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Articles about cinema. Previews and trailers of forthcoming releases. On-the-spot reporting of film festivals.

A preview of Arrow Academy’s November 2017 roster of titles

Arrow Academy logo

Another month, another rich line-up of releases from Arrow’s arthouse and classic movie sub-label. Firstly, we get Yôjirô Takita’s acclaimed Departures, a life-affirming Japanese drama which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2009. Another of the forthcoming releases, Montparnasse 19 is a 1959 biopic of the Italian painter Modigliani, which was initially directed by Max Ophüls but, when he passed away during production, was completed by his friend Jacques Becker.

There are also not one but two collections lined up. The first compiles four films by French filmmaker Sacha Guitry. It’s the second, however, that I’m particularly looking forward to: a set of four Film Noir classics, directed by Robert Siodmak, Fritz Lang, Abraham Polonsky and Joseph H. Lewis pulled together for one spectacular-looking boxed set.

Departures - released on Blu-ray + DVD on 6 November 2017

Departures directed by Takita Yôjirô

One of the most critically lauded Japanese films of recent years Departures was awarded the Best Foreign Language film Oscar in 2009, 10 major awards at the Japanese Academy and a host of other international prizes.

When professional cello player Daigo is left jobless after the orchestra he plays in disbands, he and his wife Mika move back from Tokyo to the family home in rural Yamagata left by his mother, who passed away two years previously. Here he stumbles upon a vaguely-worded advert in a local newspaper for a job “assisting departures.” He turns up at the interview and is hired on the spot by his new boss Sasaki, only to discover the post is for an assistant nôkanshi, or traditional mortician, performing the Buddhist rites of washing and preparing corpses for their final journey. Initially he keeps the nature of his employment hidden from Mika, but as his disgust for his work turns to pride, he soon finds himself coming to terms with his own life, and the past memories of the father who abandoned him as a child.

This life-affirming drama from director Takita Yôjirô (The Yin Yang Master, When the Last Sword is Drawn, Ashura) is beautifully complemented by a majestic score from Hisaishi Jô, known for his work with Kitano Takeshi and Studio Ghibli, and featuring an affecting central performance from Motoki Masahiro (Gonin, Shall We Dance?, The Bird People in China), Departures is a bittersweet portrait of one man’s reconnection with the landscapes and life forces of home.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

• High Definition digital transfer

• Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 stereo options

• Optional English Subtitles

• The Making of Departures – a documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew and on set footage

• Encoffinment – the complete unedited footage of the cleansing ritual partially shown throughout the film

• Theatrical Trailer

• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork

DVD SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

• High Definition digital transfer

• Original 5.1 surround sound and 2.0 stereo audio options

• Optional English Subtitles

• The Making of Departures – a documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew and on set footage

• Encoffinment – the complete unedited footage of the cleansing ritual partially shown throughout the film

• Theatrical Trailer

• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork

Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938 - released on Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD on November 13 2017

Remontons les Champs-Élysées directed by Sacha Guitry

Four Films 1936-1938 brings together a quartet of 1930s features by Sacha Guitry, the celebrated French filmmaker, playwright and actor of the stage and screen, each based on his earlier works.

Indiscretions (Le Nouveau testament) follows a holier-than-though physician who is scuppered by his own hypocrisy. My Father Was Right (Mon père avait raison) tells off a man who, after being left by his wife for another man, raises his son to be wary of women. Let’s Dream (Faisons un rêve…) is another story of mistrust, between husband, wife and lovers. And the history of one of France’s most famous streets is retold in Up the Champs-Élysées (Remontons les Champs-Élysées), featuring multiple performances from Guitry himself.

Available for the first time on Blu-ray this set presents some of Guitry’s earliest and most enjoyable works.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:

• Limited Edition Dual Format Collection [2000 copies]

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations

• Original French mono audio (uncompressed LPCM on the Blu-ray)

• Optional English subtitles

• Two French television documentaries: Cinéastes de notre temps: Sacha Guitry (1965) and Thèmes et variations du cinéma: Guitry (1967)

• An interview with Guitry from the 1959 television series Magazine du théâtre

• 60-page limited edition book featuring new writing on the films

Four Film Noir Classics: The Dark Mirror, Secret Beyond the Door, Force of Evil, The Big Combo - released on Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD on 20 November 2017

Four Film Noir Classics in an impressive box set

Film noir has had many influences. Long before the term was even coined, we had atmospheric studio-shot detective thrillers, whose characters gradually became more ambiguous, and whose locations started to take in the world outside (notably New York City). This collection showcases some classic examples.

In The Dark Mirror (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak (The Killers), a man is murdered and there’s an obvious suspect, but she has an identical twin sister (both played by Olivia de Havilland, Gone with the Wind), and one of them has a cast-iron alibi. The perfect crime? A psychologist with a specialist interest in twin psychology delves into the heart of the mystery, at considerable risk to himself. In Secret Beyond the Door (1947), Fritz Lang (The Big Heat) adapts the Bluebeard legend with a dash of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Shortly after their marriage, Celia (Joan Bennett, Suspiria) begins to suspect her architect husband Mark (Michael Redgrave, Dead of Night) of having a secret past, and wonders about the reason behind multiple rooms in his self-designed home, one of which is kept permanently locked. In Abraham Polonsky’s Force of Evil (1948), an unscrupulous lawyer (John Garfield, The Postman Always Rings Twice) scents a personal fortune when he concocts a plan to merge New York City’s numbers rackets into a single powerful and unbreakable operation, but reckons without his brother, who’d rather stay independent. And in Joseph H. Lewis’ ultra-stylish The Big Combo (1955), Lieutenant Diamond (Cornel Wilde, The Naked Prey) is determined to bring down mob boss Mr Brown (Richard Conte, Thieves’ Highway). But Brown feels the same way, and is far less constrained by the law, leading to some wince-inducing set pieces (some involving a pre-stardom Lee Van Cleef).

This collection showcases many of the genre’s major names on both sides of the camera. In addition to the directing and acting talent mentioned above there are cinematographers Stanley Cortez (The Night of the Hunter) and John Alton (An American in Paris), composers Dmitri Tiomkin (High Noon) and Miklós Rósza (The Killers) and writers Nunnally Johnson (The Woman in the Window) and Philip Yordan (Johnny Guitar). It’s little wonder that directors such as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino were so struck by them.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:

• Limited Edition Dual Format Collection [2000 copies]

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of four film noir classics: The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946), Secret Beyond the Door (Fritz Lang, 1947), Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky, 1948), and The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955)

• Commentaries on all films by leading scholars and critics Adrian Martin (on The Dark Mirror), Alan K. Rode (on Secret Beyond the Door), Glenn Kenny and Farran Smith Nehme (on Force of Evil), and Eddie Muller (on The Big Combo) • Noah Isenberg on The Dark Mirror, the author and scholar provides a detailed analysis of the film

• Noah Isenberg on The Dark Mirror, the author and scholar provides a detailed analysis of the film

• Barry Keith Grant on Secret Beyond the Door, the author and scholar introduces the film

• The House of Lang: A visual essay on Fritz Lang’s style by filmmaker David Cairns with a focus on his noir work

• Introduction to Force of Evil by Martin Scorsese

• An Autopsy on Capitalism: A visual essay on the production and reception of Force of Evil by Frank Krutnik, author of In a Lonely Street: Film noir, genre, masculinity

• Commentary on selected Force of Evil themes by Krutnik

• Geoff Andrew on The Big Combo, the critic and programmer offers an introduction to and analysis of the film

• Wagon Wheel Joe: A visual essay on director Joseph H. Lewis by filmmaker David Cairns

• The Big Combo original screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content)

• Four radio plays, starring Olivia de Havilland and John Garfield among others

• Trailers

• Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow for all films

• Hardback book featuring new writing on all the films by noir experts and critics including Michael Brooke, Andrew Spicer, David Cairns and Tony Rayns, production stories, re-prints featuring Fritz Lang, Abraham Polonsky, Cornel Wilde, The Dark Mirror consultant Dr Mary Romm, contemporary reviews, and credits for all films, illustrated with original stills [Limited Edition Exclusive]

Montparnasse 19 - on Blu-ray and DVD on 27 November 2017

Montparnasse 19, a film about the tragic final years in the life of Italian painter and sculptor Amadeo Modigliani, was itself beset by tragedy. Max Ophuls, the famed director of Letter from an Unknown Woman and Le Plaisir, died during its production, leaving his friend Jacques Becker to complete the picture. Its lead performer too, the great French actor Gérard Philippe, would succumb to cancer just over a year after its release.

In tracing the latter part of Modigliani’s life, Montparnasse 19, focuses on the key figures during his time in Paris – his patron Léopold Zborowski (played by Gérard Séty) and two muses, Beatrice Hastings (Lilli Palmer) and Jeanne Hébuterne (Anouk Aimée) – and his gradual descent into alcoholism and drug addiction. The end results, both hauntingly beautiful and savagely ironic, are really quite remarkable. A fitting tribute to the outstanding careers of Ophuls and Philippe, and another excellent entry in the equally superb filmography of Becker, a filmmaker who is finally getting his due.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, from materials supplied by Gaumont

• Original 1.0 mono sound

• Optional English subtitles

• Jacques Becker and the Artistic Condition, a 55-minute documentary on the making of Montparnasse 19 featuring interviews with Anouk Aimée, Françoise Fabian and Jean Becker

• Newly filmed appreciation of the film by Ginette Vincendeau, author of The BFI Companion to French Cinema and Paris in the Cinema: Beyond the Flâneur

• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

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