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Cinema Paradiso | Giuseppe Tornatore’s lyrical and evocative love letter to the magic of cinema

Set at a time when going to the movies was a near-religious communal activity, director Giuseppe Tornatore’s lyrical and evocative celebration of the magic of cinema won awards across the globe, including the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, five BAFTAs and the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Now, Cinema Paradiso has been giving a luminous 4K restoration.

Philippe Noiret is in winning form (and scored a BAFTA as a result) as the wise Alfredo, a middle-aged projectionist at the Cinema Paradiso movie theatre in a small Sicilian village; while Salvatore Cascio is a revelation as the young film buff Salvatore (AKA Toto), who befriends Alfredo and learns his trade.

Told in flashback, through the eyes of the adult Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) following Alfredo’s death, Tornatore’s semi-autobiographical drama is a bittersweet reflection on youth, love, and regret; and shows just how much a powerful force the flickering screen can be in shaping our lives. As Noiret’s Salvatore’s muses: ‘Life isn’t like the movies – life is harder’, but sometimes we all need to get lost in its glow.

This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray from Arrow Academy features both the theatrical and expanded Director’s Cut, with the following extras (ported over from their 2014 Blu-ray release).

4K UHD SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the restored Cannes Festival theatrical version (124-min)
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the restored Director’s Cut (174-min)
• Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary with Tornatore and Italian cinema expert Millicent Marcus
A Dream of Sicily: A 52-minute documentary profile of Tornatore featuring the music of Ennio Morricone
A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise: A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, featuring interviews with Noiret, Cascio and Tornatore
The Kissing Sequence: Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes in Alfredo’s private reel with full clips identifying each scene
• Original Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer
• Collector’s booklet

Also available is the BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION containing the theatrical version and Director’s Cut, and the DVD SPECIAL EDITION containing the theatrical version in original stereo and 5.1 surround audio. Both editions feature the same extras as included in the 4K UHD contents.

L’Assassino (1961) | Elio Petri’s Kafkaesque thriller is a neglected cinematic gem

L’Assassino (aka The Ladykiller of Rome)Released within months of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte, director Elio Petri’s dazzling 1961 debut L’Assassino (aka The Ladykiller of Rome) also stars Marcello Mastroianni, this time as sleazy thirtysomething antique dealer Alfredo Martelli, arrested on suspicion of murdering his older, far wealthier lover Adalgisa (Micheline Presle). But as the police investigation proceeds, it becomes less and less important whether Martelli actually committed the crime as his entire lifestyle is effectively put on trial…

L’Assassino (aka The Ladykiller of Rome)

Best known for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and The Tenth Victim (read my review here), Elio Petri was one of the finest and yet most underrated Italian directors of the 1960s and 1970s. Highly acclaimed on its original UK release but unjustly neglected since, L’Assassino is a remarkably assured debut from one of the cinema’s sharpest chroniclers of Italian social and political realities; fusing a thriller, a favourite genre of Petri’s, with elements of a mystery plot with a Kafkaesque air, while also being an explicit critique of the rising upper-bourgeois society in Italy in the early 1960s.

Written for the screen by Tonino Guerra (who also did Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Fellini’s Amarcord and Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia); lensed by Woody Allen’s favourite cinematographer, Carlo Di Palma; edited by Fellini regular Ruggero Mastroianni; and with music by Piero Piccioni (whose compositions have recently been used in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook), L’Assassino is certainly ripe for rediscovery.

L’Assassino (aka The Ladykiller of Rome)

THE UK 2014 BLU-RAY/DVD RELEASE
Following a high-definition restoration by Cineteca di Bologna, this is the first-ever UK home entertainment release of L’Assassino and comes in a Blu-ray and DVD combo pack from Arrow Films’ Arrow Academy label.

Alongside the 2k digital presentation of the film, there’s also a host of special features on offer, including the 52-minute documentary, Tonino Guerra – A Poet in the Movies, about the acclaimed screenwriter; an introduction by Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone; theatrical trailer; collector’s booklet (featuring some informative new and vintage writings on the film); and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw.

Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon | The pioneering 1902 sci-fi gets a deluxe release

Illustrator, magician, filmmaker and inventor – Georges Méliès (8 December 1861 – 21 January 1938) was one of the true pioneers of early cinema, and Le Voyage dans la Lune (AKA A Trip to the Moon) remains his most celebrated efforts. Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic writings, Méliès’ 1902 short (which runs for 13-minutes on this release) follows a group of scientists who blast off to the Moon where they are captured by the local inhabitants, the Selenites.

With Méliès taking a lead role, this is not only one of the earliest examples of sci-fi cinema but one of the most influential films in the entire history of cinema. The story itself might be slight, the set designs and simple special effects are a revelation.

Arrow Academy presents Méliès’ seminal classic in a limited edition, accompanied by a host of fantastic supplements. You get both the original black and white and the hand-painted colourised version (which also dates from 1902), plus there are a number of options over which soundtrack to listen to. They are a bit of a fiddle to get to (they’re located in the Special Features section) but worth checking out – particularly the prog-rock Dorian Pimpernel score for the colourised version. Also included is Georges Franju’s 1952 short Le Grand Méliès which is a something of a time capsule as it features both Melies’ second wife (aged 90) and his son, André (who plays his father).

A huge amount of effort has gone into the restoration of the hand-coloured version of Méliès’ masterwork and it’s all chronicled in the illuminating feature-length documentary that’s included here. Considering its age and the fact the original master negatives were destroyed, it looks pretty good. But I can only wonder what it would look like if it was given the same kind of remastering magic that Peter Jackson weaved on the archival World War One footage that transformed in his 2018 documentary They Shall Not Grow Old?

SPECIAL FEATURES
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 surround audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Multiple scores: Black and White Version (Robert Israel score, Frederick Hodges piano accompaniment, Frederick Hodges piano and actors accompaniment); Colourised Version (Jeff Mills score, Dorian Pimpernel score, Serge Bromberg score, Serge Bromberg narration)
The Innovations of Georges Méliès: video essay by Jon Spira exploring the short and Méliès’ career
An Extraordinary Voyage: Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange’s 2011 documentary on the film featuring interviews with Costa Gavras, Michel Gondry, Michel Hazanavicius, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (80min)
Le Grand Méliès: The 1952 short film directed by Georges Franju about the life and work of Méliès
• 2020 re-release trailer
The Long-Lost Autobiography of Georges Méliès – Father of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Cinema: Available for the first time since 1961, previously unpublished in English, with annotations and supporting material

Demonlover | Olivier Assayas’ neo-noir/cyber thriller unleashed on Blu-ray

Twenty years after David Cronenberg prophesied the dark side of the Internet age in Videodrome, acclaimed French filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep) updated it for the New Millennium in his startlingly prescient 2002 thriller Demonlover, a chilling exploration of the nexus between sex and violence available at the click of a button.

Up-and-coming executive Diane (Connie Nielsen) lets nothing stand in her way when it comes to landing the lucrative Tokyo Anime contract for the Volf Corporation, guaranteeing worldwide exclusive rights to the latest in cutting-edge hentai.

Despised by her assistant (Chloë Sevigny) and engaged in a risky game of corporate espionage, her ruthless ambition meets its match in Elaine (Gina Gershon), the charismatic representative of an American Internet porn company called Demonlover.

However, the company is only the front for an online portal to the Hellfire Club, which gives its users control over the next big thing in interactive extreme pornography: real women, tortured according to subscribers’ whims, in real time.

Diane wants a piece of the action, and will stop at nothing to get it; but as she delves deeper into the twisted world of the Hellfire Club, reality slips away and the stakes of the game are raised to the point of no return.

Armed with a pounding score by Sonic Youth, Assayas’ neo-noir/cyber horror is finally unleashed for the first time on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy, with revealing extras and a new director-approved restoration.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration of the 121-minute director’s cut, approved by Olivier Assayas
• High Definition Blu-Ray (1080p) presentation
• Original 5.1 DTS-HD master audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Audio commentary by writer/director Olivier Assayas
• New visual essay written and narrated by critic Jonathan Romney
Peripherie de Demonlover: Behind-the-scenes documentary directed by Yorick Le Saux
• Archive interviews with Olivier Assayas, Connie Nielsen, Chloë Sevigny and Charles Berling
SY NYC 12/12/01: The Demonlover Sessions: a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the recording of the music score by Sonic Youth
• Q&A with Olivier Assayas filmed at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2003
• Extended version of the Hellfire Club sequence
• Original theatrical trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson

The Big Clock | John Farrow’s superior 1940’s noir heads to Blu-ray

Screwball comedy and heady thrills collide in director John Farrow’s superior noir suspenser, The Big Clock (1948), adapted from the classic 1946 Kenneth Fearing novel of the same name.

Overworked true crime editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) has been planning a vacation for months. However, when his boss, the tyrannical Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), insists he skips his holidays, Stroud resigns before embarking on a drunken night out with his boss’ mistress, Pauline York (Rita Johnson). When Janoth kills Pauline in a fit of rage, Stroud finds himself becoming the prime suspect in her murder…

Charles Laughton may steal the limelight here, but Elsa Lanchester (aka Mrs Laughton) is a real gem as the zany painter with a string of ex-husbands. Ray Milland and Maureen O’Sullivan (aka Mrs Farrow) are also good as the hero and heroine, and George Macready is super hissable as usual. Farrow tops off his terrific vintage thriller with an exciting chase climax.

The Arrow Academy Blu-ray edition of The Big Clock is out on 13 May 2019

SPECIAL FEATURES
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
Turning Back the Clock: analysis of the film by Adrian Wootton
A Difficult Actor: an appreciation of Charles Laughton by Simon Callow
• 1948 radio dramatisation by the Lux Radio Theatre, starring Ray Milland
• Original theatrical trailer
• Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options

Inferno (2009) | Documenting Henri-Georges Clouzot’s all-consuming passion

Inferno (2009)

French director Henri-Georges Clouzot is best-known for his critically-acclaimed suspense films, Le Corbeau, Les Diaboliques (which inspired Hitchcock’s Psycho) and Wages of Fear. But by the mid-1960s, as cinema took a step to the left ‘Bank’ with the rise of the French New Wave, Clouzot and his thrillers were dismissed as old hat (which was pretty weird considering how much young bloods like Truffaut and Godard admired Hitchcock’s Psycho). But owing to his international reputation, Clouzot got a blank cheque from US studio Columbia to make any projected he wanted.

Set in a lakeside resort in Auvergne, 1964’s L’enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot (aka Inferno) was to be a sun-scorched elucidation on the dark depths of jealousy with Romy Schneider (famous for the 1950’s Sissi period dramas) playing the harassed wife of a controlling hotel manager (The Leopard‘s Serge Reggiani).

But the production – which involved three crews and 150 technicians – was cursed from the outset. Reggiani fell ill and had to be replaced, the crew suffered badly from a July heatwave, the lake they were using as a location was about to be drained for a hydroelectric project and Clouzot suffered a heart attack. After three weeks, the film was shut down…

Inferno (2009)

But that’s not the end of the story as Clouzot had one more film in him – and it was a beauty. After getting the all-clear from his doctors and finishing a number of TV documentaries, Clouzot filmed La Prisonnière (1968), which incorporated stylistic elements from the aborted L’enfer.

Having just seen the new 4k restoration at a special screening in London, I can safely say this final work is Clouzot’s finest (and I shall be writing about that at length soon). But it would not have been possible without L’enfer – whose surviving footage forms the bases of this César Award-winning 2009 documentary.

Thirty years after Clouzot’s death in 1977, his widow, Inès de Gonzalez, found herself trapped in a lift with film-maker Serge Bromberg, during which time he learned that Inès had 185 cans of film (about 15 hours) of the unfinished film.

Entrusted with the material, Bromberg and fellow film-maker Ruxandra Medrea used selected bits of the expressionistic original rushes, screen tests, and on-location footage to reconstruct Clouzot’s original vision, while also shedding light on the ill-fated endeavour through interviews, dramatisations of unfilmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes.

The result is quite dramatic, especially as it puts a spotlight on the notoriously meticulous director who became increasingly alienated and paranoid (especially with his cast) as his dream project became an all-consuming passion – much like the Arabian Nights animation, The Thief and the Cobbler, the 30-years-in-the making but never finished project which took over the life of Richard Williams (and became the subject of the must-see 2012 documentary The Persistence of Vision).

The Arrow Academy release includes a HD Blu-ray presentation of the documentary, with original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, optional English subtitles, and the following extra…

• Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French cinema expert and academic talks at length about the films of Clouzot and the troubled production of Inferno
They Saw Inferno, a featurette including unseen material, providing further insight into the production of Inferno
• Introduction and interview with Serge Bromberg
• Stills gallery
• Original trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil
• Illustrated collector’s booklet (first pressing only) featuring new writing on the film by Ginette Vincendeau

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Ludwig (1973) | Luchino Visconti’s melancholy masterpiece gets a stupendous 4k restoration release

Ludwig (1973)Ludwig. He loved women. He loved men.
He lived as controversially as he ruled.
But he did not care what the world thought. He was the world.

In 1864, 18-year-old Ludwig II (Helmut Berger) ascends the throne of Bavaria. Following a scandal involving Richard Wagner (Trevor Howard) and his mistress Cosima von Bulow (Silvana Mangano), Ludwig is forced to expel them from Munich. Under pressure to marry, the latently homosexual king, who is having an intense relationship with Hungarian actor Josef Kainz (Folker Bohnet), agrees to an arranged wedding with his cousin Sophie (Sonia Petrovna). But the strain of this relationship, the war with Prussia, and fears of a conspiracy brewing his court play havoc on his mental state…

Visconti's Ludwig (1973)

With a string of masterpieces behind him – including Ossessione, Senso, The Leopard and Death in Venice – director Luchino Visconti turned his attentions to King Ludwig II of Bavaria with this lavish 1972 historical drama that traces his bizarre 22-year reign, ending with his mysterious death in June 1886.

Sporting a sickly countenance and redden eyelids, Helmut Berger’s Ludwig cuts a miserable figure, who sinks further into despair and madness as he moves from one overly ornate palace and castle to another, which soon become gilded prisons, made all the more claustrophobic by the incessant rain and snow showers.

Visconti's Ludwig (1973)

Featuring Armando Nannuzzi’s sumptuous cinematography and Piero Tosi’s Oscar-nominated costume design, Visconti mounts his epic of 19th century decadence on such an opulent scale – and in the very locations that the real king lived (*) – that it needs to be seen in its entirety to admire its dazzling operatic stature. And this new Arrow Academy release presents the film in its completed form in accordance with the director’s wishes, and – for the first time on home video – includes the English-language soundtrack.

Berger dominates every scene, but he does get some excellent support from the ever-reliable Trevor Howard, who is the spitting image of Wagner, and The House That Screamed’s John Moulder-Brown, as his mentally-unstable brother, Prince Otto, while Romy Schneider reprises her Elisabeth of Austria characterisation from the classic Sissi trilogy. The music includes Richard Wagner’s last original composition for piano, as well as works by Offenbach and Shuman. A melancholy masterpiece deserving of a revisit.

Ludwig Arrow Academy box-setARROW ACADEMY RELEASE
• 4K restoration from the original film negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Two viewing options: the full-length theatrical cut (1hr:15min) or as five individual parts (with the full pisodes 1-3 are on disc 2)
• Original Italian soundtrack with optional English subtitles
• Original English soundtrack available with optional English subtitles (This version also includes the Italian soundtrack where no English track was recorded… which makes for any interesting experience. But if you are familiar with Italian, then it works quite smoothly)
• Interview with actor Helmut Berger (OMG! Be afraid! Be very afraid! Helmut is very candid and very eccentric)
• Interview with producer Dieter Geissler (who also did Short Night of the Glass Dolls, Without Warning and The Neverending Story)
Luchino Visconti: an hour-long documentary portrait of the director by Carlo Lizzani (Requiescant) containing interviews with Burt Lancaster, Vittorio Gassman, Francesco Rosi, Claudia Cardinale and others
Speaking with Suso Cecchi d’Amico: an interview with the screenwriter
Silvana Mangano – The Scent Of A Primrose: a portrait of the actress (30min)
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet containing new writing by Peter Cowie (first pressing only)

DID YOU KNOW?
(*) The film was shot on location in Munich and Bavaria, including Roseninsel, Berg Castle, Lake Starnberg, Castle Herrenchiemsee, Castle Hohenschwangau, Linderhof Palace, Cuvilliés Theatre, Nymphenburg Palace, Ettal, Kaiservilla and Neuschwanstein Castle.

 

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The Blue Dahlia (1945) | Raymond Chandler’s only original screenplay is a hard-boiled film noir classic must-see

The Blue Dahlia (1945)The classic 1940s noir thriller, The Blue Dahlia, stars Alan Ladd as discharged naval flier Johnny Morrison who returns home to Los Angeles to discover his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) has been unfaithful. When she is found murdered, Johnny becomes the prime suspect and promptly goes on the run.

The always gorgeous Veronica Lake then turns up as Joyce, the wife of nightclub owner Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva) – who was Helen’s lover – and with the help of Johnny’s army pals, Buzz (William Bendix) and George (Hugh Beaumont), tries to clear his name…

The Blue Dahlia (1945)

Crime writer Raymond Chandler scored an Oscar nomination for his lean and mean original screenplay. It was the only one he ever wrote specifically for a movie and one in which he completed while ‘drunk’ when production was speeded up on the film because Paramount studio bosses feared Ladd would be re-inducted into the real-life US army.

The film, which was directed by George Marshall (of Destry Rides Again fame), also marked the third pairing of Ladd and Veronica Lake following 1942’s This Gun for Hire (which made Ladd a star) and The Glass Key (also available from Arrow Academy). It was released to great acclaim and has since become a must-see film noir classic.

The Blue Dahlia (1945)

William Bendix is a standout as Ladd’s shell-shocked war buddy who keeps complaining of ‘monkey-music’ in his head and the complicated story – all set in Hollywood’s decadent night club strip – keeps twisting brilliantly until the final cop-out ending (that was also done to placate the US war office).

A radio play version of the film was broadcast on 21 April 1949 as part of the The Screen Guild Theater, starring Ladd and Lake in their original film roles.

The Blue Dahlia is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy in the UK. The extras include selected scene commentary and an introduction from author Frank Krutnik, the 1949 radio play, original trailer, gallery and promotional materials. Plus, a collector’s booklet (first pressing only).

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The Jacques Rivette Collection | The French director’s most celebrated New Wave adventures restored

The Jacques Rivette CollectionFrom those fine purveyors of world cinema Arrow Academy comes the Jacques Rivette Collection, which brings together some of the director’s hardest to see works, each given a 2k restoration, newly translated and debuting on home video (Blu-ray and DVD) for the first time in UK.

Out 1 is one of the crowning achievements of Rivette’s remarkable career. Conceived as a television mini-series, this 13-hour monolith consists of eight feature-length episodes revolving around two theatre companies, blackmail and conspiracy. Multiple characters introduce multiple plotlines, weaving a rich tapestry across an epic runtime. Originally screened just the once in its full-length version in 1971, Out 1 was then re-conceived by Rivette as a four-and-a-half-hour feature and re-named Out 1: Spectre to acknowledge its shadow-like nature.

Complementing Out 1 are two ‘parallel films’, Duelle (une quarantaine) and Noroît (une vengeance). The former sees Rivette head into fantasy territory: the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) search for a magical diamond in present-day Paris. The latter is a loose adaptation of The Revenger’s Tragedy and a pirate tale, starring Geraldine Chaplin. Also included is Merry-Go-Round, in which Joe Dallesandro and Maria Schneider are summoned to Paris, kick-starting the most surreal of all Rivette’s mysteries.

rivette_montage

Arrow Academy’s limited edition Blu-ray/DVD box-set (only 3000 copies) includes the following bonus features…
The Mysteries of Paris: Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 Revisited – a brand-new feature length documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew, and director Jacques Rivette.
Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers – archive interview with the director, in which he discusses Duelle, Noroît and Merry-Go-Round.
• Interview with critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who reported from the sets of both Duelle and Noroît.
• Collector’s book containing new writing on the films.

Bicycle Thieves (1948) | Cinema re-release – Vittorio De Sica’s celebrated postwar drama back in UK cinemas

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Italian Actor/director Vittorio De Sica is best known for his celebrated 1948 film Bicycle Thieves, which tells the story of a simple man called Antonio who scours the streets of Rome looking for his stolen bicycle, which he needs to be able to secure work.

Ranking high in almost every Top 20 film poll imaginable, Bicycle Thieves is neorealism at its best, making excellent use of non-actors and real locations. But this is no improvised documentary, rather a tightly woven drama about humanity surviving the devastating after effects of war and poverty. Unforgettable.

• Bicycle Thieves screens at the BFI as part of the Vittorio De Sica season until Thursday 27 August (so catch it while you can)

• The 2014 Arrow Academy Dual Format release features a restored, high definition transfer of the film; feature length documentary on screenwriter Cesare Zavattini; documentary portrait of De Sica; trailer; and booklet.

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