My list of the best foreign, independent, and classic releases on disc in 2017 include some titles that aren’t available in NTSC. Maybe it’s time for fans of rare movies to invest in an all-regions Blu-ray player.
1. Tony Erdmann (Sony Pictures Classics)
This Oscar-nominated study of a father-daughter relationship introduced to US audiences Maren Ade, a major female voice from Germany. Humor, compassion, and total lack of facile sentimentality are Ade’s trademarks. Can’t wait for her next movie.
2. I, Daniel Blake (Criterion Collection)
This devastating drama—an indictment of the bureaucracy and inhumanity of the British social system—won director Ken Loach last year’s Palme D’Or. I have seen it three times already.
3. The Aki Kaurismaki Collection (Curzon Artificial Eye)
This collection, which includes sixteen of Kaurismaki’s movies, is available only in Europe through Amazon.co.uk. Few can match the deadpan humor of this Finnish satirist of human nature and modern nihilistic society. Kaurismaki’s most recent film, The Other Side of Hope (included in this collection), just opened theatrically in NY and LA.
4. The Big Sick (Amazon Studios)
A good-hearted comedy, written by and starring Kumail Nanjiani, based on his real-life relationship with his Pakistani family in the US. The movie doesn’t strike a single false note in its depiction of the differences between the two cultures.
5. The Sissi Collection (Film Movement Classics)
Hugely popular in Europe but practically unknown in the US, this emotionally satisfying trilogy about Empress Elizabeth of Austria, starring Romy Schneider, is finally making its debut on Blu-ray the US. Maybe not the best transfer in the world, but worth owning.
6. Ludwig (Arrow Academy)
Luchino Visconti’s 257-minute epic comes in a luminous restored version that includes both the original and the abbreviated TV versions. Great performances by Helmut Berger as King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Romy Schneider as Empress Elizabeth of Austria (reprising her role from the Sissi movies) are combined with Visconti’s sweeping vision to make this release a must for fans of classic European films.
7. Padre Padrone, Kaos, and The Night of the Shooting Stars (Cohen Media Group)
Three of the best films by the celebrated Italian directors the Taviani Brothers made it to Blu-ray in good transfers, but the discs aren’t particularly rich in extras.
8. Suspicion and I Confess (Warner Archive) and The Paradine Case (Kino Lorber)
Three more Alfred Hitchcock films made it to Blu-ray this year. This completes the master’s entire opus in HD.
9. The Boy Friend (Warner Archive)
“Excessive,” “exuberant,” “bombastic,” and “inventive” are adjectives we associate with the work of British director Ken Russell. This Blu-ray transfer of his ’60s musical, with Twiggy in the main role, epitomizes all the director’s qualities and combines them with a visual panache that makes the movie irresistible.
10. Doctor Doolittle (Twilight Time)
Granted, this late-‘60s musical with a delightful Rex Harrison in the title role, is not, by any long stretch of the imagination,, a masterpiece. I saw it as a kid in glowing Todd-AO, and I remember it for its spectacular cinematography. The film’s previous transfer on Blu-ray (a German import) left a lot to be desired, but this new transfer does absolute justice to the Robert L. Surtees’ spectacular 70mm cinematography.
Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.