Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May '17 Digital Week II

Blu-rays of the Week 
Kiju Yoshida—Love + Anarchism
(Arrow Academy)
One of the unsung luminaries of the Japanese New Wave, director Kiju Yoshida has made relatively few films, his reputation hinging on the three features in this must-have boxed set: his magnum opus, 1969’s epic Eros + Massacre, presented in its 165-minute release version and the stunningly original 215-minute director’s cut; and his subsequent features, 1970’s Heroic Purgatory and 1973’s Coup d’Etat. Yoshida’s political trilogy (simultaneously hip and historical, free-form and rigidly structured) are screaming to be discovered anew thanks to flawless hi-def transfers that bring to life his ingenious B&W compositions, along with contextualizing extras: intros by scholar David Desser and Yoshida, commentaries by Desser and a 30-minute featurette about Eros featuring Yoshida.

Brain Damage
Frank Henenlotter’s grubby 1988 gorefest introduces a brain-eating parasite named Edgar who finds a willing young idiot to do his murderous bidding: this is the kind of tongue-in-cheek horror flick where a young woman, ready to perform fellatio on our hero, instead ends up with Edgar in her mouth, and he burrows through her mouth to suck out her brain. There’s definitely an audience for this type of low-budget schlock, but credit must be given to Edgar creator Gabe Bartalos, who comes up with a crafty little monster. It looks good and grainy on Blu; extras include interviews, featurettes and a commentary.

Serial Mom 
(Shout/Scream Factory)
John Waters’ silly 1994 satire has grown in relevance since then, as Kathleen Turner’s murderous middle-class mom who gets off in a sensational trial remains one of her best, most deadpan creations. Although the movie keeps beating the same dead horse for 95 minutes, the collection of misfits in Waters’ cast—Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard as Turner’s family, Patty Hearst as a juror and Mink Stole as a bitchy accuser—makes it a fun watch. The hi-def transfer is solid; extras include two commentaries (one by Waters and Turner and one by Waters solo), featurettes and a conversation with Waters, Turner and Stole.

Things to Come
(Sundance Selects)
After an auspicious career start (All Is Forgiven, The Father of My Children and Goodbye First Love), French director Mia Hansen-Løve has regressed with her shallow 2014 feature Eden and her latest, with a somnambulistic Isabelle Huppert as a philosophy professor with a long-term marriage, two teenage children and a psychosomatic mother who suddenly finds herself unmoored; as she says: “I got divorced, my children have moved out, and my mom died. I’m free.” Instead of an insightful look at a woman beginning a new life, Hansen-Løve makes a meandering soap opera that not even the redoubtable Huppert can save. The director’s unerring eye and beautifully composed shots look ravishing on Blu-ray, at least.

CD of the Week 
Mahler Third Symphony—Budapest Festival Orchestra
(Channel Classics)
It takes a village to perform Mahler’s monumental Third Symphony—if not as many as his Eighth (the aptly, and only slightly exaggeratedly, titled “Symphony of a Thousand”)—thanks to a large orchestra, two choirs, alto soloist and a conductor who can marshal all of those forces into a cohesive whole that plays some of Mahler’s most sublimely emotional music. And that’s what conductor Ivan Fischer does with his Budapest Festival Orchestra, Cantemus Children’s Choir, Chorus of the Bayerischer Rundfunk and singer Gerhild Romberger, all of whom perform brilliantly in this magnificent 95-minute journey through one of Mahler’s most momentous compositions.

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