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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Box Set/Blu-ray. Visions of Europe

 (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.; Roy A. Hammond (aerial director/executive producer), Sam Toperoff (producer/editor/writer), 2001-9 (Acorn Media)

One of the most visually stunning travelogue series ever, the “Visions” sets from WLIW in New York offer spectacular aerial tours of the great sights of Europe, shot in gorgeous high definition cinematography, accompanied by fairly typical and unsurprising but very well-executed narration and music. (Germany and Austria, both particularly rich in musical native sons, bring us Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Wagner and Johann Strauss.) They’re real treats, especially for people who would like to travel more, but don’t or can’t.

The entire Visions of Europe six-disc box set edition, offers six lush photographic tours of Greece, Italy, France, Germany, Austria and the great cities of Europe — all featuring splendidly visualized, deep focus helicopter’s-eye views of much of what we always wanted to see in Europe, but didn’t or couldn’t becsuse of the steep ticket and lodging prices. Of course, you can visit them over and over again here.

Among the many sights seen in Visions of Europe (stunningly, from way overhead): Corfu, Crete, the Peloponnese, Rhodes, Thessaloniki, The Alps, Florence, Venice (a really unusual perspective, since we‘re usually in a gondola or on a bridge), Naples, Pisa, Pompeii, Rome, St. Peter’s Square, the Grand Canyon of Verdon, Arles, Avignon, Aix, The Riviera, Cannes (a special delight for the movie lovers who‘ve been there and the many more who haven‘t), Nice, St. Tropez, Monaco, Bavaria, King Ludwig‘s castles (Visconti and Ophuls fans will love this), Lake Constance, Cologne, the Black Forest, the Rhine, Innsbruck, The Danube, Salzburg and the Schonbrunn and Habsburg palaces.

The “Great Cities” in the sixth set are London, Rome, Vienna, Amsterdam, Budapest, the cities of the Cote d‘Azur, Prague, Dublin and, naturally, Paris. Watching the Roman set, you can imagine for a while that you’re Marcello Mastroianni’s hedonist/journalist “Marcello” in La Dolce Vita, swooping over the city in a helicopter, carrying a statue of Christ, while pretty rooftop sunbathers wave at you from below.

And, if you’re miffed that Britain and Ireland aren’t represented, there’s another WLIW “Visions” set devoted to them, along with Scotland and Wales.

I know some people must think I’m a little nuts to make such strong recommendations for TV travelogues and nature and wildlife documentaries, instead of the latest non-fiction political expose. But the best of these kinds of films are, I think, sometimes unfairly ignored. The modern examples, like this set, are not “As the sun sets slowly in the West” stuff. They’re often far more sophisticated that the old models, and are redeemed, in any case, by their spectacularly beautiful photography. A suggestion: These are wonderful gifts for older people, especially those who read a lot, always wanted to travel but never got the opportunity. With this set, they can.

The “Visions of Europe” set contains:

Visions of Italy ( U.S.: Hammond, Toperoff and Roman Brygider, 2001-2002, 2008) Three and a Half Stars. Includes “Visions of Italy: Northern Style,” “Visions of Italy: Southern Style,” “Visions of Sicily” and “Visions of Italy: the Great Cities.”

  Visions of Greece (U.S.: Hammond, Toperoff and Duby Tal, 2002-2003) Three and a Half Stars. Includes the programs “Visions of Greece” and “Visions of Greece: Off the Beaten Path“).

Visions of France (U.S.: Hammond and Toperoff, 2004) Three and a Half Stars. Includes “Provence” and “The Riviera.”

Visions of Germany (U.S.: Hammond and Toperoff, 2004-2005) Three and a Half Stars. Includes “Bavaria” and “Along the Rhine.”

Visions of Austria (U.S.: Hammond and Toperoff, 2007) Three and a Half Stars.

Visions: The Great Cities of Europe (U.S.: Hammond and Toperoff, 2009) Three and a Half Stars.

Extras: Bonus footage for all discs.


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So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon