Media collectors are constantly making room on their ever decreasing shelve space for ever expanding recent releases.
French directors who emerged in the late-1950s and early-1960s never referred to themselves as New Wave filmmakers. It was a press article that coined the phrase and it stuck.
A restoration of short films on Blu-ray from Icarus Films of that era by noted filmmakers, under the title Early Short Films of the French New Wave, offers 19 films with a running time shy of six hours.
Malleable filmmaking skills are on display in everything from industrial films to hip depictions of young love. Many of the director’s names are familiar to cineastes. Names you know as surnames like Renoir, Truffaut, Godard, Van Peebles, Rouch, Varda.
This line-up of shorts are like the menu at a gourmet restaurant, they all have different content but they’re all good.
Hands down my two favorites were a collaborative work from Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut titled A Story of Water (Une histoire d’eau) and Gisèsel Braunberger’s Directing Actors By Jean Renoir.
The latter has legendary French director Jean Renoir, who was very much still active in the 1960s, giving acting tips to an auditioning actress. The lines are from his 1951 film The River. Renoir coaches the actor stopping over and over and giving deeper directions each time meant to elicit emotions. When she finally gives her lengthy speech they effect is chilling.
A Story of Water follows a femme trying to get across Paris after the town has been flooded. The short moves like action adventure with a percussive soundtrack and rapid cutting. The mood of the film is pure romance.
Most of the filmmakers went on to notable careers as feature helmers and championed methods of movie making that were markedly different than the generation of filmmakers who also made films before the war. The short of Renoir directing bridges the past with the (then) present.
The best parts of any modern day action hero owes tribute to Douglas Fairbanks. In a series of 1920s silent films Fairbanks portrayed pirates, musketeers, the Thief of Bagdad and Robin Hood, among others. Fairbanks wrote a peppy book titled “Laugh and Live” in 1917 that extolled his philosophy of, well, laughing and living. Fairbanks would’ve been a good Indiana Jones.
Recent Blu-rays from Cohen Film Collection bundle four Fairbanks spectacles on two releases. Robin Hood (1922) and The Black Pirate (1926) has Fairbanks playing archetypal dudes who do their own stunts. The classic shot, oft repeated even by Fairbanks, has him sliding down the mast of a ship using his blade as a repelling tool.
The Three Musketeers (1921) and The Iron Mask (1929) unwind at swashbuckling speed. D’Artagnan (Fairbanks), along with the other three musketeers, is the main player in both. The Iron Mask on the cusp of the cinematic transition to talkies has a sound introduction where the characters talk to the audience. Even though the film runs less than two hours there’s an intermission, and another talking intro to the second act. The Fairbanks version differs from the Dumas source novel yet offers a heavenly finale.
Not surprisingly the third time’s the charm in the Fuqua/Washington action franchise Equalizer based on the television show.
Equalizer 3 displays cool art film vibes mixed with gorgeous cinematography that was missing from the previous installments. Set in Italy, our hero McCall takes on the Mafia in a quiet Sicilian town.
The style of the film owes a lot to cinematographer Robert Richardson, who also shot Fuqua’s previous Emancipation. The film uses a bleached out a duo-chromatic look highlighted by occasional bursts of color to emphasize the bleak killing landscape.
The Equalizer 3-Movie Collection has been released in all disc formats.