Bulk DVD acquisition has just occurred: 24 films (which I probably won’t see anytime in the near future), all purchased from a film appreciation and research group called Drishya. Have mostly picked up movies I saw a long time ago and wanted to own (including Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, Herzog’s Aguirre, Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, Tarkovsky’s Solaris and the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup) but there are also a few titles I somehow never got around to watching – like Kurosawa’s under-seen version of Gorky’s The Lower Depths, Antonioni’s La Notte, Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains and Nagisa Oshima's cult erotic film In the Realm of the Senses.
The discs are reasonably priced and it’s for a decent cause – these guys need money to fund their activities around the country – but I had to overcome a mental block to buy them. As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to DVDs my attitude isn’t that “getting to watch the film is the only thing that matters”. I need the complete package: a proper cover with literature about the movie on it, a semblance of order, the impression that it’s been bought first-hand (one of the things I like best about the Palika Bazaar shop where I usually purchase from is that they supply plastic boxes with every disc – never mind that the boxes are usually out of shape).
But these DVDs are distressingly anonymous: no covers, just regular discs with the names of the films scrawled on top with a felt pen, and loosely placed in little polythene packs. They carry associations of a pure, unfettered film-student love for movies (I visualise all-night film-watching marathons with discs casually strewn around the room), but I feel strange about them somehow. I don’t even feel like storing them alongside my classier-looking DVDs; might keep in a cupboard or something.
The prints are decent, not great: haven’t encountered any major problem yet but some of the films are slightly grainy in places, like there’s been a format-transference problem (no, I have no idea what that means either, but it sounds like it might mean something). But what I’m most relieved about is that (with a few exceptions) the special features on most of the discs seem to be in working order. There are audio commentaries (including a joint one by Polanski and Catherine Deneuve on Repulsion), interviews with directors, a couple of feature-length documentaries. Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ has an interview with Peter Gabriel about the process of composing music for the film. There are two versions of Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (one of the treasures in this lot): one silent, the other accompanied by the “Voices of Light” symphonic soundtrack.
Anyway, if you’re interested in picking up hard-to-get films, do check out the Drishya website, which has contact information for various cities. And here’s a catalogue of the available titles.