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Reply #360 on: March 09, 2005, 05:15:15 PM
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol

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Reply #361 on: March 15, 2005, 09:28:28 PM
Title: Titanic
Released: October 2005
SRP: Prices TBC

Further Details
Paramount Home Entertainment has released early details on two editions of the Oscar-winning Titanic which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The film will be available in seperate two-disc and four-disc collector's editions. The two-disc special edition will include a branching feature, enabling fans to view a wide selection of never-before-seen footage. The four-disc collector's edition will be the ultimate for film and DVD enthusiasts - containing numerous deleted scenes, new in-depth documentaries that explore the odyssey of the making of the film and much more. The film itself will be presented in a brand new high definition transfer along with 6.1 Dolby Digital Audio offering the highest level of picture and sound quality on DVD. James Cameron commented:  "The three year process of making Titanic seemed at times as arduous as the building of the original ship itself.  Until recently, I wasn't really ready to dive back into it all and re-live the conflicts, disappointments, tough choices and, ultimately, the film's crazy, unexpected success.  This special edition is more than just the hour or so of unseen footage we're including.we're taking fans on an untold journey, one which could have ended just as disastrously as Titanic's maiden voyage, and often seemed as if it would." We'll bring you further details very shortly.
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.


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Reply #362 on: March 16, 2005, 12:21:25 AM
Way more details from The Digital Bits:

I've just gotten back from Paramount and 20th Century Fox's special press event this afternoon in Beverly Hills. Director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau were on hand (as were Paramount CEO Rob Friedman and Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos) to announce the DVD release of the long awaited Titanic: Special Collector's Edition. As we first reported here at The Bits in February, there will be two versions... a 2-disc release and a 4-disc release, both of which will street on the same day in October. The exact street date and SRP are both still TBA (Paramount will release the discs in the U.S. and Fox will release them internationally on the same day). Just so you all can relax, the 2-disc version will basically be identical to the first two discs of the 4-disc release, so there's no need to buy both. If you buy the 4-disc release, you'll get ALL the extras and supplemental content available. Longtime readers of The Bits will be pleased to know that Van Ling, a regular collaborator with Cameron on his past DVD releases, has been tasked with supervising the production of this new edition.

Cameron and Landau revealed some details about the DVDs during the press conference, and I was able to get additional information during the Q&A session that followed their presentation. Both versions will feature the original theatrical cut of the film, which Cameron considers to be his 'director's cut'. He's just supervised and approved a new high-definition transfer of the film, so you can expect it to be presented (at long last) in anamorphic widescreen on the DVDs. Both DVDs will feature Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio (DTS MAY be included as well, but this has yet to be decided - it's an issue of how much content needs to be included on the discs, and how much room will be available once all the extras are finalized). As with the recent 4-disc Lord of the Rings DVDs, the film itself will be split over the first two discs to allow for the highest possible video and audio quality. I was also able to learn that the film discs will likely include multiple audio commentary tracks - certainly one with Cameron, but also separate tracks with various crew members and possible a cast commentary as well.

In terms of bonus features, the film discs will offer a special 'branching' option (similar to what Fox has used on its complete season sets of The X-Files) that allows you to jump out of the film at various points (when an icon appears on screen) to view footage that was deleted from that particular point in the film. Some 58 minutes of deleted scenes will be available in all. Keep in mind, this will NOT be edited back into the film. The deleted scenes will be offered separately on the discs (in addition to their accessibility via the branching feature while viewing the film). The deleted scenes will reportedly have special video lead-ins and optional Cameron commentary that explains why the footage was cut. The deleted material is reportedly fairly substantial and will include a number of nice character moments with Jack and Rose, as well as additional less important (but historically accurate) footage. Cameron is currently making the creative decisions necessary to 'finish' this footage in order to bring it up to release quality (including any visual effects that might need to be completed, as well as supervising sound mixes and scoring the material).

Other extras you can expect on the new DVDs include a wealth of rare behind-the-scenes footage from the Lightstorm vaults - 2 full discs worth. This will include time-lapse footage of the massive set and studio construction, new and vintage cast and crew interviews and other never-before-seen material. Nearly 400 hours of behind-the-scenes footage was shot during the production of Titanic in all. Another long-time Cameron collaborator, Ed Marsh (who shot much of this footage originally), is sorting through it all to produce a definitive, feature-length documentary on the making of the film, taking you from the very beginnings of the idea with Cameron pitching the concept to the studio, through all of the stress, angst and criticism generated by the production, to the film's eventual release and massive worldwide success. Along the way, you'll hear from literally everyone involved in the production, including all of the major cast and crew. Both Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio have agreed to participate in the DVD production, for interviews and possibly commentary if schedules permit. By the way, you should already be familiar with Ed Marsh's work - he's the man who created the outstanding Under Pressure: Making The Abyss documentary on Fox's previous The Abyss: Special Edition (both the laserdisc and later DVD).

After the press conference, I had the chance to speak with Cameron directly for a few minutes. Asked about his take on the looming format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc, Cameron said that he'd seen demonstrations of both formats, and has looked at each critically with an eye toward spotting artifacts and other quality related issues. He's impressed with both HD-DVD and Blu-ray, and feels that it's a bit of a wash in terms of which format has the technical edge. Although Cameron is looking forward to a future high-definition release of Titanic (and the new transfer of the film was done in HD), he's not planning an HD release anytime soon. This new SCE will be standard DVD only. When asked if he has a preference for either HD-DVD or Blu-ray, he wisely noted that he's letting the industry and the market decide which format will prevail, although he does hope that a single, unified format will be adopted by the industry sooner rather than later.

Interestingly, Cameron also said that there were two main reasons why it took so long for a special edition DVD of Titanic to happen. The first is that the previous movie-only version is still selling quite well (meaning there was no urgent economic pressure to get a more elaborate version done before this). The other is that the process of making the film was such a grueling experience that most involved needed to leave the project behind for a few years in order to feel the desire to revisit it again for a worthy special edition. That said, Cameron and Landau have been planning this new edition for nearly two years, and have put a great deal of thought into what they want to include for the film's many fans.

On an interesting side note, Cameron also spoke about his passion for 3-D filmmaking. He and fellow director George Lucas are spearheading an effort to get movie theaters around the world to upgrade not only to digital projection, but also to add the capability to exhibit films in 3-D format. In fact, Cameron and Lucas are hosting a demonstration of the 3-D process for theater owners at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas this week (in addition to CG-animated 3-D films, Lucas's people have reportedly developed a way to render 3-D versions of existing 2-D films). Cameron says that this is the main reason he's waited so long to begin production on his next major theatrical film - a live action version of the Japanese anime Battle Angel Alita. Cameron plans to shoot the film digitally in 3-D format. What's more, he says that Lucas and other filmmakers (like Robert Zemeckis and possibly Peter Jackson too) are also planning to shoot 3-D films in the future. They expect that the availability of good 3-D feature film content will drive interest in the 3-D experience theatrically, and that in turn could fuel demand for bringing the 3-D process into the home as well. Cameron noted that both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc (and current DVD as well) could be adapted to deliver 3-D footage, but that the main obstacle to high-quality 3-D at home is the low refresh rate of current TV monitors. Displays offering much higher rates (96Hz) will be needed in the future to show flicker-free 3-D images in your living rooms.

So there you have it. All the available details regarding the forthcoming Titanic: Special Collector's Edition and some other interesting stuff too, all straight from The Man himself. I have to tell you, I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with Cameron in person. He's clearly very thoughtful and savvy in terms of the latest developments in film and video technology, and I found him to be both genuine and personable. I look forward to having the chance to speak with him at greater length in the future. I also chatted with Ed Marsh for a few minutes about his currently on-going work on the DVDs. You can expect to hear more from him here at The Bits in the months ahead as well.

Just so you know, there's no cover art available yet for these DVDs, and all of the specific disc specs are still being worked out. You can be sure that we'll get them to you as soon as they're finalized by the studio. I hope you've all enjoyed the report.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol

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Reply #363 on: March 23, 2005, 03:57:37 PM
Warner Bros. is really getting their act together.  Here comes Film Noir box #2!

Warner Home Video have announced the Region 1 DVD release of The Film Noir Classic Collection Volume Two for 5th July 2005. Hollywood’s legendary tough guys and femme fatales collide again with this second collection which includes five smouldering classics, all new to DVD and all digitally remastered: Born to Kill, Clash By Night, Crossfire, Dillinger and The Narrow Margin.

The movies star film noir icons Robert Mitchum, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor, among others, and feature commentaries from film historians and directors including Robert Wise on Born To Kill Peter Bogdanovich, with archival contributions from Fritz Lang, on Clash By Night; John Milius on Dillinger and William Friedkin and Richard Fleischer on The Narrow Margin.

In addition to the Collection, John Boorman’s (Deliverance, Excalibur) classic neo-noir, Point Blank, will also make its DVD debut featuring commentary from Boorman and director Steven Soderbergh.

Titles will be available in both a five-disc set, for $49.92 SRP, or individually for $19.97 SRP.

About The Film Noir Classic Collection Volume Two

Born to Kill (1947)
Director Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music, West Side Story) showed his versatility with this dark gem -- a mix of heiress sisters, stone-hearted men, needy hangers-on and illicit but inevitable love. Walter Slezak portrays the verse-quoting shamus and Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney are lovers who play with fire… and burn their names forever into film-noir lore.

DVD special features include:
Commentary by film historian Eddie Muller with archival contributions by director Robert Wise
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

Clash by Night (1952)
Film noir master Fritz Lang (M, The Big Heat, Ministry of Fear) directs Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan and rising star Marilyn Monroe in a stark tale of lives burnished by human emotion and shattered by human failings. Intense and powerfully realistic, Clash by Night (from a Clifford Odets play) is about many towns and many families, all serene on the surface but boiling underneath with desperation.

DVD special features include:
Commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich with archival contributions by director Fritz Lang
Theatrical Trailer
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

Crossfire (1947)
Robert Mitchum, Robert Young and Robert Ryan star in this landmark film noir nominated for five Academy Awards® including Best Picture. Edward Dmytryk (Murder, My Sweet) directs, draping the genre’s stylistic backdrops and flourishes around the controversial subject of anti-Semitism, a topic rarely explored in American films.

DVD special features include:
Commentary by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini with archival contributions by director Edward Dmytryk
Featurette Crossfire: Hate is like a Gun
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

Dillinger (1945)
Oscar-nominated for its screenplay, this is a bullet-paced story of the legendary gangster whose crimes captivated and terrified the nation. Lawrence Tierney plays the title role, breaking free of screen anonymity and moving into a 50-year tough-guy career that would range from Born to Kill up through Reservoir Dogs.

DVD special features include:
Commentary by filmmaker John Milius (director of the 1973 Dillinger) with archival contributions by writer Philip Yordan
Theatrical Trailer
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Oscar-nominated story, directed by Richard Fleischer (Fantastic Voyage, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and scripted by his frequent collaborator Earl Felton, zigzags with surprise turns. Film noir favorite Charles McGraw plays a cop guarding a gangster’s moll (fellow genre icon Marie Windsor) as she travels west to testify before a grand jury. Also riding the Pullmans are two determined hit men who know the moll is on the train but don’t know what she looks like. The film was remade in 1990 with Gene Hackman and Anne Archer.

DVD special features include:
Commentary by filmmaker William Friedkin with archival contributions by director Richard Fleischer
Theatrical Trailer
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

Point Blank (1967)
Based on Donald E. Westlake’s novel The Hunter, Point Blank is an edgy neo-noir that merges a classic revenge story with imaginative New Wave style. Directed by John Boorman (Deliverance), Point Blank stars Lee Marvin in full anti-hero mode as a thief out for payback. The film also features an outstanding supporting cast that includes Angie Dickenson, Carroll O’Connor and Keenan Wynn.

DVD special features include:
Commentary by directors John Boorman and Steven Soderbergh
Vintage Featurettes: The Rock Part 1 and The Rock Part 2
Theatrical Trailer
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish


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Reply #364 on: March 23, 2005, 07:02:48 PM
Kick ass! I love Film Noir.
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Reply #365 on: March 23, 2005, 08:20:14 PM

"Song of the South" to go on sale in '06
Jim Hill shares what he just heard from his sources deep inside Buena Vista Home Entertainment. That a DVD of this long supressed Disney classic will finally hit store shelves in the Fall of 2006.
by Jim Hill

I know that it's been a really rough winter so far. But who would have thought that Hell was gonna to freeze over?

"What do I mean by that?," you ask. Well, I just got word that Buena Vista Home Entertainment will be releasing "Song of the South" on DVD in the Fall of 2006.

That's right. "Song of the South." The Academy Award winning film that former Disney Feature Animation head Thomas Schumacher once told Roger Ebert was on "permanent moratorium" has reportedly been greenlit for release late next year. A special 60th anniversary edition that -- thanks to a plethora of extra features -- will try & put this somewhat controversial motion picture in historial context.

"Why -- after all these years -- did Disney finally give in?," you query. It's simple, really. "Song of the South" 's 60th anniversary was simply too good a promotional hook for the Mouse's marketing staff to pass up. More to the point, Buena Vista Home Entertainment could really use a hit right about now.

Don't believe me? Then go check out Disney's financial reports for the first quarter of 2005. Where you'll discover that the Mouse's accountants actually blame the 20% drop in revenue that the company's Studio Entertainment division recently experienced on lower DVD sales of current-year films.

Given that Disneyana fans have been clamoring for a "Song of the South" DVD for nearly a decade now, BVHE execs are hoping that all of this pent-up demand will eventually translate in really big sales for this disc. Disney is hoping to sell at least 10-12 million units of this particular motion picture.

"But aren't Disney Company execs concerned about how the African American community may response to 'Song of the South' 's release of DVD?," you continue. Yep. I won't lie to you folks. There's a lot of people in the Team Disney Burbank building who are very concerned that -- by releasing this much maligned motion picture on home video & DVD -- that the Mouse House is potentially opening itself up to a ton of bad publicity.

With the hope of avoiding that, BVHE reportedly plans to really pile on the extra features with "Song of the South." Among the ideas currently being knocked around is producing a special documentary that -- through use of clips from that TV movie version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella" that Disney produced back in 1997 as well as sequences from "The Proud Family" & "That's So Raven" -- would demonstrate that a person's color really doesn't matter at the modern Walt Disney Company. There's also talk of including Walt Disney Feature Animation's seldom-seen short, "John Henry," as one of the disc's special features.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment is also supoosedly toying with approaching a prominent African-American performer to serve as the MC on the DVD version of "Song of the South." You know, someone who could then introduce the film, explain its historical significance as well as re-enforcing the idea that "SOTS" was a product of a much less enlightened time in Hollywood's history. I'm told that -- up until recently -- Bill Cosby was actually at the top of Disney's wish list. But now that Dr. Cosby has been accused of inappropriate behavior with several ladies ... Well, let's just say that Bill is no longer Mickey's top choice for this position.

Anywho ... There's one other aspect of this "Song-of-the-South"-soon-on-on-DVD saga that I guess I should mention. Which is why Buena Vista Home Entertainment is low-balling its predictions of the number of units that "SOTS" might sell (I.E. 10-12 million versus "Finding Nemo" 's 39 million+ units). Why is that, do you suppose? Mind you, it's not because "Song of the South" is decidedly old fashioned (Well, what do you expect from a 60 year-old motion picture?), but rather .... Here, why don't I let my source inside BVHE explain:

"This movie isn't nearly as good as people seem to remember it being. Sure, the animated sequences are charming. But the pace of the rest of the picture is so damned pokey.

Which is why I seriously doubt that we'll get all that many letters about "Song of the South" 's racial content. The way I figure it, most kids & adults will be nodding off 30 minutes into the thing. And people who are sleeping can't write letters of complaint."

Well, I don't know about that. But what I can tell you folks is to stop bidding NOW on those black market "SOTS" DVDs that keep popping up on eBay. For -- if you can just wait another 17-18 months -- you can actually purchase a really-for-real authorized version of Disney's "Song of the South" of your very own.


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Reply #366 on: March 23, 2005, 10:39:47 PM
fuck that, i'm holding onto my bootleg. it's got character.
The corpses all hang headless and limp bodies with no surprises and the blood drains down like devil’s rain we’ll bathe tonight I want your skulls I need your skulls I want your skulls I need your skulls Demon I am and face I peel to see your skin turned inside out, ’cause gotta have you on my wall gotta have you on my wall, ’cause I want your skulls I need your skulls I want your skulls I need your skulls collect the heads of little girls and put ’em on my wall hack the heads off little girls and put ’em on my wall I want your skulls I need your skulls I want your skulls I need your skulls


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Reply #367 on: April 18, 2005, 08:14:45 PM

Davey and Goliath, the beloved 1960's stop-motion animated television series will be released in a newly refurbished and digitally restored collection from Starlight Home Entertainment. Due on June 7th, Davey and Goliath vol. 1 Collector's Edition features the all-time classic episodes "The Kite," "Finders Keepers," "Blind Man's Bluff" and "Stranded on an Island" plus the 30-minute summer camp special "To The Rescue." Bonuses in this two-disc set will include the hour-long documentary "Oh Davey!... History of the Davey and Goliath Television Series" (originally aired on ABC television and featuring interviews with the original creators and behind the scenes footage of the making of the all new "Davey and Goliath's Snowboard Christmas") and an interactive read-along by Scholastic Books. And for a limited time, the DVD cover will come with a voice chip featuring Goliath's famous "I don't know, Daaaavey!" phrase. Retail is only $19.99.


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Reply #368 on: April 18, 2005, 10:59:31 PM
Available June 21, 2005.
Newly remastered anamorphic widescreen transfer
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track
Audio commentary with the films director and writer
Deleted scenes with an optional director audio commentary
Three video essays entitled The 80's: Downtown, American Psycho: From Book to Screen and The Pornography of Killing.


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Reply #369 on: April 19, 2005, 12:01:53 AM

Well, what are we to make of this? We'd all had Donald Richie pegged as film writer, arts critic and cultural commentator, but up until now, the series of experimental films he made during the 60s were the stuff of legend, often alluded to, but, for most of us, never seen. This DVD release from the fall of 2004 from that bastion of Japan's avant-garde film culture, Image Forum, should certainly put pay to all thoughts among his critics that Richie is an old fuddy-duddy belonging to a bygone era. If nothing else it reminds us just how refreshingly uninhibited, unaffected and spontaneous this era was in comparison to now.

Shot on 16mm, the director himself claims that these personal works were initially not intended for public screening, or at least not within mainstream exhibition venues. They were Underground Films, aired within more closed-off cinephile networks and made with his friends. It should be pointed out though, that these friends included the likes of composer Toru Takemitsu (Onibaba, Ran) working on the sultry score of Atami Blues (1962), a simple tale of boy meets girl in Japan's top coastal resort, and initial audiences included such notable members of the filmmaking community as Nagisa Oshima and Susumu Hani.

Richie's work falls into the category of experimental or avant-garde cinema, a notoriously tricky area to write about because of its intrinsically non-narrative nature and the lack of familiarity most viewers have with either the characters working within this hermetic field or the ostensibly cryptic intentions of their work. Most people know about the films of Andy Warhol and Kenneth Anger, for example, but how many of us can actually say we've seen any, yet alone in the way in which they were intended to be shown, on a big screen with an audience?

Mainstream film discourse pretty much sees experimental film outside of its scope, and so this alternate history of cinema remains sketchily written. You'll rarely see experimental film in American Cinematheque or British Film Institute Top 100s or Best Ofs, and only a few representative works of the best-known filmmakers are available on DVD. By definition, the avant-garde lies outside the commercial industry, and thus these films are also characterised by the nature of their audience and their exhibition venues - in art galleries, specialist cinema clubs, university campuses etc - thus concealing them from the attention of the general public. Once any progressive developments from the avant-garde are assimilated into mainstream filmmaking practice, they cease to be avant-garde.

So what is an experimental film? A tricky question, but we can essentially define this area as being anything that attempts to do something other than tell a story, that prioritises elements of the moving image other than its narrative, and in doing so throws up interesting questions about the nature of reality and our perception of it, and also about the nature of the cinematic form in itself.

In one of the filmed interviewers included on the Criterion DVD release of Stan Brakhage's work, Brakhage ponders why, when for the first time in history, mankind has the ability to visualise internal states and communicate them to a mass audience, filmmakers, in fact the industry in general, remain seemingly content to lavish such expense and energy on what are basically "moving comic books", stories told with pictures.

A good question then is why did film evolve along such narrative and representational lines. In the early stages of the twentieth century when the syntax of cinema was becoming established, a whole movement of artists including Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miro, Maurice Denis, and Piet Mondrian were pushing the idea that 2-dimensional picture painting or 3-dimensional sculpture could be far more than purely representational, that once you break out of the idea of restricting yourself to reproducing a real life object, you open up a whole new world of opportunities.

With film, the element of time is introduced. Movies are fundamentally comprised of a collection of sequences of moving pictures combined with sound. How, therefore, did this slavish adherence to portraying the real world within the dramatic codes of the theatre come about?

At the dawn of the century, the world of fine art was primarily the domain of a small, moneyed elite. Cinema was emerging as a new entertainment form for the impoverished masses, and its origins lay in the spheres of working class entertainment - Music Hall or Vaudeville Theatre, or in other words the stage, with its dramatic action. The two worlds were poles apart.

Early efforts of avant-garde filmmakers might be best understood as attempts to bridge the gap. Gradually artists such as Fernand Leger (Ballet Mecanique, 1924), Man Ray (Return to Reason, 1923), Marcel Duchamp (Anemic Cinema, 1926) and Salvador Dali (Un Chien Andalou, made with Luis Bunuel in 1928) dabbled in film as an extension of their art work. Meanwhile, as French directors such as Abel Gance (La Roue, 1923) and Germain Dulac (The Clergyman and the Seashell, 1927) tried to move the new art of cinema further away from its theatrical origins, in Germany the figures of Viking Eggeling (Diagonal Symphony, 1925), Hans Richter (the Rhythmus series, 1923-25), Walter Ruttman (Opus I-IV, 1921-25) and later Oskar Fischinger (Circles, 1932), inspired by the ideas in Kandinsky's book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, pushed the moving image into the realms of the pure abstract, using animated curves and geometric shapes to emphasise the temporal nature of the moving image - a kind of "visual music" - all until World War 2 put pay to such decadent Bohemian thoughts.

With the war, the epicentre of the cinematic avant-garde moved to the USA, and pivotal filmmakers such as Oskar Fischinger and the formerly British-based New Zealander Len Lye along with it. Mainstream cinema had moved on to a completely different phase of its existence, with sound film now the norm and Hollywood dominating the screens of the world. In this context, the American avant-garde concerned themselves less with investigations into aesthetics and form, and more with breaking with conventional narratives or drawing upon previous developments in popular film culture to fuel their content, as was the case in Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid's Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) or Rituals in Transfigured Time (1949), and Kenneth Anger's films, like Fireworks (1947). These particular directors were also heavily influenced by mysticism, the occult and voodoo. The works of Stan Brakhage evolved from the anti-narrative of the wonderfully-titled Desist Film (1954) into the complete abstraction of later pieces such as Rage Net (1988).

The above is a highly simplified overview of what is in reality a far more complicated history, and one that ignores developments outside of America and Europe, about which very little has been written. But it nonetheless leads us to Donald Richie's first filmmaking efforts, which occurred in the years before he moved to Japan in 1947, while he was a youth in Ohio.

Richie himself insinuates that he was "one of the few people to introduce the whole concept of the Experimental Film to the Japanese". Whether this is entirely true or not is contentious. While it is best to discount the significance of Teinosuke Kinugasa's avant-garde masterpiece A Page of Madness in this discussion (the 1926 film, heavily indebted to German Expressionism and the French school of photogenie of Gance and Dulac, reached few viewers on its release and was lost soon after, remaining unseen by an entire generation of filmmakers), it is fair to say, however, that the experimental scene in Tokyo really got underway in the 60s, around the time the films on this disk were made (for an overview of the Japanese avant-garde, see www.asianfilms.org/japan/experimental.html).

During the 60s, several groups of filmmakers were also busy at work outside of the commercial mainstream. Masao Adachi, before joining forces with anti-establishment pink filmmaker Koji Wakamatsu and later leaving Japan for a self-imposed exile of almost three decades in the Middle East, made two highly-acclaimed works in the form of Rice Bowl (Wan, 1961) and Sain (1963) while he was a member of the Nihon University Film Club.

The poet/playwright Shuji Terayama also dabbled in film, operating within a broader artistic avant-garde among figures such as Hiroshi Teshigahara, who was famed for his unconventional adaptations of the author Kobo Abe, such as Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another. Terayama's more famous directorial works include Throw Away Your Books and Go Out into the Streets, and Emperor Tomato Ketchup (both 1971), the latter depicting a society taken over by children. He also wrote the script for Susumu Hani's Nanami: Inferno of First Love, and later directed Klaus Kinski in the arty softcore French co-production of Fruits of Passion (1981).

Probably the closest to what Richie was doing at the time, both in terms of the style of the works produced and the amateur (in all the best senses of the word) spirit in which they were made are the personal home-made 8mm efforts of the Hiroshima-born Nobuhiko Obayashi, a director who later became firmly ensconced within the mainstream with films such as House (1977), Drifting Classroom (1982), and most recently The Motive (2004). Like Richie, his most accomplished experimental period was the period from 1960 to 1968. His works are infused with an inspiring sense of fun, and, operating primarily on an aesthetic level, don't initially appear to make much sense. And like Richie's, they have also recently been issued on DVD in Japan (unsubbed, unfortunately), as Obayashi Nobuhiko Seishun Kaiko-roku ("Nobuhiko Obayashi Youth Recollection Record") - a Western release would be gratefully welcomed!

The main difference between Richie and Obayashi is of course that Richie never went on to pursue a career in the movies, seeing writing as his main metier and filmmaking as something he did for fun. And indeed, fun is one of the aspects that most comes across in the 6 films that make up the 127 minutes of the DVD anthology of his works, all of which manifest a wry sense of humour, a camp flamboyance and a preoccupation with the aesthetics of the image.

Take for example Boy With Cat (1966), a five minute long sequence of a young man's attempts to masturbate being continuously thwarted by the affectionate interruptions of the feline with which he shares his apartment. The wittily titled Five Filosophical Fables (1967) consists of a series of sketches set to an accompaniment of music by Mendelson seemingly devoid of any higher meaning. In one, a young Japanese man attends a plush garden party held by a group of well-heeled Westerners, who periodically approach him and take possession of an item of his clothing. By the end of the film, he is left stark naked and wondering around the streets of Tokyo to the stares of clearly bewildered passers-by.

In another more grotesque segment, four genial-looking picnickers lay down their blanket beneath the trees and immediately set about eating one of their gathering. This situation is very reminiscent of one of Obayashi's films, Tabeta Hito (1963), in which a waitress at a busy restaurant imagines herself being eviscerated in the kitchen by the chef, who, after removing bloody wads of spaghetti and strings of sausages from her stomach which are served up to the assorted diners, proceeds to cover her face with pie dough and bake her.

Richie's best-known film is the atmospheric, allegorical Wargames (1962), set on a deserted beach where a group of young boys are first seen running up to and surrounding a goat. Against the soft, hypnotic sounds of waves breaking across the beach, from initially stroking and petting the creature, petty tensions emerge within the group, who divide into two squabbling factions, that eventually result in the goat dead, with just one outsider left to tend its half-buried body in the sand.

But perhaps the most eye-popping offering of this disk is the bizarre Cybele: A Pastoral Ritual in Five Scenes (1968), whose exuberant content borders on the near pornographic - remember, due to the nature of these films' exhibition, they were not subjected to Japan's usual censorship requirements. A group of naked men frolic around a forest clearing in an impromptu ballet before their attention focuses on a young girl, whom they strip naked. The girl takes her revenge by graphically inserting lighted incense sticks between their buttocks, tying strings to their penises and grinding their heads between her naked thighs.

In more recent years these films have screened at the Image Forum theater on a fairly regular basis, but this recent release serves admirably in bringing them to a wider audience. English subtitles are included on the disk to accompany the only film that requires them, the morose Dead Youth (1967), and Richie is on hand himself to provide a much-needed explanation for his means and motives.

It should be pointed out that this package doesn't include all Richie's films, with earlier 8mm works such as Small Town Sunday (1941), made while he was still based in America, A Sentimental Education (1953), Aoyama Kaidan (1957) and Shu-e (1958), as well as shorter films like the 4-minute-long Life (1965) unfortunately not included, making it difficult to really assess Richie's situation and influence within Japan's filmmaking scene.

The disk is being made available outside of Japan by Marty Gross Productions (email videos[at]martygrossfilms[dot]com for more details). As well as revealing another string to the bow of the prodigious and eccentric figure behind much of what the West knows about Japan, it is well worth a look for those interested in exploring 60s Tokyo underground film culture in all its hedonistic splendour.


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Reply #370 on: April 22, 2005, 01:39:11 PM
Universal has just announced the DVD release of Carl Reiner and Steve Martin's The Jerk: 26th Anniversary Edition on 7/26 (SRP $19.98 ). The film will be available in anamorphic widescreen video, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include the Learn How to Play "Tonight You Belong to Me" and The Lost Filmstrips of Father Carlos Las Vegas de Cordova featurettes, the film's theatrical trailer and production notes. Other extras are TBA.
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Reply #371 on: April 25, 2005, 11:51:35 PM
I like to hug dogs


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Reply #372 on: May 02, 2005, 11:42:36 AM

region 2, release date may 16, 2005

special feature information:  
talk lukas moodyssons first short film  
text interview  
guardian interview with lukas moodysson  
lukas moodysson trailer reel  
unicef film more precious than gold  
amnesty international appeal promotional video  
a hole in my second heart making of  
lukas moodysson master class


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Reply #373 on: May 02, 2005, 11:55:49 AM
butt fucker! i already own the first three
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Reply #374 on: May 02, 2005, 12:01:19 PM
cool, soon to be my first region-2 box set purchase.

any idea what u ppl would charge for sumthing like that, mogs?
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