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PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2006 5:55 pm 
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Review of La Commune on the DVD Talk site. They seem unimpressed:

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The disappointing news is that First Run Features have simply copied the French release by Arte, copied and "fixed" the English subs from the French DVD, and called it a day. The result is an average, interlaced and chock-full of "ghosting", image quality that mars everything good I could say about this release. Shot with Betacam/16mm La Commune was intended for French TV (the transfer is not anamorphic) and the original aspect ratio is indeed preserved. Finally what the producers of this disc have given us is the 345 standard version and not the rare longer 560 min. cut.


The actual technical presentation is quite deceiving! The print is free of any damage or dirt, it looks above-average on standard tubes, but there is some noticeable digital noise and detail is mostly suffering from the PAL-conversion noted above. You will certainly be able to watch this disc but I just do not know how reasonable is to pay the high price tag the R1 dvd comes with given the transfer descriptiom. To sum it all up: I could not stop thinking while watching this R1 release how easy it could have been for First Run Features to simply provide a proper transfer and have an all around winner (they did not even have to spend money on the English subtitles, they were already done for them by Arte-Doriane Films).


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 2:43 pm 

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DVD Savant review of Berlin-Schönhauser Corner. Looks like another interesting DEFA feature from First Run.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 4:28 pm 
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zone_resident wrote:
DVD Savant review of Berlin-Schönhauser Corner. Looks like another interesting DEFA feature from First Run.

I've seen it, and it's fascinating - it's essentially a standard 50s rebellious-teen melodrama, but the East German setting pushes it onto an altogether different plane, largely because it's startlingly frank about such things as teenage crime, unplanned pregnancy and the allure of the West. (It was shot in Berlin in 1957, so predated the Wall by several years).

No complaints about the DVD either - the subtitles are fixed, but the transfer is about as good as I could reasonably have expected, and some excellent supplements do a very good job of setting the context.

I also watched First Run's Solo Sunny (1979), another huge domestic hit at the time. This was slightly less satisfying, both technically (the transfer is non-anamorphic widescreen) and artistically (the story of a fiercely independent-minded woman trying to make it as a singer on her own terms but finding herself having to rely on men at every turn is somewhat more hackneyed than the earlier film), but it still offers enough to suggest that further delving into First Run's DEFA catalogue might be worthwhile.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:27 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
that further delving into First Run's DEFA catalogue might be worthwhile.

I strongly urge people to pick up First Run's release of I Was Nineteen. It's a masterpiece, in my book, and probably the best film DEFA ever produced -- a fine study of maturation and manhood in times of war, of one's sense of responsibility for the actions of one's nation even if one did not (and could not) take part in those actions personally, and of the emotional gains and losses of a true cosmopolitanism. It also works quite well as a companion-piece to Commissar. Highly, highly recommended.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:19 am 

Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2008 5:40 am
First Run has two new DEFA releases scheduled for September 15.

The Adventures of Werner Holt and The Axe of Wandsbeck.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 1:03 am 
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Does anyone have any personal recommendations from their Cuban masterworks series? Just picked up their Hello, Hemingway (will report back after I see it) and was wondering if I should zero in on/avoid any particular one.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:48 am 
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Seems no one cares, but it's good to follow up nonetheless. Hello Hemingway was a real pleasant surprise. It didn't lay on the melodrama on think or any of the other telenuevo type mishaps inherent in the material. It's probably not a great film, but already I can't divorce my own history from the one of this films lead which causes me to find it better than it most likely is. Her situation is played exactly as in real life. The performances really hit home too finding a natural almost quiet place to react from. Especially surprising for a Spanish language film there's no real explosion by the actors. The only scene in veering in that territory is reasonable under the circumstances. I don't see how that situation could play out differently. The cinematography is another thing that doesn't seem special at first, but turns into a great asset. The look is washed away and nasty which I assume can be partly blamed on how the materials have been handled over the years. The colours are completely washed out, like an early Japanese film. I'm not entirely sure why this aged look helps the film, but it does. Going back to the story for a second I really enjoyed the complexity of the characters. There is no bad guy. All of the characters, even our lead, have there share of terrible moments or actions, but the film never judges. In fact it seems to take a everyone has their reasons stance which turns all of the characters into the hero, if just for a second. There's a moment were one character seems like he will become the villain, but doesn't. He's simply shown as leading a different rode. One which may lead to ignorant decisions, but not worth condemning completely.
As a final aside, I think this really shows a positive side to the modern Cuban government by accident. While not radical in any way, the complexities of the characters, especially the politically active ones, sometimes is critical of revolutionaries. Again no big woop, but I imagine if this had been Stalinist Russia the movie wouldn't have made it to any screens let alone winning national awards.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:22 am 
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knives wrote:
It didn't lay on the melodrama on think or any of the other telenuevo type mishaps inherent in the material.
Why would any mishaps be inherent in the material? Not sure what you mean by this.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:48 pm 
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I meant to say that the film could have easily gone off the rails into PSA land or some such nonsense easily by building unnecessary drama. Instead of an argument becoming this big thing it is instead treated as a part of everyday life, for instance.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:14 pm 
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OK, I just didn't get why a film by a director as distinctive as Pérez would be associated with telenovelas (assuming that's what you meant) by virtue of material. I'm not trying to go after you, just understand where you're coming from -- with this, as well:
knives wrote:
Especially surprising for a Spanish language film there's no real explosion by the actors. The only scene in veering in that territory is reasonable under the circumstances.
which seems to generalize acting and/or directing styles across an array of diverse national cinemas.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:24 pm 
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I was a bit nervous in typing that sentence and you are right about the generalizing. This is why I shouldn't go stream of conscious. By the way the way you say that Perez is distinctive which I hope means you've had a lot of experience, so I am curious if you have any other recommendations. The only other Cuban director I've seen much of is the excellent Alea and I've been try to see that area of film better.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:11 pm 
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No problem, and I'm happy to offer whatever recommendations I can, although I'd hate to have anyone blind-buy something just on that basis and not like it if their interests and tastes are different than mine. I talked about Cuban cinema on DVD a bit in this thread and I still think Lucía is one of the major touchstones. It's available separately, or in the box set I mention, which is good if one doesn't own Memories of Underdevelopment. I haven't seen the Mr. Bongo discs (I have older Mexican DVDs) and I've read that most Mr Bongo releases have been disappointing. Unfortunately few releases of classic Latin American films anywhere in the world have been in the same universe as Criterion or MoC. Some are Facets-level, others slightly better, and a relative few actually have decent presentation. One looks to First Run to present these with a bit more care than they have so far in their Cuban Masterworks series, though it's pretty likely they have to take whatever transfers ICAIC offers, or sloppy transfers being done outside Cuba. Who knows?

In that series, I still think The Twelve Chairs is a good starting place, though you're already familiar with Alea so you may have seen that one. I'm not too familiar with The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin but it looks intriguing. A caution about the box set, though, is that one should approach the '80s Solás films, Cecilia, Amada, and A Successful Man, with caution (especially in your case after what you've said about the pitfalls of laying it on too thick). He got caught up in making a cycle of rather lugubrious historical melodramas, which I personally thought was the least interesting direction of the many potential ones pointing from the triptych of Lucía. This was probably a combination of his personal artistic vision and the culture of ICAIC at the time: e.g. pushing in the direction of the final third of Lucía would probably have been risky politically.
One Cuban film that was extremely controversial which is well worth checking out is Alice in Wondertown. Very good satire, which apparently didn't escape anyone, and it was banned basically for being too negative. Maluala is worth seeking out if you want an example of Afro-Cuban filmmaking, although the way it addresses some of the racial-historical questions it raises is not always satisfying. With El Otro Francisco and Rancheador, it's the third of a trilogy of films on slavery and some of the related cultural history (less dry than that makes it sound), and it's unfortunate that FRF released it by itself. In some respects, they're ambitious and thoughtful works.
I would not recommend a blind-buy of Clandestinos, a drab and fairly hamfisted period thriller that was something of a crowd pleaser but lacks the character development and subtlety of Pérez's subsequent films. I think I preferred Hello Hemingway to the so-so Life is to Whistle but I need to see it again. Despite some reservations, I do see Pérez as having emerged as a notable Cuban auteur in the '90s, thus my earlier comment.


Last edited by Gregory on Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:59 pm 
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Thanks a lot. I was considering getting Alice, which sounds right up my alley. I'll probably go individual on the boxset though just to be cautious as Quin Quin does seem to have an individual release.
The Twelve Chairs is a great movie though, if just for the absurd animation at the beginning it's worth it, though my favorite has been Death of a Bureaucrat which I would say is an even funnier satire than Dr. Strangelove. As for the Memories DVD, can't be any worse than the New Yorker VHS I assume.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:10 pm 
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Good news about The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin -- I've edited my post. When the box set came out, I believe it was exclusive to the set. BTW, I see there's a new copy of it for $13 shipped from Half.com if someone wants it.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 12:18 pm 
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First Run's new Blu-ray of Svankmajer's Alice has no extras and only the English dub.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 12:42 pm 
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...whereas the BFI Blu-ray is region-free, includes Czech and English soundtracks (subtitled where necessary) and a quintet of Alice-themed extras, including two Quay Brothers shorts and the 1903 Alice in Wonderland. Plus a hefty booklet.

Hmm - I wonder which looks more attractive?


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 1:26 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
Hmm - I wonder which looks more attractive?

BFI: £13.00 (at it's highest price right now in a while, I picked it up on Amazon UK when it dropped to £7.00 without VAT) + shipping
FRF: $24.00 +tax & shipping, not likeley to drop much below that any time soon on Amazon US.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 1:30 pm 
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I wasn't talking about the price, although of course that makes the quality gap all the more ridiculous.

I'm astounded that they didn't use the Czech soundtrack, especially since I understand they used the same James White restoration, so it must have been included on the master. Was it purely because they didn't want to pay for subtitles?

Anyway, I'm very happy to confirm that the BFI disc is not only region-free but 1080p throughout, so everything should play perfectly on any Blu-ray setup anywhere in the world. The only item that might cause difficulties is the short Alice and the Brown Bunny (a 1920s chocolate commercial), which is exclusively on the DVD and is in PAL - but even that should play OK on virtually all computers, if not DVD players.


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2016 4:41 pm 
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Eddie Muller just announced he's writing an essay for the Blu-Ray release of the Murderers Are Among Us, though he didn't mention the label so it may no longer be First Run


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 Post subject: Re: First Run Features
PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2016 4:47 pm 
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It would be very weird if it wasn't still with First Run since they have exclusivity rights with DEFA the same way Lionsgate has with Studio Canal.


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