A round-up of recent reviewing across multiple genres – western, black comedy, musical, animation, road movie.
A critical, but long-suppressed film from the New German Cinema, Volker Schlöndorff’s adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s first play Baal (1970) gets an impressive release on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. This aggressively unsettling film is packaged with an excellent selection of contextual supplements.
Frank Sinatra, a star and celebrity, could also be an impressive actor when he cared to make the effort: two of his best performances from the 1960s, in John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Mark Robson’s Von Ryan’s Express (1965), reveal a willingness to play flawed characters and expose their weaknesses.
Criterion have followed their fine Eclipse set of Julien Duvivier films with a collection of features by another French director pushed into obscurity by the New Wave: Claude Autant-Lara, represented here by four films made during the German Occupation, all starring a fine but not well-known actress named Odette Joyeux.
Criterion have released an excellent Blu-ray of Ken Loach’s Palme d’or-winning I, Daniel Blake (2016), supplemented with a commentary track from Loach and writer Paul Laverty, an illuminating behind-the-scenes documentary, and a feature-length account of the director’s life and career. One of the best disks released so far this year.
Terry Gilliam began to forge an identity separate from Monty Python with a film which seems superficially Pythonesque, but on closer look is a darker, richer and more dangerous view of an absurd world. Criterion’s new Blu-ray of Jabberwocky draws out every detail of a richly imagined Medieval world of blood, filth and horror viewed through Gilliam’s comic lens.