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DVDs. Oshima, "Walkabout," "Stagecoach," More

"Often called Japan's greatest living filmmaker, Nagisa Oshima, now 78, kept up a furious pace through the first half of his career, cranking out 18 films in 14 years," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times. "A significant portion of his work was never released on video in the States, and much of it went largely unscreened until a recent retrospective that toured North American art houses. Oshima's Outlaw Sixties, a five-film boxed set out this week from Eclipse, Criterion's mid-price line, is an essential corrective (and includes a couple of titles, Violence at Noon and Three Resurrected Drunkards, that should be world-cinema landmarks). The movies here date from 1965 to 1968, smack in the middle of Oshima's most productive period, and a dizzying phase even by the standards of this master iconoclast who famously defies classification and rarely repeated himself."

"The films in Oshima's Outlaw Sixties are uneven and not always easy to take," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times, "but they reveal a side of their maker obscured by the clear and calm formal elegance of In the Realm of the Senses — a stylistic reserve that he maintained through later films like Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983) and his latest, Taboo (1999). Fascinating in themselves, these earlier films are also a reminder that simplicity, particularly in the movies, is not always simple. It can be the end of a journey, rather than its beginning."

For Sean Axmaker, these early works "appear to be marvelously lurid genre pieces and exploitation films, less reminiscent of Jean-Luc Godard's politically laced genres blasts that Seijun Suzuki's mad sixties cinema. But there is something dangerous under the big bold style, which Oshima throws across a succession of CinemaScope canvases, and there's a familiar strain of self-destruction and obsession behind his outlaw figures."

For a breakdown of the technical specs, see Gary W Tooze. Image above: Pleasures of the Flesh, 1965.

"There's every reason to revisit Walkabout and expect it to look like a period piece," writes Steve Dollar at GreenCine Daily. "Newly reissued by Criterion, in their usual gorgeous restored high-def makeover edition, Nicolas Roeg's first full-fledged outing as a director (after collaborating on Performance with Donald Cammell), was shot in 1968, and finally released theatrically three years later. At once packed with blunt symbolism and left open to wide interpretation by the narrative's purposeful ambiguities, the movie's dynamic evoked a sense of pop mysticism and social critique that was pure Sixties.... [T]he Australian wild serves as transcendent eye candy and natural counterpoint to the civilized world, its blasted splendor rendered in geological abstractions that aren't merely breathtaking, but aspire to the mythopoeic primacy people dig in Stan Brakhage. Plus didgeridoos and Stockhausen. Like, trippy, man. And I'm not ashamed to say that's one reason I love it."

"Don't Look Now should be proof enough that, more than any other British filmmaker of his generation, Roeg has the ability to create pure cinema," writes Paul Ryan in a longish backgrounder for Criterion. "But the finest example of his gift remains Walkabout."

Four out of five stars from Joseph Jon Lanthier at Slant, where he finds "every camera tilt, every lens flare, and every exhausted flesh tone feels valedictory."

More from Gary W Tooze.

"Stagecoach is a film that is almost impossible to overrate and one whose influence is almost impossible to calculate," writes Robert Moore at PopMatters. "It was the first important sound Western and was single-handedly responsible for making it an important film genre for adults for the first time since the silent era. It elevated John Ford's already high reputation to a higher level and made the then-unknown John Wayne into an overnight star.... As Jim Kitses relates in the commentary on this Criterion edition, when Orson Welles was asked what directors had most influenced on him, he replied that he had studied the old masters, 'John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford,' and confessed to having watched Stagecoach over 40 times immediately prior to making Citizen Kane."

More from Jamie Rich and Gary W Tooze.



"Oren Moverman's The Messenger is by far the most mature and moving film made yet about the Iraqi invasion," writes Michael Atkinson for IFC, "even if Iraqis themselves don't even make an appearance as figures mentioned in battle stories. It's a telling, ethically vibrant film, and for Americans to manage such a thing while a war is still happening is kind of a miracle."

"The world wasn't exactly desperate for yet another film noir DVD box set, but here we are, with an inspired seven-film retrospective, Film Noir Collector's Edition, out this week courtesy of Chicago-based Questar Entertainment." A recommendation from John Lingan in Slant.

"In 1966, with his first feature, Yesterday Girl (Facets), Alexander Kluge... borrowed the New Wave's audaciously playful approach to drama to create a defiant, unsparing view of German society," writes the New Yorker's Richard Brody. Werner Schroeter "imbued the new German cinema with an extravagant operatic sensibility that brings surprises to his workingman’s drama Palermo or Wolfsburg (Facets), from 1980.

Back at GreenCine Daily, Aaron Hillis talks with Patrice Leconte about Dogora.

Listening. DVD Afternoon on Richard Rush's The Stunt Man (1980) and Alan Clarke's Made in Britain (1982).

DVD roundups. Sean Axmaker, Allen Gardner (Hollywood Interview), Noel Murray (LAT) and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail).

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