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Stabat Mater - Motets To The Virgin Mary
Stabat Mater - Motets To The Virgin Mary
Price: CDN$ 20.12
28 used & new from CDN$ 8.05

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New packaging for a recording issued in 2006, May 2 2010
Be advised that this CD is a reissue, under a totally different title, of a previous recording by Jaroussky. Issued in 2006, it was called "Beata Vergine" and is still available on Amazon.ca, albeit at a higher price.

The program has no been changed at all and the contents are exactly identical, under a new cover picture. Don't fall for it if you already own the first one.

On the other hand, if you don't already have it, there is absolutely no reason to let this reissue go by since this is an excellent recording.

Jaroussky uses his voice in its angelic, almost unearthly, mode for these works, a choice that is perfect for pieces in the Marial repertory. He is joined by Canadian Marie-Nicole Lemieux on 2 of them. Accompaniement by his Astarserse ensemble is excellent, with the formation kept at a small size (strings and organ), in keeping with the devotional tone.

Made in USA (The Criterion Collection) [Import]
Made in USA (The Criterion Collection) [Import]
DVD ~ Anna Karina
Price: CDN$ 31.99
22 used & new from CDN$ 21.47

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Listing incorrect as far as price goes, June 21 2009
I think people should be wary of buying this DVD at the price listed here, when the other Godard to be released on the same date, Two or Three Things I Know About Her (also a single-disc release), is offered at 23.50$ (it's now gone up to 24.50$) and lists for the same MSRP on Criterion's site.

At least Amazon.ca has now inserted the correct description of the film, whereas they had the one for Kurosawa's Ran for quite some time.

This whole situation is in part Criterion's fault since after cancelling the Blu-Ray edition of Ran, they reused the same product code number, which managed to confuse some retailers like Amazon.ca, but they should really have caught on by now. The price they are asking for is probably what it would have cost for that Blu-Ray, had it been released as planned. Considering this is an entirely different title on standard DVD, they should make sure and correct their listing before the release date, which is coming soon.

My low rating is motivated only by this pricing error, which may lead customers to pay more than twice as much as they should. It has been too long since I saw the film to give an opinion on it, although I am looking forward to getting this DVD, at the correct price.

Vertigo (Universal Legacy Series)
Vertigo (Universal Legacy Series)
DVD ~ James Stewart
Offered by Deal Beat
Price: CDN$ 47.99
10 used & new from CDN$ 15.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Universal Legacy: Not quite the definitive edition, Oct. 18 2008
The merits of the movie itself are debated enough in other posts. I will limit myself to pointing out that as attractive as the October 2008 reissue is, there is one singular flaw, namely in the audio tracks.

True, the new extra features and the marginally better quality image as compared to the previous anamorphic version in the Hitchcock Masterpiece box set are probably enough for a die hard fan of this masterpiece to shell out for still another version of the DVD. Even the Friedkin commentary is quite enjoyable and offers some useful insights, contrary to his somewhat spotty reputation as to his commentary talents.

However, the two audio tracks are replicas of the attempt at modernizing it in the 90s by making a stereo version. The absence of the original sound effects track led to some tinkering and yielded certain strange results, most notably the double gunshots during the initial rooftop chase and a generally less-detailed aural picture. Strange that the edition in the boxset did include the original mono mix, but Universal dropped it in 2008. For those who insist on purchasing only the most perfect edition, this is not quite it then. It was not enough to stop me, but I do notice that the sound experience is slightly less interesting with this edition.

As for the improvement in image quality, it may not be visible on all systems. I did the comparison on two other systems and in one case the improvement was also noticeable, the image being sharper and the colors more vivid, while on the other one my friend and I saw no difference.

In conclusion, perhaps a Blu-Ray edition will one day bring it all together, correcting the audio deficiencies and adding HD quality, should it appear one day.

It's Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock, A Personal Biography
It's Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock, A Personal Biography
by Charlotte Chandler
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.93
28 used & new from CDN$ 1.70

2.0 out of 5 stars One-sided version of Hitch, Oct. 13 2008
Don't be fooled by Pat Hitchcock' blurb; this is far from the best book about her father. But it's no surprise she would say such a thing, considering the author's approach.

Since Chandler's research consisted of interviewing mostly Hitchcock and his family, with a handful of friends and relations to round things up, of course what comes out in the end is the carefully crafted image Hitch and his circle wanted to put forward. You therefore get to read once again all the usual anecdotes and bons mots, so often recounted by now that they are delivered as flawlessly as scripted movie dialogue.

No real new insights into the character of the man or into his career and artistic accomplishments can be found in this book.

If you are looking for a truly useful biography of the director, showing both his good sides and his less stellar ones, you are much better to take a look at McGilligan's book or even Donald Spoto's, despite the latter's tendency to resort to yellow journalism gossip at times.

The Alfred Hitchcock Story (New Edition)
The Alfred Hitchcock Story (New Edition)
by Ken Mogg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.00
21 used & new from CDN$ 8.05

2.0 out of 5 stars A superficial overview, Oct. 6 2008
This is a beautifully laid-out book, with a nice attention to page design (at least in this 2008 reissue). Unfortunately the contents is not quite up to snuff, at least not for readers who already own other reference books on Hitchcock.

As it covers chronologically his life and career, it boils down to the usual film-by-film survey, with a few short asides to assess some particular stages or periods of interest. Essays by other contributors bring more substance to the package (and justify the 2 stars), but again they are limited in their achievements by space constraints.

Because of these, Mogg cannot elaborate on the few original thoughts or opinions he expresses. For example, he has a much higher regard for Torn Curtain than other viewers generally express and goes as far as to praise highly John Addison's score, which sounds rather banal on its own and even more so when compared to the few cues Bernard Hermann did compose before being fired. But Mogg cannot really expand beyond simply stating these and the reader is therefore left hanging because he misses out on what could have been an interestingly challenging argument, running against the generally accepted wisdom.

In all, this is a nice introductory book for people who are just beginning to explore the director' work and need a general reference books. But for those who are already well stocked on that front, it is better to look elsewhere, despite the book being reasonably priced for such a well produced object.

The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction
The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction
by Robert L. Carringer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 64.34
20 used & new from CDN$ 44.98

3.0 out of 5 stars A strange relationship between critic and subject, Aug. 3 2008
At first glance, this looks like a book no Welles fans would want to be without. One has to be cautioned however regarding Carringer's oddly contradictory attitudes towards Welles. He does seem to admire the work, and his article "The scripts of Citizen Kane" did much to counter Pauline Kael's charge that Welles misappropriated writing credits on that film. Whereas she was working from spite, Carringer was working from facts and scholarship. (It can be found in the Citizen Kane Casebook edited by James Naremore.)

But in this and in his book The Making of Citizen Kane, Carringer seems to adopt an antagonistic attitude towards Welles, as if he is trying to transform himself into Kael's heir. He writes from the point of view that if anything good or great is achieved in these two movies, it was in spite of Welles. Furthermore, in every instance of disagreement between Welles and the studio, Carringer systematically argues that RKO was invariably right and Welles wrong. The director may not have been perfect and did make some career and artistic blunders along the way, but Carringer's position is too extreme.

And of course, every critic who disagrees with him is viewed as over-indulgent or a Welles sycophant.

Which is too bad considering this book is the only source to offer the continuity script in its entirety; this material alone is sufficient to completely discredit Carringer's thesis and to make one deplore even more sharply what we are missing in the butchered version that survives of the film. And as for his 5-cent psychoanalysis of Welles' family relationships and their impact on his professional work, I think we should observe a generous silence about its ludicrousness.

Other critics have proven it's possible to write balanced judgments on Welles, warts and all; Jonathan Rosenbaum, François Thomas and James Naremore among them (although in Naremore's case, the publisher did slap on his first essay the totally ridiculous title of The Magic World of Orson Welles.)

All in all, this book can be appreciated as making available source material unavailable elsewhere, a feat that will probably not be duplicated because of the dispersal of RKO's archives. The critical contents however must be taken with a kilogram of salt. I you can find it cheap, do not hesitate.

Boomerang (Fox Film Noir)
Boomerang (Fox Film Noir)
DVD ~ Dana Andrews
Price: CDN$ 6.99
17 used & new from CDN$ 6.67

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Boomerang comes back!, July 23 2008
This review is from: Boomerang (Fox Film Noir) (DVD)
Good news: this title is being rereleased in September 2008! A truly apt title indeed.

We'll finally be be able to fill that annoying hole in the Fox Film Noir series on our shelves.

As I recall this is a very good title, in the upper-tier of films noirs, but not quite into the top-tier (like Woman in the Window, Double Indemnity or Night and the City). It's been quite some time since I saw it (on TvO Saturday Night I seem to dimly recall or perhaps PBS), but my usually reliable memory indicates this should be a most enjoyable re-viewing.

The last crop of Fox Film Noir was not the most substantial of the series (Black Widow is somewhat entertaining a times, but not really noir and rather slight). The 3 titles scheduled for early September mark a clear increase in terms of quality and pertinence.

Now if only Fox would finally reissue Lang's Manhunt, which they've been labelling as Coming Soon for ages.

Dirty Money (Un Flic) (Version française) [Import]
Dirty Money (Un Flic) (Version française) [Import]
DVD ~ Alain Delon
Price: CDN$ 16.36
18 used & new from CDN$ 8.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meleville's last; unfortunately far from his best, July 11 2008
The info shown by Amazon.ca for this movie is wrong. They seem to have confused this with a similarly-titled movie from 1995.

This is actually a reissue of Jean-Pierre Melville' last movie "Un Flic". Not as successful or satisfying as "Le Samouraï" or "Le Deuxième Souffle" for example; Melville himself admitted he rushed into production and should have waited for better conditions and a better subject. It's nevertheless a Melville, which means we get at least one bravura silent robbery sequence (near the beginning of the film as I recall). And there's Alain Delon, the iconic figure from Melville's last period. As for Catherine Deneuve, she gets rather little screen time in this one, but this is one rare instance of a female character in a Melville film.

At this price, it's certainly unbeatable for Melville completists, unless Lionsgate decided to play a trick on us like tweaking the aspect ratio or burning in the subtitles (although this practice is not as frequent with US publishers as with French or British ones).

By the way, I did tell Amazon.ca their data was wrong, but their response was that this "could not be verified" Considering that the original French title is right there on the cover and that I provided them with the IMDB link that did get the info correctly, I guess this simply means "we can't be bothered with checking the information customers provide". What's the use of offering the option of correcting their mistakes if they don't follow through?

Edited to add: Amazon has partly corrected the situation, by merging the cast and crew credits from both movies. Well, at least now people searching for the real director's name will find their way to this title.

Landi;Stefano Sant Alessio Les [Import]
Landi;Stefano Sant Alessio Les [Import]
DVD ~ Philippe Jaroussky
Price: CDN$ 39.49
11 used & new from CDN$ 16.17

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most beautiful production, respectful of the work's character, June 12 2008
I have watched this DVD with ravishment. I already knew Christie's CD version from some years ago, with a mostly female cast, but this all-male version towers above it, if only vocally and musically.

The scenic production is fascinating, with lighting accomplished only with candles, giving a beautiful and slightly unstable visual texture to costumes and sets. The latter consist of an ingenious folding structure that can easily be reconfigured to stand as various parts of the family house, a public place or a country place. One of the most magical moments is when the double row of candles is lit up sequentially, bringing life to the first tableau of allegorical and symbolic figures.

The director seems to have instructed his performers to act in a slightly stylized manner, especially with the sustained poses of their hands, reminding me of paintings or sculptures where hands are frozen in gestures of acceptance, offering or devotion. One shortcoming the director had to work with though is the Maitrise de Caen choir, whose members sing the ensembles and minor roles, and also try their best to act as extras. From the look of it, they do no seem to be used to performing in a dramatic staging; several of them seem detached, to be merely standing there and to be barely mouthing their part. Notable exceptions are mostly to be found amongst the child performers; for example, some of them give a very strong impression simply by the intensity of the attentive looks they give to the figure of Roma in the opening sequence.

As for the main performers, let us first marvel that we live in a time when so many talented countertenors could be found to fill the 9 roles necessary. Christie could even afford the relatively luxury casting of having such a well-established singer as Pascal Bertin for the rather short (but dramatically strong) role of Nuntio. The superstar of the show is of course Jaroussky; I do not know how long his voice will retain its crystal purity, especially in the high notes, but I am glad this performance was recorded for posterity. He is truly touching and manages to bring musical variety to a role that is very much cast in the plaintive mode. The whole opera is indeed is more in the mode or recitatives ("parlar cantando" is I believe the correct musicological term) than arias. It is a striking contrast to Landi's La Morte d'Orfeo (which we are lucky to have in two good CD versions, the Lasserre version on Zig Zag and the pioneering Stubbs one on Accent), more dramatic and full of characterized arias.

The one character that gets most of what we could qualify as arias is probably the comical valet Curtio, solidly sung by Damien Guillon with all the necessary cockiness until his final repentance. Also notable are Xavier Sabata as the Mother, a performer that was unknown to me, and the touching Nurse sung by Jean-Paul Bonnevalle (who sang in the chorus in Christie's first recording). But the most remarkable turn comes from Max Emmanuel Cencic as the abandoned Spouse, a performance that bears no trace of drag, camp or caricature and which Cencic seems to inhabit with an unusual conviction, along with a truly wonderful mezzo tone. Alessio's character has beautiful music, but is never touching; the Spouse's predicament is given the full weight of emotion by Cencic's vocal and dramatic power.

The rest of the cast generally sings well, even if the Devil's role would have required a true basso profundo to do justice to the impossibly grave coloratura Landi has alloted this character.

As in many recording of operas or theatre, the director focuses too often on unnecessary side characters or action, a practice that at times detracts from the overall impact of the visual spectacle.

All in all an essential recording, as long as one is ready to accept some of the conventions that may seem dated to our modern eyes. As Dominique Fernandez aptly says in the liner notes, it is strange that a character who deserts his family and wife (probably just after the wedding, the libretto being a bit ambiguous), and then lies to them for 17 years by living unrecognized under their roof, would be presented as an admirable role model. And was canonized to boot! (Although he was later removed from the official registry of saints.) And I have yet to watch the few extras, which include an interview with Christie.

Unfortunately Amazon.ca seems to have run out of copies just after I purchased mine. It is worth waiting for it to get back in stock (and to make a request for it).

Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler [Import]
Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler [Import]
DVD ~ Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Price: CDN$ 32.35
15 used & new from CDN$ 27.42

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the definitive edit of Mabuse, Nov. 9 2006
This KINO release is certainly the best version of Mabuse available right now, surpassing the 215 minute Image Entertainment version, if only because at 270 minutes, it is the most complete I have ever seen.

All the famous scenes or shots that are missing from other editions appear to be there: the cabaret sequence is complete with all the naughty (for the time) bits that were censored in many prints; Mabuse's lecture to other scholars, often omitted, is present and brief as it is, it establishes his credentials as a real psychoanalyst turned criminal ; we have the opening overhead shot of the seance, apparently missing from the Image Entertainment edition; the exchange between Mabuse and the Count regarding expressionism has been preserved; in fact, all the set pieces and memorable images I remember from the various edits I have seen over the years are also present.

The only missing sequence would be the original opening which, if we are to believe Lang's description, was a montage of robberies and other deeds, with the repeated question "Who is responsible?" and Mabuse answering triumphantly "Me!". Too bad this could not be restored, although we do not really miss it considering the thrilling pace of the opening robbery, even if the synchronization of some events is rather improbable. There are those who believe however that Lang's memory played tricks with him and that the was recalling instead the opening montage of "Spies", which is indeed very similar to what he described.

As far as extras, we do not have any commentary track. Those harking for the David Kalat comments will either need to also own the Image Entertainment DVD or be content with the shorter content in Kalat's book. We do have short documentaries on the making of Mabuse, on the music of the film and on Norbert Jacques, author of the original novel.

Image quality is excellent for a film from the 20s; let's not forget that many other titles from the period have been lost or irremediably damaged. We have to make do with a few scratches here and there and some adjustments to film speed do not appear to be perfect in some actions sequences, although this speeding-up may have been intended by Lang as it was as a narrative convention at the time. I have looked briefly at the Image Entertainment release and I found the image to be less sharp than Kino's, with even a black border around the picture area, suggesting issues with framing.

It is a long film, but it does bear being watched over more than one evening, much as the serials from which it takes some of its roots. Indeed, the mixture of social and political criticism with Feuillade-like thrills is one of the most remarkable achievements of Lang in this essential work.

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