Many big-budget movies are actually radio serials with special effects. Many dramas are just theatrical productions that have leaked off the stage. And then there are real films of which this is one. Mood and meaning are created by the visuals and cinematic language, not just the music. And the audience is given the time to look around and listen to the world created by the filmmaker and investigate the ever-changing relationships communicated through compositions of geometry and relativity set off by movement.
This dazzling debut feature from the great Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev, Solaris, The Mirror, Stalker, Nostalghia, and The Sacrifice), based on the 1957 short story Ivan by Vladimir Bogomolov, starts off with a series of poetically pastoral images: a boy smiling behind a spider’s web, a goat, lights slicing through the air, and a butterfly moving around the trees. Then, suddenly, boy is floating up with butterfly his face alive with wonder at the experience. It’s the last casual happiness of youth. All is thrown aside by his awakening into a place of threatening angles, lighting, and atonal chords — almost expressionistic. The boy is now wading through a swamp filled with burnt-out trees and barbed wire with the sun moving behind dark clouds. Throughout Ivan’s Childhood (1962), idealized memories of a peaceful past are mixed with desolate, devastated landscapes of the brutalizing present with little explanation or differentiation. The eight-year-old is crossing the river from enemy lines to arrive at an Eastern Front base and demand to be taken to HQ to deliver a secret message. This is the orphan’s new reality in war-torn Russia.
The gorgeous black-and-white cinematography is by Vadim Yusov and there’s a huge grey-scale between the deep blacks and bright whites, the shades bringing out all the delicate textures. Dirty floors, bare brick walls, and wood grain all have a tactile quality. There’s great detail so that everything is visible and well defined, even in the shadows. Surfaces of various waters — in a well, a bucket, a river, or the diagonal rain that falls in sudden bursts —all look different, crisp, and filled with constantly evolving, flowing patterns, the light reflecting off mottling ceilings and faces. There’s great depth to the amazingly complex, striking, painterly compositions, so in a shot with a commander in the foreground, an officer in the mid-ground, and soldiers digging on a hill in the extreme background, all figures sharp and highly distinct — like a shot from Citizen Kane. A perfect amount of grain maintains the look of film without any loss of resolution.
Sound is extremely clear, the sparse dialogue and infrequent short phrases of music always utterly crisp. The constant sound of dripping water, which can be heard in so many Tarkovsky films, brings attention to the frequent still silences, with no hiss at all, only the odd gunshots to occasionally spoil the lyrical mood.
“Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” — Ingmar Bergman
Video: 1.33:1. Audio: Russian LPCM Mono with English subtitles. Extras: “Life as a Dream” 30-minute video interview with film scholar and writer Vida T. Johnson (co-author with Graham Petrie of “The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue”), video interview with actor Burlyaev (who played the young Vanya) in Russian, with optional English subtitles, video interview with cinematographer Vadim Yusov in Russian, with optional English subtitles, illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova, “Between Two Films” Tarkovsky essay on Ivan’s Childhood, and “Ivan’s Willow” poem by the director's father Arseny Tarkovsky. Studio: The Criterion Collection.
David Ayer, writer of Training Day andDark Blue and director of Street Kings —police dramas all — wrote and directed End of Watch, another dark procedural thriller, this time following two LAPD officers, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his partner Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), on their patrols of the city’s most violent, gang-filled streets in South Los Angeles.
The interesting twist is that Taylor is making his own documentary about the life, camaraderie, and brotherhood of their partnership against crime, as well as the mortal dangers on the beat. Therefor much of the movie we see is from the POV of the policemen, gangbangers, and the civilians caught between them and is shot from surveillance cams, lapel cams, cruiser dashboard cams, and cell-phones cams which each produce the gritty, un-composed footage and night vision shots that are mixed in with the more traditional-style shooting to involve the audience in an adrenaline-fueled tour of duty.
On this particular tour, after discovering and seizing money and firearms during a routine traffic stop of members of a drug cartel, the two young officers are given a death sentence. And while they cope with the consequences of this and bravely go on with their endeavor to protect and serve with honor and courage in the face of carnage and brutality, Taylor wonders whether he should marry his girlfriend, Janet (Anna Kendrick) and Zavala worries about his expected first child with wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez).
Other co-stars include Cody Horn, David Harbour, America Ferrera, Kristy Wu, Frank Grillo, and Jaime FitzSimons.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: commentary with Ayer, “Fate with a Badge,” “In the Streets,” “Women on Watch,” and “Watch Your Six” featurettes, 47 minutes of deleted scenes; DVD and UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Universal.
Recently restored in 4K from the original nitrate negative, The Quiet Man(1952), John Ford’s loving homage to Ireland, is filled with lustrous and luscious Technicolor images of the Emerald Isles, in a loving rose-tinted celebration of the director’s ancestral origins. Literally, new-print the legend.
When retired American boxer Sean Thornton (John Wayne) returns to the village of Innisfree where he was born and bred, he finds love with a fiery, winsome colleen, Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara). Winsome, lose some. Sean courts Kate despite the resistance of herself, her blustering, braggart, blaggard of a boastful father, Will Danagher (Victor McLaglen), whilst trying to buy his childhood home from wealthy spinster Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick).
With a cast that mixes Ford’s stock company — Wayne, O’Hara, McLaglen, Ward Bond, and Barry Fitzgerald — with Irish repertory theater players, plus the glint-in the-eye humor, plenty of Blarney Stone-kissed gab, and a magnificent battle royal between Will and Sean that’s one of the greatest, epic, bar-brawls in cinema, The Quiet Man is first-class entertainment.
Video: 1.37:1. Audio DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. Extras: “The Making of The Quiet Man” featurette, illustrated booklet with excerpt from Joseph McBride's “Searching for John Ford.” Studio: Olive Films.
As a favor to his wife Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt), Hollywood sound designer Peter (John Krasinski) agrees to help 23-year-old New York artist Martine (Olivia Thirlby) with her movie. But when she comes to stay in the wealthy family’s pool house in the aging-hipster community of Silver Lake in Los Angeles to work on the film, this young, beautiful force of nature ignites upsetting emotions and desires. Soon the seemingly perfect relationships of the open-minded couple and their two children along with their laid-back Southern California lifestyle and friends are turned upside-down by electric energy of Martine, forcing everyone to confront themselves, each other, and their new situations.
This well-received, low-budget indy drama was directed by Ry Russo-Young (Orphans, You Wont Miss Me), co-written by Russo-Young and Lena Dunham, and co-stars Dylan McDermott, Justin Kirk, Rhys Wakefield, and Jane Levy.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: TBA. Extras: “Making of Nobody Walks,” and “AXS TV: A Look at Nobody Walks” featurettes. Studio: Magnolia.
Since the 1970s, few individuals have had more influence on modern dance than the late Pina Bausch (1940-2009). Bausch, the pioneering artistic head of Tanztheater Wuppertal group, fused modern dance with theatrical flourishes into a hybrid art form and with this tribute to the legendary choreographer director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, The American Friend, Buena Vista Social Club) has in turn created a new kind of transcendent three-dimensional experience. In it, you become one with the dance, lost in the visual creations in a way that traditional performance films could never allow for, giving back the electricity of live theatre but with a close-up and involving way that takes you out of third row center and into the world and the art.
This film also explores the life and work of the artist while the amazingly talented original company members — including Regina Advento, Malou Airaudo, and Ruth Amarante — perform her most celebrated creations and talk about their work together.
The collaboration between the German director and the choreographer was in preproduction when Bausch died in 2009 and two years later Wenders decided to go ahead but transform the project into an homage to his late friend. Pina 3Dwas shot on a €3.25 million, grossing $14 million worldwide, was greeted with great critical acclaim, and was Oscar nominated for Best Documentary.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: director’s commentary, “The Making of Pina” featurette (available in 3D), deleted scenes with commentary by Wenders (available in 3D), behind-the-scenes footage, interview with Wenders, booklet featuring a piece by novelist and essayist Siri Hustvedt, reprinted pieces by Wenders and Bausch, information on the dances featured in the film, and portraits of the dancers; 2-D Blu-ray and DVD copies. Studio: The Criterion Collection.
In this 1958 romantic comedy, dashing, debonair diplomat-economist playboy Philip Adams (Cary Grant) is introduced to a beautiful and famous London-based actress Anna Kalman (Ingrid Bergman) but pretends to be married in order to avoid getting involved or tied down. His supposed marital status doesn’t prevent Kalman from having a passionate affair with him and doesn’t protect the pair from falling in love. Once the actress discovers the diplomat’s talent for playing a role, though, she angrily decides to pay him back with a little creativity of her own.
In casting Bergman in this film version of writer Norman Krasna’s Broadway comedy, Kind Sir, producer-director Stanley Donen (Charade, Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town) played off the actress’s supposed real-life wicked European sophistication. She had had an affair and a child with brilliant but married Italian director Roberto Rossellini causing great scandal and bringing previously saintly nun-like Bergman’s (The Bells of St. Mary’s, Joan of Arc) career in the US to a sudden screeching halt. In 1956, though, Bergman was able to rehabilitate her American career by winning an Oscar for her performance in Anastasia (accepted by friend Grant). In Indiscreet, Grant and Bergman were reteamed for the first time since having memorably played together in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious.
Indiscreet co-stars Cecil Parker, Phyllis Calvert, Megs Jenkins, and David Kossof.
Video: 1.78:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. Extras: none. Studio: Olive Films.