As Carly Simon sang, ‘we’re coming around again’. As this column marks its one-year anniversary, there are some great standalone DVDs hitting the shelves. 2008 is going to be a great year to rediscover the brilliance of the McCarthy-blacklisted US filmmaker Joseph Losey who was forced and then chose to work in the UK from 1963 to his death in 1984. There’s a whole load of his films coming out (many for the first time on DVD) including opera oddity Don Giovanni, marital abuse saga The Romantic Englishwoman and trenchantly faithful Ibsen adaptation A Doll’s House.
First up, however, are two of his totally unimpeachable masterworks. The Servant and Accident (both Optimum, both •••••) were Losey and Harold Pinter’s first two collaborations and as dissections of the English class system go, they are still unequalled. Neither of these discs has much in the way of extras but the transfers are clean and these two gems from the 1960s deserve a place in anyone’s collection.
Arguably the most enigmatic and influential of all Jean- Luc Godard’s films Pierrot Le Fou (Optimum •••••) also gets a release. Noticeable by its absence from three otherwise superb Godard sets that came out last year, Pierrot Le Fou is a titan of the new wave movement, a wreckless film noir punctuated by a weight of semiology and significations that would make Roland Barthes blush.
A two-disc version of Tarantino’s reconstructed Grindhouse B Movie Death Proof (Momentum ••••) finally limps out on DVD with some impressive extras including great behind the scenes stunt footage, an uncut version of ‘Baby, It’s You’ performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a UK DVD exclusive Q&A with Tarantino. Curio of the fortnight is Don’t Knock Yourself Out (Network •••), a feature length documentary about cult TV show The Prisoner with newly filmed interviews with the surviving cast and crew.
There are really only two box sets of note out: the Jean Simmons Box Set (UCA •••) celebrates the career of this distinguished English actress with some of her least interesting films but at least John Farrow’s great 1954 plane crash melodrama A Bullet is Waiting and Kubrick’s Spartacus are on here. The Michael Moore Collection (Optimum ••••), containing this puckish polemicist’s most recent films, Sicko, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling For Columbine, may help you believe, if only for a second, that the meek could inherit the earth.