Video Camera Demo Tape Fred Meyer (—, 2017) is 26-minutes of footage taken by a Washington State Fred Meyer superstore’s floor model VHS camera in the spring of 1992. Discovered by Kellie Rogers among her father’s old camcorder tapes intended for DVD conversion, this footage of early ’90s consumerism is oddly compelling and extremely watchable. Katie Rife of The A.V. Club calls it “2017’s most avant-garde documentary” and Sophia June of Willamette Week cites it as “the greatest time capsule ever.” Hyperbole aside, the footage offers plenty of grist for the theoretical mill – the independent and foregrounded presence of the apparatus (notice those autofocus corrections), the manner of its smart device-less, unconnected subjects, the transient and incidental quality of captured footage with the rising convenience of personal recording, the footage’s online success and the current culture’s thirst for nostalgia. For those disinterested with the philosophical implications of Video Camera Demo Tape Fred Meyer, there are plenty of fascinating period intricacies to take in – the early packaging of CDs in long boxes, the ubiquity of sweatshirts, commercial transactions actually paid with paper money, and the lamentable rise of fanny packs. Good times.
First, a shout out to Cole and Ericca at The Magic Lantern Podcast who shared some love for MMC! in their recent discussion of Little Murders. Cole and Ericca provide a great (and very funny) discussion on the relationship at the centre of Arkin’s film. For the record, I’m with Cole – the wedding sequence stands as the most enjoyable part of the movie and Elliott Gould’s unresponsiveness to the demands of social convention or personal interactions is all too recognizable.
My most recent Criterion connection came by seeing Brazilian singer Seu Jorge perform live his selection of David Bowie covers from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). Jorge put on an amazing show, providing a variety of entertaining anecdotes on the making of the film, displaying some nimble guitar-work, and filling the theatre with his deep, impressive voice. The trailer for The Life Aquatic prominently features Jorge’s covers, serving as an effective promo of the singer’s currently touring show. Don’t miss it!
Putting aside the Cousteau films, the last ten films I’ve watched trend toward middling-to-decent cult films. C.H.U.D. still entertains with Daniel Stern doing his best to steal the film from its monstrous creatures. Parents is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, a middle class nightmare that seems to channel David Lynch, John Waters, and Joe Dante all at once. And while still a terrible movie, I can’t say I disliked Suicide Squad nearly as much as I thought I would, although my opinion of Will Smith as being gratingly moralistic and woeful in his choice of projects remains unchanged. Highest marks go to 13 Steps of Maki, a solid, butt-kicking exercise in Japanese genre cinema sure to reappear here at MMC!
- 13 Steps of Maki (Makoto Naito, 1975)
- Beyond the Gates (Jackson Stewart, 2016)
- C.H.U.D. (Douglas Cheek, 1984)
- Voyage to the Edge of the World (Jacques Cousteau, Philippe Cousteau, and Marshall Flaum, 1975)
- World Without Sun (Jacques Cousteau, 1964)
- The Silent World (Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle, 1956)
- Blue Demon vs. the Satanic Power (Chano Urueta, 1966)
- The Legend of Jimmy the Greek (Fritz Mitchell, 2009)
- Parents (Bob Balaban, 1989)
- Suicide Squad (David Ayer, 2016)
I’m happy to report that the rest of my time has been spent finishing the first two seasons of Lucha Underground, watching highlights of the Natsu Sumo Basho (the May Tournament), and … starting the first season Twin Peaks! I’ve never seen Twin Peaks, having made the assessment as a kid when it first came out that it just weird for weird’s sake. Fast forward twenty-seven years and I’m all about weird for weird’s sake! So far, so good. I could even see this Twin Peaks thing catching on some day, maybe finding a little cult following of its own!
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Aboard the Calypso – Sea and Cinema with Jacques Cousteau.
Explorer. Inventor. Author. Conservationist. Filmmaker. Jacques Cousteau was an iconic figure in marine exploration, spending more than sixty years investigating undersea kingdoms and sharing his tales with the world. Over three award-winning feature films spanning twenty years, Cousteau reveals the beauty and dangers beneath the waves of the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the frozen Antarctic, finding seldom seen tropical wonders, describing the pressures of living in an underwater base for weeks at a time, and persevering through the life or death struggle to survive at the South Pole. Both the committed naturalist and the keen showman, Cousteau portrayed his oceanic marvels with the idealism and the spectacle of science fiction and inspired generations to care for alien worlds here at home and no longer hidden from view.
Special Edition Three-Blu Ray Set Features:
- New high definition digital transfers of The Silent World, World Without Sun, and Voyage to the Edge of the World, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
- French and English-language audio tracks
- Introductions by Wes Anderson, James Cameron, and Werner Herzog
- Of Silence and Men: The Pioneers of The Silent World, a 50-minute documentary featuring interviews with Jacques Cousteau, co-director Louis Malle, camera designer André Laban, Cousteau scholar Franck Machu, and Malle biographer Pierre Billard
- Two Men, A Masterpiece, an interview with Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle
- The Silent World’s Legacy, interviews with Jacques Cousteau, Luc Besson, and Jacques Perrin
- Early films of Jacques Cousteau: 18 Meters Deep, Shipwrecks, Landscapes of Silence, Seals in the Sahara, Around a Reef, Off Tunisian Coasts, One sortie du “Rubis,” SCUBA Diary, Danger Under the Sea, Rhythm on the Reef, and The Red Sea
- Station 307 and The Fountain of the Vaucluse, a pair of short films by Louis Malle made in collaboration with Jacques Cousteau
- Edmond Séchan’s Academy Award-winning short The Golden Fish, produced by Jacques Cousteau
- Restoration demonstration
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker Luc Jacquet and excerpts from Cousteau’s 1953 book The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure
MMC! is hard at work on our next imagined Criterion Collection set. In the meantime, MMC! offers a kind of thematic preview to our next proposal with Born Like Stars (Steve Haddock and Brad A. Seibel, 2006), a Wholphin classic from Volume 2 and Best of Wholphin Vol. 1. The video, taken by a remotely operated vehicle called Tiburon from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, depicts baby squid hatching from the 3,000 egg cluster of a deep sea squid. The Gonatus onyx is a small, deep sea squid with the rare practice of brooding its eggs between its arms rather than on the ocean floor, something only discovered in 2005. The undulating movement by the mother squid pumps oxygen through the cone of eggs. The short’s plinky-plunky, music box score works in perfect compliment to the subject matter, creating a nursery-like atmosphere around its seemingly alien footage.
IT’S A MEAN MACHINE – CUTS YOUR HEAD OFF CLEAN!
This classic martial arts death match pits two wuxia icons against each other – the famed One-Armed Boxer (Hong Kong superstar Jimmy Wang Yu) versus a blind assassin (veteran character actor Kam Kong) and his legendary Flying Guillotine. Set in 1730, during the early part of the Ching dynasty, ethnic Chinese Hans formed bands of rebels to fight their Manchurian oppressors. After the One-Armed Boxer, a stoic kung fu expert and Han revolutionary, disposes of two would-be assassins, their master, a formidable blind emissary of the Ching posing as a Buddhist monk, swears revenge, searching out every one-armed martial artist and snatching their heads with his tethered decapitation device called the Flying Guillotine.
Arguably the most famous Hong Kong martial arts film of the post-Bruce Lee, pre-Jackie Chan period, this independently-produced classic is more popular than ever, with a legacy extending to films like Kill Bill and video games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. With its wild, fantasy face-offs and its cosmic Krautrock soundtrack, Master of the Flying Guillotine is undoubtedly a film worthy of losing your head over!
- New High Definition digital transfer
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original Mandarin version and English dub track (uncompressed on the Blu-ray Disc)
- New optional English subtitle translation
- Audio commentary with film critics Andy Klein, Wade Major, and Alex Luu
- Interviews with star/director Jimmy Wang Yu
- Spinning Vengeance – director Quentin Tarantino on Master of the Flying Guillotine
- Design for Decapitation – Grant Imahara on the mechanics of the Flying Guillotine
- Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Lines