DVD Roundup: Winter 2014
Including François Truffaut classics, Alain Robbe-Grillet: Six Films, The Lunch Box and Frank
Most of the recent François Truffaut films released on DVD by Artificial Eye don’t need much of a recommendation: films like 400 Blows, Shoot the Pianist and Jules et Jim are masterpieces well-acknowledged. But two that might need a bit of a push are The Soft Skin (●●●●●) and Anne and Muriel (●●●●●). The first is a monochrome meditation on the wish for an affair when your life is full of more than enough hassles. Pierre Lechenay (Jean Desailly) is a busy, established writer but also in search of intimacy. He finds it with a lovely air hostess (Françoise Dorleac), yet Truffaut films with a sorrow that makes any thrills secondary to a broader wish for calm in Lechenay’s life. Anne and Muriel is equally sad, with Jean Pierre-Leaud an aspiring writer seeing time slip through his fingers. The film is beautifully photographed by Nestor Almendros.
If Truffaut often needs no introduction, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s has been a long time coming. A marvellous bfi box-set, Alain Robbe-Grillet: Six Films (●●●●●), gives many viewers a chance to view a series of works that are frequently talked about but not always easy to see. His first feature, L’Immortelle, about a love affair set in Istanbul, is the best, no matter the director’s reservations about it, expressed in a series of great interviews in the DVD extras.
Independencia (Second Run ●●●) might not be the most invigorating of Filipino New Wave films (next to Brilliante Mendoza’s Lola and Lav Diaz’s Florentina Hubaldo CTE ), but this ambitious, yet only 74 minute exploration of Filipino history creates hallucinatory black and white images within a studio setting to play on film history too: it often invokes silent and early sound film. It is great to see Karel Zeman’s A Jester’s’ Tale (Second Run ●●●●) getting released. A Czech live-action feature with a few animated bits, here a ploughboy gets pushed into military action, almost marries a princess and all the while keeps a grin on his face. Zeman remains the master of this combined aesthetic, clearly influencing Tony Richardson, Terry Gilliam and others.
Hal Ashby made a series of great films in the seventies from The Landlord to Shampoo, The Last Detail to Coming Home, but probably the most loved is Harold and Maude (Eureka ●●●●), a warm, yet acerbic tale of love across the generations: Harold (Bud Cort) gets involved with a woman three times his age (Ruth Gordon) and with twice the energy. A less well-known film getting released by the same company is Rapture (Eureka ●●●). Brilliantly shot by Marcel Grignon, it is directed by John Guillemin with a great eye for the mise-en-scene and less concern for the plausibility of the story.
Newer releases include The Past (Artificial Eye ●●●●) and Exhibition (Artificial Eye ●●●●) by Asghar Farhadi and Joanna Hogg respectively, both amongst the more important of this year’s releases. Less interesting are Under The Rainbow (Artificial Eye ●●●), The Rocket (Eureka ●●), The Lunch Box (Artificial Eye ●●●), In Bloom (Artificial Eye ●●●) and Frank (Curzon ●●).