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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Polish Film Festival - Barrie Pattison reviews Ryszard Bugajski's BLINDNESS (Poland, 2016)

Seriousness doesn’t come any higher than Zacma/Blindness, screened in the Polish Film Festival running parallel with at least three of those other National manifestations at the moment.

Director Ryszard Bugajski came to our attention (after resisting a demand that he turn police informer while working with Andrej Wadja’s unit) for his 1982 Christina Janda film The Interrogation which was banned in its native Poland until the fall of the Soviet Empire, sending Bugajski off to make series TV in the U.S.

He’s clearly invested in the subject of Zacma, which manages to get stuck into Judaism, Communism and Catholicism as shades in an ideological spectrum or some kind of belief system progression. To give it a bit more weight several of its characters, “Bloody Julia” head of the state unit set up to eliminate religion in Iron Curtain Poland and her opponent Cardinal Wyszynski are drawn from history.

When the smoke clears the pair find themselves among the people still standing, portrayed by the director’s wife Maria Mamona and Marek Kalita. Her one-time bureau chief character is getting a bit shaky with a continuing inquiry into her sadistic methods, a ‘phone that rings without there being anyone at the other end and spooky flash backs to her excesses and failures. She drives off to a Catholic school for the blind, promised an interview with the Primate there.

Maria Mamona (r), Blindness
The film gets a bit blurry on the line between reality and her perception of it, with one of her victims having identified himself as Jesus Christ and doing miracles with the cigarettes that our heroine is chain smoking - great effects work. Blind priest Janusz Gajos was supposed to have had his eyes burned out by interrogators (it’s that kind of film) but still has them in later scenes. Mamona’s meeting with Kalita has them plowing through notions of guilt, ideology and the existence of God but when ex-Jew/ex-poet, now nun Malgorzata Zajaczkowska comes into the chapel which Mamona disrespects, she finds her crouched alone there. 

However, we get less fuzzy characterisation on the groundsman picked out as a police spy and the pair of cops who grope Mamona in the bar, where a wake is being held, clearly for real and there's a scene where she tries to off herself with that pistol in her hand bag.

All this makes a serious American film like Doubt seem quite jolly. A more interesting comparison is with John Lvoff’s 2001 L'homme des foules Man of the Crowds which centres on former torturer Jerzy Radziwilowicz in the post liberalisation era and his blind (what is this with guilty Communists and blindness?) Department Head and doesn’t root around in belief systems but puts forward human corruptibility as the root of excesses.

Is Zacma a work of determined earnestness? No doubt there. Did it convince me of any basic truth that had so far eluded me and did it make me feel I’d picked right out of the seven one off movies I could have been watching last night?  I’d have to say no on those - and it cost twenty bucks, no concessions.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Bruce Hodsdon on Star Actors and Auteurs in classical Hollywood (9) - Vincente Minnelli: style in search of a theme?

This is the latest in Bruce Hodsdon’s erudite series devoted to the relationships between a number of major Hollywood directors and the actors they worked with. The previous essays can be found if you click on the links below.

Vincente Minnelli
Lester Anthony (Vincente) Minnelli was born into a family of touring entertainers in Chicago in 1903. At sixteen he was working as a window decorator, and later as fashion photographer then as a costume and set designer graduating to direction on Broadway by the late thirties. His theatrical design showed modernist tendencies, specifically a pop surrealist influence, which was carried over into his film work. He came to Hollywood in 1940 at the invitation of the premier producer of musicals at MGM, Arthur Freed. Minnelli served two years apprenticeship in various departments before being assigned to direct a musical fantasy, Cabin in the Sky (1943), with an all black cast. 

Lena Horne, Eddie Anderson, Cabin in the Sky
In 1944 he directed Judy Garland in one of Hollywood's classic musicals, the family centred Meet Me in St Louis. He then directed a GI-meets-girl-next-door romance, The Clock (1945). It was Freed's first non-musical as producer and it had a bumpy beginning in what was slated to be Garland's dramatic debut. The unconventional romanticism, after two false starts with other directors, was finally crowned by Minnelli's astonishing and acutely conceived boom shot rather than a conventional end fade-out. The result was a major critical and box office success.

Robert Walker, Judy Garland, The Clock
Between 1943-76 Minnelli made 32 musicals, comedies and (melo)dramas, all but two for MGM. I have included him here because as a director in classical Hollywood he was both representative and special. In deployment of colour, tempo and décor he took full advantage of the superior film stock, camera lenses and other equipment, designers and technicians available in a major Hollywood studio. To these advantages he brought inspiration in his interest and accumulated knowledge of painting(1). Naremore informs us that Minnelli was the first major director of musicals not to have started as a choreographer. He pioneered gracefully sweeping camera movements in the filming of musical numbers while on a more intimate level he had, from the beginning, an intuitive sense of how to visually enhance the script by the subtle choreographing of actors' bits of business in drama and comedy.

These could be considered the talents of a metteur-en-scène in themselves insufficient for full auteur status. Metteur-en-scène (literally 'film director') is a term that has been applied by auteurists to directors who intermittently show inspiration in their mise-en-scène so rising above the uniformly routine (tv style) staging of the 'journeyman' director but without the inspiration, stylistic consistency and nuance linked coherently to on-going themes that marks the work of the 'fully fledged' auteur. Andrew Sarris made no explicit reference to the term metteur- en-scène in his introduction to The American Cinema yet in some respects it constituted the core of the controversy and the crux of Sarris's claims for his revaluation of classical Hollywood.

Looking at the first 7 levels of Sarris's whimsically titled categories ordered hierarchically in 11 levels covering the work of 200 directors, the great debate centred on levels 2 (“The Far Side of Paradise”), 3 (“Repressive Esoterica”), 5 (“Less than Meets the Eye”) and 6 (“Lightly Likeable”) where auteur and metteur-en-scène mingle ambiguously. While there was relatively little controversy over the recognition factor in the 14 directors included at the apex in the Pantheon (although there was dispute over the weighting of Hawks and Hitchcock, at least initially) some critical heat was generated by the upgrading of most of the 20 directors listed in The Far Side of Paradise just below the Pantheon.

While recognition of authorship status for directors like Capra, De Mille and Borzage as more than mere réalisers of other's screenplays was at least grudgingly accepted, it was a somewhat different story with most of the the rest, including Minnelli (2). There had already been dispute about Minnelli's status in Parisian auteurist circles. For example Jacques Rivette's view on Minnelli's credentials, expressed in a Cahiers du Cinéma round table discussion, was emphatic: “to extend the politique des auteurs to him is an aberration...When you talk about Minnelli the first thing you talk about is the screenplay, because he always subordinates his talent to something else.” 

Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Some Came Running
Truffaut also exiled him from la politique while Godard paid an on-screen homage to Some Came Running in Contempt. Locating Minnelli firmly in Paradise Sarris does refer to his “stylistic flourishes” and Minnelli's view of himself  “as more stylist than auteur.” For the auteurist critics at Movie the style of Minnelli's movies was the meaning.

Any discussion about the degrees or traces of authorship in commercial cinema starts with the assumption voiced by Naremore that “some notion of personal agency is necessary in any cultural politics.” As he reminds us, the radical element in early auteurism, the core of the controversy, was “that traditional forms of literary interpretation were being applied to mass-cultural texts” or, as Naremore suggests Roland Barthes would have put it, auteurists were “trying to bestow a “writerly” quality on an ostensibly “readerly” set of movies...objects of consumption that were to be seen then forgotten.” This was the basis of much of the dismissal of the notion of authorship applied to genre and studio stalwarts like Minnelli. Auteurism has nevertheless outlasted the attempted all but obliteration through the radicalisation of film theory striving for legitimacy in post-68 academia, analysis of film texts being seen of interest only in terms of their relationship to the dominant ideology. Minnelli's melodramas  (and those of other auteurs such as Douglas Sirk) in particular were seized upon for their subversive potential despite the fact that neither critics nor audience saw them that way.

Risking the accusation that thematic analysis of popular genre films amounts to little more than 'schoolboy profundities', Thomas Elsaesser has argued the case for Minnelli as a moralist despite the fact that he, like Cukor, never wrote (or rarely ever had a major hand in writing) his scripts. Elsaesser's core contention is that, following the proposition that all romantic art aspires to music, “all Minnelli's films aspire to the condition of the musical.” In negotiating for himself between what he saw as the balancing of his conception of his art and the studio's employment of him for his ability to convert this into commercial return, Elsaesser sees what would seem to emerge  across the spectrum of his work, “is the theme of the artist's struggle to appropriate external reality as the elements of his own world, in a bid for absolute freedom.” 

Kirk Douglas, Lust for Life
This would seem to be vindicated by Minnelli's nomination of his biopic based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh, Lust For Life, as the personal favourite of his films. In the context of this broad generic perspective, Elsaesser proceeds to argue “that while the Minnelli musical celebrates the fulfilment of desire and identity, whose tragic absence so many of his dramatic films portray, ...the dramas and dramatic comedies are musicals turned inside out.” Naremore and Richard Dyer would seem not to be in contradiction with Elsaessser's analysis. David Thomson concludes that “Minnelli's stress on style is itself reaching out for dream: the fluid self sufficient sequences of fantastic imagery. That could explain the occasional feeling of indifference to narrative, just as it directs attention to his style.” Naremore warns that “we should not ignore the nuances of Minnelli's style or the ideological aims of Hollywood, but we should remember that aesthetic pleasure is negotiated at a social level, and that meaning is always up for grabs.”

According to Mark Griffin, in his recent biography of Minnelli, when he was working in the theatre in New York Minnelli was openly gay. In Hollywood, although fellow director George Cukor was relatively open about his homosexuality, Minnelli felt obliged to go into the closet. While not as liberal as the bohemian New York theatre scene, the film industry back then did not scrutinise its stars for their sexual behaviour or drug taking. The studios were even less concerned about directors who, compared to actors, had a low public profile. Nevertheless Griffin says that the studio was upset when Minnelli arrived in Hollywood wearing make-up so he changed his lifestyle channelling his sexual tensions and anxieties into his filmmaking. (3)

As has been said “Minnelli was expensive but brought the studio prestige.” He was described as “passive-aggressive” in his direction on the set - inarticulate with actors but very particular about design.  Jack Nicholson, who had a supporting role in On a Clear Day said that Minnelli could spend days “shooting  a vase of flowers from different angles” (as he did in this film) but never gave him any instructions on how to play the part.  By the same token Minnelli successfully guided Judy Garland through her first dramatic 'adult' role in The Clock and nursed her through The Pirate (1948) - make-up cannot disguise that she does not look well in the film - when amongst other things she became jealous during filming believing her husband (they married in 1945) was favouring Gene Kelly at her expense. 

Louis Jourdan, Jennifer Jones, Madame Bovary
Jennifer Jones gives a remarkable performance in Madame Bovary (1949), further testimony to Minnelli's success directing actresses. He was not comfortable with method actors, as Naremore says “more at home with old fashioned movie stars.” He quotes Ellen Burstyn, who starred in Goodbye Charlie, as complaining that Minnelli's style of directing “is to do the scene and then you imitate him – not one of the most stimulating ways of working.” Naremore adds that Minnelli “probably didn't do the scene for Tracy or Astaire” and that his approach to the craft had been formed directing comedy on Broadway where naturalism and spontaneity were not much valued.

James Harvey emphasises that it was central to the Minnelli ethos “that no design detail (was) ever too trivial not to matter.” According to Emanuel Levy he depended heavily on people like Metro's artistic director Cedric Gibbons for support. Harvey takes a different view - that Minnelli clashed with the authoritarian Gibbons and he persuaded his superiors to allow him to employ outsiders to aid him in meeting ambitious design challenges on several films. It is however true that the careers of Minnelli and that of other directors like George Cukor - they both came to filmmaking when the studio system was at its peak- declined with the breakdown of system accelerating through the sixties.

John Kerr, Deborah Kerr, Tea and Sympathy
 Levy highlights some examples of the relationship between Minnelli's sexual anxieties and his filmmaking suggesting that, coincident with the rise of camp, Minnelli foreshadowed a coded on-screen gay sensibility (also indicative of the degree of control Minnelli had at MGM), later taken up by other gay directors in their movies. Levy identifies how he used colour coding in, for example, Tea and Sympathy - deep blue for masculinity, light blue for effeminacy with yellow and green dresses worn by Deborah Kerr in key scenes. Colour coding is also used for the three levels of masculinity in Home From the Hill. A queer sub text is claimed for Nina Foch as the sugar daddy in An American in Paris to Gene Kelly's gigolo. Minnelli himself suffered from his effeminacy which is played out in Designing Woman through Lauren Bacall's best friend, a choreographer that Gregory Peck puts down for being “too sensitive.” The courtesan played by Leslie Caron in Gigi can be seen as representing Minnelli's sexual insecurities. Although he never treated homosexuality directly, from the mid-fifties Minnelli's films repeatedly questioned  American standards of “sexual normalcy.” As Naremore comments Van Gogh and Gaugin, in their homo-erotically charged conversations in Lust For Life, can be seen as “the original odd couple” (4).

Naremore suggests that Minnelli “favoured actors who could embody certain character types” and was intrigued by Garland's child-woman image dressed in highly artificial fashion. He also worked repeatedly with “feminine” males
such as Louis Jourdan, John Kerr and George Hamilton “who functioned more like romantic versions of himself.” An interesting variation however was his increasingly productive collaboration with Kirk Douglas who in certain respects did prefigure method performance, “no actor in his day being less 'cool'.” He was a robust, athletic performer who liked stagey dialogue. In this way classical Hollywood and the Minnellian world came together none more so than in The Bad and the Beautiful. Through Douglas Minnelli identified with Van Gogh, Naremore suggests, “confronting all the dilemmas and contradictions of his own career in the movies.”

Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, The Bad and the Beautiful
Key films
Musicals: Cabin in the Sky (1943), Meet Me in St Louis (45), Yolanda and the Thief (46), The Pirate (48), An American in Paris (51), The Band Wagon (54), Gigi (58), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (70). Melodramas: The Clock (45), Madame Bovary (49), The Bad and the Beautiful (53), The Cobweb (55), Lust for Life, Tea and Sympathy (56), Some Came Running (59), Home from the Hill (60), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Two Weeks in Another Town (62). Comedies: Father of the Bride (50), Designing Woman (57), The Reluctant Debutante (58), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (63)

1.  Minnelli claimed that a biography of the painter James McNeil Whistler was a key inspiration for his career.
2. The attribution of authorship in the studio system as Andrew Sarris attempted, is a less than clear cut issue. Unlike all 14 directors in the Pantheon, of the 20 in Paradise, in addition to Capra, DeMille and Borzage, only a further 8 -  Samuel Fuller, Erich von Stroheim, Preston Sturges, King Vidor and arguably Blake Edwards, Otto Preminger, Robert Aldrich and George Stevens – could have been identified  as having a major hand in initiating and shaping many of the screenplays they directed leaving 9 (including Minnelli) in the ambiguous field between metteur-en-scène and auteur which becomes increasingly dominant in the next two of Sarris's main categories the aptly named “Esoterica” and “Lightly Likeable.”
3.  Two biographies of Vincente Minnelli were published in quick succession Hollywood's Dark Dreamer by Emanuel Levy (2009) and A Hundred Hidden Things by Mark Griffin (2010). I have not read either but the latter purports to tackle the ambiguities around Minnelli's sexuality. For an interview with Levy by Harrison Pierce see   Griffin is interviewed by Joe Viglione on YouTube.
4.  In a review of Emanuel Levy's book, Dana Stevens makes scathing reference to Levy's treatment of Minnelli's sex life centred on what he describes as his “brief, dreadful marriage to Garland.”
Main Sources: James Naremore The Films of Vincente Minnelli 1993; Thomas Elsaesser “Vincente Minnelli” essay in Home is Where the Heart Is Ed. Christine Gledhill 1987; James Harvey Directed by Vincente Minnelli 1989; Richard Dyer essay in Films of the Fifties Ed. Ann Lloyd 1982; Barrett Hodsdon The Elusive Auteur 2017; David Thomson The New Biographical Dictionary of the Cinema  6th  Ed. 2014.

Liza Minnelli, Vincente Minnelli on the set of A Matter of Time (1976)

My Top Ten Films of All Time (6) - LE CRIME DE M. LANGE (Jean Renoir, France, 1936)

US Rialto Pictures DVD cover  of pre-restoration edition
Editor's Note: My tech-smart brother has created another Film Alert website to collect up some older stuff and has also assembled  the Top Ten selections I have thus far revealed. You can go to this Wordpress site for all the details. Now read on...

 I was taken aback just a little while ago when the esteemed Joseph McBride indicated significant distaste for Jean Renoir’s 1936 Le Crime de M. Lange. McBride was of the view, and I hope I’m not misrepresenting him, that the film sanctioned murder and that couldn’t be condoned in any circumstances.

So in returning to a viewing of the film this thought was quite to the fore. You have to get almost to the end of the film before the moment occurs when the evil Batala, a man who has stolen from his workers, debauched a young female on staff, importuned many others, fled from capture and then returned in the guise of a priest, with a view to resuming control of his now successful  business and no doubt doing it all again. Lange was and remains the most valuable employee and the man whose imagination has transformed the cheap printing business into a powerhouse publisher living off the adventures of Lange’s creation Arizona Jim.  

In the scene in question, Batala has returned and meets Lange alone in his former office. He outlines his plans for taking control once more and openly scoffs at Lange’s defence of the new worker co-operative. Batala leaves and the camera lingers on Lange as he stares at a desk drawer which we know contains a pistol.  Batala then comes across Valentine, Lange’s love and again attempts to importune here. Lange rushes down the stairs pistol in hand pushes Batala away and shoots him. Lange is raced away by Valentine and they flee. The film has unreeled in one long flashback until now. It returns to the present and Lange is judged by a jury of his peers… 

I saw the film again most recently when an astonishing new restoration was unveiled at Bologna’s Cinema Ritrovato just last July. 

My thoughts then, written mere moments after: The young man who introduced the screening of Jean Renoir’s Le Crime de M. Lange (France, 1936) on behalf of the now rights holder Studio Canal said it had been the most difficult restoration the company had ever done. 

Those who attended the first screenings in Australia back in the early sixties, when it was part of a MUFS Night Season, recalled only too well the quality of the 16mm copy on display. It wasn’t much better when it was shown on SBS sometime in the 90s. 

Some of those who attended the MUFS screening were actually back at Bologna's Arlecchino Cinema for the packed to the rafters premiere of the restoration that for many was the last of their jobs to tick off from this year’s highly successful selection. Glad to get that out of the way!

Valentine (Odette Florelle) and Lange (Rene Lefevre), make their escape
From the moment of the first credit there was a near instant sigh. Now we could see it and even more hear it properly. The stories of Lange, Valentine, Batala, Charlie and Estelle made me weep all over again. Once again Renoir’s paean to spontaneous community action, of people joining together in common cause and resisting ‘oppression’ lit up our lives. I’d forgotten the character of the young son of the owner who arrives to survey his business to be told that it is being turned into a co-operative. “What is a co-operative?” he asks blankly before he is informed that the man leading the effort is also the author of his beloved Arizona Jim serials. Enough said and Meunier joins the throng.

Jules Berry as Batala, Le Crime de M. Lange
It is I think Renoir’s greatest film and one of the handful of the very greatest thrown up by the cinema itself. Here’s Truffaut from the (Bologna) catalogue: Of all Renoir’s films Monsieur Lange is the most spontaneous, the richest in miracle of camerawork, the most full of pure beauty and truth. In short it is a film touched by divine grace.

The 4K restoration work was done by Bologna’s incomparable L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. …
I hold out hope that after screenings at Bologna and then at the 2017 New York Film Festival someone will find room for the restored version to be screened down here sometime soon. Then can come the Blu-ray edition and we can all hold a permanent record in our homes of this priceless work of art.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

On Blu-ray - David Hare reports on the arrival of two, and soon three, of Anthony Mann's great film noirs HE WALKED BY NIGHT, T-MEN and RAW DEAL

Coming fast on the heels of Melville's great hymn to solitude, with Jef in Le Samourai, here is the grandfather of existential and moral solitude in American cinema, Anthony Mann. Amongst the solitary men and relatively few women who populate Anthony Mann's universe, the first three screens are the very beautiful face of Richard Basehart as a sociopathic impulse killer in Mann's second Eagle Lion Noir with colleague and co-auteur, the titanic DP John Alton,  He Walked by NIght (1948.)

The fourth screen (below) from the same movie posits a contrapuntal, equally beautiful, face in solitary repose, of Scott Brady as the cop. Basehart's nemesis. Viewers with sharp eyes might spot in Brady's face the genetic DNA for the great psychotic badman, Lawrence Tierney, in fact Brady's brother, who played some of the heaviest, most perverse bad boys in Dark cinema, and apparently in life.

Screen five comes in two planes lit with a typically single light source by Alton, showing newcomer geekboy and future Dragnet Maestro, Jack Webb (right) fooling around with some nitroglycerine while a drily composed Roy Roberts looks on with Zen blankness. Final two screens are again lit with a single light source from the 1947 quasi procedural T-Men. This was Mann's and Alton's first picture together and the first title released by newly formed and short lived Eagle Lion Pictures.

The last two screens are among the always analytically fascinating two shots of men in Mann's films, with their innate simmering violence, competition, threat and attraction. The only single element in the frame, in addition to the actors, is the light from the floor, and the low angle which amplifies and enhances it, and the relationship between the characters is inevitably perilous, ultimately lethal, an effect purely expressed with such elemental means.

The steam room scene in T-Men relates to a similar steam room killing but one with much more explicit homo text in Don Siegel's great The Lineup ten years later in 1958 in which Eli Wallach allows himself to be picked up for sex by William Leslie before shooting him after extracting the information he needs about a missing drug cache.

Mann's films and especially these first two Noirs are very centrally related to 40s maleness and a male "ethos" engaging with violence, identity submission and power, and they are underlined by their director's thematic obsession, solitude. Just as Melville's great work will resonate two decades later with Delon, Belmondo and Yves Montand in similar leads. Only in Mann's third great Noir with Alton, and my favorite, Raw Deal (1949), the great solitary character is a woman, played by the sublime Claire Trevor, one of two women sexually enthralled by Dennis O'Keefe's Joe, a convict who plays homme fatale to her and his case worker Marsha Hunt. Mann gives Claire Trevor, one of my favorite actors, the last great Mizoguchian high angle crane shot, filmed by Alton from way above the set with just enough light to identify the now static action as Claire is returned to her solitude, slumped over the body of her dead Joe. Raw Deal is one of the greatest Noirs for me, and Claire's is one of the greatest female performances in American movies. 
T-Men and He Walked by Night have just been released on Blu-ray in superb new restorations from prime 35mm elements by spiffing new kid on the block label from the US, ClassicFlix. This outfit has brains behind it like Alan K Rode, Julie Kirgo, Todd McCarthy and other film culture heavyweights and has put out this year's lion's share of Noir reissues in unbeatable transfers. Along with ongoing Noir released from the Fox catalogue through Kino Lorber label this and last year, the Dark Film legacy has had a massive boost in exposure through 2017 much of it on HV for the first time, and pretty well all of it in prime audiovisual quality. These two Manns with be joined by their third and last Eagle Lion title, Raw Deal from 1949 which is out on Classic Flix December 5.. 
The Alton Mann movies seem more and more invaluable to me every time I watch them. For one thing there is surely no more symbiotic partnership in American movies than these two. The only other director who appreciated Alton's genius nearly as much was MInnelli, and he engaged him to shoot, in full 3 strip studio lit Technicolor the 1952 An American in Paris ballet. The découpage of that 12 minute sequence exists in a sphere of its own in the American Musical as one of the greatest chromatic experiences in synesthesia between music and color in the movies. Kelly and Caron partner and swoon between sheer kinetic and fluid volumes of red, blue, purple, yellow and white, coming into and out of pitch black into a MInnellian mix of crane, track and dolly which take the extremes of color expression with articulated light to their peak possible expression in cinema.

Editor’s Note: David Hare posted the above on his Facebook page from whence I have pillaged it and reset the photos. After the post it was the subject of some interesting comment which you’ll need to head to his Facebook page to access. David himself added this comment below:

The Biggest surprise is the print source He Walked by Night in quality terms. I read a couple of reviews of it that were faintly praising but I have no such reservations.  Maybe three or four shots are "softer" than the surrounding excellence but it has clearly been sourced from a fine grain 35mm vault print. Some of Classic Flix restorations have come from British 35mm prints sourced from the BFI. T-Men's best previous video incarnation was the 35mm collector's print from Cary Roan released on Roan/Image Laserdisc back in the 90s. But it had a badly processed transfer and the encode has viewing defects like horizontal banding, and murky blacks It's barely watchable. Raw Deal was the best of the three Noirs and the clips from it in the Nina Mann doco on the T-Men disc looks spectacular. This label is clearly well connected.