The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.
Yet more recent random viewing: Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s movie-biz tragedy The Barefoot Contessa (1954); Lucio Fulci’s first and (almost) last gialli, One on Top of the Other aka Perversion Story (1969) anf The New York Ripper (1982); Ivan Nagy’s oddly poetic serial killer movie Skinner (1993); and some cheap bargains from the local drugstore.
More random viewing: two obscure independent films from the BFI, Margaret Tait’s poetic Blue Black Permanent (1992) and Maurice Hatton’s gritty fake-umentary about the film business, Long Shot (1977); and three from Twilight Time – George Sluizer’s interesting Americanization of his existential thriller The Vanishing (1993), Terrence Young’s straightforward fact-based crime saga The Valachi Papers (1972), and D.W. Griffith’s monumental but deeply troubling Birth of a Nation (1915).
Criterion’s Blu-ray release of Ernst Lubitsch’s final completed feature, Cluny Brown (1946), presents this richly layered comic gem in a luminous 4K restoration. This underrated romantic comedy which skewers rigid British class attitudes on the eve of World War Two is one of Lubitsch’s masterpieces.
Abbas Kiarostami’s multi-layered triptych of films dubbed The Koker Trilogy begins with a neorealist depiction of childhood in a small Iranian village and continues with an increasingly complex blend of documentary and fiction in which the director interrogates the nature of cinema itself through the impact of a devastating earthquake on the lives of the people who appeared in the first film. Criterion’s Blu-ray set showcases this masterpiece with excellent transfers and a substantial array of supplements.
The Criterion Collection presents a new 4K restoration of Elia Kazan’s best film, A Face in the Crowd (1957). The excellent image showcases two of the finest performances of the 1950s: Andy Griffith in his screen debut as the countryboy-turned-demagogue Lonesome Rhodes and Patricia Neal as the smalltown radio reporter who discovers him and facilitates his rise to national stardom.