Digital Week – December 21

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Digital Week December 21

The final—and abbreviated—Digital Week roundup of 2021 comprises a couple of interesting new documentaries in theaters and/or streaming as well as vintage Blu-ray releases from Warner Archive (“Ivanhoe”) and the Film Detective (a boxed set of four ’30s Sherlock Holmes mysteries).

In-Theater/Streaming Releases of the Week

The Velvet Queen (Oscilloscope)

The Velvet Queen (Oscilloscope) A film that begs to be seen on the biggest screen possible, directors Marie Amiguet and Vincent Munier’s exploration of the Tibetan steppes—a bleak, imposing area teeming with dozens of photogenic creatures, including (if you is able to see one) the elusive snow leopard—is crammed with breathtaking images as well as existential insights by Munier and his partner, travel writer Sylvain Tesson, about stillness in a world of constant movement. The stunning photography—particularly of the moments in a heavy snowfall where one can make out, gradually and just barely, the outlines of a few reclining animals—makes this a singular, memorable journey into one of earth’s remotest regions.

Joy Womack—The White Swan (Film Movement)

Joy Womack—The White Swan (Film Movement)In this impassioned study of a young American ballet dancer, the first non-Russian to graduate from the Bolshoi’s training program, directors Dina Burlis and Sergey Gavrilov get up close and personal with an artist following her own path despite the skepticism of some of those in charge that she’ll be able to dance “like a Russian.” Womack’s story doesn’t unfold she hopes and expects—her marriage to a Russian dancer, partly one of convenience, ends, as does her association with the Bolshoi—but Burlis and Gavrilov’s intimate documentary still shows Womack in the midst of a burgeoning career.

Blu-ray Releases of the Week

Ivanhoe (Warner Archive)

Ivanhoe (Warner Archive)Nearly everything is in place in this 1952 adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s classic—the lustrous photography, the colorful sets and costumes, the rousing Miklós Rózsa score, and stars Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Fontaine—except for the script, which drags down the epic proceedings with insipid dialogue and meandering plotting. Still, director Richard Thorpe and cinematographer Freddie Young make it all look ravishing—particularly in Warner Archive’s sparkling hi-def transfer—and the Taylors and Fontaine make it all credible and entertaining. The lone extra is an archival Tom and Jerry cartoon, “The Two Mousketeers.”

Sherlock Holmes Vault Collection (Film Detective)

Sherlock Holmes Vault Collection (Film Detective)This boxed set comprises a quartet of Sherlock Holmes mysteries from the 1930s—“Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour” (1931), “A Study in Scarlet” (1933), “The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes” (1935) and “Silver Blaze” (1937)—none of which are particularly enticing but for fans of the famed detective should be diverting enough. Although the four B&W films are newly restored, they are all showing their age; the extras are a nice mix: commentaries on all the films, restored Sherlock Holmes shorts, vintage cartoons and small cards of the original movie posters.