THE JOHN CASSAVETES COLLECTION (15) 725min
(Optimum Classic DVD retail) .0000
Although his status as a great American independent filmmaker has never been in doubt, John Cassavetes' legacy has had to endure frequent revision and reassessment.
An accomplished actor, he accepted a slew of well-paid character roles (The Dirty Dozen, Rosemary '3 Baby) to rustle up funds for his own personal projects. While he was frequently accused of indulging his actors. and his films were often attacked for their supposed impenetrability. at its best. his work bristles with energy and invention. By rigorously
subverting Hollywood norms. Cassavetes attempts to eliminate audience passivity by inviting us to engage and grapple with his films‘ unique style and rhythm. ‘I won‘t make shorthand films.‘ he claimed. 'I want to shake [the audience] out of those quick. manufactured truths.‘ This six-disc set (modelled on Criterion's recent. exhaustive eight- disc Region 1 set) features five films: his debut Shadows (1959). Faces (1968). A Woman Under the Influence (1974). two versions of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976/1978) and Opening Night (1977). Packed with features and commentaries on all five films as well as interviews with the
director and his many collaborators. this must Surely COunt as one of the DVD packages of the year.
(Tartan Video DVD retail) COO
In Greek mythology. Tiresias was a Theban soothsayer. blinded by the gods but gifted with precognition. who lived as both man and
This update replaces the seer with a pre-op Brazilian transsexual called Tiresia (played first by Clara Choveux. then Thiago Teles) who is kidnapped by loner Terranova (Laurent Lucas) and begins to have visions of the future.
The switch of actors works well. but having Lucas return later as a priest investigating the ‘miracle' confuses issues. as does director Bertrand Bonello‘s reliance on oblique imagery that often threatens to exclude the audience and render his challenging vision impenetrable. Minimal extras. (Dave Martin)
BlOGRAPHlCAL DRAMA VAN GOGH
(15) 159 min
(Artificial Eye DVD retail) 0...
The troubled playwright Antonin Artaud once wrote an essay on Van Gogh. suggesting that the artist didn't kill himself — rather that ‘society suicided him‘. In Maurice Pialat's lengthy examination of Van Gogh's last months. there are hints at a similar perspective. Visually styling itself closer to the
z!.n~...'..i.". —..._- "an.
lmpressionistic work of Renoir and Monet than to Van Gogh's fevered aesthetic. Pialat paints a picture of external society over the inner life. While it is clear Van Gogh‘s (Jacques Dutronc) charisma works wonders on the staid doctors. bourgeois friends and even his own brother. their presence in his life it isn't enough. it seems. to keep him alive. Carefully avoiding any cause and effect sketching, Pialat nevertheless delineates the circumstances of the artist's life in such a way that his suicide. when it comes. is hardly expected but is very far from inexplicable. It remains. alongside Paul Cox's Vincent. the key work on the artist.
BOX SET WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY PRESTON STURGES (Universal Pictures Video DVD retail) 0...
Preston Sturges made celluloid history by being the first person to be given the duel writer- director screen credit. After a ten-year stint writing plays and movies this script for 1933's The Power and the Glory supposedly influenced Citizen Kane). Sturges sold his screenplay fOr The Great McGinty to Paramount for S1 in order that he could take more control of his work by directing (he won an Oscar for his trouble). At his creative peak in the mid-1940s. Sturges was phenomenally popular with both audiences and critics and a deal he signed With Fox made him the highest paid
THE EDGE OF YOUTH Alistair Harkness rows upstream with JACOB AARON ESTES, the young coxswain at the helm of US horror film Mean Creek.
Take a sampling of American independent teen ﬁlms and you’d be forgiven for thinking that all kids are violent, hysterical, dope-smoking, gun-toting, homicidal nihilists. Following the template set by Tim Hunter’s haunting, poetic 1987 ﬁlm River’s Edge, recent movies such as Bully, Manic, Thirteen and Elephant have all combined edgy aesthetics with ripped-from-the- headlines stories in an effort to document the post-Columbine, kids-gone- bad phenomenon in more complex ways than the mainstream media. The latest film of this ilk is Mean Creek, a grungy tale about a group of Oregonian teens that has shades of Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness. It’s a thoughtful, insightful ﬁlm, just don’t try and pigeonhole it as part of any new wave of cautionary youth movies. ‘I wrote it in the mid- 905 because I recognised that there was a dearth of movies like this,’ says Jacob Aaron Estes, the film’s 31-year-old debut director.
It’s easy enough to understand Estes’ desire to set his film apart. Aside from being ahead of the curve when he wrote it (shortly after graduating from the American Film lnstitute’s prestigious directing programme), Mean Creek doesn’t write off its young protagonists as a bunch of desensitised, amoral demons. Instead it finds the scarin talented Rory Culkin heading a cast of sensitive teens whose plan to punish the bellicose fat kid who makes their lives a misery gets complicated when they lure their tormentor (newcomer Josh Peck) on a boat trip only to discover his violent nature is all a front. ‘There are complete screwball kids out there that don’t think past their noses but this was not a story about them,’ notes Estes. ‘This is a story about conscientious kids who make a really bad decision. They’re reflective and talkative and aware of potential morality, but they’re also juveniles, so they’re not really seeing the other possible outcomes.’
Interestingly, Estes doesn’t think teenagers are his target audience, tough he hopes they will ﬁnd a way to see it. ‘I think these characters are mythic and the ﬁlm is a myth of innocence. I tried to be convincing by making the characters as real as possible, but from an adult spectator’s
point of view, they’re living in a land far, far away.’
I Mean Creek (Tartan) is out now on DVD.
screenwriter in the world. and one of the highest paid professionals in America full stop — all this having directed just eight films.
ml. l"‘.'l V'l ‘il' iii
A few short years later he was out of work. scrabbling around for gigs in Europe and from pals. Just like the auteur he's often bracketed With: Orson Welles. Seven Sturges titles are here (The Miracle of Morgan 's Creek. one of his best. is missing), collected in a boxed set that goes some way to redressing his status. They're all superb. of course. from the Hollywood satire Sullivan's Travels (the inspiration for the Coen
brothers' Oh Brother; Where Art Thou?) to the sparkling sex farce The Palm Beach Story. What unites these gems (aside from being far ahead of their time) is an utterly bonkers mix of the sophisticated and the downright ribald. As the man himself said: ‘A chase is better than a chat.‘
Extras include a commentary by Terry Jones on Sullivan's Travels and a booklet of biograi.)hical info.
(3 90 Oct 9005) THE LIST 43