(Paramount, 1970) D: Bernardo Bertolucci, w/ Jean-Louis Trintignant, Dominique Sanda, Stefania Sandrelli. NNNNN
This 1970 political-historical film noir is Bernardo Bertolucci's masterpiece. (I know it's a European art film, but check that flashback structure and how it begins with Jean-Louis Trintignant sitting in a neon-lit hotel room.) It's film noir.
It announced the arrival of Vittorio Storaro as the great cinematographic eye of his day. This may be the most astonishingly lit film of the 70s, a decade that leaned toward grainy realism.
Trintignant's Marcello, damaged by a childhood encounter with a pedophile, seeks normalcy in his adult life by becoming an assassin for Mussolini's government. The Conformist, adapted from Alberto Moravia's novel, unfolds in a series of flashbacks as Marcello travels to an assignment. It's a great and magnificent-looking film.
One oddity: the official running time is 115 minutes, and this print, running 111, includes the restored blind wedding scene but doesn't seem to be missing anything. I've checked a couple of sites, including those that caught the aspect ratio error on MGM's Bergman box, and no one else can figure if something's missing either, aside from a few minutes of out music that used to run after the credits.
EXTRAS Three featurettes that are mostly new interviews with Bertolucci and Storaro. Italian, English, French, Portuguese soundtracks and subtitles.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
(Disney, 2006) D: Gore Verbinski, w/ Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley. Rating: NNN
I'm not prepared to argue that Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is a good movie, but I can see why it grossed $1 billion worldwide. It delivers. It's bigger, louder and stuffed with incident.
Once it gets rolling, about 20 minutes in, it never stops: sea monsters, naval battles, Bill Nighy dressed as an octopus, sword fights in weird places. This is a movie where Johnny Depp doing Keith Richards as Blackbeard the Pirate almost qualifies as baseline normalcy.
After watching Pirates twice once for the writers' commentary I felt like spending the weekend watching something really austere, like Bresson. Instead, I browsed one of the new Bond Ultimate Collection boxes, and after Pirates, Goldfinger and Thunderball, I really felt like Bresson.
There's lots of making-of stuff in this set, and Disney has learned how to do the casual "we're freewheeling filmmakers" kind of documentary rather than the standard corporate shill making-of. I'm not sure that's a good thing. Check out the fascinating featurette on how they assembled Captain Jack Sparrow out of various bits and pieces of costume.
EXTRAS Writers' commentary, three hours of making-of featurettes, blooper reel, photo gallery. English, French, Spanish soundtracks. French and Spanish subtitles.
(First Run Features/Paradox, 2006) D: Michael Apted. Rating: NNNN
A unique project in film history, this documentary series has been running 42 years, and Michael Apted has been directing the every-seven-years instalments since the second, 7 Plus Seven, 35 years ago.
Undertaken by Granada Television as a study of the English class system, the series began by interviewing a group of seven-year-olds from various classes and neighbourhoods. Since then, the subjects have plowed on through college and jobs, marriages and divorces, loss and triumph.
The entire series, except for this film, is available in a box, and there's an incredible snowball effect if you watch it from the beginning. Starting with 49 Up, regardless of the callbacks to the earlier films, is coming into the story very late.
The DVD transfer is good, and there's a half-hour Apted interview by Roger Ebert, in which Ebert expresses his hope that the 65-year-old Apted will do 56 Up.
EXTRAS Ebert interview with Apted, photo gallery.
(MGM/UA, 1976) D: John G. Avildsen, w/ Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith. Rating: NNNN
Okay, rocky morphed into one of the most annoying franchises ever, just as Sylvester Stallone became one of the most annoying stars ever, but Rocky is still a good movie, for a couple of reasons.
Like Saturday Night Fever, it undercuts the glossiness of its apparent genre (sports inspirational) with its gritty 70s urban realism. It's shot in real streets, and every frame isn't groomed within an inch of its life. Second, unlike the later films in the series, director John Avildsen prefers to work in medium shots, so Stallone isn't turned into a fetish object.
This new 30th anniversary edition loads up on new features, including a brand new, insightful Stallone commentary and good featurette interviews, particularly with makeup artist Michael Westmore and Steadicam creator Garrett Brown. (Rocky was the first movie to use the Steadicam, though Marathon Man was released earlier.) In our digital, take-the-camera-anywhere age, it's hard to explain the shock of that moment when Rocky runs up the stairs and then the camera circles behind him and up and you sit there thinking, "Wait a minute, that wasn't a crane how the hell did they do that?"
EXTRAS Stallone commentary, director/cast commentary, fight expert commentary, extensive making-of documentary and craft featurettes, TV ads and trailers. English, French and Spanish soundtracks. English, Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday,December 12
James Bond Ultimate Edition, Volume 3
(MGM/Fox) This is the prize of the four boxes in the new Bond upgrade: Goldeneye, From Russia With Love, For Your Eyes Only and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Oh, and Live And Let Die.
The Devil Wears Prada (Fox, 2006) Watch casting upend story balance. Meryl Streep's ultrafab performance as the boss from hell turns this into a story about a driven career woman forced to deal with a resentful, barely competent assistant.
We're Going To Eat You (Tokyo Shock, 1980) Tsui Hark's second film, also known as Kung Fu Cannibals and Hell Has No Gates, finally gets a proper region 1 release. A cool secret agent is sent to a remote island to track down a master criminal -- only the island's full of cannibals! Insane fun.
World Trade Center (Paramount, 2006) Oliver Stone buries Nicolas Cage under tons of rubble.