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Burn! and The Hour of the Furnaces

I may be up to my neck in work, run­ning, and the Phillies right now, but I’m real­ly excit­ed to check out The Hour of the Fur­naces tonight at Inter­na­tion­al House. The last movie I saw out there was Chris Mark­er’s amaz­ing 240 minute doc­u­men­tary, The Grin With­out a Cat. The Hour of the Fur­naces is a 260 minute epic released in 1968 that cov­ers left­ist strug­gle in South Amer­i­ca. If you’re curi­ous you should check out this essay about the movie over at Sens­es of Cin­e­ma. I’m hop­ing to be real­ly thrilled by tonight’s screen­ing of The Hour of the Fur­naces. It sounds like I won’t be dis­ap­point­ed.

I watched Gillo Pon­tecor­vo’s Burn! as a warm-up, no pun intend­ed. I’ve been mean­ing to see it since it was released on DVD some years ago, but sim­ply had­n’t got­ten around to it until last week when I final­ly mailed Cal­i­for­nia Split back to Net­flix after hav­ing it for over a month.

Burn! may not be as amaz­ing as Pon­tecor­vo’s Bat­tle of Algiers, but it’s a pret­ty effec­tive state­ment about busi­ness inter­ests superced­ing all oth­ers, star­ring Mar­lon Bran­do. Most inter­est­ing, Bran­do does­n’t Sean Penn it up and draw so much atten­tion to his char­ac­ter that it drowns out the mean­ing of the film. Pon­tecor­vo does­n’t beat you over the head with mes­sage either. The sto­ry, if you’re will­ing to hear it, explains itself: sug­ar cane more or less cursed the Antilles in the colo­nial era. Thanks free trade!

(As a quick aside, did you notice that Greenspan almost recant­ed his Ran­di­an beliefs in tes­ti­mo­ny yes­ter­day? It’s amaz­ing!)

One of the rea­sons I had­n’t seen it soon­er, despite hav­ing an inter­est in the top­ic, was the pack­ag­ing and pro­duc­tion of the DVD, as DVD Savant wrote at the time of its re-release near­ly three years ago. Movies like this can either be lav­ish pro­duc­tions direct­ed almost exclu­sive­ly at the snooty movie mar­ket, or they end up cheap­ies in the cut-out bin. This def­i­nite­ly leans more toward the lat­ter, as the print and pack­ag­ing are a lit­tle lack­ing and the extras are nonex­is­tent.

Stuff like this is a dis­ap­point­ment to those of us who wait patient­ly for left­field clas­sics to be reis­sued on DVD, only to find no rea­son to actu­al­ly buy the prod­uct. Film buffs will spend mon­ey for a good prod­uct. It pays to cater to them! As DVD sales decline and stu­dios waste mon­ey bulk­ing up their Blu-Ray library, it might be a good idea to talk to experts about the clas­sics that are just lay­ing around. If the music indus­try is reis­su­ing albums that came out six months ago, would it be impos­si­ble to lav­ish some atten­tion on movies that the stu­dios already own but are just col­lect­ing dust?

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