New DVDs 5-6-2008

After the massive Melies set last month, here’s another major release from Flicker Alley: a restoration of Abel Gance’s 1922 visionary grab bag “La Roue” with a running time of nearly four and a half hours. That’s about two hours more than we’ve had before, and it comes with a visual quality far beyond the muddy dupes that have been in circulation. It’s still short of the running time of the Paris premiere version — variously reported at 7 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours, probably depending on the caffeine level of the projectionist — but for the moment, it’s quite enough.

12 comments to New DVDs 5-6-2008

  • Alex Hicks

    Perhaps it may rekindle the hopes of any cinephile whose fire was dampened by DK’s news of a less than unremittingly enthralling “La Ropue” to google after the story that goes with this e-headline,”Orson Welles’ THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND completed by Peter Bogdanovich for Showtime”
    (“April 17th, 2008 by Scott Marks”). But you erudite Gancians, do reicontinue the original thread!

    .”this recentlyt

  • david hare

    Alex according to Bogdanovich he and Kodar, ever mindful of the spectre of Beatrice apparently feel compelled to contextualize the edited Wind footage into some kind of pseudo documentary form.

    Whether in fact Beatrice legally has any call over this material is another kettle of fish.

    Given la Roue and Dave’s review, it seems a shame, but unlikely given the readership Dave couldn’t review the French Carlotta two disc restoration of L’Herbier’s wildly more impressive L’Argent released last week. It’s his last silent (with tacked on contemporary piano track) but the voluminous titles cards, newspaper headlines and other visual/verbal cues are French language only. A couple of observations about this – and I think the movie is L’Herbier’s masterpiece – is the new resto is clearly based on the elements used for the older (1984) Bois d’Arcy/Archives Francaises resto which, aside from the expected surface damage and degradations was also plagued by clumsy step printing. The new resto totally overcomes this and looks terrific, although I don’t think they have run it for a 2k HD pass. If they havent the telecine will suffer significantly in any standards conversion to NTSC, assuming of course any US company decided to pick it up.

  • Alex Hicks

    Well, David, incisive points. However, as Welles’ footage contains segment in a cinema verite/homemovie/doc style and as one segment is itself a moivie within the movie, placing it all within a documentary frame might work aesthetically as well as legally –if Bogdanovitch shows some of the high engenuity he has sometimes suggested to many(though to date arguably more in person and print than film).

    Of course, we might not exactly get a Welles, but it might be injudicious to try too directly for that an impression of the man himself –when a little indirection might come close enough to whatever sun shines through the footage/design of “Wind.”

    (Thanks for L’Argent tip.)

  • david hare

    Actually someone at critforum suggested – I love this idea – when the thing is finally released they should break up the whole damn picture into segments and put the lot on youtube with an invitation to viewers to edit their own versions. Don’t you think Welles might have enjoyed such sweet revenge on la Bea?

    Re Welles there was also some conjecture about a Criterion 3 disc version of Touch of Evil a la the terrific Mr Arkadin box. This seems to have been trumped by a far more general mention elsewhere at the Times of a “50th Anniversary edition” later this year, presumably from Universal themselves – could mean anything, but almost certainly not the boxset so much desired!

  • I saw “L’Argent” at MOMA some years ago and I agree with David that it is the most impressive work of L’Herbier’s first, experimental period (though I’m also fond of several of his later, more I’m eager, too, to see the new restoration; maybe Glenn Kenny will buy one and let me borrow it (ha). For the moment I’ve sunk my euros into the 7-disc Gaumont early cinema set, which features generous helpings of unseen Feuillade, Leonce Perret’s fabulous “L’Enfant de Paris,” and two discs worth of Alice Guy. Details here. Unfortunately, it seems to be caught up in production delays and hasn’t yet arrived, though if it is anywhere close in quality to Gaumont’s recent Sacha Guitry box , it will be one of the highlights of the year.

  • Frank Segers

    Hi Dave,

    Love the DVD column each Tuesday in the Times. Yes, of course, anything from Abel Gance is well worth the primary space.

    But — QUESTION — I understand that a new DVD is due this month of Sergio Corbucci’s “A Dollar A Head”, also known as “Navajo Joe.”

    For some reason, this spaghetti western has not received much distribution in the U.S. despite the presence of Burt Reynolds. The film was, however, in the 2007 Venice Film Festival retrospective of Spaghetti Westerns.

    Hate to be pushy but can you include coverage of this DVD in the mix of upcoming columns?

    Best personal wishes to you. Frank Segers

  • Professor Echo

    Dave K, when you refer to the “Paris premiere version,” are you thinking of its very first screening ever or its original theatrical ENGAGEMENT? I don’t know of any single premiere showing, if there was one, but I have always read that when it first played Paris it was screened in three parts over as many consecutive nights. That version allegedly ran somewhere between 8-9 hours and was reportedly a huge success.

  • Premiere meaning “premiere engagement,” of course. The details are in the column (follow the link) and largely come from Richard Abel’s book “French Cinema.” Abel gives a running time of 9 1/2 hours, although the notes with the “La Roue” disc, by William M. Drew, suggest a more moderate 7 1/2 hours. Naturally, there would be some flexibility due to the non-standardized projection speeds of the time.

  • Professor Echo

    I got it now, Dave, but the hyperlink in your blog post is no longer there (at least it’s not showing up on my comp). That’s why I missed your original NYT piece that was attached to this posting. I thought it was just a blog entry. And your joke about the caffeinated projectionist led me to believe you might have been thinking that in its premiere it was shown complete during one evening.

    Other than being held responsible for all these erroneous assumptions, I can’t be held responsible. ;)

  • Thanks for pointing out the broken link. It should be working now.

  • Bill Routt

    I hope it is not too late to say that I am tickled by your choice of the illustrative image for La Roue. It demonstrates perfectly why perhaps 270 minutes of any Gance film is long enough. (And I yield to no one in my love of his extraordinary work).

  • Dave, I’ll be shopping at the Cannes FNAC and if “L’Argent” is there I’m gonna pick up a copy or two. Save on amazon.fr. shipping costs and such. After which you’ll be welcome to share the wealth.