DVD Beaver has published their list of the year’s best DVD and Blu-Ray releases, culled from over 40 contributors, including Sean Axmaker, Adam Batty and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Here are the top ten Blu-Rays:
1. The Werner Herzog Collection (BFI)
2. The Complete Jacques Tati (Criterion) (tie)
2. Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection (Arrow Academy) (tie)
4. The Essential Jacques Demy (Criterion)
5. “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (Masters of Cinema)
6. “Out of the Past” (Warner Archive)
7. “Persona” (Criterion)
8. Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery
9. “La Dolce Vita” (Criterion)
10. “The Swimmer” (Grindhouse Releasing)
And here are the top ten DVDs:
1. “The Lusty Men” (The Warner Archive)
2. “Birds, Orphans and Fools” (Second Run) (tie)
2. Eclipse Series 41: Kinoshita and World War II (Criterion Eclipse) (tie)
2. “A Jester’s Tale” (Second Run) (tie)
5. Eclipse Series 40: Late Ray (Criterion Eclipse)
6. “Show Boat” (The Warner Archive)
7. “Celluloid Man” (Second Run) (tie)
7. Coffret Jean Epstien (Potempkine) (tie)
7. “Man of Marble” (Second Run) (tie)
7. “Out of the Unknown” (BFI) (tie)
Other Blu-Ray highlights include the Director’s Cut of “Nightbreed,” the extended edition of Sergio Leone’s late masterwork “Once Upon a Time in America,” and Criterion’s release of Todd Haynes’ “Safe.” The Werner Herzog Collection won the Blu-Ray vote with a whopping 693 points in the vote. (the Tati and Borowczyk collections were way behind at second with 448).
Still, DVD Beaver’s list might be most valuable for drawing its attention to filmmakers and collections that cinephiles might not know as much about (Criterion doesn’t exactly need much help). Here’s what they had to say about the Borowczyk box set:
This groundbreaking collection brings together Walerian Borowczyk’s key films from a twenty-five-year period stretching from 1959 through to 1984. This unique release includes five of Borowczyk’s provocative feature films: “Theatre de M et Mme Kabal,” “Goto, l ile d amour,” “Blanche,” “Contes Immoraux” and “La Bete” as well as his groundbreaking short films from this period. Not only are many of these films available on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time, but also in new digital high definition restorations approved by the director’s widow, Ligia Branice. In addition to exclusive documentaries featuring cast and crew, an hour long portrait of Borowczyk is to be included, featuring the director s musings on painting, animation and sex. Accompanying this seminal release is a book edited by Borowczyk experts Daniel Bird and Michael Brooke featuring newly commissioned essays on Borowczyk s films and art, as well as an account of the meticulous restoration process involved.
Similarly, kudos to DVD Beaver’s selection of Czech director Juraj Jakubisko’s gem “Birds, Orphans & Fools” in the DVD picks. The tale of two men and a Jewish orphan woman in Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion of 1968, the film features one absurd, impressionistic moment after another, making it a delightfully off-kilter experience. The film has been hard to find for years, too, so any more attention shined on it is only a plus.
Jakubisko’s long-repressed feature focuses on the the three-way relationship that develops between two male friends and a female Jewish orphan as they travail a world ravaged by death and destruction, a war-torn landscape of bombed-out churches and wrecked homes occupied, it seems, only by themselves and birds. Their triangular relationship recalls Truffaut’s “Jules et Jim,” but Jakubisko’s heroes have no romantic ideals – they are all orphans, products of an absurd world in which their parents killed each. With references from Shakespeare to Rabelais, key episodes in Slovak history, and recalling the anarchic air of Vera Chytilová’s “DAISIES,” Jakubisko’s exhilarating, experimental film is turn playful, surreal and increasingly nightmarish.
Finally, here’s their take on the Jean Epstein box set:
Jean Epstein died there at age 60 in April 1953. Poet, filmmaker, philosopher, he leaves considerable work that has, perhaps, never generated as much excitement, yet it remains largely unknown, perhaps because of the diversity of his work disconcerting, unclassifiable, very modern, inexhaustible source of inspiration for many filmmakers who followed him…He was in turn author vanguard, art house films, the “blockbusters” or documented maritime fictions. This DVD set includes 14 films, most of which have been preserved and restored by the French Cinémathèque.