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    Burmese Harp, The

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on March 29th, 2007

    Criterion has surprised me once again with this beautiful film. It amazes me ow they continue to find these “diamonds in the rough”. Films that couldn’t possibly exist, yet here they are, widely available on the mas market. The Burmese Harp is a Japanese war film that is decidedly anti-war, and features some truly beautiful music.

    At the end of World War II, a group of Japanese soldiers find themselves in Burma, held by British forces as prisoners of war. One soldier from the party has spent his free t…
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    49th Parallel

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on March 7th, 2007

    49th Parallel is a film that I had heard mentioned in passing on occasion, but never really had any practical knowledge of until now. Having now seen the film for myself, I find it to be one of those rare productions that only Criterion seems to be able to find. This is something that I would have never dreamed existed. While the idea of war films told from the Axis point of view are almost commonplace today, such a thing was practically unheard of in 1941, with the United States on the brink of entering World…
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    Yojimbo

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on February 11th, 2007

    Portions of this review were lifted from the previous Criterion Collection edition review.  Now on to the review…

    After making such internationally renowned samurai period films such as Rashomon and The Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa did make another film, Yojimbo, with a decidedly different tone, bordering on dark comedy. The opening shot is of Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune, Throne of Blood), a samurai without a master, who look  at a mountain, and suddenly scratches his head, as if his hair is on too tight.
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    When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on February 10th, 2007

    Let me get this out of the way right up front; I really enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha. Now, I am certainly smart enough to understand that the film was not entirely realistic, and there were some plot developments that pushed suspension of disbelief pretty far, but I wound it charming and entertaining. It was so charming, in fact, that it was often times easy to forget that you were essentially watching a movie about whores. You can romance it all you want, but at the end of the day a Geisha is really nothing mo…
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    Border Radio

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on January 9th, 2007

    Border Radio is an independent film written and directed by Allison Anders, Kurt Voss and Dean Lent. The film serves as more of a curiosity than a great film on its own merits. Released in 1987, the film fell in amongst the wave of indie filmmakers making an impact at the time, including Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. In fact, Anders directed one of the segments in the film Four Rooms, which also featured stories by these two filmmakers, in addition to Alexandre Rockwell. While Tarantino and Ro…
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    Jigoku

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on October 18th, 2006

    Japanese horror films are all the rage these days, with the originals hitting DVD in the States, and the remakes showing up in the theaters. Therefore, it stands to reason that even Criterion would get in on the trend, offering up a film from famed director Nobuo Nakagawa, widely regarded as the father of the Japanese horror film.

    Jigoku is both strange and fascinating. The film tells the story of two friends that are involved in a hot-and-run accident. While one of the young men is cool, calm and collected, the other is wracked with guilt over their actions.
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    Kicking and Screaming

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on August 30th, 2006

    Written By Jeff Mardo

    This is a Parker Posey film, which in itself is enough of a reason for me to check this film out. However, I was surprised to find that Josh Hamilton is here as well. While you may not know the name of Josh Hamilton right away, the two of them worked together in a brilliantly satirical film called The House of Yes; one of my personal favorites. In fact, there are several things that tie these two films together in my mind. While both are very funny and disturbing films, the charm in them both is the tension hi…
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    Jimi Plays Monterey/Shake! Otis at Monterey

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on June 28th, 2006

    There was a time when no major groundbreaking events were captured on film. The thing is, it’s sometimes hard to know when something of historical significance is going to occur. Major events such as World War II and the fall of the Berlin wall were planned in advance (so to speak), so it was easy to set-up a camera and capture the event. Spontaneous events, however, were mostly passed over. As technology has progressed, however, it has become easier to capture important and notable moments on the fly. September 11, …
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    The 39 Steps

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on June 11th, 2006

    OK, I hope I’m not diving into a review that may fall into the “film scholar” category, and thus rule me out of being taken seriously. When there’s a lull in buying new releases, sometimes my wallet gets cabin fever, and so I went out and picked up the Hitchcock set from Criterion, entitled Wrong Men and Notorious Women: Five Hitchcock Thrillers 1935-1946, and includes the previous Criterion releases from Hitchcock, namely Rebecca, Notorious, Spellbound and The Lady Vanishes.
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    Virgin Spring, The

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on January 30th, 2006

    Honestly, I wasn’t expecting too much from The Virgin Spring. I know that it’s Bergman, but it’s based on an ancient Swedish medieval ballad. If your source material is hundreds of years old and only two pages long, surely there can’t be much to see from the film, can there?

    I could not have been more wrong. Though this may be just under an hour-and-a-half in length, the film is filled with subtext, imagery and several powerful messages. Spring tells the story of a fair maiden who is brutally …
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    The Bad Sleep Well

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on January 7th, 2006

    The Bad Sleep Well reminded me a lot of The Godfather. Both films begin with a large wedding, where the story behind the wedding is more fascinating than the event itself. Both films are also about corruption, what it means to be loyal, and what happens if you do favors for the wrong people. The Bad Sleep Well is particularly meaningful to our modern society, as instead of the subject of the film being gangsters, the focus is on the new heavies on the block… corrupt corporate heads. In the wake of the scandals at Tyco, Worldcom, Enron and others, this 1963 film carries new weight for American audiences.
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    Ran

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on December 18th, 2005

    Synopsis

    Thankfully, as part of Criterion’s desire to be completists of the Akira Kurosawa collection, they have finally decided to release Ran on DVD. For the sake of time, I’ll include my thoughts of the film based on my review of the Kurosawa boxed set, which included a previous version of Ran:

    In Kurosawa’s last outstanding film (inspired by “King Lear”), the aging Lord Hidetora Inchimonji decides to split his power equally among his three sons Taro, Jiro and Saburo. Saburo ques…
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    Kagemusha

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on December 18th, 2005

    Synopsis

    In Akira Kurosawa’s later years, it was almost criminal that a director with his resume was forced to practically beg for financing. Kurosawa was in the midst of a career drought, having made only two movies in almost 15 years with Dersu Uzala and Dodesukaden. This coming after a run of films that has proved influential to even today’s filmmakers. While Kurosawa did have to obtain foreign financing for his movies in later years, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, both of whom cite…
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    Pickpocket

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on December 17th, 2005

    Pickpocket is precisely the kind of film that could never have been made in Hollywood in the 50’s. The Hays Code was a set of morality guidelines that dictated what was and was not acceptable to be shown in motion pictures. Amongst many other things, the code would not allow a criminal to be depicted on screen in such a way as to induce sympathy from the audience. It also said that criminals must always be punished for their actions. (For a complete copy of the code, visit http://www.artsreformation.com/a…
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    Tales of Hoffmann, The

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on December 7th, 2005

    Synopsis

    Three of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s fantastic tales were made into an opera by Jacques Offenbach, and that opera was in turn transformed into this 1951 film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Robert Rounseville takes the lead as a fictional version of Hoffmann himself. While pining after a ballerina, whose love is being stolen from him by an evil aristocrat, he spins three tales of unrequited and doomed love, where in he falls in love first with an automaton, then a soul-stealing (literally) c…
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    Le Samourai

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on November 9th, 2005

    Synopsis

    Alain Delon is a cool-as-ice contract killer. After pulling off his latest contract, he is picked up by the police on suspicion, but is released for lack of evidence. The gangsters who hired him consider him a liability, however, and attempt to have him killed. He must now evade the police long enough to track down his killers before they get him.

    With minimal dialogue and a stripped-down, no-frills style, director Jean-Pierre Melville delivers a thriller that is a model of efficie…
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    Rebel Samurai – Sixties Swordplay Classics

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on October 19th, 2005

    Criterion doesn’t put out too many box sets, so you know that when they do, it is really going to be something special. Their Brazil set is a benchmark release that all other single-film, multiple-disc sets are measured against. The Wrong Men & Notorious Women – Five Hitchcock Thrillers set is a brilliantly-themed way to showcase five of the director’s most devious films. They have taken that same approach with Rebel Samurai – Sixties Swordplay Classics. The four films in this set, Samurai Re…
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    Samurai Spy

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on October 19th, 2005

    In an odd sort of way, Samurai Spy has the feel of one of the Sean Connery Bond films. The plot seems to be more convoluted than it really needs to be, and there are many scenes that show a character quiet and alone, as they discover a new piece of the plot puzzle for themselves. I would say that parts of the film could be a bit too complex for some American audiences to follow, as so much of the story is driven by Japanese character and clan names. It seems that Criterion anticipated this problem, as they hav…
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    Samurai Rebellion

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on October 18th, 2005

    First and foremost, it is important to note that this is a large, “A” list film. While many samurai movies are low budget stories, everything about this beautiful film is first rate. As you can see by the two hour running time, the story comes first in this piece, with the swordplay coming in later, merely to serve the story.

    And an important story it is. In 1967, World War II was still fresh in the minds of many Japanese citizens. These people, who had never questioned authority in thousands of years, had j…
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    Kill!

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on October 15th, 2005

    Kill! plays like something of a dark spaghetti western comedy. Honestly, how many times have you heard that line before? A warrior with no master wanders into a ghost town, tired and hungry, to find the only restaurateur in town dead. As he begins to contemplate where he will find his next meal, a farmer wonders into town under similar circumstances. The two form a loose partnership as they discover that they have placed themselves in the middle of a standoff between the local samurai and yakuza clans. As they…
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    Sword of the Beast

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on October 14th, 2005

    Call me crazy, but I came away from this disc feeling like I had just watched a samurai western. On one side, the film is filled with Japanese warriors, fantastic swordfighting and talk of honor and revenge. On the other hand, a major subplot of the film revolves around panning for gold in the mountains, and fighting over the claims. This excellent 1965 film has much in common with great westerns, such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, including interesting plot twists and a complicated-yet-comical sidekick t…
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    Naked

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on September 20th, 2005

    The great thing about DVDs produced under the Criterion moniker is that they can’t really be compared to much else. Usually, I can just whip out a peppy little monologue about the film I have just watched, but Criterion always makes things a bit more difficult… which is great for film fans that have seen it all before.

    Naked is, of course, no different. There is no easy summation for this piece of art, which won awards for Best Actor and Best Director at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. This is …
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    Boudu Saved From Drowning

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on August 20th, 2005

    Boudu Saved From Drowning is a style of film that is quite popular in the modern independent film scene. Tales of understanding the outcasts and what it means to fit in with the status quo have always been powerful, especially ones such as this one, where the moral is that no particular group or culture is without its drawbacks.

    This film tells the story of Boudu, a homeless man who decided to commit suicide by jumping off of a bridge, but is saved by a man of “integrity”. He is then taken in to the ma…
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    Hard Boiled

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 15th, 2005

    Synopsis

    John Woo did not just direct Tom Cruise from a big rock in Mission Impossible:2, nor EVERY recent action movie with featuring either Nicolas Cage or John Travolta. He was only a name you heard about whenever the hot director of the moment (Quentin Tarantino comes to mind) talked about their film influences. Woo was recognized as a top directing talent before his move to the West, and is the one name people consistently mention when talking about the Hong Kong crime/action film genre. This fi…
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    Yojimbo

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 26th, 2005

    Synopsis

    After making such internationally renowned samurai period films such as Rashomon and The Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa did make another film Yojimbo, with a decidedly different tone, bordering on dark comedy. The opening shot is of Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune, Throne of Blood), a samurai without a master, who looks at a mountain, and suddenly scratches his head, as if his hair is on too tight. It’s almost the breaking down of a facade, helping to show you that the film will …
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