GME DVD Distribution – Spring 2018 Recap

"The superb dedication of such entities as the Criterion Collection, Milestone Films, and Gartenberg Media Enterprises, to name key players, are making possible access to a wealth of cinematic history, ephemera, and value-added materials." 

         – B. Ruby Rich, Film Quarterly Winter 2013

 
 

With the spring academic season now coming to a close, Gartenberg Media Enterprises is pleased to provide a recap of our most recent slate of DVD and Blu-ray publications for distribution to the North American academic community.  These digital editions are selected from film archives and boutique publishers worldwide, and represent the entire breadth and depth of moving image history. This current roster of moving image works extend from pioneering female director Alice Guy’s LES CHIENS SAVANTS (1902), part of an essential compilation of cinematic works by EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS, through to Peter Tscherkassky’s award-winning THE EXQUISITE CORPUS (2015), presented on the latest DVD compilation of his films, entitled EXQUISITE ECSTASIES (2015).

Stan Brakhage is one of the seminal figures in 20th-century experimental cinema.  His 1958 ANTICIPATION OF THE NIGHT is a benchmark of the lyrical film, which postulates the artist behind the camera as the first-person protagonist of the film.  Noted scholar P. Adams Sitney has written that “The great achievement of ANTICIPATION OF THE NIGHT is the distillation of an intense and complex interior crisis into an orchestration of sights and associations which adhere into a new formal rhetoric of camera movement and montage.”   GME offers this film for the first time ever in a DVD/Blu-ray Combo Pak edition. As this film was not represented on the Criterion DVD of Brakhage’s work, this digital publication is therefore an essential addition to any teaching and library collection of this filmmaker’s oeuvre, of experimental cinema more broadly, and of modern art in general.

The role of women filmmakers has been generally overlooked in the writing of film histories, and the Women Film Pioneer Project attempts to rectify this oversight, as does our release for academic use and study of the 6-disc DVD boxed set entitled EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS: AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY.  International in scope, this groundbreaking collection features over 10 hours of material, comprised of 25 films spanning the years 1902-1943, including many rare titles not widely available until now, from shorts to feature films, live-action to animation, commercial narratives to experimental works. Directors include Alice Guy Blaché, Lois Weber, Mabel Normand, Madeline Brandeis, Germaine Dulac, Olga Preobrazhenskaia, Marie-Louise Iribe, Lotte Reiniger, Claire Parker, Mrs. Wallace Reid (Dorothy Davenport), Leni Riefenstahl, Mary Ellen Bute, Dorothy Arzner, and Maya Deren.  These women were technically and stylistically innovative, pushing the boundaries of narrative, aesthetics, and genre.

The mid-1970s saw James Benning's first feature films attract the attention of critics, establishing him as a representative of the "New Narrative Movement."  In these films, he combines the structural analysis of image, sound and narrative with auto-biographical traces, as well as with an almost "classical" interest in composition, color, light and landscape.  GME is pleased to distribute to the academic community the most recent digital edition of films by James Benning. This 2-disc set features 11x14 (1977), one of the central U.S. avant-garde films of the 1970s, in a restored version.  Also included is Benning's recurring view of his hometown Milwaukee at three different points in time: ONE WAY BOOGIE WOOGIE (1978), 27 YEARS LATER (2005) and ONE WAY BOOGIE WOOGIE 2012.  These three films document both change and transience.

We are especially proud to release two DVDs -- THE LAST CHANCE (1945) and SWISS TOUR (1949) --that GME has co-published with Praesens-Film AG, a Swiss production company founded in 1924 that is still active today.  According to film scholar Yvonne Zimmerman, “The flagship Swiss movies produced by Praesens were made primarily by foreigners, immigrants and émigrés...Praesens founder Lazar Wechsler was a Jew of Polish origin who came to Switzerland from Austria in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I… and established Praesens-Film AG in 1924… Wechsler had been able to build a stable team of highly qualified staff, which turned out to be crucial to the success of the company. Not just Praesens, but Swiss cinema as a whole, benefited from the services of émigrés and repatriates from Germany, Austria and France who from 1933 sought refuge in Switzerland from National Socialist repression. The Praesens staff included director Leopold Lindtberg, scriptwriter Richard Schweizer, cameraman Emil Berna, composer Robert Blum and film editor Hermann Haller."

THE LAST CHANCE (1945) is one of the most important contributions to Swiss film history.  This film was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It carries on where Jean Renoir's LA GRANDE ILLUSION (1939) leaves off.  Three escaped prisoners of war lead a caravan of refugees across the Swiss border to safety.

SWISS TOUR (1949) recounts a love story set against the backdrop of American soldiers stationed in Europe in the aftermath of WWII who are on leave in Switzerland.  The main protagonist (American actor Cornel Wilde) was at the peak of his career, as wll as his two love interests; French actress Josette Day had created a sensation as Belle in LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE (1946), and Simone Signoret’s career was on the rise.

As per Yvonne Zimmermann, “Lazar Wechsler's cinema of humanism and international understanding played a significant part in the moral rehabilitation of Switzerland abroad. The fact that Swiss banks had managed German assets and accepted gold plundered by the Nazis during the war had damaged the country's image. Switzerland's reputation was particularly badly battered in the United States. In this light, SWISS TOUR can be seen as part of a cultural image campaign run by Switzerland in the United States.”

The DVD version of this edition originates from pristine nitrate film elements that GME discovered in warehouse storage in the New York metropolitan area.  The Cinémathèque suisse acquired and preserved this material, and the restored film was shown at the Locarno Film Festival in 2007. GME subsequently collaborated with Praesens Film to produce this digital edition.  This DVD is accompanied by an original essay by scholar Yvonne Zimmermann about SWISS TOUR, Praesens Film, and the larger cultural context in which these films were produced, together with an introduction by archivist Jon Gartenberg about rediscovering the film.

GME is now pleased to offer a brand-new DVD edition of films by pre-eminent Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky, entitled EXQUISITE ECSTASIES.  This compilation includes 4 super-8 films from the 1980s (BLOOD-LETTING, FILM OF LOVE, HOLIDAY FILM, TABULA RASA) and THE EXQUISITE CORPUS, a 35mm film from 2015.  Tscherkassky writes that “each of these films crystalizes an essential impulse at the heart of my entire artistic work: to expose the utterly distinct nature of analog transferrable to any other medium." And, according to Daniel Kasman, Tscherkassky’s film THE EXQUISITE CORPUS works to collapse the line between the filmed body and the celluloid Tscherkassky meticulously manipulates in his darkroom...This is where Tscherkassky's love for celluloid is wedded to his source films' love for flesh, where the pathways to climax -narrative and sexual- are built from the same component parts of mystery, attraction, rhythm, repetition, variation, new sensations, and ecstasy."

Following up on our previous release of a DVD compilation of Austrian filmmaker Dietmar Brehm’s works entitled BLACK GARDEN, GME now offers DIETMAR BREHM: PRAXIS SELECTION.  According to Stephan Grissemann, “Brehm's PRAXIS series is driven by a spirit of enterprise that is clearly palpable. Since 1974 Brehm has been sensuously modulating his private iconography in ever new variations, ceaselessly engaged with his ever-growing image and sound archive, withdrawn into the interior of an infernal fantasy. There is no posturing behind his cool treatment of the disquieting signs in his work, but rather ennui, a loner life, solipsism. Dietmar Brehm orchestrates implosions and idling states. He could be seen as the representative of a telephone-game art movement: His work is post avant-garde, post-narrative, post-surreal, post-pornographic and post-psychoanalytic; it appears like an extra entry in the annals of a long since shelved cultural history, like a last-ditch effort of art after the end of time.”

The films in this DVD edition comprise three of the films that Philippe Garrel made while he was still a teenager:  LES ENFANTS DÉSACORDÉS (1964), MARIE POUR MÉMOIRE (1967), and ACTUA 1 (1968); this constitutes the adolescent period of his filmography.  These sound motion pictures immediately preceded the films from Garrel’s silent period, among them LE RÉVÉLATEUR (1968), LE LIT DE LA VIERGE (1969), and LES HAUTES SOLITUDES (1974). The films in this current DVD edition center on the trials and tribulations of youth, amidst a background of rising social consciousness and unrest.  MARIE POUR MÉMOIRE, Garrel’s first feature-length film, represents the missing link between the New Wave filmmakers and the Zanzibar group -- an informal association of young filmmakers situated within the revolutionary movement of May 1968.

This DVD edition also includes his first short film (LES ENFANTS DÉSACORDÉS), which he directed at age 16 in three days only, with the short ends from a film sketch by Claude Berri, with whom he was a trainee. Finally, there is the famous ACTUA I, a revolutionary news film --supported by Jean-Luc Godard -- on the month-long barricades of May '68, finally unearthed after 47 years from the JLG film archive.

True to its title, the 1925, 10-reel version of THE LOST WORLD effectively disappeared from circulation in 1929—all known positive prints destroyed—a move by First National Pictures to help clear the way for another film utilizing special effects and Willis O’Brien’s cutting-edge animation techniques: King Kong. For more than 80 years, only abridged editions of THE LOST WORLD remained in existence until now.  This Blu-ray edition (also available in a DVD MOD version) of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is the most complete version of the film ever released. The 2K digital restoration features newly-discovered scenes and special effect sequences, incorporating almost all original elements from archives and collections around the world.

The film follows Professor Challenger, played by the inimitable Wallace Beery, as he and a crew of curious explorers embark on an expedition in search of a mythical, prehistoric plateau in South America. Along for the adventure are eminent scientist Summerlee (Arthur Hoyt, the director’s brother), sportsman Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone), journalist Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) and Paula White (Bessie Love), whose father disappeared on the same plateau. The party is not there long before the “lost world” of the jungle begins to reveal its secrets: a primitive ape-man, a Pterodactyl flying through the air, a massive Brontosaurus feeding upon the trees, the vicious Allosaurus, and many more monstrous beasts of the Jurassic age.