National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Picks & Passes 07.29.12

BY Steven D. Greydanus

Register Film Critic

July 29-August 11, 2012 Issue | Posted 7/20/12 at 1:55 PM

 

The Last Days of Disco (1998) PICK
Metropolitan (1990) PICK
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) PICK


Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the greatest, funniest, most joyous Hollywood musical ever made comes to Blu-ray with an astoundingly good-looking new transfer of the best available film elements. If you haven’t recently revisited Singin’ in the Rain, there’s no better time — and if you haven’t upgraded to Blu-ray, I can think of no better reason than the bargain one-disc Blu-ray edition (why they didn’t toss in a bonus DVD is beyond me).
Set at the dawn of Hollywood’s sound era, the film both skewers Hollywood pretensions and celebrates old-school glamour and romanticism. Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds embody exuberance in some of the most iconic dance sequences ever filmed. It doesn’t get better than this.
Extras include a new composite commentary track hosted by Debbie Reynolds, incorporating assembled interview material from O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, co-director Stanley Donen, the screenwriters and others (though not Kelly himself). A new 50-minute featurette reflects on the film’s influence on dance and film.
Also new on Blu-ray, from Criterion, are a pair of remarkable ensemble comedies from one of current cinema’s most eccentric and valuable voices, Whit Stillman. Film writer Ron Reed calls Stillman “the Jane Austen of indie film,” not only for his talky comedy-of-manners style, but for the blend of satire, moral critique and empathy he brings to his observations about social mores.
Metropolitan, Stillman’s debut, depicts a couple of weeks in the lives of a group of privileged young people in the New York debutante ball scene in the recent past. The Last Days of Disco is an edgier depiction of the fallout of the sexual revolution.
Amid sparkling banter, Stillman’s characters utter extraordinary observations. When one sneers that Jane Austen’s moral world is “ridiculous by today’s standards,” another retorts, “Has it occurred to you that today looked at from Jane Austin’s perspective would look even worse?” A cheery reprobate questions our age’s great truism, being “true to yourself”: “What if ‘thine own self’ is not so good? What if it’s pretty bad?” Just for starters.
The main extra in each set is a commentary by Stillman and various collaborators — interesting from a film-school perspective (particularly Metropolitan’s reflections on guerrilla filmmaking), but Stillman cagily avoids commenting on characters and themes.
One valuable insight is Stillman’s remark that, to him, the week before Christmas in Metropolitan represents pre-1969 culture; the week after Christmas represents post-1969 culture. There’s also an extraordinary hint of a Stillman project as yet unproduced, set in Christian Jamaica, with churches, angels and demons. Please, somebody make this film happen!

Content Advisory: The Last Days of Disco: Decadent milieu, including fleeting public nudity, an implied affair and drug abuse; a few instances of profanity. Adults. Metropolitan: Some sexually themed dialogue, brief partial undress (nothing explicit) and references to affairs. Adults. Singin’ in the Rain: Brief mild suggestiveness. Fine family viewing.