First up on Blu Monday we have Salt of This Sea, which is one of the most honest films about Palestine that I have ever seen. The story of Soraya is that of a middle aged woman that is returning to the country of her birth to claim the money that her grandfather has left for her. This simple task quickly turns into one of segregation and the will to fight for a birth right. This fight for her inheritance turns from words to force as Soraya and her new friend Emad decide to take the money back by force, robbing the bank that is holding what is rightfully hers. Just applauding this film for its country of origin would be placing it in a small box. While this small film does come from Palestine, it remains one of the most emotional films I have seen this year.
Suheir Hammad and Saleh Bakri give an intimate and honest performance, one that demands to be seen by a larger audience. The honesty and truth to this film is breath-taking and it definitely came as a shock. When I sat down and popped the DVD in I was expecting a good film, but I wasn’t ready for the intensity of Salt of This Sea. It’s a fantastic film and worth seeing. I would have given this film a buy it, but its lack of special features holds it back. There is a great story behind the making of Salt of This Sea and I would have loved to see more about that. That is the only reason I’m giving Salt of This Sea a Rent It. It’s a strong rent it as I think everyone needs to see this film.
Next up we have Pale Flower. This Japanese New Wave film from 1964 holds up so well on Blu Ray that I could see it released today to the praise of critics and movie goers alike. It just goes to show that when you take risks and make films that you believe in they can stand the test of time. That is exactly what Director Masahiro Shinoda did and now on Blu Ray it has never looked better.
The film has been restored to the point that it glows in black and white. The transfer brings the film back to life and watching it at home is like seeing an original print that has never been played. If you have never seen the film you are really missing out, the story of Muraki, a Yakuza right out of prison for killing a man. Things are going well for Muraki until he meets a beautiful gambling addict Saeko. His obsession with this woman sends him back down the path the put him into jail and may place Saeko at risk as well. While the story is full of intrigue, it is in the film’s direction and cinematography that really makes it shine.
Director Masahiro Shinoda created the film that he wanted to make even with the protests of his peers and now on Blu Ray we get to hear the story of Pale Flower directly from Shinoda. Like all Criterion films, Pale Flower is packed with special features commentaries, interviews and a fantastic essay by film critic Chuck Stephens. Though theses special features should give any fan of the film a great reason to pick up the Blu Ray, it’s the new and improved English subtitles that really push this version over the edge.
Pale Flower is one of the marquee organized crime films and a must see for any fan of Japanese cinema. That is why I am giving Pale Flower a Buy It, as you won’t regret adding this film to your collection.
The last Blu-Ray this week, but certainly not the least is Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 epic Solaris from Criterion. “Ground control has been receiving mysterious transmissions from the three remaining residents of the Solaris space station. When cosmonaut and psychologist Kris Kelvin is dispatched to investigate, he experiences the same strange phenomena that afflict the Solaris crew, sending him on a voyage into the darkest recesses of his consciousness. With Solaris, the legendary Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky created a brilliantly original science-fiction epic that challenges our conception about love, truth, and humanity itself. “
Criterion certainly found a gem with Solaris. After first watching this film, and knowing nothing about the film, I wasn’t sure if I loved it, or was too confused to form an opinion. The reasons behind this were the quality and decisions that Tarkovsky made throughout the film. There were some artifacts floating around on the screen at times and Tarkovsky made strange edits in scenes that seemed choppy at times. He also had the tendency to switch his shots between full color, black and white and sepia tone, and for no apparent reason.
After I seemed to get passed those little unexplainables, I started to focus more on the story, which is way out there. Tarkovsky is known for being a little outlandish and never conforming to the rules of film making. What I enjoyed the most about the story is that the sci-fi film has very little to do with sci-fi and much more to do with love, life, eternity and existence. This is a film that I was talking about to everyone for two days after, so needless to say, you should watch it too.
As for special features, there are some deleted scenes that don’t add much to the story but they definitely let you see the beautiful restoration from the original print. There is a much needed commentary from director Tarkovsky which really helps to see the world as he does. My favorite, however, are the interviews from the cast years later as they talk about everything from the casting, the process of filming Solaris and even staying in touch years later. It really gives you everything you need in a Blu-Ray that is re-watchable. If nothing else, you will be re-watching it to understand it. Buy It.
by Ryan Davis