The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (Peter Greenaway, 1990)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.

criterion logoTaking aim at the neo-conservative values that dominated Britain through the 1980s, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover skewers the decadence and small-mindedness of the era with its visually sumptuous, overtly theatrical tale of food, sex, murder, and revenge.  Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) is a gangster and cultural dilettante holding court nightly at a gourmet restaurant before his wife Georgina (Helen Mirren) and his coterie of thugs, unaware that Georgina is carrying on an adulterous affair with a bookish diner one table over.  When Albert discovers the infidelity, his brutal action inspires Georgina to a gastronomic vengeance even more shocking and ghastly that Albert can imagine.  Writer-director Peter Greenaway presents a lavish cinematic feast steeped in the conventions of 16th century British revenge tragedy, inspired by 17th century Dutch painting, and voicing his harsh dissent over the social, political and cultural failures of Thatcherite Britain.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration of the film’s original 124 minute version, approved by writer-director Peter Greenaway, with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary by Greenaway
  • The Art of Revenge, a new video piece with Greenaway on the influences of art and theater in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
  • New interviews with cast members Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Richard Bohringer, and Tim Roth
  • New interview with fashion designer Jean-Paul Gautier on the film’s costumes
  • Hubert Bals Handshake, Greenaway’s 1989 short film
  • “New Possibilities: Cinema is Dead, Long Live Cinema” and “Nine Classic Paintings Revisited,” two 2010 lectures by Greenaway at UC Berkeley
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by film scholars Tony Rayns, Douglas Keesey, and Ruth Johnston

Continue reading

The Great Villain Blogathon

BannerWe’re pleased to announce our participation in The Great Villain Blogathon, running April 13-17, 2015.  Over here at MMC!, we’ll be discussing John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends (1960), a ghastly, cold-blooded take on the Burke and Hare murders, where black and white cinematography proves no impediment to producing an effectively lurid and grisly film.  And with less than admirable characters played by Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Billie Whitelaw, George Rose, and Reneé Houston, villains easily seem to outnumber what passes for heroes in this tale of scientific idealism and grave-robbery.

Big thanks to hosts Ruth of Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin, and Kristina of Speakeasy for making this happen and allowing us to take part.  Head over to The Great Villain Blogathon to peruse the other contributors and topics and maybe even sign-up to participate as well!

Bugsy Malone (Alan Parker, 1976)

Bugsy Malone is the last great musical.” – John Burgess, THE GUARDIAN.

Drafthouse Films LogoIt’s 1929.  A vicious mob war is tearing the city apart.  One man is caught in the middle.  And no one has hit puberty yet.

Get splurged with this offbeat slapstick gangster musical that features ruthless mobsters, gin hall singers and hard-nosed cops .. played exclusively by a cast of children.  Showcasing the talents of a pre-Chachi Scott Baio and a 13 year-old Jodie Foster (fresh off playing a child prostitute for Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver), Sir Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone is the most elaborate game cops and robbers ever attempted.  Baio is Bugsy Malone, a small-time boxing promoter who gets mixed up with some pint-sized gangs competing to take over the “sarsaparilla racket” with a cache of “splurge guns” – Tommy Guns that shoot gobs of custard and take their victim out of commission.  Goofing on cliches of prohibition-era gangster pics, the film plays off the absurdity of miniature mobsters talking up dancers at speakeasies and chasing each other in Model T pedal cars, all while supported by Broadway-style song and dance numbers written (and sometimes performed) by Paul Williams.  This gangster epic will appeal to kids and adults alike, and the only thing criminal is how cute these crooks are as they wage their pocket-sized mob war.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with writer-director Sir Alan Parker
  • Optional “Sing-A-Long” version
  • “From Sketch to Screen” – rough shot sketches synched to the film’s soundtrack
  • After They Were Famous: Bugsy Malone, a 2003 retrospective on the film made from British television
  • Trailers
  • Photo Gallery
  • Production Art Gallery including sketched and full painted concept art
  • 32-page booklet featuring an essay by Sir Alan Parker on the making of the film and a new essay by film scholar Kier-La Janisse

Splurge Edition – Package Includes:

  • Bugsy Malone on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 3 hours of bonus material!
  • DRM-free Digital Download of the film in 1080p, 720p, and mobile/tablet formats
  • Instant download of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Paul Williams
  • 27″ x 40″ reversible poster
  • Parker’s graphic novel adaptation of Bugsy Malone, illustrated by Graham Thompson

Continue reading

A Taxing Woman (Juzo Itami, 1987) and A Taxing Woman’s Return (Juzo Itami, 1988)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Taxing Woman and A Taxing Woman’s Return.

criterion logoRyoko is Japan’s hardest working female tax inspector, a ruthlessly diligent investigator whose only match is Gondo, a “love hotel” owner and master tax evader.  Against a backdrop of stake-outs, searches, and a spectacular raid, this taxing woman and her clever prey test their respective skills of detection and deception, stirring their mutual sexual attraction.  Nobuko Miyamoto and Tsutomu Yamazaki give performances in the best tradition of romantic farce, resulting in a hit film for director Jûzô Itami and a darker, edgier sequel, A Taxing Woman’s Returns, that pits the title character against a religious cult leader and a complex conspiracy involving gangsters, politicians, and a prestigious construction project.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restorations, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Introduction with Nobuko Miyamoto, star of the films and wife of filmmaker Jûzô Itami
  • Masayuki Suo’s 108 and 110 minute documentaries on the making of A Taxing Woman and A Taxing Woman’s Return
  • New interview with Jake Adelstein on the films, the Japanese yakuza, and Japan’s National Tax Agency
  • Theatrical trailers and teasers
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Continue reading

Love Sublime (Raj Kapoor, 1978)

A BOLLYWOOD FABLE OF LOVE, LUST AND OBSESSION

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddThere is nothing quite like Raj Kapoor’s Love Sublime – a meditation on love and beauty that lavishly mixes fantasy, psychedelia, and voluptuous sexuality against the background of 1970s India’s rural electrification program.  A playboy engineer from the city (Shashi Kapoor) is sent to a small village to oversee a new hydroelectric dam, and falls in love with a nubile temple girl (Zeenat Aman) who hides her severely scarred face from him.  He discovers her disfigurement on their wedding night and goes mad, insisting that she is an impostor and bringing her to a strange masquerade designed to restore his love.  Raj Kapoor presents a fairy tale vision that mixes the hardscrabble realism of rural life with baroque dream sequences and a scandalous degree of sexuality by his female star’s barely there wardrobe.  While representing a stunning accomplishment in visual style by cinematographer Radhu Karmakar and boasting an accomplished soundtrack by composers by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Love Sublime‘s unusual story and rampant eroticism has nevertheless defined it as the most controversial movie of Bollywood’s greatest filmmaker.

Love Sublime resembles the Hindi lovechild of Samuel Fuller and Russ Meyer, merging daring pulp perversity with a rural, Gothic, T&A melodrama and creating an irresistible social drama that may or may not teach that beauty is more than skin deep.  As Elliott Stein observes, “Although it was made for Indian audiences, I have never met an Indian who will admit to liking it and I have never met anyone from the West who didn’t like it.”

Special Features:

  • New High Definition Digital Transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • Raj Kapoor in the ’70sRachel Dwyer on Raj Kapoor and his late career interest in female protagonists
  • New interviews with stars Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman
  • Sex, Saris, and Censorship – a visual essay by Monika Mehta exploring the reception and controversy of Love Sublime
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Wendy Doniger, a review by Elliott Stein, and illustrated with original stills and posters

Continue reading

Seventeen Moments of Spring (Tatyana Lioznova, 1973)

Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions.  Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer.

Eclipse LogoVirtually unknown in the West, Tatyana Lioznova’s 12-part mini-series Seventeen Moments of Spring is Russia’s most popular and acclaimed TV production, playing annually to millions of viewers since its release in 1973.  Soviet spy Maxim Isaev (Vyacheslav Tikhonov), working in deep cover as a prominent SS officer named Max Otto von Stierlitz, receives direction from Moscow in February 1945 to gather information on peace talks rumored between the Americans and Nazis and frustrate any efforts that might allow the Germans to focus all their military power to the Eastern Front.  What follows is a complicated battle of wits set within the Nazi administration with mortal consequences for Stierlitz and all of the USSR.  This methodically suspenseful and widely successful espionage thriller celebrates the Russian war effort during World War II, valorizes the nation’s security agencies through the patriotic and canny Stierlitz, and subtly critiques Soviet bureaucratic authority in an era of thawing Cold War relations.

Includes the original version and the 2009 colorized version, with notes by historian Stephen Lovell.

Continue reading