Some enjoyable DVD experiences I've had in the last few days:
- watching Jacques Tati's magnificent Play Time with selected scene commentary by movie historian Philip Kemp, as well as a video introduction by Terry Jones, both of whom assure us that the only way to see - really see - Tati's grand 70 mm vision is on a big screen. And even then, Play Time is a movie that needs multiple viewings if you want to appreciate everything that's going on: there’s plenty of detail in nearly every frame, lots of long shots where different sets of characters can be seen doing different things. (I've seen it twice on a 25-inch screen; now I can't escape the feeling that I haven't really seen it at all.)
- A short Introduction by Orson Welles to D W Griffith's Intolerance (one of my prize acquisitions). Welles tells us in his deep, sardonic voice that “much too much literature is written on the subject of movies. And a lot of it has been written about me, as it's written about all sorts of people who don't deserve it, and they give me credit for innovations that I'm not responsible for...but the film you're going to watch now deserves all the credit possible...there's almost nothing in the entire vocabulary of cinema that you won't find in it”. I'm reminded of James Agee gushing that “to watch Griffith's work is like being witness to the beginning of melody, or the first conscious use of the lever or the wheel; the emergence, coordination, and first eloquence of language; the birth of an art.”
- An interview with director Mike Figgis about Godard's Weekend (a film that, incidentally, was made around the same time as Play Time and dealt with a similar theme - alienation in the modern world - though in a very, very different way). Also, audio commentary by critic David Sterritt, who has interesting things to say about the shooting of some of the film's key scenes, such as the lengthy, eye-popping shot of a traffic jam on a country road.
- On my DVD of Roman Polanski's Repulsion, there’s a commentary track featuring Polanski and Catherine Deneuve, who played the neurotic young Carol, plagued by nightmares and hallucinations in a London apartment. This isn't a case of the participants sitting together in a room watching the movie and talking to each other; Polanski's and Deneuve's observations were recorded separately, and they discuss different scenes. When it comes to the scene where Carol sits on a sofa with her nightdress bunched well over her knees while her middle-aged landlord looks down at her leeringly, this is what Deneuve has to say:
I think that's the image Roman had of Carol - like a Baby Doll, being like a little girl but not realising or not wanting to see that she had a body, that she could be sitting in a position that was normal to her but was indecent to men, and attractive to them at the same time. That's very much Roman...an image which mixes innocence with perversion. He has a great desire for showing very young women in love scenes because I think his impression of love is related to purity and virginity in a way. In all his films you find that image of the woman being very pure and romantic and naive, and the object of desire.No, I’m not turning this into a simple game of Connect the Dots, given the Polanski-Geimer controversy - and besides, a lot has already been written about the nature of sexuality in Polanski’s films and how it connects with his private life. But I thought it was an interesting bit of business nevertheless. Also see this photograph of Polanski directing Deneuve in Repulsion.
[Some other DVD-related posts here, here and here. And earlier posts on two of my favourite Polanski movies: Macbeth and Fearless Vampire Killers]