Noel Megahey’s Top 5 DVDs of 2004

With the bar being raised in terms of DVD presentation and the sheer number of high-quality films competing for attention on a weekly basis, it gets more difficult every year to pick out just five releases that stand-out above the rest. On account of the huge volume of releases there are some titles that slip though the DVD Times reviewing net, which is unfortunate because they were some genuinely great DVD packages that are in danger of being overlooked this year. One or two of these omissions will be covered while looking over my personal Top 5 DVDs of 2004.

The Singing Detective, (BBC, Region 2)

Not so much a ‘whodunit’ as a ‘whatdidtheydo’, Dennis Potter’s landmark 1986 television series The Singing Detective constructs a complex web based around Michael Gambon’s Philip Marlow, a writer of pulp crime fiction, hospitalised with severe psoriasis, whose fevered brain tries to piece together traumatic events from his childhood, which become entangled with characters from his current circumstances and his fiction-writing. Potter’s best work still displays an intelligence and a willingness to innovate that is rarely seen in TV drama nowadays. Packaged as a 3-DVD set by the BBC with a superb commentary and numerous documentaries, this heralds a long-awaited series of releases that will surely lead to a welcome rediscovery of one best British dramatists ever to have worked in television.

One From The Heart, (Fantoma, Region 1)

It’s doubtful that Coppola’s great folly will ever be considered amongst his best works, but the fine Region 1 DVD release and reconstruction of One From The Heart has led to it being re-evaluated at long last. Even if in its slightly re-worked state it still doesn’t measure up to Apocalypse Now or The Godfather, the new DVD release – handsomely packaged with an extensive series of making of’s, documentaries and deleted scenes – at least provided me with more pure enjoyment than almost any other release this year. A gloriously colourful film, stunningly photographed by Vittorio Storaro, a superb score by Tom Waits and the presence of the lovely Terri Garr (hey, I've made worse declarations this year) render the rather thin and asinine plot completely irrelevant. The film bust Coppola’s Zoetrope Studio and his dreams of pioneering a new way of making films, but what a glorious failure!

Luis Buñuel Box Set, (Warner Bros, Region 2)

It’s not a perfect release, with absolutely no extra features, but Warner’s first Luis Buñuel Box Set is nevertheless one of the more welcome and necessary releases during the year for a major director whose work has thus far been surprisingly poorly represented on DVD. The set contains three deliciously subversive films, Belle de Jour, Diary of a Chambermaid and The Milky Way - each of them sinking the boot into the hypocrisy of bourgeois morality, class attitudes and organised religion. The lack of supporting features is disappointing, but the transfers themselves look far better than you could reasonably have expected. We can all look forward to a second Warner 3-DVD Buñuel set early next year containing That Obscure Object Of Desire, Phantom Of Liberty and The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie.

Read the full DVD Times review here.

Ozu - The Noriko Trilogy, (Tartan, Region 2)

While you could never consider the films Late Spring and Early Summer in any way lesser to Ozu’s masterwork – they are certainly masterpieces in their own right – the combination of all three films of The Noriko Trilogy in Volume 1 of Tartan’s Ozu Collection raises Tokyo Story to a new level entirely, informing and deepening the brilliance of the director’s most celebrated film in a way that any number of extras on the Criterion edition of the film could never do. Together the three films chart a young woman’s attempts to grow and adapt to family expectations and changing attitudes towards marriage and families in post-war Japanese society. At the same time, the pure simplicity of the scenarios keeps the films relevant, acting as a mirror to our own lives and relationships. Tartan’s transfer of the films to DVD is patchy with some technical faults and there is little in the way of extra features, but nothing can take away from the sheer brilliance of the director’s vision and the depth of his talent is never so evident as in this trilogy of films.

Read the full DVD Times review here.

2046 (Mei Ah, Region 3)

Just squeezing in at the last moment, the Mei Ah Limited Edition of 2046 certainly isn't the best quality disc of the year, but my most enjoyable theatrical experience of the year translates reasonably well onto the Hong Kong disc. An absolute dream of a film, it achieves the almost impossible – producing a film every bit as good as In The Mood For Love and getting an amazing performance out of Zhang Ziyi. It's repetitive, precious and wrapped up in itself, but it's everything cinema is about - recreating a mood or an emotion through a blending of images, words and music and no-one does that better than Wong Kar-Wai. This is a film to get completely lost in. It's also a film to see in a movie theatre if possible (it's released in the UK in January), but if you just can't wait, this Hong Kong set isn't at all bad. I've a feeling that we'll see better DVD editions than this and if so, one of them is already practically guaranteed a place on my list next year.

Full DVD Times review here.

Previous Top 5 DVD listings - 2001, 2002, 2003

Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:46:45

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