October 13, 2010

The Darjeeling Limited

Also this week: The Magician, Splice, One-Armed Executioner + They Call Her Cleopatra Wong

Highlight of the Week
The Darjeeling Limited (Criterion) 
Enthusiasm for Wes Anderson ain’t what it used to be, despite the director currently turning out some of his best stuff in recent years, namely last year’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and ’07’s The Darjeeling Limited. The director bounced back with the latter, his most disciplined film up to that point, after the uneven The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It contains familiar aesthetic trimmings, but its voyage-through-India conceit provides an inspired and mystical backdrop to the film’s absurdist humour, creating an oddly exquisite culture clash (spelled out in the soundtrack’s use of both Satyajit Ray and The Kinks). Those who held out for the Criterion treatment are finally getting their wish with this new DVD and eye-gasmic Blu-ray edition. Extras from the previous issue are present, including a making-of doc and the short prelude Hotel Chevalier. New are Anderson’s commentary for the feature and the short, deleted scenes, musical-score talk with Anderson and James Ivory, on-set footage courtesy of co-writer Roman Coppola, delightful doodles from Wes’ brother and the director’s nifty nod to Truffaut’s Day for Night in the form of an American Express ad. 

Also Available
The Magician (Criterion) The films of Ingmar Bergman are commonly associated with deep and dark subject matter. But he was also quite the jester, as demonstrated in some of his pre-’60s output. Compared to Bergman’s better-known work, 1958’s The Magician may be light on lyricism but it’s a wonderful and mysterious gem worth seeking. Max von Sydow plays a late-19th-century travelling magician who spars with a skeptical man of science. Not entirely unlike Bergman and von Sydow’s collaboration in The Seventh Seal, it’s at once an amusingly mounted gothic yarn and an indication of what was to come from one of the medium’s foremost auteurs. Criterion hits another release out of the park this week, boasting a gorgeous black-and-white transfer (in standard or high-def) and superb extras like 1967 and 1990 interviews and a new and wonderful visual essay by Peter Cowie. 

Splice (eOne) Cube director Vincenzo Natali has a few Freudian tricks up his sleeve in this clever Canadian creep show that co-stars Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody (making his second reappearance on DVD shelves this week: see The Darjeeling Limited). Upon secretly creating a multi-species hybrid creature in their lab, two scientists decide to secretly raise her too. Psychosexual horror ensues. Having shown up in theatres over two years after its completion, the film has received its share of praise and pans, but ignore the naysayers: Splice is one of the most distinctive creature features in recent memory. Extras include director interviews and a behind-the-scenes doc.

One-Armed Executioner + They Call Her Cleopatra Wong (Dark Sky Films) He may not be as revered as Bergman, but Bobby A. Suarez is a significant supplier in the realm of exploitation cinema — namely those films made in the Philippines throughout the 1970s. This double bill consists of two of the director’s top titles: one concerns an Interpol agent hunting down the thugs who killed his bride and lopped off his arm; the other features a foxy female Interpol agent on a city-spanning hunt for a counterfeiting ring using a nun’s convent as a front. Suarez passed away earlier this year, but he emerges in one of the extras on this swell DVD that also contains interviews with the star of each film.