Saturday, March 18, 2006

Nitpicking About Welles on DVD

OK, so here's a good article (via A&LD) in the Chronicle of Higher Education by a film studies professor named David Sterritt, who has actually done some DVD commentaries himself. I love obscure stuff about the history of the cinema, so I appreciate the gist of his article. However, I must take issue with one point of his. Excerpt:

Quick, name Orson Welles's first movie. Citizen Kane, right? Guess again. It's The Hearts of Age, which the 19-year-old prodigy co-directed with a friend in 1934.

This eight-minute trifle isn't much of a movie. Still, its story-free parody of modernist mannerisms gives a tantalizing glimpse of the visual preoccupations — startling images, fluid cinematography, eye-jolting montage — that would become Welles's trademarks.

Want to check it out? Until recently, that meant tracking down one of the movie's few existing prints — or getting hold of the ultra-low-quality videocassette that presented Welles's film (with other works of "experimental" cinema) in a murky, muddy transfer that made it difficult to see, much less analyze and appreciate.

But that was then. Now the elusive avant-garde item is viewable and re-viewable with a flick of your DVD remote. So are an imposing number of similarly adventurous films produced outside the money-driven frameworks of major movie studios.

Prof. Sterritt is referring to the DVD Unseen Cinema - Early American Avant Garde Film 1894-1941 (released October, 2005) which contains the early Welles short, among many others. I just added that and the other DVD collections he cites to my Netflix queue (except for the Su Friedrich title).

However, I must point out that this is not the first time that Hearts of Age has appeared on DVD. It appeared in the collection Citizen Welles, which primarily featured The Stranger and The Trial, and was released in December, 2001. I'm just sayin'...


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