Currently Watching : Criterion Blu-Ray THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957) by Mikhail Kalatozov

Letyat zhuravli (1957)

“I believe in poetic cinema. Poetic cinema is the cinema created in especially vivid form… by great masters like Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Dovzhenko. In my own work I strive to affect a viewer’s consciousness and soul by means of poetic cinema.”
-Kalatozov in a 1961 interview. Available on the Criterion Blu-ray

Tatyana Samoylova in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Tatyana Samoylova in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957)-Three things period Russian films do just about better than anyone else, is tragedy and beauty and grandeur, and Director Mikhail Kalatozov’s THE CRANES ARE FLYING is overflowing with all three. You get the deep focus cinematography immortalized by Orson Welles married to a balletic, spiraling, intimate ground breaking, “you are there” camera movement, that is uniquely Russian. what kalatozov himself would call— poetic cinema.Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Almost 7 decades later and without any need for CGI, and 20 years before the invention of the Stedicam – the cinematography in this film (by the equally acclaimed Sergei Urusevesky) remains— both unbelievable and sublime. It is a film that draws you in from frame one, and holds you and the characters like a lover— deeply, afraid to be parted.Aleksandr Shvorin in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

All in all, a transfixing and haunting viewing experience, greatest of which is the beauty of Tatyana Samoylova, whose beauty captured here for all time, is so great –- and her performance so affecting—- that at times looking at her – is like looking at the sun.

One of the great Russian beauties, she becomes the mythical Helen – whom all young men seek to impress with war; and ‘changed by the war’ young men; seek only to hold in peace. THE CRANES ARE FLYING is up there with I AM CUBA/SOY CUBA (another Kalatozov cinematic achievement, with this time a stunning Cuban beauty) as a milestone of Russian cinematography, and by extension a milestone of world cinematography; up there with Welles CITIZEN KANE and Lean’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS. There is no putting this movie on, and not being captivated by it.

THE CRANES ARE FLYING is another masterpiece lovingly provided by the Criterion Blu-ray label. I am on a hunt now to see the other available Kalatozov directed films, as well as Tatyana starring films. Kalatozov,while IMDB lists 20 directing credits for him, most of those appear to be documentaries or shorts or state sponsored work. It really appears he only has 6 or 7 feature films to his name, all coming toward the end of his career, especially once he found a kindred spirit in his cinematographer, Urusevesky.  So I look forward to adding THE FIRST ECHELON, LETTER NEVER SENT and RED TENT to the list of Kalatozov films to add to my collection. Grade: It is a simple enough story, but the visuals just make it, cinema undeniable— A+.Aleksey Batalov in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Click the image below to get the best price on the feature rich Blu-ray, and you also earn a few very appreciated pennies for this blog! A win-win!

Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Physical Media vs Streaming – Round 1: CLIMATES by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

 

I first had the chance to see the film CLIMATES on a DVD by the now very esteemed label Zeitgeist films. the visuals were revelatory. Zeitgeist films mastered DVDs that, then and now, were pushing the medium to its limits. If you get the chance to own any Zeitgeist film on DVD do so, because their dvd releases, then and now, blow away many poorly mastered Blu-Ray releases. Which unfortunately is a good number of Blu-ray releases.

I own a bunch of Blu-Rays, some of them look great, some of them look awful. Zeitgeist Film DVDs are always on the great part of that spectrum. Slap them into your upscaling Blu-ray player, and job done.

Re-watching CLIMATES Zeitgeist dvd today, over a decade after its release, it is visually still astonishing. Now compare that to the streaming version of CLIMATES that is on Amazon Prime, and it is like comparing night to day. The version on Amazon Streaming is a butchered faded print.

And it is a COMPLETELY different experience seeing this film in a visually arresting print, and a compromised print. If my first introduction to this film was the streaming version, I likely would never have finished the film, and definitely would not be a Ceylan fan. The power of that film IS the visuals, is the face as landscape. And all that beauty is lost in the streaming print.

Now of course Streaming CAN produce a great print to show, however that is the flaw of streaming, you never know what you are going to get. You are always at the mercy of multiple gatekeepers, and their economic or political whims of the moment. Whereas I direct someone to a well mastered DVD or Bluray, that presentation is locked, it is a certainty (barring scratching or breaking the physical media).

As I say, streaming is fine for sampling and discovering new things, but as far as revisiting something you love, and being able to revisit it periodically and be certain of what you get; in an age of studios editing content, licenses expiring, quality being throttled down due to too much traffic, or weather, or cost, there remains no substitute for a quality DVD or Bluray.

 

I would urge you if you have not seen Ceylan’s CLIMATES, do not see it via streaming. It literally is not the same movie. The images, the held stares, the light and water glistening on skin, this is the movie. And to not see those things, in rich detail, is to not see this movie.

Pick up the Zeitgeist Film DVD, while you can grab it for between $20 and $40. I was telling people to pick up this film when it was $10 on Amazon. The smart ones among you did. The past will always be future, and future will always be past. Meaning studios in the past destroyed films and tv shows, the masters, the original prints, because they were short sighted and could only see these things as product rather than art.

Product that is no longer cost effective, historically companies destroy. Much of the history of cinema and television, that studios are now happy to exploit on their various streaming services, exists only because of collectors, people like you and I, who preserved the physical media.

That said, companies remain ruled by a mercenary view, so even today, if it is more cost effective for them to alter or edit, or make unavailable some items— they will. So once again, in a different way, the consumers access to content is at risk. And then as now, the answer is physical media.

God blessing the child, that’s got his own.

That’s got his own. 🙂 [A snippet of a song for those of you who don’t catch the reference 🙂 ]

So yeah, click the link. And if there are any copies left, grab the Zeitgeist DVD of CLIMATES.

 

Iklimler (2006)

 

 

And for a look at all of Ceylan’s filmography go here!

 

Currently Watching : DEATH IN THE GARDEN (1957) by Luis Bunuel courtesy of Kanopy Roku Channel!

Georges Marchal and Simone Signoret in La mort en ce jardin (1956)

One of the pioneers of surrealism, specifically cinematic, LUIS Bunuel is most well known for his early experimental films such as UN CHIEN ANDALOU and L’AGE D’OR and THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, However what tends to get lost is that he did over 30 films, and did a few adept, straight narrative films as well. LA MORT EN CE JARDIN aka DEATH IN THE GARDEN stands as one of his strongest straight narrative films, and plays a little like Bunuel’s quasi-reimagining on the themes of Clouzot’s WAGES OF FEAR, with a smattering of huston’s THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE thrown in.

While not on the level of those two iconic films, this film is very good, and deserves better than its nearly forgotten status.

It is hurt perhaps a bit by its meandering nature, and the lack of a charismatic lead actor in the central role, but as the movie goes on the lack of stars, makes the journey they endure more compelling and impactful, and surprising. Ultimately the film goes surprising, unexpected places; Journeys external,  paled only BY even vaster journeys internal. And what must also be applauded is the beautiful use of color in this film, vibrant and rich and painterly.

Grade: A very good film that deserves far more attention. B+.

Also as a bit of trivia, the film may be the earliest to display a character giving someone the finger. 🙂 . Watch it for free courtesy of the Kanopy Roku Channel, and when suitably impressed, get the Blu-ray by clicking on the image below.

Special Features: Audio commentary by film critic Sam Dhegihan | Booklet essay by film critic Peter Tongue-tie | Interview with film critic Tony Rains | Trailers

VOD Streaming Film of the Day : Roger Corman’s X starring Ray Milland on Amazon Prime

 

I’ve seen this before, in passing quite a while ago. I did not remember it being this good. It is quite a fascinating and surprisingly dire film. Not a great movie, but a very good one, with one of the more impactful endings. A homerun by Roger Corman.

 

“What do you see?”

“This city, as if it was unborn, rising into the sky with fingers of metal, limbs without flesh, girders without stone, signs hanging without support, wires dipping and swaying without poles.

A city unborn, its flesh disolved in an acid of light.”

 

 

Check out the comments, as the brilliant Derrick Freguson, excellent Writer, Reviewer, general Renissance guy drops the knowledge on the ending! Also released today, coverage on the film, by great youtube channel SOLITARY RONIN at the link below. Watch the movie before checking out both, though.

And if he sells you on getting the Bluray like he did with yours truly, then get your copy here:

1977’s THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT Streaming VOD Amazon Prime Movie of the Day!

The People That Time Forgot (1977)

Currently watching and enjoying 1977’s THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT,  a charming little period fantasy, adventure, pulp flick in wonderful widescreen technicolor, currently streaming courtesy of Amazon Prime.

The People That Time Forgot (1977)

 

Everything from prehistoric creatures, daring heroes, murderous cavemen, samurai and did I mention buxom babes? It is just a fun film.

And the ravishing Dana Gillespie on screen, definitely helps. Full name Richenda Antoinette de Winterstein Gillespie, descended from lords and ladies, this would be as close as she would get to a starring role, which was unfortunate. It is obvious the camera loves her.

This is a fun little film, a sequel to 1974’s THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, also by Director Kevin Connor, I actually like this one a little better, All in all a keeper of a movie that I will be looking to add to my Bluray collection. Grade: A solid B!

Must own Physical Media in the age of Digital : Blu-Ray Media Book Collection for Week 17 of 2020

 

I have spoken about this EXTREME PREJUDICE mediabook before. The Bluray picture quality is not hi-def quality.  While they come with a DVD and Bluray, the Bluray is simply the DVD dropped onto a Bluray, no mastering, no noticeable difference. So a perfectly decent DVD quality pic, just don’t expect hi-def quality out of the Bluray. Also it does not contain a Director’s commentary.

But despite the Bluray quality, this is one of my favorite films, and I love having it in Mediabook form. And I did translate the book itself, which includes very enjoyable coverage of the movie, and that cover art makes it a MUST OWN.

And it will do, until a quality mastered Blu-ray release (with commentary) comes out. And even then, I am keeping this Mediabook to house it in.  The art is just that good.

 

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This Mediabook contains the SENTINEL. As mentioned, even though most mediabooks offer a DVD and Bluray version, for the most part the Bluray looks like they did no mastering to it, and dropped the DVD transfer onto a Bluray. Not a noticeable uptick in quality from the DVD. That is a failing I see with a lot of these Mediabooks. Though this one is noticeably better than the video quality of THE EXTREME PREJUDICE mediabook.

It is a perfectly decent watch, a well mastered DVD can look very good. I have DVDs that look better than some Blurays. The mastering is what matters, but yeah perfectly decent, if not hi-definition picture.

Very good film from the 1970s, is part of that wave of films such as EXORCIST and ROSEMARY’S BABY, and while this one does not have the reputation of those two, I quite enjoy it. The commentary by Director Michael Wimmer makes this a MUST OWN. He has so much fun, reflecting on his time making this film, and the personalities, and stories. It is like being in the room with a charming filmmaker, telling you ‘inside Hollywood’ stories. Add to that, the artwork is STUNNING, and you have an easy must own.

 

This one, because it was ported from a recent remaster from a mainstream studio, actually looks great.

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While I have not been interested in the director’s subsequent films, this initial film… a masterwork. And this mediabook just looks great on the shelf. In process of translating the book portion. Also unfortunately this one does not come with Director’s Commentary. But despite that,this mediabook is a keeper for me.

Surprisingly fun movie, and enjoyable Brian Yuzna commentary.

That’s it guys. Not a huge mediabook collection, but everyone is a must own.

Pick yours up here!

Currently Watching : WINTER KILLS via Streaming/VOD

‘God, has made a way for you, you unalterable fool.

And all you have to do, is walk the path.’

WINTER KILLS (1979) Movie Review

I’ve been toying for some time with buying this 1979 film on DVD/Blu-Ray, based on its description alone. On paper it boasts a stacked cast (Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Ralph Meeker, Richard Boone, Tomas Milan, Sterling Hayden, Toshiro Mifune, the list goes on) and an intriguing premise.

Finally viewing it today courtesy of Streaming (believe it is on both KANOPY and AMAZON PRIME) and it is not a crowd pleasing film, but I like it despite itself. It is awkward, and spastic, and off kilter, and more than a little strange, this take of a family and nation marred by an assassination, which obviously reverberates with writer/director Richert’s theories on the Kennedy Assassination.

I like the way the film thinks, the way it breathes, patient and without hurry, the morose wit of the film, of a nation lost, slowly rolling, longing and loathing, in its sin.

I like the odd view it gives of power and the absence of privacy, and though the technology is outdated, the gist of it, over 40 years later is prophetic (or perhaps timeless is the better word), in its viewing of the lie of democracy in an age of Robber Barons.

It is compelling viewing, that I am richer for having seen. And yeah this is one to own in Physical media, because I can not wait to listen to the commentary by Writer/Director William Richert. This was Mr. Richert’s first feature film, and,while not a hit at the time, is an intriguing debut, and the cast alone make this a must own. Unfortunately  it would be followed by only 3 more films by Richert, and they would be progressively less well received.

But we still have his debut fan, WINTER KILLS.

Get your copy HERE!

Currently Watching : POSSESSION by Andrzej Zulawski SECOND SIGHT Blu-Ray

The webpage will not show this image anonymously.

The webpage will not show this image anonymously.

I’ve seen this movie closing in on a half dozen times in my life. What astonishes you the first time you see this film, is the entire gestalt, the scenario, the performances, the audacity; this completely unhinged experience you are being taken on. It is a harrowing, inexplicable nightmarish journey, to the outer reaches of what it means to love and lust and lose and aspire.

Subsequent viewings, you shift attention to the craft, The simply spellbinding cinematography/camera movements by cinematographer Bruno Nyutten and previous Zulawski collaborator, Camera Operator Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz

The SECOND SIGHT Bluray lets you see this film, finally, in sumptuous quality befitting, what I and others without hesitation, have hailed as a masterpiece. The video quality is arguably better than it was in theaters back in 1981, and beyond how great the picture was, the special features are applause worthy. Not one, but two film commentaries. One with director Andrzej Zulawski, who suffers fools and idiotic questions, not well. No better than any creative person :). And an informative commentary with co-writer Frederick Tuten. Additionally a fantastic documentary on the making of the film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL is worth the price of the Blu-ray by itself. Add in many other compelling featurettes, and what you have is just hours of both entertaining and informative viewing.

POSSESSION is one of the only Zulawski’s films that is ‘widely’ available. Part of this is – being a Horror genre adjacent film, as well as an English language film, it is far more accessible and salable than the equally esoteric, but not as genre friendly, experimental dramas that make up the bulk of the late Zulawski’s filmography.

Zulawski made thirteen feature films in his career. And each film, as it is for many filmmakers making films under repressive conditions, was a monumental battle for finances, and against the controlling forces of the establishment.

2015 Cosmos
 2000 Fidelity
 1996 Szamanka
 1991 La note bleue
 1989 Boris Godounov
 1989 My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days
 1988 On the Silver Globe
 1985 L’amour braque
 1984 La femme publique
 1981 Possession
 1975 L’important c’est d’aimer
 1972 The Devil
 1971 The Third Part of the Night
I do look forward to viewing, when possible the rest of Zulawski films, but based on the description of those films, and my own taste, it is likely POSSESSION will be my favorite film of his. The genre frame work, I have often found, helps filmmakers who would otherwise get lost in the weeds of their own searching, still tell a compelling story.
Looking at the description of Zulawski’s other films, where his vision was not honed against another writer, Tuten, and other creative people, the films sound like they veer toward the self-indulgent and plotless. Again, just surmising… when I view these films I may be incorrect about that, however if the descriptions and feedback is accurate, based on my own taste with other filmmakers, being over self-indulgent tends not to make for films that appeal to me.
However, POSSESSION for all its strangeness, has a thru-line, a backbone, and an ending, that for me, for all its openness to interpretation, works. And it sports one of the great performances of all time by actress Isabelle Adjani. Who if you look at her filmography made a career giving really astonishing performances, but arguably none as horrific, and potentially damaging as this one.
For all these reasons POSSESSION from 1981, is a must watch, and in my opinion, must own film. Grade: B+.

 

‘Why do some films have longevity and others don’t?’

‘Here’s my facile answer. Do you want the facile answer? The more facile the film, the less likely it will be to last. Because the audience for facile films will drain away. They are not interested in film, they are interested in mere entertainment. So the easy, the accessible, the convenient, the popular, the flavor of the moment, that vanishes, replaced by another one like that. But something that has some grit to it, emotionally, intellectually, visually, something that seems aberrant at the time… somehow if it can survive by a few people seeing it, knowing about it, writing about it… that’s what lasts.’

Co-Writer Frederic Tuten on Zulawski’s POSSESSION

STRANGER IN TOWN – Enjoyable Capraesque Litte Drama/Crime Caper – Movie of the Day!

 

Great little film from 1943. You would not think a film from 77 years ago would be so timely and entertaining, and even laugh out loud funny in places, and dire in others, and say something so clearly current about corruption and obligation. A great little film.

“The great liberties by which we live, have been bought with blood. The kind of  government we get, is the kind of government we want. A government of the people, by the people, for the people, can mean any kind of government. It is our duty to make it mean only one kind. Uncorrupted! Free! United!”

Currently available courtesy of Amazon Prime. But you never know when these movies will disappear off streaming, get the DVD here.

Amazon Item of the Day : Multi-region Bluray Player

 

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LG BP175 Region Free Blu-ray Player – If you need an affordable multi-region Blu-Ray that also supports  3D discs, than this is a solid, well rated option.

 

Now regarding 4K.

I personally find very little need for 4K, as I do not have a 70″ or larger screen and I’m not sitting 2 feet away from it inspecting pixels. And the difference between 4K and 1080p, while substantial in pixels (ie inreal estate), in real world picture quality is minuscule. It is not the kind of quality jump that you got from DVD to Blu-Ray.

I have 20/20 vision, and see better than most people I know, ie I don’t need glasses or contacts, so at 1080p on a 60″ or less screen, from a recommended 8 feet or more viewing distance you are talking the threshold of what the human eye can differentiate in regards to pixel count/real estate.

That is where other considerations such as how well the source is mastered ( a huge consideration, I have some DVDs that provide a better picture than Blu-ray simply because they were well mastered and the Blu-rays were not) , and contrast and dynamic range and brightness, and frame rates all come in to play to provide you a superior picture.

But as far as chasing real estate, resolution, HD to 4K to 6K to 8K to 16K, that is a meaningless numbers game in a consumer setting. Unless you are projecting on a movie theater sized screen this chasing of resolution/real estate it just so manufacturers can continue to sell you the new hotness. The new player, the new tv, the new discs.

However if you are somone who has the disposable cash, and want the latest and greatest, so a 4K player to go with your 4K tv, well then the following is the one to get.

Sony X800 – UHD – 2D/3D – SACD – Wi-Fi – Dual HDMI – 2K/4K – Region Free Blu Ray Disc DVD Player – PAL/NTSC – USB – 100-240V 50/60Hz for World-Wide Use & 6 Feet Multi System 4K HDMI Cable

This one will do 4K (if you have a 4K tv as well), Bluray, Super Aucio CD, and 3D (If you have a 3D TV or Projector).

 

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Thanks and have a great day! See you next installment!