DVD round-up of 2006

Film Editor Paul Dale picks his DVD releases of the year

As internet rental services continue to dent the once all-consuming (not to say exorbitant) high street video shop, interesting patterns seem to be emerging.

Recent research showed a minor downturn in both DVD purchases and rentals (nothing compared to the recent worrying downturn in cinema admissions in the UK), but those that are consuming are exhibiting some fairly eccentric behaviour. Box sets of TV series and big Hollywood blockbusters aside, the biggest trend in the market seems to be for re-releases. Ealing classics, film noirs and 70s and 80s youth classics released on DVD for the first or second time currently seem to be doing good business. It is a trend that I wholeheartedly approve of, for as a film reviewer friend recently pointed out to me on returning from a classic Italian film retrospective curated by Martin Scorsese, ‘We watch too many new films; you do know that they are shit don’t you? Old films rule man!’ With all this in mind and for the purposes of this article I would like to only address the re-issues that came out on 2006.

The absolute highlight of the year was the release of four Fassbinder films on DVD. Fear Eats The Soul, The Merchant of Four Seasons, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and The Marriage of Maria Braun are the first of a planned attempt to release all of the great German auteur’s film work on DVD. Fassbinder, for me anyway, was the prolific beating heart of European cinema in the latter part of the 20th century and these films underline why.

Other great re-issues this year included loads of Buñuel, the best of which - Nazarin, The Ascent to Heaven, The Exterminating Angel, Viridiana and The Great Madcap - deserve a place in any cineaste’s collection. 2006 also saw a clutch of rare releases from the east, noticeably Yukio Masumara’s Red Angel and Blind Beast plus Seijun Suzuki’s bonkers Pistol Opera.

The British Film Institute continued doing great restoration work this year with superb reissues of the key films by Danish legend Carl Theodor Dreyer (Master of the House, Day of Wrath, Ordet and Gertrud) and Melville’s surprising and brilliant Army in the Shadows. Artificial Eye’s long overdue three disc box set featuring Bela Tarr’s 419 minute masterwork Santiago also made my pretentious heart skip a beat this year.

Just so it’s not all homework and hard work let’s end on a bit of seamless pleasure. The Billy Wilder Box Set (Double Indemnity, The Major and the Minor, The Lost Weekend and A Foreign Affair) came out towards the end of the year and what a joy! As Billy Wilder once said, the general rule of thumb when renting or buying DVDs is to ‘Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.’

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