DVD of the Week? Surely not ‘Don Quixote’

What’s with the question mark? Only that I delved into what should be, in any rational reality, the most important DVD release of the month and found nothing but wasted potential. I mean the DVD titled Orson Welles’ Don Quixote, a devastatingly misguided accumulation of raw footage passing itself off as a version of Welles’ vision of his never-completed “lost dream project.” I explore the film and the failures of the reconstruction project helmed by Jesus Franco at Parallax View:

Francisco Reiguera as Don Quixote
Francisco Reiguera as Don Quixote

From what I know about Welles and the history of the film, Franco’s version is not even an approximation, never mind a reconstruction. There’s no story here, simply a random succession of events and images and a whole lot of narrative detours. But even as a visual record of Welles’ raw footage it’s a travesty. It’s a given that much of the existing rough cut footage is in rough condition, showing the signs of wear and tear from years of tinkering on moviolas and dragging the reels from country to country. But Franco and company have, if anything, compounded the problems with hazy, blurry copies of the master footage and video noise introduced as a result of the project’s most egregious crimes against Welles: the video manipulation of footage to layer images one on another. At one point, the sails of a windmill are stretched across the screen (to suggest a windmill come to life and reach out to Quixote? was that in the notes, Franco, or was it all your inspiration?). The soundtrack is no better. Franco uses fragments of recorded dialogue (with Welles providing the voices of both Quixote and Sancho as well as the narration) and fills in the rest of the film with voices that barely resemble Welles’ work. You have to have to watch the mouths move just to pick out the speakers in this dissonant audio mess.

I had the opportunity to watch an eighty-minute version of the film, cut down by Kodar and Graver to, at the very least, cut down the clutter of Franco’s all-in approach. That version is a disappointment, to say the least, but this is a travesty. And it’s the only version available.

Read the complete piece here.

I also review the film in my DVD column for MSN here.

This isn’t a restoration — Welles never completed the film — and it’s not really a reconstruction of what might have been; it’s more a compendium of recovered footage edited into a rough narrative by cult director Jess Franco, who assisted Welles on the production. The footage varies wildly in quality from shot to shot, the awkward, indifferent editing only draws attention to the weakness, and Franco piles in footage that Welles never intended to use in the film.

More successful is Lionsgate’s set 6 Films to Keep You Awake, a collection of Spanish horror films made for television by some of Spain’s most interesting horror directors:

The six films in this three-disc collection, all made for Spanish TV, are not the most ambitious productions to come out of the country. These are more austere miniatures made by some of the most interesting genre directors in Spain. Alex de la Iglesia directs The Baby’s Room, a darkly witty little tale of young parents who buy a bargain house and find it haunted by spirits who only show up on the baby-cam (a video version of the baby monitor). It’s a little too slight for a theatrical production, but, at 80 minutes, the spooky little ghost story — spiced with a well-handled sense of humor and an underplayed but wicked little twist that brings the film full circle — makes for a tasty little feature.

Read the complete review here.

Here’s a digest of the other DVD releases featured on my MSN column:

Movies: Street Kings with Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker, the direct-to-DVD The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day:

A bouncy little screwball romance, “Miss Pettigrew” is a fizzy cocktail of a movie, set in Depression-era London, where the beautiful people dance away in fabulous fashions and decadent distraction. Frances McDormand is the dowdy Guinevere Pettigrew, a buttoned-down yet free-thinking governess whose unorthodox ways have landed her on the bread lines and, in a desperate act of reference-poaching, in the employ of a dizzy American chanteuse (the irrepressibly seductive Amy Adams) who is sleeping her way to showbiz success…. The bubbly, sexy, impulsive energy of Adams picks up the film whenever the pace drags, and the marvelous chemistry between McDormand and Ciaran Hinds, who plays a fashion designer with bemused dignity and warm generosity, offers a mature counterpart to the flighty sex comedy.

TV: the made-for-cable satirical based-on-a-true debacle tragi-comedy Recount with Kevin Spacey, my favorite serial-killer show Dexter: The Complete Second Season, and Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles: The Complete First Season:

Lena Headey is Sarah Connor (the role created by Linda Hamilton) and petite hellcat Summer Glau (of “Firefly” fame) is the next generation of Terminator bodyguard, sent back in time to protect John (Thomas Dekker) from the assassins sent back from the future. They do a little time traveling themselves in the opening episode, leaving 1999 and their old identities behind and landing in the 21st century, where the world assumes they are long dead. Dekker is fine as John but Heady carries the show as the kick-ass single mom whose maternal instincts have been colonized by survival instincts and Glau uses her dancer’s training to give a little grace and a lot of strength to her action moves.

Special Releases: Nixon: The Election Year Edition of Oliver Stone’s fever dream of biographical drama, the eight-film Marco Ferreri Collection, and Michael Powell’s The Small Back Room:

Blu-ray: the animated Justice League: Season One:

This is no happy-go-lucky group of “Super Friends” saving the world with a smile and sense of chummy sense of togetherness. Choppy relationships, clashing personalities (the grim Green Lantern, happy-go-lucky jester The Flash, grim, haunted Martian Manhunter and, of course, loner Batman), and lots of suspicion make these teammates a contentious group. Each adventure spans multiple episodes, giving the series a scope larger than most such shows.

The weekly column goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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