The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Criterion/Touchstone) dir. Wes Anderson w/ Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller. Rating: NNNN
When Esquire asked several critics and filmmakers "Who is the next Martin Scorsese?" Scorsese nominated Wes Anderson, based on his quirky initial features, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore.
It's hard to imagine a filmmaker less like Scorsese than Anderson, whose most recent film suggests a weird collision between J.D. Salinger's Glass family and The Magnificent Ambersons. Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson play child-genius siblings grown to adult disappointment and jolted into action by the return of their ne'er-do-well father, Gene Hackman. The star-studded cast also includes Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Anderson's co-writer, Owen Wilson, and Rushmore veteran Bill Murray.
The Royal Tenenbaums is fey but fascinating, like Rushmore a portrait of characters dislocated from the world they wished they occupied, with especially strong work by Paltrow, Hackman and the Wilson brothers. As in Rushmore, Anderson shows himself a filmmaker of astounding sensitivity to the strengths of his cast. The two-DVD package is jammed with extras -- though Anderson's solo commentary here is not quite so informative as the one he did with Owen Wilson for the Criterion Rushmore.
EXTRAS: Director commentary, liner notes by Kent Jones of Film Comment, booklet of Eric Anderson's production sketches, IFC's With The Filmmaker featurette (directed by Albert Maysles), gallery of the film artwork, on-set actor interviews, trailers, outtakes, deleted scenes, English subtitles.
red beard (1965, Criterion) dir. Akira Kurosawa w/ Toshirô Mifune, Yuzo Kayama. Rating: NNNNN
Kurosawa's magnificently magisterial drama marks the great divide in his career. After two decades of furious production that established him as Japan's most exportable auteur, after Red Beard he suddenly slowed his pace and only made half a dozen films over the next 25 years.
The flip side of Kurosawa's brute nihilism is his humanism, and Red Beard exhibits that fully. It's the story of an arrogant young intern who finds himself in a poor neighbourhood clinic when he had higher aspirations than apprenticing himself to the cranky titular doctor, played by Mifune in his last performance for Kurosawa.
This wide-screen transfer is exceptional, giving full value to Kurosawa's fluid, long-take style; there are some breathtaking single-shot scenes in Red Beard. But the big selling point here is Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince's commentary track, which runs through the full three hours of the film -- it's like getting a 60,000-word study of the film as part of the package. Now maybe Criterion can pry the rights to Ran from Fox-Lorber, whose transfer was an abomination.
EXTRAS: Commentary, theatrical trailer, notes by Donald Richie
nosferatu: the vampyre (1979, Anchor Bay) dir. Werner Herzog w/ Klaus Kinski, Bruno Ganz. Rating: NnNN
A pendant to Anchor Bay's six-disc Herzog/Kinski boxed set, this issue of Nosferatu offers the original German version of the film and the English-language version that was shot simultaneously and is a few minutes shorter. The combination has a certain curiosity value, like the colour version of the Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There that's available with the Hong Kong issue of that film.
The most conventional film by an extremely idiosyncratic director, Nosferatu is uneven but haunting. Particularly effective are Klaus Kinski's incarnation of Dracula and the highly atmospheric locations Herzog found for his story. Good commentary track by Herzog, with insights into his decisions, and some comments on Kinski's literary attacks on him.
EXTRAS: Director commentary, making-of featurette, theatrical trailers (including a very strange Spanish trailer), English subtitles on the German version.
Also this week
Charlotte Gray Cate Blanchett is a spy for the French Resistance.
Impostor: The Director's Cut Not very good sci-fi thriller starring Gary Sinise as a man whose identity is stolen from him.
No Such Thing Director Hal Hartley's quirky tale of a monster who becomes a celebrity. Starring Sarah Polley.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb
No rating indicates no screening copy