Raiding The School’s Media Library

With this being my last semester, I finally decided that it was time to check out exactly what Hofstra’s media library had. So far, I’ve sat through just three films mostly because you have to actually watch their movies in their library. That’s right – they don’t trust the student body. All three of the films I’ve seen have been on VHS anyway, so there’s no complaining from me. Here’s what I’ve seen:

Death...as Bergman personifies it

The Seventh Seal – 1957, Ingrid Bergman – I really thought that I could be a cinephile without seeing any Bergman. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, it was just that I really felt that it wasn’t entirely necessary to see every major director’s work. Once I decided to take advantage of the library, Bergman’s The Seventh Seal was numero uno on my list. If I was going to start buying his films, I figured that I needed a free introduction.

Now, I can forgive Hofstra for not having Criterion’s 2-disc edition, but when they handed me a VHS copy, my head almost fell off. I took it in stride, though, figuring that it couldn’t be that bad. Well, it was. The subtitles were nearly impossible to read and I feel like less than half the dialog was translated. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the film and I can’t wait to get the BluRay. I did see Wild Strawberries using my Hulu trial, so I think this Bergman fellow might be someone I need to investigate more of.

It's amazing how he was able to keep himself that sweaty for the whole picture

Macbeth – 1948, Orson Welles – Welles has always been my favorite director, but it has always angered me that I haven’t been able to see any of his Shakespeare films. None of them have been legally released in the US, but thankfully Hofstra had VHS copies of Macbeth and Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight). Macbeth was the first Shakespeare I had ever read from start to finish, so I was very interested in what Welles did with it. He turned it into more or less a horror picture, using one set that is barely recognizable as a castle. I found the film remarkable and I think Welles’ performance is probably one of his very best.

I wish I could have Jeanne Moreau pull my beard

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) – 1965, Orson Welles – I’m pretty sure the VHS copy the library had must be a bootleg. There’s no way a real company would release something in such poor condition. The dialog was barely audible and the image was hampered to the point of being unable to even see actors’ faces. Still, I was able to see that it was a fantastic film and I feel like I should be lucky to have seen it, no matter what shape it was in. That battle sequence alone was worth it. I think Welles just handed out medieval costumes and told everybody to beat the hell out of each other.  I really want to say more about this masterpiece, but the terrible quality made it hard to fully enjoy it.

It is truly unbearable to know that these two fine films are unavailable on DVD in the US. How a film with probably some of Welles’ finest acting (Macbeth) and a film with the great John Gielgud (Falstaff) are both unavailable amaze me. I am now just two films away from having seen Welles’ complete filmography and unfortunately the library has copies of neither. Othello is impossible to get and I’m not really sure I want to deal with Beatrice Welles’ version. The Trial is in the public domain, but there is a 2000 DVD from Milestone that is supposed to be pretty good and is a little pricey. I’m sure eventually I’ll see them, but I’d rather it be sooner than later.

Whenever I find time to escape my work, I’ll probably head over there again and figure out what to watch next.

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