Roman Polanski’s masterpiece comes to HD for the first time in a very solid week for new Blu-Ray releases.
Roman Polanski is obviously a divisive figure – for more than just his cinematic output – but there’s no doubt that in the 1960s and 70s there were few who were putting out better films, especially for high-profile studios. This reached its zenith with the incredible Chinatown, which saw the screenplay prowess of Robert Towne, the producing powers of Robert Evans and the directorial heft of Roman Polanski all coming together at just the right time – marking perhaps the high point for each man’s career.
The deceptively simple story morphs into something more complex and sinister than you might imagine going in. Landmark stuff for a great many reasons and a film whose presence is still felt today – stretching even to ‘kids’ films like Rango, which takes a great many style and story ideas from Polanski’s work. Jack Nicholson has rarely been better, Faye Dunaway is an incredibly enigmatic presence and in John Huston you have a powerhouse actor who nearly matches his directorial skill with a chilling performance. It’s just wonderful stuff and I’m itching to revisit it.
Chinatown has never been the most impressively featured home video release but all that looks to change with this Blu. It includes extensive documentary material and, perhaps most exciting of all, a commentary featuring Robert Towne and David Fincher. This commentary would be interesting enough with just Towne – the stories behind the writing and production of the film are fascinating as anyone who has read Robert Evans’ highly enjoyable, but undoubtedly subjective, The Kid Stays In The Picture will know. The addition of Fincher is something I am very excited about as he is an incredibly animated presence on commentaries, though his slightly monotone voice sometimes masks this. He’s a wealth of knowledge and hearing him wax lyrical about this film should be absolutely magnetic.
Available for around £10 online, if you aren’t buying this, you’re an idiot.
Rather blowing my mind that this is coming to Blu already but, as I type on one of the hottest days of the year and remember the snow storm I walked into when going to the cinema to check it out, I suppose it’s probably a fitting amount of time to release it!
Josh Trank’s Chronicle was one of the real surprises of the first quarter of the year, a film which wasn’t on anyone’s radar but impressed many with a relatively fresh take on the found-footage genre. Managing to cram interesting characters, a compelling story, terrific action and wonderful production values into less than 90 minutes, it was rightfully a success on its theatrical run.
Dane DeHaan is fantastic as Andrew; a loner who manages to find companionship thanks to an asteroid shaped McGuffin, but soon finds the rage which had been brewing within coming out in destructive and, at times, disturbing ways. Both the other leads are terrific, creating a realistic dynamic between three friends and the emotional arcs they go through. Perhaps Alex Russell’s relationship with the standard issue romantic interest leaves something to be desired, but this is DeHaan’s show really.
Trank also deserves huge credit. On his way to being a terrific director and using none-too-flashy effects, he crafts a world where these powers are used just as much for having fun as anything altruistic. He uses the found-footage aesthetic in a way which feels appropriate within the narrative, something that is often a huge problem in other similar films. Chronicle is one of the early year’s best for sure, and I very much look forward to a re-watch on Blu.
Extras on the disc do look to be a little lacking – though this is an Extended Edition which apparently has some extra character moments and little else, along with some deleted scenes and short featurettes. This is a shame – seeing a bunch of unknowns coming together and pretty much knocking it out of the park could have made for some intriguing behind-the-scenes material.
Available for around £15 online, this is an easy buy for me and I’d imagine many others.
One of the big successes of last year’s Sundance finally comes to Blu after what feels like an absolute bloody age. It certainly feels like an eternity since I saw it at the London Film Festival back in October. In my Top 25 of last year, it’s a film I’ve got a massive itching to take in again as it had a long-lasting effect which could make a second watch very rewarding.
It already feels like Elisabeth Olsen has been with us for ages, she’s certainly got a busy 2012 release wise, but in fact MMMM credits her as ‘Introducing’. What a performance this is, managing to be both knowing and naive at the same time without ever feeling artificial. As her Martha/Marcy May unravels she finds little help in coping with the aftermath of living under the cult of John Hawkes’ charming leader. Her mind becomes increasingly strained – the film mirrors this with fantastic editing which fractures the narrative in a way where the flashbacks experienced become more and more abrupt. One harsh cut, involving a door being slammed, is burned into my mind. All of this feeds into the film’s sense of unease with great skill, helped by Durkin’s penchant for holding shots longer than most. In this respect the film bring to mind the work of Michael Haneke, particularly the two Funny Games films and Hidden.
Extras on the disc look a tad light, with very short featurettes making up the package, though I am certainly interested in Mary’s Last Scene, a short by Sean Durkin which apparently plays like a prequel to the main film itself. The disc is being retailed at around £17.99 online, Fox seemingly wanting to punish those with an interest in this small film. Recommended on the strength of the film alone, I will likely be picking up this week.
UPDATE: As of Tues 29th May, Zavvi have the best prices on the net for MMMM and Chinatown at £14.95 and £7.95 respectively.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
The Artist – the Oscar-botherer comes to Blu and will likely be picked up by many, though perhaps not me.
Iron Sky – fun moon Nazi action makes a quick HD debut.
Journey 2 The Mysterious Island 3D – watch Michael Caine fly on a bee and wonder why in both dimensions!
Island of Lost Souls – the Masters of Cinema folks bring us another classic I’ve never seen.
Klitschko – boxing doc sure to be of interest to fans and few else.
Life Is Sweet/Brassed Off/Fever Pitch – FilmFour 90s fare in HD for the 1st time I believe.
Michael – a boring bag of fuck off.
More next week!