The Year on Disc
The Best of DVD and Blu-ray releases for 2010
Well, I guess the latter is the closest we’ll come to quantifying the mysterious process, which is why rather than the usual Top Ten list, I’ve broken my picks into categories, so I can celebrate a box set achievement separately from a brilliant home video debut separately from a landmark restoration. Which is not to say this list is not run through with my own subjective judgments, simply that I have found my own way to spread the love around (including naming runners-up as my whims take me). I reviewed most (though not all) of these on various websites (including Parallax View) and have linked to these longer pieces wherever possible. And one last note: The picks are limited to American home video releases, simply because that’s my bailiwick and I haven’t the time or resources to explore the wealth of foreign releases that come out every year.
And for the 2010 release that I love most, allow me to present my…
Three Silent Classics by Josef Von Sternberg (Criterion)
Josef von Sternberg is the great stylist of the thirties, a Hollywood maverick with a taste for visual exoticism and baroque flourishes (which prompted David Thomson to dub him “the first poet of underground cinema”), but step back into his silent work and you’ll find a storyteller of unparalleled talent and one of the great directors of silent cinema.
The three films in Criterion’s magnificent box set Three Silent Classics by Josef Von Sternberg may be all the evidence we have of this era but they are more than enough to show his mastery of the medium and the rapid evolution of his style, both a visual sculptor and as a cinematic storyteller. Underworld (1927), his third feature, has been called both the original gangster film and the proto-film noir but Sternberg turns it into a nocturnal fantasy of the urban criminal underworld and a tale of loyalty and love in a violent world. In classic Sternberg style, the grand melodrama of love, war and Hollywood The Last Command (1928) appears to be created in the studio, exteriors and interiors alike. The Docks of New York (1928), the simplest, most delicately visualized and most perfect film of the set, is the turn-of-the-century bowery answer to Sunrise, with a romantic idealism fighting its way out of hard-scrabble lives and resigned characters of the waterfront culture. In a year of superb DVD and Blu-ray editions, this is the most revelatory release. The films are beautifully mastered with two scores apiece, a pair of visual essays and an archival interview with von Sternberg.
Read the complete list at Parallax View.