"Released in 1938 and now available in a remastered edition from the Warner Archive Collection, The Great Waltz was one of Louis B Mayer's frequent attempts to bring culture to the American masses by buying up wholesale lots of European talent," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. It's a "biographical fantasy woven, with no particular concern for the truth, around the figure of the Austrian composer Johann Strauss." And now out from New Yorker Video, "the 1975 film adaptation of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet stands in roughly the same relation to The Great Waltz as Schoenberg's dissonant, 12-tone compositions do to Strauss's infectious oom-pah-pahs. Schoenberg's unfinished opera is a work of the utmost sobriety and seriousness — a philosophical assertion of monotheism that confirmed Schoenberg's reconversion to Judaism — and it is presented by Straub and Huillet in a form that avoids any theatrical effects (or, to put it in the language of 1975, 'bourgeois illusionism') or direct emotional appeals. Yet in its rigor and concentration, it can be an immensely moving, even thrilling work."
Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times on Criterion's release of Three Popular Films by Jean-Pierre Gorin: "Obscure by most measures, these eccentric, rarely seen documentaries are popular in a more modest and profound sense — they are, as the writer Kent Jones's eloquent liner notes point out, 'of the people,' which is to say, endlessly interested in individual experience and idiosyncrasy, fully alert to the tragicomedy of human complexity and contradiction."
"John Flynn's Rolling Thunder (1977), available this week for the first time on DVD, takes you back to a time when Hollywood still made grown-up medium-budget thrillers like Charley Varrick, Mr Majestyk or Jackson County Jail," writes the Guardian's John Patterson. "Flynn died in 2007 and never made enough movies; this one reminds us how good he was."
Michael Nordine in Slant: "It should go without saying that the visual transfer of a film like Drive is especially important, and luckily Sony doesn't disappoint." Chris Cabin: "Spike Lee's deeply felt landmark biopic of Malcolm X gets a handsome transfer from Warner Home Video with an excellent smattering of insightful extras." And Jaime N Christley on Annie Hall ("Fox does right by Woody Allen's best-loved neurotic romantic comedy") and Manhattan: "With almost invisible coding, [cinematographer Gordon] Willis used a subtly differentiated grayscale palette for each sequence, designed around mood and theme. Each frame, as a result, salutes many of the city's most famous photographers and cinematographers, from gritty noir to iconic fine art. Fox's Blu-ray transfer, then, has big shoes to fill, and does a commendable job, for the most part."
Book. Back in the NYT, Liesl Schillinger reviews MG Lord's The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice.
Paris. Matt Trueman for the Guardian: "In 1988, John Malkovich donned a periwig to play the predatory Vicomte de Valmont in Stephen Frears's film Dangerous Liaisons. Almost 25 years later, the actor has stepped into the director's shoes with a French language version of the original play in Paris."
Seattle. "The good folks at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Film Festival were kind enough to ask me to help judge this year's SFFSFF, which means a few months ago, I got to watch 21 neat, strange, nerdy short films from around the world," blogs Paul Constant at the Stranger. "I thought maybe only one of the movies was a total bust, 12 of them were very good, and 8 of them were phenomenal." Happening today and tomorrow.
Obit. "Actor-director-producer-screenwriter Zalman King, among whose credits are 'scandalous' sex dramas such as 9½ Weeks, Two Moon Junction, and Wild Orchid, died of cancer [yesterday]," reports Andre Soares at the Alt Film Guide. "King reportedly was 69 years old."