Violent Panic: The Big Crash (Kinji Fukasaku, 1976)

KINJI FUKASAKU’S ODE TO AUTOMOTIVE ANARCHY

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddAcclaimed Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku breaks free from his iconic yakuza films with Violent Panic: The Big Crash, a deliriously wild ride through Japanese and American exploitation cinema.  Takashi Yamanaki (Tsunehiko Watase) and his partner tear across Japan committing daring, daylight bank-robberies in hopes of eventually escaping to Brazil, but when his partner is killed escaping from a heist, Takashi finds himself on the run as a wanted man.  Standing between him and his getaway to South America is a beautiful woman in love with him (Miki Sugimoto), his partner’s vicious brother (Hideo Murota), an ill-tempered cop (Takuzo Kawatani), and every news truck, motorcycle gang, and delivery driver that crosses their path.  Violent Panic crashes cult film genres (sex comedy, crime, erotic horror, carsploitation) into Fukasaku’s trademark handheld cinematography to create an irreverently careening caper flick, culminating with an outrageous multi-vehicle demolition derby that must be seen to be believed!

Fans of Japan’s master of gangster cinema will recognize Fukasaku’s unique storytelling and visual style, but Violent Panic contains a madcap spontaneity that is wantonly cartoonish and uncharacteristic to the director’s better known works.  Fun, frothy, and fierce, Violent Panic: The Big Crash is a cult film spectacle that pulls out all the stops.

Special Features:

  • New High Definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • New interview with star Tsunehiko Watase
  • Interview with Fukasaku biographer, Yamane Sadao
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Booklet by critic and scholar Tom Mes of Midnight Eye, illustrated with original stills and new artwork

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Shameless Self-Promotion

Kill Bill PostersI’m pleased to announced that my list of 24 Great Revenge Movies Referenced in ‘Kill Bill’ is live at Taste of Cinema.  Why not head over there, check it out, and browse around a lot of other great movie lists?

Big thanks to Taste of Cinema for letting me contribute to the site and for their patience while the list was prepared!  They did a great job putting the post together and selected some fantastic images from each of the films.  Plus, it was an excellent excuse to revisit a number of these movies.

Why not contribute a list yourself?  Head on over and find out how!

Lenny (Bob Fosse, 1974)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Lenny.

criterion logoBob Fosse’s first non-musical film confirmed his cinematic talents, creating a grim biopic of controversial stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce that is both heavily romanticized and harshly unsentimental.  Dustin Hoffman stars in this relentless depiction of Bruce’s battle with the Establishment authorities that condemned his stage act as obscene and the comedian’s downward spiral from countercultural vanguard to junkie burnout.  Supported by a Cannes-winning performance by Valerie Perrine as Bruce’s stripper wife, Bruce Surtees’ rich black and white cinematography, and Julian Barry’s adaptation of his own Broadway play, Fosse’s Lenny was a commercial and critical success that garnered six Academy Award nominations and eulogized the career of one of America’s great champions of free speech.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Scene-specific audio commentary featuring editor Alan Heim and Lenny Bruce’s daughter, Kitty Bruce
  • New interviews with Dustin Hoffman, Valerie Perrine, Stanley Beck, Alan Heim, and Fosse biographer Sam Wasson
  • Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth, Robert B. Weide’s 1998 documentary featuring narration by Robert De Niro
  • Video appreciation by comedian Marc Maron
  • New interview with Stand-Up! record label owner Dan Schlissel and lawyer Bart Torvi on Bruce legacy in comedy and obscenity law
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by filmmaker Damon Maulucci and Dick Schaap’s tribute to Bruce for Playboy Magazine.

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Make Mine Arrow!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddWe’re real fans of Arrows Films, particularly its Arrow Video label which offers Criterion Collection-level special editions of great retro-cult titles.  These are stacked packages with fantastic cover and insert designs by artists like Graham Humphreys and Rick Melton.  We’re particularly fond of Arrow Video’s region-free edition of Pit Stop (Jack Hill, 1969), a nihilistic little film set in the dangerous world of crash’em up auto-racing and featuring all the wreckage a figure-8 race track can provide.  Needless to say, we were overjoyed to discover that “the world’s premier cult film label” was expanding to North America with announced titles like Blind Woman’s Curse (Teruo Ishii, 1970), Day of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967), Mark of the Devil (Michael Armstrong, 1970), and Yasuharu Hasebe’s Massacre Gun (1967) and Retaliation (1968).  With an Indiegogo fundraiser demonstrating an available market that has already surpassed its funding goal, we’re looking forward to seeing some North American releases from Arrow Video in early 2015.

In anticipation of Arrow Video crossing the pond, “Make Mine Arrow!” posts will soon appear here at MMC!, proposing quality editions of some of our favourite genre titles that just don’t fit the profiles of the Criterion Collection or Drafthouse Films.  Next month, our first Arrow Video wish will appear – another car crash celebration, this time featuring outlaws on the run and an uneasy balance between crime drama and sex comedy.

Mind Game (Masaaki Yuasa, 2004)

“The Citizen Kane of animation” – Bill Plympton

Drafthouse Films LogoBased on Robin Nishi’s underground manga, Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game is a singularly daring first feature that fully embraces the creative freedom of animation.  This surrealistic adventure follows aspiring comic book artist Nishi from death and back again, then into the belly of a whale where he learns to pursue his dreams and take charge of his life while in the company of his childhood crush, her no-nonsense sister, and an elderly man trapped inside for more than 30 years.  Mind Game, another vibrant and imaginative work of Japan’s celebrated Studio 4°C, blends flat animation, CGI, and digitally-painted live action into a roughly hewn, artistically exaggerated, cult masterpiece.  Technically surreal and aesthetically defying, Mind Game is a brave and inspiring work of art unlike anything in Japanese anime and global animation.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Masaaki Yuasa
  • Footage from the Mind Game completion reception
  • Pre-screening discussions at the Mind Game premiere
  • Cast and crew interviews
  • Koji Morimoto’s Noiseman Sound Insect, a 15-minute anime produced by Studio 4°C and featuring the designs and animation of Masaaki Yuasa
  • Cat Soup, Tatsuo Sato’s experimental 33-minute anime written and produced by Masaaki Yuasa
  • Masaaki Yuasa’s crowd-funded short, Kick-Heart
  • Trailer
  • A 16-page booklet featuring an interview with Yuasa and an essay by Japanese film scholar Mark Shilling

Kami-sama Edition – Package Includes:

  • Mind Game on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 4 hours of bonus material!
  • DRM-free Digital Download of the film in 1080p, 720p, and mobile/tablet formats
  • Instant Download of Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Seiichi Yamamoto and including Fayray’s closing song “Saisho de Saigo no Koi”
  • Storyboards and concept art by Masaaki Yuasa
  • Complete Mind Game manga by Robin Nishi
  • Illustrated Postcards

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Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody? (Miguel Arteta, 2005)

We’ve thought a lot lately about short films (their prevalence and the limits on their circulation).  More specifically, we’ve been thinking about McSweeney’s too short-lived DVD/magazine series “of unseen things,” Wholphin.  Over 15 issues (and a Best of edition), Wholphin provided a much needed opportunity to explore film in its short format and its selections were brilliant.  The Criterion Collection remains decidedly auteur-focused in its approaches to short films, while Drafthouse Films’ recent Confetti of the Mind, a compilation of Nacho Vigalondo’s shorts, has yet to claim a spine number or a place on hard media (which it should).  Shorts, particularly those made by filmmakers not yet acclaimed or defined as auteurs, need forums like Wholphin to circulate and find appreciation.  Both Criterion and Drafthouse could find a space for something akin to McSweeney’s now-defunct series.  This is our modest call for more short films on hard media.  We’ll respectfully label these posts “Son of Wholphin” and use these spaces to celebrate our favourite short form works, regardless of whether they’re new and unheralded or already circulated and admired.

We’ll kick this off with our favourite from Wholphin No. 1, a 4-minute contemporary classic shot with a budget of only $150, written by Miranda July, and directed by Miguel Arteta (director of Cedar Rapids (2011), another favourite here at MMC!).  Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody? (2005) stars John C. Reilly asking this simple survey question to a series of passers-by (July, Mike White, Chuy Chavez) with delightful results.  Interestingly, Arteta comments in Wholphin on the poignancy of the film as he became aware during filming that his relationship with July was winding down.  The shoot was pleasant, but they were broken up by editing, and Arteta looked fondly on the film “like a rear-view mirror that survived a fabulous, painful crash.”