Showing posts with label Studiocanal UK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Studiocanal UK. Show all posts

23 March 2015

Blu-ray Review - The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)

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Genre:
Fantasy, Musical
Distributor:
StudioCanal UK
BD Release Date:
23rd March 2015 (UK)
Rating: U
Director:
Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast:
Moira Shearer, Robert Rounseville, Ludmilla Tchérinam
Buy:Tales Of Hoffmann - Special Edition * Digitally Restored [Blu-ray] [1951]

Michael Powell and his cohort Emeric Pressburger were cinematic painters; every shot in their best films has the texture and skill of the master artists. The Tales of Hoffmann comes at a transitional period for Powell and Pressburger, as they were forced into make a couple films they didn’t want to make. It’s also the last one that really has the same splendour their many wonderful films of the ‘40s had, they would make a few more films but the magic just wasn’t there.

The Tales of Hoffmann plays out as this surrealistic proto-psychedelic phantasmagoria opera. It’s based on the opera, The Tales of Hoffmann, which itself is based on the stories of the real E. T. A. Hoffmann. The film is indeed an opera and I have to admit for the majority of the running time, I had the subtitles to clarify what was being sung in case I missed a key plot point. It’s an early example of an anthology film; it’s 3 stories are fantastical in nature, all of which have their own title card.

The stories are all as strange as the psychedelic madness of the set and costume design. The first story is about a robot woman! It ends with one quite fittingly, about a woman who is forced to sign so much it kills her. It’s pure gothic storytelling with liberal amounts of fantasy, it’s no wonder horror maestro George A. Romero has said numerous times it was the film that made him want to make films. It’s all bookended by a drunken Hoffman telling the stories in a tavern.

The real wonder of the film is the work by cinematographer Christopher Challis, along with production design by Hein Heckroth, and art direction from Arthur Lawson. Powell and Pressburger had been making steps towards a film that had visuals that matched operatic music before like their masterwork The Red Shoes, but it comes into full formation here. The design work is almost reminiscent of German expressionism but in colour, each story even has it’s own colour palette. The imaginative design work is simply mind boggling at times, as Thelma Schoonmaker points out in the interview on the disc, it looks like made wigs out of celluloid.

When it came out in 1951 the world wasn’t ready for a film with such imagination on show. Over the years it’s stature has grown and it’s influence can be seen from the aforementioned work of Romero, to the fantasy of Terry Gilliam, to the use of red in Martin Scorsese’s films, to the operatic violence of Brian De Palma. We have to thank Martin Scorsese spearheading the restoration process on this, along with many other key works of Powell and Pressburger. I’ve seen a handful of the new restorations of their work and they are simply breathtakingly gorgeous, every single one.

★★★★
Ian Schultz


2 October 2014

Film Review - Le Jour se lève (1939)

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Genre:
Crime, Drama, Romance
Distributor:
Studiocanal UK
Rating: PG
Release Date:
3rd October 2014 (Cinema)
27th October 2014 (Home)
Director:
Marcel Carné
Cast:
Jean Gabin, Jacqueline Laurent, Arletty,
buy:Le Jour Se Leve - 75th Anniversary Edition [DVD] [1939]

Le Jour se lève is a prime example of what is known as French Poetic realism. It’s a very important genre because it’s very much a proto version of film noir; it often concerned doomed heroes and more often than not they were crime stories. They also created realism, hence the more Poetic aspect than the documentary realism. Le Jour se lève was directed by Marcel Carné who is one the directors most associated with Poetic realism but other directors associated were Jean Renoir and Jean Vigo who, sadly, died way too young.

The film stars Jean Gabin who was the French star until the 1960s; he was in many great French films and worked with Renoir and Carné many times. Gabin plays François who is a factory worker and you first see him after he kills a man called Valentin and he barricades himself in his room after the police arrive.

The rest of the film is told in flashback, which would become a convention for many noir films to follow. He reflects on how he got in the situation he is in over the course of the long night. It involved some girls, as you might expect, and one of the girls is Valentin’s assistant. The film’s structure was very much ahead of its time and would influence Orson Welles, Jules Dassin, Jean-Pierre Melville and numerous noir films like Detour, so it’s hardly surprising that it was later remade as an American noir film. It also has an air of existentialism that only the French do this well when it comes to crime films. It all comes down to an ending that is as much Camus as it is Hammett.

Jean Gabin gives one of his finest performances in the lead role. He is often forgotten in the scheme of great film actors, partly because he was one of the first; he would be highly influential on people like Marlon Brando and James Dean. He goes through hell and replays his mistakes in his head, and due to Gabin’s performance, you can feel his pain.

Le Jour se lève is getting a theatrical re-release from the 3rd of October in selected cinemas. It will be out on Blu-Ray at the end of October. The new restoration looks beautiful; black and white works particularly well in High Definition. It includes a feature length documentary on the film, along with stuff on the deleted scenes by the Vichy Government, and a featurette on the restoration process.

★★★★
Ian Schultz

28 September 2013

Blu-Ray Review - Convoy 35th Anniversary Special Edition

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Rating:
12
Distributor:
StudioCanal UK
DVD/BD Release Date:
30th September 2013 (UK)
Director:
Sam Peckinpah
Cast:
Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine , Walter Kelley
Buy Convoy:
DVD

Convoy is in the surprisingly in the very long lineage of films based on songs which seem to go back almost as film itself. The film is based on the trucker anthem Convoy by C. W. McCall. It’s also directed by one of the finest directors of the 60s and 70s Sam Peckinpah but this is by far one of his worse films but that doesn’t mean it does have some merits.

The film is kinda like a tamer and cheesier version of Vanishing Point without the amphetamines or existentialism. It’s about a bunch of truck drivers led by Martin "Rubber Duck" Penwald (Kris Kristofferson) who are driving though Arizona. They group together in a many mile long convoy to protest police corruption (it also starts due to Duck and 2 truck driver friends who are forced to pay Sherriff Dirty Lyle) and shady political dealings. Duck is however adamant they are just driving and there is nothing more to it. Ali MacGraw rides along with The Duck after she flirts with him in the opening scene but her car breaks down and she needs a ride.

The film is a mildly funny comedic romp but the film is sadly really the film that ended the career of one of the great autuers Sam Peckinpah. He also had a serious drink and coke problem by this point, which didn’t help matters. The film was a surprise hit and was most the successful film of his career ironically. It was also clearly made so Peckinpah could have a hit. Despite it’s success Sam had became too much like Bennie in his masterpiece Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and would sabotage anything that came his way. It’s also rumoured that Sam’s old buddy James Coburn directed a bulk of him because Sam was too messed up on booze and coke.

The film’s crowning achievement is this wonderful slow-motion fight in a dinner that is in the higher thresholds of cinematic food fights. Kris Kristofferson tries his best with the poor script he was given and he is always watchable. Ernest Borgnine who is also a great psychopath plays the evil Sheriff Dirty Lyle. Ali MacGraw is wasted but she was never that good of an actress in the first place. Seymour Cassel pops up as a the slimy governor who is only interested in how the public support for the convoy can help his own political career.

Overall it’s sad Peckinpah scooped this low but it’s perfectly watchable and I’ve seen much worst films by noted directors. It’s a mildly entertaining romp with a great food fight and good performance from Kristofferson who tries his best. It does however have a wonderful blu-ray with a documentary on the film that is over an hour along with some other features.

★★1/2☆☆

Ian Schultz