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DVDs. De Chomón, Fairbanks, Lists, More

Update: Sight & Sound's "The DVDs of 2010": "24 critics and curators choose their releases — and rediscoveries — of the year."

"For some while we have been bemoaning the lack of a DVD of the work of Segundo de Chomón," writes Luke McKernan at the Bioscope, where he's clearly pleased to announce that we've now got one: Segundo de Chomón, el cine de la fantasía. "Produced by the FilmoTeca de Catalunya, and with films taken from the collections of the BFI, CNC Archives du Film, Eye, La Cineteca del Friuli and others, the multi-region DVD contains 31 titles (144 minutes of film), with an original music score by Joan Pineda. There is a booklet, Segundo de Chomón: Más allá del cine de las atracciones 1902-1912, written by Joan M Minguet, author of the main work on de Chomón, Segundo Chomón. El cinema de la fascinació (2009). There are subtitles available in Catalan, Spanish and English."

And he adds: "It is curious why he is not generally known as one of the early cinema masters, except among the cognoscenti in the field. Perhaps it is because there is a smaller body of work than that created by Georges Méliès (his works can perhaps be described as a cross between that of Méliès and another who combined trickery with animation, Emile Cohl); perhaps it is because he was a Spaniard working in France for the key part of his film career that has meant that neither side has championed him as much as they might have done. De Chomón carried on as a filmmaker, specialising in trick effects, working for Pathé, Itala and others, and contributing effect work to two of the most notable films of the silent era, Pastrone's Cabiria (1914) and Abel Gance's Napoléon (1927). Perhaps the publication of Segundo de Chomón, el cine de la fantasía will bring hilm back into the spotlight that his genius undoubtedly merits."

David Cairns wrote about de Chomón here in The Daily Notebook last year, and then, this fall, when the New York Film Festival programmed an evening of his work, followed by a weekend at the Anthology Film Archives, Aaron Cutler and Ed Halter wrote up appreciations at the House Next Door and for Artforum, respectively.

"Though directed by Albert Parker, who had made his name on his 1922 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes starring John Barrymore, The Black Pirate [1926] even today feels like more of a product of the film's star and producer, Douglas Fairbanks Sr," writes Chris Cabin in Slant. "Seven years after teaming up with Charlie Chaplin, DW Griffith, and Mary Pickford, whom he was married to for roughly 15 years, to create United Artists, Fairbanks took on the eponymous role in Parker's silent swashbuckling picture, one of the first films to fully make use of the two-strip Technicolor process, during not only a creative apex for the so-called 'King of Hollywood,' but a historical and technological benchmark in the furthering of film as an international art form.... A standard-bearer for all swashbuckling pictures, if not the standard-bearer, The Black Pirate returns as a crackerjack entertainment, a historical benchmark, and yet another shrine to movie love courtesy of Kino."


Sean Axmaker on Sony's The Films of Rita Hayworth: "The latest box set from the Film Foundation's 'The Collector's Choice' line of classic releases is the first to focus on a performer. It's also the least essential of the offerings to date. The former Margarita Carmen Cansino, a dancer and model who worked her way up from bit parts and big screen window dressing, is more icon than actress. And while she appeared in a handful of timeless classics — think Only Angels Have Wings and The Lady From Shanghai, with a little Blood and Sand and Separate Tables tossed in — she was a supporting player three of those four and none of them are included in this set.... Her most iconic role as a silver screen siren is Gilda (1946), the flirtatious bombshell who mercilessly (and sadistically) teases the bodyguard (tough guy Glenn Ford) of her crippled sugar daddy husband (George Macready).... Film critic and historian Richard Schickel contributes an observant commentary track for Gilda with a relaxed ease and there are video introductions to four of the films: Director Baz Luhrmann on Cover Girl, Martin Scorsese and Baz Lurhmann on Gilda and actress Patricia Clarkson on Tonight and Every Night and Miss Sadie Thompson."



At the Video WatchBlog, Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas has run twelve lists of VW contributors' favorite DVDs of the year, a series that's just wrapped with his own: "I was fortunate enough this year to contribute to a number of worthy DVD and Blu-ray releases, including Image Entertainment's Thriller: The Complete Series, Arrow Films' Inferno and Spirits of the Dead (UK), Mondo Vision's Szamanka and Synapse Films' Vampire Circus. Since David Kalat omitted from his list those titles he contributed to, as a conflict of interest, I will follow suit. Each of these releases would have earned a place on this list even without my contributions because they are truly remarkable presentations." Spirits of the Dead "is the long-awaited, definitive version of a hard film to nail down, encompassing Fellini's masterpiece Toby Dammit. (If truth be told, Spirits is probably the year's most important new release for me, being the first home video release of this title struck from the original camera negative and reinstating the English audio option.)" Officially, though, his #1 is Criterion's release of Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955).

Besides Lucas and Kalat's lists, you'll find more VW favorites listed by John Charles, Kim Newman, Eric Somer, Sam and Rebecca Umland, Heather Drain, Ramsey Campbell, Shane M Dallmann, Richard Harland Smith, Bill Cooke and Michael Barrett.

Time Out London's David Jenkins and Tom Huddleston count down the year's top 20 and arrive at #1, Possession: "As a film journalist, one hears the expression 'lost masterpiece' on a near daily basis. So we were completely unprepared for the sheer, mind-melting ferocity and breathless originality of this savage, politically fuelled 1981 marital breakdown monster movie from Polish director Andrzej Zulawski. Isabelle Adjani's Cannes-winning performance is in a class of its own, and the entire film plays at a near-unbearable fever pitch, as though it's perpetually on the verge of simply exploding through your TV screen — if your head doesn't explode first. Just remarkable."

Michael Fox's list for SF360 covers DVDs and books; Kimberley Lindbergs has an alphabetical list at Movie Morlocks; in the Observer, Mark Kermode highlights a few UK releases that deserve more attention than they got this year; at indieWIRE, Eric Kohn spotlights a few of his favorites; and, as he notes in a comment below, Ryan Gallagher's listed his top Criterion Blu-rays at the Criterion Cast.

Roundups of this week's releases. Sean Axmaker (more), Mark Kermode (Observer), Harley W Lond and Peter Martin (Cinematical), Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel and Stephen Saito (IFC).

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Here is my list of the best Criterion Collection Blu-rays of 2010:

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