Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Circle of Trust #1: La Loi (The Law) 1959

This is the first entry for what is going to be a regular series on my blog, almost monthly, and one I am really excited about. As I have mentioned quite a few times before I am in love with the film distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories. Every one of their films that I have seen is awesome and based on their upcoming releases I don't see that changing in the near future. Along with selling their DVDs through their online shop they also offer membership to a DVD club of sorts where they send you their releases automatically.

Called the Circle of Trust, membership nets you Oscilloscope's next 10 DVD releases about a week before they go on sale for the price of $150. Now I know that sounds like a lot, but for the value your getting it is really quite a deal. Each DVD comes out to fifteen bucks (had to break out the old calculator on that), is loaded with special features, and comes in a beautiful case (the cover art for The Law is featured below.) The next thing that jumps to mind is "but I don't know what movies I will be getting for that money", a somewhat true statement. Oscilloscope updates with news about their latest acquisitions as soon as there are acquired so you can sort of guess what movies you will be getting from them. Additionally, in my opinion, if I was having anyone pick out DVDs for me besides myself I would want it to be them. They have yet to distribute a terrible film from so I know they won't end up making me watch one, something I can't even say for the closest of friends. As an added little perk, members can also purchase a copy of each older Oscilloscope release at half price from shop, something I plan on taking advantage of quite a bit. Now, on to my review of the first DVD I received as a member, Jules Dassin's The Law.

The Law is a tale of lust, love, justice, and control all happening in a small Italian fishing village named Porto Manacore. With multiple story-lines and an amazing ensemble cast, The Law focuses primarily on two individuals. The first is Mariette (played by the gorgeous Gina Lollobrigida, seen above), a young female house keeper looking for love and freedom, and the other is Matteo Brigante (played by Yves Montand), a gang leader gaining power and status in the town so he can totally control it once the current Don passes. Part Italian neorealism and part soap opera, the film presents of an interesting blend of romanticism and politics that few films nowadays seem to attain.

In addition to its engaging story and brilliant acting, the film's technical aspects aren't to shabby either. From a great out doors long-shot early in them film (introducing us to many of the minor players) to the intense, close-up bar scene when the gentlemen play the drinking game The Law (providing insight into the community and from which the title comes) no shot seems to be without powerful meaning from behind the camera as well as in front of it. The spectacular backdrop of the southern Italian coast didn't hurt either, as it adds to how epic the film feels and looks.

In true Oscilloscope fashion the DVD comes with some great extras. Two critical essays on the DVD cover, an alternate ending, two television clips discussing the film and the book it was based of off, and a great little documentary about The Law as it is played today in southern Italy. While I didn't listen to the commentary track from film critic David Fear I look forward to checking that out next time I decided to take a trip back to Porto Manacore.

I am giving this film (and DVD) 4 out of 5 stars, as I really enjoyed it and I think it has something for everyone if your willing to look for it. Released on DVD yesterday, it is available for purchase from the previously linked Oscilloscope shop and for instant viewing through Netflix.

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