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The Actuality Dramas of Allan King (Warrendale / A Married Couple / Come on Children / Dying at Grace / Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company) (Eclipse Series 24)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Canadian director Allan King is one of cinema’s best-kept secrets. Over the course of fifty years, King shuttled between features and shorts, big-screen cinema and episodic television, comedy and drama, fiction and nonfiction. Within this remarkably varied career, it was with his cinema-verité-style documentaries—his “actuality dramas,” as he called them—that he left his greatest mark on film history. These startlingly intimate studies of lives in flux—emotionally troubled children, warring spouses, and the terminally ill—are riveting, at times emotionally overwhelming, and always depicted without narration or interviews. Humane, cathartic, and important, Allan King’s spontaneous portraits of the everyday demand to be seen. Films Include: Warrendale; A Married Couple; Come on Children; Dying at Grace; Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company. Warrendale: (1967 - 101 minutes – Black/White - Monaural - 1.33:1 aspect ratio) For his enthralling first feature, Allan King brought his cameras to a home for psychologically disturbed young people. Situated inside the facility like flies on the wall, we get full access to the wide spectrum of emotions displayed by twelve fascinating children and the caregivers trying to nurture and guide them. The stunning Warrendale won the Prix d’art et d’essai at Cannes and a special documentary award from the National Society of Film Critics. A Married Couple: (1969 - 96 minutes - Color - Monaural - 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Billy and Antoinette Edwards let it all hang out for Allan King and crew in this jaw-dropping documentary of a marriage gone haywire that “makes John Cassavetes’s Faces look like early Doris Day” (Time). Intense and hectic, frightening and funny, A Married Couple is ultimately about the eternal power struggle in romantic relationships, as well as entrenched gender roles on the cusp of change. Come on Children: (1972 - 95 minutes - Color - Monaural - 1.66:1 aspect ratio) In the early 1970s, ten teenagers (five boys and five girls) leave behind parents, school, and all other authority figures to live on a farm for ten weeks. What emerges in front of Allan King’s cameras is the fears, hopes, and alienation of a disillusioned generation. Come on Children is a swiftly paced, vivid rendering of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable—and ultimately directionless—countercultures. Dying at Grace: (2003 - 143 minutes - Color - Monaural - 1.77:1 aspect ratio) An extraordinary, transformative experience, Allan King’s Dying at Grace is quite simply unprecedented: five terminally ill cancer patients allowed the director access to their final months and days inside the Toronto Grace Health Care Center. The result is an unflinching, enormously empathetic contemplation of death, featuring a handful of the most memorable people ever captured on film. Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company: (2005 - 112 minutes - Color - Monaural - 1.78:1 aspect ratio) Allan King brings us close to the people who reside and work in a home for geriatric care in this beautifully conceived, powerful documentary. For four months, King follows the daily routines of eight patients suffering from dementia and memory loss; the result is searing, compassionate drama that can bring to the viewer a greater understanding of his or her loved ones

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The revolutionary aspects of Canadian director Allan King's "actuality dramas," cinéma vérité documentary precursors to reality television, are what make them both interesting and challenging to watch. The five documentaries included in this set creep along at real-life pace, each at close to two hours in length, and cover deeply disturbed characters that are ever more depressing because they are truly suffering people. The most troubling films: Warrendale, about a children's group home in which counselors struggle with psychologically troubled kids; Dying at Grace, documenting three months at the Salvation Army Toronto Grace Health Centre for palliative care; and Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company, chronicling geriatric-home residents grappling with life in their twilight years. These are not the kinds of films one wants to view back to back. At the outset, one questions why King would subject his viewers to witnessing such strife. As a warning, the hardships documented here are extremely sad and sensitive viewers should beware. However, the films are more than exploitative glimpses of trauma, and they quickly reveal themselves to be sincere treatments of life's unpleasant mysteries. King's documentary style is impressive; scenes roll by with a feeling of reality, yet on the flip side sensitive editing evidently happens to sequence King's tales into careful dramatic portrayals. Angry fits, breakdowns, and voiced fears comprise large parts of each piece, but right before one feels compelled to hit the off button, a cut happens that brings slight, momentary relief. Thus, King's editing becomes his conceptual and moral stance, as if emulating what he calls moments of grace.

Two of the films, Come On Children and A Married Couple, are easier to swallow thematically, containing more moments of humor and less relentlessness. For Come On Children, King enlisted five female and five male teens to live in a farmhouse for 10 weeks, mid-winter, free of parental supervision. Drugs, parties, and general adolescent ennui ensues, making for some charming moments as well as some real downers as the kids lament the directionless lives they lead. The charismatic star, John Hamilton, plays Dylan-esque guitar for the group and speaks candidly about his addictions, namely, "preferring needles to friends." Scenes, stacked theatrically, move from the hospital where one girl delivers her baby, for example, to a snowy day on the beach with two boys rolling in sand dunes, to the stoner, Ken, thrashing the house, to an LSD party, until one identifies their rebellious romanticism. A Married Couple's humor lies elsewhere, as Bill and Antoinette Edwards power-struggle their way through the tail-end of a marriage, with their toddler, Bogart, stuck in the middle. While their living room arguments are far from funny, and their separate bedrooms feel downright glum, Bill's gallivanting around in red underwear, or scenes when they trip out to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's as a newly released album, connote stylish '60s nostalgia. In total, while Allan King's documentaries are not easily digestible, they contain historical value in understanding where documentary has come from and where it may move. --Trinie Dalton


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Product Details

  • Actors: Alan Dunikowsky, Antoinette Edwards, Billy Edwards, Claire Mandell, Dr. Martin Fischer
  • Directors: Alan King
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: September 21, 2010
  • Run Time: 547 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003UNFTKK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,330 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Actuality Dramas of Allan King (Warrendale / A Married Couple / Come on Children / Dying at Grace / Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company) (Eclipse Series 24)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By ManicExpo on November 12, 2010
This is one of the finest box sets from the criterion collection. My wife and I were enraged by the audacity of the idiot who stamped his one star review on such an incredibly enlightening set of films. Allan King is not only one of the greatest documentary filmmakers (among Morris, Maysles, and Wiseman), but also in my opinion one of the top 25 greatest directors of all time. This set has long since been due. I only hope criterion releases more of his films. Imagine if Cassavetes and Wiseman were the yin and yang of a singular vision, and you just might skim the surface in identifying the brilliance of Allan King. THIS IS ESSENTIAL CINEMA!!!
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At the time of my initial review, I have only seen the documentary entitled Dying At Grace. Five terminally ill individuals were admitted to a palliative care center, Grace Health Centre, & the filming takes course over 1 winter. I was very impressed with the realism. A Health Care Worker told one of the patient's loved ones that dying was hard work-just like labor. One terminally ill woman told her social worker that she would like to just sit in a corner with her legs crossed until it was all over. Sadly, this is impossible because there are many decisions yet to be made by the terminally ill & many issues that need to be resolved such as letting go of your indepence & becoming totally reliant on others for basic care; the amount of pain medication administered; catheterization; living wills, DNR; reduction of benefits & monetary worries; determining what visitors you will allow & when; who will be present at death; mending relationships; & spirituality. These terminally ill patients have a sense of finality & have only a few ahort weeks to wait for the enevitable, but it seemed like a lifetime. They had endless hours to face & feared the manner in which they might die. Those patients who entered with no faith refused to alter their beliefs. Even those with faith felt fear & despondency at times alternating with a sense of peace. A strong sense of faith did bring a greater sense of comfort to the families at the end. The staff were excellent in that they treated each patient with dignity & sought to carry out their wishes. The dying did not suffer from alienation or lack of touch by the staff. Each patient was gently cared for after death. Life goes on & sadly another patient is admitted as a vaccancy comes available. It was stressful & difficult to watch this doccumentary. I wish that their had been a summation at the end.
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Movies and films are, for most of us, and for most of the time, a safe, legal, and harmless escape from reality. But the documentary offers the opportunity for a different kind of viewer experience, and a different kind of contract between filmmaker and film viewer. This set of purest cinematic works by Canadian filmmaker Alan King are prime example of that other possibility, carried to the extreme. By my inclination and work in the mental health field, I have always found real people fascinating, and don't mind having my beliefs about how people are supposed to be challenged by the reality of people's lives. Those who share that perspective and are able to relate to other's inner experience by simply watching their behavior, may find these films to be powerful and thought provoking as I did. With the exception of the memory impaired residents in the last installment, who keep forgetting the film crew's admonitions to just pretend they are not there, the people in these films are remarkably free of self-consciousness, and one rarely has the sense they are performing for the camera (although simply to fact of being observed always affects people's behavior). These films are not about ordinary day-to-day life, but of extreme human situations, some of which represent our worst fears, such as losing your memory in old age, dying of cancer, being abandoned by your family as having to live in a residential treatment program as a kid, being stuck in an bad marriage, and getting lost in the world of drug-induced alienation as a teen. The reality aesthetic is mostly successfully seen in the remarkable Dying at Grace, a cinéma vérité masterpiece and one of the most amazing films this reviewer has ever seen.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harry S. Pariser on August 20, 2012
I agree. These are really fine. I have watched but two, but I will see all of them! He is the Canadian Frederik Wiseman!
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The Actuality Dramas of Allan King (Warrendale / A Married Couple / Come on Children / Dying at Grace / Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company) (Eclipse Series 24)
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