Blu Monday: A Modern Chanel

This week we have three releases for you; two from September 21st and the third from September 28th.

You could call Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky a love story, but to me it’s more of a relationship story, as there’s not much love to speak of in this film. More than love we are treated with the tension of the relationship of two extremely creative people and the family they live with.

From the moment that Coco Chanel hears the highly criticized work of Igor Stravinsky she is more than intrigued. Seven years later, after the death of her lover and Igor’s decent into poverty, Coco connects with Igor again. Offering her home to Igor and his wife and children Coco hopes the he will return to the stage and compose music again. What starts as a working relationship quickly turns into a lustful one, leaving Igor in a position that could hurt his family forever. As Coco put’s it so plainly he is not a man worthy of two women.

While it is interesting to see Coco in moments of creation, it’s when they’re together that the film tends to lag. While the two’s passion is meant to be earth-shatteringly intense, it only comes off that way in scenes of nudity because when they are talking there’s more than something missing. That being said when it comes to the suffering of Igor’s wife Katarina (Yelena Morozova), there is nothing to be desired. The moments with Yelena Morozova bring the saving grace of the film. Her feelings of desperation and understanding are brought to life eloquently by Morozova. Sadly, Katarina isn’t the main character and her scenes are few and far between.

The film is beautiful in 1080p as the set design is above and beyond, as should be expected for a movie about Coco Chanel. The creative use of lines in black and white are exquisitely shot and at times breath taking. This is where the Blu-Ray really shines as your eye is always flooded in beauty and I can’t imagine the film looking any better than in your living room. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky‘s 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack is like candy for your home theater. The scenes during Igor’s performances shine on Blu-Ray as every note seems to stand out.

While the film is mesmerizing to both look at and listen to it’s the pacing of the film that will exclude it from your collection. I wish the film had focused more on the life of Coco Chanel as the few scenes that featured the creation of the perfume Chanel Number 5 caught my attention more than any of the scenes between Igor and Coco. That being said I’m going to have to give the film a minor Rent It only because of it’s beauty and cinematography.

Next on our list of releases is last week’s Modern Family: Season One, available now on DVD. If you hadn’t heard of Modern Family, they just won an Emmy for their epicness. One big (straight, gay, multi-cultural, traditional) happy family as the tag line says, this mockumentary follows in the successful footsteps of The Office and has begun to take over the genre. Ed O’Neill stars as Jay Pritchett, an older man remarried to a beautiful, younger Columbian woman, Gloria, played masterfully by Sofia Vergara, who happens to bring a young son with her into the marriage.

The show also centers around his two grown children and their families. His gay son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) is in a relationship with Cameron, played by Eric Stonestreet who happens to be from Kansas City. The couple has just adopted a little girl and the perils of parenthood can be a little overwhelming to the two sometimes which results in hilarity Jack-style from Will and Grace.

Last, but not least, his daughter Claire (Julie Bowen) is married to Phil (Ty Burrell) and together they have three semi normal children. You may think that this is the boring part of the show, but the twist here is that Phil is a stay at home Dad and doesn’t always do things according to plan, or rather Claire’s crazy, obsessive plans.

There are 24 episodes in this season one DVD, all of which I had to watch again. When the show first came on TV I didn’t think I would be interested, but having caught an episode here and there in the beginning, they began to grow on me and soon I was tuning in weekly. These are not necessarily episodic, and you can tune in any time and easily pick up on the show from any point.

Special Features include:

  • The Making of Modern Family: “Family Portrait”
  • Deleted Family Interviews
  • Real Modern Family Moments
  • Fizbo The Clown
  • Before Modern Family
  • Deleted, Extended & Alternate Scenes
  • Modern Family “Hawaii”
  • Gag Reel

With all the laughs in this DVD, this will have plenty of chances for rewatching. You definitely need to pick this DVD up, since it seems the show isn’t going anywhere too soon.

Last in the releases, available now, is Russian Director Nikita Mikhalkov’s box set Volume One and five of his films on DVD, one in which he also starred in. Even though I will be giving one total rating for the whole box set, it is unlikely that the box set is available for rent in your town. Let me just suggest that you strive to find and watch Burnt By The Sun at least. Although, it would behoove you to see them all. It’s always interesting seeing history from another point of view. US history books aren’t always telling the whole truth, if you know what I mean.

The first of the five films is A Slave of Love (1976). Hailed by the New York Times as a “masterpiece,” this is a witty and haunting film about moviemaking in turbulent pre-Revolution Russia. Within the sun-drenched beauty of the Crimean summer, a Russian movie crew grapples with film shortages, Tsarist secret police scrutiny, and their own dysfunctional dynamic to churn out one more silent melodrama before the revolution in Moscow consumes the nation. While awaiting the arrival of her missing co-star husband, silent film diva Olga (a character inspired by tragic real-life screen siren Vera Kholodnaya), a star so luminous that dissidents risk arrest to see her latest film “Slave of Love,” becomes enmeshed in a romance with handsome young cameraman Pototsky. But what begins as a casual dalliance becomes an awakening as Olga’s lover reveals his true allegiance. Ultimately, their romance leads Olga to an unforgettable high-speed date with destiny that unites movie heroism with historic martyrdom.

Though lavished with praise by such admirers as Jack Nicholson and director Monte Hellman during its 70’s theatrical run, A Slave of Love is a “very funny, very moving Russian film” (Variety) that has remained unavailable on US DVD until now.

Special Features include:

  • Interview with Nikita Mikhalkov
  • Interview with film composer Eduard Artemyev
  • “Vera,” a featurette about Vera Kholodnaya
  • Filmographies
  • Photo Album
  • Spoken Languages: Russian Mono, Russian 5.1, English VO 5.1, French VO 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German

Five Evenings (1979) is Nikita Mikhalkov’s brilliantly cinematic and achingly poignant mounting of Alexander Volodin’s comedy-drama stage masterpiece.
During a brief visit to late 50’s Moscow, Alexander rings the bell at a threshold he hasn’t crossed since before the war. Wistful nostalgia collides with kitchen-sink reality when Tamara (Lyudmila Gurchenko, Siberiade), the dawning love Alexander left behind 17 years before, answers the door. Reunited within a brilliantly recreated Khruschev-era communal apartment, the couple struggles to rekindle a still gestating romance with neither the mature bond of trust nor the blind hope of youth to guide them. The ensuing quintet of days and nights before Alexander must return to his life in the Soviet provinces lifts successive veils of self-deception and pain, separating past from present and longing from love.
Conceived, adapted, and rehearsed while Mikhalkov was simultaneously making the costume drama Oblomov and shot in a mere 25 days during a scheduled lull in production, Five Evenings is a valedictory and heartfelt celebration of the risks and rewards of second chances.

Special Features include:

  • Interview with Nikita Mikhalkov
  • Interview with writer, actor and production designer Alexander Adabashyan
  • Filmographies
  • Photo Album
  • Spoken Languages: Russian Mono, Russian 5.1, English VO 5.1, French VO 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch

Nikita Mikhalkov has a reputation as an actor’s director, adroitly guiding his players through complex material and obtaining some of the finest performances in Soviet cinema. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Oblomov (1980), his moving and authentic distillation of Ivan Goncharov’s great 19th century tragi-comic novel.

Oleg Tabakov brings to the title role a delicate dignity as the gentle aristocrat who would rather sleep than compete in a modern world of expanding industrialization — a character lovable and ludicrous. And Elena Solovei invests with giddy charm her role of the delightful country belle, Olga, with whom Oblomov has a brief springtime of passion.

Set in glittery St. Petersburg during the heyday of the czars, Oblomov is also full of enchanting scenes of lush interiors and ravishing landscapes. The delicate story about friendship, family, and daydreams becomes a warmly nostalgic portrait of Russia before the turn of the century. Kino presents Mikhalkov’s Oblomov on video in this new, digitally remastered version.

Special Features are not included on this DVD.

Next in the bunch is Without Witness (1983) “A psychological war-of-words in the best tradition of Chekhov and Gorky,”(Variety) Without Witness is an unflinchingly intimate and wickedly plotted two-actor tour de force pitting a divorced couple against each other and themselves.

Confining the action to a single highly realistic contemporary Moscow apartment setting, and relentlessly ramping up the stakes through confessional camera asides from both characters, “Nikita Mikhalkov’s best film” (Variety) transforms from a sharp theatrical chamber piece into a nail-biting pressure cooker. While watching TV at home alone, a woman (Irina Kupchenko) receives a visit from her now remarried ex-husband (Mikhail Ulyanov). But as banalities about old friends, old times, and their absent teenage son give way to increasingly confrontational verbal barbs, the threadbare camouflage of hospitality and cheap nostalgia masking the couple’s raw wounds and harsh agendas is ripped away.

Essaying a script that evokes Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage, and Edward Albee and Harold Pinter’s gloves-off relationship dramas, “Irina Kupchenko and Mikhail Ulyanov are more than excellent, they are impeccable.” (Village Voice).

Special Features include:

  • Interview with Nikita Mikhalkov
  • Interview with actress Irina Kupchenko
  • Filmographies
  • Photo Album
  • Spoken Languages: Russian 5.1, Russian Mono, English VO Mono, French VO Mono
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portugese

Last in the Mikhalkov set is the Academy Award winning Burnt by the Sun (1994). Set in 1936, in the high summer of Stalinist rule, Nikita Mikhalkov’s movie centers on a Soviet Army colonel (played by Mikhalkov) and the family group that circulates around him in an idyllic dacha. The idyll cracks when the state, in the person of a family friend (Oleg Menchikov), comes to wreak havoc; a work that began in the rustling spirit of Chekhov ends like a Scorsese picture, with thugs raining blows in the back of a car. What binds the mixture is Mikhalkov’s love of all the stray details his camera catches; the movie may sound dispiriting, but it has an amazing ability to cheer you up. There is a full range of acting styles, from the florid to the cartoonish, and to the sharp-eyed, wholly uncute performance of the director’s eight-year-old daughter, Nadia, who gazes at the unfolding events with the air of one who will never be able to banish them from her memory.

Special Features are not included on this DVD.

This Russian box set is definitely worth seeking out. The films are all Russian speaking with English subtitles and although the print is easy to read, there are some films in which the subtitles can be hard to see at times. For instance, A Slave Of Love has some very brightly colored scenes, being the oldest in the bunch, and can make it straining to see the text at times.

by Ryan Davis and Angela Davis

About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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