Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount first put out The Godfather Trilogy in a special edition in 2001, at a time when the archival materials at hand had yet to be extensively restored. The original negative was worn out and the prints used for mastering were not accurate to the original release. The new release The Godfather Collection: The Coppola Restoration, released on both DVD and Blu-ray, is a corrective.
Is it overkill to claim that The Godfather on Blu-ray is a sign of the format coming to maturity? Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s bestseller remains the great American epic of the immigrant dream turned family business. Al Pacino stars as Michael Corleone in this dark side of the American dream story, rising from clean-cut son of New York Godfather Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando in an Oscar –winning performance) to ruthless mob leader to modern American businessman trying to pull his family’s tentacles from the criminal world. The Godfather (1972) has become the great evocation of the dark side of the American Dream (“I believe in America,” it begins) and The Godfather, Part II (1974) is less a sequel than a further exploration of the family business that both reaches back from and looks beyond the story of the first film, contrasting Michael’s increasingly ruthless rise with the life of young Vito Corleone (played by Robert De Niro, who won his first Oscar for the role). Both films won multiple Oscars, including “Best Picture, Coppola picked up a Best Director award for Part II. Separately the films are masterpieces. Together, they are a landmark work of American cinema.
Francis Ford Coppola oversaw this DVD and cinematographer Gordon Willis personally supervised the restoration and mastering of the film for DVD, and new featurettes on the film and on the restoration process supplement the already rich collection of supplements carried over from the previous special edition.
Read the complete review on my MSN DVD column here.
Also new this week is a collection of three Max Ophuls films from Criterion: La Ronde, Le Plaiser and his masterpiece The Earrings of Madame de…, each disc with a generous collection of supplements.
The great films of Max Ophuls elaborate dances of unconditional love in a conditional world of social constraints and fickle lovers, and his 1953 The Earrings of Madame de… is the most elegant of these melancholy waltzes…. Criterion releases two other Max Ophuls classics this week as well: the delicately sweet and sour La Ronde (1950), a roundelay of chance meetings, secret trysts, hopeless courtships and cuckolded lovers where everybody and somebody’s fool on the romantic merry-go-round, and Le Plaisir (1952), a trilogy of romantic tales told with mix of sweet generosity and a wistful sense of regret. There’s no cynicism here, merely a bemused irony with a dash of melancholy and sadness, and the delirious elegance of his gliding camera gives it all a delicate beauty.
Here’s a digest of the other DVD releases featured on my MSN column:
Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell are a separated couple with unresolved issues in David Gordon Green’s drama of failing relationships and the damage left in their wake…. For all the misery and emotional mess of Snow Angels, Green finds resilience and hope in the kids and even in some of the grown-ups.
TV: Chuck: The Complete First Season and Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season:
Lee Pace is “the Pieman” Ned, a life-long loner with the touch of life and death. One touch brings the dead back to life with a touch, another sends them back to the great beyond, and if he doesn’t remake physical contact within a minute, the consequences are life and death. Anna Friel is Chuck, his childhood sweetheart and murder victim brought back to life, destined to remain his untouchable love (that aforementioned touch of life and death) in the sweetest romance on TV. With nothing better to do after being roused from eternal slumber, she joins Ned and his private eye partner Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) to solve the murders of recently deceased (who all come briefly to life to provide a few clues to their killer). Bryan Fuller has been playing with the netherworld between life and death in such shows as Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, but the alchemy comes together in this fantasy-laced world, thanks in large part to the visual imagination of co-producer and pilot director Barry Sonnenfeld. He helps turn this high-concept dramedy into a vividly realized storybook world.
Special Releases: Vincent Minnelli’s An American in Paris: Two-Disc Special Edition with Gene Kelly, Risky Business: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition and Eclipse Series 12: Aki Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy:
… three of Aki Kaurismäki’s comedies deadpan absurdism and working-class despair. Kaurismaki proved himself a master of simple, affectionate, minimalist portraits with little dialogue and plenty of wry, dry humor with Shadows in Paradise (1986), a story of numb service industry survivors (Kaurismaki favorites Matti Pellonpää and Kati Outinen) who stumble through a relationship without ever losing their hang-dog expression. In Ariel (1988), an unemployed Laplander hits Helsinki with nothing but hope and a Cadillac convertible with a stubborn roof and falls into petty crime. While they play like existential slapstick comedies, with a glimmer of hope under all that dour stoicism, The Match Factory Girl (1990) remains Kaurismaki’s darkest comedy…
I also wrote about Aki Kaurismaki for a retrospective a few years ago; you can find the article here.
The weekly column goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment.