DAILY | DVD/Blu-ray | L’Herbier, Kazan, and More

The Late Mathias Pascal

“Three different cultural streams of the early 20th century flow into The Late Mathias Pascal, a 1926 French film that has now been given an excellent Blu-ray presentation by the independent distributor Flicker Alley,” writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. And those streams are the French avant-garde via director Marcel L’Herbier, literary modernism via Luigi Pirandello’s novel on which the film’s based, and the sexual magnetism of Ivan Mozzhukhin, known in France as Mosjoukine, “a White Russian exile whose hawkish profile and penetrating gaze had made him one of Europe’s leading movie stars.” Jonathan Rosenbaum reviewed Mathias Pascal in 1976.

Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour (1959) “is a groundbreaking portrait of a world come undone,” writes Criterion’s Michael Koresky. “Even more memorably, thanks to the brilliant precision of Emmanuelle Riva’s performance, it’s a study of a woman unraveling…. In a work that has no shortage of startling imagery, the range of feelings that run across Riva’s face is perhaps the most unforgettable element. She is so central to the texture of the film’s aesthetic that, on its release, critic Jean Domarchi said, ‘In a sense, Hiroshima is a documentary on Emmanuelle Riva.'”

Michael Almereyda for Criterion: “In A Letter to Elia, his 2010 tribute to Elia Kazan (codirected with Kent Jones), Martin Scorsese recounts seeing On the Waterfront for the first time and being dazzled by ‘the faces, the bodies, the way they moved… the voices, the way they sounded. They were like the people I saw every day. It was as if the world that I came from, that I knew, mattered.’ Nearly sixty years later, it’s still possible to be captivated by the tough-minded verisimilitude of Kazan’s approach, to see how On the Waterfront could inspire a sense of recognition and validation in the young Scorsese, and in thousands of other receptive viewers, in 1954.”

Josef Braun: “From that startling first image of handful of men exiting a shack, dwarfed by a colossal ship, to the final bloodied Christ-like stumble of the unlikely hero toward the man in the coat hollering everyone to work, there is in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954) a steady pulse of the extraordinary. We’re not watching a merely great movie but a transformative one, and that transformation, so layered, complex and electric, is something I believe viewers can sense even without a deep knowledge of film history.”

Criterion‘s posted a video (5’12”) explaining why they’re presenting Waterfront in three aspect ratios and demonstrating “the fascinating, subtle differences among the versions.” It’s also a brief primer on the aspect ratio in general:

Chuck Bowen notes that Criterion’s “presentation of a strange classic is very much a contender.” Also in Slant, Chris Cabin reviews another Kazan, Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), a “furious look at barely dormant post-war anti-Semitism” which “gets a classy Blu-ray release from Fox with interesting extras and a top-shelf A/V transfer.” Also, Tina Hassannia: “Laura [1944], the film that cemented Otto Preminger’s position as a studio filmmaker, continues to be a distinguished noir classic in equal part because of its maker’s signature refinement and restraint, its appropriate screen adaptation from proto-feminist novel into a beguiling noir centered on masculine fantasy, and David Raksin’s infamous score.”

Glenn Kenny presents his “Blu-ray Consumer Guide: Face up to reality February 2013 edition.” In the new Bright Lights, Gordon Thomas ” looks at some of the most intriguing of recent, under-the-radar releases.” More roundups: Sean Axmaker and Peter Hall (

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