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Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, "Mystery Train" and More DVDs

Reverse Shot editors Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert introduce "the third installment of our unofficial symposium series that began with Take One (in which we asked writers to isolate and write about a single shot in a movie and Take Two (for which writers formed an essay around one cut). For Take Three, we invited our staff writers and contributors to focus on one instance of sound design. This ongoing project isn't simply to take film apart and look at it technically but also to see how those small elements fit into the whole, to see how a film's construction informs its entire being."

But the real kicker in this issue, number 27, is Reverse Shot's first podcast. Extraordinarily well-produced by Michael Garofalo and Nadia Reiman, this 15 minutes or so features Matt Connolly discussing his piece on a line reading in Some Like It Hot, Farihah Zaman on a glissando in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Eric Hynes on the light sabers of Star Wars. Further essays in Take Three so far (there'll be more): Daniel Cockburn on Vertigo and Leah Churner on Nashville.



It isn't often, when Sight & Sound chooses a handful of selections from a new issue to make available online, that the cover story is one of them. But there's Akira Kurosawa on the cover of the July issue and, online, we find extracts from Donald Richie's 1964 conversation with the director in which they look back on 13 films — a few of which were made after 1964, so... not quite sure what's going there. At any rate, the piece runs in conjunction with the BFI's ongoing Kurosawa season and the release of a five-film Samurai Collection, to be "followed by a new Blu-ray edition of Seven Samurai in October — the first in a series of Kurosawa Blu-rays."

The Edinburgh International Film Festival opens tomorrow and one of the highlights will be the retrospective After the Wave: Lost and Forgotten British Cinema 1967-1979. In his preview, Mark Sinker notes that programmer Niall Fulton "identifies a common sensibility in works as diverse as the Peter Cook vehicle The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, Stephen Frears's private-eye homage Gumshoe and Horace Ové's 1975 snapshot of black Notting Hill, Pressure. What these films share, he says, is 'the idea of the British national identity being challenged by diversity.'"

Also from this issue: Nicolas Rapold on Greenberg and its place in Noah Baumbach's oeuvre, either Catherine Wheatley or Lisa Mullen (depending on which byline you want to go with) on Noel Clarke's (it's "derivative in the extreme yet still feels fresh") and Tim Lucas on Criterion's release of Sidney Lumet's The Fugitive Kind, with a screenplay by Tennessee Williams and Meade Roberts and starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani. It's "a remarkable triumph over the odds, with a first-rate cast and crew cutting through the lingering youthful pretensions of the material to wellsprings of noble aspiration and palpably violent emotion."



"It might not say much to assess it as such, but there's little doubt that Mystery Train is Jim Jarmusch at his most emotionally forthright," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant. What's more, it "remains anomalous in the Jarmusch canon, following an ethnically diverse and loosely interconnected collection of characters who are all drawn, either pragmatically or cosmically, to one dilapidated Memphis hotel at various intervals over the course of a single evening. The genre potpourri that would later inform Ghost Dog and The Limits of Control is curiously absent despite the film's elliptical, vignette structure, and even the film's glittering, deadpan aegis possesses visible chinks through which we spy genuine, even animated, compassion."


"Mystery Train is a puzzle movie as humanist manifesto," writes Dennis Lim for Criterion. "Not just attuned to the formal pleasures of synchronicity and repetition, it’s founded on the most basic facts of human commonality and difference: our lives are filled with shared experiences that we nonetheless feel and understand in disparate ways."

"For all its tongue-in-cheek worship of Elvis, Mystery Train abides as a genuine tribute to one of the freakiest musical personas of all time," writes Steve Dollar for Stomp and Stammer. "Digging back through my archives, I came across an old conversation I had with [Screamin' Jay] Hawkins, back when Mystery Train made its debut."

Criterion's Blu-ray "advances handily in all areas — colors, especially skin tones, vastly improve - as does support of the grain structure." Gary Tooze: "I doubt this film can look any better in this medium."

Mystery Train is one of the new releases Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel discuss in their 20th DVD Afternoon podcast.

Update, 6/16: Peter Guralnick, author of biographies of Elvis and Sam Cooke, for Criterion: "What seems so extraordinary to me about Mystery Train, watching it again twenty years after its deadpan arrival, is not just how fresh and vivid — how utterly timeless — it remains but the extent to which it truly embraces both the myth and the reality of Memphis."



Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls arrives on Blu-ray in a "15th-anniversary Sinsational Edition" from MGM. For the Los Angeles Times, Dennis Lim collects various readings, from Jacques Rivette to John Waters, and then declares the film "a guiltless pleasure."

Eric Henderson in Slant: "Many things to many people, and absolutely nothing to a great deal more, Showgirls' proponents and detractors still square off, digging nine-foot trenches in the sand (some planting their heads therein instead of their feet) and lobbing accusations of elitism and anti-pleasure. It is perhaps one of the only films to bridge that critical gap between Film Quarterly (which hosted a beyond extensive critical roundtable on the film last year) and Joe Bob Briggs. It is a film that will continue to bend brains and drain dicks long after the golf-clap (and Clap-free) cinematic 'excellence' of your Jane Austen bastardization of choice is long dismissed. It is the very definition of the term 'essential.'"

Dave Kehr's review of Warner Brothers' Charlie Chan Collection is also a gentle paean to Monogram Pictures, "one of the tiny Poverty Row studios that made inexpensive movies for second-rank theaters." These four films "seem to take place in a cinematic universe quite different from that of the major studios. Most obviously, Monogramland is a lonelier world, with fewer speaking parts in the foreground and little of the background activity that the majors deployed, even in their B productions, to maintain a sense of movement and vitality." More from Christian Hayes at TCM.

"There's something unearthly and hilarious, all too familiar and vividly unhuman, about caricatured claymation when it's done well," writes Michael Atkinson at, "and that qualmy, hypnotizing something oozes out of Adam Elliot's Mary and Max like a ruptured yolk." Also: "The heroism and imagery of Burma VJ is almost Tolkien-esque in scale."

DVD roundups. Sean Axmaker, Peter Martin (Cinematical), Slant and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail).

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“It is a film that will continue to bend brains and drain dicks” That would have made a great pull quote for the poster.
…if the movie weren’t totally anerotic, that is. Well, never mind…it would be a great pull quote no matter what.
Print copy I have credits Catherine Wheatley for 4,3,2,1.
we find extracts from Donald Richie’s 1964 conversation with the director in which they look back on 13 films — a few of which were made after 1964, so… not quite sure what’s going there. The sections on Kagemusha and Ran are sourced to different interviews conducted in the ’80s.

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