New releasesNew releases
carmen jones (1954, Fox) dir. Otto Preminger w/ Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte. This film of a Broadway adaptation of Bizet's Carmen, with Merimée's cigarette girl transformed into a black defence worker in the American South during the second world war, is not entirely successful. The story cannot date, and Dandridge's best-actress nomination, the first ever for an African-American woman, was well earned. However, it takes too seriously its own importance as a rare mainstream Hollywood movie with a black cast. That said, the restoration is stunning. Carmen's red skirt vibrates in some unknown range of the spectrum, and it's good to finally have the film in the proper aspect ratio. Preminger was one of the great CinemaScope directors, and his best films -- Advise And Consent, Exodus, River Of No Return -- have been hurt more than most by the pan-and-scan of television and VHS prints. A terrific cast: aside from Dandridge, there's Belafonte, Brock Peters and Pearl Bailey. Musical note: Dandridge, a fine singer, was re-voiced by the very young Marilyn Horne. extras Theatrical trailer and some trailers for other Fox musical reissues. English and Spanish subtitles. NNNN
Big-screen rating: N/A
kippur (2000, Mongrel), dir. Amos Gitaï w/ Liron Levo, Tomer Russo. Gitaï made a festival splash in 99 with Kaddosh, an extraordinary look at Orthodox Jewish domestic life in Israel. Kippur, an autobiographical look at the director's service as an Israeli army medic during the Yom Kippur war (Gitaï also made a documentary on this subject a couple of years ago), is a lesser achievement. It's remarkably low on character and dialogue but visually striking, and I wish the dialogue made more of an impression than the whup-whup-whup of the chopper blades. At just over 120 minutes, it could easily lose half an hour, including the 10-minute opening sequence involving the protagonist, his girlfriend and a lot of paint.
extras: Theatrical trailer. That's it. No commentary, no interviews. Gitaï's documentary, War And Peace In Vesoul, covers some of this material and would have made an interesting addition to the package. NNN
Big-screen rating: Events don't connect, they just happen. NN (CB)
venomous (2001, Fox), dir. Fred Olen Ray w/ Treat Williams, Mary Page Keller. This is direct-to-video cheese -- it's Outbreak, only with genetically altered rattlesnakes instead of monkeys and Treat Williams instead of Dustin Hoffman. It's not bad for what it is, and worthy of note because, even though it's "debuting on home video," it's packaged like a real movie, with letterboxing, subtitles and a director's commentary. Ray's been directing three pictures a year forever, occasionally achieving mediocrity. He last had a genuine theatrical release during the first Reagan administration, yet he gets a commentary track, just like Ridley Scott and David Fincher. Which is actually fun. Ray gets excited that an actress who won a daytime Emmy 20 years ago is doing a scene in his film, even though he can't remember her name. On the other hand, he knows how to make cheap movies, and film students might want to give him a practical listen. Note to Treat Williams: if you're doing the lead in a Fred Olen Ray picture, it's time to change agents.
extras: Director's commentary, trailer, director and cast filmographies, English and French versions, English and Spanish subtitles. NN
Big-screen rating: N/A
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