Marlene Dietrich & Josef von Sternberg at Paramount (1930-35)
Where’s it on? Indicator Blu-ray
There were serious pangs of jealousy from region-locked home video enthusiasts on this side of the pond when US Criterion announced their Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood boxset last year. The wait was worth it, as UK viewers are even better served by Indicator’s stellar edition of the six films the duo made at Paramount between 1930 and 1935. These exotic, gender-bending masterworks represent one of the great collaborative relationships in cinema, and seem to gain a cumulative power when viewed together, as such a set affords (their first film, 1930’s The Blue Angel is available from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema). A wealth of special features on every disc offer fascinating context, with special mention to Tag Gallagher’s video essay, the feature-length documentary Josef von Sternberg: A Retrospective (1969) and a terrific lecture captured at BFI Southbank back in 2009. One of the strongest contenders for the home video release of the year.
The Ear (1970)
Where’s it on? Second Run Blu-ray
Banned as soon as it was completed, and unseen for some 20 years, Karel Kachyňa’s The Ear resurfaces this week in a glorious 4K remaster as one of the most singular films of the Czech New Wave. Made almost immediately after the Soviet invasion, and with the process of Stalinisation in full effect, the film follows a deputy government minister and his wife as they return from a party at the presidential palace to find their home broken in to by the secret police. Cutting between a hunt for tiny radio transmitters – “The Ear is listening!” – hidden throughout their house, and expressionistic, point-of-view flashbacks to the earlier party, the film plots a high tension course towards marital and psychological disintegration. It’s easy to see why the warring couple at its centre have drawn comparisons over the years to that in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Relentlessly chilling in its depiction of totalitarian intrusion 50 years after the fact, it’s another essential release from the team at Second Run.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Where’s it on? Criterion Blu-ray
If you’re pining for last weekend’s heatwave, you can catch some rays from this dazzling new edition of Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece, Do the Right Thing. Set over the course of one sweltering day in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn, Lee’s film charts the simmering tensions within the mixed neighbourhood community. In what is likely to prove the definitive home video release of the film, Criterion’s new master punches out Lee’s colour schemes, while the new 5.1 sound mix does wonders for Branford Marsalis and Bill Lee’s score. The wealth of extras are largely UK firsts, with Spike and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson’s commentary and a terrific making-of doc sure to become film studies essentials.
Quiz Show (1994)
Where’s it on? The Cinema Museum, London
Robert Redford’s gorgeous 1994 study in classicism, Quiz Show gets top-billing in another fierce 35mm double from the boys at Badlands Collective. Whip-smart in its needling of class, race and privilege, and featuring the best Martin Scorsese cameo this side of Shark Tale (2004), Paul Attansio’s screenplay charts the fixing of television game show Twenty One in the late 1950s. Chock-full of A-game performances – not least a witheringly good Paul Scofield as Ralph Fiennes’ professorial pops – it’s Redford’s best directorial effort by a mile. On the flip side of the bill, they’re playing the film that was set to stump Quiz Show’s “unstumpable Herbert Stempel,” the best picture winner of 1955… which wasn’t On the Waterfront (1954).
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019)
Where’s it on? Netflix
Some 37 years after the original film debuted, Netflix have resurrected The Jim Henson Company’s beloved puppet fantasy-adventure, The Dark Crystal (1982) as a 10-episode series, which lands in its entirety on the streaming platform today. Director Louis Leterrier, best known for helming The Transporter films, has some big boots to fill, what with the late Henson and co-director, Frank Oz responsible for the perennial family favourite. If nothing else, he’s assembled an eclectic voice cast, especially in smaller supporting roles, and original art director Brian Froud is back on creature design duties. We’ve seen the first exposition-heavy episode, which owes a clear debt to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings (2001-03) in its world-building. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see how well the series’ augmented mix of puppetry and CGI goes down with purists.