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December 06, 2011

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Bilge

I always assumed that MARGARET *would* get a home video release. Was that ever in doubt? (If it was, then the whole campaign just gained even greater urgency in my eyes.)

James Keepnews

Were I not a.) dealing with a crisis or three upriver a piece, b.) unemployed and, c.) pace Miles Davis, broker than a broke-dick dog, I so would've been at one screening last week (at least!). There are few films I've wanted to see more than BRIGHTER. Possibly OUT 1 (thus demonstrating my vegetative bonafides). But just going by YI YI alone, I feel confident enough to say that Yang was -- IS -- one of the great directors. Is there any discussion around the restored print getting the Region 1 DVD treatment?

And +1,000,000,000 in re: advocacy criticism -- how many countless passions of others' became my own because of it? Or, and just an intriguingly and revealingly, not?

Bilge

It's also worth pointing out that ARMY OF SHADOWS was actually named Best Foreign Film of 2006 by the New York Film Critics Circle, so you weren't the only one who felt that this type of advocacy was warranted at the time.

Oliver_C

'Yi Yi' is a full-on, 3-hour masterpiece worthy of being mentioned alongside Ozu. It's one of the films I always cite -- along with 'Chungking Express' and 'Zodiac', say -- when people ask if modern cinema can ever match past glories.

Scott Nye

Whew, and here I was afraid this was going to end up looking down on using a best-of-the-year list as a venue for advocacy. I know there are a great many purists out there who disdain such practices, but I don't really know what the point is of making these lists otherwise.

Glenn Kenny

Yes, point taken, Bilge; the "Army of Shadows" boost was a moof its own, which elicited the dispprobation of Armond White, which in turn made the movie into one of his frequent seemingly arbitrary objects of derision. What a dick.

Adam K

I saw this on an import videodisc with burned-in subs at my university library several years ago. It still had a transfixing power even then, so I'd adore seeing a spruced-up release or, hope of hopes, a showing of the restoration here in the Midwest.

bill

This post has obscurely depressed me. Or not so obscurely, maybe, as that hoped-for Criterion release is pretty much the only chance I have to see A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY, and while this may not have been a review, Glenn, you've made me very desperate to check it out.

MW

I had been waiting to see this for years, ever since reading a brief but glowing critique about it from Jonathan Rosenbaum in 1999. For some foolish reason, I held out for the full-length version, and I didn't come across it until 2007 when I German friend of mine had a bootleg copy on VCD. Even then, I passed on the chance, and then a few years ago, after I moved to NY, I finally caught it at a one-off screening at Lincoln Center, which was screening the same restored print, and it was staggering. I managed to rope in four other people to see it with me, none of whom had heard of it but were willing to sacrifice their Sunday afternoons to check it out. Since then, BAM's screened it once, and I was happy to see it run again at Lincoln Center.

It's an incredible shame that it's not readily available ANYWHERE, moreso that Yang's other films (with the exception of "Yi-Yi") are even tougher to find. Just about everyone I know who isn't a cinephile complains about the quality of films today, and in each case, it's the same thing: they aren't aware of the better stuff that's out there, especially if it's from overseas. If they aren't in NYC, they have virtually no chance at seeing it in a theater, and even if they're lucky enough to get it on NetFlix or VOD they're not going to hear about it unless they're actively reading Film Comment, blogs, etc. on a regular basis.

MW

And FWIW, back when I was living in the Midwest, I wasn't even aware of "Army of Shadows" until it popped up on a few year-end polls, specifically IndieWire and L.A. Weekly's, which it topped, so advocacy of that sort IS appreciated.

skelly

Army of Shadows is a great film - but I guess my only quibble with it making top ten lists back in 06 was that it wasn't exactly an unreleased film - just not shown in the US. It's not akin to, for example, The Plot Against Harry being a "1989" film or Ivan the Terrible, Part II being a "1958" film. I'm sure there are plenty of great foreign films that played in one US city for one week that could use similar rediscovery but lack the same technicality. Like I said, just a quibble though.

Partisan

Well, while we wait for a decent version to appear on DVD, here's the google video version http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4930576570631580622 and http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4930576570631580622#docid=-6943825869846605588

Since this is the only version I've ever seen, I wouldn't really know how much better a restored version would be.

MW

Ugh. To be fair, it's better than not seeing it at all, but the google version looks pretty horrible. The restoration looked stunning and pristine, like it was shot last week on good 35 stock.

Criterion has been trying to do this, but they said they were having some licensing issues.

Bilge

I'm sure it'll eventually see the light of day in a decent-looking home video version, but for now, A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY can also be had on eBay. (I'd include a link, but just do a search and a couple will pop up.) Quality unknown, but I seem to recall a decent version on VHS floating around back in the day...


David Ehrenstein

If Armond White hates it then it's GOT to be good.

michaelgsmith

I was lucky to see a 35mm print of A Brighter Summer Day at Chicago's Film Center a decade ago. I was so taken with it that I bought the import VCD version (on four discs!), so I'm really glad to hear this restored print is making the rounds. I hope a blu-ray release is imminent.

For those complaining about the difficulty of finding Yang on home video, it's been curiously underreported that Sony released an excellent region-free blu-ray of The Terrorizers earlier this year.

Brandon

I bought A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY on VCD from an non-bootleg, Hong Kong vendor a few years back, but have yet to watch it (it is probably the source of the Google video). I checked a few of the major international retailers that used to have it and it is "out of stock" or not available at all. Now that I know about the restoration (and surely better English translation), I think I'll wait for the chance to see "one of the great films" in better quality. Hopefully it will be licensed by someone next year...

And as an aside to this conversation, I was part of a discussion today about the decline of "spinning media" and how the economic perception that this may be starting to go away in the near future will surely influence the dwindling availability of titles like this that are perceived as having 'less licensing appeal'. Activist criticism/Service journalism is really the only thing that can make a difference here, especially with films by someone who will unfortunately not be making any more in the future....

I have no doubt I will be able to see MARGARET eventually, simply due to the name actors involved. Though I want to be able to see Lonergan's uncompromised version. Hopefully that choice will be available, if the recent petition efforts succeed in getting it more mainstream exposure....

Stephen Bowie

Well, A. O. Scott did review it in the NY Times, which is a lot of hoopla for these don't-pay-the-writers days. It, er, might also have helped if you'd run this piece BEFORE the film closed, no?

MW

@michaelgsmith, that's great about "The Terrorizers." Hopefully "Taipei Story" will soon follow, it's my favorite film from his 'Urban Trilogy.'

John M

"The restoration looked stunning and pristine, like it was shot last week on good 35 stock."

I loved the film, and enjoyed the restoration, which I am endlessly thankful for, but this isn't exactly accurate. The film was clearly neglected after its making, and so much of the restored print displays strobing and over-saturation and highly varying grain (I think this is even noted in the end credits). Considering the film's only 20 years old (!), I was surprised by the condition...they must've thrown the original negative in a garage right after cutting, or something.

Absolutely worth seeing, and the World Cinema Foundation did a Herculean job restoring it, but it does not look like it was shot last week on good 35 stock.

SpodoKomodo

I've missed the opportunity to see ABSD in London two years in a row now, but am just about to add that Terrorizers BluRay to my cart, so thanks for that michaelgsmith.

I thought this piece was going to be about similarities between Margaret and Yang's films - I saw A Confucian Confusion at the BFI Yang season recently, and there's something of its multifaceted nature in Margaret.

Glenn Kenny

@ MW, John M: Yes, saying the restoration looked as if it had been shot last week IS maybe a bit of an oversell. Still, there's much about it that's beautiful, and as you said, the World Cinema Foundation's work has been Herculean; the movie's release history, Yang's own relationship with the film, his estate's relationship to the film: from what I understand, to say all these have been "tortured" would NOT be an understatement.

@ Stephen Bowie: Yes, I suppose it would have helped to run this before the FSLC engagement of the film had closed, but the piece as I wrote it wasn't even really in my head when I saw the film, which was Wednesday, November 30. The film's last day at the house was December 1. And I was busy.

@SpodoKomodo: I see your point, but I wasn't really thinking along those lines; multi-faceted natures aside, I don't see HUGE similarities between Lonergan's work and Yang's. In fact, the more I think about it, the more significant difference (of approach, attitude, and so on) I can discern. But that's for another time...

Oliver_C

Lonergan wrote the screenplay for the misbegotten Rocky & Bullwinkle movie, while Yang's follow-up to 'Yi Yi', had he lived, was to have been an animated project starring Jackie Chan. That maybe kinda sorta perhaps counts as a similarity..? :-)

John M

Glenn, is there something online that describes the background with Yang's relationship to the film, and his estate's? Very curious. I was wondering: why are prints/negs of Yang's films, with the exception of Yi Yi, so often in such poor condition? The films are not that old, the designs of each (especially ABSD) are meticulous and apparently well-funded, but most prints I've seen are warped and ragged. I thought this might be a peculiarity of Taiwanese cinema--poor archiving conditions, perhaps--but then Hou Hsiao-hsien's films seem in much better shape. Was Yang himself not overly concerned with preserving the negatives?

For what it's worth, from a structural standpoint, I do see similarities between Yang and Lonergan. And MARGARET and ABSD, in particular. Youth spiraling out of control, but not in the James Dean romanticized way.

The Fanciful Norwegian

The best video release of A Brighter Summer Day was the laserdisc, which is the source of most if not all the bootleg DVDs out there. I've seen two different DVD editions sourced from the same LD release, one better than the other (LD used analog video, so converting it to DVD allows more room for variation than just ripping some digital files and converting them to another format). However neglected the film has been on home video, it's been much better served than That Day, on the Beach and Taipei Story, which so far as I know were only released in dreadful VHS editions (although I've found one or two references to an LD of the former).

David Ehrenstein

Well I saw MARGARET last night and it's one of the most excruciatingly bad films I have ever seen.

I expect to be blogging about it later today.

SpodoKomodo

@Glenn - Oh, for sure. One of the interesting things about the reception of Margaret is that I've seen aspects of it compared to all kinds of people - Pialat, Rohmer, Cassavetes...

MW

@John M, Okay, so hyperbole's my favorite language...

David Ehrenstein

HERE

http://fablog.ehrensteinland.com/2011/12/07/the-2011-leonard-pinth-garnell-award-goes-to-margaret/

Bilge

I dunno, Dave, I'm a fan of much of your work, but that seems to be a whole lot of unwarranted sniping at Lonergan for his background and high school and early pre-film career choices, then a lot of excerpted SNL jokes, with a paragraph of a review so tightly sandwiched in there between the two that I literally missed it the first time I scrolled down.

And the review, such as it is, mostly praises the performers and then criticizes the film for the fact that different characters/actors show up too briefly in the lead character's journey. Which you know might actually kind of be the *point* of the film.

But more importantly, I really don't see how you go from good-performers-underused and a promising-character-who-devolves-into-hysteria to: WORST. MOVIE. EVER! Seriously, that's a huge, HUGE leap, based on what you have there.

I mean, you are of course free to hate the film, and as a fan of the film I'm certainly very happy that you chose to see it in the first place, but...ah, screw it.

I'd link to my own piece which I wrote up a month or so ago, but I'll desist for now. Plus, I really want to see the film again so I can write something more considered about it. I still think Glenn's piece on MARGARET remains one of the best things written about it.

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