August 19, 2009


Also this week: Tyson, Surveillance, Kagemusha/Play Time, The Inglorious Bastards, Last House on the Left

Highlight of the Week

Husbands (Sony) Available for the first time on DVD in North America, John Cassavetes’ follow-up to Faces now includes 11 restored minutes that were nixed for its unexceptionally received run in 1970. These reinstated moments augment this severely undervalued gem by one of America’s defining independent auteurs, who also costars as one of three boozy, middle-aged white-collar types coping with the death of a friend, among other life disenchantments. Extras: detailed commentary track by author Marshall Fine and half-hour doc The Story of Husbands: A Tribute to John Cassavetes.

Also Available

Tyson (Sony) Long-time Tyson ally/tolerable indie director James Toback exposes an affecting and surprisingly coherent side of the former heavyweight champion, cutting between new and old footage highlighting various controversies and self-reflexive interviews. Extras: Toback commentary, three featurettes.

Surveillance (Magnolia) Jennifer Lynch (daughter of David) makes an unimpressive attempt at morbid nuttiness, with perverted killers, super-bad cops and a Rashômon-esque narrative recalling the events of one bloody unfortunate afternoon — with certain elements so perplexing they seem like an intended satire. Worth viewing, mostly to hear Mr. Lynch sing the closing number. Extras: commentary, making-of, deleted scenes, alternate ending. 

Kagemusha + Play Time (Criterion) Play Time, Jacques Tati’s penultimate film that featured him as the iconic Monsieur Hulot, is hands-down one of the most visually ingenious comedies ever conceived. Akira Kurosawa’s late-career samurai flick Kagemusha contains some his finest colour compositions. Both are now part of Criterion’s sublime Blu-ray catalogue, and high-def aficionados owe it to themselves to expand their non–film buff horizons starting with these two masterworks. Extras ported from previous non-HD releases: scholarly commentaries, shorts, documentaries, featurettes, interviews, essays, more. 

The Inglorious Bastards (Severin) This has little to do with the Quentin Tarantino movie all over this issue other than the (correctly spelled) title. Its men-on-a-WWII-mission plot is done better in films like The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare and The Dirty Dozen. Those looking to get schooled pre- or post-Basterds should seek out this macaroni combat film (legit subgenre, FYI) for few-and-far-between moments of influence. Extras: director’s conversation between Tarantino and Enzo G. Castellari, Train Kept-A-Rollin’ doc, locations featurette, more.

Last House on the Left (Universal) This brain-dead remake of Wes Craven’s zero-budget debut film — which was itself a re-imagining of Bergman’s The Virgin Spring — gets it all wrong. Where the antithetical original contained clever social undercurrents, this one amounts to slick images of laughably grotesque violence. Extras: unrated and theatrical versions, deleted scenes, featurette.