Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Welles, Laughton, Ozu and other goodies

It's been a very difficult couple of weeks for various reasons, so it's good to have something to smile about. My friend Tipu, who gently nudged me towards the honest life last year by helping me buy original Criterion DVDs (details in this old post), continues the good work. Just yesterday I laid my paws on these treasures:

- The Night of the Hunter: with a two-and-a-half hour documentary on the making of the film, titled "Charles Laughton Directs" - really looking forward to seeing that.

- Late Spring (Ozu): I love Ozu's three "Noriko" films with the beautiful Setsuko Hara, and while I have pirated copies of Early Summer and Tokyo Story, I thought I'd indulge myself with this one. Also included in the DVD-set: Wim Wenders' tribute film Tokyo-Ga.

- F for Fake (Orson Welles): an old favourite which I look forward to seeing again. The mouth-watering list of Extras, including the documentary Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery, is here.

- The Complete Mr Arkadin (Welles): easily the most daunting of these disc-sets, a 3-DVD package with three different versions of Welles' enigmatic 1955 film Mr Arkadin. Again, plenty of Extras, including a novel that may or may not have been partly written by Welles himself.

- La Jetée/Sans Soleil (Chris Marker): the 30-minute La Jetée, made almost entirely of black-and-white stills, is a longtime favourite, but I haven't seen San Soleil yet.

- Cronos (Guillermo del Toro): just to remind myself that movies have been made in the past 30 years as well!


  1. The only one I've seen out of that list is The Night of The Hunter. Mitchum's brilliantly creepy. I believe he also ended up mostly directing his child co-stars, because Laughton seems to have not had a great liking for children.


  2. Your last Criterion spree was, I presume, catalyzed by the Barnes & Noble 50% off Sale of Criterion titles. What about this one? As far as I know, there have been no such announcements recently.Was it the December sale? Any info would help us Criterion fanatics in India build on our own modest Criterion collections...BTW, a great selection, I excepted a Bunuel or two; deeply disheartened by removal of my favorite Bunuel titles from their collection(Sorry, my Criterion ramblings always find the wrong vent)

  3. Dustedoff: love Night of the Hunter - I was fortunate enough to watch it on a fairly large-sized screen in a darkened room at the IHC many years ago. Big fan of Laughton the actor but if I had to choose my favourite of his film achievements it might just be this.

    WR: didn't get these on sale, alas - if there had been a sale on I would have bought at least 10 DVDs this time.

    I have all the Criterion Bunuels except Viridiana, but The Exterminating Angel is the only one bought legitimately. Very nice two-disc set. But what do you mean by "removal"? Are some of their titles out of print?

  4. Get to the Marker pronto. It's a work of genius.

    BTW, did you order from India? How much it the whole thing cost?!

  5. Yes, his last three gems, The Phantom of Liberty (a great personal obsession of mine),That Obscure Object of Desire and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie along with The Milky Way ( Jesus' beard motif from L'Age d'Or recurs here) and Diary of a Chambermaid are all Out Of Print, at least officially - thanks to StudioCanal.Five out of eight Bunuels they have.... They're available through other outlets,though.But, the price!!!

  6. Just Another Film Buff: no, I got them through a friend based in the US and visiting. Not a sale like I said, so it came to around $200 in all - not too bad for a total of 11 DVDs plus the packaging, booklets etc.

    WR: The Phantom of Liberty is a personal favourite too - I spoke briefly about it with Jean-Claude Carriere a few years ago, think the post is on the blog.

  7. Jai: Have you revised your opinion on Night of the Hunter? I remember reading somewhere that you find it a tad overrated!

    I think we've discussed Late Spring elsewhere on the blog. In some ways, a more ambitious film than Tokyo Story.

  8. Shrikanth: I said that? Really? I don't remember this at all - maybe I said something like that after reading an online review (there have been a few) that described it as a "perfect" film. But I think very, very highly of it.

  9. Jai: It was in the comments space of this post.

    Five year old post though!
    As Sam (in Casablanca) would say, a lot of water has passed under the bridge!

    Agree that it isn't a "perfect" film. Guess it was not intended to be, given a gifted amateur director in charge, with a flair for experimentation.

    I think it works best as a dark comedy - an affectionate parody of provincial American life featuring puritans of different hues (Mitchum, Winters and Gish - three very different characters shaped by puritanism)

  10. Shrikanth: oh okay. I think I saw Night of the Hunter on the big screen at Habitat after that comment, and the film had a very different effect on me then - easier to appreciate the Gothic elements, the humour and the deliberate fairy tale-ness of it in a darkened hall.

  11. Shrikanth: just read the comments in that post and remembered that my comment was a response to a troll who was trying to be pedantic. Think that bit about NotH being "overrated" was my attempt at a snarky reply. (Though also, I hadn't seen the film on the big screen at that point.)

  12. WR, Just Another Film Buff - I picked these up for Jai at Amazon & Borders. Amazon is the cheapest, unless there is a sale going on somewhere, since it doesn't charge sales tax & has a small discount. Borders has big coupons but a small collection. The Marker was from there.

    One of the films I bought this time from Delhi was NFDC's boxset of movies based on Tagore stories. The prints of Ray's Teen Kanya, Ghare Bairey & his Tagore documentary are the best I have seen. At Rs. 399 it is very recommended.

  13. Arkadin is one interesting movie. I won’t call it great or even very good, but for Welles fans (I am one) it has much to savor - great scenes, actors & the ultimate existential question. I am constantly amazed how merciless Welles is about himself in his films. Assuming the major characters in his movies are some versions of himself, since after all they are usually played by himself, he is Batman to W R Hearst’s Joker in Kane, is felled by hubris in Amberson, goes into hiding in Stranger, gradually gets corrupted by his associates in Lady From Shanghai, Macbeth & Othello, has sunk into corruptness in Touch Of Evil, is in ‘yeh kya ho raha hain’ mode in Trial, & finally back to a joker in F For Fake. But he is entertaining all the way. Couple of trivia notes on Arkadin – it was originally based on an episode in a radio series he acted in based on the Harry Lime character in Third Man. I remember hearing it many years ago & getting very excited! The other is that one of the characters in Tintin’s Broken Ear was inspired by a real life arms trader who was also the inspiration behind the Arkadin character. I wrote about it some years back here -