I’ve not seen this in years — and from what I remember this is hardly my favorite Godard film — but it’s an iconic piece of history nonetheless, moving-pictorial evidence of the ways the French New Wave synthesized elements of hard-boiled American culture with a distinctly Euro sensibility to effect a sharp demarcation from your daddy’s cinema. Slate it as the capper to a triple feature with The 400 Blows and Hiroshima Mon Amour, also on Criterion DVD.
Buy it from Amazon.com: Breathless – Criterion Collection
Eyes Wide Shut (Warner)
Warner Bros. is reissuing a whole slew of Kubrick movies on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc today. I’m singling out Eyes Wide Shut not because it’s a particular favorite but because, as far as I know, it represents the first time a non-bastardized version of Kubrick’s final film has been available in the U.S. (Previous versions had clumsily inserted digital figures blocking simulated sex acts during the film’s orgy scene, which were added — after Kubrick’s death! — in order to secure a contractually obligated R rating.) If we’re lucky, this will also exhibit the return of some very heavy film grain that seemed to have been noise-reduced out of previous versions. Even if you own them already, the other releases are likely well worth picking up, since they boast improved transfers and, in several cases (notably Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining) they’re available for the first time in their proper, widescreen theatrical framing. (Why this has been the source of online controversy for years and years I’ll never understand; Kubrick was said to prefer full-screen telecine for television versions of his films, but he was making those decisions in the days before anamorphic DVD and high-definition displays changed the rules of the game.)
Buy it from Amazon.com: Eyes Wide Shut (Two-Disc Special Edition), Eyes Wide Shut [HD DVD], Eyes Wide Shut [Blu-ray], or Stanley Kubrick – Warner Home Video Directors Series
Days of Heaven (Criterion)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is only the latest in a long line of films that were influenced by Terence Malick’s direction and Nestor Almendros’s famed golden-hour cinematography. If you’ve never seen this before, consider yourself lucky to have the chance to watch it in an improved transfer; if you’re a fan, this is probably a necessary upgrade. (The nagging question that may hold you back: when will Criterion announce its first catalog of high-definition releases?)
Buy it from Amazon.com: Days of Heaven – Criterion Collection
The Brute (Facets)
The title of The Brute (1952), billed on DVD as “a stunning companion piece” to Luis Buñuel’s much more famous Los Olvidados, refers to a thuggish butcher who goes to work for a slumlord in Mexico City. In The New York Times, Vincent Canby declared the director “an unreconstructed surrealist even when working in potboilers.” Says Ed Gonzales at Slant, “El Bruto is relatively apolitical but that’s because Buñuel is drunk on animal magnetism.” Unfortunately, The Brute is missing Buñuel’s greatest collaborator from the period, cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. Still, maybe worth a look.
Buy it from Amazon.com: The Brute (El Bruto)
Hostel Part II (Lionsgate)
Cabin Fever and Hostel were nasty, energetic horror romps that were significantly more ferocious than the competition and could even be read for subtext. This sequel represents a significant downturn in writer/director Eli Roth’s career: it’s full of playful ideas about genre stereotypes and the way rich kids can expect a generous trust fund to keep them safe from bad people in the world. But the execution this time around is smug and incompetent — Roth comes across for the first time as entirely as smarmy and crude as his detractors have always claimed he is. Even the centerpiece torture sequence involving two nude women, a nasty blade, and a bathtub that slowly fill swith blood, is bobbled.