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.
Wim Wenders’ most ambitious film, Until the End of the World (1991) was a huge commercial failure when released in 1991 in a severely truncated version; the almost five-hour director’s cut gets a stunning restoration on Criterion’s two-disk Blu-ray release – visually gorgeous, fascinating and frustrating, this sci-fi epic now looks prescient in its depiction of our solipsistic attachment to out personal electronic devices.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition of Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan (1922) reveals a startlingly complex and modern work; a multi-layered essay on the subject of the European witch craze of the 14th to 17th Centuries, the film is richly detailed exploration of religion, power and madness which still has relevance today.
Following the surprise international success of Gregory’s Girl (1980), writer-director Bill Forsyth was given greater resources by producer David Puttnam and made what on the surface was a whimsical comedy reminiscent of Ealing Studios in the ’50s; three-and-a-half decades later, the delightfully charming Local Hero (1983) can be seen as a subtly prescient warning about the most urgently pressing issues we now face – climate change and the need to find sustainable ways to inhabit the planet.
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.