SALVADOR, Oliver Stone director/Eureka Entertainment Blu-rayHow would Oliver Stone’s much-acclaimed political drama look in the 21st century, I wondered, when I was preparing to write an essay for Eureka’s spruced-up new Blu-ray issue? Would it still have the almost physical impact that viewers remembered from seeing it in 1986? Mere minutes into watching the film, however, any doubts were swiftly allayed– time has not dimmed its visceral charge, and it remains as edgily involving as when it was made. And the achievements of the film are many: there is the cinéma vérité feel that Stone and his cinematographer Robert Richardson give to the action; the quirky characterisation of Stone’s continually endangered characters; the continuing sense of sweaty reality (at the cost of filming at some dangerous locations where people were dying) — and the solid achievement of James Woods’ remarkable method performance. But there is another plaudit to be handed out here: the fact that Stone cannily manages to involve us totally in the plight of his distinctly unlikeable protagonists; there are no easy appeals for sympathy. Set during the Salvadorean Civil War, Salvador affords us a hellish vision of conflict as seen through the lens of a real-life gonzo photojournalist Richard Boyle (Woods in an Oscar-nominated role), whose career and life are in the doldrums and who is to journey to hell and back. Also starring Jim Belushi and John Savage, Salvador bristles with Stone’s anger at the US role in the Central American crisis and its support for the right-wing military government. The film makes its UK debut on Blu-ray as part of The Masters of Cinema Series in a dual format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition. Watched on a large screen, the brightness and clarity here make this disc the only way to encounter the film. Most viewers will be full of admiration for the visual impact of this high-definition transfer. There is also a feature-length audio commentary with director Oliver Stone.
FLESH + BLOOD, Paul Verhoeven, director/Eureka EntertainmentOne of the great virtues of the DVD and Blu-ray era has been the chance to reappraise several films that were under-regarded in their original unimpressive issues — particularly so as in the case of Paul Verhoeven’s lively medieval epic, when we are given the chance to see material originally cut for censorship reasons. And while not everyone will be persuaded that this is as impressive as such films by the director as Starship Troopers, we are finally given the chance to see exactly what he intended here. Verhoeven worked with the Dutch actor Rutger Hauer in his early work, and the latter gives a spirited performance as the leader of a small group of mercenaries avenging themselves on a corrupt nobleman and his son. The director makes no attempt to sugarcoat the brutality and licentiousness of the era and of his ruthless antihero. Also starring an often-nude Jennifer Jason Leigh, the film appears in a dual format edition featuring a limited edition O-Card slipcase and collector’s booklet (the latter in the first pressing only).
LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE, Jean Cocteau, director/BFI Blu-ray The days when an artist of Jean Cocteau’s stature might work in film as well as other more ‘artistic’ media are rarer today (although there are exceptions), and the cinema is never likely to see again anything as magical and haunting as this definitive version of the Beauty and the Beast theme, with its surrealist vision brilliantly realised by the director/writer. La Belle et la bête is a landmark feat of cinematic fantasy in which Cocteau conjures spectacular visions of enchantment, desire and death. The BFI presents the original film version of this fairy-tale masterpiece in High Definition for the first time in the UK, released on Blu-ray on 6 August 2018. Special features include a commentary by Sir Christopher Frayling, an animated short, documentaries, trailers and deleted scenes, along with an illustrated booklet. Josette Day is luminous yet feisty as Beauty and Jean Marais gives one of his best performances as the Beast, at once brutal and gentle, rapacious and vulnerable, shamed and repelled by his own bloodlust. Henri Alekan’s cinematography combines with Christian Bérard’s masterly costumes and set designs to create a magical piece of cinema: a children’s tale refashioned as a stylised, highly sophisticated dream. Special features include Newly presented in High Definition from the French 4K restoration (by SNC and the Cinémathèque française) and a Feature commentary by cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling.
THE CHANGELING, Peter Medak, direct/Second Sight I have to admit that when I first saw this film, I was bemused by much of the praise – but I was wrong, as this new edition proves. This is one of the most intelligently made and efficiently chilling supernatural films of its era, and it has never looked better than here. ‘A child’s ball bouncing down a flight of stairs was enough to scare the daylights out of me’, said Stephen King, and The Changeling is cited as a huge influence by renowned film-makers including Martin Scorsese and Alejandro Amenabar and lauded by horror aficionados. The new disc features newly commissioned artwork by Christopher Shy. One of the last classic horror films to finally be released in high-definition, Peter Medak’s The Changeling arrives with a slew of newly created special features such as a commentaries, interviews and featurettes.
FILMWORKER, Tony Zierra, director/Dogwoof Following its critically acclaimed theatrical release, Filmworker is the remarkable story of Leon Vitali, the up-and-coming actor who gave up fame and fortune to serve for decades as helpmeet for the legendary director Stanley Kubrick. Filmworker is a compelling documentary charting Vitali’s work with the maestro and their unique relationship. As a long-time admirer of Stanley Kubrick’s work, it was Vitali’s dream come true when he landed the role of ‘Lord Bullingdon’ in Barry Lyndon. His performance was highly acclaimed and a wealth of prestigious film, television and stage offers flooded on, but they weren’t to be. Having become enthralled by the director’s all-encompassing process of creation, the actor sacrificed his flourishing career to take on the humble role of assistant to the master filmmaker. For more than two decades, he played a crucial role behind-the-scenes helping Kubrick make and maintain his seminal body of work – at some cost, as we observe, to himself.