From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets
The 60s and 70s were a heady time for films; almost every month a new feature from France or Germany or England would invade American theaters with exciting new cinematic adventures, adding new names to the roster of great directors that had so changed cinema. In the 1970s, Wim Wenders was among the first true international breakthrough artists of the revolutionary New German Cinema, a filmmaker whose fascination with the physical landscapes and emotional contours of the open road proved to be universal. In the middle of the 1970s, Wenders embarked on a three-film journey that took him from the wide roads of Germany to the endless highways of the United States and back again. Starring Rudiger Vogler as the director’s alter ego, “Alice in the Cities “(1974), “Wrong Move” (1975) and “Kings of the Road” (1976) are dramas of emotional transformation that follow their characters’ searches for themselves, all rendered with uncommon soulfulness and visual poetry. The Criterion Collection has brought all three films together in one set, “Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy,” as a four-disc DVD or three-disc Blu-ray set, with new, restored 4K digital transfers of all three films, commissioned by the Wim Wenders Foundation and supervised by Wenders … Also from Criterion this week is a masterpiece from idiosyncratic director Robert Altman, “The Player” (1992) A Hollywood studio executive with a shaky moral compass (Tim Robbins) finds himself caught up in a criminal situation that would fit right into one of his movie projects, in this biting industry satire. Mixing elements of film noir with sly insider comedy, “The Player,” based on a novel by Michael Tolkin, functions as both a nifty stylish murder story and a commentary on its own making, and it is stocked with a heroic supporting cast (Peter Gallagher, Whoopi Goldberg, Greta Scacchi, Dean Stockwell, Fred Ward, Lyle Lovett) and a lineup of star cameos that make for an astonishing Hollywood who’s who. This complexly woven grand entertainment (which kicks off with one of American cinema’s most audacious and acclaimed opening shots) was the film that marked Altman’s triumphant commercial comeback in the early 1990s. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 4K digital restoration, with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
The Shout! Factory has been working overtime remastering dozens of American cult classics and bringing them out in nicely done Blu-ray packages. This week they have on hand two goodies: Michael Mann’s depressingly creepy “Manhunter” (1986), starring William Petersen, Brian Cox, Tom Noonan, Joan Allen, Dennis Farina, Kim Greist and Stephen Lang, in a Blu-ray debut. “Manhunter” is the first film to feature the iconic character Hannibal Lecktor, and it follows former FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen) as he reluctantly returns to his old job to track a horrific serial killer known as the “Tooth Fairy.” But in order to get into the mind of this maniac, Graham must face another: Lecktor (Brian Cox), the imprisoned psychiatrist whose own insanity almost cost Graham his life … and whose insights into the “Tooth Fairy” could prove as dangerous as the killer himself. Available as a two-disc set with the theatrical release and Mann’s director’s cut … and Curtis Hanson’s off-kilter Bad Influence” (1990) in a Blu-ray debut. Quiet, unassuming financial analyst Michael Boll (James Spader) lives a successful-yet-timid life, lacking in risks or rewards. When he crosses paths with the enigmatic Alex (Rob Lowe), the two form a friendship based on ever-increasingly bold behavior. When Michael’s new pal pushes things too far, however, Michael wants out … but the mysterious Alex has no desire to set him free from the seductively dangerous lifestyle he’s dragged him into.
And, last but not least this week, there’s a stunning new HD restoration from the original negative of Jean-Luc Godard’s “A Married Woman” (1964), presented for the first time in the U.S. The plot appears to be simple: Charlotte (Macha Méril) is a young bourgeoise married woman having an affair with an actor. When she discovers that she’s pregnant, she must decide which man is the father and which man she will stay with. In Godard’s hands, however, the film, described as “a film about a woman’s beauty and the ugliness of her world,” is also a biting critique of consumer culture and the media constructed obsession with image. Subtitled “Fragments of a Film Shot in 1964,” in black and white, Godard creates a modernist collage that is beautifully shot by the director’s longtime cinematographer Raoul Coutard. An often overlooked masterwork from Godard’s most productive period. On DVD, Blu-ray from the Cohen Film Collection.