William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973) is out on Blu-ray (see the October 12 roundup) and at his own site, Dave Kehr notes that the two-disc package presents both "original release cut and the 2000 'version you've never seen' that restores some expository sequences at the request of the film's writer and producer, William Peter Blatty." His preference: "It's in the shorter version that you feel the real radicalism of Friedkin's approach in its early 70s context — the way he seems to be pushing beyond classical Hollywood narrative by eliminating much of the exposition and going straight for a series of visceral, high-impact scenes. With the double whammy of this and The French Connection, Friedkin had a profound effect on the way American movies were 'told,' leaving the audience to supply much of the connective dramatic tissue."
And here's the segue he pulls off in his review for the New York Times: "Few films have been as widely influential as The Exorcist, which not only spawned direct imitations (one of the first out of the box was the Italian production Beyond the Door) but also left lingering traces on projects as far-flung as House, a 1977 Japanese cult film that Criterion is releasing this week. Directed by the former avant-garde filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi, House includes demonic possession among its eclectic collection of horror movie themes and pop-culture allusions. And all of it is jumbled into a rush of bizarre images and carefully mismatched styles: Hello Kitty meets Blood Feast."
"This is a movie so bizarrely entertaining and on its own wavelength that it supercedes such simple terms as 'bad' or 'melodramatic' or 'over-the-top,'" writes Alonso Duralde for Movieline. "Truly, this is a film that exists on its own plane of reality and forces us to meet up with it there.... Seven schoolgirls travel to a house in the far-off countryside, and soon they find that everything around them — from the mirrors to the piano to the fruit stand to the cat — are potential deathtraps. Words, frankly, can't do justice to this loopy and spooky Japanese import."
Chuck Stephens for Criterion: "What Toho Studios was hoping for when it hired Obayashi was a homegrown Jaws: a locally produced summer movie roller coaster sufficiently thrill-chocked to at least partially deflect the ongoing onslaught of Tokyo-box-office-topping New Hollywood hits from Messrs Spielberg and Lucas — something fast and loud, with tons of fun packed between screams.... House was a hit in Japan, and though it never attained Jaws-size success, it did secure Obayashi’s place in the Japanese filmmaking firmament, where he remains to this day, a still popular director of best-selling-novel and manga adaptations, many of which center on schools full of superpowered students who can warp time or swap bodies with a best friend of the opposite sex, all in the interest of a more magical coming-of-age."
"To be sure, House is wacky as all get-out," writes Simon Abrams in Slant, "but it's also a wonderfully complex putdown of the plastic world of material cuteness that little girls dream of when they imagine growing up in a world ruled by nostalgic advertising and romantic melodramas. With its severed gams, demonic fluffy white cats, and killer piano forte, House is a dollhouse nightmare that could only come from the mind of an inspired and seriously disgruntled ad man like Obayashi, whose career pre-House was made with ads like this blisteringly weird commercial for Mandom cologne starring Charles Bronson." More from Sean Axmaker and Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel.
Also out on DVD and Blu-ray from Criterion this week is Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957) and James Naremore, writing for the Current, argues that it's "strongly marked by what came to be known as Kubrick's style and favored themes: a mesmerizing deployment of wide-angle tracking shots and long takes, an ability to make a realistic world seem strange, an interest in the grotesque, and a fascination with the underlying irrationality of supposedly rational planning.... [O]f the several major films about [World War I], only Paths of Glory depicts the conflict in all its cruel, almost laughably absurd logic (All Quiet on the Western Front, Grand Illusion, The Dawn Patrol, and Sergeant York are humanistic, romantic, or patriotic by comparison). No wonder Luis Buñuel was among its passionate admirers."
More from Christian Blauvelt in Slant: "Paths of Glory should be Exhibit A in defense of Stanley Kubrick against those who think he lacks human feeling. Though a minor achievement, it's certainly his most humane film. Unfortunately, it also seems like it could have been directed by that other prominent Stanley of the period: Stanley Kramer."
Sean Axmaker reviews Flicker Alley's Chaplin at Keystone, "a remarkable box set that collects the 33 surviving shorts (one-reel, two-reel and a couple of shorter split-reel films) and the feature-length comedy, Tillie's Punctured Romance, that he made for [Mack] Sennett's Keystone Film Company in 1914.... The original incarnation(s) seen in these shorts was a primitive sketch for what would become the mischievous but sweet-hearted Tramp. In these early outings he's just as often cruel, indifferent, a cad, a masher, a drunk, a swell or a sneering or henpecked husband.... You can see Chaplin trying out different incarnations of this still evolving persona within the Keystone World of comedy, a style based on situation and slapstick conflict rather than character or story."
"I don't know if I've ever seen a more nuanced on-screen portrait of a relationship." Maren Ade's Everyone Else is out from Cinema Guild and Nelson Kim sings the film's praises at Hammer to Nail.
Microcinema's releasing Alex Cox's Searchers 2.0 on DVD and Blu-ray today and Cindy Widner has a good long talk with the filmmaker for the Austin Chronicle.
DVD roundups. Mark Kermode (Observer), Noel Murray (Los Angeles Times), Slant and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail).
IN OTHER NEWS
Selections from the Fall 2010 issue of Filmmaker are now online, including Lena Dunham and Caveh Zahedi's conversation about making such overtly autobiographical films as Tiny Furniture (hers) and I Am a Sex Addict (his), Brandon Harris's interview with Olivier Assayas (Carlos), Scott Macaulay's with Charles Ferguson (Inside Job) and Peter Bowen's with Jay Rosenblatt, whose work will be shown at the Walker Art Center in February. Lance Weiler explores the options transmedia storytelling opens up to documentarians. Roberto Quezada-Dardon explains why filmmakers need to consider the digital intermediate, "analogous to the production of the interpositive used in chemical processing," in the early stages of production. Also: Anthony Kaufman's assessment of the current state of distribution for independent films as well as a collection of chats with "leading independent producers about their producing models and how they're finding everything from financing to material to office space."
The 44th Hof International Film Festival opens today and runs through Sunday.