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Criterion Collection: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders | Blu-ray Review

12 hours ago

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) is an obscure fantasia from the fading days of the Czech New Wave. One could argue that its obscurity was richly deserved and that it unfortunately may end now with the release of this new Criterion Blu-ray. The film is a bewildering, at times amateurish, amalgam of the very worst instincts of David Hamilton and Ken Russell mixed with a barrage of B movie horror cliches. And those are some of the best scenes. In between there’s much fret over some magic necklace or earrings or something, and Valerie’s grandparents and/or parents – it’s hard to tell them apart – and a cloaked figure who flits about looking like a hybrid of Nosferatu and Darth Vader. Sorry this synopsis is not more coherent, but this reviewer’s eyes had glazed over long before the film reached its conclusion.

On the other hand, »

- David Anderson

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The Conversation: 2015’s Top 10 Theatrical Releases So Far…

6 July 2015 2:00 PM, PDT

With the first half of 2015 officially coming to a close, it’s time for our mid-year list of best theatrical releases. As seems to be the trend, a bulk of these titles were selections premiering in the late fall circuit of 2014, a move sometimes granting offbeat art-house selections a bit more breathing room (though not always). Here’s a glance at what represents the best of the year thus far, including two directorial debuts, one posthumous work, and one studio feature:

10. The Salt of the Earth – Dir. Wim Wenders & Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Premiering at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, German auteur Wim Wenders explores the prolific career of Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, here with the help of his son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado serving as co-director. Known for capturing catastrophic events in striking fashion, the documentary finds the artist in search of something positive after decades documenting human nature at its worst. »

- Nicholas Bell

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What’s Up Doc?: Wiseman Rises to New “Heights” & Rivers Shooting “The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers” in Morocco

6 July 2015 7:00 AM, PDT

It’s been a surprisingly interesting month of moving and shaking in terms of doc development. Just a month after making his first public funding pitch at Toronto’s Hot Docs Forum, legendary doc filmmaker Frederick Wiseman took to Kickstarter to help cover the remaining expenses for his 40th feature film In Jackson Heights (see the film’s first trailer below). Unrelentingly rigorous in his determination to capture the American institutional landscape on film, his latest continues down this thematic rabbit hole, taking on the immensely diverse New York City neighborhood of Jackson Heights as his latest subject. According to the Kickstarter page, Wiseman is currently editing the 120 hours of rushes he shot with hopes of having the film ready for a fall festival premiere (my guess would be Tiff, where both National Gallery and At Berkeley made their North American debut), though he’s currently quite a ways away from his $75,000 goal. »

- Jordan M. Smith

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