From the Big Screen:
“The Wolverine,” “The Smurfs 2” and “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.” For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
At the top of this week’s list of top bets is a documentary on an icon from the past and a mockumentary on icons from the nonexistent past.
In “Let’s Get Lost” (1988), released to DVD for the first time, photographer Bruce Weber (who became famous for his B&W ads for Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, and his work in Vogue, CQ and Vanity fair, and, more recently, known for his videos for Chris Isaak and the Pet Shop Boys) traveled with the elusive jazz vocalist and trumpeter Chet Baker to weave together the life story of the jazz great. The film uses excerpts from Italian B movies, rare performance footage and candid interviews with Baker, musicians, friends, ex-wives and his children in what turns out to be the last year of his life. The movie is bookended with two romps on the beach: Baker in Santa Monica in early 1987 and then later in Cannes. Interspersed are interviews with friends, family and lovers; rare photographs; vintage clips; and performances by Baker. Baker (who was visually a cross between James Dean and Jack Kerouac) burst on the jazz scene in the early 1950s as a self-taught, amazingly accomplished trumpet-player and singer. He was summoned to play with Charlie Parker in L.A. in 1951, went on to join with Gerry Mulligan in his famous quartet, played with Stan Getz, Shelly Manne and Art Pepper, and cut a host of well-received albums, including “Gerry Mulligan Quartet Featuring Chet Baker” (1952), “Chet Baker Sings” (1954), “Chet” (1959) to name just a very few. Baker, unfortunately, began using heroin and was an unapologetic addict for the rest of his life — it was a habit that took its toll on his health and career (for a while he had to star in Italian B movies to earn cash). In the mid-60s to 70s his career faltered, with numerous bouts with the law, but he later resumed recording and performing. From 1978 until his death he lived in Europe; the later decade of his life saw a more mature, capable musician (Baker died May 13, 1988; he apparently fell to the street from an open window in his second-story hotel room in Amsterdam; an autopsy showed drugs — heroin and cocaine — in his body). This gorgeous documentary captures the flavor, contradictions, happiness and sadness of the musician’s music and life. Not to be missed. Includes a 40-page Chet Baker fan book created by Weber that includes Weber’s photography of Baker as well as images by renowned jazz photographer William Claxton. From Docurama. Check out the trailer:
“Let’s Get Lost” is also part of a four-disc set of Weber’s work, “Bruce Weber: The Film Collection” (2013), which brings together the most celebrated documentaries by the internationally praised photographer and filmmaker. In addition to the Chet Baker docu the collector’s set includes “Broken Noses” (1987) (about a youth boxing club near Portland, Oregon), “Chop Suey” (2001) (an homage to Weber’s favorite things, including photography and classic movies) and “A Letter to True” (2004), which centers on his dogs, a family of gorgeous golden retrievers. This box set gives art enthusiasts a look back at one of photography’s greatest talents. Includes a 32-page booklet of Weber’s photographs. Also from Docurama … “All You Need Is Cash” just has to be the greatest mockumentary of all time. The legendary 1978 parody of The Beatles from Monty Python founding member Eric Idle makes it’s Blu-ray debut this week as part of the “The Rutles: Anthology,” which is being released by Video Services Corp in both Blu-ray and Blu-ray/DVD combo sets. Originally introduced by Idle in his post-Python BBC satire “Rutland Weekend Television,” “All You Need Is Cash” was brought to prime time in a 1978 TV special, produced by “Saturday Night Live’s” Lorne Michaels, directed by Gary Weis and featuring the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players. The film follows the epic rise and fall of the tight-trousered lads from Rutland as they hit the top of the pops and the heights of absurdity. Bonus features on the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack include a new interview with Eric Idle, 2004’s “The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch” (in which celebrity artists, actors and musicians came forward to revisit and reflect on how The Rutles influenced them and the cultural landscape. Guest stars included George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Lorne Michaels, Carrie Fisher, Michael Palin, Paul Simon, Gary Shandling, David Bowie, Ron Wood, Steve Martin, Conan O’Brien, Salman Rushdie, Jimmy Fallon, Robin Williams and many more) and the original “Rutland Weekend” sketch from “Saturday Night Live” that aired in 1976 when Idle hosted the late night series. Cheeky, wild and wonderful — with music and songmanship that — when you close your eyes — sounds just like the Fab Four.
Other best bets: The provocative Italian filmmaker Elio Petri’s most internationally acclaimed work is the remarkable, visceral, Oscar-winning thriller “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” (1970). Petri maintains a tricky balance between absurdity and realism in telling the Kafkaesque tale of a Roman police inspector (Gian Maria Volonte, in a commanding performance) investigating a heinous crime — which he committed himself. Both a penetrating character study and a disturbing commentary on the draconian crackdowns by the Italian government in the late 1960s and early 70s, this kinetic portrait of surreal bureaucracy is a perversely pleasurable rendering of controlled chaos. In a new 4K digital restoration by the Film Foundation, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray … “Nashville” (1975), a cornerstone of 1970s American moviemaking from Robert Altman, is a panoramic view of the country’s political and entertainment landscapes, set in the nation’s music capital. “Nashville” weaves together the stories of 24 characters — from country music star to wannabe to reporter to waitress — into a cinematic tapestry that is equal parts comedy, tragedy, and musical. Many members of the astonishing cast wrote and performed their own songs live on location, which lends another layer to the film’s quirky authenticity. Altman’s ability to get to the heart of American life via its eccentric byways was never put to better use than in this grand, rollicking triumph, which barrels forward to an unforgettable conclusion. New 2K digital film restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Both are in Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Editions from The Criterion Collection.
Here’s another blast from the past: “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series” (1976-78) is a 38-disc box set with all 325 episodes of the cult series that starred Louise Lasser in the title role of legendary TV producer Norman Lear’s sublimely twisted soap opera — at once a parody of the format and a twisted satire of America’s media/consumer culture. In the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio, suburban housewife Mary Hartman seeks the kind of domestic perfection promised by Reader’s Digest and TV commercials. Instead she finds herself suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — mass murders, low-flying airplanes and waxy yellow buildup on her kitchen floor. Co-starred Greg Mullavey, Mary Kay Place, Graham Jarvis, Debralee Scott, Victor Kilian, Dody Goodman, Philip Bruns, Dabney Coleman, Martin Mull and Claudia Lamb. Loaded with extras from Shout! Factory.