Blu-ray Slight Return: Migratory Edition
Maurice Pialat is known for making films that dwell in a kind of kitchen sink reality. Pialat uses this style to examine the last two months in the life of Vincent Van Gogh. At once mired in Van Gogh’s failing health and yet surrounded by the lush countryside of Auvers-sur-Oise, Pialat’s film makes a complicated story of unrequited love and failed artistry easy to understand.
The Films of Maurice Pialat, Volume 3: Van Gogh (Cohen Film Collection, 7/12) contains two discs, one with the film itself and another chock full of interviews, as well as nearly an hour of deleted scenes. Van Gogh loves his paintings and not the daughter of his doctor with whom he’s having an affair. He paints a portrait of a village idiot on commission and when the subject can’t pay, Van Gogh gives him the painting. There’s no mention of him cutting his ear and his self-inflicted gunshot wound is downplayed until it can’t be ignored.
Jacques Dutronc plays Van Gogh with a taciturn moodiness. Dutronc won a Cesar award for his performance in this 1991 film but more importantly was known as a pop songwriter. One of his songs for Françoise Hardy, “Le Temps de l’Amour,” was given new life in the recent film Moonrise Kingdom.
Shout! Factory has a series of spectacular IMAX films that have been transferred to 4K UHD as well as Blu-ray. Flight of the Butterflies and Rocky Mountain Express both streeted July 12. Both offer stunning images obtained from lensing the respective projects in the large screen 70mm (15 perf) format that results in a larger negative.
The Canadian Pacific Railway, the longest transcontinental track, has been under continuous construction for over a century. Many switchbacks and bridges built in the 19th century were improved by blasting straight-through tunnels in the mountains during the 20th century. Rocky Mountain Express puts you right on the nose of a train going through said tunnel and you’re amazed at how close the walls are to the speeding locomotive. Close-ups of the machinery chugging are tremendous in detail and vistas of the snow-capped mountains are staggering in their beauty. Two extras in the form of short films from the 1950s offer differing views of the art of transportation in Canada.
Flight of the Butterflies tells such an epic story it could easily be expanded to feature length. Essentially, a couple, both scientists, spend decades tracking the migratory pattern of monarch butterflies. Shot in IMAX 3D, the effects are excellent. Fluttering wings in your field of vision produce excellent three-dimensional imagery.
Doctors Fred and Norah Urquhart (portrayed at different ages by actors) traced the monarchs’ trail from Mexico to Canada and back. One computer enhanced shot gives you the butterfly’s point-of-view from a couple of thousand feet in the air. Some of the footage was obtained with cameras attached to balloons and specially designed cranes.
It takes the monarch successive generations to travel coast to coast but by the third generation, a super species is born that can make the trip in one flight. The Urquharts themselves spent over a generation following the various trails, even developing a system to label individual monarchs with a tag. Variety compared this film to March of the Penguins, so exact is the marriage of “entertainment and education.”
An absolutely alluring conclusion has a pair of amateur naturalists, recruited by the Urquharts, who find a mountain in Mexico that is the home of literally millions of monarch butterflies. Imagine Dr. Urquhart’s surprise when he finds one of his tagged insects among the population. Again, the amazing use of 3D makes this scene come alive. You almost feel like the monarchs are flying around your living room. Plant some milkweed in your backyard and the monarchs will come and visit.