From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
There’s four gut-wrenching releases this week to highlight your esoteric film-watching desires.
First off is the amazingly brutal (and comedic) “Ichi the Killer” (2001 — Japan). Takashi Miike’s film has endured as one of the most influential pieces of genre filmmaking of the last two decades, and now it returns in a stunning all-new digitally restored special edition debuting on Blu-ray. Based on Hideo Yamamoto’s manga series of the same name, the controversial and graphic tale of feuding yakuza gangs is seen primarily through the actions of a scarred and psychologically damaged man, who is manipulated into killing rival faction members. Digitally remastered in 4k and approved by director Miike. This visceral, bloody, and often hilarious film follows Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), a notoriously sadistic yakuza enforcer whose search for his boss’ killer brings him into the orbit of a demented costumed assassin known as Ichi (Nao Ohmori). Co-stars Shinya Tsukamoto, Alien Sun, SABU. Not to be missed. Extras include commentary by Miike and Yamamoto. From Well Go USA … The early seventies was a period of remarkable activity for Robert Altman, producing masterpiece after masterpiece. At the time he came to make “Images,” “MASH” and “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” were behind him, with “The Long Goodbye,” “California Split” and “Nashville” still to come. Originally conceived in the mid-sixties, “Images” (1972) concerns a pregnant children’s author (Susannah York, who won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival) whose husband (Rene Auberjonois) may or may not be having an affair. While on vacation in Ireland, her mental state becomes increasingly unstable resulting in paranoia, hallucinations and visions of a doppelgänger. Scored by an Oscar-nominated John Williams, with “sounds” by Stomu Yamash’ta (“The Man Who Fell to Earth”), “Images” also boasts the remarkable cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond. In a new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this Blu-ray release. Extras include commentary by “Diabolique Magazine’s” Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger; scene-select commentary by writer-director Robert Altman, interview with Altman, new interview with actor Cathryn Harrison, an appreciation by musician and author Stephen Thrower, theatrical trailer; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … Volker Schlöndorff transported Bertolt Brecht’s 1918 debut play to contemporary West Germany for “Baal” (1970 — Germany), a vicious experiment in adaptation, seldom seen for nearly half a century. Oozing with brutish charisma, Rainer Werner Fassbinder embodies the eponymous anarchist poet, who feels himself cast out from bourgeois society and sets off on a schnapps-soaked rampage. Hewing faithfully to Brecht’s text, Schlöndorff juxtaposes the theatricality of the prose with bare-bones, handheld 16mm camera work, which gives immediacy to this savage story of rebellion. Featuring a supporting cast of Fassbinder’s troupe of theater actors as well as Margarethe von Trotta, “Baal” demonstrates the uncompromising nature of Schlöndorff’s vision and forged a path for New German Cinema. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray Disc with new, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by director Schlöndorff, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include interviews from 1973 and 2015 with Schlöndorff; new conversation between actor Ethan Hawke and playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman about the play and adaptation; new interview with actor and filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta; new interview with film historian Eric Rentschler; an essay by critic Dennis Lim. From The Criterion Collection … Spiritual rapture and institutional hypocrisy come to stark, vivid life in “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928 — Germany), one of the most transcendent masterpieces of the silent era. Chronicling the trial of Joan of Arc in the days leading up to her execution, Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer depicts her torment with startling immediacy, employing an array of techniques — including expressionistic lighting, interconnected sets, and painfully intimate close-ups — to immerse viewers in her subjective experience. Anchoring Dreyer’s audacious formal experimentation is a legendary performance by Renée Falconetti, whose haunted face channels both the agony and the ecstasy of martyrdom. Formats: DVD, Blu-ray Disc with new high-definition digital restoration of the film by Gaumont, presented at 24 frames per second; alternate presentation of the film at 20 frames per second with original Danish intertitles. Extras: include three scores: Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light,” a choral and orchestral work performed by vocal group Anonymous 4, soloist Susan Narucki, and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Choir; another by Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory and Portishead’s Adrian Utley; and the third composed and performed by pianist Mie Yanashita; audio commentary from 1999 by film scholar Casper Tybjerg; new interview with Einhorn; an essay by critic Mark Le Fanu, a 1929 director’s statement by Carl Theodor Dreyer, and the full libretto for Voices of Light. From The Criterion Collection.
From TV to Disc:
The seven-disc “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Third Season,” available for the first time at retail, features 26 complete, remastered episodes from the landmark Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning series. On September 15, 1969, the third season of the pop culture touchstone, “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” premiered with all eight episodes. Join Archer, the world’s suavest, most irreverent supersleuth, for an outrageous, innuendo-laden eighth season. Set in 1940s Los Angeles, “Dreamland” lands Archer on a quest to find his partner’s killer. Contending with mobsters, including notorious crime boss “Mother,” he’s also challenged by a sultry lounge singer, a deranged heiress, crooked cops, knock-knock jokes, and his own libido. From Fox … The love story blooming in Hope Valley continues with the television special “When Calls the Heart: The Heart of Homecoming” (2017), from celebrated author Janette Oke (“The Love Comes Softly” series). The citizens of Hope Valley find the true meaning of the holiday season with a Wishing Tree that helps everyone’s dreams come true. As Abigail, Bill, and the rest of Hope Valley work together to create a special Christmas parade to warm the town’s collective hearts and bring everyone closer together, Elizabeth longs only for the return of her beloved Jack. From Shout! Factory.