MAITRESSE Barbet Schroeder, director/BFI Video BLU-RAY Having lived under illiberal censorship laws for so long, it’s still refreshing to encounter more evidence of the enlightened times we now (temporarily?) live in; such as the Blu-Ray/DVD release of Barbet Schroeder’s sexually challenging Maitresse; this controversial study of a Parisian dominatrix (initially heavily scissored by the BBFC) is now available completely uncut. Barbet Schroeder’s fourth feature stars a slim and youthful Gérard Depardieu (unrecognisable as the Brando-sized behemoth he has become) and Bulle Ogier. After upsetting moral guardians in 1976 with its uncompromising, unfaked scenes of torture and fetishism, it was shown only in club cinemas upon its release. It received a grudging an ‘X’ certificate in 1981 after the BBFC insisted on several of cuts. Here it is, though, untampered with on DVD and, for the first time, in High Definition on Blu-ray, in a Dual Format Edition. Apart from its sexual content, Maîtresse exudes a marked stylishness with costumes by Karl Lagerfeld. Among the special features are a documentary, Domestic Masochism: Barbet Schroeder’s Maîtresse, in which Patricia MacCormack and Edward Lamberti intelligently dissect the way in which Barbet Schroeder confronts film shibboleths.
SOUTHERN COMFORT Walter Hill, director/Second Sight BLU-RAY When the British director John Boorman made the much-acclaimed Deliverance, he can have had little idea that he was virtually creating a genre – what might be called the ‘survivalist’ picture in which a group of hapless protagonists – usually in some forbidding rural setting – upset the locals and pay a heavy price when fighting back. The director Walter Hill’s The Warriors is a version of the concept, but perhaps his most accomplished – and certainly his most tense – variation on the theme is the excellent Southern Comfort which even though the central characters are a platoon of weekend soldiers (who find themselves being picked off one after another) are almost as ill-prepared to survive as the motley group of individuals in John Boorman’s original film. A routine exercise in the sultry Louisiana bayou ends up as a grim war of attrition when the ill-disciplined group of guardsmen (including a well-cast Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe) get on the wrong side of a group of Cajun hunters — with fatal results for many of the platoon. As with much of Walter Hill’s work, a powerful Ry Cooder score perfectly complements the tension (delivered in the director’s typically economical fashion), and Southern Comfort once again demonstrates that Hill (whose career has stalled of late) in the great line of Hollywood action directors which stretches from Don Siegel onwards. This Blu-ray remastering represents an improvement over previous DVD incarnations, but certainly not in any revelatory fashion.
MONSTRO! Stuart Simpson, director/Monster Pictures A retro-style ‘creature feature gore-fest’ sporting three female killers Beretta, Blondie and Snowball, hiding in a small beachside community after their killing spree attracts attention. So excessive, though, that the final effect becomes a touch anodyne – and more charismatic performances might have helped.
CÉSAR ET ROSALIE Claude Sautet, director/StudioCanal César et Rosalie is a beguiling French romance with the legendary Yves Montand and Romy Schneider. Claude Sautet (of Un Coeur en Hiver and Les Chose de la Vie) has the full measure of the material, and the ménage a trois here is handled with great authority. Montand is as impressive as ever.
DIE NIBELUNGEN Fritz Lang, director/Eureka BLU-RAY Perhaps the most stately of Fritz Lang’s two-part epics, the five-hour, Wagnerian Die Nibelungen is a remarkable, visionary work. Its famous set-pieces have inspired films up to and including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.
FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR director, Second Sight Films BLU-RAY Flight of the Navigator is a lively 80s adventure film aimed at a young audience.12-year-old David Freeman wakes up and discovers it’s 1986 and he’s been missing for eight years. He discovers a hidden spaceship and with the help of MAX the computer sets off on a remarkable flight. In its day, the special effects of Flight of the Navigator were state-of-the-art, but watching the film today is a reminder of just how far such things have moved on. But it is still a charming experience, even if the manic computer MAX (particularly when infected with the childish, nyah-nyah attributes of the hero) distinctly outstays its welcome.
QUEEN OF VERSAILLES Lauren Greenfield, director/Dogwoof This highly entertaining documentary details the lives of the billionaires Jackie and David, American vulgarians whose excesses (with their nouveaux riche status) are highly diverting – and along the way, the director makes some cogent points about the American dream as we follow the couple around their American recreation of Versailles.
HOLY MOTORS Leos Carax, director/Artificial Eye This strange, beguiling (and sometimes infurating) film is almost impossible to describe, with its patchwork quilt of astonishing visual effects. The enigmatic M. Oscar (played in bizarre style by Denis Lavant) takes on a variety of strange disguises over the course of a day. This is the sort of uncategorisable film for which there is really only one approach: total surrender.
NYPD BLUE SEASON’S FIVE & SIX Various directors/Medium Rare One of the most influential crime dramas of the 1990s is given a welcome outing here, and it’s a chance for viewers to reassess quite why the series managed to glean the seven Emmys and four Golden Globes that it did. Where the show was particularly ahead of the time was in the gritty, uncompromising storylines with a vision of a New York City suffering from urban decay. It’s time to reacquaint yourself with the caustic Denis Franz as Sgt Andy Sipowich — it won’t take long before you realise again why so many viewers were comprehensively hooked by the show.
THE ARRIVAL OF WANG Manetti Bros, directors/Saffron Hill/Peccadillo Pictures This gripping and ambitious Italian film is a sort of modern riff on Robert Wise’s The Day The Earth Stood Still, in which an alien visitor is met with a hostile response when he arrives on Earth. The new film is far more grim and uncompromising than Wise’s could be (intelligent though it was), and is distinguished by a remarkable performance by Francesca Cuttica as the hapless interpreter who finds herself involved in the brutality. The CGI alien visitor him/itself is generally well characterised, but hardly shows sufficient response to the unpleasant treatment meted out. What’s more, the voice actor for the creature seems only peripherally affected by the torture he receives. Nevertheless, an intriguing and unusual film.
THE NIGHT VISITOR Laslo Benedek, director/Simply Media This extremely difficult-to-see, rather obscure psychological thriller has a matchless cast, including two of Ingmar Bergman’s most prestigious actors, Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman, not to mention Britain’s Trevor Howard. The cast alone justifies your time, although the director also offers some Hitchcockian diversions.
EXCISION Richard Bates, director/Monster Pictures Blu-ray This uncompromising tale of a delusional teenage outcast has created something of a stir, and is not hard to see why. Its gruesome effects are in-your-face, and it is not (as they say) for the squeamish.