What goes around comes around. Back when the wonderful laserdisc was just beginning to find its stride, and the serious movie buff could actually find most of the titles he or she was longing to see, the DVD came along and all but wiped out this entire format, this entire subculture. Now, at the dawn of 2008, it looks as if the war between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD may be coming to a close. Will one or the other format catch on? Will the regular DVD become extinct? No one can say. But when it comes to movies I'd like to see, none of this matters. 2007 brought us some amazing DVDs and DVD box sets, and the following is my wish list for titles I'd like to see produced in 2008.
(Note: I deliberately left off titles that are already available on import DVDs, such as Satantango, Celine and Julie Go Boating, Man of the West, Johnny Guitar, Lost Highway, Napoleon, The Dead, the Jean Vigo collection, and many more.)
1. Othello: 3-Disc Special Edition
In 1992, Orson Welles' daughter Beatrice authorized a "restored" version of the film that played in theaters. But purists claimed that her film deviated from what her father originally intended, and so the Criterion Collection released a laserdisc edition of Welles' original cut, the one that played at Cannes in 1952. Beatrice apparently blocked this earlier version, and so now only the 1992 cut is on DVD (and out of print besides). My fantasy DVD would be a three-disc box set (from Criterion, of course), collecting both the 1952 and 1992 cuts, as well as Orson's impossible-to-find documentary Filming Othello (1978), which is the last of his completed films I have yet to see. (There are clips of it on the Criterion Othello laserdisc.) On a side note, of Welles' thirteen completed films, seven are available on U.S. DVDs and four others are available overseas. That leaves only Othello and Filming Othello. Let's get on it!
2. Greed: 2-Disc Special Edition
Erich von Stroheim's 1924 film was famously chopped from a reported nine hours down to just over two, and the excised footage is presumed permanently lost. Despite this, the short version is still considered one of the great classics of American cinema. In 1999, historians "restored" it using photographs and other techniques, and released this four-hour version on cable television. What I would like to see is the 140-minute version (which I saw once in the theater) and the four-hour version together in a DVD box set. And a new documentary on Stroheim might be nice, too (although there's a good one on Kino's Foolish Wives DVD).
3. "Maximum Bob: The Complete Series" (1998) and "Karen Sisco: The Complete Series" (2003)
I dearly loved both these TV shows, coincidentally based on Elmore Leonard novels; both were exceptionally smart and both died quick deaths. Beau Bridges starred as the crackpot Florida judge nicknamed 'Maximum Bob' and Carla Gugino took over the role of lady cop Karen Sisco from Jennifer Lopez (who played it in Out of Sight). Forget the 100th box set of "CSI" or "Home Improvement" and get to work on these two cult items.
4. Gangs of New York: The Director's Cut
I've heard whispered, wide-eyed tales of people who knew people who saw Martin Scorsese's original cut of Gangs of New York, and swore that it was his greatest film. Harvey Weinstein has ruined a lot of films with his excessive, obsessive trimming (some you probably don't even know about), but this one has to be his biggest shame. Terry Zwigoff recently got the chance to release his director's cut of Bad Santa on DVD, and Cinema Paradiso and Shaolin Soccer were likewise restored on DVD; let's give Marty the same shot.
5. The Traveler (1974)
Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami is widely considered to be one of the greatest living filmmakers. As far as I can tell, five of his films have been released on U.S. DVDs, as well as handful of miscellaneous items, screenplays he wrote for other directors or segments he contributed to anthology films. Some of his other films can be found via imports or bootlegs. But this, his earliest feature, and in some ways his simplest and most universal, is impossible to find. It tells the story of a little boy who saves and begs and goes to almost impossible lengths to get to a soccer match. The finale is unforgettable.
6. M. Butterfly (1993)
David Cronenberg fans must wake in the night, furious and confused over why their collection must continually be one movie shy of completion. Sure, it's not everyone's favorite, and it doesn't have much in the way of horror, violence or gore, but it's Cronenberg, for Pete's sake! While we're at it, let's have a new version of Crash that contains the lost commentary track Cronenberg recorded for the laserdisc release.
7. Out 1 (1971)
French New Wave veteran Jacques Rivette's 12 hour-and-40 minute masterpiece showed in New York last year. My pal Dave Fear caught it, much to my supreme jealousy, and said it was very much worth the effort. I've always been attracted to Rivette's serene, lengthy, haunted films (Celine and Julie Go Boating, La Belle Noiseuse), and a DVD of this one would be a major coup. Come to think of it, how about a release of the director's cut of Va Savoir (2001), while we're at it?
8. Rossellini/Bergman Box Set
I guess Americans were pretty upset when Ingrid Bergman left her husband and child and went to Italy to marry the famous Roberto Rossellini, but is that any reason to keep these films from DVD? It's been fifty years! The box set would include the essential Voyage in Italy (1954) as well as Europa '51 (1952), Joan of Arc (1954), La Paura (1954), Stromboli (1950) and, as a bonus feature, their short segment from Siamo donne (1953).
9. Bresson Box Set 10. Trust (1991)
The Criterion Collection and New Yorker have released eight of Robert Bresson's fourteen films in the U.S. Maybe a box set from Criterion's new Eclipse wing could fill in the blanks? The titles would include Angels of the Streets (1943), Trial of Joan of Arc (1962, currently available as an import), A Gentle Creature (1969), Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971), The Devil Probably (1977, currently on VHS) and the short film Les Affaires Publiques (1934).
Some DVDs just fall through the cracks. This is a fairly recent, fairly popular American comedy -- directed by Hal Hartley and starring the wonderful, late Adrienne Shelly (Waitress) -- that has just been surprisingly overlooked for no particular reason. When Waitress opened, I tried to make it my DVD of the week on my website, and was surprised when I found there wasn't one!
10. Trust (1991)