Wednesday, March 22, 2006

DVD: The Best of Youth (2003, U.S. 2005)

With all due respect to Roger Ebert, this year’s Best Picture winner Crash can’t owe a debt to Charles Dickens because it’s only 113 minutes long. To be truly Dickensian, you need a little room. Say six hours’ worth.

You don’t watch The Best of Youth so much as steep in it. Originally a TV miniseries, it follows two brothers through forty years of modern Italian history. Youth has an epic scope but a surprisingly intimate feel; it knows that no matter how tumultuous the times, the key moments in life are usually quiet ones. Chance meetings, conversations that may not initially seem important.

The best illustration of this is Youth’s first hour, which focuses on a trip the brothers take during a break in their studies. Nothing momentous happens, but the experience dictates how both men will live out their days.

Youth played theatrically last year. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott named it the best film of 2005. I can’t imagine the impact of seeing all six hours in one sitting. Spreading it out over a few nights doesn’t hurt it at all.

DVD: That’s My Queue

I watched Youth because Netflix allows subscribers to keep DVDs indefinitely. Late fees can make committing to a six-hour film a problem.

Today’s Los Angeles Times features an article on how the company is altering the movie landscape. A similar piece ran in Variety last month.

As fascinating as the statistics are – like Netflix’s 70/30 ratio of library titles to new releases – it’s the movies cited that made me take notice. Like Intermission, a terrific Irish film that I point to whenever someone badmouths Colin Farrell. Fifty percent of the Americans who watched Oldboy on video saw it via Netflix. For the documentary Capturing The Friedmans, the figure jumps to seventy percent.

These movies have two things in common: I love them, and saw them in theaters. Much as I hate the idea that the moviegoing experience is shifting to the home, I’m thrilled that these films are being seen, especially in smaller markets where they wouldn’t be released. For all the talk of how technology will change audience habits – digital projection, downloads, on demand, the whole schmear – something as doggedly low-tech as sending movies through the mail may be what reinvents the business.

Movies: Overlooked

Speaking of Roger Ebert, last year I emailed him to suggest that he screen Iceman in his Overlooked Film Festival. He was kind enough to respond, saying that he’s been meaning to program a Fred Schepisi film for some time.

Fred didn’t make this year’s line-up. But the centerpiece of the festival will be David Mamet’s Spartan, and regular readers know what a rabid fan I am of that movie. It’s good to have company.

Miscellaneous: Wha?

From Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times TV review:

‘The Evidence,’ a series on ABC about two homicide detectives, is set in San Francisco, but has no Asian or gay lead characters; these minority groups are not even visible in crowd shots ... it’s like filming a show in Bruges and making no mention of lace.

Not the example I would have picked.