for military strength, its heavy construction capabilities in poor shape and politically, a country trying to avoid the war in Europe.

Finally allowed inside the Theater to ogle at the luxurious seats, the immense stage and huge screen, Beyond All Boundaries starts with Pearl Harbor and in the next 35 minutes covers all of the USA’s involvement in WWII. After the sinking of the fleet in Hawaii, we end up on Iwo Jima in what seems to be a couple of minutes. The Italian campaign takes but seconds and after the D-Day landing we’re suddenly thrown into the Battle of the Bulge.

B-52 Bomber 
Quick as it is, the production values are often impressive and include all-encompassing special effects; props of a giant radio set, a concentration camp, a watch tower and a warship gun turret emerging from the stage; state-of-the-art sound; seats that shake as bombs explode and tanks that plough over the top of the audience. A piece of a B-52 is lowered from the roof; and during the Victory celebrations, ticker-tape falls from the ceiling.

It’s all Us Against The Mad Men and in the lead-up to the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan, things slow down to an almost glacial pace as Hanks makes sure we all understand the Japanese were trenchant, suicidal and as a nation, simply incapable of surrender.

Perhaps only the Americans would dare create a 35-minute fairground entertainment of the greatest war in history, but they sure have thrown a lot of money at it. Voice-over cast credits include Hanks, Brad Pitt, Elijah Wood, Patricia Clarkson, John Goodman, Tobey McGuire, Wendell Pierce, Kevin Bacon and Jesse Eisenberg.

Tom Hanks, 2014