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The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017
The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Stalker, The Criterion Collection

In the past, Stalker has always been done a disservice on home video, plagued by muddy transfers that have washed out the sepia tinting of its early scenes and muted the hyperreal colors of its phantasmagoric Zone. Criterion’s Blu-ray gives the film the red-carpet treatment that it deserves, meticulously restoring it to revelatory effect. The early, pre-Zone scenes shimmer so brilliantly that each frame almost looks etched in bronze, to the point that even images of fetid, stagnant water look beautiful. In the Zone, verdant fields pop in various shades of green, and close-ups of the three men searching for the Zone’s legendary wish-fulfillment room contain reveal heretofore unseen textures on each man’s face. The disc includes archival and newly recorded interviews with members of the crew, and nearly as interesting is a deeply personal analysis from author Geoff Dwyer, whose intimate discussion befits a film predicated on confronting our innermost desires. Cole

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Criterion Collection

This restoration is so beautiful that it refines one’s estimation of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. The colors that David Lynch often favors—rose red, blue-velvet blue, auburn, and deep black—look as lush here as they do in any other Lynch film. Image texture is extravagantly detailed from the ridiculous woodwork of a redneck sheriff’s office to the sensual and heartbreaking skin tones of Laura Palmer and Ronette Pulaski. And Laura’s eyes have never been so pristine and bottomless. Two soundtracks have been included, and, if you have the speakers, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround is a knockout that suggests an immersive concerto in hell. Criterion’s inclusion of “The Missing Pieces” in the supplements package is good news for those who already own a box set of Twin Peaks and aren’t ready to double dip with Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, where this material originally surfaced in 2014. “The Missing Pieces” amounts to more than 90 minutes of extended and deleted scenes from Fire Walk with Me, as Lynch supervised the editing of this supplement himself, sculpting it into a sketchbook that’s pure Lynch. Bowen

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series, CBS Home Entertainment

The thorniest nostalgia trip in the history of television has been outfitted with a gorgeous and painstaking transfer. The famous Twin Peaks landscapes are lush in impressionist color, especially the browns and greens, with a bit of softness to emphasize a sense of subjectivity. The industrial landscapes are pitilessly sharp and clean, with strong blacks and a subtle medley of silver and auburn hues. The black-and-white sequences boast vibrant shadows, and micro textures—faces, clothing, household objects, and magical talismans—are painstakingly specific. The soundtrack often pushes the Lynchian sounds—electrical hums, mechanic drones, windy whistling—to the background, while Angelo Badalamenti’s melancholic score usually occupies the foreground with its light, airy notes. The big surprise of this sprawling and beautifully designed package, however, is “Impressions: Journey Behind the Scenes of Twin Peaks,” a five-hour exploration of The Return’s filming, following David Lynch as he weathers the ups and downs of directing a massive project. Obviously this intoxicating and occasionally hallucinatory documentary—which has been split into 10 episodes, resembling a series of its own—has been managed by Lynch to cultivate his reputation as an eccentric, unconventionally sexy aesthete, though it’s also a vivid portrait of filmmaking. The physical toils of directing, which requires the making of countless impromptu decisions on a daily basis, have rarely been so exactingly elucidated. Bowen

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Vampyr, The Criterion Collection

As outlined in the Blu-ray’s supplements package, it’s a miracle that Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr exists at all, considering the many different versions and lack of master materials. Regardless, this print is amazing both in sight and sound, benefitting in part from the fact that Vampyr is one of those films that improves with imperfection, as the occasional glaring white or softness of image only intensifies its primordially dreamy power. Blacks are quite strong, and image texture is extraordinary, as illustrated by facial close-ups and surfaces of furniture, paintings, and props, in which one can discern minute patterns and flaws. The soundtrack is intricately layered, offering a dreamscape in which diegetic pitter-patter merges with the eerie score and the potentially imagined sounds of screaming and rattling. Criterion has kept the same supplements that were assembled for Vampyr’s DVD release in 2008, but they remain a terrific assortment of discussions and essays that offers wide-ranging context pertaining to the film’s creation, reception, legacy, and eventual restoration. Film scholar Tony Rayns’s dryly amusing audio commentary covers the biographies of many pivotal players, describing Vampyr’s place in the blossoming horror wave of the 1930s and elaborating on the intricate camera movements and sense of dislocation they foster. Rayns possesses the unusual ability to discuss a film’s formal qualities without lapsing into theoretical tedium. Bowen

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

Walerian Borowczyk on Blu-ray, Arrow Video and Olive Films

Two films by the iconoclastic postwar-era Polish director Walerian Borowczyk—the blasphemously graphic Buñuelian shocker The Beast and the oddly elegiac medieval sex odyssey Immoral Tales—received long-overdue spotlights when they were digitally restored and screened nationally a few years ago. In 2017, Arrow Academy and Olive Films took the baton on Borowczyk’s reclamation by releasing several more of his films in a remarkable string of lovingly assembled packages. Arrow’s The Walerian Borowczyk Short Films Collection provides a wide-ranging survey of his short-form work, much of it made in the 1960s and expanding on the era’s bold hybrids of live-action and stop-motion animation with a jagged, rickety grace that evokes Jan Švankmajer and inspired early Terry Gilliam. The apotheosis of that style was Borowczyk’s first feature, The Theater of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal (Olive), a line-drawn phantasmagoria that traces the surreal parasitic coexistence of its titular duo, thus introducing the recurring Borowczyk trait of relationships that function only through animalistic passion. His allegorical live-action follow-up, Goto, The Island of Love (Olive), takes that trope and stifles it under authoritarian gloom, forbidding frontal compositions and deep chiaroscuro. Such austerity, however, was anomalous in Borowczyk’s career; Blanche (Olive) and Story of Sin (Arrow), for instance, switch to color in their attacks on bourgeois piety and dogmatic regimes and dredge up expressionistic outbursts of carnal yearning along the way. All the films get stunningly sharp transfers, and most are accompanied by video interviews, introductions, and commentary tracks that go a long way toward elucidating—though never overanalyzing—the riotously imaginative, fearlessly political mind of this inimitable provocateur. Carson Lund

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