Sunday, June 06, 2010

Film Commentaries by Critics/Scholars




The vast majority of audio commentaries available on DVDs feature those involved in the making of films: directors, actors, writers, producers, and so on. Over the years we've had several discussions here about such commentaries. In this post, however, I'd like to help gather examples of your favorite DVD commentaries by film critics and/or scholars.

One of our frequent guests here, Adrian Martin, might just hold the championship record for this category. His commentaries include (deep breath): Vivre sa vie, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, The Exterminating Angel, Masculin Féminin, La Promesse, Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, The Blue Angel, Alice in the Cities, Journey in Italy, Gertrud, The Tarnished Angels, Martha, There’s Always Tomorrow, Beware of a Holy Whore, Les Cousins, Ministry of Fear, Fallen Angel, Whirlpool, F For Fake, Le Plaisir, Madame de …, Good Morning, A Married Woman, Le gai savoir, and La Luna (at last count). All of these (as far as I know) were recorded for the Australian label Madman, and thus are not as well known in the US. The first two of these commentaries have just been re-issued on the Criterion DVDs of the films here. I've had the opportunity of hearing a handful of these, and they are unfailingly strong and enjoyable.

Two other favorite examples of critic/scholar audio commentaries spring to mind. On the Criterion DVD of the 'Corinth version' of Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin, Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore have an informative and insightful conversation that makes you wish more DVDs would use this format. (I look forward to the upcoming Criterion DVD of Close-Up that announces a joint audio commentary by Jonathan and Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa.) James Quandt's commentary on Bresson's Pickpocket is the very opposite of an improvised conversation; it's very evidently scripted, a long-form essay read aloud, a wonderfully dense but riveting piece of work. I had to pause the DVD every so often to savor the words just spoken, to let the weight of the analysis sink in. These are just a couple of favorites, of several, that I mention here as examples.

Recently, the video essay has emerged as another valuable form of film commentary. If Adrian is the champ of the audio commentary, the shortlist of contenders for the video essay would have to include Matt Zoller Seitz, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Kevin Lee, Jim Emerson and Tag Gallagher. Catherine Grant has helpfully posted a collection of links as an homage to MZS's and Kevin Lee's video essays; and one to Jim Emerson's essays. Gorin's commentaries on Criterion DVDs, including his classic video essay on Pierrot le Fou, are consistently valuable. An inventory of Gallagher's DVD-analyses can be found at his website (scroll down all the way).

Could I ask you to recommend, if you like, your favorite examples of audio commentaries and/or video essays, either among those mentioned above or otherwise? Perhaps we can assemble a collection of recommendations as a resource for future googlers here.


* * *

Some links:

-- The new issue of Cineaste includes Jonathan Rosenbaum's essay "DVDs: A New Form of Collective Cinephilia."

-- There's a new special issue of Undercurrent on film festivals, with pieces by Chris Fujiwara, Jon Jost, Yvette Bíró, David Sterritt, and others. Also: I've discovered that Jon Jost runs two blogs, here, and here.

-- One of the liveliest debates in the film-blogosphere in the last few weeks has been about "slow films." See: Steven Shaviro; Harry Tuttle; Glenn Kenny; Frieze Magazine's blog; Vadim Rizov; and the Guardian. The original Matthew Flanagan essay "Towards an Aesthetic of Slow in Contemporary Cinema" (2008) is available at 16:9.

-- At Sight & Sound, 51 film critics list their favorite film books (scroll down for full ballots). Here's the aggregate top five.

-- At Catherine Grant's place: a valuable collection of links to "Bazinian, Neo-Bazinian, and Post-Bazinian Film Studies".

Nicole Brenez's video essay on Boris Barnet's By The Bluest of Seas, courtesy Kevin Lee.

50 Comments:

Anonymous Kartina Richardson said...

I vote for Mirror: Motion Picture Commentary. www.mirrorfilm.org, a new video essay site, with a series focusing on Race in Film!

...Pardon the shameless self promotion

June 06, 2010 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

This one is special: a filmmaker's commentary, but extremely scholarly - Anup Singh's track over his underrated film THE NAME OF A RIVER, a homage to Ghatak, released by BFI DVD.

I would also especially recommend Ross Gibson's commentaries, also for the Australian company Madman: he has done Ozu, Kurosawa, Bresson, Mizoguchi ...

PS Thanks Girish for the PR !!

June 06, 2010 9:38 PM  
Blogger Neepa said...

Can I vote for worst commentary? Spike Lee on Do the Right Thing. But more seriously, I like Yuri Tsivian's commentary on Eisenstein's Strike.

June 06, 2010 9:41 PM  
Anonymous cynephile said...

Jean-Michel Frodon's sensitive commentary for Pialat's À NOS AMOURS.
Plus, I also like the pseudo-debate between film scholars Mary Ann Doane and Thomas Elsaesser on the re-mastered edition of PANDORA'S BOX.
Both of these are Criterion, of course.

June 06, 2010 10:45 PM  
Blogger Just Another Film Buff said...

Wonderful post, Girish. Can't think of many commentaries though, but ones that stayed in mind for a long time were Annette Insdorf's commentary for Kieslowski's trilogy and Gideon Bachmann's and Antonio Monda's work on 8 1/2.

As for video essays, do Los Angeles Plays Itself and History of Cinema count?!

June 06, 2010 11:47 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Yuri Tsivian's great on Man with a Movie Camera as well.

June 07, 2010 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Eureka! Kent Jones and Philip Lopate on Toni, and David Ehrenstein and Bill Krohn on Savage Innocents.

Got insomnia? I fell asleep while Donald Richie droned on about Crazed Fruit.

June 07, 2010 1:52 AM  
Blogger Catherine Grant said...

Girish, great post and thanks for all the shout-outs to FSFF. Could I please add two further relevant links to some of my and others' musings on and examples of film-studies video essays there: "Video Essays: A multiprotagonist Manifesto" and Ben Sampson's brilliant visual study of Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). I'm also looking forward to the launch of the new film critical/video essay blog by Matt Zoller Seitz that he announced recently: All Out of Bubblegum.

June 07, 2010 6:31 AM  
Blogger Gabe Klinger said...

Funniest audio commentaries: Abel Ferrara on DRILLER KILLER and Vincent Gallo on BROWN BUNNY (only available on the Japanese DVD of the film, though you can download it as a separate mp3 online). I also greatly enjoyed the commentary for ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY in which Lou Rawls is invited to participate for no apparent reason.

A favorite video essay: Tom Green's PG "edit" of FREDDY GOT FINGERED on the DVD of that film.

Of course, I'm very serious about all of the above.

June 07, 2010 6:38 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, all, for these suggestions!

Adrian, I had never heard of THE NAME OF A RIVER until Neepa recommended it to me a couple of weeks ago! I will be ordering the DVD soon.

Apologies: I left out the link for Undercurrent in the post above; I've just added it.

Wow, what are the chances?!? I checked Filmkrant this morning--and discovered that Adrian's new column (likely posted just in the last few days) is ... on audio commentaries and video essays! Here is the opening:

"Having provided over 30 audio commentaries for DVD releases - one of them, for Mizoguchi's the loyal 47 ronin, being four hours long - I feel I have earned the right to criticise the format. These voice-over commentaries provided by filmmakers, critics and historians are decidedly a mixed blessing. I sometimes wonder whether anybody, except the most dedicated and/or masochistic researcher, ever listens to them all the way through. No one can doubt that these voice-tracks sometimes give us splendid insight or information that we cannot obtain elsewhere in print. But are they really the best we can do in the quest to marry film criticism with the film-object itself?

It is not usually recognised that audio commentaries on DVD arose due to a legal loophole. No permission is usually needed from the makers or rights-holders to a film to add such a 'bonus' soundtrack of somebody (or several somebodies) droning on for approximately 2 hours over the top. Officially, the film has not been 'tampered with' or re-edited in any way. You can choose to listen to the vocal extra or not. And this points to the first problem with audio commentaries: they are the easy, quick way to provide scholarly analysis, the 'soft option' - take it or leave it.

Audio commentaries are simply an extension of written criticism. The voice of the critic speaks - sometimes literally reads - a verbal text. It usually coincides only loosely with the moment-by-moment flow of the film. The format is, in fact, at worst impossible, and at best a compromise: it is like a mad, desperate, jiving riff over a fleeting, ever-vanishing film-object. Try it in your lounge room sometime, you'll find out how hard it is - and how easy to more or less ignore the film and offer a standard lecture on its context, background information, director biography, etc."

June 07, 2010 8:11 AM  
Blogger Just Another Film Buff said...

Excellent point. I can sense that it is really tough to do justice to the material you have for the film and the film itself simultaneously. A conversation tends towards banality whereas a lecture becomes absurdly asynchronous. I guess the Cinema Interruptus format beats audio commentaries by a mile.

June 07, 2010 8:32 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Just a couple of thoughts on audio commentaries...

As Adrian points out, most commentaries are not keyed closely to the moment-to-moment flow of a film. Combine with this the fact that such commentaries are a sequential-access form, in which the listener cannot jump around (in random-access mode), the way they would be able to, for example, if their eyes were scanning a written page. This is the primary reason why listening to audio commentaries is such a demanding and time-intensive activity for the viewer/listener.

So, do all audio commentaries need to be heard on a DVD? I don't think so. I suspect that most audio commentaries would not lose too much by being transcribed, put on a PDF file, and either made available on the DVD as a text for downloading and reading or uploaded online in PDF form by the DVD company at their website. Only a special few commentaries that keenly rely on and interact with the moment-to-moment work of a film might truly benefit the viewer by being "heard" in "real time" with the film.

June 07, 2010 8:44 AM  
Blogger Marc Raymond said...

For audio commentaries, an oldie but goodie is Caspar Tybjerg on THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, which I thought was very informative and yet accessible. I also like Robert Kolker on TAXI DRIVER, and as already mentioned, Rosenbaum and Naremore on MR. ARKADIN.

For video essays, Yuri Tsivian on IVAN THE TERRIBLE is well known but worth mentioning. Another favorite of mine, although I'm biased here, is Chris Faulkner's version comparison, video essay on the film's production, and scene analysis on the Criterion release of THE RULES OF THE GAME. Chris was a teacher of mine so I'm obviously not objective, but the information here is great scholarship and also badly needed, since THE RULES OF THE GAME and its history continue to be misunderstood even by cinephiles, perhaps because it threatens some auteur myths.

June 07, 2010 9:16 AM  
Blogger Catherine Grant said...

I very much agree with your last comment, Girish, and in general concur with Adrian's valuable thoughts in FILMKRANT, too. The 'logocentricity'/'vococentricity' of audio commentaries and video essays are something that those of us positively engaging in producing those forms are struggling with at the moment. My favourite DVD commentary is Mike Figgis's one for his film TIMECODE (I wrote at length about it for this book). It succeeds because it engages completely with the liveness of the film - appropriately so, given the production circumstances of TIMECODE. But Figgis also performs his voiceover using what I can best describe as a 'confessional' aesthetic (as does Ben Sampson in the video essay I mention in my earlier comment) -- a whispered and sparing delivery -- and that mitigates, somewhat at least, the "voice too much" quality that Adrian describes.

June 07, 2010 9:17 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

One video essay I'd like to see, but don't know where to access, is B: Kite's American, on Orson Welles. It was up at the Auteurs but seems to be down now, sadly.
Otherwise, I think it says something about what is actually being done that we call video commentaries "commentaries", rather than essays or something else. There's the idea of criticism subordinated to the film, reduced to commenting it, which gets closer to the experience of watching a film but further, I think, from the experience of thinking about a film.
Another thing that really bugs me about them is the way they almost completely destroy soundtracks! What if the most important event at any given point in a film is not a frame, or a cut, or a camera movement, but a tone of voice (Gertrud or Bresson), a bird chirping (Straub or Weerasethakul), or a piece of music starting (Mélo or Jia Zhang-Ke)?

June 07, 2010 9:23 AM  
Blogger ratzkywatzky said...

I'd like to recommend Sherman Alexie and Sean Axmaker's dialogue about Kent Mackenzie's The Exiles on the Milestone disc.

June 07, 2010 11:43 AM  
Anonymous James MacDowell said...

I'd like to give a shout out to Richard Dyer's commentary on my Region 2 DVD of Se7en.

June 07, 2010 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Kartina Richardson said...

I think the real and wonderful potential of audio commentary/video essays, lies in its ability to discuss a film while immersed in its magic, without overintellectualizing. To me, this is really the key, and separates it from other forms of film criticism.

June 07, 2010 12:45 PM  
Blogger Gabe Klinger said...

D'oh... Once I read your post I somehow neglected the *specific point* of your post entirely and replied with my favorite commentaries period.

So here's a more valuable contribution (I hope): I don't believe it's available publicly, but I greatly enjoyed Tag Gallagher's STAGECOACH video essay, which I've used in class. As for commentary tracks, I have also found Richard Peña on L'ECLISSE and David Sterritt on WEEKEND to be instructive. Rosenbaum/Naremore on ARKADIN has been mentioned, so I will put in a plug for a forthcoming Rosenbaum commentary: his and David Kalat's take on the new METROPOLIS (this will be released in a deluxe package by Masters of Cinema).

June 07, 2010 12:54 PM  
Blogger Miguel Marías said...

A good issue to debate, Girish. Sorry, but I'd rather agree with Adrian on the "audio commentaries", which can be (and sometimes are) interesting but which I cannot stand while watching a film. If I hate to have someone in the audience talking while I watch a movie, I thik I'd rather silence anyone commenting the whole film. What I find more bearable is (when there are subtitles) to watch once more the film while reading the commentary's subtitles (of course, I cannot do that when I need the subtitles to understand the dialogue). I still prefer to get an independent "bonus" or "extra" with the commentaries. And I like a lot some of these (sometimes verbal, sometimes also visual) by Tsivian or Jean Douchet, or Claire Denis on Hong Sang-soo. The trouble is that quite often the text is read by someone else than the writer, which sometimes seems not to understand or feel the words he's reading.
Miguel Marías

June 07, 2010 5:46 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Rosenbaum said...

I appreciate all the kind words about some of my own (joint) commentaries. But I'd like to point out that, due to some objections to the DVD audio commentary as a form that are related to many of Adrian's objections, I've so far adopted the policy of ONLY doing joint commentaries: with Jim Naremore on two Welles films (MR. ARKADIN & TOUCH OF EVIL), with Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa on CLOSE-UP (coming out this month from Criterion), and, as Gabe points out, with David Kalat on the expanded METROPOLIS, coming out later this year.

For me, the advantage of the joint commentary is a kind of triangulation that mitigates against the "authoritative" single voice and promotes, rather more open-endedly, the idea of discussion, with the film functioning as a sort of social nexus. And of course it could also be three or four voices, as long as this doesn't make it too scattershot. Knowing the other person well certainly helped with the ones I've done with Jim and Mehrnaz, but in the case of the one I did with David, where we met for the first time only once before the day of our recording (after getting somewhat acquainted on the phone and via emails), it helped to map out the areas we each wanted to concentrate on in advance. (He focused largely on production information while I tended to focus mainly on criticism--the criticism of several other writers as well as my own--and the fact that we occasionally spilled over onto each other's turf didn't create any serious problems.)

For me, it always helps if the commentary has many alternating agendas, and one of the advantages of two or more voices is that it allows for this more naturally, in a social way--even if one voice occasionally winds up interrupting the other in order to make a particular observation about something occurring on-screen.

June 07, 2010 6:27 PM  
Blogger Matthew Holtmeier said...

After reading Adrian's Filmkrant column, I can't stop paying attention to the use of voiceover in video essays. Though I do think videoessays are a step ahead of feature-length DVD commentary, it seems that there is a large discrepancy between how different video essays copy this voiceover DVD commentary technique, and how others innovate.

Ben Sampson's AI video seems to contain just the right amount of voiceover to me.

June 07, 2010 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Christian Keathley said...

Following up on Adrian Martin’s and Catherine Grant’s comments… I wonder if this is less an issue of language per se than it is a matter of the scholarly commitment to the explanatory mode. As Adrian notes, Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinema uses language and voice, but its ‘explanatory’ status is qualified in a variety of ways – by images and sounds and other words that are organized in a more poetical arrangement. On the other hand, there is Jim Emerson’s recent video essay on Chinatown -- http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2010/04/chinatown_my_chinatowna_love_p.html -- which eschews language altogether, but still remains within the explanatory register, carefully assembling clips and soundtrack music to bring into relief the film’s motif of framing. Though it shows instead of telling, it still performs an explanatory function.

Working somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is Paul Malcolm’s “Notes Towards a Project on Citizen Kane.” http://www.archive.org/details/NotesTowardsAProjectOnKane

June 07, 2010 6:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Inspired by Chris' link to Paul Malcolm's piece above, Catherine Grant has put up a new post called "On Citizen Kane: film-critical and film-historical video essays".

June 08, 2010 7:10 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Dave Kehr in the NYT: A trove of American silent films, including a lost film by John Ford called "Upstream," have been found in an archive in New Zealand.

"Although Ford was already famous as a director of epic westerns like “The Iron Horse” (1925) and “Three Bad Men” (1926), “Upstream” appears to be his first film reflecting the influence of the German director F. W. Murnau, who had arrived at Ford’s studio, Fox, in 1926 to begin work on his American masterpiece, “Sunrise.” From Murnau, Ford learned the use of forced perspectives and chiaroscuro lighting, techniques Ford would use to complement his own more direct, naturalistic style.

Richard Abel, a professor of film studies at the University of Michigan and an authority on early cinema, was one of the experts called in by the National Film Preservation Board to evaluate the inventory and establish priorities for films to be returned. “ ‘Upstream’ was an obvious choice,” Mr. Abel said, “and I suggested strongly that they do ‘Dolly of the Dailies’ with Mary Fuller, because there’s very little that survives of her films. But we were also looking to fill in gaps, which is why many of the early westerns were chosen.”

Internationally popular, westerns were an important export for the early American film industry, as were short comedies, with their broad physical humor that required no translation. The New Zealand collection features nine comedies, including the 1918 “Why Husbands Flirt” from the prolific producer-director Al Christie.

Among the discoveries are several films that underline the major contribution made by women to early cinema. “The Girl Stage Driver” (1914) belongs to a large subgenre that Mr. Abel has identified as “cowboy girl” pictures; “The Woman Hater” (1910) is an early vehicle for the serial queen Pearl White; and “Won in a Cupboard” (1914) is the earliest surviving film directed by Normand, the leading female star of Mack Sennett’s Keystone comedies. The Clara Bow film “Maytime” (1923), presents the most famous flapper of the 1920s in an unusual costume role.

Getting the films, which were printed on the unstable, highly inflammable nitrate stock used until the early 1950s, to the United States hasn’t been easy. “There’s no Federal Express for nitrate out of New Zealand,” said Annette Melville, the director of the foundation. “We’re having to ship in U.N.-approved steel barrels, a little bit at a time. So far we’ve got about one third of the films, and preservation work has already begun on four titles.”"

June 08, 2010 2:26 PM  
Blogger ExperimentoFilm said...

Tim Lucas' Mario Bava commentaries are very informative. The same goes for Tony Rayns on VENGEANCE IS MINE.

I'm still waiting for someone (scholarly or not!) to do a commentary for a Ruiz film.

June 08, 2010 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Experimento (love that name!) - it's intriguing that no Ruiz film yet (to my knowledge) has received a feature-length audio commentary. (PS I'm up for it !!) However, there are specific SCENE commentaries on audio by Frederic Bonnaud on at least one of the Gemini Films DVD releases of Ruiz. These are quite good, as far as they go ! I have noticed (perhaps this is changing) that French companies prefer this kind of limited (and usually scripted) 'intervention', by people such as Douchet (whom Miguel praised above), rather than feature-length drone-rambles. Indeed, I recall Raymond Bellour's horrorified reaction when I described (not so long ago) the typical audio commentary set-up to him: "You mean you speak over the ENTIRE FILM ???"

June 08, 2010 9:17 PM  
Blogger Marc Raymond said...

I agree with Jonathan on the preference of dual commentaries. Even amongst director commentaries, most of my favorites are a filmmaker talking with someone else. Steven Soderbergh typically does this, and I think his commentaries are among the better out there.

June 09, 2010 8:55 AM  
Blogger ExperimentoFilm said...

Richard Schickel and Christopher Frayling have both done interesting Sergio Leone commentaries.

Adrian (thanks!) - yes, Bonnaud does all-too-brief scene commentaries on Gemini's THREE LIVES AND ONLY ONE DEATH and GENEALOGIES OF A CRIME discs. My ideal though would be a feature-length joint commentary with Ruiz himself in conversation with a scholar (or two, for maximum triangulation).

June 09, 2010 12:52 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Adrian's comment reminds me that one of my favourite commentary tracks is Assayas on L'Avventura, in which he again only comments a few scenes, but with very great insight.

June 10, 2010 2:55 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

Perhaps this is something for the future of Blu-Ray or digital formats or whatever we'll have a few years from now, but a visual commentary (as opposed to an audio one) or maybe even an audio-visual one simultaneous with the film would be an interesting idea, expanding the ideas of the video-essay to commentary size: the commentator circles elements in the image, points out details or counterpoint movements (I'm thinking here of how characters in the background of Ophuls' shots sometimes move in a direction opposite to the camera) and unusual sources of sound (all the fun you could have dotting the characters / activities emitting sound effects in Play Time, or figuring out the exact placement of microphones in Jacques Rivette movies -- which, considering his near total adherence to direct sound, is surprisingly easy, especially since they always seem to be close to the ground).

June 10, 2010 4:43 AM  
Anonymous Walter Biggins said...

My vote's for Andy Klein and the RZA's commentary on The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, in which the RZA reveals the depth of his knowledge about Chinese martial arts cinema, its actors, and the fighting and dance style involved. Klein tries to keep pace but it's the RZA's show all the way. Plus, I'm pretty sure the famed hip-hop producer is thoroughly stoned throughout the audio recording, which makes his delivery and allusions all the more impressive.

June 11, 2010 1:19 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

RZA is a true scholar.

June 11, 2010 3:05 PM  
Blogger YUSEF SAYED said...

I second ExperimentoFilm's recommendation of Tony Rayns' commentaries - always informative.

I would also like to select a filmmaker, Werner Herzog, whose commentaries shine for me largely because I find his voice so compelling.

Great post Girish

June 13, 2010 3:45 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks so much, all!

I'm in the middle of selling my house and buying a new one--cleaning, packing, orchestrating the move, etc. Once the activity dies down, I'll be itching to return to blogging. Thanks for being patient!

June 15, 2010 7:18 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Tsivian's already been mentioned, but let me second that.

Janet Bergstrom's Tabu commentary is strong.

I liked Marian Keane's the Lady Eve track quite a bit, though I haven't explored her others yet.

Greg Ford's commentaries on Looney Tunes shorts are usually filled with terrific moment-to-moment specific insight. Other Looney Tunes commentators are more hit-and-miss, though I've certainly learned something from each of them.

I recently listened to Donald Ritchie's Drunken Angel commentary. I think he's better when he's less interpretive, as in this case where he gets more into the filmmaking history, which makes sense as this was his first experience on a film set.

June 17, 2010 3:00 AM  
Blogger Ehsan Khoshbakht said...

You've mentioned audio commentary that are more close to long essays, reading aloud, along the images. But the interesting thing comes when, reverse this mechanism, audio turns to text in non-English countries. I've seen many examples of using audio commentaries as a reliable source to translate them and turned them into essays. For instance, Peter Cowie's comments on Ingmar Bergman films and Diary of a country priest have been turned to long essays in Farsi or Robert Altman's comments on his own film, Three Women (all from Criterion) which is very helpful in dealing with the abstract narrative of the film, has been translated ,too (in this case, when Altman says that he has dreamed his film, I trust both Artist and the Tale!)

I appreciate using director's commentaries (especially 'archival' ones from those who are not among us anymore - like Black Narcissus and Michael Powell comments taken from a University lecture along with Scorsese's comments).

I like it when a writer who is an expert in some peculiar director, does a couple of director's film's A.C.s, like Foster Hirsch comments for Otto Preminger films. (writer of "Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King" book)

If one believes cinema is nothing but stories and storytelling, then old fashion storytelling kind of A.C. is so welcomed, especially if it's Peter Bogdanovich's.

I must admit beside a few labels, most audio commentaries from obscure or mainstream DVD labels are very hard to listen - boring and trivial . As a matter of fact they are like very badly performed Karaokes!

June 17, 2010 8:42 AM  
Anonymous sağlık portalı said...

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June 18, 2010 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quick note, eschewing the excellent discussion of commentaries for the moment: Re: Critics commentaries. Robert Stam, Professor of Cinema Studies at NYU, and a wonderful, perceptive writer, has done commentary on the Criterion DVD of Contempt. Just another for the list.

June 18, 2010 12:54 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Here is Zach Campbell's response to the "slow cinema" debate.

June 18, 2010 8:17 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, I didn't know about Stam and CONTEMPT!

June 18, 2010 8:17 PM  
Anonymous Tüp Bebek tedavisi said...

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June 29, 2010 4:47 AM  
Anonymous D Cairns said...

Weirdly, By the Bluest of Seas was victim of an unauthorized commentary track when I saw it in New York. The guy in the seat behind kept up a psychotic, rambling, and sometimes personally threatening monologue through much of the film... when it was over, he went into the lobby and lay on the floor, so I guess he was harmless. That experience MAY have caused me to underrate the movie at the time, but those seascapes are impressive and beautiful.

July 06, 2010 7:56 AM  
Anonymous Mohit Garg said...

Am writing something unrelated, a little, to the post. I am searching for any video recordings of Bazin or Lotte Eisner. Strange, very strange to find Bazin never documented or filmed, or was he so shy?

July 06, 2010 4:35 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

I don't think he was shy -- maybe just too short lived. I don't think any filmed interviews were conducted, but Bazin was on the Cannes jury in 1954 (with Cocteau as Jury President!) and Venice in 1956. These things were usually filmed, so somewhere journalistic / documentary footage of the festivals exists.

Lotte Eisner appears in several documentaries (I recall archival footage of interviews with her appears in the two Langlois docs). She is one of the friends Herzog interviewed for his "self-portrait" documentary.

July 06, 2010 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

This late, but Ebert's commentary track on DARK CITY is quite good. I think he's done a couple of others, as well.

July 13, 2010 2:56 PM  
Blogger GreenBristol said...

I'd like to nominate the DVD running commentary on a favourite movie "The Dish": http://thedishmovie.warnerbros.com/index_noflash.html

Steve Parry

August 27, 2010 12:49 AM  
Anonymous Fue Saç Ekimi said...

After reading Adrian's Filmkrant column, I can't stop paying attention to the use of voiceover in video essays. Though I do think videoessays are a step ahead of feature-length DVD commentary, it seems that there is a large discrepancy between how different video essays copy this voiceover DVD commentary technique, and how others innovate.

December 28, 2011 3:22 AM  
Anonymous Ekilen Saçlar dökülür mü said...

I think the real and wonderful potential of audio commentary/video essays, lies in its ability to discuss a film while immersed in its magic, without overintellectualizing. To me, this is really the key, and separates it from other forms of film criticism.

February 21, 2012 9:24 AM  
Blogger Meandering Mind said...

Regarding brilliant commentaries, strange no one as yet has mentioned Guillermo del Toro. His commentary on 'The Devil's backbone' is extraordinary. It is nice to see such wonderful scholarship coming from a practicing filmmaker. Martin Scorsese also has made brilliant commentaries to a few of his films, and that of others, such as the Russian film 'I am Cuba'.

January 04, 2013 3:02 PM  

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