Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The "Progressive Classical Music" of Wim Mertens

THE "PROGRESSIVE CLASSICAL MUSIC" OF WIM MERTENS
by Raymond Benson

One of my favorite composers is a Belgian named Wim Mertens. He is fairly well-known in Europe, but not many people in the U.S. have heard of him. This is a crime. With his latest CD, Charaktersketch, just released, I felt inspired to revisit and update an article I wrote that was published in 1998 in Progression Magazine. I had the pleasure of meeting Wim in Brussels that year when I was researching my third James Bond novel, High Time to Kill. In fact, I put Wim in the book—music is playing in a restaurant where 007 and his latest girlfriend are dining. She responds to the music, Bond asks what it is, and she tells him that it’s Wim Mertens. I strongly recommend that anyone interested in contemporary classical, modern, or progressive music seek out Wim Mertens.


                                                   Wim Mertens and me in 1998.
***

When the Belgian/Flemish composer Wim Mertens is asked how he would classify his own music, he raises his hands in a bewildered gesture. "These labels are changing from country to country," he says. "In Spain it's different from Mexico. It's 'New Age' in one store, in another it's 'New Music.' I've seen it as 'Minimal Music' or 'Contemporary Music.' In some retail outlets I've seen my CDs classified under 'Classical,' 'Pop Music,' and 'Jazz.' Even in Belgium it's changing from store to store. Is that a good or bad thing?-- I don't know. I cannot change it. The only label I can propose is 'Contemporary Music.' It's a complicated thing that is never resolved."

When the description "Progressive Classical Music" is suggested, he laughs. "That is a new one! A new label! Doesn't sound very commercial! I've answered that question at least fifty times. If I say my music is produced in the tradition of written music, that is not really true because only about 80% of it is written music. Much of it is scored on the piano but I can also say that my music comes from no tradition, and that is more interesting for me. I see myself not hampered by elements that I don't do myself. This comes from a long tradition passed down from generation to generation—my father and his father, etc.—that's how I prefer to see it. I work from piece to piece and project to project. Defining it is irrelevant."

Therein lies the key to the simply amazing music produced by this relatively unknown (in America) composer and musician. Long-standing admirers of progressive rock, film music, and so-called contemporary classical music, might honestly say that "progressive classical music" fits the bill. Some listeners would most certainly lump Wim Mertens in the same category as Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and other practitioners of modern classical, minimalist music. It is arguable that Mertens goes beyond these extraordinary talents by imbuing his own work with more dynamics, emotion, melody, and ambition. If his music was performed by a rock band format, it would definitely be in the "progressive rock" family.  However, Wim Mertens chooses to use classically-oriented ensembles (as do Glass, Nyman, et. al.) as well as a personal, solo-piano and voice combination that is totally unique. 

Mertens' comment that his music comes from generations of tradition is quite true. His father, Henri Mertens, was not a professional musician, but he was a musician who constantly filled the home with music (and even recorded an album). He was a singer and played piano. "It's because of my father that I spontaneously get in touch with music," Mertens says. "My brother and two sisters—we all started in music."

Wim Mertens was born in Belgium in 1953, close to the Dutch border, in a town called Neerpelt. At the age of eight he went to music school, where he first studied classical guitar. From a very early age he was composing songs. He went to the Genk Music Academy at the age of twelve, and finished when he was eighteen. Going on to university, Mertens attended the Music Conservatory in Brussels, but he gave up music for a while and chose to study social and political sciences and communications. He went back to the main university in Leuven, on the Flemish side of Belgium, at the age of twenty-two, to study Musicology, and later dug into Contemporary Music at the university in Ghent. His interest in modern classical music resulted in the writing of a book, American Minimal Music, which was published in Flemish in 1980 by Kahn Publishers, and was later published in English in America and the UK in 1983.  Mertens' book was an intelligent analysis of the work of composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley.  Naturally, these composers served as Mertens' main musical influences.

"These names were influences, yes, but more important was that when I went to study the situation on the European side of music in the 70s, for many reasons I felt at that time I didn't have a plan to start recording or composing. I felt that the European avant-garde music was not what I was looking for. It was not my starting point, I had to find my information somewhere else. It was impossible to escape from that school, though. It helped me to define my own music by moving away from the European experience. When I listen to music—I went through all the European avant-garde, but I also listen to American music and contemporary jazz—Monk, Steve Lacey, etc. I also listen to medieval music. For three years I worked as a music journalist and I had to listen to everything!"

Mertens began recording in 1980 using the name Soft Verdict. "It was an artist name that I used from 1980 to 1984," he explains. "Soft Verdict was the name I used to present my music." (Since that time, the Soft Verdict albums have been re-released under Wim Mertens' own name.) "My first studio recording was produced by the American, Peter Gordon. It was a single called “At Home/Not At Home.” He introduced me to the commercial recording studio. Soft Verdict was not a group, but I used bass, drums, saxophone, harp, vibes, piano, guitar... the harp was from my classical guitar experience, and the saxophone did what I eventually came to do with my voice. The name came from the contradiction of words—a verdict is not soft, so I liked that contradiction."

Wim Mertens is perhaps most well-known in America for two albums released on the New Age label Windham Hill—Close Cover in 1986, and Whisper Me in 1988. (Mertens is also known in the U.S. for his score for Peter Greenaway's 1987 film, The Belly of an Architect.)  Both of the Windham Hill albums were anthologies of works taken from Mertens' original Belgian albums released between 1982 and 1987. His "signature" piece, "Close Cover," a beautiful and haunting song scored for piano and ensemble, appeared on several Windham Hill samplers and anthologies. Unfortunately, these two albums went nowhere, and the label chose not to pursue the artist any further (the two titles are now out of print). It was the Windham Hill compilations that first attracted the few American listeners to Wim Mertens' music. The real treasures, though, are to be found in his works produced post-1986. For those who have been aware and interested in Wim Mertens' music, they have had to search high and low in import shops, over the internet, or even go to foreign countries to find them. 

What is most extraordinary is that this prolific composer has released nearly sixty albums between 1980 and the present, not including compilations! 

Mertens' work can easily be placed into three distinctive categories of music. The first is his ensemble work, which is arguably the most interesting and accessible. From his first ensemble album, Vergessen (1982), to his brand new CD, Charaktersketch (2015), Mertens has pushed the boundaries of the ensemble by using brass and string instruments as percussion. Using less repetition than his contemporaries, Mertens blows Glass and Nyman out of the water with high-energy, tension-filled, incredibly fast pieces such as the less-than-two-minute-long "Watch!" (from 1989's Motives for Writing)—a recommended cut for introducing someone to Wim Mertens. “’Watch!’ is a special piece," Mertens says. "In a minute and a half you have this kind of excitement in it that goes beyond the normal expectance you have from such a short piece.  We do it live these days. I have a new band which is bass trombone, trumpet, two saxophones, piano, drums, and we are actually touring a lot these days." 

At the same time, Mertens is capable of haunting, beautiful melodies, such as "Au Delá du Fleuve" from Integer Valor (1998). Sometimes there is such an inexplicable element of sadness in the music that it causes you to stop whatever you’re doing and just listen. "Yes," Mertens nods, "many people have mentioned the sad quality in my music. I cannot deny it, but I cannot confirm it either. To do that, I would be too much in it, or I would have to identify with it. I don't have enough distance to say yes or no.  Probably that emotion you feel is something you have felt in some other way in your life, and the music has somehow tapped into it," he explains. 

All of Mertens' ensemble works combine various instruments (usually with a piano at the forefront), and sometimes voice, to create a continuing progression of similarly-themed musical textures. Of all of Mertens' music, it is recommended that the beginning listener start with any of the ensemble CDs—especially Struggle for Pleasure (1983), Motives for Writing (1989), Shot and Echo (1992), Jardin Clos (1996), Integer Valor (1998, or the full-length epic, Integer Valor Integrale  from 1999), Skopos (2003), Receptacle (2007), Zee Versus Zed (2010), A Starry Wisdom (2012), When Tool Met Wood (2013), or the latest, Charaktersketch (2015). 

The second category of Wim Mertens' music falls into the "solo piano and voice" department. Whereas these works can more easily be classified as "New Age," Mertens has brought something entirely unique and personal to the concept. He sings in a characteristically high-pitched countertenor voice, using a carefully crafted and imaginary personal language that is improvised over the structured piano pieces. On first hearing, one might find this quite strange. Repeated listenings, however, result in a subconscious connection between the composer and his audience that ultimately moves into a purely emotional level. In the end, it doesn't matter that one doesn't understand the words he's singing. It's the emotional intensity of the phrasings that finally affects the listener. If Jon Anderson of Yes uses lyrics and his own voice as "an instrument," then Wim Mertens does the same thing in a much more original and dynamic way. 

"The words are not related to one single language," Mertens says. "I can use different languages, I can even sing in English sentences or words. I use names of friends, or phrases, or whatever. I also write phonetically for other singers to sing. Since the end of 1984, I started using voice and singing in this kind of language. It's been there now for decades. I'm not sure where it comes from. I created it, it was a spontaneous way of singing. It probably has to do with the fact that Belgium is a mixed language country—there is French, there is Dutch/Flemish, German—and probably also I needed a language that was conducive to musical sounds. I could emphasize the dynamics and be very free to do what I want to do. Most of my music is written out, but the singing is the only element that is changing or improvised in concerts. While the instrumentation is constant, the voice might change nightly."

Does this language tell a story? "I cannot imagine that the words would not tell a story, but at the same time, if they were spoken there is not such a story-telling thing as we know from pop songs of today. Sometimes people tell me that I'm using the voice as an instrument, but I don't really think so. I use the voice in a very subjective way. The voice is the subject of the piece, it is the only vocal means I have to express myself and I've always used that language wherever I am. All of the information is in that voice. I was very shy to sing for a long time, and it was tentative at first. I was actually singing in the background on “Close Cover,” but that was very subtle. I was self-conscious at first because I'm singing here [pointing to his throat] and not here [pointing to his diaphragm]. I consulted a specialist to see if I could hurt my throat that way, but I was okay. It's a technique used in medieval music. I began using the vocal element more prominently in the album Maximizing the Audience [1984]. When I compose these songs, the piano doesn't come before the voice or vice versa. They're together, always together. I improvise the music and use different techniques to get it out, which is very difficult. But after it's done I write out the piano parts.  Sometimes I add a second piano track, as in the song “Lir” (from Maximizing the Audience).

As in his ensemble works, Wim Mertens' albums of "piano and voice" follow a progression and are essentially parts of a series that began with A Man of No Fortune and With a Name to Come (1986) and evolved to the latest piece in this category, Open Continuum (2011). Other notable piano and voice albums are After Virtue (1988), Strategie De La Rupture (1991), Jeremiades (1995), and Un Respiro (2005).

The third category of Mertens' music could only be called avant-garde experimental music that is epic in nature. This class of the composer's work is the most ambitious and most difficult to grasp. Some critics might call these pieces "self-indulgent," "tiresome," or even "bombastic." In truth, however, they are honest expressions of a minimalist nature taken to extreme lengths. They are magnanimous and complex three and four part "cycles," composed for different settings for solo piano, solo woodwinds or brass, or chamber music ensembles. The music is often written for unusual instrumentations using multi-track recording—twelve piccolos, ten bass trombones, or thirteen clarinets. 

In fact, Wim Mertens' very first recorded album, For Amusement Only (1980), features no musical instruments at all, but rather the sounds made by pinball machines—edited and constructed to form rhythmic, melodic patterns. "It was in 1979-1980, and I had not written anything. At that moment there was no way I could imagine that I would be a commercial recording artist because I had no experience with classical musicians or a studio. Antwerp, in Belgium, imported pinball machines made by Bally. We had a project with some friends there and we listened to these sounds. We would record them and edit them and use the Nagra machine, the only professional tape recorder in radio stations all over the world at the time. I worked for national radio then, and we taped many hours and used titles like “Space Invader” and “Fireball,” which were actual names of pinball games. I think it was an interesting way for me to use sounds that were already there. Bally International gave me two or three machines for a long period, and we performed the pieces in a multimedia program in Belgium, Holland, and France. We used a combination of video and tapes and manipulation of the machines themselves. It was my first important work. The title came from the warning label on the machines—'For Amusement Only.'" 

The 1985 album Instrumental Songs continued the experimental work, using riffs performed entirely on a single wind instrument. Then came the sets of epic, ambitious projects that eventually totaled thirty-seven disks of music—Alle Dinghe (1991), Gave Van Niets (1994), Kere Weerom (1999), and Aren Lezen (2001). (All of these works are now available in the box set entitled QUA (2009). The enormity of the projects even overwhelm the composer himself. These are daring and confounding works. For example, one entire disk (approximately an hour in duration) of Gave Van Niets is played entirely with multi-tracked bass trombones by virtuoso Eddy Verdonck. To say that the music is slightly inaccessible is an understatement; yet, there is a power and energy in the compositions that is undoubtedly startling.  (I personally find these works to be great background music for writing!)

"I think I went very far in terms of defining the musical language and musical syntaxes," he muses. "It was a very ambitious project and I've always said that I was not really interested in the music as such; it is something else that I cannot define. I'm not dealing with the musical language, it is more like I'm trying to touch my personal intelligence beyond the music. The music is very irrational, it's a different approach." 

The four epic cycles in QUA are most certainly meant for the adventurous, seasoned listener.

A fourth category might be in order for Wim Mertens. In 1997, he released an album of solo classical guitar called Sin Embargo. It is such a peaceful, tranquil album that it would probably be best enjoyed with one of Belgium's famous gourmet dinners and a few bottles of fine wine. "That album came out in 1997 but was recorded in 1991. It stayed somewhere else for several years. I rely more and more on the guitar in arrangements with the ensemble music now."              

Embracing all of these "categories" is Wim Mertens' work for film and theatre. "I've done several films, but most of these were never really seen outside of Belgium. I worked with Peter Greenaway in 1986 on The Belly of an Architect. Only half of the music was composed for the film. The other half was picked from existing pieces that had appeared on my albums released up to that point. The music was different from what he did in other movies. [Greenaway usually employs Michael Nyman to score his films.] The music was less conceptual, but the film is, too."  Along with the film work, Mertens composed the music for the 1984 performance of Jan Fabre's Power of the Theatrical Madness at the Venice Biennial, and other works for the stage. A compilation of many of Mertens’ work for film was collected in the 3-disk set, Music and Film (2009).

So why hasn't such a prolific, dynamic composer been discovered in America? Mertens shakes his head. "Most of my audiences have been specifically in Italy. Spain is very good, and so is Greece and Portugal. Why me, being such a Nordic type, why am I so successful in these Mediterranean countries, I don't know! I'm fairly well known in Germany, Holland, and of course, in Belgium. I have fans in England. As for America... not enough exposure perhaps? I don't know. I always hope one day it will happen. Is my music too European? I don't think so."

The lack of success in America doesn't seem to bother Mertens too much, seeing that releasing nearly sixty albums in thirty-five years is a formidable achievement in and of itself. When asked what other activities occupy his time besides music, Mertens shrugs and answers, "Literature has always interested me more than music anyway."

***

Readers interested in sampling some of Wim Mertens' music might do well with the 2008 3-disk compilation, Platinum Collection, an anthology which indeed contains some of the more memorable moments from the composer's ensemble and piano/voice works. Do check out the official website for more information. 
And here are some more YouTube cuts:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Film History Student Paper... "The Coen Brothers" by Blaine Cummings

After the conclusion of each semester of my Film History class at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, I publish one to three final papers written by students. The assignment is to discuss the work of an auteur filmmaker, with emphasis on highlighting the style and thematic aspects of the director's pictures that identify him/her as an auteur.

For the Spring 2015 paper, I am happy to publish the paper by Blaine Cummings on The Coen Brothers.

* * *

Writer’s Block

By Blaine Cummings

            I’ve always admired the romance of film, the way I could escape and be convinced I was a true part of the adventure. Filmmakers will go to incredible feats to make sure the viewer gets lost in the stories they are telling, but the greats are the ones that succeed and change film history forever. Joel and Ethan Coen have worked vigorously to get where they are, and for at least my sake, I hope they don’t stop anytime soon.
           These two brothers were born in the cold state of Minnesota—Joel Coen came into the world on November 19th, 1954, three years before Ethan on September 21st. They grew up spending most of their time inside, away from the frigid winters, watching a lot of films and tv, often having an odd outlook on the world and showing it through their films later in life. At a young age, Joel started up a lawn business, earning and saving up money to buy his very first camera, a Super-8. I’ve never used or even held a Super-8 camera, but learning that some of my favorite directors like Burton, Abrams, Spielberg, and others started off with the 8mm camera in hand, I plan on getting my own some day. With his new equipment, Joel went on to make many amateur movies with friends, and eventually went away to New York University to perfect his talents. Ethan traveled a different path, heading off to Princeton University to study philosophy. His teachings would shape the intricate and deep plots seen in their future scripts.
           Joel found work in minor, at the time, horror movies. Using his editing skills, he earned a spot as Assistant-Editor on The Evil Dead, meeting a soon to be close friend Sam Raimi.  Together they began writing the script for The Hudsucker Proxy in 1981, and eventually all three moved into a house. Their interests and influences, such as Frank Capra and Preston Sturges comedies, were very similar, allowing them to get along well.
           The Coens’ first solo film, Blood Simple, in 1984, thrust them into the spotlight. Being their first, they were able to explore all kinds of creative liberties without an existing expectation from an audience. You may notice a lot of camera techniques in the film that resemble those of  The Evil Dead. They learned to appreciate what the camera can really do besides capture film, using it as somewhat of a character itself. Seeing their success based on their innovative style, their production company gave them total control over their future films.
           Raising Arizona and Barton Fink were among the next big films to come to the big screen. The world was picking up on the versatility and hypnotizing ways the Coens did their magic, and the world loved it.  Barton Fink was a unique take on a brilliant author with writer’s block. The idea came to them in the middle of writing the script for Miller’s Crossing, one of the only times they said needed a break in the middle of writing. So they paused, taking only a few weeks to write Barton Fink in the meantime.
           Many of the actors and others working with the duo say they have a connected mind, often turning to one another to express a change or idea with the other already knowing what to do. These collaborations are incredibly hard to come by, as many filmmakers through history have found working with someone else isn’t as easy as they make it seem. Ethan, being an extraordinarily fast typist, normally writes while Joel works alongside him. Both of their separate strengths work in sync to create brilliant dialogue.
           Ethan, being the philosopher he is, often focuses on linguistics. He comes up with the rich speeches their characters often dive into throughout the films, as well as the underlying themes of morals and development. In an interview with Jeff Bridges, he talks about how every single word, pause, tone, and insinuation are highly important. For example, for his character of the Dude in The Big Lebowski, the “um’s,” “ahhh’s,” “ man’s,” and hilarious choices of swearing, come together to create a conversational dialogue. Things like this have intrigued me for years—the way they work their words is so difficult, and yet if they have done the job right, the audience will be enveloped in the character and never even think that there was a script to begin with.
           The idea of the Coen Brothers being auteurs was seen very early on in their careers. They seamlessly weave their odd style and life experiences into their stories, creating something we’ve never seen before. They often cover unsolvable moral topics like greed, murder, violence, deeper thought, and hope. Fargo brought out everything they are, combining where they grew up, dark comedy, and a dialogue that kept us hooked. It heavily deals with morals and how people perceive evil. Growing up I watched all kinds of horror flicks filled with senseless killing, gore, and monsters, but through all that this was one of the first time I thought about consequences in a real way in a story. Marge, Frances McDormand’s character, was a refreshing take on positivity. Throughout the film she has an optimistic view on a hopeless world; you can see even in the end that nothing can break her resilient outlook, even though evil is sitting in her backseat. It left me thinking, not just about right and wrong, but all that lies in-between because it’s just not that simple.
           O Brother, Where Art Thou? had us challenging the same ideals, this time bringing in a heavy religious theme without it being overbearing. The characters’ actions often outweigh the notion of how religious forgiveness is real and how it applies to consequences with the law. A lot of what is seen in the movie pertains to thousands; it’s a controversial topic that’s been around as long as time itself—religion and government, how the people go about their beliefs and how they perceive their own fate. The film does a wonderful job of using realistic characters and events to represent biblical occurrences, but it also allows an open window for the viewer to interpret the story in their own way.  To most it’s known that it is loosely based off Homer’s Odyssey.  I was surprised to find that the correlation between the two wasn’t brought on until after they started writing, later finding the connections and blending them.
           There are many little quirks that the Coens have that draw us in. One of them is their use of recurring traits and actors. There’s a story I heard of their childhood from the Coen Brothers Documentary on BBC: they once had a dog, as it grew older it started to lose function in its back legs, only being able to drag itself around. There wasn’t much they could do except make the hard decision to put the dog down. Getting to the vet they could see the sorrow in the dogs eyes, he knew what was going to happen. With that thought a small miracle happened, the dog jumped up and took off running! As if it was a puppy again, it took off into the street…and was killed by a passing car. Sad as that story may be, true or not, this really represents the heart of their dark comedy. Just when your hero finds hope, an obstacle is ever present to stand in the way. You see many dogs throughout their films, as well as Steve Buscemi and John Goodman, both having six collaborated films in total.
           Although in the credits, Joel is often seen as the director and Ethan the producer of their projects, but many that work closely with them say that it’s not entirely true. They work together like the left and right brain, contributing an equal amount and most times seeing the exact same vision in mind. They have a clear path of the direction they want to go, but still leave creative liberties to the actors. Even though their style and wit are always apparent, the broad range of different stories they come up with is always impressive. Much like The Hudsucker Proxy, which was written in the early 80s and made later in 1994, the ferocity in their ability to crank out so many scripts often leads them to be shelved for the future.
           I’ve admired their determination to stay within what they know works. Over their careers they learned from failure and excelled to replace it with something beautiful. An example is the level of production—even though stories call for elaborate sets and a big look at the world, the brothers have a talent of keeping them personable. To me, this makes me feel like I’m right there with the character, like it could really happen to me. The latest feature I clung to was Inside Llewyn Davis, about a musician who just can’t catch a break. Sometimes a happy ending just isn’t needed, because that’s the way life is. The embodiment of the story takes everyone’s thoughts on “why can’t anything in my life go right?” and creates a unique musical from it. Going back to using the camera to tell the story, they take away the bright colors we normally see, leaving us in a sort of cloudy day purgatory. They have a knack for setting mood and initial feelings that later dialogue will strengthen.
           Joel and Ethan Coen are two of today’s greatest filmmakers. They keep their anticipated style fresh with every project they complete. From their history and determination they will continue to bring us into their clever worlds, challenging us to think long after the film is over. To me that is what great story telling is, not only working together but working the audience to participate as well.


Bibliography


"Coen Brothers | Biography - American Filmmakers." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 01 May 2015.

The Coen Brothers Documentary. Dir. Sarah Aspinall. Perf. George Clooney, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 May 2015.

"Coenesque." Joel & Ethan Coen Biography. Brent M. Johnson, n.d. Web. 01 May 2015.

"Joel Coen Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 01 May 2015.


Mottram, James. "THE COEN BROTHERS The Life of the Mind By James Mottram." The Coen Brothers; the Life of the Mind. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2015.

Review of Criterion's Blu-ray of "The Rose" (1979)

My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Mark Rydell's 1979 film, "The Rose," starring Bette Midler, is up at Cinema Retro.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review of Kino Lorber's Blu-ray of "Hester Street" (1975)

My review of Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray release of Joan Micklin Silver's "Hester Street" (1975) is up at Cinema Retro.  Scroll down until you find it; alternatively, click on my name under "Categories" in the right hand column.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Review of Twilight Time's Blu-ray release of Woody Allen's "Love and Death"

My review of Twilight Time's new Blu-ray release of Woody Allen's "Love and Death" is up at Cinema Retro.  Scroll down until you find it; otherwise, click on "Raymond Benson" under "Categories" in the right hand column.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review of Criterion's Blu-ray of "Ride the Pink Horse"

My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Robert Montgomery's "Ride the Pink Horse" is up at Cinema Retro.  Scroll down the page until you find it; otherwise click on "Criterion Corner" under "Categories" in the right hand column.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Review of Criterion's Blu-ray of Truffaut's "The Soft Skin"

My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Francois Truffaut's "The Soft Skin" is up at Cinema Retro. Scroll down the page until you find it; otherwise click on "Criterion Corner" under "Categories" in the right hand column.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Review of Criterion's Blu-ray of "Fellini Satyricon"

My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Federico Fellini's "Fellini Satyricon" is up at Cinema Retro.  Scroll down until you find it, or click "Criterion Corner" under "Categories" in the right hand column.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review of Criterion's Blu-ray of "Don't Look Now"

My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Nicolas Roeg's "Don't Look Now" (and a mini-review of Jean Renoir's "A Day in the Country") is up at Cinema Retro. Scroll down until you find it; otherwise look under "Categories" in the right column and click "Criterion Corner."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review of New Blu-Ray Release of Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye"

My review of Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray release of Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye" is up at Cinema Retro. Scroll down until you find it; alternatively, you can click on my name under "Categories" in the right-hand column.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review of Blu-ray Release of "The Purple Rose of Cairo"

My review of Twilight Time's new Blu-ray release of Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo" is up at Cinema Retro.  Scroll down until you find it; alternatively, click on my name in the list under "Categories" in the column on the right.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review of Criterion's Blu-ray release of "The Palm Beach Story"

My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Preston Sturges' "THE PALM BEACH STORY" can be found at Cinema Retro. Scroll down until you find it, or alternatively click on "Criterion Corner," under "Categories" in the right hand column.