HomeReviewsBlu-Ray Review Round-Up: Films by Jacques Rivette, Derek Jarman, Frank Borzage &...

Blu-Ray Review Round-Up: Films by Jacques Rivette, Derek Jarman, Frank Borzage & More!

From suspenseful narratives to visually stunning compositions, these Blu-ray review promise to captivate and redefine your appreciation for the art of filmmaking.

In this Blu-ray Review Round-up, explore a diverse cinematic spectrum featuring films by legendary directors Jacques Rivette, Derek Jarman, and Frank Borzage.

Each release promises an immersive exploration of cinema’s diverse landscapes, making this roundup an essential guide for cinephiles seeking unparalleled experiences.

Immerse yourself in an insightful journey as we delve into the visual brilliance and storytelling prowess that define these exceptional Blu-ray releases.

La Belle Noiseuse Cohen Film Collection

Jacques Rivette’s mesmerizing La Belle Noiseuse, known for its remarkable pace despite its four-hour duration.

Simultaneously, it underscores the quasi-mystical allure of the creative process while deconstructing the artist-muse mythology.

La Belle Noiseuse
La Belle Noiseuse Cohen Film Collection

Renowned painter Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) finds renewed inspiration through his encounter with Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart), the girlfriend of an aspiring artist who admires Frenhofer.

Breathing life into an old project, Frenhofer takes control of their relationship within the studio, manipulating Marianne with a utilitarian directness that accentuates her vulnerability.

Beyond the studio confines, the emotional aftermath is intricate, with complex histories between Frenhofer and his wife, Liz (Jane Birkin), and Marianne and her boyfriend, Nicolas (David Bursztein).

Liz, once Frenhofer’s model, and Nicolas’s admiration for Frenhofer influence Marianne’s decision to model.

However, emotions evolve, adding layers of complexity to this nuanced exploration.

Rivette, renowned for capturing the intricacies of the artistic process, dedicates unhurried yet meticulously organized scenes to Frenhofer’s work.

Transitioning from rough sketches, where the pen’s scrape on paper serves as an evocative soundtrack, to the intermittent progress of moving to a larger scale, the film immerses viewers in the creative journey.

Piccoli’s performance exudes a focused detachment, intensifying the impact of his abrupt emotional shifts.

Béart, with fiery eyes, boldly asserts Marianne’s boundaries, contrasting with the tangled feelings that surface as she confronts the power imbalance in their partnership.

The knots in La Belle Noiseuse don’t quickly unravel; they become more entangled as the film progresses.

Cohen’s Blu-ray release, sourced from a new 4K restoration, delivers a 1080p, 1.37:1 transfer across two discs, with a built-in intermission.

While the presentation excels with well-managed grain, exquisite detail, and exceptional clarity, a teal-ish hue in the color palette, possibly in line with a common trend in new restorations, is a notable deviation.

The 2.0 PCM mono track impresses with clear, crisp audio. Extras feature a new commentary by film historian Richard Suchenski and archival interviews with Rivette, screenwriters Pascal Bonitzer, and Christine Laurent, carried over from previous DVDs.

Cohen Media Group / 1991 / Color / 1.37:1 / 238 min / $34.99

The Sacrifice Kino Lorber Film Distribution

Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film, The Sacrifice, falls short of the acclaim bestowed upon most of his works, ranging from masterpieces to profound, life-altering art.

Created during his exile from the Soviet Union while battling cancer, The Sacrifice is a blend of ponderousness, ungainliness, beauty, and occasional nonsensicality. It is an odd, distorted creation, capable of both awe and dismissal.

The Sacrifice
The Sacrifice Kino Lorber Film Distribution

As Robert Bird observes in his essay for Kino’s re-release, the film navigates between sparseness and theatricality, featuring large, occasionally ludicrous gestures on a narrative-unmoored palette. Yet, the stakes are undeniably high.

In many respects, The Sacrifice’s irreconcilable peculiarities offer the only logical response to the madness of nuclear war infiltrating the life of a Swedish family on a remote Baltic island during the birthday celebrations of patriarch Alexander (Erland Josephson).

The film commences with Alexander planting a withered tree alongside his beloved son, Little Man (Tommy Kjellqvist).

He shares a story about a dead tree meticulously tended to that miraculously came back to life, emphasizing the far-reaching consequences of a single action performed with conviction.

Later, the family convenes at their home, where Alexander is joined by his wife Adelaide (Susan Fleetwood), his elder daughter Marta (Filippa Franzén), and the unpredictable mailman Otto (Allan Edwall), among others.

A TV report predicting imminent World War III abruptly disrupts the festive atmosphere, triggering an emotional upheaval, particularly for Adelaide.

In response, Alexander desperately seeks a self-flagellating remedy, contemplating the disposal of all his possessions and engaging in intercourse with a woman believed to be a witch.

The rationale behind these actions preventing nuclear war seems as absurd as the notion of a nuclear weapon itself.

Kino’s latest Blu-ray release, sourced from a new 4K restoration, boasts a 1080p, 1.66:1 image—an overall improvement over its previous Blu-ray counterpart, notably in the color-deprived middle section.

The upgraded image is crisper, featuring a well-defined grain structure, enhanced clarity, and improved shadow delineation.

While some may find fault with the color, which tends toward a distinct greenish hue, the positive aspects of the transfer outweigh this minor deviation. The audio is presented in a pleasing 2.0 uncompressed mono track.

This edition also sees an expansion in the extras department.

A new audio commentary by Layla Alexander-Garrett, Tarkovsky’s on-set translator, is included, and the booklet features excerpts from the filmmaker’s diaries alongside Robert Bird’s essay.

Similar to the previous release, a second DVD contains a feature-length making-of documentary titled Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Kino Lorber / 1986 / Color / 1.66:1 / 146 min / $39.95

Moonrise The Criterion Collection

Disliking the narrative reliance on overt psychologizing that links character actions directly to past events, this storytelling technique is evident in the opening of Moonrise, one of Frank Borzage’s final works.

The film introduces young Danny, tormented by his father’s execution, a trauma that leads him to murder the present timeline.

Borzage, known for his atmospheric storytelling in the silent era, infuses the prologue with nightmarish dread, seamlessly carrying it into the main events.

Moonrise The Criterion Collection

Danny, portrayed by Dane Hawkins, appears trapped in an inescapable and nightmarish dream, making reckless decisions shrouded in thick noirish shadowing.

Hawkins portrays Danny not as a tortured soul but as someone aware that his actions hold little significance.

Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell), an alluring schoolteacher and the fiancée of the man Danny killed, interrupts Danny’s stupor while swamp-dwelling Mose (Rex Ingram) offers advice that recalibrates his moral compass.

Based on a now-obscure novel, Moonrise follows a somewhat stock plot, but Borzage’s filmmaking elevates the material.

Even the traditional noir carnival scene is reimagined, with a Ferris wheel sequence employing matched head-on shots to heighten the panic and further entrench Danny in his thoughts.

Criterion’s 1080p, 1.37:1 transfer, derived from a new 4K restoration, adeptly handles the film’s darkness, maintaining detail and avoiding issues with crush or artifacts.

The intentional softness and isolated instances of damage do not detract significantly, making it a strong example of black-and-white filmmaking.

The uncompressed mono audio is clear, and aside from a booklet essay by Philip Kemp, the only extra is a new conversation between film historians Peter Cowie and Hervé Dumont.

Criterion Collection / 1948 / Black and white / 1.37:1 / 90 min / $39.95

Intimate Lighting (Intimní osvětlení) Second Run

In Ivan Passer’s keenly observed Intimate Lighting, there’s a noteworthy scene around a dinner table, where a roast chicken circulates, complicating the affair as everyone tries to defer to one another.

This scene, among others in this episodic slice of life, subtly reveals the characters’ underlying expectations.

Petr (Zdeněk Bezušek), a moderately successful musician, returns to his small hometown, encountering a hint of benign tension with his old friend Bambas (Karel Blažek).

Intimate Lighting
Intimate Lighting (Intimní osvětlení) Second Run

Describing Intimate Lighting as a comedy of manners may be an exaggeration.

Yet, Passer delves into the gentle peculiarities of human interaction, allowing them to unfold in scenes like a struggling string quartet, a late-night rendezvous, or a toast gone awry.

The film’s charms match its elusive plot simplicity.

While Passer, akin to Czech New Wave collaborator Miloš Forman, achieved success in the US, this debut film stands as a unique jewel, showcasing the wryness present in his collaborations with Forman but without the sharper satirical edge.

The film effortlessly occupies a tonal balance, contributing to its enchanting quality.

Second Run’s region-free Blu-ray release, sourced from a new 4K restoration by the Czech National Film Archive, features a 1080p, 1.37:1 transfer.

The disc is visually appealing, offering solid clarity and detail with well-handled grain, maintaining a convincingly film-like appearance. The 2.0 uncompressed mono audio is notably clean.

Extras include Passer’s debut short film, A Boring Afternoon (1964), an interview with Passer, and a booklet featuring essays from Trevor Johnston and Phillip Bergson.

Second Run / 1965 / Black and white / 1.37:1 / 74 min / £19.99

Edward II Film Movement

Derek Jarman’s rendition of Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan play encapsulates a paradox.

Brimming with sensuous imagery yet maintaining a calm, detached demeanor, the film balances formal austerity with tonal agility.

Shot in an unembellished castle, the stage-like environment evokes a chill, contrasting the impeccably designed tableaus featuring sexually charged bedroom scenes, an anachronistic gay-rights protest, and a vivid leap into pop fantasy with Annie Lennox singing Cole Porter.

Edward II
Edward II Film Movement

Jarman amplifies the homoerotic undertones of Marlowe’s play, portraying the new king Edward II (Steven Waddington) using his authority to recall his lover, Piers Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan), from exile.

The historically acknowledged “favorite,” Galveston, denotes a transparent sexual relationship, emphasized without euphemism by Jarman.

The couple’s brazenness before an increasingly irritated Queen Isabella (Tilda Swinton) and her lover, Mortimer (Nigel Terry), triggers plans for a coup.

While critiques focus on the film’s lack of cohesion and simplistic portrayal of Marlowe’s intricate play and characters, Edward II compensates with greatness in its parts.

Though acknowledging these concerns, Jarman’s compelling production design, intriguing compositions, and righteous political anger offer a refreshing experience where each image revitalizes the viewer’s attention.

Film Movement’s new Blu-ray, labeled as a “new digital restoration,” presents the film in a 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer—an improvement over the previous DVD release.

The transfer, while slightly hazy with fluctuating image density, maintains watchability.

The audio features an excellent 2.0 LPCM stereo track. Extras include an interview with producer Antony Root, a booklet with appreciation from Swinton, and an essay by filmmaker Bruce LaBruce.

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