Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Warm Welcome to Indicator: An Exciting New British Label

Indicator is a new British Blu-ray and DVD label, owned and operated by Powerhouse Films, London.
Indicator promise a comprehensive range of classic films, expertly encoded and supported by a generous range of supplementary material.
These dual format releases will be accompanied by booklets featuring newly commissioned essays, together with contemporary articles, features and reviews.
New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing will also be a feature of Indicator releases.

Launching on 24th October, the first titles will be John Carpenter's "Christine" and Brian De Palma's "Body Double".

• Original stereo audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• Audio commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Keith Gordon
• Christine: Ignition, Fast and Furious & Finish Line (2003, 48 mins): three-part ‘making of’ documentary, featuring interviews with cast and crew, including John Carpenter and Keith Gordon
• Deleted scenes (26 mins): twenty-one sequences which never made the final cut
• Isolated score: experience John Carpenter’s original soundtrack music
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• Original theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 24-page booklet with a new essay by Jeff Billington and a 1996 article on Carpenter’s cinematic ‘guilty pleasures’
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies
• UK Blu-ray premiere

• Original stereo audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• Craig Wasson Interview (1984, 10 mins): archival NBC interview conducted by Bobbie Wygant
• Pure Cinema (38 mins): extensive interview with first assistant director Joe Napolitano
• The Seduction (17 mins): De Palma discusses the first treatment of the script
• The Setup (17 mins): an examination of the plot
• The Mystery (12 mins): Melanie Griffith discusses her nude scenes and De Palma's shyness
• The Controversy (6 mins): cast and crew discuss the film's critical reception
• Isolated score: experience Pino Donaggio’s original soundtrack music
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• Original theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Ashley Clark and archival reprints, including a lengthy 1985 interview with De Palma
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies
• UK Blu-ray premiere

Here's a rundown of the first batch of releases:

001 - CHRISTINE (John Carpenter, 1983)
002 - BODY DOUBLE (Brian De Palma, 1984)
003 - GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (Stanley Kramer, 1967)
004 - TO SIR, WITH LOVE (James Clavell, 1967)
005 - 10 RILLINGTON PLACE (Richard Fleischer, 1971)
006 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (J. Lee Thompson, 1981)
007 - THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles, 1947)
008 - BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (Otto Preminger, 1965)
009 - FAT CITY (John Huston, 1972)
010 - THE LAST DETAIL (Hal Ashby, 1973)
011 - EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (Blake Edwards, 1962)
012 - THE ANDERSON TAPES (Sidney Lumet, 1971)

I hope you will join me in supporting this enterprising new label. A mouth-watering selection of titles for sure.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Passion Of Joan of Arc: A Very Special Night

27th August, 1995. The second collaboration between London's National Film Theatre and New Musical Express magazine presented a series of films linking music with the moving image. 'Screenage Kicks' featured some of the best music-related films, and notable performers and broadcasters were invited to introduce movies that had inspired them. John Peel, Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), Andrew Oldham and Martin Carr (The Boo Radleys) were just a few of the celebrities involved as "Withnail And I", "Kes","Sweet Smell of Success", and "Midnight Run"rubbed shoulders with classic footage from the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Who.

As far as I was concerned, the most intriguing event looked to be a one-off screening of Karl Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc", with live musical backing from Nick Cave And The Dirty Three. So, the evening of August 27th saw me arrive at the NFT with high expectations. I wasn't in the least surprised to discover that NFT1 was completely sold out, and the large number of folks vying for a handful of returned tickets contributed to an indefinable ambiance; the like of which I'd rarely encountered at the cinema. After spending half an hour in the NFT bar, it was time to take my seat for this most special event, which was introduced by Gavin Martin, editor of the NME film section. Martin explained that Nick Cave had suggested composing a score for Dreyer's silent classic; a project which had taken several months of rehearsals and careful planning. With that, Cave strode onto the stage, accompanied by Warren Ellis (violin), Mick Turner (guitar) and Jim White (drums).

"The Passion of Joan of Arc" is certainly Dreyer's finest hour, and Cave's heartfelt tribute turned it into a truly extraordinary experience; quite simply the most emotional and physically draining experience I've witnessed at the cinema. Dreyer's film is based on two novels by Joseph Delteil on the original transcript of this infamous trial. Delteil assisted Dreyer with the screenplay, but there's little doubt that the court records set the tone for this harrowing film. THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC is composed almost entirely of close-ups, and the final stages of the trial - along with Joan's execution - are dominated by the face of Renee ('Marie') Falconetti. The plight of the woman who claimed she was sent by God to save France is indelibly printed on Falconetti's tortured visage; indeed her performance is so intense, it seems as though she was actually possessed by the spirit of this revered Saint. As Joan is tortured and humiliated by the 'devil's agents' en route to her eventual confession, Falconetti cries what are so obviously real tears. This has to be a real contender for the most courageous performance ever given by an actress, and I was astonished to learn that this was her first and last film. Reports indicate she received help and advice from her director along every step of the way but, ultimately, Renee Falconetti must have felt more alone than any woman in silver screen history. Her overwhelming presence makes this a painful viewing experience, and Dreyer's obsessive approach to his subject matter is still guaranteed to disturb, even in an age where we think we've seen everything. Falconetti's inner strength, her unparalleled suffering and eventual despair manage to cross that often impenetrable barrier between screen and audience, forcing us to feel her pain and, occasionally recoil in horror. The scene where Joan is 'bled' so that she may live to deny her faith is extremely graphic, drawing gasps from an incredulous audience and when her execution takes place, the band stop playing and become as one with the packed auditorium who are stunned by this tragic history lesson.
Cave has gone on record as saying this is his all-time favourite film and it showed, Nick! Here, The Dirty Three offered mostly understated background support, with smoldering violin and guitar anchored down by Jim White's steady beat. Occasionally, the boys really put their feet on the pedals, responding to Dreyer's disturbing visuals with all the brutality of prime-time Bad Seeds. However, it was the quieter moments that really left a scar: Cave's beautifully fragile piano, his wordless vocals which often mutate into a haunting 'This is my desire' refrain, and his unerring ability to correctly call when the music should stop. A prime example of this came near the end of the film, when Joan is burnt at the stake. As the flames rise, a deathly silence envelopes the NFT, as we watch the crowd who gathered to witness the execution suddenly realise the enormity of this obscene act and openly revolt. It's then that Cave chooses to deliver his only song of the evening; a plaintive vocal which addresses "God's non-intervention".

All at once, the film is over, and a shell-shocked audience rise to give a standing ovation to Cave and his fellow performers. As we made our way to the exits, I noticed that some people were weeping, others were discussing the film in hushed tones, but most were just too overwhelmed to react. I think we all realised that we had witnessed something extremely special as a passion that has endured for almost 90 years reached new heights.