I recently watched Redes (Emilio Gómez Mariel and Fred Zinnemann, 1936), from the first Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project box set, and Kent Jones’s visual essay which makes reference to Manhatta (1921), a documentary short made by photographer and Redes-cinematographer Paul Strand and painter Charles Sheeler. The short is not included in the WCP set (although it was included on the now OOP DVD set, Unseen Cinema), and so I thought I would share it here at MMC! The short is inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem “Mannahatta” and is considered the USA’s first experimental film. Strand and Sheeler link their respective art forms (painting and photography) to cinema by preferring dynamic angles and compositions over movement, using editing and intertitles to express a monumental day in Lower Manhattan. The result is a visually engaging and invaluable document of the time.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Aboard the Calypso – Sea and Cinema with Jacques Cousteau.
Explorer. Inventor. Author. Conservationist. Filmmaker. Jacques Cousteau was an iconic figure in marine exploration, spending more than sixty years investigating undersea kingdoms and sharing his tales with the world. Over three award-winning feature films spanning twenty years, Cousteau reveals the beauty and dangers beneath the waves of the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the frozen Antarctic, finding seldom seen tropical wonders, describing the pressures of living in an underwater base for weeks at a time, and persevering through the life or death struggle to survive at the South Pole. Both the committed naturalist and the keen showman, Cousteau portrayed his oceanic marvels with the idealism and the spectacle of science fiction and inspired generations to care for alien worlds here at home and no longer hidden from view.
Special Edition Three-Blu Ray Set Features:
- New high definition digital transfers of The Silent World, World Without Sun, and Voyage to the Edge of the World, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
- French and English-language audio tracks
- Introductions by Wes Anderson, James Cameron, and Werner Herzog
- Of Silence and Men: The Pioneers of The Silent World, a 50-minute documentary featuring interviews with Jacques Cousteau, co-director Louis Malle, camera designer André Laban, Cousteau scholar Franck Machu, and Malle biographer Pierre Billard
- Two Men, A Masterpiece, an interview with Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle
- The Silent World’s Legacy, interviews with Jacques Cousteau, Luc Besson, and Jacques Perrin
- Early films of Jacques Cousteau: 18 Meters Deep, Shipwrecks, Landscapes of Silence, Seals in the Sahara, Around a Reef, Off Tunisian Coasts, One sortie du “Rubis,” SCUBA Diary, Danger Under the Sea, Rhythm on the Reef, and The Red Sea
- Station 307 and The Fountain of the Vaucluse, a pair of short films by Louis Malle made in collaboration with Jacques Cousteau
- Edmond Séchan’s Academy Award-winning short The Golden Fish, produced by Jacques Cousteau
- Restoration demonstration
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker Luc Jacquet and excerpts from Cousteau’s 1953 book The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure
MMC! is hard at work on our next imagined Criterion Collection set. In the meantime, MMC! offers a kind of thematic preview to our next proposal with Born Like Stars (Steve Haddock and Brad A. Seibel, 2006), a Wholphin classic from Volume 2 and Best of Wholphin Vol. 1. The video, taken by a remotely operated vehicle called Tiburon from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, depicts baby squid hatching from the 3,000 egg cluster of a deep sea squid. The Gonatus onyx is a small, deep sea squid with the rare practice of brooding its eggs between its arms rather than on the ocean floor, something only discovered in 2005. The undulating movement by the mother squid pumps oxygen through the cone of eggs. The short’s plinky-plunky, music box score works in perfect compliment to the subject matter, creating a nursery-like atmosphere around its seemingly alien footage.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Whale God.
A small Japanese village is obsessed with killing a monstrous whale that has decimated its hunting parties. The town’s wealthiest man offers his land, position, and only daughter to the individual who can kill the demon whale. Shaki, a popular young man whose family has been massacred by the beast, steps forward vowing to slay the whale and avenge his relations, but his efforts are complicated by a brutish stranger to the village also intent on killing the monster and collecting on the promised riches. Based on Koichiro Uno’s award-winning novel published the previous year and scripted by visionary writer-director Kaneto Shindo, this loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick captures the madness and danger of whaling and combines it with period drama and kaiju monster effects.
- New, high definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with Japanese film critic Tadao Sato
- New interview with Japanese-literature scholar Jeffrey Angles
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by critic, novelist, and musician Chris D.
If anything has made my immersion in the NFB worthwhile, it is my newfound appreciation for Colin Low, Wolf Koenig, and Roman Kroitor. These men were prolific contributors to the NFB, working together and apart on seemingly countless productions as directors, animators, producers, and writers and acting as pioneers working in the art of Direct Cinema, developing the IMAX format, and directly influencing the work George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, and Ken Burns. Presented here is Colin Low’s humourous The Romance of Transportation in Canada (1952), animated by Wolf Koenig and Robert Verrall. Romance won the Short Film Palme d’Or and a special BAFTA Award, and holds the distinction of being the NFB’s first Oscar-nominated animated film and the first international nominee in the Animated Short category. Also offered here is Low and Koenig’s City of Gold (1957), winner of the Palme d’Or, recipient of an Oscar nomination as a documentary short, and boasting narration by beloved Canadian historian, journalist, and television personality Pierre Berton. American documentarian Ken Burns has acknowledged City of Gold as a foundational film to his own work, and the debt owed to Low and Koenig’s use of archival photographs is obvious. Low, Koenig, and Kroitor should be widely know in film circles given their contributions to cinema and we’ll have more on them tomorrow and as our tribute to the NFB continues!
As per the NFB:
A light-hearted animated short about how Canada’s vast distances and great obstacles were overcome by settlers. The story is told with a tongue-in-cheek seriousness and takes us from the intrepid trailblazers of long ago to the aircraft of today and tomorrow. A 1953 Cartoon Short Subject Oscar®-nominee.
As per the NFB:
This classic short film Pierre Berton depicts the Klondike gold rush at its peak, when would-be prospectors struggled through harsh conditions to reach the fabled gold fields over 3000 km north of civilization. Using a collection of still photographs, the film juxtaposes the Dawson City at the height of the gold rush with its bustling taverns and dance halls with the more tranquil Dawson City of the present.
With the establishment of the National Film Board of Canada in 1939, John Grierson, the British documentarian and the NFB’s first commissioner, set upon a project to foster and shape the national identity, and the outbreak of World War II was a timely context for Grierson’s nationalist aims. One of the NFB’s first efforts was Canada Carries On, a series of theatrical shorts aimed to boost morale during wartime. Its producer, British documentary filmmaker Stuart Legg, found early success in the endeavour when he received two Oscar nominations for the new documentary short category. Relying heavily on stock footage and “voice-of-God” commentary, Legg’s Churchill’s Island (1941) and Warclouds in the Pacific (1941) are remarkable documents of their periods. Churchill’s Island won that first documentary Oscar, but Legg has failed to garner the kind of recognition given to his close colleague Grierson.
As per the NFB:
This film won the NFB its first Oscar® and was also the first documentary to win this coveted award. It presents the strategy of the Battle of Britain, showing with penetrating clarity the relationships between the various forces made up the island’s defences. Here is the Royal Air Force in its epic battle with the Luftwaffe, the Navy in its stubborn fight against the raiders of sea and sky, the coastal defences, the mechanized cavalry, the merchant seamen and behind them all, Britain’s tough, unbending civilian army.
As per the NFB:
This short film examines the Japan that emerged at the beginning of the 1900s and was firmly established as an industrialized nation by the outbreak of World War II. Facing the greatest threat in their history, the democracies of the Pacific took careful stock of this new Japan and its strength, and erected a vast system of defence across the world’s greatest ocean.