Two film classics by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger re-released in re-mastered Blu-Ray and DVD form, to the Criterion Collection this week: “The Red Shoes” and “Black Narcissus.” At a recent screening of the film he organized at New York’s DGA Theater, Martin Scorsese said of “The Red Shoes,” “This film is music. It’s cinema as music. I don’t mean a musical—musical is a genre that I love. [But] this is a film that I love. Every aspect of it [the design, the color], the way the film’s edited, the movement within the frame and the movement of the frame, the dialogue, the milieu.” The film shows a hard-working dancer decide between her craft and the young composer/conductor who produced the ballet that made her famous.
Says The Boston Globe‘s Ty Burr, “Of the two Michael Powell classics being released by Criterion this Tuesday in remastered versions for DVD and Blu-Ray, ‘The Red Shoes’ is surely the one most people will be talking about. And for good reason: The 1948 ballet melodrama — the best known and arguably the best of Powell’s intense Technicolor dreamscapes — arrives in a two-disc set that surrounds a jaw-dropping restored print from the UCLA Film and TV Archive with generous extras…” He continues on “Black Narcissus”: “The winner of the 1947 Oscar for best color cinematography, it is, in this writer’s opinion, the most beautiful Technicolor movie ever made. More than that, ‘Narcissus’’ is a stunning emotional masterpiece about faith, lust, madness, and humility.” The film is a look at a group of Anglican nuns who head to the Himalayas on a colonializing mission, only to find passions and desires they have been surpressing bubble up.
Three new DVD releases got fairly high marks from our criticWIRE critics: Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar’s A Town Called Panic (criticWIRE rating: B+), Bong Joon-ho’s Mother (B+), and Kimberly Reed’s Prodigal Sons (B+). Writing on the Belgian “A Town Called Panic,” a film told through stop-motion animation of common childhood toys (cowboy, indian, toy soldiers), critic Robert Horton says, “It’s like watching a video made by incredibly talented kids who haven’t been taught that there are certain things you can’t get away with. So they get away with everything.”
“Mother,” which is released alone and as a Bong Joon-ho box set, gets a glowing review from The AV Club‘s Noel Murray, who says, “The best murder mysteries start small and build outward, becoming less about the crime and more about the community where the crime took place, and the evolving psyches of the investigators. Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother starts with the fairly pathetic case of a mildly developmentally disabled adult accused of killing a promiscuous teenage girl from an uncaring family. Then the movie expands to take the measure of the small South Korean town where the murder took place, and of the woman who sifts through clues in order to learn the truth.” Reed’s incredibly personal, moving doc “Prodigal Sons” follows her home to Montana where she comes out to her high school companions as transgender and (more importantly) rebuilds her relationship with her adopted brother Marc. Writing on this site, Michael Koresky notes, “Before the film takes the first of its many subsequent twists and turns (of the outlandish type that would truly only work in nonfiction), it manages to make the most of its comparatively hushed opening moments. ”
The highly anticipated rock biopic “The Runaways” (criticWIRE rating: C+) got a less-than-stellar acceptance from our critics. Nick Schager writes on his blog: “A rebel yawn of a rock n’ roll biopic, ‘The Runaways’ focuses on the rise and fall of the titular ‘70s all-girl group and, specifically, the twin paths taken by leather-and-growl lead guitarist/songwriter Joan Jett and Fawcett-glamorous singer Cheri Currie. In the hands of writer/director Floria Sigismondi, said stories were marked only by clichés about broken homes, the primal sexuality of punk rock, and the dangerous allure of drugs and stardom.”
On broadcast, ’09 Sundance alum “El General” gets its POV debut tonight. The film tells generations of Mexican history primarily through the story of filmmaker Natalia Almada’s father, the former Mexican president Plutarco Elías Calles. Next Monday, July 26, HBO debuts the doc “Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County.” Also on DVD this week: the Oscar-nominated doc 2009 Tribeca Honorable Mention Award-winner “Entre Nos;” “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” from Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith (criticWIRE rating B+); Ben Addelman & Samir Mallal’s Sundance doc about filmmaking in Nigeria “Nollywood Babylon;” the SyFy Channel miniseries “Tin Man;” the PBS Frontline docs “College, Inc.” and “The Wounded Platoon;” Allan Holzman’s scifi “Forbidden World,” released through Roger Corman’s Cult Classics; the direct-to-DVD comic book adaptation “The Losers” (starring Zoe Saldana); and Kevin Smith’s latest “Cop Out.”
Bryce J. Renninger, an indieWIRE contributor in the New York office, is also the shorts programmer for Newfest and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Studies at Rutgers University. He can be reached via Twitter.