The Martin Scorsese Film Collection
Rating: NNNN Boxcar Bertha (1972) w/ Barbara Hershey, David Carradine. Rating: NNN New York, New York (1977) w/ Robert De Niro, Liza Minnelli. Rating: NNN The Last Waltz (1973) w/ the Band, Muddy Waters. Rating: NNNN RAGING BULL SPECIAL EDITION (1981) w/ De Niro, Cathy Moriarty. Rating: NNNN Martin Scorsese is an excellent critic, engaging and insightful about himself, his work and movies in general. His reflections on his own developing understanding of the relationship between movies and music provides a strong central theme for this set and some valuable insights into his artistry and that of other directors.
That understanding blooms in New York, New York with its precision cut-to-music shooting, grows in The Last Waltz, where it's all got to be done on the fly, and peaks with Raging Bull, where the fight scenes are shot like musical numbers.
But at the centre of all this exactitude lies the improvisational acting Scorsese favours. That, again, reaches its peak in Raging Bull. It's as though the battling protagonists of New York, New York are inside one man.
The movies are terrific. Even Boxcar Bertha, made before Scorsese hit his stride with Mean Streets (1973), repays repeated viewing.
The box set goes for $34.97 on amazon.ca, while a Raging Bull two-disc set goes individually for $20.99 and the other titles for $10.47 each. If you don't already have the other titles, this is money well spent.
Extras Boxcar Bertha: theatrical trailer. Wide-screen, mono sound in English. English, French and Spanish subtitles. New York, New York: commentary by Scorsese and critic Carrie Rickey, introduction by Scorsese, alternate takes and deleted scenes, photo gallery, theatrical trailer and teaser. 5.1 sound in English, Spanish. English, French and Spanish subtitles. The Last Waltz: commentaries by Scorsese and Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Mavis Staples and others, making-of documentary, jam session outtake. New 5.1 sound mix and remastered sound in English. English, French and Spanish subtitles. RAGING BULL: three commentary tracks - Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker; producer Irvin Winkler, director of photography Michael Chapman and others; writers Paul Schrader and others; five making-of docs, comparison of LaMotta and De Niro, newsreel of LaMotta fighting, original theatrical trailer, essay booklet. 5.1, English. English, Spanish, French subtitles.
Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
(Fox, 2001) D: Richard Kelly, w/ Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone. Rating: NNN after a weak theatrical run, Donnie Darko turned into a video cult hit. With good reason: it's highly entertaining, and you can't quite pin it down. It's either the tale of a suburban teen who's touched by something uncanny and told the world will end in 28 days, or he's schizophrenic. Or maybe it's just a dream. Is it mystic and science-fictional or all metaphor, a teenage angst movie in the twilight zone? You're on your own figuring it out - the movie doesn't tell.
Director Richard Kelly insists in the commentary that it's science fiction. Beings from an alternate universe are manipulating events. Poof! What was evocative and engaging becomes merely obscure storytelling.
The extended cut nails it down with an extra 20 minutes, a sound remix and some music changes. It's not necessarily an improvement. The charm is in the mystery.
The second disc's best offering is the production diary's commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster, who gives a good sense of the shoot. Otherwise, documentaries on the cult offer more embarrassment than enlightenment.
Extras Disc 1: commentary track with Kelly and director Kevin Smith (Clerks). Disc 2: production diary with commentary, documentary on Darko cult, storyboard/screen comparison, documentary on and by self-proclaimed number-one fan, theatrical trailer. 5.1 or 2.0 in English. English and Spanish subtitles.
(Fox, 1949) D: Jules Dassin w/ Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese. Rating: NNN
Night And The City
(Fox, 1950) D: Jules Dassin, w/ Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney. Rating: NNNN these are great film noirs, tight, fast crime dramas in which compromised morality rules and the urban labyrinth imprisons and alienates. No cops, no private eyes - just ordinary people bringing bad trouble on themselves.
Director Jules Dassin likes complexity and honesty, and gets it in standout performances. Even the minor roles have their big moments. Richard Widmark's desperate hustler is harrowing in Night And The City, while Lee J. Cobb gives near-joyful vitality to his crooked produce market owner in Thieves' Highway.
The then groundbreaking location shooting style adds power, and Dassin discusses it, and his approach to filmmaking, in the extras on both films. He's a very good interview. Scholarly commentators fill in with more details and insights.
Both films get Criterion's high-quality restoration and high-definition digital transfer. Overall, Night And The City is the better package: better movie, better commentary and a good featurette comparing the British and American releases with altered emphasis and different scores.
Extras Thieves' Highway: commentary by Alain Silver, interview with Dassin, extended trailer for movie on source novelist A. I. Bezzerides, original trailer, essay by critic Michael Sragow. Mono sound in English. English subtitles. Night and the City: commentary by film scholar Glenn Erickson, interview with Dassin, subtitled French TV interview with Dassin, documentary comparing British and U.S. versions, original trailer, essay by Paul Arthur. Mono sound in English. English subtitles.
Talk Sex With Sue Johanson: The Ultimate Shopping Guide
(Casablanca, 2004) created by Sue Johanson, Julie Smith, R.J. Gulliver, w/ Johanson. Rating: NNN I shall be forever haunted by Sue Johanson's eerie laugh at the cat hair on the butt plug. It's one of the few moments that foreground the steely dominatrix behind the plain-spoken expert persona that gives her such an edge.
Her product reviews are great. Every toy is tested by Johanson and/or the crew. She covers cost, cleanability, practicality, use and pleasure and rates each. For a set of firm pillows called Liberator Shapes she brings in a couple to demonstrate several positions. For Sphincterine, sort of a mouthwash for the other end, her scorn is unbounded.
While most of the reviews are aimed at women, there are several products for guys, and sections on homemade toys and cleaning.
If you're not familiar with sex toys, this is a good introduction. As well, a leaflet lists products and ratings - handy for the shopping trip.
Extras Leaflet, sex shop tour, segment on bad toys. Mono sound in English. No subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, February 15
Howards End (Media Home Entertainment, 1992) Two-disc special edition. Another of James Ivory's slow, understated and very well-acted movies for the upwardly middle-brow.
Rendez-vous (Media Home Entertainment, 1985) Luminously beautiful Juliette Binoche in André Téchiné's stylish study of sex and love.
All About Lily Chou-Chou (Homevision, 2001) Youthful angst and popstar obsession cyber-Japanese-style.
Raise Your Voice (Alliance Atlantis, 2004) Marketing creature Hilary Duff enrols in a performing arts high school. Oh, if only.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb