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Blu-ray Review Round-Up: Films by Agnès Varda, Jacques Rivette, Guy Maddin & more!

Agnès Varda, Jacques Rivette, and Guy Maddin stand as three distinctive luminaries in cinema, each contributing a unique and influential voice to the world of filmmaking. Here, we will do a Blu-ray review of three legendary directors’ movies.

Agnès Varda, a pioneering figure of the French New Wave, crafted a remarkable body of work that deftly blended fiction and documentary, often exploring the lives of everyday people with a keen observational eye.

Her groundbreaking film “Cléo from 5 to 7” and the seminal documentary “The Gleaners and I” exemplify her innovative approach and enduring impact on cinema.

Jacques Rivette, another luminary of the French New Wave, was celebrated for his intellectual and experimental approach to filmmaking.

Rivette’s films were genuinely groundbreaking. How he intricately wove together reality and illusion was masterful, and it’s no surprise that he’s influenced generations of filmmakers.

“Celine and Julie Go Boating” and “La Belle Noiseuse” are just two of his many films that are essential viewing for any cinephile.

A contemporary Canadian director, Guy Maddin has carved a niche for himself with his distinctive visual style and a penchant for delving into the surreal and the absurd.

Maddin’s films, including “My Winnipeg” and “The Saddest Music in the World,” showcase his ability to weave dreamlike narratives while paying homage to silent cinema and other classic filmmaking techniques.

Varda, Rivette, and Maddin collectively represent a diverse spectrum of cinematic styles and thematic explorations.

Their enduring contributions to the world of cinema have left an indelible impact, shaping the medium and inspiring filmmakers around the globe.

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Blu-ray Review Round-Up: Losing Ground Milestone Films

Milestone Films, known for its discerning curation, turns its attention to a pivotal work in African-American cinema, “Losing Ground” (1982), the second and final feature by Kathleen Collins.

Sadly, Collins’ promising career was cut short by cancer in 1988. This release includes her first feature, “The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy” (1980), widely regarded as the first American feature film made by a black woman.

While the historical significance of these films may attract some viewers, “Losing Ground” transcends mere curiosity, presenting a nuanced exploration of marital fatigue with a texture reminiscent of an Eric Rohmer film.

Despite occasional rough edges, such as slapdash editing, the Film showcases Collins’ artistic vision.

Seret Scott portrays Sara Rogers, a philosophy professor embarking on a study of the aesthetic qualities of ecstasy, reflecting her overly serious-minded approach to life.

The contrast with her husband, Victor (Bill Gunn), a painter who sees carnal indulgence as integral to the artistic process, sets the stage for the couple’s move to an upstate retreat.

Losing Ground
Losing Ground

Victor hires young women as models, blurring the line between artistic inspiration and personal desires.

Sara, seeking liberation, agrees to star in a student film project, and the film-within-a-film captures her transformative performance, navigating the conflict between her intellectual and emotional selves.

While “Losing Ground” can be somewhat schematic, Scott and Gunn infuse authenticity into their characters.

Milestone’s 1080p, 1.33:1 transfer does justice to the 16mm-shot Film, preserving its hazy yet reasonably detailed and film-like images.

The pervasive soft, slightly washed-out look inherent to the source is handled well, providing a stable, consistent, clean digital transfer.

The uncompressed mono track delivers clear dialogue, albeit on the quieter side.

The two-disc Blu-ray set includes “The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy,” the 1976 student film “Transmagnifican Dambamuality” from cinematographer Ronald K. Gray, and extensive new interviews with Scott, Gray, and Collins’ daughter Nina Lorez Collins.

A commentary track by Professors LaMonda Horton-Stallings and Terri Francis, an archival interview with Kathleen Collins from 1982, and a trailer for the 2015 re-release enrich the collection of extras.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Milestone Films’ Losing Ground Blu-ray rates:
The Film (out of ****): **1/2
Film Elements Sourced: **1/2
Video Transfer: ***
Audio: ***
New Extra Features: ****
Extra Features Overall: ****

Jane B. Par Agnès V. and Kung-Fu Master!: 2 Films by Agnès Varda Cinelicious Pics

A double-feature of newly restored and seldom-seen works from the esteemed filmmaker Agnès Varda proves to be a captivating introduction to the home video releases from Cinelicious Pics.

This Agnès Varda twofer, featuring Jane Birkin in both films, is an impressive early venture for the Los Angeles distributor.

The intertwined works, “Jane B. Par Agnès V.” (1988) and “Kung-Fu Master!” (1988), create a fascinating cinematic universe.

“Jane B.” is described by Varda as a fictional portrait of a natural person, while “Kung-Fu Master!” is characterized as an accurate portrait of a fictional person.

“Jane B.” subverts the biopic form, casting Birkin and Varda as themselves in a feminist essay film that playfully navigates through various genres, presenting a portrait of an actress transcending the confines of reality.

The films intersect as a snippet of an idea in “Jane B.” is expanded in “Kung-Fu Master!,” which approaches taboo subject matter with sincerity, offering an honest exploration of loneliness.

In the latter Film, Birkin portrays Mary-Jane, a divorced 40-year-old drawn to a 15-year-old boy named Julien, portrayed by Mathieu Demy (Varda’s son with Jacques Demy).

The Film delicately explores Mary-Jane’s growing attachment to Julien, avoiding the clichés of a May-December romance and instead focusing on shared moments over an arcade game.

Jane B. Par Agnès V. and Kung-Fu Master! 2 Films by Agnès Varda
Jane B. Par Agnès V. and Kung-Fu Master! 2 Films by Agnès Varda

The melancholic undertone is palpable as Mary-Jane grapples with self-destructive tendencies.

Each Film is presented on its disc with a 1080p, 1.66:1 transfer sourced from new 2K restorations of the 35mm original camera negative.

The transfers showcase Varda’s slightly gauzy photography, with exceptional detail, rich and consistent colors, and virtually no signs of damage.

The uncompressed mono tracks provide crystal-clear audio. Both films feature new interviews with Varda, offering her reflective insights.

The accompanying booklet includes an extensive essay by scholar Sandy Flitterman-Lewis and another interview by filmmaker Miranda July with Varda.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Cinelicious Pics’ 2 Films by Agnès Varda Blu-ray rates:
The Films (out of ****): ***1/2
Film Elements Sourced: ***1/2
Video Transfer: ****
Audio: ***
New Extra Features: **
Extra Features Overall: **

L’Inhumaine Flicker Alley

Marcel L’Herbier’s L’Inhumaine (1924) is a visual feast of avant-garde design, showcasing an array of art deco and cubist elements in each scene.

With a crew of modernist luminaries such as Paul Poiret, Robert Mallet-Stevens, and Fernand Léger, the Film seamlessly integrates stunning designs into its narrative.

Despite the potential for an overly fussy or disjointed outcome, L’Inhumaine feels remarkably cohesive, blending exquisite visuals with L’Herbier’s assured camerawork and dynamic editing.

Opera singer Georgette Leblanc, who co-financed the Film, takes on the role of Claire Lescot, the enigmatic “inhuman woman” whose performances and beauty elicit fervent reactions while she remains emotionally distant.

The story unfolds with romantic entanglements involving a wealthy maharajah and a young scientist, leading to a dramatic turn of events.

The Film is captivated by depictions of communal interiors in the first half. In contrast, the second embraces a futuristic vision, exploring the potential of technology to connect distant spaces and manipulate life itself.

L’Inhumaine’s stunning visuals are brilliantly showcased in Flicker Alley’s Blu-ray, sourced from Lobster Films’ recent 4K restoration.


The transfer exhibits impressive depth, detail, and clarity, with vibrant color tints and minimal damage.

The Blu-ray offers two newly recorded scores – Aidje Tafial’s avant-garde percussion-driven composition and the Alloy Orchestra’s more traditional silent-film score with modern touches.

Extras include featurettes on the Film’s making and Tafial’s score, alongside a booklet with notes on the Film and L’Herbier’s career.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Flicker Alley’s L’Inhumaine Blu-ray rates:
The Film (out of ****): ***1/2
Film Elements Sourced: ***1/2
Video Transfer: ***1/2
Audio: ***1/2
New Extra Features: 1/2
Extra Features Overall: **

The Forbidden Room Kino Lorber

“The Forbidden Room,” likely my top film of 2015, is poised to deepen the rift among Guy Maddin enthusiasts.

Maddin’s films typically elicit love or disdain, and this particular work finds the Canadian filmmaker fully immersed in his passion for archaic film techniques and eccentric cinematic elements.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the Film, its abundance of peculiar visual and narrative concepts can be overwhelming.

The Film feels like a patchwork of lost reels from various genres, seamlessly blending instructional films, submarine thrillers, jungle epics, strange sex comedies, and eerie body horror.

The narrative unfolds through a series of ever-shifting images and scenarios, with characters seamlessly transitioning between universes.

Drawing a comparison to Bill Morrison’s “Decasia,” which utilized archival footage to convey a sense of decay, “The Forbidden Room” takes the opposite approach, reveling in an ecstatic celebration of an invented past.

Notable moments, such as a song by the art-rock duo Sparks featuring Udo Kier, add to the Film’s humor and quirkiness.

The Forbidden Room
The Forbidden Room

While critiquing Kino’s intentional image fluctuations in the 1080p, 1.78:1 transfer might be futile; the disc impressively presents a vibrant and colorful transfer that complements the two-strip Technicolor style.

A 2.0 track complements the immersive 5.1 DTS-HD track. Extras delve into the Film’s techniques, including “Endless Ectoloops” and “Living Posters,” showcasing shifting and distorted images.

The disc includes the short film “Once a Chicken,” presented as a séance with Hungarian painter László Moholy-Nagy, a commentary track from Maddin and co-director Evan Johnson, and a theatrical trailer.

The substantial booklet features essays by Maddin and critic Hillary Weston.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Kino Lorber’s The Forbidden Room Blu-ray rates:
The Film (out of ****): ***1/2
Film Elements Sourced: ??
Video Transfer: ***
Audio: ***
New Extra Features: **1/2
Extra Features Overall: **1/2

Paris Belongs to Us The Criterion Collection

It’s officially the year of Jacques Rivette on home video. Arrow Video’s monumental Region B release is the crown jewel, collecting five of his films.

Including cinephile grail Out 1 (1971) in its original 13-hour and shortened versions (Carlotta Films released Out 1 in the US), but don’t forget about Criterion’s first foray into the French New Wave master’s oeuvre.

Rivette’s feature-length debut, Paris Belongs to Us (Paris nous appartient, 1961), would have been one of the first nouvelle vague films released if it hadn’t gotten hung up in post-production.

On its surface, Paris Belongs to Us is less stylistically radical than many of the films that Rivette’s peers were making, and compared to his subsequent films, it’s unmistakably an incubatory work.

Though it’s less structurally diffuse than later films, the fascination with modes of theatrical performance and lingering paranoia are fundamental here.

Rivette was the master of cultivating genuine mystery, a skill already established in his first Film, even if its schematic plotting occasionally breaks the spell.

Betty Schneider stars as Anne, a Parisian literature student introduced to a group of intellectuals via her brother, Pierre (François Maistre).

Paris Belongs to Us
Paris Belongs to Us

They’re mourning the loss of one of their friends, a Spanish composer who committed suicide.

Not everyone is convinced, though, including bold, blocked American journalist Philip Kaufman (Daniel Crohem), who warns of mysterious forces that he’s never able to explain.

The Film never bothers to explain them either, and it feels like Rivette is torn between developing a thick fog of nonspecific dread and a propulsive, plotty genre thriller.

The Film’s other main thread involves a low-budget production of Shakespeare’s rarely staged Pericles, directed with great ambition and little organization by Gerard (Giani Esposito).

With actors constantly dropping out or not showing up to rehearsal, Anne lands apart, but she also begins to worry that Gerard himself may be the next target of the mounting conspiracy.

Though its treatment of both plot threads isn’t satisfying, Paris Belongs to Us is still a rewarding experience, particularly in its subtle formal playfulness.

The way Rivette shoots and edits interior spaces, especially Anne’s apartment building, is a potent early example of his ability to keep viewers on their toes.

Criterion’s 1080p, 1.37:1 transfer is sourced from a new 2K restoration and looks superb, with a clean, film-like image that displays excellent depth and detail throughout.

Only a few stray flecks and hairs mar the image. The uncompressed mono audio, recorded post-sync, is hollow but has no significant issues.

There aren’t a ton of extras here, but they’re all worthwhile.

Rivette’s 1956 short Le coup du berger is a comic tale with cameos from Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and François Truffaut.

While an interview with French New Wave scholar Richard Neupert offers an excellent primer on Rivette’s career and Paris, an insert with an essay by Luc Sante is also included.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Criterion’s Paris Belongs to Us Blu-ray rates:
The Film (out of ****): ***
Film Elements Sourced: ***1/2
Video Transfer: ***1/2
Audio: **1/2
New Extra Features: **1/2
Extra Features Overall: **1/2

American Horror Project Volume 1 Arrow Video

Arrow Video, recognized for its meticulous treatment of classic and obscure films, presents American Horror Project Vol. 1, featuring three commendable 2K restorations.

Positioned as an alternative history of 1970s American horror, this set compiles three films that may not be certified classics but boast entertainment value and a unique place in independent filmmaking.

Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973) initiates the collection with a captivatingly bizarre atmosphere, involving a family’s search for a missing son at a dilapidated rural Pennsylvania carnival.

The 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer is visually strong despite scratches and speckles, and a lossless mono track complements the film-like presentation.

The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976) follows, exploring the blurred line between fantasy and reality, with Millie Perkins delivering a haunting performance.

The Film’s 2.35:1, 1080p transfer displays a persistent softness but exhibits moments of fine detail.

American Horror Project Volume 1
American Horror Project Volume 1

The Premonition (1976) concludes the set with a supernatural twist, featuring carnival scenes and a psychic child.

The 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer for The Premonition is the strongest, offering a sharp, clean image with rich colors.

Extras accompany each Film, including commentaries, interviews, and short films.

Despite not constituting a canonical alternative, the American Horror Project Vol. 1 is a significant collection of obscure but fascinating independent horror films.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. 1 Blu-ray rates:
The Films (out of ****): **1/2
Film Elements Sourced: **1/2
Video Transfer: ***1/2
Audio: **1/2
New Extra Features: ***1/2
Extra Features Overall: ***1/2

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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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