Noirvember 2016, Episode 11: Blast of Silence (1961)

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Blast of Silence (1961) Allen Baron
(1:17)
Criterion DVD – interlibrary loan

Director and star Allen Baron has spent most of his career directing television, mostly from the 70s and 80s. I’m not sure how he ever got Blast of Silence made, but I can’t wait to watch Requiem for a Killer: The Making of “Blast of Silence, one of the extras on the Criterion DVD, to find out. It’s one of those movies that seems like it was probably an uphill battle to make, but regardless of the hardships involved, it was all worth it.

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Noirvember 2016, Episode 9: Mr. Arkadin (1955)

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Mr. Arkadin (1955) Orson Welles
(1:39 – Corinth edition)
Criterion DVD – library

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I’m uncertain whether I can do justice to Mr. Arkadin either as a film or as one of the oddest entries in cinematic history, but here goes. In Naples, an American cigarette smuggler named Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden, above right) hears the dying words of a man named Bracco, who has just been stabbed. Bracco gives Van Stratten two names, names that will supposedly lead to great riches. One of those names is Gregory Arkadin. After much searching, Van Stratten locates Arkadin (Orson Welles) who informs him that he wants Van Stratten to investigate someone. Who? Gregory Arkadin. It seems Arkadin can’t remember anything before 1927. And we’re off…

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Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Dekalog – Which Version to Get?

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I’m taking a brief break from Noirvember to talk a bit about which version of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Dekalog to buy. I saw two of the ten episodes years ago and have wanted to watch the entire set ever since. We have two choices (actually there are more than two, but these are no doubt the two best choices): The Criterion Collection release and the Arrow release.

DVD Beaver has a comparison of all the available editions, but again, the Criterion and Arrow Blu-ray releases are the main ones I’m interested in. I’ll get into some of the more obvious differences, but the primary question for most viewers will no doubt be which version is the most true to the original films as they were originally broadcast on Polish television?

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Film Noir Releases in October 2016

Okay, so October obviously belongs to horror, and so next month may be a bit light on new film noir releases, but remember that November (or Noirvember, if you prefer) is just around the corner. In the meantime, I hope these October noir releases – many of which are European – will give you something to consider. (Unless otherwise indicated, these are U.S. Region A Blu-ray releases.)

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Blindspot Series 2016: Persona (1966)

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Persona (1966)
Written, directed, and produced by Ingmar Bergman
Cinematography by Sven Nykvist
Edited by Ulla Ryghe
Music by Lars Johan Werle
AB Svensk Filmindustri
Hulu streaming (1:24)

The basic story in Persona is fairly simple: a famous actress Elizabet (Liv Ullmann, below right) has suddenly and for no apparent reason stopped speaking. A young nurse named Alma (Bibi Andersson, below left) is charged with caring for Elizabet. That’s the simple version.

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Blindspot Series 2016: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Produced by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger and Richard Vernon
Cinematography by Georges Perinal
Edited by John Seabourne
Music by Allan Gray
The Archers Films
Criterion Collection DVD – borrowed from Ann G. (color; 2:43)

Every now and then you encounter a film that speaks to you in vastly different ways depending upon your age and life experience at the time you see it. Roger Ebert spoke to this often when discussing his long-term relationship to the film La Dolce Vita (1960).  Such films never change, but our life situations and ways of thinking do, tricking us into believing that we’re seeing a different movie at age 40 than we saw at age 20, for example. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is one such film, yet whereas La Dolce Vita takes place over the course of only seven days and nights, Colonel Blimp covers decades.

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Be Careful Out There… It’s the…

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I don’t know if this is true in your neck of the woods, but today is Insanity Day around here. That’s right: it’s the last day of school. Prepare yourselves…

We’re busy decorating the library today and kids have already been busting down the doors since Monday, so if your life is as crazy as I think it is right now, you might need some good news. Here are a few distractions to help you keep your sanity (if you have any left by this point):

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See This Film Now!

Phoenix

This will be brief. I plan on a future post exploring this film more fully, but for now I urge you to watch Christian Petzold’s Phoenix (2014), a movie now streaming on Netflix.

The time is 1945. Nelly (Nina Hoss) is a Jewish cabaret singer who has survived the horrors of Auschwitz, although with a disfigured face. After reconstructive surgery, she returns to Berlin to find her Gentile husband (Ronald Zehrfeld) who may or may not have betrayed her to the Nazis. Although he won’t recognize her post-surgery, she’ll recognize him.

That’s all I’m going to tell you about the film, other than it’s amazing, multi-layered, brilliantly acted, and…. I must stop. Phoenix is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. (It might just be the best.)

Although Phoenix was released in 2014, it didn’t come to U.S. theaters until Summer 2015. In addition to being available on Netflix, Criterion released Blu-ray and DVD editions of the film in April 2016. This immediately goes to the top of my “to buy” list. You may feel the same way after watching it. Again, look for a full review in the near future (after I’ve watched the Criterion Blu-ray).