Sean Parker (Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits, Funny Games, Come and See)
Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits
During this last sale I knew right what I was heading for like it was the turkeys in Supermarket Sweep—I needed the Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits box set. I think I had a version with most of the films on DVD years ago, but those films never looked like these. Back then the film The Big Boss was titled The Chinese Connection and The Way of the Dragon was known as Return of the Dragon even though it was made prior to Enter the Dragon and isn’t related.
Sound confusing? Well, that’s because it is. What was done to these films were purely exploitative for western audiences and for many years most were incomplete from their original versions. Besides the titles, some original music had been changed and alternate scenes were used as well—in essence I had seen these films before, but I never saw them the way the directors intended.
This is the reason I love Criterion: they celebrate films by keeping their artistic integrity intact while enhancing it through restorations, providing alternate cuts as a bonus, and deep diving on the special features. This box set features all of that, including both versions of Enter the Dragon and two additional discs of supplemental features, including bonus film Game of Death II, featuring footage shot and unused for Game of Death, before Lee’s tragic passing. I grew up watching Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon so this was a must own as a Bruce Lee fan.
After having seen Michael Haneke’s Caché earlier this year, I decided to check out Funny Games. I have to say I’m not well versed in Haneke’s films but after watching this just the other night, I’d really like to be. Funny Games is mostly a horror movie. There’s a lot of subtext to take into consideration but the premise is about two young psychopaths taking a vacationing family hostage.
This Austrian film from 1997 utilizes the violence of American films of the time like Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction to tell a similarly unsettling tale, as the intruders utilize a series of little games to provide themselves amusement. Though never saying it to the audience, the ultimate statement the film makes is about our culture and attitude toward violence in film—even having a character break the fourth wall from time to time and taunt the audience. It’s nothing short of brilliant in my mind, especially when you consider that the film never shows any real violence on screen which results in a heavier, tense atmosphere. The disc itself is light for a Criterion release, especially considering there was an American remake in 2008 also directed by Haneke, and though I’d like to have had a comparison featurette or the film itself as a bonus, Funny Games is still worth checking out.
Come and See
Early this year, or late last year, I was reading an article regarding Sam Mendes’ Oscar contending 1917. In the piece the writer mentioned subtle nods to a film I had never heard of. I immediately went searching for Elem Klimov’s Come and See which luckily brought me to Criterion Channel. At the time, the cut featured on the channel was grainy and worn, a pre-restoration cut prior to the disc’s release, but I didn’t care. I was enticed by the comparison and the passionate words in the article, especially in regards to Klimov giving up filmmaking after making Come and See because he felt it was his masterpiece and he had nothing left to say—a real mic drop moment. I threw on the film and was blown away.
Come and See chronicles a young boy’s excitement to join the army and his journey into the horrors of World War II. The boy, starting out looking young and exuberant, essentially ages before your eyes, ending with him no longer excited but as tired and frail as an old man. It’s a real cruel and powerful antiwar movie about the assumptions children make about the world and it knocked me flat. On disc, Come and See has been impressively restored and features a lot of extras including three parts of documentary series Flaming Memory by Viktor Dashuk, recounting the haunting firsthand stories of Belarusian genocide survivors.