Island Romance (Donald Ginsberg, 1957)

NFBWith weekend upon us, MMC! thought we might nose around some of the more unusual corners of the National Film Board of Canada. First up is Island Romance (Donald Ginseberg, 1957), a sweetly corny romance between a young man in Prince Edward Island and a girl visiting from Winnipeg. The short originally aired as an episode of the CBC television series Perspective, which replaced the popular On the Spot documentary series. Perspective aimed to blend documentary and fiction and was typically shown on Sunday afternoons, although the series was subject to frequent time slot changes. Perspective was a popular program, but was eventually replaced by the seminal Direct Cinema documentary series Candid Eye.

This merger of documentary and fiction makes Island Romance an unusual watch. Ginsberg’s presents an innocently saccharine tale of young love in the 1950s, but its quaintly chaste nature seems to take odd turn when local islander Danny (Daniel MacDonald) finds his efforts to woo the vacationing Jean (Iris Krangle) frustrated by her love for Canadian history and regional culture. Danny would like nothing better than a quiet moment with Jean, but seems in frequent competition with the tales of fishermen, literary landmarks like Green Gables, and historic events like Confederation and historical furniture like the chair of the country’s first Prime Minister. Viewers of Island Romance are not likely to expect a love triangle between Danny, Iris, and the Ministry of Tourism, but the film may be better for it by providing a little “WTF” in an otherwise picturesque story of G-rated summer lovin’. (And for those keeping track, Island Romance is peculiarly accurate in its details – Winnipeg’s newspaper is the Free Press and its most affluent neighbourhood is called Tuxedo.)

As per the NFB:

This short fictional film features the picturesque seaside landscape of Prince Edward Island as the setting for a summer romance between a girl from Winnipeg and a young fisherman from North Rustico, PEI. The young couple visits historic and scenic sites such as Government House in Charlottetown and Cavendish, of Green Gables fame. The film is a classic summertime romance and a nostalgic visit to the delightfully sun-soaked PEI of the past.

Random Harvest (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Random Harvest.

criterion logoFrom the best-selling novel by James Hilton, author of Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Lost Horizon, comes one of Hollywood’s most sentimental romances and one of 1942’s biggest hits. Ronald Colman stars as Charles Rainier, an amnesiac World War I veteran who falls in love with beautiful music hall performer Paula Ridgeway (Greer Garson) until a sudden accident restores the man’s true identity while erasing from his mind his relationship with Paula. Charles returns to his privileged life to become a successful industrialist but struggles with an unshakeable longing, all while Paula secretly suffers posing as the businessman’s executive assistant. A box-office triumph honored with seven Academy Awards nominations, Random Harvest is a first class melodrama featuring two of the era’s most distinguished performers.

Disc Features:

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The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin with Evan Johnson, 2015)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Forbidden Room.

criterion logoOverwhelmed with narrative and fearful that their brains might explode under its pressure, Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin and his co-creator Evan Johnson offer the ultimate epic phantasmagoria from the ectoplasmic residue of early cinema’s lost films.  Two-Strip Technicolor havoc is created with the assistance of master poet John Ashbery, actor Udo Kier, and a host of French and Québécois stars who filmed on public sets at Paris’ Pompidou Center and Montreal’s Phi Center.  The Forbidden Room is a kaleidoscopic viewing experience borne from cinema’s past, present, and future where flapjacking eating submarine crews, forest bandits, skeleton women, and vampire bananas await!

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital master, with 5.1 digital DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
  • Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the Phi Center shoots
  • Endless Ectoloops
  • Living posters
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Seven-episode series on Guy Maddin’s Seances from the Phi Center
  • New interview with cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke
  • New interview with production designer Galen Johnson on his design of the film’s more than 400 intertitle screens
  • La chambre interdite, French version of The Forbidden Room with French intertitle screens
  • The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin, Yves Montmayeur’s 65-minute documentary on “the Canadian David Lynch”
  • Once a Chicken, a séance with László Moholy-Nagy
  • Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson’s short film on the making of Paul Gross’s Canadian war film, Hyena Road, with introduction by the filmmakers
  • Footage from the Toronto Film Critics Association’s awards ceremony naming The Forbidden Room 2015’s Best Canadian Film
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Guy Maddin and film critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Hillary Weston

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A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Matter of Life and Death.

criterion logoAs his plane is going down in flames, doomed World War II pilot, Squadron Leader Peter Carter (David Niven) meets over the radio the love of his life, an American radio operator named June (Kim Hunter).  He miraculously survives the crash and the pair commence their romance, but Carter is troubled with a life-threatening brain injury treated by a village doctor (Roger Livesey) and a heavenly collector (Marius Goring) intent on escorting his errant soul to the other side.  Originally designed as a propaganda piece to promote better relations between Britain and the United States, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death became an English classic featuring delightful performances by its cast, accomplished Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff, and spectacular production design by Alfred Junge.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie
  • Martin Scorsese on A Matter of Life and Death
  • Thelma Schoonmaker Powell and Grover Crisp on AMOLAD and its restoration
  • Interview with cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • A Matter of Fried Onions, Diane Broadbent Friedman on the medical foundation of AMOLAD
  • Behind the scenes footage, filmed during a visit to Denham Studios by Canadian soldiers
  • “The King and the Stars,” a Front Page newsreel by British Pathé on the 1946 Royal Command Film Performance screening, along with unused and unissued footage of the event and the press reception
  • New interview with author J. K. Rowling and actor Daniel Radcliffe in appreciation of the film
  • Two Lux Radio Theatre productions from 1947 (starring Ray Milland, Ann Blyth, and Nigel Bruce) and 1955 (starring David Niven and Barbara Rush)
  • The Hedda Hooper Show – This is Hollywood‘s 30-minute radio adaptation, starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, and Vincent Price
  • Screen Director’s Playhouse radio production from 1951, starring Robert Cummings and Julia Adams
  • Kinescope of the “Stairway to Heaven” TV adaptation for Robert Montgomery Presents, starring Richard Green, Jean Gillespie, and Bramwell Fletcher
  • Parody sketch from Big Train, featuring Simon Pegg, Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap, and Amelia Bullmore
  • Gallery of sketches and stills of Alfred Junge’s production designs
  • Sequence shot for Powell and Pressburger’s unmade The White Cockade, starring David Niven and Pamela Brown
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring behind the scenes photos, the script, and new essays by film critics Dave Kehr, Robert Horton, and Mark Kermode

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The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka (Yasuzo Masumura, 1967)

Eclipse LogoDomestic rivalry finds unexpected expression in Yasuzo Masumura’s The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka, the true-life story of the Japanese physician who first developed general anesthetic for use in 1804 and the women who competed to be his test subjects.  Hanaoka (Raizð Ichikawa) has little attention for his imperious mother (Hideko Takamine) and his dutiful wife (Ayako Wakao) while he searches for the precise formula for his herbal anesthetic.  Screenwriter Kaneto Shindo and director Yasuzo Masumura step away from the expected conventions of the bio-pic by focusing on the doctor’s spouse Kae, portraying her commitment and sacrifice to her husband’s endeavor as the truly heroic act of this dizzying tale of love and obsession.

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Seisaku’s Wife (Yasuzo Masumura, 1965)

Eclipse LogoIn this riveting examination of mad love and social obligation set at the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, Okane (Ayako Wakao) returns to the small village of her youth where she endures the scorn and rejection of the townsfolk with sullen distemper.  When Seisaku (Takahiro Tamura), the village’s “model youth,” returns from military service, the beloved patriot strikes up an unlikely romance with Okane, marginalizing himself in the process.  Based on a story by Kojiro Yoshida and written by Kaneto Shindo, Seisaku’s Wife is a sensual tale of rebel love and wild obsession standing against the strict military demands of Imperial Japan.

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