Alain Resnais—Five Short Films (Icarus Films)

Digital Week – March 29


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This week’s roundup covers re-releases of unheralded classic films, led by, on Blu-ray, a quintet of short masterworks by the great French director Alain Resnais along with two Warner Archive features: 1962’s “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” and the original 1937 “A Star Is Born.” Also worth noting is the return, at Film Forum in Manhattan, of the 1969 British drama “Bronco Bullfrog,” from the scrappy new movie and music distributor titled Seventy-Seven.

Blu-ray Releases of the Week

Alain Resnais—Five Short Films (Icarus Films)

Alain Resnais—Five Short Films (Icarus Films)These short films—made between 1948 to 1957—by French master Alain Resnais (1922-2014) complement his brilliant, Holocaust-themed Night and Fog (1955), starting with a trio of shorts about painters: “1948’s “Van Gogh” and, from 1949, “Paul Gauguin” and “Guernica,” the latter powerfully juxtaposing and superimposing imagery from Picasso artworks as poet Paul Eldard’s impassioned narration addresses the ghastliness of war. Then there’s a pair of classic Resnais shorts: 1956’s “Tous la Memorie du Monde,” a buoyantly inventive paean to France’s national library, and 1957’s “La Chant du Styrene,” Resnais’ first color film and a dazzlingly visual tribute to the world of plastics. All five films have been gloriously restored in hi-def.

Halka (Unitel)

Halka (Unitel)Considered the national opera of Poland, this 1847 masterpiece by Stanislaw Moniuszko combines tragic melodrama with compelling music to show the downfall of one of the most complex female characters in operatic history. In this stellar 2019 Vienna Opera staging, American soprano Corrine Winters plays the title character with all the finesse, ferocity, sensuality and sympathy she can muster, complementing her innate sense of drama and musicality. Lukasz Borowicz conducts the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and Arnold Schoenberg Chorus in a potent reading of Moniuszko’s classic score. There are first-class hi-def video and audio.

Rick and Morty—Complete Seasons 1-5 (Warner Bros)

Rick and Morty—Complete Seasons 1-5 (Warner Bros)For a remarkable 5 seasons and 51 episodes, this blissfully nutty animated series about a mad scientist and his gleefully supportive grandson always reached new levels of insanity as its creators kept cramming more visual hijinks and verbal zaniness into the mix. The show always threatened viewers with overload, but the crude jokes and eye-catching animation made granddad Rick and grandson Morty’s journeys to dozens of alternate realities a continuously entertaining trip. The entire series looks colorful and dazzling on Blu-ray; extras include commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes and inside the episodes.

A Star Is Born (Warner Archive)

A Star Is Born (Warner Archive)This first telling—from 1937—of the soap-operaish story of a novice actress (Janet Gaynor) who meets, is groomed by and marries an actor on his way down (Frederic March) then becomes a big star herself is done effectively by director William A. Wellman. Best of all, there’s none of the bloat that would resurface in subsequent adaptations: 1951’s with Judy Garland and James Mason; 1976’s with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson; and 2018’s with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. The B&W film looks perfect on Blu-ray, and extras comprise two radio broadcasts of the story, from 1937 with Gaynor and Robert Montgomery and 1943 with Garland and Walter Pidgeon; cartoon “A Star Is Hatched”; and three shorts, “Mal Hallett and His Orchestra,” “Taking the Count” and “Alibi Mark.”

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (Warner Archive)

In this sumptuous 1962 cinematic version of three stories created by the famous fairy-tale creators—“The Dancing Princess,” “The Cobbler and the Elves” and “The Singing Bone”—directors Henry Levin and George Pal used the Cinerama process, where three cameras show the images on a theater’s large curved screen. On this Blu-ray edition, two cuts of the film are included: the regular widescreen letterbox version and the Smilebox version, which imitates the curved Cinerama screen appearance. It looks a little bizarre, but it’s fun watching both versions for maximum visual impact. The movie itself—with Laurence Harvey and Karl Boehm as the brothers and Yvette Mimieux, Barbra Eden and Claire Bloom as various damsels in distress—is an entertaining diversion, but the restorations look absolutely spectacular. Extras include announcement/theatrical trailers for both versions; radio interviews with Mimieux and actor Russ Tamblyn; featurettes “The Epic Art of the Brothers Grimm,” “The Wonderful Career of George Pal” and “A Salute to William Forman”; and the “Rescuing a Fantasy Classic” documentary.

In-Theater Release of the Week

Bronco Bullfrog (Seventy-Seven)

Bronco Bullfrog (Seventy-Seven)Directed by Barney Platts-Mills, this 1969 black-and-white drama about teenagers traversing the rough neighborhoods of East London is an unpolished gem, a spiritual sibling of the vigorous and humane character studies of Ken Loach that explores the relationships among Del and his friends Roy and Jo (known as Bronco Bullfrog), who partake in petty robberies. The exceptional no-name cast is led by Del Walker as Del, Anne Gooding as Irene, Sam Shepherd as Jo and Roy Haywood as Roy, and Platts-Mills (who died in October) chronicles the teens’ attempts to escape their dead-end existence—particularly Del and Irene—with sympathetic accuracy and no condescension.

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