New DVDs: Shimizu and Murnau

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Some very nice stuff out this week: a box set from Criterion’s Eclipse line featuring four films by Hiroshi Shimizu, yet another Japanese great almost unknown in the west, and from Kino, a ravishing new version of Murnau’s “Faust,” based on Luciano Berriatua’s restoration of the original German release. It turns out that what we’ve been seeing all these years is a replacement negative cobbled together by UFA in 1930, using alternate takes. The difference is dramatic. My New York Times report is here.

74 comments to New DVDs: Shimizu and Murnau

  • Peter Henne

    I thought that Quandt had organized a complete feature retrospective, or nearly so. At any rate the BAM schedule is considerably truncated from Oshima’s total output, including only 14 of his 23 feature films, many of them the ones most commonly circulated in the U.S. Nonetheless, I’m still hoping to see “The Catch,” “Amakusa Shiro Tokisada,” “Japanese Summer: Double Suicide,” and “Three Resurrected Drunkards” when the series arrives in Los Angeles starting next month.

  • Nelson

    Peter — yes, the BAM version is truncated from the complete retrospective that played at Cinematheque Ontario and NYFF last year. I hope you get the full version in LA!

  • Kent Jones

    Reprising a retrospective in a condensed version is a pretty common practice, especially when the prints come from multiple sources.

  • Stephen Bowie

    … and of course, the one hard-to-find Oshima film that I missed last year is among the missing at BAM. Anyone have the LA schedule yet?

  • Alex Hicks

    Any fans or critics of Hiroshi Inagaki? Any other lovers of his “Chushingara”?

  • nicolas saada

    ” The fact that he’s excluded from some lists of the greatest Japanese filmmakers is just a left-over from silly Cahiers polemics back in the 1950s.”
    Yes and the silly polemics carried on to the point that a whole generation of thirtysomehing don’t care for either Wyler’s great melodrams or Kurosawa’s contemporary masterpieces such as DRUNKEN ANGEL or HIGH AND LOW.
    Carlotta is doing an amazing job here : Yoshida, Oshima (most f the films from the 60′s are now available). One of the most difficult fims to find on dvd or VHS are the TAI KATO. There was a series shown here in 1998, and a few films were amazing, including his classic RED PEONY. Chris Marker was at this screening !!! There’s a beautiful scene in Tai Kato’s LOVE OF A MOTHER, when the “mother” realizes that the man who cried in front of her was her son. She looks at the rug and puts her hand on it saying “These were the tears of my son”. It’s a beautiful “mizoguchian” moment.
    This thread raises another topic as to the decreasing importance of film. I believe we are very lucky in France in regard to this. Junko, are japanese film critics well read about films ? By critics I mean those who write for magazines or even dailies.

  • nicolas saada

    This thread raises another topic as to the decreasing importance of film CULTURE …

  • Tellos

    ‘It became fashionable at a certain point to downgrade Kurosawa (Akira, that is), to judge him as “superficially talented” .

    IMO, the problem here is too much anti-elitist elitism. People who think that Kurosawa is a far less important director than Naruse or Shimizu do not necessarily make “top-down ivory tower judgments”.

    Undoubtedly, it will become fashionable again to upgrade Kurosawa or Bergman. We will certainly find beautiful bressonian moments in Altman or transcendental mizoguchian moments in Woody Allen It is already cinematically incorrect to make comparisons or even to dare to claim that a certain film is not a work of art. By this way we feel very liberated. At long last Beauty is again in the eye of the beholder. No more “silly polemics”.

  • Nicolas and Tllos,
    One thing that would help define taste: if people would publish detailed lists of what they think are good movies. It is easy to tell what Jonathan Rosenbaum thinks is good: look at his list of Best 1000 films (Essential Cinema). Similarly, you can go to Dan Sallitt’s web site, and find a list by year of all the films he admires. Fred Camper’s web site has a list of the directors he admires.
    Such lists make taste in film what financial markets call “transparent”: easily understood, complete, with no ambiguity.
    My web site has lists of all the films and TV shows I’ve ever liked. Plus lists of all the prose mystery novels and short stories, and all the comic book tales I’ve ever liked. Building canons is great intellectual discipline. And it really conveys instantly to people what is good.

  • nicolas saada

    Paul Schrader’s piece FILM CANON remains a remarkable exercice in the genre, if not the most convincing.

  • nicolas saada

    I meant, THE MOST CONVINCING. My english really sucks.

  • Nicolas, your English is very good!
    And I have a name problem! Sorry Tellos, I’ll try to get your name right!
    *
    The big problem with Paul Schrader’s canon choices is brevity. He picks less than 50 films to represent film history! Rosenbaum’s 1000 is far more useful.
    But still, at least we know what Schrader thinks. We need much, much more of this, from a diversity of film lovers.

  • Arthur S.

    Paul Schrader’s work only makes sense as anti-canon(despite some great choices)…like THE BIG LEBOWSKI?, Okay a cute remake of Huston’s BEAT THE DEVIL updated to LA in the 90s, so what?

  • Like, that’s just your opinion, man…

  • dm494

    Hmm, I’ve heard at least one person argue that THE BIG LEBOWSKI is a spoof of the great CUTTER’S WAY. Seems like a plausible reading.

    Schrader’s Film Comment piece is an attempt to reclaim the idea that aesthetic worth is an objective property of a work of art. Its most important feature isn’t the canon Schrader offers but the set of conditions which it lays down as criteria by which to judge the objective quality of a given film. Problem is, whether a film satisfies the criteria seems like a completely subjective matter, as Schrader’s own, highly debatable canon proves.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘are japanese film critics well read about films ? By critics I mean those who write for magazines or even dailies.’

    Writing for film magazine, yes. Writing for popular magazine and daily newspaper, not so much, because movie review is assignement for beginning journalist, not someone who has the interest in movies except by coincidence.

    University newspaper has writers of knowledge because those writers are chosing to write about movies.

    And Nicolas, I am writing worse English here, you will always write better English then me.

  • nicolas saada

    I think the level of film culture amongst critics is extremely high here. What I would add however is that some “left over polemics” remain. But my main concern is a sort of “film revisions” that flourish in some areas of the film community. The big thing is to describe the Nouvelle Vague as the worst thing that ever happened to french cinema. It leads to strange statements like “Georges Lautner is greater than Godard”. To me, it’s like saying that Impressionism was a disaster on the history of painting. No one in his right mind would dare to say that “Delaroche is greater than Monet”…

  • OT. WB has done a fine job with its catalog, including the latest pre-code release that out host has written about in the Sunday Times.

    But, some very interesting news for anyone wishing Warner’s library would open its doors even wider:

    http://www.wbshop.com/Warner-Archive/ARCHIVE,default,sc.html

  • Alex Hicks

    “Paul Schrader’s work only makes sense as anti-canon(despite some great choices)…like THE BIG LEBOWSKI?” Isn’t “THE BIG LEBOWSKI” one of Schrader’s most unconventionl and, thus, most anti-canonical choices for a rather orthodox canon?

    Certainly, THE BIG LEBOWSKI shows some nice parallels to the (well put!) “great CUTTER’S WAY,” but isn’t LABOWSKI’S main original conceit to redo an L.A hardboiled not simply as comedy but with slacker as the private eye?

  • ‘the Nouvelle Vague as the worst thing that ever happened to french cinema’

    The few times I’ve read that was more to critize how the French new wave brought a new kind of production: art for art’s sake, low budgets… And how it has changed the original idea behind “auteur” set by Truffault to describe the work of “artisan directors” such as Hitchcock. Nowadays, it seems critics are more interested by Directors than Stories. While reading reviews, I often find myself thinking it’s like reading a bad psychoanalysis because each details HAS to mean something. It’s kind of grotesque, and in way, it’s missing the point of Art, which as far as I know isn’t about Ego.

    Also, some young filmmakers are pointing out this ‘new’ way to produce films has reduced possibilities to make original films: making entertainment (that’s gross!) cost money, and it seems it’s hard to find (and we can wonder why Christophe Gans who made a big success at the french box office couldn’t make anything else in France, how is that possible?).

    Right now, one strange thing I’ve seen with Internet is that film critics can write about everything, and yet, they don’t take too much risks. Because Watchmen will attract way more people than any american-japanese-french oldies you can imagine. And because studios know how to market their products with Internet. It’s like there’s freedom in front of us, but we prefer to stay imprisoned in our old bad habits. That’s strange, right?

  • dm494

    Alex, I imagine Schrader would defend the inclusion of THE BIG LEBOWSKI in his canon on the grounds that the film satisfies all of his criteria (repeatability, morality, originality aka strangeness, etc) and that it does so in a very high degree. Of course, the problem with these objective criteria isn’t so much the criteria themselves as it is deciding which films or music or whatever they apply to. The criteria don’t do much, if anything, to simplify the process of making judgments.

    I’m glad to know you like CUTTER’S WAY.

  • Kent Jones

    “IMO, the problem here is too much anti-elitist elitism. People who think that Kurosawa is a far less important director than Naruse or Shimizu do not necessarily make ‘top-down ivory tower judgments.’” Absolutely true. It’s people like John Simon, accurately described by Andrew Sarris as the greatest film critic of the 19th century, who projected so much onto Bergman and Kurosawa that he and his friends did them a terrible disservice. So as long as everyone remains obsessed with upgrading and downgrading and pitting one director against another (as opposed to a simple comparison, which is a very useful tool), then it is indeed certain that fashion will once again favor Bergman and Kurosawa. And will it mean very much? It certainly won’t help to describe their work any more accurately.

  • nicolas saada

    You’re right Kent, but on the other hand, I’m amazed by the number of people I meet who haven’t seen much by either Bergman or Kurosawa but can build a very detailed theory on the complete works of Lamberto Bava….

  • Peter Henne

    The thread here about Japanese directors who are little seen in the West has been very helpful for me and I’m grateful for the stimulating comments; it all got me to pull together a list of filmmakers I want to find out about. Shiro Toyoda, Heinosuke Gosho, Tadashi Imai, Tomu Uchida, and from the New Wave period Susumu Hani and Yoshishinghe Yoshida are directors I’d love to explore. Haven’t seen a single film by any of them and await the chance. This isn’t the kind of list that need close. We get to see so few films by Keisuke Kinoshita on English-subtitled DVD; so far as I know there are only three. The discussion here has stoked my longing for more.

    If I can return to the Oshima retrospective for a moment, Los Angeles has a long track record now for truncating the truncated and I think we’ll be lucky out here to get as much as the BAM series is presenting. Since Criterion is set to release “Senses” and “Passion,” maybe just maybe an Eclipse package can represent some of Oshina’s ’60s films?