Days of Heaven
Moving pictures rarely lives up to that phrase the way this one does
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Oct. 26, 2007
Days of HeavenCriterion, $39.95
Moving pictures rarely live up to that phrase the way Days of Heaven does. All classical styles of painting can be found in the lionized 1978 film, pastels from the south of France tilting into Hopper's Midwestern glow before darkening into Dutch. Oils, acrylics, watercolors, they all pool together: Bergman, Bertolucci, Fellini, Kubrick. Austin phantom/writer/director Terrence Malick would demure, but in Catalonian cinematographer Nestor Almendros' Academy Award for Days of Heaven, moviedom hung 94 minutes of visual verse in its uppermost galleries. That two-time Oscar winner Haskell Wexler shot additional footage adds further luster, the brand-name cameraman a touching bonus on a Criterion Collection no-brainer. Museum of Modern Art portraits Richard Gere and Sam Shepard stalk adorably hardscrabble Brooke Adams, 1917, in the Texas Panhandle; George Stevens' Lone Star landmark Giant, a proud touchstone in Days of Heaven's biblical house on the prairie. Ennio Morricone's now-you-hear-it-now-you-don't musical luminescence stokes locusts, inferno, and that one broken commandment of all Old Testament tales. Revelations that the dialogue-wrought original shooting script lost out to the twilight "magic hour" wheat fields of Alberta, Canada, come as no surprise in light of the story's impressionistic narrative. "Our model was the photography of the silent films (Griffith, Chaplin, etc.)," wrote Almendros, who died of AIDS in 1992, in an autobiographical passage excerpted for the DVD booklet. The only thing missing herein is the notoriously natural-light-sensitive Malick, absent from all but the sole "Special Thanks" credit: "This project would not have been possible without the generous participation of Terrence Malick." Painter, yes; museum piece, seldom.
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Breathless (Criterion, $39.95): Deluxe double-disc preservation of Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 pistol-whipping includes an 80-minute French documentary on the making of. James Dean should've lived this long.
Carlos Saura's Flamenco Trilogy (Criterion, $44.95): The Spanish cinemystic's click-clacking trilogy – '81's Blood Wedding, '83's Carmen, and '86's El Amor Brujo – does for big-screen dance what roses did for amor. Federico García Lorca should've lived this long.