Best academic commentaries?

Old 05-02-03, 07:41 PM
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Best academic commentaries?

I am looking for DVDs that have excellent academic commentaries by scholars, historians, and filmmakers. I am not interested in production anecdotes or amiable banter, just intelligent, enlightening detailed discussions of films and filmmaking (the more akin to a film school lecture, the better). I don't mind dry, monotone readings as long as the content is interesting. I am looking for the kind of commentary that makes you want to read everything you can find on the film.

I assume Criterion has a few standout commentaries, but which ones? How about other studios? Please name some of the best (according to the criteria above). Don't worry about whether or not I would like the film itself. Even a bad film with an outstanding commentary is worth a NetFlix rental.

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Old 05-02-03, 07:48 PM
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Some along the lines you describe that I enjoy:

Citizen Kane
Dark City
Three Colors Trilogy
Titus (not academic, but insightful)
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Old 05-02-03, 08:35 PM
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audrey I agree, I think the Three Colours Trilogy has fine academic commentaries.

However, I am not sure how to define "academic."
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Old 05-03-03, 07:52 AM
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Ebert's Dark City commentary is good
Film historian Bruce Eder's The Lady Vanishes is insightful but dry
While I disagree with a lot of her points, feminist critic Camille Paglia's commentary on Basic Instinct might qualify.
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Old 05-03-03, 08:11 AM
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I remember the commentary on the 39 Steps by Marian Keane (sp?) was a little dry, but very informative.
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Old 05-03-03, 08:42 AM
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Check out the Image 2-disc release of Fritz Lang's Dr.Mabuse - The Gambler which has nearly four hours of excellent commentary by Lang scholar David Kalat, which not only covers the actual film-making process, but places the film in its historical and social context.
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Old 05-03-03, 01:27 PM
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the commentary on kurosawa's seven samurai is pretty excellent. i only listened to part of the one for red beard, but it sounded like it was very good too..
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Old 05-03-03, 01:58 PM
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Anthony Minghella's commentary for The Talented Mr. Ripley is very informative. It's not witty anecdotes, it's an intelligent discussion on filmmaking. You should check it out.

Oh, and I'll second Citizen Kane. Lots of great information on those commentary tracks.
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Old 05-03-03, 02:10 PM
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Gotta repeat the mentions of Citizen Kane and especially Dark City...
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Old 05-03-03, 03:19 PM
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Thanks for the recommendations. I have Citizen Kane and the Kieslowski and Hitchcock films, but haven't gotten around to the commentaries yet.

I loved Dark City when I saw it, but that was years ago. I might rent it again for the commentary, or possibly buy it as part of my next Columbia House order.

I vaguely remember enjoying The Talented Mr. Ripley as well, though not enough to buy it. But I just added it to my NetFlix queue for the commentary.

Are there any Billy Wilder or Howard Hawks films with good commentaries? I was not impressed with the one on His Girl Friday.
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Old 05-03-03, 03:25 PM
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I liked the commentary on The Passion of Joan of Arc quite a bit. Of course, it didn't hurt that it's my all-time favorite movie
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Old 05-03-03, 03:36 PM
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You probably know Criterion has some good commentaries on their releases. Some that I especially recommend:

Ian Christie's commentaries in The Red Shoes and I Know Where I'm Going, and Brian Stonehill's in Children of Paradise

Absolutely marvellous listening to those.

Last edited by Autotelik; 05-03-03 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 05-03-03, 06:14 PM
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The Last Temptation of Christ--Scorsese and Schrader are awesome!
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Old 05-03-03, 10:52 PM
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The Red Beard and Ran: Masterworks commentaries were excellent (same person)
The Seventh Seal, Grand Illusion and Wild Strawberries have good ones from Peter Cowie. He's also on Tokyo Olympiad. I havent heard it yet.
The Criterion Beauty and the Beast has 2 good ones. I've only listened to one all the way through, but they both seem good.
Terry Gilliam usually does a good job with commentaries.
The Whity commentary was good, but not all that academic. It mainly talks about the cast crew/working with Fassbinder.
Sunrise had a pretty technical commentary (by a cinematographer)
I like Keane's commentaries too. I think I've heard three of hers: Lady Eve, Spellbound, and Notorious.
I'll second Kane, Dark City, 3 Colors, Chrildren of Paradise
I hope that advice helps. I just realized that most are Criterion, but if you're getting them from netflix it shouldn't be too expensive.
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Old 05-04-03, 12:15 AM
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Brief Encounter has a fabulous "academic" commentary - it's not dull at all, though, if that's what you're after.

-- Jough
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Old 05-04-03, 03:52 PM
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Asphodel, thanks for the extensive list. I've updated my NetFlix queue accordingly.

Still accepting recommendations...
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Old 05-04-03, 05:22 PM
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What is good about Ebert is that it seems like he enjoying him self telling us about the facts about the movie, so he doesn't have the dull "why am i hear talking about some movie' The other guy on the kane dvd is very dull.
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Old 05-04-03, 10:12 PM
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Triumph of the Will have an Academician doing the comentary.
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Old 05-05-03, 02:15 AM
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I second Ebert's commentary. The best I've ever heard. Also I recommend Spartacus. Richard A. Harris alone is awesome in the track.
Not really into your preferences, but I also enjoyed Contact commentary, the one talks about the visual effect thingie.
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Old 05-05-03, 06:26 AM
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Well, a lot of people are posting suggestions for commentaries that couldn't really be considered academic, so I'll toss out a couple that definitely could:

Laura Mulvey on Criterion's PEEPING TOM. People have criticized it for being too dry and academic, so this may be exactly what you're looking for.

Bruce Eder on Criterion's MOST DANGEROUS GAME. More anecdotal than Mulvey's dissertation, but still very much in line with Eder's "film historian" billing. In fact, all of Eder's commentaries are well worth a listen.
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Old 05-05-03, 07:09 AM
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What about Stephen Prince for STRAW DOGS (CRITERION)???

It's one of the best I've heard

Last edited by shanester; 05-05-03 at 07:07 PM.
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Old 05-05-03, 07:41 AM
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While not about filmmaking at all, I really liked author Sebastian Junger's commentary on The Perfect Storm. He gives you a lot more insight to the actual event and the real people involved.
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Old 05-05-03, 10:57 AM
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yesssss..... that'll be..... Peter Crowie for Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion under Criterion.... There's a certain "grandeur" abt his voice that fits the film...

i "third" Ebert for Dark City.....

Last edited by blessthemess; 05-05-03 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 05-05-03, 12:58 PM
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illenium and anyone else who will rent these from netflix,

If you are renting these for the commentaries alone, which is seems as though you are doing, make sure that netflix is going to send you the right one. For example, I don't think they stock the Criterion Straw Dogs, but they do have the Anchor Bay version. Just something to look out for.

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Old 05-05-03, 01:25 PM
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Marion Keane is the best of the "academics" I've heard, mostly because she's not merely a scholar but also a very enthusiastic fan (these are all Hitchcock commentaries for Criterion). My favorite commentary of the bunch (and my favorite Hitchcock film from Criterion) is "NOTORIOUS". Definitely check it out.

Laura Mulvey's commentary for "Peeping Tom" is also extremely informative, so densely packed with information that one nearly needs an outline and syllabus to stay with her! This disc also boasts one of the finest documentaries about a film I've ever seen.

And Michael Jeck's commentary for "Seven Samurai" remains one of the tops.
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