Eyes Without A Face
(Criterion/Morningstar, 1960) D: Georges Franju w/ Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli , Edith Scob. Rating: NNNNN
Eugen Schüfftan had a varied and peripatetic career. He was an effects creator who invented the Schüfftan process that enabled real actors to appear in miniature sets for Metropolis, a production designer and a technical director. Along the way he managed to get three of the most impressive black-and-white cinematography credits: on Marcel Carné's Port Of Shadows, Robert Rossen's The Hustler and Georges Franju's Eyes Without A Face. The story of a surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) seeking a replacement for his daughter's (Edith Scob) horribly damaged face, Eyes Without A Face is one of the most poetic and haunting horror films, the evil cousin of Jean Cocteau's dark dreams. Criterion's transfer is exquisite, and there are some nice extras, including Franju's first film, his slaughterhouse documentary Blood Of The Beasts.
EXTRAS Archival interviews with Franju and screenwriters Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, who also wrote the novel that was adapted as Vertigo; Blood Of The Beasts; the French and American theatrical trailers (the latter's a hoot since the American distributor recut the film, retitled it The Horror Chamber Of Doctor Faustus and sent it out on a double bill with The Manster). French with English subtitles.
The Wong Kar-Wai Collection: As Tears Go By, Days Of Being Wild, Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together
(Kino/Pixi, 1988-97) D: Wong Kar-Wai, w/ Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau. Rating: NNNNN
In his introduction to Chung-king Express, Quentin Tarantino compares Hong Kong's principal art house export Wong Kar-Wai to Godard, but more critics compare him to Alain Resnais. Not many contemporary directors have had two films compared to Last Year At Marienbad. If Wong's early films fit within certain genre structures - As Tears Go By, Days Of Being Wild and Fallen Angels are all takes on the HK crime film, and Ashes Of Time is a martial arts picture - his sensibility is something entirely other. His narrative structures and cutting style collapse time as Christopher Doyle's cinematography implodes space.
Kino's gathered up five of Wong's eight films in a box, including what I believe are the first region-one releases of Days Of Being Wild and As Tears Go By. (Fallen Angels came from Image and Chungking Express from Miramax untouched, with the Tarantino intro and extro and the Miramax label still on the box.)
His other two films can be found on Criterion (In The Mood For Love, though I have a less expensive Korean all-region disc) and a variety of grey-market labels for Ashes Of Time, including not-bad bootlegs available in Chinatown.
It's a good box, reasonably priced - I've seen it going for under $100 online. To be completely perverse, I actually prefer to commune with Wong's art - and there's no other way to describe the experience - outside the confines of film festivals. It's easier to sink into his eccentric world view when you're not worried about making it to another screening.
EXTRAS Trailer galleries, filmographies, Quentin Tarantino introductions for Chungking Express, Buenos Aires Zero Degrees documentary on Happy Together. Cantonese with English subtitles.
Arrested Development: Season One
(Fox, 2003-4) P: Mitchell Hurwitz, w/ Jason Bateman, Portia di Rossi. Rating: NNNN
The second season of Arrested Development's about to air once Fox gets done with baseball, so now's the time to catch up with the intricate lines of hatred and distrust that bind the Bluth family. The Fox sitcom tells the story of a family with four grown children, one of whom actually qualifies as an adult (Jason Bateman's Michael), and what happens when the paterfamilias (the great Jeffrey Tambor) goes to jail for fraud, leaving his family to run his real estate development company.
As an economically designed promo package, the DVDs are an excellent value - 22 episodes plus an extended version of the pilot on three discs, with cast interviews and commentaries. And the show is so nuts that it rewards multiple viewings. You can savour David Cross's performance as a defrocked psychiatrist who's incapable of being nude and the dotty malevolence of Jessica Walter as the matriarch who gave birth to the Bluth children but would've rather bought them at Nieman Marcus.
EXTRAS Three episode commentaries, Museum of Television panel discussion with the cast, deleted and extended scenes, making-of featurettes. English, Spanish, French subtitles.
(Lions Gate, 2003) D: Jacob Tierney w/ Nick Stahl, Gary Farmer. Rating: NNN
Twist is a gay take on Oliver Twist, which I'm not sure is exactly necessary. You don't have to put much of a twist on Oliver to bring out the gayness. Jacob Tierney sets the film in contemporary Toronto among the world of gay hustlers, with newcomer Joshua Close as Oliver, Terminator 3's Nick Stahl as Dodge and Gary Farmer as Fagin. Twist resembles other films set in the world of the young male hustler - empty anomic streets, affectless performances - far more than the teeming London of Dickens. It's well made and the cast is good, but if you've seen Trick or especially My Own Private Idaho, you'll need a particular interest in the subject to maintain your attention here.
EXTRAS Theatrical trailer, director/star commentary. Why does the disc have a 5.1 French soundtrack but an English version in 2.0 stereo? English, French versions.
Coming Tuesday, October 26
That 70s Show: Complete First Season (20th Century Fox, 1998-99) - The popular Fox sitcom hits DVD. I never watch it myself. I was there and will be happy never to see bell-bottoms again.
21 Jump Street - Complete First Season (Anchor Bay, 1987-88) - Johnny Depp, Richard Grieco, Holly Robinson and Dustin Nguyen in that 80s show. Sensitive cops infiltrate high school drug rings.
The O.C.: Complete First Season (Warner, 2003-4) - I have several friends who live in Orange County, California, and I've never heard any of them say, "That's how we do it in the O.C., bitch."
The Tesseract (Showtime, 2003) - Oddball thriller from Thai director Oxide Pang, who made The Eye.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb