I met Dave at a get-together hosted by a mutual friend eight years ago. Attended by professional, semi-professional, and amateur pop culture nerds, we were invited to share lists of our favourite films and Dave’s list expressed his love of music as well as his love of cinema at its biggest and most minute.
In the years that followed, we would watch movies together when we ran into each other at a screening, we would text about programming ideas and other movie stuff, and we would share festival discoveries. I would give him rides home when he needed them, he would hook my son up with Godzilla stuff, and my wife would restrain her urge to make him a sandwich. When I discovered he was in the hospital, I sent him a message wishing him well and asking him to reach out once he recovered, hoping he would find the message once he was discharged. Sadly that won’t happen, but I’m very grateful for the time I got to spend with Dave and I wish him the best on whatever new project he’s now moved on to.
In celebration of Dave, MMC! offers this brief tribute to the man on screen and there’s no better place to start than Dave’s 2014 short film Will the Real Dave Barber Please Stand Up?, a hilarious account of Dave being awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.
Listening to the latest Arrow Video Podcast on Sōgo Ishii’s Burst City (1982), I thought I had scored a rare Sam and Dan bingo by having seen the film and all of the hosts’ related recommendations! In addition to Burst City, I had already watched Ishii’s Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001), Damon Packard’s Reflections of Evil (2002), and Shigeru Izumiya’s Death Powder (1986), but alas I had not yet screened my copy of Versus. I remedied that and found it to be nutso fun, playing like a splatterpunk sizzle reel for Sam Raimi’s Matrix-inspired, live-action adaptation of a supernatural manga. That, plus its weirdo Japanese Robert Mitchum playing a gay Joker really grew on me.
Believe it or not, I also saw Clueless for the first time and it felt like a teen rom-com directed by Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven has been a master of films that fall so deeply into their satires that they lose sight of their parody and become uncanny versions of their subjects. I enjoyed Clueless and I really think it could develop a bit of a cult following with a little word of mouth.
And for those looking for hints on MMC!’s next imagined Criterion edition, that next title isn’t listed above but there is definitely some research going on in these last ten screenings. It’s not much to go on, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Enjoy the weekend, kids!
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Simon & Garfunkel: Songs of America.
Directed by their friend Charles Grodin and airing almost two months before the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s 1969 television special Simon & Garfunkel: Songs of America previewed their landmark album and shows the two on stage, in the studio, and on a concert tour across a turbulent country. The documentary follows the duo in cinéma verité style while interspersing footage of the social movements that defined a nation growing more aware, more sophisticated, and more complex. The special’s initial sponsor infamously balked at footage of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, the Poor People’s March on Washington, and the recently slain Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Though unpopular at the time, Songs of America has become an enduring portrait of an era and of Simon & Garfunkel as artists, with incisive commentary provided by iconic songs like “America,” “The Boxer,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Sound of Silence,” “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could),” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Robert Ryan’s 1969 introduction to the television special
The Harmony Game, Jennifer Lebeau’s 2011 feature-length documentary on the making of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water album
Remembering Chuck, new interviews with Simon and Garfunkel on their personal and professional friendship with Grodin
Saturday Night Live sketch from 1977 featuring Charles Grodin, Paul Simon, and Art Garfunkel
PLUS: A new essay by rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres
Amid the success of The Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter series, Toei Company had found a new star in Etsuko Shihomi and had created its first female martial arts hero, one that was tough, virtuous, and courageous. In 1975, Shihomi found herself in possibly her sleaziest film: 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats, a pinky violence genre mash-up that mixed girl gangs, women in prison, yakuza, and martial arts action into a single sensational movie. As Maki Hyuga, Shihomi is the leader of the Stray Cats girl gang, fighting for justice against evil gangsters and stuck up rich girls. Though her karate skills are unsurpassed, Maki is framed and thrown into a sadistic women’s prison. Will she escape and take her revenge?
Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut, 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats is paired here with Norifumi Suzuki’s The Great Chase, an oddball action flick released the same year and starring Etsuko Shihomi as a race car driver moonlighting as a secret agent. Filled with unceasing action, outlandish situations, and plenty of female resistance to male domination, 13 Steps to Maki and The Great Chase reveal new shades to Etsuko Shihomi’s stardom and stand as spectacular examples of Japanese exploitation in the 1970s.
Special Edition Contents:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats and The Great Chase
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio on both films
Optional newly translated English subtitles on both films
New video interviews with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba and director Makoto Naito
Theatrical trailers for both films
Stills and poster galleries for both films
Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Kungfubob O’Brien
Considering the last ten films I’ve watched, top marks obviously go to the Frederick Wiseman’s punishing and frustrating portrait of a New York welfare office and John Waters’ staggeringly grotesque and transgressive tribute to bad taste. The recent demise of Charles Grodin led to a screening of his impressive TV special on Simon and Garfunkle, which in turn led to a screening of The Harmony Game, an informative and entertaining dive into the making of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Tokyo Paralympics was my first screening from the Toronto Japanese Film Festival which runs until the 27th and is an easy recommendation for those looking beyond the Criterion Collection’s 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912-2012 box set.
Welfare (Frederick Wiseman, 1975)
Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972)
The Dion Brothers (Jack Starrett, 1974)
The Woman Chaser (Robinson Devor, 1999)
Tokyo Paralympics: Festival of Love and Glory (Kimio Watanabe, 1965)
The Harmony Game (Jennifer Lebeau, 2011)
The Return of the Prodigal Son (Youssef Chahine, 1976)
Simon and Garfunkel: Songs of America (Charles Grodin, 1969)
Friday the13th: A New Beginning (Danny Steinmann, 1985)
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vàzquez, 2015)
The Dion Brothers and The Woman Chaser were screened as part of Justin Decloux’s Summer Movie Mind Melter Marathon which ran online on June 5th and 6th. Over this year, MMC! has become a real fan of Toronto-based Decloux, his The Important Cinema Club podcast (co-hosted with Will Sloan), and his Gold Ninja Video Blu-ray line and I’ve been interested to check out one of his 24-hour movie marathons. The Summer Movie Mind Melter was a banger from what I was able to catch. The Dion Brothers was a seventies sleeper classic featuring Stacy Keach and a brilliant set-piece climax. The WomanChaser was a wonderfully Coen Brothers-esque adaptation of a Charles Willeford novel, starred Patrick Warburton as an über-confident used car salesman looking to break into movie-making, and resembled “a Guy Maddin script directed by Orson Welles” (to use Decloux’s own description). My next few days will be spent trying to revisit some of titles that I missed: Empress of Darkness (Nick DiLiberto, 2020); Exit (Lee Sang-geun, 2019); The Nobodies (Jay Burleson, 2018); Broken Path (Koichi Sakamoto, 2008); Kaithi (Lokesh Kanagaraj, 2019) (JC: “An Indian smash hit that mixes CON-AIR and WAGES OF FEAR into one stylish package.”); and Heavenly Bodies (Lawrence Dane, 1984) (JC: “The DRUNKEN MASTER II of Dance Exercise Competition films.”). Thanks Justin!