The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Ticket of No Return.
The it-girl of the West German art subculture, Tabea Blumenschein, stars as a nameless, silent stranger with a one-way ticket to Berlin and a plan to drink herself to death. While touring high class bars, queer nightspots, and seedy dives, she befriends a struggling homeless woman and runs across a trio of prim, judgemental women known as Social Question, Accurate Statistics, and Common Sense. With Blumenschein’s extravagant costumes and writer/director/cinematographer Ulrike Ottinger’s eye for a city still struggling to lift itself out of the bombed-out depression of World War II, Ticket of No Return is an unforgettably unique tour of Berlin and a deliciously shrewd example of feminist camp.
- Restored 4K digital transfer, overseen by director Ulrike Ottinger, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- New interview with Ottinger
- Berlinfever – Wolf Vostell, Ottinger’s 16 minute short film of a 1973 Happening organized by artist and friend Wolf Vostell
- Gallery of Ottinger’s workbook used to develop and produce the film
- Gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
- An excerpt from Gérard Courant’s Cinématon (2009) featuring Ottinger
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A new essay by critic Michael Koresky
No real duds among these last ten films I’ve watched, but also no gigantic successes except for, perhaps, Only Yesterday which I found absolutely heartwarming, breezy, and humane as only Isao Takahata and Studio Ghibli do. White Fire got watched as it was most recently covered by the Arrow Video Podcast and while the movie is an absolute mess, a film that positions Andy Sidaris as an enlightened maestro in comparison, it is too erratic to be denied. Ralph Breaks the Internet was received poorly at its release but I have too much love for the first film and its characters to not be influenced by own goodwill (and by my love of Clive Barker’s “In the Hills, the Cities”). Finally, don’t sleep on the zombie movie Let Sleeping Corpses Lie like I did, and check out Images if you’re interested in seeing Robert Altman go rogue – Nicolas Roeg!
- Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (Jorge Grau, 1974)
- The Joke (Jaromil Jireš, 1969)
- White Fire (Jean-Marie Pallardy, 1984)
- Law and Order (Frederick Wiseman, 1969)
- Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1992)
- Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata, 1991)
- Ralph Breaks the Internet (Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, 2018)
- La otra (Roberto Gavaldón, 1946)
- Images (Robert Altman, 1972)
- The Yellow Handkerchief (Yoji Yamada, 1977)
During these last ten screenings, I also finished the Netflix series The Midnight Gospel which takes actual interviews conducted by comedian Duncan Trussell for his podcast The Duncan Trussell Family Hour and places them in a surreal, interdimensional context compliments of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward. The series centres around Clancy Gilroy, a “spacecaster” who lives on the “Chromatic Ribbon” and uses a “multiverse simulator” to interview residents of worlds as they near apocalyptic collapse. The interviews typically surround topics of mental health, spirituality, and mortality. Ward’s trippy-as-balls and often nightmarish animation runs in partial contrast to the polite and amiable discussions which oscillate between mindful contemplation and dorm room philosophizing. Personally, I enjoyed the series but managed my expectations until the final episode which delivered an absolute gut punch. For those attuned its very particular brand of slacker profundity, The Midnight Gospel is consistently imaginative and ends up being shockingly moving.
HE’S A LUMBERJACK AND HE’S NOT OKAY
Pacific Northwest, 1983 A.D. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence in near isolation. When their pine-scented splendour is savagely destroyed by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand and his cult “The Children of the New Dawn,” Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire. Armed with a hand-forged battle axe and an insane thirst for revenge, Red won’t stop until he has destroyed Jeremiah and his disciples.
From the visionary mind of Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow), Mandy is an ultra-hard, stylishly told hell-trip with heavy metal symbolism, demonic motorcycle mutants, buzzing chainsaws, and a phenomenal performance by Nicolas Cage as an unstoppable, single-minded avenger. Arrow Video proudly presents this modern grindhouse classic for the first time on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray.
HAPPY CANADA DAY!
MMC! is happily celebrating this Canada Day with Wavelength (1967), Michael Snow’s legendary experimental film. Essentially a slow 45-minute zoom through an empty Canal Street industrial loft (save for four brief sequences of human presence), Snow has called the film “a summation of my nervous system, religious inklings and aesthetic ideas.” Notwithstanding the appearances of its few human beings (including experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton and art and film critic Amy Taubin), Snow aimed to create “a definitive statement of pure Film space and time, a balancing of ‘illusion’ and ‘fact,’ all about seeing.” The camera is Wavelength’s true subject and its presence is always foregrounded thanks to the intervention of gels, superimpositions, and other visual effects and the intensifying sound of a sine-wave increasing the speed of its repetition. The artificial mechanism of Snow’s reproduction is never lost, but the slow progress of the camera, the static space of the room, and the drone of the sine-wave creates an experience that is both tedious and anxious, however the effect is also meditative, providing the spectator with room to consider Wavelength’s tensions between outside and inside, permanence and impermanence, and the space between ourselves and the cinematic apparatus. This “diary of a room” is hailed as the definitive “structural film,” an experimental mode typified by a fixed camera position, a flicker effect, loop printing, and rephotography, and it has become a canonical work of avant-garde cinema, with its initial screening in 1967 being hailed by experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas as “a landmark event in cinema.”
For those without the patience for Wavelength, there is WVLNT (Wavelength for Those Who Don’t Have the Time) (Michael Snow, 2003) which cuts the film into three equal portions and then superimposes them, creating a new film experience in the process (although one that is likely most rewarding having first seen the original).
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Man Who Stole the Sun.
Junior high school teacher Makoto Kido attacks a nuclear power plant to steal a plutonium capsule and then succeeds in building an atomic bomb by himself in his apartment. Calling himself “Number 9” and claiming to be a new nuclear power of his own, Kido extorts the government with demands for uninterrupted baseball games and a concert by the then-banned Rolling Stones, even going so far as to appoint his own negotiating partner, hardened police inspector Yamashita. Pitting rock icon Kenji Sawada with legendary tough guy Bunta Sugawara, Kazuhiko Hasegawa’s celebrated Japanese cult film explores the nation’s growing generation gap and the proliferation of nuclear power with black comedy, stylistic invention, and a heavy, controversial premise.
- New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- The Legend is Lebon Video Testimony, an 84-minute documentary on the making of the film, with interviews and on-set footage
- Walking With the Movie, a tour of the film’s locations with Japanese singer Masaki Ueda
- Enthusiasm, Talk, Talk, My “Man Who Stole the Sun,” a 35-minute interview of director Kazuhiko Hasegawa by actor Masatoshi Nagase and special effects director Shinji Higuchi
- 11 p.m. “Wonderful!! Is Julie a Strong Guy Like Genbaku?!,” a 20-minute edited version shown prior to the film’s theatrical released on September 20, 1979
- English subtitle translation supervised by screenwriter Leonard Schrader
- PLUS: A new essay by Japanese film scholar Tony Rayns
These last ten films I’ve screened leans heavily on the We Are One online film festival. Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet (a wacky Czech comedy featuring a famous American detective and a carnivorous plant), Tremble All You Want (a quirk-heavy Japanese rom-com about a neurotically shy young woman), and Epic of Everest (a silent document of the tragic 1924 Mount Everest expedition) were all very good, however Ulrike Ottinger’s Ticket of No Return woozily stands atop the digital heap. Subtitled “Portrait of a Female Drunkard,” Ottinger’s film offers an intoxicatingly experimental and oddly hilarious tale of a woman who travels to Berlin with plans to binge-drink out her final days. It shouldn’t be surprising to see Ticket of No Return make another appearance on MMC!
- Blood Machines (Seth Ickerman, 2019)
- The Telephone Book (Nelson Lyon, 1971)
- Onward (Dan Scanlon, 2020)
- Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet (Oldrich Lipský, 1978)
- Tremble All You Want (Akiko Ohku, 2017)
- The Epic of Everest (J.B.L. Noel, 1924)
- Ticket of No Return (Ulrike Ottinger, 1979)
- The Forest for the Trees (Maren Ade, 2003)
- Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019)
- The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1987)
The remainder of these last ten films I’ve watched were enjoyable films that speak to very specific interests. Do you like cringing (A LOT)? Watch The Forest for the Trees! Do you miss your subscription to Metal Hurlant? Blood Machines is for you! Are you a fan of Criterion’s William Klein and Robert Downey Sr. Eclipse sets? Check out The Telephone Book! Do you like cyborgs, vampires, time travel, and a DIY spirit? The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo is your jam! Want to level up from Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Gurren Lagann, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, and Sex & Violence with Machspeed? Try on the neon-coloured epilepsy test that is Promare!
(And for the record, I quite enjoyed Onward but felt that it really missed an opportunity to provide a relatable perspective on metalheads and feature a Pixar-friendly metal soundtrack. Still lots of fun.)