Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blu-ray Review - John Ford's The Quiet Man


John Ford has been so fully assimilated into the American cinematic mythos that his Irish heritage often times goes unacknowledged. Born John Martin Feeney to first-generation Irish parents in 1894, the man who would soon come to be synonymous to audiences by the very strong, American surname of Ford, spent the majority of his early Hollywood career building up goodwill by turning out studio product in an effort to realize more personal, nominally biographical projects with less immediate commercial prospects. After getting two closely held ventures off the ground quickly in the mid-'30s (The Informer, The Plough and the Stars), it would be quite some time until Ford was able to realize his next true passion project, an adaptation of a short story by Maurice Walsh entitled The Quiet Man.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

DVD/Blu-ray Review: Sokurov: Early Masterworks [Cinema Guild]


The films of Aleksandr Sokurov hold true to the classical representation of the cinema as a primarily visual medium. For over 30 years, the Russian experimentalist has drifted effortlessly between fiction, nonfiction, and documentary narratives, often blurring the lines between these varying modes of presentation, but in each instance has betrayed an unparalleled commitment to the aesthetics of iconography. In the 2008 documentary Questions About Cinema, Sokurov posits that, "Even a single word said on screen becomes an image." And that theory is certainly reinforced in the man's work. Take nearly any individual image from any of his films, regardless of context, from The Second Circle to Mother and Son to Russian Ark, and what you're left with an exquisitely constructed, delicately captured moment of artistic synergy, one vivid yet intangible enough to instill a fleeting sense of mystery, terror, or romance in the viewer.

DVD Review: Eclipse Series 37 - When Horror Came to Shochiku [Criterion]


The iconic, radioactive sea-beast Godzilla had such a seismic impact, both literally and figuratively, on Western culture's perception of the horror movie that it can be far too easy to overlook the industry-altering effect that Ishiro Honda's 1954 namesake disaster classic had within the borders of Japan's then-burgeoning cinematic landscape. Almost overnight, a country primarily known for the genre-leaning jidaigecki work of Akira Kurosawa and Sadao Yamanaka, as well as the working-class shomingeki parables of Mikio Naruse and Yasujiro Ozu, was transformed into a conglomerate assembly line churning out sequels, spin-offs, rip-offs, and cash-ins, all angling on a market with a seemingly insatiable appetite for destruction. This was particularly fertile territory in the wake of World War II and the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings, as audiences yearned for escape from everyday domestic issues, perhaps even utilizing the liberation as an exorcism of sorts. Not even Shochiku, the studio identified most readily with quotidian concerns, was impervious to the fiscal temptation, parlaying some of the goodwill built on by the work of such stalwarts as Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi into a brief but indelible run of late-'60s future-shock curiosities.