Thursday, May 01, 2008

Unemployed... with ghosts and Munchausen (Spot The ThemeTM posting)

Still in the midst of job hunting... not that unusual for the time of year for me - I bounce back and forth between The Real World of Job and film freelancing since I got my foot in the proverbial door -- an uneasy balance, but one I've had to maintain. Since the bulk of my work is usually in features, I , of course, live in a place where there's lots of it... well, if I work for free, that is. But that would be true even if I lived in an industry area, to gauge by ads on and Craigslist.

And I just have not managed to make any inroads into the commercial/corporate video world... a bone every now and then, but nothing to rely on. Then again - the few commercial jobs I have done did pay better, but I can't say that I've ever seen the final result, nor do I really care to. And as I've mentioned before, when I've decided to go all out on the freelance route, it usually results in long, painful periods of cash deprivation. Such is the dichotomy that is My Life.

It has allowed me to catch up on DVD watching, however - one small glistening jewel in the dung mountain. A good part of April was spent watching the films of Seijun Suzuki - mainly his later period films, three of which are considered The Taisho Trilogy - ZIGEUNERWEISEN, KAGERO-ZA and YUMEJI. All three films are set in the 1920s and although all three are different, the best way to describe them would be Japanese Arthouse with supernatural overtones weaving throughout. Most of the Suzuki films I'm familar with are the yakuza films he did in the 60's that people rave about (quite rightly) - these three are quite different in tone, although there are visual touches that remind one of some of that early work. The films are also quite long - two and a half hours, and leisurely paced. Not being Japanese, I'm quite sure there's a lot going on that I'm missing, but there are interesting touches that made the watching experience rewarding. The Trilogy is available on Netflix - if you're into Japanese film, it's worth adding them to your queue.

Just watched recently was the new DVD release of Terry Gilliam's THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN - previously available in a bare bones release, this 2-disc Special Edition finally does justice to the film in a format that's readily available to everyone. MUNCHAUSEN's previous Special Edition was a Criterion Collection laserdisc that had a commentary by Gilliam and was packed with lots of extras - but it was hard to find and pretty pricey on eBay... not to mention that you had to have a laserdisc player!

The new release from Sony is about as cool as the Criterion release - it doesn't port Gilliam's original commentary from that set; instead, it features a new commentary by Gilliam done in tandem with co-writer/actor Charles McKeown, and it's a pretty good one... both sort of bounce things off of each other, and it's entertaining. Gilliam is one of the few directors who does great commentaries, and it's better when he has someone to play off of (like his commentary for TIDELAND, done with writer Tony Grisoni.)

The second disc has an hour and a half documentary on the Munchausen Saga - all of the main players are heard from, and it's as entertaining as the main feature. Some of the material from the Criterion laserdisc is used here, such as location video, but in truncated form. Also from the laserdisc are four deleted scenes (but without commentary), and a presentation of storyboards of scenes that had to be eliminated from the script, due to budget and time contraints. On the laserdisc, these were accompanied by Gilliam's explanation of the scenes, but for this release, they do something even better: Gilliam and McKeown aurally act out the storyboards as they're presented.

For fans of the film and of Gilliam, this is a release that's been long overdue, since the Criterion release never got to DVD format... still be nice to have it, but there's not much to be disappointed with the Sony release (also on Blu-Ray). Now it would be great if they'd do the same with THE FISHER KING, whose Special Edition is only available (as of yet) on Criterion laserdisc.

Looking around, I just discovered the following, scheduled to be released this August:

Hopefully, I'll be able to afford it, if I'm working by summer.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out the upcoming Wells release, didn't know that was in the pipeline. Planning on checking out the 2 disc 'Baron' set, especially interested in screeing the saga doc. Hope the job hunting pays off soon. Today I'm off to The Music Box for a fresh print of 'Last Year at Marienbad'.

Anonymous said...

CORRECTION! Strike that 'fresh print' description of The Last Year at Marienbad print screening at The Music Box. Whether it was the print or something else, yesterday was a primer in what can go wrong during an art house (or any other) screening. The framing of the screen, by lowering or rising the border curtains, never stopped throughout the film. The gate of the film seemed to be in a constant motion. Often the very top of the frame was visible on the dark material just below the screen, the subtitles bobbed in and out of view, and in a sit-com style of cliché comedy the film came to a complete stop after a slow fade of both the sound and picture about halfway through the film. During the post film discussion, led by Jonathan Rosenbaum, one person in the audience asked if the dead stop was part of the films aesthetic or a mistake. This was one of the few questions posed that Rosenbaum seemed to hear. Almost every query from the audience was answered with, “I heard (fill in the blank) word and then (fill in the blank) word, but nothing else.” Still, it was great to see the film on the big screen and stealthfuly roll my eyes to the back of my head as one attendee repeatedly postulated that several films by Luis Bunuel that came out AFTER Marienbad was made had indeed influenced the making of Marienbad. For us half-ass students of film, those are good times.