The Year In Home Video. 2015 Edition.
Our annual round-up of the year in home video is one of my favourite articles to put together. Enjoy, and head over to our Twitter feed to debate the outcome.
Masters Of Cinema Westerns. I wanted to kick this off with a quick note about Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns, Anthony Mann’s Man Of The West, George Stevens’ Shane and André De Toth’s Day Of The Outlaw, which together formed an awe-inspiring tetraptych from Eureka this year. Forty Guns was particularly revelatory; no one does Sam Fuller justice quite like Masters Of Cinema.
An extensive piece on Forty Guns can be found here.
Criterion. It’s been a great year in general for Criterion. Mulholland Dr. and The Brood were finally released, following years of speculation. French cinema was well-served too, with The Soft Skin elevated from minor Truffaut in some cinephile circles to canonical essential, while Jean Renoir’s Partie de campagne and The River and the Costa-Gavras one-two of The Confession and State Of Siege impressed too. The flagship release for the distributor this year was their Apu Trilogy box-set, which is an extraordinary feat in restoration. In Robert Montgomery’s Ride The Pink Horse we had the year’s best blind-buy, proving to the naysayers that Criterion are as vital and important as ever when it comes to placing the spotlight on forgotten movies.
Alain Resnais. Alain Resnais’ remarkable career was bookended by two films that couldn’t be more diverse in the shape of Hiroshima mon amour and The Life Of Riley, both of which reached Blu-ray this year (the former from Criterion, the latter Masters Of Cinema). Both are excellent movies, with the earlier picture elevated into essential territory thanks to an impressive roster of supplementary features. It stands as one of Criterion’s very best releases and was very nearly our release of the year. Elsewhere Kino released Je t’aime je t’aime in a handsome edition, bringing the long-difficult-to-come-by movie the disc it deserves, while Cohen put out a double-bill of Life Is A Bed Of Roses and Love Unto Death.
Body Double. Brian De Palma is very well served on Blu-ray here in the UK, thanks largely to Arrow Video’s excellent line of De Palma releases. Alas, Body Double, like Carrie, is a Sony-controlled title, which renders it unlikely for acquisition by a third party on these shores. While Twilight Time have released it in the US they’re not the easiest label to import from, but thankfully France’s Carlotta have given the film a very lavish (and English-friendly!) release. The film is derived from a new 4K transfer, which looks, and sounds, glorious. Extras are generous too. The disc comes housed in a copy of Susan Dworkin’s Double De Palma, which is in French.
The Masters Of Cinema. While we’ve singled out their Westerns above, Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema imprint had a great year in general. Things got off to a flying start with Raymond Bernard’s Wooden Crosses, which followed in the wake of Bernard’s Les Miserables from the same team (which, incidentally, we named our favourite disc of 2014), while a late in the year reissue of John Ford’s The Quiet Man saw them end on a high. While an American heavy year for Masters Of Cinema, the list of gems is near endless. Elia Kazan’s Wild River, Stanley Donan’s Two For The Road and Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17 are just a few of the highlights, while Elaine May’s A New Leaf saw a female auteur finally join the esteemed ranks of the MoC canon. Their 100th release, a multi-disc rendition of Shoah and its sequels, also serves as a great tribute to Eureka founder Ron Benson who sadly passed away this year, and for whom Claude Lanzmann’s opus was something of a passion project.
The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension. It’s been a tough year for Arrow Video, who have been plagued by release date delays. The biggest casualty of these numerous delays was their upcoming Jacques Rivette box-set, which was a shoe-in for release of the year prior to it being pushed back to 2016. Alas, their release of W. D. Richter’s The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension was wonderful.
Best Release Of The Year — Region B. Samuel Fuller’s Pickup On South Street. This world-premiere on-disc release of Pickup On South Street’s new 4K restoration is utterly glorious. The film being a peach is hardly news to anyone, but the manner in which it is presented is just flawless. While the Masters Of Cinema catalogue contains a great number of impressive Sam Fuller releases this is the unquestionable highlight, with a solid range of extras supporting Fuller’s best-known film. First up is an extensive video piece from Kent Jones on the film, in which Jones examines his own relationship with Fuller’s work in great detail, while an excerpt from a French Andre S. Labarthe documentary sees the director himself take the viewer through a number of sequences from Pickup On South Street. It’s difficult to name a figure more entertaining personality in cinema than Fuller, and his presence here is appreciated. As with the other MoC Fuller releases, film-appropriate excerpts from the director’s brilliant autobiography are included in the accompanying booklet.
A long-form piece on Pickup On South Street can be found here.
Best Release Of The Year — Region A. Jean-Luc Godard’s Every Man For Himself. Post-60s Godard is largely uncharted territory for Criterion, so it was a pleasant surprise to see this, his “second, first film” announced for release early this year. A solid restoration carries the picture, which ably recreates Godard’s impressive and very specific sound track too, but it’s in the supplements where this disc really shines. For years a Youtube rip of the director’s appearance on the Dick Cavett Show had been one of the great insights in to the filmmaker, and here it is in broadcast quality! Godard shot a “prototype” of Every Man For Himself entitled Scenario de “Sauve qui peut (la vie)”, and that too is included along side the feature. A 25 minute long video essay from Colin MacCabe and a short feature on Godard’s approach to his work are also present. Given the treatment here one can only hope that Passion is in the pipeline from Criterion too.