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J. R. Dersley

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Nosferatu The Vampyre [1979] [DVD]
Nosferatu The Vampyre [1979] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Klaus Kinski
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £9.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite excellent, 3 Mar. 2012
The outstanding element in this "kind of a remake" of Murnau's Nosferatu is, of course, Kinski's portrayal of Dracula as an evil yet sad, tortured creature longing for both love and death. The film would be excellent if the other members of the cast rose to the same heights. While it could be argued that ther parts gave them less opportunity than Kinski's, I would argue that this is what robs the film of "excellent" status. Harker as portrayed by Ganz is a dull and not very smart man, van Helsing is almost an irrelevance, Renfield seems played for comic relief. Isabelle Adjani as Lucy is probably the next best to Kinski, convincingly showing a dawning realisation of what she must do to end Dracula. Interesting that the sunlight terminates Dracula but not Harker who as newly-made vampire can apparently survive daylight and ride off to spread the evil.

I do agree with other reviewers that Herzog made a very good remake and added much that is original to a tale that is as hackneyed as any in cinema. The film does convey growing evil and dread, without recourse to buckets of screen gore or melodrama; and some of the scenes involving Kinski, with his slow creeping advance and then sudden rush and his emergence from shadow, are extremely well done. If you're looking for violence, terror and in the face shocks, look elsewhere; this is a subtle film with atmosphere and menace.

Gods Of The Plague [1970]
Gods Of The Plague [1970]
Dvd ~ Hanna Schygulla

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ennui, disillusionment, anomie..., 23 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Gods Of The Plague [1970] (DVD)
An essential film for anyone interested in Fassbinder's development, and also his team of players. It's remorselessly bleak (although not without flashes of humour). None of the characters have a redeeming feature and good qualities are swamped by negative emotions and actions. Lack of communication between the characters - either because they have nothing to say to each other or because they can't be bothered - means the dialogue is sparse with longish takes in which little happens. The denouement, such as it is, is amoral and hopeless. And yet, I rather enjoyed it; this kind of film is the antithesis of present day Hollywood fare.

Dogville [DVD] [2004]
Dogville [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Nicole Kidman
Price: £6.74

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great and original film- making, 12 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Dogville [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
I'm not going to write a long review because there are plenty of them here, for and against. I'll just say that it's unique in its concept and execution and that unlike some reviewers I didn't find the ending predictable. I found the gradual moral disintegration of Dogville's citizens well conceived and riveting to watch and although the stage set with houses with no walls started to lose its novelty the compensation was that increasingly it let us monitor simultaneously what was happening in two or more locations.

It's not often that a film polarises opinion with thoughtful arguments for and against; that in itself is a tribute to Lars von Trier.

You've Got Mail [DVD] [1998]
You've Got Mail [DVD] [1998]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Price: £4.77

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, derivative, waste of time., 11 Feb. 2012
This review is from: You've Got Mail [DVD] [1998] (DVD)
The reviewers who praise Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in this dreeadful re-tread of a wonderful old film must have very low expectations of films and actors. Ryan is unbearably winsome, Hanks just re-runs his slightly goofy, likeable rogue stereotype (a bit like an American Hugh Grant). Neither of them actually act in any sense of the word I understand - but I suppose it's just a lightweight piece of rom-com tosh... For the original, with great acting and a plot that actually makes sense, see The Shop Around The Corner. The only good thing about YGM is that it acknowledges that it plagiarises this original - it even lifts some of the lines - how lazy can scriptwriters be and get paid!

Blonde Venus [1932] [DVD]
Blonde Venus [1932] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Marlene Dietrich
Price: £5.00

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Corny and unbelievable plot even for 1932, 10 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Blonde Venus [1932] [DVD] (DVD)
I would have awarded fewer stars but that would have been to ignore the fact that this film was made in the era when such escapism was the norm, even when it featured leaps in the plot that were quite illogical and incredible. Unlike other reviewers I found Marlene Dietrich quite unconvincing at the end of the film as she forsakes her millionaire fiancé and her personality as a headlining cabaret act to reunite with her husband who had forthrightly rejected her after her unfaithfulness. Sudden shifts in the plot e.g. from down and out in a flophouse to star in Paris without explanation of how this was accomplished strain one's ability to suspend disbelief. I guess the conformism of such surrender of a strong woman to renewed domesticity was just what American guardians of moral rectitude wanted to see.

And the songs that Marlene's character sings are dreadful, even for cabaret numbers.

I have a great liking for films of the Thirties from all countries but this is not one of the greats.

The Mizoguchi Collection [DVD] [1936]
The Mizoguchi Collection [DVD] [1936]
Dvd ~ Minosuke Bandô
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £23.27

39 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent films by a master director, 31 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm posting this review in an attempt to rectify the ridiculous review by M.C.Wootton who clearly does not understand the purpose of reviews, i.e.to comment on the films and their presentation, NOT on supplier performance on dates of availability. These films were directed by an acknowledged master film maker and although this set is not yet available I'm awarding 5* to ocounteract the misguided and misleading review I've already referred to. No prospective purchaser should be put off by such an illogical review!
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2013 11:36 AM BST

Price: £6.99

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous, 13 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Biophilia (Audio CD)
I can't equal the musical insights set out by other reviewers but I CAN offer my own view that this is a very fine album by one of the most original talents around in music. Bjork cannot be classified as pop or dance if she ever could be. This music is experimental, boundary-pushing and complex. She introduces rhythms and ideas like no other artist and it's a testament to her worth that the likes of Zeena Parkins collaborate with her on this album. Some of the explorations in the songs are truly remarkable, uniting the movement of tectonic plates with personal emotion (Mutual Core) and DNA to link the individual with generations and species (Hollow). I think Cosmogony and Crystalline are my favourites at present but that might be because I'm familiar with them from the four 12" releases. Like others I don't have access to the apps but I've seen/listened to Crystalline on ipad and it was great. Trust Bjork to integrate the possibilities of a new medium in a thoroughly original and quality way! I agree with the reviewer who says that much of Biophylia isn't catchy: so much the better, I think Bjork has moved way beyond such simple approaches. I'm just thankful that she persists in innovating and exploring, alone amongst her contemporaries. R&B divas, eat your little hearts out!

Irreversible [DVD] [2003]
Irreversible [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Monica Bellucci
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £7.98

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to watch - and to get out of your mind., 8 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Irreversible [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I have no hesitation in giving this film 5* but I understand some reviewers who felt it only merits 1*. It's hard to watch on two grounds: content and style.

The content by now is well-known, even notorious. The revenge murder is seen before the rape that caused (? justifies?) it. Is it the more horrific because the wrong man is killed? Good question, is a murder better or worse (!) if the right or wrong victim dies? Since you haven't witnessed the rape of Alex when you see the revenge, this question is really only posed retrospectively, providing the basis for reappraising your reactions as the facts emerge - unless, that is, you believe in the absolute wrongness of taking human life as opposed to a relative scale of justification. Then there's the rape scene. Before I go further I think I should make my position on rape clear. I hold it to be just below murder and it should have life as a maximum prison sentence; and unlike a 1* reviewer here I don't think it can ever be said that a woman "deserved all she got" because of what she wears and that this in some way mitigates the horror of rape. I think the film's presentation of the rape, unsparingly and in real time, is essential to conveying the victim's ordeal (I suspect many of those who object to this scene are in reality shying away from exposing themselves to something they deprecate in the abstract). It's also a key element in posing the question for the viewer "Now you've seen the event that provoked the revenge attack - how do you feel now about the whole cause and effect dynamic?" I found one of the hardest points in the rape scene was the person seen in the far background who enters the underpass, pauses long enough to see what's happening - and turns back, walks away. I like to think I'd intervene or get immediate help (but would I, confronted with the real thing?); neither happens. Another essential element in the content is the preceding scenes. Would anything have been different if Marcus had behaved with more care towards Alex at the party - so was part of his desire for revenge driven by his own feeling of guilt? On the way to the party, did the discussion about sex that Pierre, Marcus and Alex contribute to Marcus's behaviour at the party? And finally it's easy to overlook the final sequence in the film (i.e. chronologically the first events in the causal chain) where Alex is reading a book - J. W. Dunnes's "An Experiment With Time", which poses issues of time and precognition that drive the plot. I've seen one interpretation that suggests that the whole thing was a dream that Alex has, which certainly would help to explain the stream of consciousness flow and the jumpiness between segments of the film - but would anyone dream their own rape ordeal in such clearly detailed fashion?

As for style, I found the swooping, disorientating camera work in the early scenes very unsettling, hard to watch and hard to grasp. It acted partly to establish transition between one sequence and the next and partly to portray confusing events confusingly: the state of mind of Marcus and Pierre as they escalate from the stupor of shock towards frantic action in their search for the perpetrator and revenge is conveyed mainly by the jagged, disrupted/disruptive camerawork and in retrospect I think it was a valid approach, rather than the more conventional camerawork used later in the film on the more rational early stages (chronologically) of the story.

It's a film that unsettles for some time after viewing, even if you're forewarned , as I was, that it contains perhaps the most dreadful rape episode ever committed to film. I can't agree with those who dismiss it as exploitative, if that had been the intention it would have been made in a more conventional style overall to cater for the thrill seekers. This is a film to make you think about cause and effect, motivation and justification for actions, and one's own role and reactions as a participant in the film by watching it.

Chinese Film Classics Collection: Song at Midnight [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Chinese Film Classics Collection: Song at Midnight [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

4.0 out of 5 stars Gem of early Chinese cinema, 18 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As the earlier reviewer says, this DVD is from a print that is way below what would be normally acceptable, there's clearly been no attempt to restore this priceless film. During the first 5 minutes or so it's almost impossible to make out what's going on (it's at night and there's no contrast so it's black on black...) BUT it's definitely worth persevering. The picture quality thereafter is about what one might expect from a silent B&W film - occasional scratches and blobs on screen but perfectly watchable. I'm glad I wasn't dependent on the soundtrack which is muffled, but the subtitles carry one through the plot - which isn't hard to follow. It's The Phantom of the Opera adapted for the China of the late 1930s - so the Phantom is helping a male singer in the hope that said singer will rescue the Phantom's lover from her insanity, brought on by the Phantom's disfigurement by acid. It's exciting, pacy (the Phantom's fight with the villain and subsequent flight pursued by a mob is all at whirlwind speed!) and quite touching in places. I like silent and early sound films and this has all the feel of the transition from silent to sound that happened in Hollywood a few years before this was made.

So, have I put you off by dwelling on the technical deficiencies of this DVD? I hope not; this film is a worthy entry in the "1001 Movies You Must See before You Die" list and as far as I know this is the only version available. I agree with the earlier reviewer - all praise to the small label that's enabled us to see this terrific film, even in this somewhat imperfect state.

Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith [DVD] [1977] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith [DVD] [1977] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film - but no subtitles on this DVD!, 17 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This definitely deserves its place in the "1001 Movies You Must See before You Die" list. It's not just thrilling - although it certainly is that - it's also intelligently written and directed. The way it charts Jimmie's reponse to being pulled simultaneously towards his aboriginal and white ancestry, and his journey from earnest self-improver to hate-filled avenger to lost soul is fantastic. It's worth watching the director's commentary, it brings into focus his intention to show that the things that were said and done to and by Jimmie were a product of, and consistent with, that time in Australian history. We might well be appalled at them but that's how it was. We can condemn retrospectively - just as we condemn the Holocaust and other outrages - but we also have to understand that the capacity for humans to inflict these outrages pre-dates history and will always lurk ready to appear. The value of this film lies in this message.

But what a pity that it's only available as an import and that this version - the Region 1 US import - has no subtitles. It's not just the aboriginal dialect that is at times unintelligible - the white Irish Australian settler accent defeated me too at times! This was more than just a pity, it robbed me of a complete understanding of the things said to Jimmie in "justification" of the treatment of him, and of his justification for his response. Fortunately the general drift was clear enough.

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