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Archive for January 7th, 2014

DIGITAL CAMERA

by Allan Fish

Last year I was unfortunately unable to do an annual review of releases, for a myriad of reasons, and while time is short, I shall endeavour to round up the great and the even greater of the last calendar year.  What will be noticed is the comparative lack of entries from beyond the UK and US; this is partly due to my not remotely having the same amount of money to spend now that I’m a penniless student reduced to selling his vital organs on ioffer, but also because there haven’t been too many marvellous releases coming from further afield.  It’s been a quiet year for the German FilmMuseum label, though surely their release of Gunther Lamprecht’s two social drama silents, THE SLUMS OF BERLIN (1925) and CHILDREN OF NO IMPORTANCE (1926) would have placed high last year.  There’s not a single release from Asia on the list; Wong Kar-Wai’s THE GRANDMASTER (2013), released in Hong Kong but still awaiting a UK and US release, sadly was not eligible as I decided not to include releases of recent 2011-2013 films in this list.  This is a list about pristine, reproduced and remastered rediscoveries of the past, not treasures of the present.

Two labels stepped up to the plate – or strode to the wicket, to be faithful to my country – in the last year as rivals to the Criterion, Masters of Cinema and BFI stranglehold on quality releases.  Stateside there’s Olive Films, whose releases, while barebone and with the occasional print being disappointing, continue to bring out solid, respectable Hi Def releases of works we thought we may never see.  In the UK. there’s Arrow Films, who continue to climb the tree.  With the only English friendly Blu Rays of BICYCLE THIEVES (1948)  and THE CONFORMIST (1970) and a freshly released remaster of both versions of CINEMA PARADISO (1988) and THE LONG GOODBYE (1973) just hitting the shops now, and with Sturges’ SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941)  and a huge Walerian Borowczyk box-set coming to Blu next year which is already a front runner for 2014’s release of the year, the future looks very rosy.

Among the honourable mentions, a mention in despatches for The Masters of Cinema Blu Ray of Griffith’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), which only loses out due to it having been released already by Kino and due to the decision not to employ the score that uses Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ which has become so associated with the film in recent decades.  Another Masters of Cinema, Clouzot’s early masterpiece L’ASSASSIN HABITE AU 21 (1942), which it’s great to finally have in an English friendly edition, but whose print, taken from the French Gaumont release, suffered from the same waxy feel of their controversial restoration of LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (1945).  Also to Olive’s releases of the Bogart thriller THE ENFORCER (1951) and Ulmer’s B movie masterpiece RUTHLESS (1948), Cohen’s Blu of Clément’s THE DAMNED (LES MAUDITS) (1947), Warner’s JAMES DEAN COLLECTION, of which EAST OF EDEN (1955) stood out print-wise, MGM’s THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) and Criterion’s THE UNINVITED (1944).  Finally, there’s Studio Canal’s Blu Ray of THE WICKER MAN (1973), which has exceptional extras, but which only Hi Defs the shorter director’s cut and leaves the extended version and theatrical cut as upscaled Standard Def.  So, without further a-do, here’s the top 50, in traditional reverse order….

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