Editor’s Notes: New to Blu-ray/DVD: Paolo Gioli: The Complete Filmworks, The Carol Burnett Show: Treasures From the Vault, & The Emigrants / The New Land will be released on their respective formats on February 9th.
Paolo Gioli: The Complete Filmworks
Paolo Gioli: The Complete Filmworks (Raro Video) is a three-disc box set containing 38 films by Paolo Gioli, one of Europe’s most important experimental filmmakers. Made between 1969 and 2013, the films reflect Gioli’s humorous attitude toward movie technology, as seen in his early hand-painted films. He also manipulated camera mechanisms and optics to create unusual results and was fascinated with homemade movie cameras and pin-hole photography.
The films often have the look of early George Melies films. Gioli appears thrilled with “camera magic” and often repeats effects. Made decades later than those of the pioneering Melies, they don’t convey the same excitement and often tend to be dull. Most are silent.
Quando l’Occhio Trema (1991) is a sort of homage to Luis Bunuel and Le Chien Andalou, with its close-up of the human eye, superimpositions, and surrealistic images. Piccolo Film Decompose (1986) features naked male and female models in speeded-up motion. Del tuffarsi e dell’annegarsi (1972) is a series of black-and-white kaleidoscopic images and high divers shown in reverse. Film stenopeico (1973) is made up of blue light patterns interspersed with close-ups of assorted body parts. Filmarilyn (1992), accompanied by a percussive beat under a science-fiction sounding score, is a series of still photos of Marilyn Monroe edited together in quick cuts.
Taken as a group, the collection is puzzling. These short films don’t break new ground or make profound statements. They are interesting to a point, but their lack of focus doesn’t engage the viewer. I would recommend this box set only for those intrigued by imagery for imagery’s sake. An enclosed booklet contains several essays by different authors as well as film notes by Gioli himself.
The Carol Burnett Show: Treasures From the Vault
The Carol Burnett Show: Treasures From the Vault (Time Life) is a 6-DVD collection of 15 complete, uncut episodes from the first five seasons of The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1972). The first five seasons have not been shown anywhere until recently — no reruns, streaming video, DVDs, or other formats. In late 2015, the first release showcased the earliest days of one of the best variety shows of the 1960’s and early 1970s. These shows haven’t been seen in more than 40 years.
The collection contains the classic sketches ”The Old Folks,” “The Ham Actors,” “Carol and Sis,” and “Alice Portnoy.” TV and movie parodies include “As the Stomach Turns,” “Valley of the Dollars,” “Bony and Clod,” “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?,” “Mildred Fierce,” and “Salute to Warner Bros. Studios, with Bugs Bunny.”
Guest stars include Jonathan Winters, Joan Rivers, Sonny and Cher, Paul Lynde, Art Carney, Betty Grable, Mickey Rooney, Bob Hope, and Ronald Reagan.
The Carol Burnett Show debuted on CBS in 1967 and ran for 11 years, receiving 25 Emmy Awards. TIME Magazine named The Carol Burnett Show one of the “100 Best Television Shows of All Time.”
More than four hours of bonus programming feature newly shot interviews with Tony Bennett, Steve Carell, Kristin Chenoweth, Tina Fey, Burt Reynolds, and others; bonus sketches; never-before-seen outtakes, and the featurettes “The Song and Dance: Crooners, Hoofers & Balladeers,” “Expecting the Unexpected,” and “The Making of a Mackie,” a look at the work of the show’s fashion designer Bob Mackie.
The Emigrants / The New Land
The Emigrants / The New Land (The Criterion Collection) traces a Swedish farming family’s voyage to America in the mid-19th century and their efforts to put down roots in a beautiful but forbidding new world. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann star as Karl-Oskar and Kristina, a couple who encounter one physical and emotional trial after another.
To support their growing family and their parents, Karl-Oskar and Kristina live a hard life in the Sweden of the 1840s. Winters are brutal, harvests are often ruined by drought, and Karl-Oskar’s plow repeatedly breaks. The marriage is not exactly blissful, either. Karl-Oskar dreams about going to America, where he’s heard that everyone owns vast, fertile lands.
The Emigrants is a trilogy: the departure from Sweden, the voyage overseas, and the journey to and settlement in Minnesota —The New Land. Though Minnesota’s winters and summers are more extreme than Sweden’s, the immigrants are rewarded for their hard work. They live a better life than they did in Sweden. Bad times also come. The Civil War begins and the Sioux Indians rise up against the white settlers.
Director Jan Troell tells a universal story of the immigrant experience by focusing on a single family. He is especially effective at showing the culture shock faced by the newcomers, their gradual acclimation to American life, and the ways in which they deal with unforeseen hardships. Both von Sydow and Ullman capture the uncertainty of what to expect along with hope that this new young country will offer them a more fulfilling life.
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray release include a new introduction by theatre and film critic John Simon; new conversation between film scholar Peter Cowie and director Jan Troell; new interview with actress Liv Ullmann; To Paint With Pictures, a 2005 hour-long documentary on the making of the films; trailers; and a critical essay. Both films are in Swedish, with English subtitles.