Category Archives: Home Video

Films available on Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand, and Streaming

DVD of the Week: Fellini’s ‘The Clowns’

The Clowns
Fellini's 'The Clowns' (Raro Video USA)

Made in 1970 for Italian TV, Federico Fellini’s ‘The Clowns’ finds the director fully exploring — and indulging — his fascination with men who dress up in funny clothes and big noses.

The film begins with Fellini remembering a magical night when a circus came to his small town and set up in a vacant lot adjacent to his home. He wanders over in the morning to this new creation and begins watching, leading to a lengthy recreation of a small-town circus performance. But young Fellini is terrified by the clowns. It seems they remind him of other creatures, which leads to a jaunty pictorial of people who are sad yet have a degree of inner strength.

Next comes a segue to a faux documentary film crew investigating the general demise of circuses in Italy and interviewing famous clowns, along with a further exploration of the two archetypes in clowning, “The White Clown” and “Augustus.” Finally we have another lengthy circus act, this one revolving around a mock funeral for one of those archetypes.

A cold watch of the material is intriguing, but not necessarily compelling for non-Fellini acolytes. It’s been many, many years since I’ve watched Fellini classics such as ‘La Strada’ or ‘La Dolce Vita,’ and, frankly, he’s fallen off my cinematic radar. But with this fine new DVD release from Raro Video, I’m feeling compelled to re-watch the man’s work. And much of that has to do with one of the extras on the disk.

Titled ‘Fellini’s Circus,’ it’s a self-described visual essay by film historian Adriano Apra, and it’s simply marvelous. He quotes generously from the film, and then places the clips in the context of Fellini’s overall body of work. He breaks down the shots, from length to perspective, and then explains how the documentary-style footage compares with the more straightforward fictional scenes. It’s all quite fascinating (it runs about 42 minutes), and it gave me renewed appreciation for the film.

Also included is a black-and-white 16-minute short film from early in Fellini’s career (1953), originally included as part of an omnibus. ‘Marriage Agency’ follows a man investigating the phenomenon of agencies that arranged marriages in post-war Italy. He suspects something must be awry, and so proposes that an imaginary friend with a certain disease is looking for a wife, and is quite surprised by what he discovers. It’s nicely handled — there’s a lovely scene where the man is led through the labyrinth hallways of a building to the agency, following a group of children — and it fits the running time perfectly.

Rounding out the package is a very handsome 50-page booklet, richly illustrated with drawings and photos, that includes a lengthy excerpt from Fellini’s book on the subject.

The DVD is well worth a rental for more casual viewers, and definitely will merit a purchase for Fellini-philes.

DVD Releases for 07/20/10

Well, we’re all over the map this week.  But there’s something fishy about this group:

Cop Out – Kevin Smith tries buddy action, and Seann William Scott steals the show with the only funny moments (and they seem ad-libbed).  Fail?  Flounder.

Continue reading DVD Releases for 07/20/10

DVD Releases for 07/13/10

Category:  films about people who get into situations and do things.  Here are this week’s DVD highlights:

Greenberg – Ben Stiller plays a guy having a midlife crisis while house-sitting.  Allegedly much funnier and interesting than that sentence sounds.

Continue reading DVD Releases for 07/13/10

DVD Releases for 07/06/10

Four fine films that come from very different places:

Better Than You Heard Dep’t.:  Brooklyn’s Finest – Antoine Fuqua’s rather grim but powerful and thrilling tale of three cops (Richard Gere, Don Cheadle & Ethan Hawke) who face very different, very violent fates.  Gere is an aging who-cares veteran;  Cheadle is deep undercover;  and Hawke is a stressed-out strike force member who has too much guilt and too many bad ideas.  Great flick.

Continue reading DVD Releases for 07/06/10

DVD Releases for 6/29/10

Big, diverse batch of films.  We’ll go alphabetically this week:

The Crazies – Given it’s dead zone February release date, one would likely think this remake of George Romero’s low-fi Seventies flick didn’t have much going for it.  Turns out, it was a solid, well-made genre piece that made good on all that it promised in its eerie trailer.  Another nice outing by Timothy Olyphant, who is fast becoming the new aww-shucks/everyman action hero.  Check it out.

The Eclipse – Moody ghost story about several writers at a literary conference.  Far better than that sentence reads.

Hot Tub Time Machine – Remember raunchy comedy?  Here you go.  Good times, especially if you were at the movies in the Eighties.

Percy Jackson and the Something Something – Tired of Harry Potter?  Or just waiting on the next Harry Potter?  Maybe give this Olympian tale of kids and gods and lightning and such.

Pretty Bird – Something from the I Never Heard Of That Before Department:  Paul Giamatti, Billy Crudup and Kristin Wiig in a tale of three entrepreneurs who set out to create a rocket belt.

The Warlords – Andy Lau, Jet Li and Takeshi Kaneshiro.  Do I need to say anything else?

The White Ribbon – Michael Haneke’s latest.  This kid’s face should say it all.