Noel Megahey's Top 5 DVDs of 2001

I’ve saved my top five list for the last minute, so unfortunately my list will look familiar to those already posted by my colleagues on DVD Times, but that just confirms that there were a few particular outstanding releases in 2001 that shouldn’t be missed.

Hate to be predictable, since the French 2 disc set of In The Mood For Love from TF1 is in most people’s Top 5 list, but it simply is the best DVD release of the year. There have been many superb 2 DVD sets this year, but I don’t think there is another movie so worthy of the Special Edition treatment. A rough diamond consisting of hours and hours of footage and unused scenes cut down to its present perfect form, the film is a masterpiece that will stand the test of time and be on Top Ten lists for years to come. The shards of deleted scenes left over on the French disk are fascinating and the forthcoming Criterion will have more tantalising glimpses of what the film could have been (and thankfully isn’t). Cinema and DVD doesn’t come much better than this.

Shaolin Soccer is another example of the kind of treasures you can find if you look beyond what Hollywood serves up for you. Definitely one of the funniest films of the year. An original concept (martial arts football, why did no-one think of it before?), great entertainment and a pretty decent DVD release for a Hong Kong DVD. The fact that you can buy this on the Internet for less than a tenner within months of its cinema release is another good reason to look beyond the Hollywood blockbuster.

My favourite film in Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy, Blue was another film that received a worthy DVD release from Artificial Eye and MK2. Good extras that genuinely enhanced the viewing experience and left you feeling sorry that the cinema has lost one of its greats. UK Region 2 distributors, Artificial Eye have consistently produced good quality releases of the best of modern French cinema and are finally delving into their back catalogue of Kieslowski, Tarkovsky and Bergman. He’s hoping for more surprises and classics in 2002.

A pleasant surprise this year was the was the Region 1 release of Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters. A film that is never going to sell in bucket-loads, it was therefore surprising that Warner Bros released this as a budget title in the US with a nice set of extras including a director commentary. The disk wasn’t perfect, but it was better than I could have hoped for a personal favourite film of all time.

My final choice for my 5 favourite releases of the year goes to Chinese Director, Zhang Yimou’s The Road Home. Yimou will be a big name in 2002 with the release of his epic, Hero with a cast that includes In The Mood For Love stars Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star, Zhang Ziyi. Ziyi is also the star of this beautiful film, so gorgeous and simple that it doesn’t need the subtitles to tell the story. The story is heart-rendingly romantic and a fine example of the director’s talents. The UK Region 2 release of this film was light on extras, but boasted a superb 2:35:1 anamorphic picture and 5.1 sound. It is very accessible and worth seeing.

This year certainly saw Region 2 disks take off and offer a greater range and variety than had been previously available. Small independent companies like Artificial Eye, Momentum, Second Sight and Tartan are to be commended in their efforts to bring the great, the old and the obscure to DVD. Some of the releases have left a little to be desired (Tartan could certainly review their policy of using cinema prints for DVD releases), but many rival and even better the US Criterion, Kino and Winstar/Fox Lorber World Cinema releases. There’s never been a better time to explore World Cinema and discover some little known gems.

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