Date DVD: Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941


If your date is a complete fucking idiot, he or she might be happy watching Will Ferrell debase himself in Bewitched this weekend, but you'll barely be able to stand it. House of Wax, is, of course, bad, but not nearly exploitative enough to be bad in an enjoyable way. Still, there's hope: if you and your date are unapologetic film geeks, well, this week is heaven.

    If your date is slapstick fan or a snooty Cahiers du Cinema snob, The Legendary Jerry Lewis Collection will thrill. And if you're too hip for the Jerry-est-auteur school, you'll do well with Gus Van Sant's Last Days. The intermittently interesting Kurt Cobain sanctification has at least one audacious free-form scene (a long, dolly shot of a rehearsal room) that makes up for the mumbling dullness surrounding it. And serious cineasts will have nothing but open-mouthed awe for Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941.

    This seven-disc set of 155 films and film samples is one of the most important DVD sets ever produced. It's not just that it gathers films by Man Ray, Paul Strand, Marcel Duchamp and Sergei Eistenstein that you can't find anywhere else; the set allows the stuffy idea of the "avant-garde" to breathe. You'll find Joseph Cornell's odd collage films, Busby Berkeley's insane dance compositions, documentary pieces by Walker Evans and others, fun animations, Elizabeth Woodman Wright's home movies, an entire disc celebrating the whirligig energy of New York City, and many other surprises too. The best feature, of course, is that the set isn't set up and narrated as a classroom course. The extras are solid, but this set is meant to be savored, not studied. Logan Hill