Four Control Freaks on Disc
New DVDs reveal the inflexible excellence of Stanley Kubrick, Gary Ross, Wes Anderson and Ken Russell.
To get inside a director's head, watch a definitive print of a significant film on disc, with extras digital releases usually lack. The best minds to dive into are the stubborn ones, detail freaks like Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket 25th Anniversary Edition, Warner Home Video, $34.99 Blu-ray, Aug. 7), whose 1987 Vietnam epic comes with a 44-page book and a 60-minute documentary that brilliantly evokes what Kubrick assistant Tony Frewin calls the mad "Catherine wheel of ideas" awhirl in his head.
Kubrick's obsessions add up to a style, as do those of Gary Ross. The hours of extras on The Hunger Games (Lionsgate, $39.99 Blu-ray, $30.99 DVD, Aug. 18), about futuristic kids forced to fight to the death, display a creative process only slightly less grueling than the games. A movie, he says in the making-of doc, is "a big sausage machine," and Ross demands it be sliced just so. He meticulously rewrote each scene and based his dystopia on massively researched sources (Tibetan palaces, the 1934 World's Fair Chrysler Pavilion). It's fascinating to see the screenplay superimposed on the scene in which Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is glimpsed through the glass Reaping Ball as she selects a new victim and to hear why Ross toned down her grotesque makeup later in the film. "Gary got a little scared of the clown aspect of Effie," says Banks. "Too much color!" But Banks says Diane Arbus inspired the contrasting black-and-white world of Effie's victims, when Dorothea Lange seems more likely.
The exquisite colors are more muted in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums (Criterion, $39.95 Blu-ray, Aug. 14), at last available in a glossy edition worthy of the fictional Manhattan genius family it celebrates. "I try to be a little bit relentless," says Anderson in a making-of doc that shows him in action. The interviews with Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow and Anjelica Huston (playing an archaeologist role based on Anderson's mother) also reveal a firm hand at the helm.
The freakiest of control freaks, however, is Ken Russell (Lisztomania, Warner Archive, $17.95 DVD, Aug. 7). In his psychedelic, long-unavailable 1975 opus about composer Franz Liszt (The Who's Roger Daltrey), Ringo Starr is the pope, Wagner is a Nazi vampire, and Daltrey sprouts a 12-foot phallus menaced by a guillotine. Maybe nobody should have gotten away with making this film, but only Russell could have had the effrontery to dream it up.