DVD/Blu Ray

The Village Detective: A Song Cycle (E) |Home Ents Review

Dir. Bill Morrison, US, 2021, 81 mins plus circa 100 mins of extras

Review by Colin Dibben

The backstory is more interesting than the finished product in Bill Morrison’s new release. But, if you like his approach to film preservation and related practices, you get a lot of shorter films in the extras.

In 2016, four reels of The Village Detective (Derevensky Detektiv), a 1969 Russian film starring the Soviet-era character actor Mikhail Zharov, were found in a fisherman’s net off the Icelandic coast.

Filmmaker Bill Morrison tells the story of the film’s recovery with big, on-screen titles. The decayed footage is then combined with original music by David Lang, and interwoven with interviews and clips from Zharov’s lengthy filmography to tell an intriguing story.

Morrison’s work reminds me of Godard’s notion in Histoire{s) du Cinema that film is quintessentially related to mourning: it is the opposite of life and a recognition of that. Morrison highlights the frailty of the physical medium itself and transfigures and celebrates this frailty with his digital formats. I, for one, don’t feel that I need reminding of this frailty – or of the non-life of cinema. It is there already every time I watch something.

The film is presented from a 4K master, which is almost certainly ironic.

Special features include:

• New and exclusive interview with Bill Morrison

• Additional short films:

– Beyond Zero: 1914-1918 (2014)

– The Unchanging Sea (2018)

– Sunken Films (2020)

– Let Me Come In (2021)

• Booklet with new writing on the film by Peter N Walsh

The Village Detective: A Song Cycle is out on Blu-ray on 26 February 2024.