‘No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees/No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!’ That’s how English poet and humourist Thomas Hood chose to describe the month of November. There is some of Hood’s cheeky sense of observation in John Waters: This Filthy World (Revelation Films •••) a recording of Waters stand-up act where he espouses on love, sex, death and underground cinema. If you are new to Waters’ work, this is an excellent place to start.
Late November is rich in standalone oddities – ancient and new. Helvetica (Plexi •••) is an interesting documentary marking the 50-year anniversary of the popular typeface. The Masters of Cinema edition of the definitive, fully restored version of FW Murnau’s 1922 classic, Nosferatu (Eureka ••••) not only features Hans Erdmann’s original score but also tons of extras including audio commentaries, an 80-page book containing articles by the cream of German cinema experts and a 53-minute German documentary about Murnau with fascinating footage of the film’s locations as they are today. Czech filmmaker Frantisek Vlácil’s elliptical and inspired 1967 medieval epic Marketa Lazarová (Second Run ••••) finally gets a DVD release and that most British of film poems Night Mail (GP ••••) gets a beefed up release. As Scot John Grierson’s wonderful 1936 film featuring the verse of WH Auden is only about half an hour long it comes accompanied by 80s documentaries The Midnight Hours, which shows how much has changed in sorting and distribution in the 20-odd years since this film was made, Post Haste, which celebrates 150 years of the travelling post offices and Mail Rail which looks at 60 years of the unique Royal Mail underground railway. One for trainspotters and striking postal workers perhaps.
The lead up to Christmas means there are some excellent box sets around. The Mikio Naruse Collection (BFI •••••) contains three of the best known films by this largely unheralded Japanese maker of sublime melodramas. The films – When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960), Floating Clouds (1955) and Late Chrysanthemums (1954) come with plenty extras for the uninitiated. For enthusiasts of Britain’s No1 spy Christmas has indeed arrived early but at a hefty price. The James Bond Ultimate Collector’s Set (Fox ••••) is the complete collection of 007’s adventures (pictured) until the release of the 22nd Bond film this time next year.