Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Treasures from American Film Archives|
Actor: Laurence Fishburne
Genres: Classics, Drama, Educational, Documentary
For the first time ever, America's film archives are joining forces to release their most exciting, unseen treasures on DVD. The 50 films in this four disc set have been meticulously preserved by eighteen of the nation's p... more »
A form of time travel for lovers of film and history
Culbert Laney | Colorado Springs, CO United States | 11/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The majority of this deluxe boxed set is devoted to early silent films. I do not consider myself a particular fan of silent films, and yet most of these I found to be wonderful. While the four feature films were fine, I especially enjoyed the shorts, which commonly consider everyday life at the turn of the century. These silents have a spirit of joy and excitement, and a genuine sincerity, that I've never seen in film before. With only a few exceptions, these silents are in an excellent state of preservation, often offering an amazingly clear window on the past. The main exception is an early version of "Snow White," the one that inspired the famous Disney version. All copies were once believed lost; however, a below-average quality but still quite watchable print was found only a few years ago. The musical accompaniment, custom produced for these DVDs, adds immeasurably to the experience. These silents are highly recommended to anyone interested in the history of film or history in general. I am unaware of any other source of silent shorts on DVD, certainly not of this quality or extent.Besides the silents, the set also offers several other categories of films, including those produced for the government, commercial and promotional films, home movies, and art shorts. These are generally oldish but not antique, none more recent than 1985. The offerings in the last three categories are generally weak. The art shorts, especially, with their emphasis on the abstract and modern, had little appeal for me. Even though many of them are relatively recent, they have been rarely shown, and with good reason. The big surprise is the quality of the government films, especially "The Battle of San Pietro," directed by John Huston, a true work of art, and one of the finest pieces in the set. Even "We Work Again," with its tiresome script intended to convince blacks of the benefits of government assistance during the depression, features beautiful cinematography, unfortunately uncredited, and ends with four minutes from a famous Orson Welle's adaptation of a Shakespeare play, of which no other footage exists. Each disc is arranged in roughly chronological order, taking viewers on four trips through time, from the 1890's to the modern age. The set includes a 130 page booklet describing each film; these descriptions also appear on the DVDs themselves. The menus on the DVDs are professional, attractive, and easy-to-navigate. The transfers to DVD are excellent, with no digital artifacts that I could see.This set could easily have been dry and academic. Instead, at its best, it's extremely moving, entertaining, and expressive of the past. The commentary could have condemned the past in light of today's viewpoints and ideologies; instead, with unexpectedly rare exceptions, its fair and informative. This set should have broad appeal for those willing to adjust to the limitations of early film technology. Overall, I cannot recommend this set highly enough."
DVDs of the century!
Stephen Fesenmaier | charleston, wv USA | 10/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my opinion, this is the single greatest group of items ever restored and made available to the American public. For years many companies, such as Kino, Milestone, and Zeitgeist, have been restoring and making some of the greatest features and shorts available to new generations of film viewers. This new collection spans the galaxy, covering all kinds of films which have been impossible to see on video - or in any other way. Hollywood has always been mined for its masterpieces, especially since cable tv exploded. Now, traveling the entire vast country, gems from little known collections such as the Minnesota Historical Society and West Virginia's Archives and History collection will be made available to millions of people who never knew they existed. As a film exhibitor, librarian, restorer, critic, etc. for almost 30 years, I would give this collection SIX STARS as the single greatest gift ever from America's film archives to its citizens."
Essential viewing (and reading) for film lovers
Culbert Laney | 10/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had high hopes for this set, and it actually surpassed my expectations. I worked in a film archive for 10 years and have seen a lot of movies, but quite a few of the items in this set were new to me; others were old favorites that have never been widely available before now, like Joseph Cornell's beautiful and goofy Rose Hobart. Sometimes the attempt to represent the enormous range of material preserved in American archives starts to feel a little strained, but the remarkable freshness of so many of these films--especially the more ephemeral shorts--overcomes any sense of historical tokenism. The accompanying book is far superior to the average DVD liner notes, providing scholarly and informative program notes by Scott Simmon along with background information on the preservation of each film & explanations of the musical accompaniment for the silent titles. Overall I found this set not only praiseworthy but highly entertaining--only the "about the archives" essays narrated by Laurence Fishburne are tinged with institutional dullness. Buy the set now--if it goes out of print (and I fear this is just the kind of "specialty" item that won't stay in print very long), you'll regret not owning it."
"Treasures" set is NOT region encoded
Scott Simmon | San Francisco, CA USA | 10/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just to correct the misimpression in Christoph Berner's review below: The "Treasures from American Film Archives" DVD set is NOT region encoded. That was just an Amazon error. It can be played in all "regions." (I'm the curator of the set, so pardon the "5 stars," which I'd award to the 18 collaborating archives.)"