The Hope Lies Eleven: The Year In Home Video.

Welcome to the first of Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second’s end-of-year features. In this instalment we’ll be taking a look at the best that Blu-ray and DVD have had to offer. As a rule we’ve avoided including contemporary theatrical releases, and have instead focussed upon catalogue releases, which is where the format really comes in to its own. While home video can never truly replace the cinema experience, home vide is something of a lifesaver for providing the ability to view matter that otherwise would be impossible to see in a high quality manner.

Blow Out – The sole Criterion release on our list this year, which must be something of a first. This is largely due to the fact that we’re still (rather embarrassingly) region locked when it comes to Blu-ray, as opposed to a commentary on the quality of their recent releases. This edition of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is an example of Criterion at their best, with the company picking up a contextually obscure classic from a master filmmaker and giving it the treatment it deserves.

Blu-ray and DVD.

The Thin Red Line – Speaking of Criterion, we finally saw a release of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line in the UK this year. Fox surprised everyone with a disc that is technically superior to the Criterion release, at least in terms of the picture quality of the transfer, although it is missing a couple of featurettes that can be found on the big C’s disc. What does remain though is a straight port over from the Criterion disc, even featuring the Criterion Collection’s copyright notices at the end. I’m sure we’re all familiar with Malick’s landmark war film, but never has it looked so great in the home as it does here. The Tree Of Life also saw release on Blu-ray this Autumn, with a disc that, from a technical perspective at least, is something of a new benchmark for the format. As per the rule above it’s barred from inclusion on this list, but fear not, for it will be appearing elsewhere this season…

Blu-ray only, although an existing DVD is still available.

The Birth Of A Nation – Never has such an ugly film looked so beautiful. It’s perhaps the ultimate conflicting release, with the content as deplorable as the film itself is essential. This is a great, dare we say “definitive”, release from Kino, here’s hoping they follow suit with Intolerance in the new year.

Blu-ray and DVD. 

Taxi Driver – The film bestowed the honour of Sony’s flagship restoration this year, Taxi Driver followed in the footsteps of last years The Bridge On The River Kwai, and precedes next years Lawrence Of Arabia. Within the context of those two films,  Scorsese’s might seem like an odd choice for such prestigious treatment, alas, one ought to bear in mind that it’s a film pushing 40 now. Not that that would be evident in this transfer, in which the film is (and bringing out restoration cliche number 17) presented as beautifully as it was on day one.

Blu-ray only, although an existing DVD is still available.

Citizen Kane – Event home video at it’s best. Fuck Star Wars and those fancy big tins that you see terrible films re-released in, and god damn those tacky Ape-headed box sets and oversize grenades.  Citizen Kane was finally given the home video release it’s long-deserved this year, with an all-new 4k restoration leading an extra material leaden package. Available in two packages, one standard three-disc box-set and one that included a fourth disc containing Welles’ hitherto-unreleased-in-the-US-on-any-form-of-digital-media The Magnificent Ambersons.

Blu-ray only. 

Touch Of Evil – In keeping with the Welles theme, Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema imprint outclassed themselves with their first two-disc Blu-ray release. Almost 100gb’s of information made up this stacked release, which features 5 different versions of the film. In terms of extra features, this package is largely a a facsimile of the most recent Universal DVD Box-set, albeit without a reproduction of the infamous memo sent by Welles to Universal upon hearing of the films butchering (although MoC did make this available online). Perhaps the most impressive feature was the traditional booklet enclosed in all MoC releases, which features essays by the likes of Andre Bazin, Francois Truffaut and even Welles himself.

Blu-ray only.

Colossal Youth, Cœur fidèle and Silent Running – Eureka’s masters of cinema label excelled this year, with any number of their discs vying for contention in this round up. Their release of Colossal Youth takes the top prize though, in spite of being a DVD only release (as per the limitations of the source material). Pedro Costa’s “intimate epic” pushed the semi-obsolete format to its limit, with two discs worth of material. It may actually be the company’s finest release to date. Honourable mentions must go to a couple of other MoC discs; Cœur fidèle, Jean Epstein’s 1920’s silent is genuinely valuable material on Blu-ray, and the company’s release of Silent Running might just be the most emotionally connective home video experience of 2011. And yes, I’m completely aware of how ridiculous that sounds, but Douglas Trumbull’s appreciative handprint is all over the package. Elsewhere, MoC followed up last years landmark release of Shōhei Imamura’s Profound Desires Of The Gods with the directors The Ballad Of Narayama and also released a pair of early Antonioni’s. The label practically stole 2011, here’s hoping 2012 follows suit.

Here’s our in-depth review of Silent Running.

Colossal Youth is DVD only. Cœur fidèle is Dual Format. Silent Running is Blu-ray only.

Rififi – Arrow launched their Arrow Academy boutique line this year, -with classics like diaboliques and The Conformist scheduled for the new year this is one label that has a bright future ahead of it. Rififi was (rightly) their most favoured release, with a truly awe-inspiring transfer of Jules Dassin’s 1955 classic.

Dual-Format.  

Boudu Saved From Drowning – Included largely because of the “they-released-this-on-Blu-ray?!” shock factor, Boudu Saved From Drowning is early Jean Renoir at his best. We covered the film in great detail a while ago, but in short this is welcome and unexpected treatment of one of Renoir’s most accessible works. Renoir’s French Cancan also saw UK release this year too, alas we featured the French Gaumont disc in last year’s home video round-up so didn’t feel it necessary to mention again. 

Available on DVD and Blu-ray. 

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