Literally nothing on this blog makes me happier than posting about MMC! titles getting actual spine numbers and Arrow Video has made that happen once again with the announcement that Tomu Uchida’s A Fugitive from the Past will be released in September! A massive film that nicely bookends with his Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (another film also promoted by MMC! and later released by Arrow Video), Fugitive is a masterpiece of Japanese guilt, treating the demand for atonement as a near metaphysical inevitability. Gritty in texture yet profound in its look and sensibility, Fugitive will likely catch many Arrowheads off guard and find the declaring a newly discovered masterpiece. Once again, you’re welcome!
Without a doubt, Aleksandr Ptushko’s Ilya Muromets is the most fun MMC! has had with a screening this year and so it stands at the top of these last 10 films I’ve watched and on MMC!’s list of favourite first time watches for 2022. MMC! was already a fan of the Deaf Crocodile boutique label given its restoration and release of past MMC! candidate The Unknown Man of Shandigor, but this Russian fantasy might even outdo that title. Ilya Muromets, Russia’s answer to Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, is a medieval villager roused by a magic elixir to fight for good and resist the pagan hordes of Tugars set to overrun Kiev. Triple-headed dragons, magic tablecloths, wind demons, human mounds, and various feats of improbable strength stand out as Ilya distinguishes himself as a hero above all others. Ptushko’s camera tricks and practical effects are stunningly convincing despite their obvious primitiveness, and Deaf Crocodile’s Blu-ray makes this a visual feast all the more. It was, in a sense, everything The Northman could have been and more.
- The Melbourne Rendezvous (René Lucot, 1957)
- The Official Story (Luis Puenzo, 1985)
- Ilya Muromets (Aleksandr Ptushko, 1956)
- Venus Wars (Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, 1989)
- Tora-san’s Tropical Fever Special Edition (Yoji Yamada, 1997)
- Olympic Games 1956 (Peter Whitchurch, 1956)
- Parallel Mothers (Pedro Almódovar, 2021)
- Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2021)
- The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022)
- Tora-san to the Rescue (Yoji Yamada, 1995)
These last 10 films also mark the bittersweet end of my journey with Tora-san. Fifty films watched and none left to see, all that is left is to revisit this wonderful franchise, one that may be my favourite thing ever committed to celluloid. For those keeping count, MMC!’s next massive undertaking are the original runs of The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, as well as their Japanese kaiju counterpart Ultra Q and its 2013 reboot Neo Ultra Q.
In anticipation of MMC!’s next (and overdue) imagined Criterion edition, this latest “Double Feature” shares a couple of recent Netflix favourites in an unusual pairing linked by their celebratory treatments of Mesoamerican, South American, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures. Órale!
John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons (Aram Rappaport, 2018)
Presenting the 2017 Tony-nominated play, Aram Rappaport’s film version of John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons follows the performer’s survey through 3,000 years of Latin American history all in an effort to help his bullied son. The process is a heartfelt reclamation of Leguizamo’s history, an unpacking of his resentments, and an effort to offer something culturally redemptive to his son and himself. Leguizamo paints with a broad brush in this one-man show, reveling in cartoonish caricatures and historical overstatements while citing his scholarly and not-so scholarly sources, but his points remain sound throughout. This is a comedy and its lessons and its outrage are revealed through that lens, remaining true even while its outspoken tour guide sometimes colours way outside the lines.
Maya and the Three (Jorge R. Gutierrez, 2021)
Building on El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, his lucha libre-inspired series for Nickolodeon, and The Book of Life, his animated feature film drawing on Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, Jorge R. Gutierrez’s Maya and the Three is an epic adventure told through the histories and mythologies of Mesoamerica, South America, and the Caribbean. Maya, a spirited princess with the heart of a warrior, undertakes a mission to fulfill an ancient prophecy and save humanity from the wrath of vengeful gods by uniting four kingdoms and leading their unlikely champions. Gutierrez mines clichéd tropes with brilliant stylization, moving heroism, and multivalent representations that push back against stock family film conventions and fantasy movie presumptions. Sacrificing warrior mothers, multiple Akira slides, stone Olmec heads, Gatchaman helmets, a Rosie Perez voice-role, some post-colonial villains found in undead conquistadors, and the most spectacular closing battle seen in quite a while make this massive animated fantasy an easy MMC! favourite.
“The Spirit of Cuauhtémoc, Alive and Untamed!”
For no particularly good reason, Mexico and Latin America hold a place of special regard here at MMC! headquarters. We love the food, the art, the music, the history, the mythology, and the professional wrestling of Mexico and those of its sister countries and cultures. What is especially wonderful of both John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons and Maya and the Three is that neither is precious about its celebration of these histories. In these films, they are things to be embraced and enjoyed passionately, things to both applaud and laugh at, things that influence and are influenced upon as part of a global culture rather than being something hermetically sealed away for its own stultifying preservation. Above all, they are exceptionally entertaining, bringing accessibility while still remaining faithful to their vernacular origins. For those not too starched in their educational expectations, this pairing makes for a brilliant introduction to some Latin American study.
Both John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons and Maya and the Three are available on Netflix. And with titles like Uncut Gems, The Irishman, Roma, and Beasts of No Nation having already garnered Criterion canonization, who’s to say these titles might not be waiting for a wacky “C” of their own?
Of these last 10 films I’ve watched, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour stands out as obviously the best of these screenings. With its lengthy runtime (317 minutes), its thoughtful conversations between its four female thirty-somethings, and the impassively flat intonations of its delivered dialogue, Hamaguchi evokes a literary experience cinematically and creates something immersively captivating – a melodramatic inkblot into which the viewer can pour their emotions into. Truth be told, despite how fascinating Happy Hour proved to be, I cannot ignore Jackass Forever. I never really watched the original MTV program, finding it too sophomoric for my tastes. The TV show seemed to only confirm that youth was wasted on the young, yet I now find myself getting more invested in the Jackass crew as they age. Their pain seems more real, more genuine, and the entire enterprise seems to enjoyably push back on the notion that wisdom is wasted on the old. There’s certainly an aspect of Peter Pan about the whole thing, with Johnny Knoxville (now a silver fox) and his Lost Boys fending off father time by riding a shopping cart straight into him at high speeds. Forever stands far from the genius of Jackass 3D (which was easily the best use of 3D’s mainstream resurgence, standing as a kind of post-millennial cinema of attractions), but it was still a ridiculous 96 minutes that I often found invaluable. Love that “Cup Test.”
- What We Do in the Shadows (Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement, 2014)
- Jackass Forever (Jeff Tremaine, 2022)
- The Demon (Brunello Rondi, 1963)
- Happy Hour (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, 2015)
- Black Angel (Roy William Neill, 1946)
- Attila Marcel (Sylvain Chomet, 2013)
- Slaughterhouse-Five (George Roy Hill, 1972)
- Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond, 2021)
- Shark (Jason Hehir and Thomas Odelfelt, 2022)
- In the Name of the Italian People (Dino Risi, 1971)
Truth be told, these last 10 films screened longer ago than is usual as I’m currently working my way through Mariano Llinás’ La Flor (2018), an epic undertaking at nearly fourteen hours and made up of six episodes starring the same four actresses, with the first four episodes stopping short their natural endings, the fifth remaking a famous French film of the 1930s, and the sixth depicting only a conclusion. Midway through at the time this post is written, La Flor seems to be an intriguing experiment in narrative that seems to luxuriate in its own vagueness, whether by its plotting, its dialogue, or even its planes of focus. Sprinkled between La Flor has been screenings of Good Mythical Morning, a YouTube comedy show featuring Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal playing games, having fun, and participating in taste tests (our favourite). I was already familiar with GMM but I’ve now got my wife addicted to the program in anticipation of Rhett and Link’s forthcoming Food Network show, Inside Eats with Rhett & Link.
A BAD TRIP(TYCH) THROUGH HUNGARIAN HISTORY.
Three stories. Three eras. Three men. One is an orderly in a remote outpost during World War II consumed by lust but who passes the boredom by spying on the women around him and discovering his ability to ejaculate fire. The next is his son, a corpulent speed-eater competing for the glory of the Communist state and the attention of a hefty female colleague. The last is their son, a master taxidermist in the post-socialist era who turns his trade onto himself with gruesome effect. This is Taxidermia, a grotesquely surreal offering from director György Pálfi that inscribes the history of his native Hungary into the unusual bodies of three generations of men who are all damned from birth. Based in part on the stories of Lajos Parti Nagy, Pálfi creates a queasy masterpiece of historical body horror not recommended for the squeamish.
Special Edition Contents:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio
- Optional newly translated English subtitles
- Feature-length audio commentary with director György Pálfi
- Making of Taxidermia behind-the-scenes featurette
- Horrific Histories and Bachelor Machines, a brand new featurette with Steven Shaviro on the film’s political and philosophical underpinnings
- Deleted scenes with optional director’s commentary
- Visual design and concept gallery
- Interactive game
- Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen, Pálfi’s feature-length extravaganza of movie love and adventure pieced together from found-footage taken from Hollywood and abroad
- Taltosember vs Ikarus, a short film by Pálfi with optional director commentary
- Theatrical trailers
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by scholar László Strausz
These last 10 films I’ve watched include my first exposure to Rinty, the silver screen’s most prolific star of the 1920s. Truth be told, Clash of the Wolves was solid silent cinema fun, being loaded with canine heroism and daring. The film also brought home the lesson that if a dog wearing boots and a beard can hoodwink your townsfolk but not their horses, you may want to consider the quality of your community. Very high marks go to Everything Everywhere All at Once, which somehow lived up to its hype. If The Matrix being written by Jorge Luis Borges and adapted to the screen by Stephen Chow with occasional nods to Wong Kar-wai sounds like an appealing idea to you, then this is the multiversal experience for you. Certainly an early leader for best film of 2022.
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Jeff Fowler, 2022)
- Everything Everywhere All at One (Daniels, 2022)
- The Comedy of Terrors (Jacques Tourneur, 1963)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (Jon Watts, 2021)
- Repeat Performance (Alfred L. Werker, 1947)
- Tora-san Makes Excuses (Yoji Yamada, 1992)
- Clash of the Wolves (Noel M. Smith, 1925)
- A Cop Movie (Alonso Ruizpalacios, 2021)
- Yumeji (Seijun Suzuki, 1991)
- Our Friend the Atom (Hamilton Luske, 1957)
In between these last 10 films, MMC! polished off James Gunn’s highly enjoyable first season of Peacemaker and plowed through Old Enough! on Netflix, a show about preschool-age Japanese kids sent out into their neighbourhoods by their parents to complete various errands on their own. Adorable and at times wildly suspenseful, Old Enough! is as addictive a program as we’ve seen in quite a while (and the little girl sent to fetch her mom’s photo album from their van at a repair shop may be the cutest thing we’ve ever seen).