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Sight unseen Criterions, any input?


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#1 of 30 OFFLINE   Matt Pelham

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Posted July 07 2002 - 02:00 AM

Since hunting down older/obscure/foreign movies tends to be a pain, I find my self just purchasing them and later selling them if I don't care for the movie. Due to Criterions high resell value I can usually sell a title opened for close to what I paid for it new!

So far I have had really good luck. I have purchased (sight-unseen):

Notorious
Third man
Spartacus
Seven Samurai
Do the Right Thing
My Man Godfrey

and have been very pleased with all of them. The only one I have sold is Dead Ringers (not so much because I didn't like it, but I feel it has poor rewatch value, at least with me)

Now on my "to buy" list I have:

Sullivan's Travels
Grand Illusion
Diabolique
Brazil
Charade
Rebecca and
Rashomon

and on my "to think about and do a little more research" list I have:

Red Shoes
Children of Paradise
lots more Kurasawa
Wages of Death
Passion of Joan of Ark (I've never watched a feature length silent movie, think I might start with this one).

I'm not so much looking for suggestions of additional titles, but ideas on the movies I have listed. I do like movies that make profound statements about various things and make you think, but not at the cost of entertainment. I prefer engrossing, well-acted and paced entertaining movies (notice I didn't say fast-paced) with good rewatchability. (That's why I'm concerned with Red Shoes and Children...)

#2 of 30 OFFLINE   Jim_K

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Posted July 07 2002 - 05:36 AM

Quote:
Now on my "to buy" list I have:

Sullivan's Travels
Grand Illusion
Diabolique
Brazil
Charade
Rebecca and
Rashomon

These are all safe bets here. Though you might have a hard time finding Charade because it's OOP.

If you end up liking Sullivan's Travels then check out the other Sturges comedy masterpiece The Lady Eve.

Quote:
and on my "to think about and do a little more research" list I have:

Red Shoes
Children of Paradise
lots more Kurasawa
Wages of Death
Passion of Joan of Ark (I've never watched a feature length silent movie, think I might start with this one).


In all honesty since you have no qualms about reselling unwanted titles & it seems you're starting the experimental film buff stage I'd just try them all. They are all must see films for any serious film buffs (whether you end up liking them or not doesn't matter if you can resell them).

Red Shoes or Black Narcissus would be good start to get a taste of the great directorial team of Powell/Pressburger. Both feature stunning Cinematography by the great Jack Cardiff.

"lots more Kurosawa" - Definitely Posted Image Since Rashomon is on your must buy list I'd also recommend Yojimbo which was Kurosawa's more pulpier samurai masterpiece. Sanjuro is the sequel to Yojimbo. The Hidden Fortress is a marvelous adventure film - not as deep as Seven Samurai though. High and Low is a great Noir film by Kurosawa.

"Wages of Death" - If you mean Wages of Fear then yes its a must-see pulse pounding adventure film.

Passion of Joan of Ark is a great silent film although I don't know how it would go over on a silent film newbie. It features one of the greatest acting performances of all time.

Children of Paradise If you're not intimidated by a 3+ hour long Art film give it a shot. Posted Image If you have any hatred of Mimes then give it a pass though. Posted Image
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#3 of 30 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted July 07 2002 - 06:04 AM

Kinda looks like we're talking about The Criterion Collection's offerings as much as we are the films themselves. Ergo, we're moving this over to "Software."

#4 of 30 OFFLINE   Bill Harris

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Posted July 07 2002 - 06:08 AM

Rififi...the best heist movie ever made

#5 of 30 OFFLINE   DanaA

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Posted July 07 2002 - 06:13 AM

imo, Red Shoes is a great, great criterion to own.

With regards to The Passion of Joan of Arc, I'm sharing a lot of films with my eldest 15 year old daughter. When she was 14, I showed her her first two three silent films, The Passion of Joan of Arc, City Lights, and The General. She loved and still loves The Passion of Joan of Arc. Although she's seen tons of films, it is one of her all time favorites. The commentary is excellent.

One of my favorites is Sullivan's Travels. Why can't I find a woman like Veronica Lake in my life? As Jim K said, if you like this, you might like to try out The Lady Eve also.

As for Diabolique, somehow I was a little disappointed. This has nothing to do with Criterion, but the fact that the kind of ironic twists in the movie have been copied so many times that they now seem worn to me. That could just be me. I enjoyed it, but not as much as some others. I wish I had been around at its first screenings. Maybe I knew too much about it before viewing it the first time.

#6 of 30 OFFLINE   Dome Vongvises

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Posted July 07 2002 - 06:26 AM

Kurosawa is the safest bet as far as buying sight unseen. Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and The Hidden Fortress are three DVD's I've bought sight-unseen, and they now number as some of my favorite films.

Rebecca is a damn good bet to take. It's excellent.

Brazil? That one's iffy. I can honestly say the extras are some of the best, but the film's so-so for me. Rent the movie. If you like it, buy the set. Even I got my money's worth.

Get Charade ASAP. It's a funny little spy thriller a la Hitchock/romantic comedy. Of course, this is coming from a guy who loves Dude, Where's My Car?, a movie in a totally different bracket.

Can't say anything else about the other movies.

#7 of 30 OFFLINE   Roderick Gauci

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Posted July 07 2002 - 09:49 AM

All the titles you have listed are excellent choices, either as films per se or as DVDs, and in some cases both.

GRAND ILLUSION (1937) is a masterful anti-war film (perhaps the best ever made along with Lewis Milestone's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT [1930] and Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY [1957]) with a couple of brilliant performances by Pierre Fresnay and Erich von Stroheim. In director Jean Renoir's canon, it is second only to LA REGLE DU JEU (1939), which hopefully will be released by Criterion in the near future.

Criterion have done well by Hitchcock and REBECCA (1940) is certainly a shining example, a truly splendid 2-Disc set for what amounts to an atypical but totally successful melodrama from the Master of Suspense. I have yet to watch my recently acquired THE 39 STEPS (1935) and NOTORIOUS (1946) DVDs, and I am looking forward to Criterion's upcoming release of SPELLBOUND (1945). Also, I hope they manage to put out a Special Edition of one of my favorite Hitchcocks, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940).

SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941) is one of Hollywood's finest comedies by one of the top talents of the period, Preston Sturges. As with all of his films, it is like nothing you have ever seen. Highly recommended, as is THE LADY EVE (1941).

Kurosawa, also, is well represented in the Criterion Collection. RASHOMON (1950) is one of his most challenging and fascinating works. The film, which has been much imitated along the years, really put both the director and Japanese cinema as a whole on the map.

I have recently bought CHARADE (1963), a fair imitation of Hitchcock (with Cary Grant, no less), primarily because it was OOP as well as for the Stanley Donen/Peter Stone commentary - and even though a loaded Region 2 edition is available at half its price!! I have yet to go through the disc myself, so I hope I have made the right choice! It was followed by the equally entertaining ARABESQUE (1966), starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, which is not yet available on DVD.

As some one else has said already, BRAZIL (1985) is something of an acquired taste, but Criterion's 3-Disc set could hardly fail to be impressive, not to say exhaustive, so I am looking forward to acquiring a copy of it myself!

THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928) is simply one of the greatest films ever made, and if you are unfamiliar with silent cinema, you are missing out on a lot of amazing stuff. This particular film is not an easy-going experience but you will certainly not regret it. Incidentally, apart from Criterion's Carl Dreyer box set, I would absolutely recommend a similar medieval/spiritual title in the collection, Benjamin Christensen's HAXAN (1922). I have only watched it recently for the first time and its indelible (and often repulsive images) still haunt me to this day!

Both CHILDREN OF PARADISE (1945) and THE RED SHOES (1948) concern the performing arts (theatre and ballet respectively) and both are highly stylized films, but immensely enjoyable with rich production values and superb performances all around. I also recommend the other Michael Powell titles in the collection: I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (1945), BLACK NARCISSUS (1946) and PEEPING TOM (1959).

H.G. Cluzot was considered the French Hitchcock and his finest two achievements are in fact WAGES OF FEAR (1953) and DIABOLIQUE (1954). Unfortunately, the Criterion discs are bare-bones but both are suspense films of the highest order.

So, in a nutshell, you ought to buy all of the titles you mentioned. However, to make your choice slightly easier, I have decided to list the films in order of preference:

1.The Passion of Joan of Arc
2.Rebecca
3.Sullivan's Travels
4.Children of Paradise
5.The Red Shoes
6.Rashomon
7.Grand Illusion
8.Wages of Fear
9.Diabolique
10.Charade
11.Brazil

#8 of 30 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted July 07 2002 - 09:56 AM

Passion of Joan of Ark is a great silent film although I don't know how it would go over on a silent film newbie.
------------------------------------------------------------

I don't watch much in the way of silent cinema, so I guess I could be called a newbie. I had read quite a bit about this film around here. I rented it out of curiousity. Considering my regular taste in movies this one should have had a couple of things going against it:

1) it was silent
2) it is a "trial" movie (Ie: mostly "talking" heads)

I was pretty surprised to find it was very watchable. This was due to several things.

1) The director cast this film well. The actors playing the church "trial" judges with thier physical appearances and emoting skills really brought out the odious quality of the whole affair. The actor who played Joan of Arc did a stellar job of displaying the various emotional states that the real Joan must have gone through.

2) It was interesting how the cinematography reinforced the grotesque qualities and corruption of the "judges".

3) The background music, a new symphonic score inspired by the film, was fantastic. I wouldn't mind being able to get the music alone.

The film is definitely worth checking out.
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#9 of 30 OFFLINE   Jason_Els

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Posted July 07 2002 - 10:18 AM

With Brazil, you have to be careful if you rent first. The Universal version is awful and was butchered by the studio to make it more palatable to pedestrian tastes. Gilliam's longer, darker, version is miles different and much better imho. Part of the glory of the box set is that it documents both versions plus an entire DVD devoted to the whole nightmare Gilliam and Universal went through to get the film out. Criterion's Brazil is very impressive and even though the transfer isn't anamorphic it is excellent.

I'm something of a Passion of Joan of Arc freak. I have a terrible time watching it because I get so emotionally drained but I do believe very firmly it is one of the greatest films ever made. The acting IS outstanding from every cast member but Falconetti's performance is, likely, the finest ever captured on film by any actress. There are no words adequate to describe it. Passion is mystical in execution and as an expressionist piece it succeeds completely. The oratorio composed and performed by the Anonymous Four fits perfectly. I think Dreyer would have liked it though the film originally had no sound or music track at all. The survival of Passion is a miracle in itself, being one of the capital "G" Great films thought lost to history. Finding Passion was like finding a complete original-cut negative of Greed. It would be a shame not to avail yourself of its return to the world.

What this film does to people I have never seen before. Check the reviews on Amazon, they're like nothing you'll ever read. People may love Star Wars, but Passion breaks, uplifts, terrorizes, fascinates, and haunts people all at the same time.
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#10 of 30 OFFLINE   Mark_vdH

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Posted July 07 2002 - 10:56 AM

One more vote for The Passion Of Joan Of Arc. A brilliant movie, after I saw it I ordered the Dreyer set sight unseen. The already mentioned Häxan also a great (though weird) silent movie, and the extra's are maybe even better than The Passion's. The commentaries on these discs are from the same person, BTW, Casper Tyberg.

From your list I would also recommend, in the following order, The Grand Illusion, lots more Kurosawa* and Rebecca.

Have you already tried Bergman's The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries? Also brilliant classics, and great dvd editions.

*Beware of the already mentioned Yojimbo and Sanjuro!
If you own a widescreen tv, these titles can not be seen correctly. The subtitles are superimposed too low on the non-anamorphic image, so you can't use the ZOOM-mode. The image is also - slightly - incorrectly framed at 2.20:1.
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#11 of 30 OFFLINE   Bruce Hedtke

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Posted July 07 2002 - 11:09 AM

Quote:
Passion of Joan of Ark (I've never watched a feature length silent movie, think I might start with this one).


It can be intimidating, but well worth the effort. Simply one of the most powerful and emotional films, ever. I've watched it totally silent and with the Richard Einhorn Voices of Light score and I prefer it with the score. The music was perfectly arranged to the film and never detracts from what you are seeing on the screen. It also doesn't fall trap to providing emotional cues or the like, it just provides a powerful background symphony. Can't recommend this enough.


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#12 of 30 OFFLINE   Mark_vdH

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Posted July 07 2002 - 11:25 AM

Quote:
I've watched it totally silent and with the Richard Einhorn Voices of Light score and I prefer it with the score
Apparently, Dreyer prefered it to be watched without any score.
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#13 of 30 OFFLINE   Rob Lutter

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Posted July 07 2002 - 11:48 AM

Brazil: Criterion Collection ranks up there with the best DVDs ever made... it features commentary from Terry Gilliam, 1 30-minute and another hour-long doc, and another disc with the butchered "Love Conquers All" version of Brazil (AKA the studio cut).

Brazil is one of my favorite movies of all time (definately in the top 5) but I could see how some people may dislike it. Definately rent it first (the barebones Universal disc is also the Director's Cut) and if ya like it... get it! Posted Image

I can't really comment on those other films, except that I found The Seven Samurai to be... uh, boring (it is 3.5 hours long) Posted Image

#14 of 30 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted July 07 2002 - 11:54 AM

I got Notorious and 8 1/2 without seeing them (I did see a little bit of 8 1/2 on TCM, but not enough to really have a good idea of the film).

Both have excellent a/v transfers and plenty of thoughtful supplements. Criterion really lives up to their name and their titles are worth every penny!

#15 of 30 OFFLINE   Douglas Bailey

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Posted July 07 2002 - 02:22 PM

Matt,

If you're looking for entertaining profundity in a Criterion release, I'll suggest Le Trou (and hopefully beat Jon Robertson to the punch, for once!).

It's a wonderful, utterly engrossing film, and one I would probably never have discovered if it weren't for Criterion bringing it to my attention.

doug
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#16 of 30 OFFLINE   Jason_Els

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Posted July 07 2002 - 02:31 PM

If you like Lord of the Rings then you'll like Seven Samurai. SS is the first "group-with-a-purpose" film and I find it riveting. I think being lengthy is a positive thing because you have time to get to know each character and you come to care for them. What grabs me about SS is the story of hope-against-hope. I also love the running camera moves that Kurosawa is famous for. He captures the movement of the samurai with a balletic reverence. He makes their moves beautiful.
For beauty is only a step removed from a burning terror we barely sustain, and we worship it for the graceful sublimity with which it disdains to consume us. - Rainer Maria Rilke

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#17 of 30 OFFLINE   Matt Pelham

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Posted July 07 2002 - 04:46 PM

Thanks everyone for your responses so far, they have helped a lot.

It's a wonderful, utterly engrossing film, and one I would probably never have discovered if it weren't for Criterion bringing it to my attention.


I agree, if it weren't for criterion I would have missed out on some truly great films. I'm going to try and do around 2 movies a month, if I can afford it. Thanks again everyone and keep 'em coming. I'm also now accepting additional recommendations Posted Image

#18 of 30 OFFLINE   Dome Vongvises

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Posted July 07 2002 - 05:27 PM

I'm sorry, but there are actually true silent films? Call me uneducated, but how can anybody watch Passion of Joan of Arc without "Voices of Light", let alone without any musical score? Sounds (no pun intended) rather dreadful to me to watch a silent film silent. I hated Charlie Chaplin's Gold Rush primarily for that reason.

#19 of 30 OFFLINE   Jon Robertson

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Posted July 07 2002 - 11:58 PM

Matt - you simply must get Le Tr...

Bugger. Posted Image

*Cough!*

#20 of 30 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted July 08 2002 - 04:48 AM

What fun! The films you wish to acquire would be on most lists.

As for comments on films that are on your list:

“Sullivan’s Travels”: Pretty much what everyone else said. Also get “The Lady Eve”. In the non-Criterion list you might add “Palm Beach Story”, which many consider Sturges’ best. However, of all of Sturges’ output, Sullivan has the most social commentary. “With a little sex thrown in…”

“Grand Illusion”, more than any film on your list, meets the “profound statement” test. Some critics make the observation that there is no such thing as an anti-war movie. That they all, in the end, glorify war. Grand Illusion, imo, never glorifies war—it does comment very importantly on the human condition. This DVD has a very good commentary track as well.

“Brazil”: again, I can only echo most other comments. This is a great DVD of a controversial movie. One that I thoroughly enjoy, though I think that Gilliam wound up with a bit of an uneven effort. Still, the opening tracking shot is worth the price of admission.

“Charade” is fun, but really has nothing to say from the “profound statement” perspective. Not in Hitch’s league if viewed as a “suspense, with humor” film nor in Sturges’ if this is considered a “screwball” flick. While this is OOP, it is still pretty generally available standard prices. For example I’ve seen several copies in “Best Buy”. Non-Criterion versions have a pretty bad rep, though I have not seen any, personally.

“Rebecca”: not at the top of my list of his films, but a very good treatment by Criterion. You might also consider “Notorious”, which has a very good commentary as well. Criterion has editions of some of his British films, all of which are worthy of consideration.

“Rashomon” would, for me, be at the bottom on my AK list. Even so, I immediately purchased this DVD and thoroughly enjoy the film. It’s just that I think so much more of his output is superior.

“The Red Shoes”: imo you don’t have to consider whether to buy this or not. Just how fast. The only reason not to love this, is if you find dance boring. And even if you think you do, I’d watch anyway. After that pretty much anything by P&P. You ought to give “Peeping Tom” a chance as well. It is the film that pretty much-finished Powell’s career, but I think that time allows for a more measured view. “Peeping Tom” is not for the squeamish. At all. It is uncomfortable from beginning to end. But a great film by a great director.

“Wages of Death”: I also think that you don’t have to consider not buying this movie. Great film, filled with great performances and will have you on the edge of your seat for the last half. And this, btw, is absolutely filled with social commentary. It could probably not be made in the States today (nor then, either).

Finally everyone has already commented effectively on Joan of Arc. You should also get Criterion’s Dryer set. It is stunning.

If you are not put off by deliberate pace, you might add “L’Avventura” to your list. This is filled with “social viewpoints”. The presentation takes a bit of getting used to, but it is well worth the effort.


Cheers,

Lew
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