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DVD Releases December 5, 2006

Desperate Man BluesReview by Bryan NewburyReview the film for yourselfPurchase at – Minutes into Desperate Man Blues we’re treated to the bubbly and idiosyncratic personality of Joe Bussard. On the opening cut he’s found smoking what is to be an omnipresent cigar and grooving to a prewar vinyl. Aficionados of air guitar will be as entranced with Joe as record collectors and old time music enthusiasts. Within minutes, the audience is treated not only to air guitar, but air clarinet, air fiddle, air trombone and even (this may be the only recorded case, which would suit Bussard fine to be sure) air Weissenborn. All this while dancing contagiously.  Joe began collecting 51 years ago throughout his native Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. A few side trips into Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are certainties. Just like that barracks buddy your grandfather was acquainted with in the Great War who kept his copies of The Fantastic Four intact, Bussard had the vision to see treasure in another man’s rubbish. He relates tales of collecting at a time when pre-Depression 78’s were viewed as throw-away items. In the 1950’s the original owners saw little value in what are now priceless records in Joe’s collection.

Grey GardensReviewPurchase at – Grey Gardens is the name of a neglected, sprawling estate gone to seed. The crumbling mansion was home to Edith Bouvier Beale, often referred to as “Big Edie,” and her daughter, “Little Edie.” The East Hampton, Long Island, home became the center of quite a scandal when it was revealed in 1973 that the reclusive aunt and cousin to Jackie O. were living in a state of poverty and filth. That’s the background to this 1976 film portrait by cinéma vérité pioneers Albert and David Maysles, but it’s only incidental to the fascinating story they discover inside the estate walls. The two Edies have lived in almost complete seclusion since the mid-1950s, ever since Big Edie’s husband abandoned her and Little Edie (then a young socialite on the verge of a dancing career, or so she claims) was called home to care for her depressed mother. Twenty years later they continue to live in their memories while camped out in a single bedroom of the 28-room mansion overrun with cats (who use the floor as their litter box).

Beales of Grey GardenReviewPurchase at – The 1975 cinema vérité classic Grey Gardens, which captured in remarkable close-up the lives of the eccentric recluses and cousins to Jackie Onassis, Big and Little Edie Beale, in their decrepit East Hampton mansion, has spawned everything from a midnight-movie cult following to a Broadway musical remake an upcoming Hollywood adaptation. Now, Albert and David Maysles have revisited their landmark documentary with a sequel of sorts, culled from hours of never-before-seen footage recently found in the filmmakers’ vaults.

Pucker Up: The Fine Art of WhistlingReviewPurchase at – “Just put your lips together and blow!” Well, that’s easier said than done, as this exploration of the high-stakes world of competitive whistling reveals. Pucker Up follows several competitors as they converge on Louisburg, NC – the mecca of whistling – for the International Whistling Convention and Competition. Seasoned veterans and nervous amateurs alike perform for their chance to be named the world’s best whistler in a unique atmosphere of tense competition and convivial camaraderie. Exploring the history and former glory of the pasttime, even the dark underbelly (who knew?) of the whistling world, this delightful film communicates whistling enthusiasts’ hopes of reviving the once-popular entertainment now all but absent from the cultural radar.

Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War IReviewPurchase at – Except for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaigns, the extensive combat operations in the Middle East during World War I have been largely overlooked in documentary programs. Given the historical significance of the Ottoman Empire’s demise in 1918, and the ongoing importance of Middle Eastern oil reserves to Western economies, a close study of this conflict provides two important lessons: 1. The Treaty of Versailles, agreed to by the Western Powers in 1919, paved the way for military and political chaos in the Middle East, which continues to this very day. 2. Oil reserves in the Middle East became an important strategic concern for Western Powers, helping to justify their economic, diplomatic and military interference in the region.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take OneReviewPurchase at – In William Greaves’s spontaneous, one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One, Greaves presides over a beleaguered troupe of camera and sound men in New York’s Central Park in 1967, leaving them to try and decipher exactly what it is they’re making: a strange, bickering couple enacting a break-up scenario over and over; a documentary crew filming a crew filming the crew; locals wandering casually into the frame. A multilayered and wildly entertaining deconstruction of cinema, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm defies easy description yet remains one of the most tightly focused movies ever made about making movies.

Lena on May 4th, 2011 at 11:11 am 

What a joy to find someone else who tnhkis this way.

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