(Criterion/ Paradox, 1929) D: G.W. Pabst, w/ Louise Brooks, Francis Lederer. Rating: NNNNN
Louise Brooks's reputation as an actor rests on her two films for G. W. Pabst, and this long-overdue restoration of Pandora's Box gets the full Criterion treatment: documentary, lengthy interview with the star, four unique scores (including one by Fassbinder's composer, Peer Raben), a strong academic commentary that doesn't use the word "semiotic" until about the 100-minute mark and a gorgeous restoration by the Munich Film Museum. (The other Pabst-Brooks project, Diary Of A Lost Girl, is available on Kino.)
Based on two plays by Frank Wedekind, Pandora's Box is the story of Lulu, an innocent femme fatale. She seems no more aware of the consequences of her sexuality than a bomb is aware of the devastation it creates. Brooks, her casual American energy turned loose in a film of finely thought-out and detailed German Expressionist performances, is like a woman smashing an entire school of acting to bits with a hammer.
Pandora's Box moves very fast for a German silent film that runs more than two hours, and Brooks is never less than mesmerizing as she seduces a father and son and a countess, kills one of them and flees for a date with destiny. Not to be missed.
EXTRAS Four score tracks, critical commentary by Thomas Elsaesser and Mary Ann Doan, Louise Brooks: Looking For Lulu doc by Hugh Munro Neeley, Lulu In Berlin interview with Brooks by Richard Leacock, interview with Pabst's son, stills gallery. Booklet includes Kenneth Tynan's legendary New Yorker profile of Brooks. German intertitles with English subtitles.
The Exodus Decoded
(Alliance Atlantis, 2006) D: Simcha Jacobovici, w/ Jacobovici, James Cameron. Rating: NN
Simcha Jacobovici, who's won a couple of Genies for his documentaries, spent several years trying to prove the historical truth of the Exodus story. He thinks he has. Mostly, he stands in the middle of a massive computer-generated set and sets up historical evidence that includes reconsidering the dates of the Exodus and interpreting every marginal bit of evidence to prove his thesis.
As in "If we put Exodus 300 years earlier, we can get the plagues of Egypt from the Santorini volcano eruption." Every now and then, James Cameron shows up as the "host," as if it helps to have radical reinterpretations of historical evidence affirmed by the director of The Terminator.
Nice transfer and some decent extras, but I'm not sure I want to get my history from the Discovery Channel.
EXTRAS Trailer, extended trailer, making-of featurette.
(Alliance Atlantis, 2006) D: Kevin Smith, w/ Rosario Dawson, Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran. Rating: NNNN
An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder
(Sony, 2006) D: J. M. Kenny. Rating: NNN
Clerks 2 revisits Dante and Jeff (Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson) a decade on, after the Quick-Stop has burned down and they've spent a year slinging burgers at Mooby's. Dante's about to get married and move to Florida, but has to sort out his feelings for his boss, Becky (Rosario Dawson), first.
This is a very funny sequel, if not quite as unexpected a comedy as Clerks, and Kevin Smith still has an undeniable affection for the characters of the View Askewniverse. Even if he shot most of the film in California, had a $5 million budget and a real star in Dawson, he still has a hard-R sense of humour and a fan-boy's sensibility.
As much as I like The Lord Of The Rings, you have to laugh at his deadpan demolition of Jackson's trilogy. As usual for Smith, the DVD is fully loaded, and I'm sure he's aware of the attendant irony of participating in three commentaries on a single film in which he plays the role of Silent Bob.
In cahoots with Clerks 2, there's a new two-disc set of Smith's stand-up and long Q&A sessions with adoring crowds in which he tells stories from the weird world of Hollywood. I can't be the only one who didn't know he'd done a rewrite on Coyote Ugly - none of which ended up in the finished film.
Evening 2 contains two complete shows, one in Toronto and one in London, demonstrating the wisdom of the earlier Evening disc that spliced together the best of four or five shows. Still funny, though.
EXTRAS Clerks 2: Tech commentary w/ Smith, producer Scott Mosier and cinematographer David Klein; cast commentary; and podcast commentary w/ Smith, Mosier and Anderson; 30 minutes of deleted scenes with intro; 27-minute blooper reel; 90-minute making-of; video production diaries; A Closer Look At Interspecies Erotica. English, French soundtracks. English, Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, December 5
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
There's a two-disc Special Edition coming, so I'm guessing folks who want to own this really long sequel will wait for that one.
Frank Capra Collection
Five films: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, You Can't Take It With You and American Madness. Why is Columbia sitting on Capra's great Barbara Stanwyck vehicles, The Bitter Tea Of General Yen and The Miracle Woman? They're out in England.
Bertolucci's masterpiece, with Jean-Louis Trintignant as an assassin in Fascist Italy. Also this week, the five-hour-plus director's cut of Bertolucci's 1900.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb