For the movie collector and cinephile, this gorgeously designed four-disc box is kinda like a discovered trunkload of priceless, pristine Caruso 78s, or a secret cellar of post-war Latour. Kino’s restoration cache holds 140 individual films made by Edison and his Black Maria lackeys, beginning with an 1889 camera test that lasts only a few seconds and culminating with the studio’s final feature, The Unbeliever (1918), an ahead-of-its-time saga about racial tolerance directed by Alan Crosland (The Jazz Singer) and co-starring Erich von Stroheim. The mix runs from post-Méliès fairy tales to pure documentary to public-service advice (like 1912’s The Public and Private Care of Infants). Included are famed landmarks like The John C. Rice-Mary Irwin Kiss (1896), The Great Train Robbery (1903), The Gay Shoe Clerk (1903), and Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906), but more wondrous are the shorts devoted to simply capturing fin de siècle America: McKinley Parade (1896), U.S. Troops Landing at Daquiri, Cuba (1898), Electrocuting an Elephant (1903), Coney Island at Night (1905), and so on. It’s all about the celluloid: Supplements include hundreds of photos and documents from the MOMA archives, and two hours of interviews with Edison scholars and preservation toilers, explicating their tribulations and achievements in grueling detail. It’s more than home video—it’s history written with, sure, lightning.
Also worth considering:
La Ciénaga (Home Vision) Holy Girl director Lucrecia Martel’s 2001 debut—stirrings of domestic discontent among two bourgeois families against the backdrop of a humid Argentinean summer.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 22, 2005