HomeReviewsBlu-ray Review Round-up: Films by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Ken Russell, Robert Altman and...

Blu-ray Review Round-up: Films by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Ken Russell, Robert Altman and more!

Embark on a cinematic journey as we delve into the realm of Blu-ray review, where we dissect the visual and auditory delights of iconic films spanning the dynamic decades from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Hou Hsiao-hsien, Ken Russell, and Robert Altman stand as three influential figures in the realm of filmmaking.

Each leaves an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape through their distinctive styles and groundbreaking contributions.

Hou Hsiao-hsien, a Taiwanese director known for his contemplative and visually stunning films, has garnered international acclaim for his ability to capture the intricacies of human relationships and societal changes.

Meanwhile, Ken Russell, the British maverick, made a name for himself by pushing the boundaries of conventional filmmaking with his bold, often controversial, and visually extravagant works that challenged norms and expectations.

On the American front, Robert Altman carved out a unique niche with his innovative approach to storytelling, utilizing ensemble casts and overlapping dialogue to create a naturalistic and immersive cinematic experience.

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Blu-ray Review: Women in Love (1969) The Criterion Collection

In Ken Russell’s cinematic rendition of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, crafted by Larry Kramer, the intersection of s*x and death unfolds as an inseparable duo.

The visuals, though lacking subtlety, are undeniably powerful – from Glenda Jackson’s provocative repose on a gravestone to the haunting image of two drowned lovers entwined.

And coated in river mud, resembling an ancient, discarded sculpture. Russell, stepping into the directorial spotlight, infuses the film with a palpable sensual energy, deftly orchestrating his camerawork to mirror the physicality of the actors.

The stellar cast, led by Jackson in her Oscar-winning performance, navigates the complexities of love, with Oliver Reed and Alan Bates portraying best friends whose relationship is imbued with significant homoerotic undertones.

Women in Love
Women in Love

Criterion’s Blu-ray transfer, a 1080p, 1.75:1 presentation sourced from a new 4K restoration, is a visual spectacle, capturing the lush English landscapes and varied settings with exquisite detail.

The bonus features, a blend of archival and new content, enrich the viewing experience, offering insights through commentaries.

Russell’s self-biopic, a D.H. Lawrence short-film adaptation, and interviews with key figures involved in the film.

With a trailer and an essay by scholar Linda Ruth Williams included, this Blu-ray release provides a comprehensive exploration of the film’s thematic richness and cinematic artistry.

Daughter of the Nile (1987) Cohen Media Group

Few filmmakers capture the elusive romanticism of memory as masterfully as Hou Hsiao-hsien, an artist unfortunately overlooked in the realm of contemporary filmmakers’ home video releases.

Daughter of the Nile, the first of Hou’s films to be released on Blu-ray in the US alongside his recent work, The Assassin, stands as a testament to his underappreciated brilliance.

Departing from traditional gangster film narratives, the movie explores Taipei’s burgeoning crime underworld, with its screenplay drawing from personal experiences.

Lin, portrayed by Lin Hsiao-yang, navigates the complexities of caring for her family against the backdrop of a fantasy world influenced by a manga series referenced in the film’s title.

Daughter of the Nile gracefully treads the fine line between reality and dreams, portraying the melancholy of everyday life while hinting at something more enigmatic.

Daughter of the Nile
Daughter of the Nile

Cohen’s Blu-ray transfer, a 1080p, 1.85:1 presentation sourced from the same 4K restoration as the UK Masters of Cinema release.

Despite occasional audio distortion in the uncompressed mono track, the visual experience remains impressive.

This edition includes an insightful Tony Rayns interview from the Masters of Cinema release.

It introduces a new audio commentary by scholar Richard Suchenski, enhancing the viewer’s understanding of this cinematic gem.

Silence and Cry (1968) Second Run

The high-definition upgrades of Miklós Jancsó’s films continue from Second Run, this time with earlier work Silence and Cry (Csend és kiáltás), a slow-burn drama about the poisoning effect of fascism on everyday lives.

Consisting mostly of the long takes Jancsó was known for, the film punctuates stretches of uneasiness with sudden acts of horror, like an early murder, carried out perfunctorily.

The matter-of-factness only deepens the chilling effect.

A former Communist soldier is trying to avoid that same fate, so he hides out from the Hungarian nationalists on a quiet farm.

But this is hardly a refuge, as the farm owner has already drawn the attention of the casually cruel gendarmes, who force him to stand out in a field every day as punishment.

There’s a distancing effect to Jancsó’s approach, with the camerawork consistently more expressive than the performances, which feel boiled down to only the most elemental gestures.

Silence and Cry
Silence and Cry

The overwhelming feeling here is not one of paranoia but of resignation to an eventual terrible fate.

As always, the virtuosity of Jancsó’s fluid camera movements makes this mostly riveting viewing.

Second Run’s 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer, sourced from a new HD remaster, is excellent, offering healthy levels of fine detail, beautiful grayscale separation, and a mostly clean image, with only minor dots here and there.

There’s a clarity to the long shots here that’s essential to enjoying the film. Who wants to puzzle over a fuzzy speck in the distance?

Extras are also worthwhile: A trilogy of Jancsó shorts (Presence III, and III) are included in HD, along with a booklet essay from Tony Rayns, as perceptive about Hungarian cinema as he is about Asian filmmaking.

The Oldest Profession (1967) Kino Lorber

Like many European anthology films, “The Oldest Profession” presents a mixed bag of shorts, with weaker segments dampening the overall viewing experience, leaving viewers yearning to expand more promising ideas into full-length features.

Centered around the theme of prostitution through the ages, these films often rely on gender stereotypes and cheesy humor, lacking the bite to approach offensiveness.

Notably, contributions from filmmakers Franco Indovina, Mauro Bognini, and Michael Pfleghar, who are more recognized for their work in other omnibus films, fall short, with Indovina’s prehistoric narrative and Bolognini’s chaste portrayal of the Roman empire serving as initial missteps.

Pfleghar’s film, featuring a charming Raquel Welch as a prostitute mistaken for a socialite, provides a redeeming element.

While novel Philippe De Broca’s French Revolution tale falters by portraying Jeanne Moreau’s character as a complete fool.

The Oldest Profession
The Oldest Profession

Claude Autant-Lara’s “Paris Today” seems ripe for expansion, exploring two women using an ambulance to conceal their prostitution business, but the film concludes before fully delving into its potential.

Despite feeling somewhat thrown together, Jean-Luc Godard’s “Anticipation” emerges as the standout, featuring a sci-fi narrative where Jacques Charrier attempts to understand love in a dystopian future.

The Kino Blu-ray edition boasts a clean, detailed, and stable 1080p, 1.66:1 transfer, with only occasional instances of a teal-ish pallor. Additional features include the shorter English dub of the film and a trailer.

Images (1972) Arrow Video

While there might be a handful of films that challenge this assertion, Robert Altman consistently injects something intriguing into his work.

Even if one were to dismiss a film like “Dr. T and the Women” (which I happen to enjoy), the undeniable significance of his 1970s filmography, brimming with masterpieces and charming peculiarities, cannot be overlooked.

“Images,” rescued by Arrow Video after an extended period of unavailability on MGM DVD, leans more towards the latter category.

However, its compelling nature makes it difficult to outright label it as such. Altman, known for delving into the atmosphere of mental instability more thoroughly in “3 Women,” takes a looser, much looser, approach with “Images.”

The film unfolds without offering a definitive distinction between reality and hallucination in any given scene, a factor that may blunt its impact.


However, the film compensates with a stellar performance by Susannah York, captured by Altman and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, employing a full-on roving camera excess mode.

In this narrative, York portrays a children’s book author whose tenuous grip on reality further falters upon discovering her husband’s alleged infidelity.

Returning to a cottage in Ireland is intended to mend the fractures in her life, or so it seems.

Arrow’s 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer, derived from a 4K restoration, incorporates some dupe shots, with occasional drops in quality, particularly given the film’s propensity for a grainy aesthetic.

Nonetheless, the transfer is largely excellent, showcasing well-resolved grain and commendable clarity despite the intentional haziness of the film’s look.

Bonus features include a new commentary track by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger.

An archival Altman selected-scene commentary, a making-of from a previous DVD release, an interview with supporting actress Cathryn Harrison, and an appreciation by Stephen Thrower.

Baal (1970) The Criterion Collection

Volker Schlöndorff’s adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s first play, largely unseen for decades since its release, isn’t exactly a diamond in the rough.

It’s more like rough on top of rough. Abrasive, disjointed, and shot in a variety of locations that seem to be competing with each other for an ugliness trophy.

Schlöndorff’s 16mm primal scream isn’t Brechtian in the traditional sense, but it has its aesthetic distancing effects that fit well with the material.

Just as his directing career was getting started, Rainer Werner Fassbinder stars as the titular poet.


This monstrously egotistic artist flouts polite society before they can reject him, bedding every woman he can along the way.

Fassbinder is perfectly cast as the freewheeling degenerate — he has the right amount of grimy charm to earn both the loving and loathing he receives in his crusade against bourgeois society.

(Which, again, mostly involves copious amounts of drinking, s*x, and leaving the broken husks of the people he encounters in his wake.)

Criterion’s 1080p, 1.37:1 transfer, sourced from a 2K restoration, isn’t as rough as Baal, but it’s close, with some ragged and Vaseline-smeared edges.

Much of this is in keeping with the aesthetic goals of the film, and the underlying image shows off some of the detail and depth one would expect from a 16mm-sourced image.

Extras include two interviews with Schlöndorff and a newly filmed interview with co-star (and Schlöndorff’s collaborator and ex-wife) Margarethe von Trotta.

An interview with historian Eric Rentschler and a conversation between Ethan Hawke and playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman, who recently collaborated on a Baal adaptation. Dennis Lim contributes an insert essay.

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Ashish Dahal
Ashish Dahal
Ashish is a prolific content writer, blends with the creativity with precision in his writing. His work, characterized by clarity and engaging storytelling has gathered a loyal readership. His passion for words fuels his constant pursuit of excellence.

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    Ashish Dahal has combined his interests and content writing. Through his work, he showcases enthusiasm and ability to deliver captivating content consistently. Ashish's writing demonstrates his passion for storytelling and content creation.



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