August DVDs

As summer starts to fade, the big Hollywood blockbusters are replaced with more modest and arty fare, while on home video, long overdue titles finally make their way to disc. This month, we have new-to-DVD titles from Derek Jarman, Andrzej Wadja, and Ken Russell, plus deluxe reissues of two favorites – "Quadrophenia" and (of course) "Jaws." Just when you thought it was safe to go into the video store… Whether it's the first time you've seen these titles or the fiftieth, these new discs are sure to please.

Lisztomania DVD cover
Lisztomania (Ken Russell, 1975)
Why You Should Care: While most people, when they hear the word "Lisztomania," immediately start singing the irresistibly catchy single from French pop band Phoenix, but the word was originally coined to describe the response to Franz Liszt, a nineteenth century Hungarian composer. The movie of the same name is ostensibly a biography of Liszt, but as directed by the creatively unmoored Ken Russell ("The Devils," "Altered States"), things are (of course) considerably weirder. The film stars Roger Daltrey, of influential British rock band The Who, as Liszt, with a soundtrack by Rick Wakeman, keyboardist and composer for another influential British rock band, Yes (who wrote the music alongside Daltrey). Instead of the straightforward biopic model, Russell stages the events as a series of operatic vignettes, peppered with iconoclastic imagery and whacked-out cameo appearances (Ringo Starr appears as the Pope, while Wakeman shows up as the Norse god Thor – take that, Chris Hemsworth!) It's fucking insane. And while Russell's career has petered out, many involved with "Lisztomania" have continued to flourish – the film's editor, Stuart Baird, is an occasional action movie director and one of the most coveted "editing doctors" in Hollywood, re-cutting things like "Mission: Impossible 2" weeks before its release. "Lisztomania" was released the same year as "Tommy," which also involved Daltrey and was too directed by Russell, and has remained something of a cult relic despite its unavailability (it was the crown jewel of a recent Russell retrospective at Lincoln Center). What's astounding is how ahead of its time the movie is; a lot of the things that made "Amadeus" such a critical and commercial darling (mostly the presentation of a classical musician as a rock star and flamboyant editorial flourishes) are present in "Lisztomania" a decade before.
What's On It: Fucking nothing. This is a burn-to-order number from Warner Bros. We should just say thank you and quietly pray that they'll finally put out "The Devils." Before Halloween. Please.
Release Date: August 7th via Warner Archive

Jarman DVD cover

"The Tempest"/"Sebastiane" (Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress)
Why You Should Care: Because Derek Jarman, the famed director, stage designer, and visual artist, who died tragically of AIDS in 1994, is extremely under-represented on home video (much less high-definition Blu-ray), so the fact that two of his early films are being released in sparkling new editions is something to get very, very excited about. 1976's NC-17-rated "Sebastiane" is Jarman's first feature, co-directed and edited by Paul Humfress. The film depicts the life of Saint Sebastian, a Christian martyr who was, it is commonly believed, executed by the Roman emperor by being tied to a tree and riddled with arrows.  Boosted with a soundtrack co-written by Brian Eno, the film is noted for its upfront homoeroticism and curiously, it's relatively accurate use of Latin. "The Tempest" was released in 1979, a year after his spectacular and totally bizarre "Jubilee," and features much of the same cast (including Toyah Wilcox and Jack Birkett, with Heathcote Williams as the magical Prospero, after John Gielgud declined - shocker) and sexy, anarchic spirit, with typically jaw-dropping design work. Both are absolutely bonkers and totally worth watching if you're a fan of the artist – or just want something crazy to look at for a few hours.
What's On It: "The Tempest" features three short films by Jarman ("A Journey to Avebury," "Garden of Luxor," "and "Art of Mirrors"), trailers, and other special features to be announced; while "Sebastiane" looks to be bare bones. 
Release date: August 7th via Kino