"For a small group of diligent cinephiles, Criterion's Letters From Fontainhas: Three Films by Pedro Costa is one of the most anticipated DVD releases of the year, or the last several," writes Sam Adams in the Los Angeles Times.
"The epistolary title of Criterion's four-disc boxed set, which includes Ossos (1997), In Vanda's Room (2000) and Colossal Youth (2006) as well as more than four hours of supplementary materials, is a clue to the films' origins," he continues. "After shooting his second feature, Casa de Lava, in the African country of Cape Verde, Costa was deluged with letters from cast and crew, who hoped he'd deliver them to relatives in the Fontainhas section of the director's native Lisbon. Fulfilling that request meant exploring, and getting lost in, a decrepit but brightly colored slum — home to some 200,000 immigrant Cape Verdeans as well as drug addicts and the dispossessed from all over Portugal."
Andrew Schenker in his four-out-of-five-star review for Slant: "During Costa's 10-year immersion in Fontainhas, the government began a program of slum clearance, relocating the inhabitants to new, more modern housing and the director incorporated this development into the second two films in the trilogy, turning the project into an elegy for a neighborhood that, while having had more than its share of danger and degradation, also housed a vibrant and richly community-based way of life."
Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "A company whose core business is the distribution of imported classics by the likes of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Michelangelo Antonioni and Jean-Luc Godard, Criterion is now taking the necessary next step of bringing difficult contemporary artists directly to its clientele, bypassing a contemporary art house scene that has become depressingly conservative. The route may be risky, but ultimately it makes good business sense: Pedro Costa can't compete with Slumdog Millionaire at the multiplex, but 30 years from now people will still be watching his work."
More from Glenn Kenny, Jamie S Rich and Scott Tobias (AV Club). Interviews with Costa: Josef Braun, Jean-Pierre Gorin (video at Criterion's Current), Aaron Hillis (GreenCine Daily, audio), Neil Karassik (Eye Weekly), Eugene Kotlyarenko (Art in America; more, specifically on Warhol, for Interview) and Patrick McGavin.
Update: "The work of Pedro Costa has progressed in slow, measured steps, but each step has been a giant leap," writes Cyril Neyrat for Current. "His slowness is both the condition and the consequence of ethical standards he shares with precious few directors of his generation. This is no longer the old question of the relationship between subject and form but one of a daily work ethic endowing each decision regarding the frame or the lighting, and searching every face or word, with the same emotional gravity, the same seriousness, so that the film’s rhythm is perfectly attuned to the rhythm of life."
"It may not have been exactly the best film released here in 2009 (it was close), but Uli Edel's The Baader Meinhof Complex stoked my hot box like nothing else I saw last year," writes Michael Atkinson at IFC.com, "and it's a movie about terrorists. A movie that heroizes terrorists. A 2.5-hour missile barrage of protest action, rock 'n roll cool and decisive, dream-come-true street combat, Edel's film is a valentine to every imp of political ire we hold in our bellies, just as the Baader Meinhof Group itself became messiahs to young Europeans in the '70s who were fed up with bureaucrats and CEOs staging bloodshed in Vietnam, Iran and elsewhere and getting away scot-free with pockets bulging."
"John Woo's Chinese-language historical epic Red Cliff (Magnet) arrived on DVD and Blu-ray last week in both the original two-part, five-hour version released in China (to great acclaim and success) and most of the world, and in the American theatrical version, which was cut by almost half." Sean Axmaker: "For reasons beyond my comprehension, the publicists responsible for promoting this release were only providing the cut American version for critics (or maybe just me), so I had to wait for the street date to finally get a hold of the long version to review. And having seen it, I can't imagine why they wouldn't want every DVD critic to see this sweeping, magnificently mounted epic as it was originally conceived, completed and screened in the rest of the world rather than the abbreviated digest version." Related: Jeffrey M Anderson's John Woo primer at Cinematical.
"Directed by Leo McCarey, Make Way for Tomorrow is a profoundly sad film, but it's so subtly wrought and generous of spirit that its sadness is transfigured into a kind of exhilaration," writes Jessica Winter in Slate.
Here in The Notebook, Glenn Kenny reviews Maurice Pialat's Under the Sun of Satan (1987), out now from Masters of Cinema: "Scrupulously unfussy and bereft of shock effects, it is nevertheless a horror film in the very truest sense of the term."
DVD roundups: Brad Brevet and Noel Murray (LAT).
MIDNIGHT EYE @ 10
Midnight Eye marks its tenth anniversary with annotated lists of the best Japanese films of the past decade from the team and regular contributors (and you, too, can vote in the readers poll). "But instead of merely looking back, we also look forward and give you our personal tip-offs and thoughts on the future of Japanese cinema."
Also: "Born in 1982, the daughter of actor-director Eiji Okuda and essayist Kazu Ando and the sister of rising starlet Sakura Ando, Momoko Ando is certainly no stranger to the world of cinema," writes Jasper Sharp, introducing his interview in which he asks her about "her delicately nuanced debut," Kakera: A Piece of Our Life — and Roger Macy has a review as well.
And: Catherine Munroe Hotes on Tadanari Okamoto, "one of the pioneers of puppet animation in Japan," and Rowena S Aquino on Sion Sono's Be Sure to Share, which "channels his talent and energy for over-the-top, off-kilter vision and filmmaking towards a quieter, subtler but equally moving work about family, memory and the fragility of both."
Wednesday's New Directors / New Films offerings: Dogtooth, Women Without Men and Evening Dress (see yesterday's roundup); and Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat's The Man Next Door. "This icy, elegantly visualized, and darkly funny satire on Argentine class relations takes place mostly within a single apartment located in a sleek modernist building designed by Le Corbusier," writes Nelson Kim at Hammer to Nail. "A cheerfully misanthropic and briskly entertaining piece of work."
But Slant's Ed Gonzalez gives it a mere two out of four stars: "The filmmakers unimaginatively and redundantly, though sometimes amusingly, elucidate on two age-old adages: about how men who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and how the more things change the more things stay the same." More from Megan Ratner (Bright Lights After Dark).
IN OTHER NEWS
An online viewing bonanza. First, via Andy Rector, Alexander Kluge's 2001 interview with Jean-Luc Godard, parts 1, 2 and 3.
And then a compilation from Jim Emerson, followed by his notes: "Deep Focus: Freedom of (eye-)movement in eight of the greatest long shots ever."
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