The Complete Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report)
(Criterion/Paradox, 1955) D: Orson Welles, w/ Welles, Robert Arden, Paola Mori. Rating:NNNNN
No one will argue that Mr. Arkadin is a masterpiece. It is, however, one of the most puzzling of Orson Welles's films, less because of the perverse mystery of the film itself than because of its tangled production history. There are five extant versions of the film (including a Spanish version with Spanish actors replacing the original actors in a couple of roles), and none of these qualifies as a "director's cut."
Mr. Arkadin is both a weird gloss on Citizen Kane the life of a mysterious and powerful man told in flashbacks by his associates and, with its Spanish locations and arid noir feel, a rough sketch for both Don Quixote and Touch Of Evil.
The massive three-disc box from Criterion includes three versions of the film: the Corinth Films cut that Peter Bogdanovich discovered in the early 60s, viewed as the closest thing to a Welles cut; Confidential Report, the version made by producer Louis Dolivet; and the new comprehensive cut prepared by film historians Stefan Droessler and Claude Bertemes, which attempts to rationalize the existing versions with the script and Welles's discussions of the film.
The set also includes the novel Mr. Arkadin, which is credited to Welles, was "translated" into French by Maurice Bessy and then back to English. No English original exists, and Welles claimed never to have read it, though Arkadin star Robert Arden, in interviews, remembers Welles dictating it during production.
Criterion's set is a masterful assembly devoted to a marginal film, and while I cannot recommend it highly enough to admirers of the director and to those curious about what can happen to a film during post-production, the comprehensive cut does not reveal an overlooked great film, but helps rationalize a messy film studded with astonishing things: Michael Redgrave's brilliant scene as an antique dealer/ fence, for example, and the baroquely ornate party scene in which the dubious hero, Van Stratten, learns how he's been used by Welles's Arkadin.
Superb extras all the way through.
Extras: Scholarly comment on the Corinth edition by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Welles's biographer, James Naremore; interview with Welles's biographer, Simon Callow; three episodes of The Lives Of Harry Lime radio series, which contain embryonic versions of all the Arkadin narrative material; the contemporary novelization, Mr. Arkadin, allegedly by Welles; outtakes; rushes; alternate scenes; stills gallery; extensive booklet essays by Rosenbaum, J. Hoberman, François Thomas. English captions.
Breakfast On Pluto
(Sony, 2005) D: Neil Jordan, w/ Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson. Rating: NNN
Breakfast On Pluto is Neil Jordan's second film from a novel by Patrick McCabe. (The first was The Butcher Boy.) The story of a young gay orphan in search of his long-lost mother, it stars rising Irish actor Cillian Murphy, of 28 Days Later and Red Eye, as Patrick "Kitten" Braden, a character so quiveringly naive and sensitive that he's looking for love in a world more interested in murder.
In a way, he's Forrest Gump as an Irish drag queen, rubbing up against IRA bombings and murders as he wanders through the early and mid-70s. The film is anchored by Liam Neeson's deeply humane performance as a parish priest; were it all "Kitten," it would be too literary to bear, though Murphy's performance is remarkable. You've never seen anything like it. There's a very strong commentary by Jordan, a novelist himself, who worries about the whole issue of cinematic narrative. Murphy's along for the ride, but Jordan dominates the talk.
Extras Director's commentary, short making-of featurette. English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Mrs. Henderson Presents
(Alliance Atlantis, 2005) D: Stephen Frears, w/ Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young. Rating: NNN
I saw the trailer for Mrs. Henderson so many times last fall that I developed an antipathy to the film without seeing it. My bad. While no one will mistake this for the peak of any of the participants' careers, it's an affectionate and charming collaboration between its two stars, who had never worked together and decided they wanted Frears (The Hit, Dangerous Liaisons) to direct.
Dench is Mrs. Henderson, a wealthy widow who, advised by a friend that she should take up a hobby, buys a dilapidated theatre and hires Hoskins's impresario to run it for her. It becomes London's famed Windmill Theatre, for decades the only revue in England with nudity, albeit nudity of a very tasteful and English sort. It's a movie with old-fashioned charm.
Frears may be the most amusingly self-deprecating director ever, and listening to his commentary, we could be forgiven for gathering that he actually knows nothing about how films are made.
EXTRAS Director's commentary, making-of featurette. English and French soundtracks. Spanish subtitles.
Event Horizon: Special Collector's Edition
(Paramount, 1997) D: Paul W.S. Anderson, w/ Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Joely Richardson. Rating: NN
Event Horizon is a messy sci-fi horror film that hit theatres 10 years ago to critical disdain and developed, as most sci-fi/horror movies do, a cult following. I'd always thought there was a more interesting film in Event Horizon than the one we were seeing, and, it turns out, I may have been right. According to director Paul W. S. Anderson, it tested poorly at 130 minutes, and Paramount, locked into a release date, demanded that it be cut by half an hour.
So here comes this special edition for which Paramount shelled out for a two-hour making-of feature, got Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt to do a commentary and threw in a lot of deleted scenes. I'm thinking, "Great, here it is, the lost cut of Event Horizon."
Nope. It's the same old crappy 94-minute version. Why didn't they let Anderson do a cut he'd be happy with?
Extras Director/producer commentary, full-length making-of documentary, design gallery, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer. English, French versions. English and Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, April 25
Classical Musicals From The Dream Factory
(Warner) Box of five second-string MGM musicals: The Great Ziegfeld, Till The Clouds Roll By, Three Little Words, It's Always Fair Weather and Summer Stock. Also available as single discs.
(Facets/Morningstar, 1988) Bela Tarr establishes his style of long takes and tracking shots over bleak landscapes. A very peculiar sort of fun.
Elevator To The Gallows
(Criterion/Paradox, 1958) Classic early Louis Malle drama with a legendary Miles Davis score.
(Sony, 1975) Michelangelo Antonioni's existential classic. The DVD comes with a new Jack Nicholson commentary.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb