get yr release on

Old Faust could hide like two other whole books up that sleeve, yo.

[Yawn!] Oh, hey DVD releases for the week of 3/17/09! Did I oversleep?

US DVD releases:
- Dodes’Ka-Den (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
- Elegy (starring Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley)
- Faust: Restored 2-Disc Deluxe Edition (1926) (dir. F.W. Murnau)
- The Finances of the Grand Duke (1924) (dir. F.W. Murnau)
- Haunted Castle (1921) (dir. F.W. Murnau)
- Murnau 1921-1926 (includes Nosferatu/Faust/The Last Laugh/Tartuffe/The Haunted Castle/The Finances of the Grand Duke)
- Punisher: War Zone
- The Robe- special edition (starring Richard Burton)
- Three Stooges Collection Vol.5: 1946-1948
- Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu
- Twilight
- The Velveteen Rabbit (2007) (dir. Michael Landon Jr.)
- Yella (dir. Christian Petzold)

Blu-Ray releases:
- Clear and Present Danger/The Hunt for Red October (2 for 1)
- The Matador: A Story of Passion, Tragedy, Triumph, and Love (doc.)
- Mission: Impossible 1 & 2 (2 for 1)
- The Princess Bride
- Quo Vadis (dir. Mervyn LeRoy)
- The Robe (starring Richard Burton)
- Rollerball (2001)
- Sweeny Todd/Sleepy Hollow (2 for 1)

Multi Region DVD/Blu-Ray releases:
- Black Snake (dir. Russ Meyer) UK Region 2 PAL
- The Company of Wolves (dir. Neil Jordan) Import Blu-Ray -All Region
- L'Air De Paris (dir. Marcel Carne) UK Region 2 PAL
- Therese Raquin (dir. Marcel Carne) UK Region 2 PAL
- Yangtse Incident (dir. Michael Anderson) UK Region 2 PAL

Pike on Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu: Shimizu began his directing career at Shochiku Studios along side the likes of Heinosuke Gosho, Yasujiro Shimazu and his close friend (and sometime collaborator) Yasujiro Ozu. Of this group, Shimizu was the one considered to be a natural talent. Both Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi praised Shimizu as being the true master director, the latter even going so far as saying, "People like me and Ozu get films made by hard work, but Shimizu is a genius." The four films in this box set will give you a good primer as to why Shimizu was held in such high esteem. Starting with Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933), one is struck by moments of beautifully fluid camera work, some amazingly poetic use of visual ellipses and the masterful deployment of recurring scenes that gain an increasing sense of poignancy through the minor changes within the frame. Mr. Thank You (Arigato-San)(1936) is even more bold with its bravura camera work. There is some beautiful cross cutting work included that involves the bus' journey down the road, as seen from the point of view of someone inside the bus, played against some beautiful and immaculately framed scenes of the mountain landscape as it passes by. All together the fluid motion of the cuts gives the viewer a sense that they are along for the ride with the characters in the film. Also look out for the two scenes where the camera is running along with people either trying to catch up with the bus or jumping off of the bus, as they are little moments of magic that give the sense of floating on air. Another aspect of Shimizu's art was his willingness to play around with narrative convention. In The Masseurs and a Woman (1938), he uses little moments of episodic character development to grow an increasingly expanding view of the inhabitants of a remote mountain inn. Paying close attention to the aesthetics of form and structure while downplaying (or in some cases downright eschewing) the traditional narrative through-line, gives films like The Masseurs and a Woman a modern feel that also (although to a lesser effect) can be seen in the last film of the box set- Ornamental Hairpin (1941). The film stars a young Chishu Ryu Tokyo Story) as a soldier recovering from a war wound at a health spa where he steps on the item in the film's title and, after setting eyes on its owner, falls in love. This film, like the other three, is an immaculately shot and tightly structured affair that moves along with such an sense of ease that most folks miss the gentle prodding this film gives to the pre-war, imperialist Japanese culture. In fact all of the movies in this box are infused with social critique but their subtle nature has caused many critics to overlook them all together.

I for one am glad that the Criterion Collection has decided to release these film in the U.S. as I think Shimizu is in dire need of re-discovery. I have complained in the past that the main Criterion line has increasingly become a little too conservative and stodgy with its heavy lean towards the official film school canon, but with their Eclipse line they seemed to have realized that it is also important to introduce some under-seen and under-appreciated material to the public. For this I thank them and hope (at least for my sake) that their venture is financially rewarding enough for them to continue putting out releases like this one.

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