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July 27, 2011

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The Siren

"He [Jean-Pierre Melville] begged us to turn our backs on what he considered to be misguided works like Johnny Guitar and to look instead to the American classics for inspiration. Biased as he was, he contended that only two--at that time, disdained--directors counted for anything at all; William Wyler and Robert Wise." --Volker Schlondorff

Dear Glenn, if loving The Big Country more than The Fall of the Roman Empire is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

The Siren

By the by, as I should have added: This is splendid work and a real service to your devoted readers.

Fernando

I love every word of these Consumer Guides and I don't even own a Blu-Ray player. Nothing I read today will give me as much pleasure as this did. Now I just have to see The Long Riders, The Makioka Sisters, Black Moon, The Fall of The Roman Empire, etc etc.

Griff

Glenn, how's the sound on that BIG COUNTRY disc?

Tom Russell

I remember ALICE! I saw it with a bunch of friends who were playing an ill-advised "Said the White Rabbit" Drinking Game.

Pete Apruzzese

Glenn - great job, as usual.

Griff - the sound is mono on The Big Country (conflicting info as to whether or not the theatrical release had stereo prints), but sounds very full in lossless DTS_MA.

Bilge

RE: The Big Country. Dear God how I love this film. I once had the chance to hang out a bit with Wyler's daughter at a film festival, and we got to talking about them danged auteurists. I was surprised to learn that Wyler really was saddened by the fact that a lot of serious (or "serious") critics didn't care for much of his work, in particular this one. So there: You made William Wyler cry, auteurists!

Also, re: LOTR. I actually did just watch the entire film series (though not the extras, which I think are just the extras from the original DVDs and have not been updated for Blu-Ray), and I must say, it was eye-opening -- seeing them together, you begin to notice some surprising stylistic echoes and reflections among the films.

Glenn Kenny

Thanks Pete. Yeah, Griff, one of my shortcomings as a Blu-ray assessor is that unless there's something WRONG with the sound, I tend to be pretty complacent about it, but I'll just commend Pete's comment; it's a lossless mono track and it sounded just fine to my ears, clear and well-modulated across the board.

Mr. Mister

Insignificance is by far my favorite Jim O'Rourke album!

The Siren

Bilge, the next time you see Ms Wyler, do remind her about Melville. :) Meanwhile I will take the liberty of adding your name to my secret "Wyler Is TOO an Auteur" clubhouse membership list.

Glenn, I'm really glad that the sound on The Big Country is good, because Jerome Moross' score is so glorious it's practically another character.

Also very glad you share The Long Riders love. One of my favorite modern Westerns.

warren oates

I third Bilge and the Siren re: THE BIG COUNTRY. An excellent and hugely underrated Western I first caught on HD cable earlier this year. So much great stuff, not just the widescreen visuals. I love the bit about country hats vs. city hats from the beginning. The horse-breaking stuff. And the Oedipal drama with antagonist ranchers to rival THE MAN FROM LARAMIE's.

You've made me want to see THE LONG RIDERS again too.

ZAZIE I couldn't take for more than about 15-20 minutes. It seemed insufferably hyperactive and cutesy to me. Nothing like what I imagined the writer of EXERCISES IN STYLE might produce as a film scenario. Nor really like any of Malle's other films. I wish Bunuel had directed this instead. The hideous Criterion cover at least accurately reflects the experience of watching it.

warren oates

Technical question about INLAND EMPIRE on Blu-ray from Glenn and anyone else who knows: What's the upside to releasing this standard-def shot video in 1080p? Has the image been transferred to film first and then back? If not, can you really detect a difference in the image-quality between this and the regular DVD?

Lex

Yeah, thing about LONG RIDERS is it always looked out of place, visually, from the surrounding Walter Hill movies. Or maybe it's just from seeing it mostly on old TV prints and over-bright VHS, but always thought it had some sunny, unfiltered, generic CBS TV movie visual style, as opposed to the bluesy bourbon-soaked grain and reds look of The Driver and 48 Hrs and Streets of Fire. Though I guess maybe Southern Comfort has a little of that over-bright unfiltered thing, too.

Wild at Heart has always looked pretty bad in every format.

jbryant

I'm guessing there was more going on with Richard Boone's nose than a sunburn. Still, he was one the most awesome dudes to ever stand in front of a camera. RIO CONCHOS needs a vid release, stat.

After seeing HICKEY & BOGGS again a few months back, I'm also wishing Robert Culp had been way more prominent as a director. Seems a real loss to me that he never helmed another feature.

Account Deleted

THE BIG COUNTRY is a must. No need to dismiss it because it is a populist western. They certainly don't make 'em like that anymore! Just listening to the score cracks a smile on my face.

LORD OF THE RINGS... these are not aging well I have to say. There were plenty of problems with them at the time, and these problems only seem to be growing with age. I think the problem was shooting all three at the same time, resulting in a certain 'flatness' in a lot of the dialogue scenes. It didn't help that in order to meet deadlines Jackson was farming out scenes to his wife and sundry others to direct 2nd unit... I think the janitor even ended up shooting some of it (presumably Viggo's coronation scene in 'King' - something that comes across as a moment from a particularly bad episode of Star Trek The Next Generation). Lots of cool shots and great music but not the all-time classics many claim them to be.

Robert Cashill

RIO CONCHOS is now on DVD, on a Shout! Factory double bill with TAKE A HARD RIDE. A nice package.

Wyler didn't much care for THE BIG COUNTRY at the time (difficult shoot) but it holds up well on Blu-ray. A shame the extras from the laserdisc couldn't be ported over.

MarkVH

Shh, don't anybody tell Dave Kehr about this thread. All the Wyler love might make his head explode like Jeff Wells' at a So-Cal Taco Bell.

Robert Cashill

Oh, and HICKEY & BOGGS will be available as part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection (MOD discs) on August 23.

Glenn Kenny

That's funny, MarkVH. But by the same token, I don't want anyone to take my observations re Wyler as some kind of anti-Willie referendum. I think he was a great filmmaker, and I think "The Big Country" is a better than solid if not transcendentally great picture, and it, like all of the other Wylers I have on DVD, has a place on my "Auteurs" disc shelves.

James Keepnews

+1 on name/ass-checking the marvelous Pamela Reed, who has by far the best performance in the superb LONG RIDERS. One of a generation of great character actresses we should'a seen in many more significant roles, and I suspect in another era we might'a. A short list: Reed, Diane Venora, Lisa Eichhorn, Veronica Cartwright, Brooke Adams, &c., &c...

Sure would also welcome more significant roles, as it were, for Mr. Hill. Homes hasn't exactly flexed much since WILD BILL, by my reckoning, but he flexed mightily there and in the underrated GERONIMO.

MarkVH

Not at all, Glenn - never meant to imply that you're in the Wyler-hating camp, just that in my reading of Kehr I've never found him to pass up a chance at a disparaging word against the man's work, so reading all the praise in this thread might get him a bit riled.

And I'm totally with you on Wyler-as-great-filmmaker, as a quick survey of his filmography reveals an incredible run of great-to-near-great studio films (Best Years of Our Lives remains one of my favoritest ever), always immaculately produced and beautifully performed. I much prefer his work to someone like Capra's, which might earn me some derision with this crowd (not that we need to compare, but still). Hell, I even like Wuthering Heights. A lot.

michaelgsmith

What a pleasure to read another blu-ray consumer guide. I'm glad to see Don't Look Back and People On Sunday getting such high marks (already two of my all-time favorite discs) and thanks for the reminder that I need to pick up Lord of the Rings, Inland Empire and You Only Live Once.

Glenn, if you haven't picked up Masters of Cinema's Coeur Fidele yet, I urge you to do so in the strongest possible terms. Everything about that disc (the movie itself, the image quality, the painstaking care it took to get the transfer to run at the correct speed, the solo piano score) blew me away.

jbryant

Wow, I write it and Robert Cashill makes it so! Can I get a Criterion Blu-Ray of RUGGLES OF RED GAP? :) Thanks for the RIO CONCHOS/HICKEY & BOGGS news. I know the latter got a previous release, but it was apparently quite bad.

MarkVH: You must be seeing the "wrong" Capra films.

Wyler's a mixed bag, but made a lot of good movies. Now that I have a TV that might it do it some justice, I'll have to check out that BIG COUNTRY Blu.

MarkVH

jbryant, I'll admit my exposure to Capra has been somewhat limited relative to other golden-agers, but I've seen a good number of what are traditionally considered the "right" Capra films. I have great fondness for It Happened One Night, Platinum Blonde, etc. (I'll cop to never having seen You Can't Take it With You), but as a whole his stuff hasn't gotten me that excited (I do love me some Bitter Tea of General Yen, though). Nothing against him, mind you, and I adore some of the actors he worked with consistently (Jean Arthur, Barbra Stanwyck). Just prefer a lot of other canon guys, and never understood why Wyler often gets a bum rap while Capra is heralded as a master.

jbryant

MarkVH: Without getting into a whole defense of Capra "thing," I'll just say that I suspect he generally gets more auteurist respect than Wyler because his films show more of a thematic consistency. Wyler worked in many more genres, and I don't think he generated his own material (been too long since I read that Wyler bio to be sure). Not saying this is right or fair, just supposin'. Hawks worked in a lot of genres, too, but you always seemed to get his world view. Maybe not so much with Wyler?

I'll also add that I think a lot of folks who are left cold by Capra's most famous "post-Code" films find a lot to like in the earlier work. Your fondness for General Yen, Platinum Blonde and It Happened One Night suggest you might enjoy Forbidden, Dirigible, American Madness, The Miracle Woman and Ladies of Leisure, among others, if you can find them (none of them are as Sterbergian as Bitter Tea though).

david hare

Glenn thanx again for your column. A couple of niggling reservations about the otherwise sublime Italian disc of You Only Live Once/Sono Innoncente. Somehow, the person doing the encode has produced a slight squeeze on the image, so if you watch it up against the previous PAL DVDs taken from the same restored print everything is reproduced pinched, with an AR of around 1.31 instead of 1.33. And - again - someone goofed off during the encode and has allowed about a dozen lines of Italian translation to get through as hard coded while playing the disc back with "No Subs" setting. The majority of the translated lines are of radio broadcasts, songs or newspaper headlines so they are more or less diegetic non dialogue, but it looks like somone in the encode suite ballsed up and ticked too many lines to remain in Italian translation for the non subbed encode. (Clear as mud?)

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