The top 20 DVDs of 2010: part two
Still struggling for a few last-minute Christmas gifts? Worry no more, as Time Out’s David Jenkins and Tom Huddleston present the definitive guide to the 20 best DVD releases of 2010
10. The Ozu CollectionFollowing a triumphant retrospective season of the films of Japan’s grand master of minimalism, Yasujiro Ozu, the BFI then made the announcement that they would be gradually releasing the director’s sublime back catalogue on DVD. The opening missive comprised of a trio titles, each bundled with an extra film AND containing both Blu-Ray and DVD copies of each work. But unbeatable value aside, it’s the films themselves that make these essential purchases: 'Tokyo Story’, ‘Early Summer’, ‘Late Spring’ came bundled with lesser-known (but no less amazing) classics such as ‘The Only Son’, ‘What Did the Lady Forget?’ and ‘The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family’.
Recommended for fans of Post-war Japanese Cinema, grandparents
What we said There could be a case made that 1936’s ‘The Only Son’ (his first sound film) should be counted as one of the director’s (many) great masterpieces, a shattering tale of a self-sacrificing single mother who channels all her energies and meagre financial resources to ensure that her son is set for the future. A red-raw template for the director’s later ‘mature’ style, this profound and deceptively simple film monitors the oppositional pull of family unity and personal responsibility while asking if unalloyed happiness is ever really within human grasp.Buy them here
9. MartinGeorge A Romero’s suburban immigrant ‘is he-isn’t he’ vampire movie received a very welcome reissue this year, proving that there’s more to the man than just shuffling zombies. As culturally savvy as ‘Dawn of the Dead’ but with a bigger heart and a much sharper edge, ‘Martin’ takes its rightful place among the director’s very best films.Recommended for fans of John Cassavetes, James Whale, basically anyone but the Twi-hardsWhat we said George Romero’s devastatingly downbeat blue-collar-bloodsucker masterpiece works equally well as horror movie, as anti-religious tract and as moody rites-of-passage drama.
Buy it here
8. LolaAt the time Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut et al were tipping their berets to pulp B-movie maestros like Fritz Lang, Edgar G Ulmer and Nicholas Ray, Jacques Demy was making movies that blossomed from the doomed romanticism of Hollywood darlings like Vincente Minelli and Douglas Sirk. His stunning debut movie sees a perpetually corseted Anouk Aimée playing the adorable but flighty title character, a coquettish cabaret dancer open to servicing the needs of the American sailors passing through the port and who has been hanging on for seven years for the father of her neglected young son to return with his pockets bulging with cash. Recommended for fans of MGM Musicals, Max Ophüls, romance
What we said Originally intended as a musical, the film boasts a bold musicality to its choreography and editing, and Aimée may as well be dancing given the joyful, devil-may-care nature of her performance.Buy it here
7. MFritz Lang’s devastating serial killer template-setter has lost none of its radical power almost 80 years on. A film as much about mob justice and human weakness as it is about the murder of a child, the film unnervingly predicts Germany’s impending downfall.Recommended for fans of Michael Haneke, ‘The World at War’, ‘CSI: Berlin’.What we said In the context of 1930s Germany, Lang’s approach must have seemed uncomfortably truthful. He paints one of cinema’s most convincing portraits of a sick society, of which Peter Lorre’s murderous man-child is the inevitable, even pitiable end product.
Buy it here
6. World on a WireRainer Werner Fassbinder’s two part sci-fi extravaganza from 1973 received its long-awaited DVD debut this year, and fans of the industrious and eclectic New German linchpin were treated to one of his finest works. This complex tale of corporate espionage concerned one man’s bizarre adventures in a computer generated landscape, and it stands as glorious testament to the futuristic depths one can plunder with shrewd application of some judiciously placed mirrors, a few banks of flashing lights, a crash helmet with some cord-flex attached to it and a log cabin that’s wired to blow. Recommended for fans of 'Dr Who', Bergman, ‘Inception’What we said Having already been hailed as a forerunner to blockbusters like ‘Avatar’ and ‘The Matrix’, this film is far, far more lucid and profound in its analysis of the moral responsibilities of virtual reality. Yet despite its high falutin, multi-dimensional environment, ‘World on a Wire’ works best as a purely human drama, a damning rebuke of corporate manipulation which adds yet further credence to Fassbinder’s theory that – to quote Nick Cave – people ain’t no good.Buy it here
5. Sammy Going SouthOne of the last films directed by the late, great Alexander Mackendrick, ‘Sammy Going South’ was shot on location in Africa but remains every inch a British film. Fusing the dry, stiff-upper-lipped wit of Mackendrick’s best Ealing work with the lurking tension of his American films like ‘Sweet Smell of Success’, this 4,500 mile road movie following one immigrant orphan’s desperate quest for a place to call home is a remarkably tough look at childhood’s end.Recommended for fans of 'Night of the Hunter’, Mark Twain, ‘The African Queen’
What we said ‘In many ways this is a devastatingly bleak film, undercutting the expected adventure-story beats at every turn, refusing to look away from moments of tragedy and hinting at even darker undercurrents which ’60s censorship laws could never have allowed for. It’s an astonishing piece of work: sympathetic but never saccharine, dark but never despairing, forceful and direct but never, ever simplistic.’
Buy it here
4. Make Way for TomorrowLeo McCarey’s harrowing (and we don’t use the term lightly) melodrama about an elderly couple forced to split up as a result of their dire economic penury officially earned its alternate title of The Saddest Film Ever Made in 2010. Prior to Masters of Cinema’s fine Blu-ray treatment of the film, it had just been released in the US under the Criterion imprint, so 2010 saw it make a leap from being nigh-on lost to being on the shelf of a hefty portion of discerning DVD collectors.
Recommended for fans of ‘Brief Encounter’, cryingWhat we said 'You might also call Leo McCarey’s 1937 masterpiece "The Long Goodbye" – or perhaps, following Gilbert Adair in his insightful comment that the film might even be regarded as a belated sequel to a silent Murnau classic, "Sunrise" – though the near-imperative tone of the actual title points to the unsentimental mood of this quite literally extraordinary Hollywood account of growing old – a film so tender yet tough it famously influenced the co-writer of Ozu’s "Tokyo Story".’Buy it here
3. Twin Peaks: The Gold Box EditionAfter years of unfulfilled promises, false starts and incomplete reissues, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s groundbreaking supernatural-thriller-police-procedural-soap-comedy masterpiece was finally released in a definitive DVD edition. Packed with extras and added insight, the Greatest TV Series of All Time just got a little bit better.Recommended for fans of Alfred Hitchcock, classic noir, ‘Midsomer Murders’What we said David Lynch and Mark Frost transformed dramatic television. They created the first small-screen show that, from its visual ambition and dramatic ostentation to its character construction and sheer intensity, rivalled anything cinema had to offer.
Buy it here
2. MetropolisWhen all’s said and done, 2010 was really about the triumphant re-release of Fritz Lang’s newly restored dystopian odyssey that told the tale of the son of an industrialist who leads a working-class uprising in a sprawling modernist cityscape. Everything about this new version is nigh-on perfect: the addition of 30 minutes of extra footage, the sparkling restoration work, and the suitably bombastic new score. It’s a piece of cinema made on a scale that few modern filmmakers even dare to dream of, and it even makes films like ‘Avatar’ look like a piece of small-scale, made-for-TV enviro-hokum.Recommended for fans of Large televisions, silent cinema, the huddled masses.What we said How could a project which cost 5 million Reichsmarks, a film packed with epic backdrops, complex and groundbreaking special effects and literally thousands of extras have been created during perhaps the worst economic depression ever endured by a developed country? […] This newly restored 150-minute version irons out most of the problems in the narrative, making for a wholly satisfying – at times literally breathtaking – viewing experience.
Buy it here
1. PossessionAs 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.
Recommended for fans of Lars Von Trier, Dario Argento, the ‘Alien’ series.
What we said There are plenty of movies which seem to have been made by madmen. ‘Possession’ may be the only film in existence which is itself mad: unpredictable, horrific, its moments of terrifying lucidity only serving to highlight the staggering derangement at its core. Extreme but essential viewing.
Buy it here
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