To Sleep with Anger (Charles Burnett, 1990)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents To Sleep with Anger.

Charles Burnett crafts a masterpiece of independent cinema with To Sleep with Anger, a magical realist exploration of a black middle-class family living in South Central Los Angeles. Family tensions are already simmering in the household of Gideon (Paul Butler) and Suzie (Mary Alice) when their old friend Harry Mention (Danny Glover in arguably his greatest performance) turns up on their doorstep unannounced looking for hospitality and a temporary roof over his head. Reminding them of their Southern roots, Gideon and Suzie cannot refuse his request but when Gideon mysteriously suffers from an unexpected stroke, Harry’s easy charm gives way to a malevolent spell that provokes turmoil throughout the family, setting son against son and reviving past hatreds. Burnett reveals himself as not just the master of poetic urban realism that created his classic first film, Killer of Sheep, but an expert interpreter of African-American folk culture and one of the great chroniclers of the American experience.

Disc Features:

  • 4K digital transfer, approved by director Charles Burnett, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • The Trouble with Harry, an introduction by director Ernest Dickerson
  • New interviews with Burnett and actors Glover, Alice, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Carl Lumbly
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Andrew Chan

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10 on the 10th – June 2018

The last ten movies I’ve watched nod strongly toward Australia (Body Melt, Hollywood BurnTerror Nullius, Toni Collette in Hereditary) and found footage (the Soda_Jerk films again and The Green Fog). It’s a good batch of titles with The Green Fog (a clever and hilarious take on Hitchcock’s Vertigo), Hereditary (family trauma and arch performances in a disturbingly manipulated world), and Terror Nullius (a tale of political revenge told through Australian film with the stridency of a student newspaper – in a good way) all finding places on my best of 2018 list.

  1. The King of Jazz (John Murray Anderson, 1930)
  2. Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
  3. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970)
  4. The Green Fog (Guy Maddin, Galen Johnson, and Evan Johnson, 2017)
  5. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)
  6. Have a Nice Day (Liu Jian, 2017)
  7. Body Melt (Philip Brophy, 1993)
  8. Hollywood Burn (Soda_Jerk, 2006)
  9. Terror Nullius (Soda_Jerk, 2018)
  10. Paddington 2 (Paul King, 2017)

I was lucky enough to see The Green Fog with Guy Maddin and the Johnson brothers. Here are my favourite observations from the Q&A:

  • None of the filmmakers re-watched Vertigo to prepare for its re-making. “We’ve all seen it a bunch of times right?”;
  • The Johnsons became so enamoured with the TV series The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977) and Hotel (1983-1988) that The Green Fog started to become an effort in not using footage from the shows;
  • As a Douglas Sirk fan, Maddin was happy to feature Rock Hudson in McMillan & Wife and wanted to avoid creating any kind of queer commentary by his appearance;
  • The film was commissioned by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Despite being asked to produce a 45-minute work (in an extremely short amount of time!) and actually submitting a 63-minute film, the initially completed version was over 80 minutes long. The filmmakers cut 20 minutes of people sitting at dinner tables not talking to each (a situation that makes up a sizeable portion of the 63-minute final cut) as they thought audiences would not be able to stand the extended joke. (Personally, I hope this longer cut somehow gets circulated should The Green Fog reach hard media);
  • Midway through The Green Fog is an extended sequence of Chuck Norris looking sad in various settings. The footage came from the film An Eye for an Eye (Steve Carver, 1981) and Maddin remarked that Norris achieves a “Bressonian expressionlessness” in the footage;
  • Animation and Canadian cinema scholar Gene Walz remarked that The Green Fog reveals how easy and repetitive much of filmmaking is. “Get a shot of a car driving by. Then one of it rounding a corner. Now going down a hill.”

Arrow Made Mine! The Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji Edition

MMC! asked for it 2 years and 9 months ago in a Criterion edition, but it’s Arrow Academy that has answered our request for Tomu Uchida’s Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, a classic of Japanese cinema and a welcome entry point for a great director little known outside his homeland. Those looking for more on Uchida and a spoiler filled survey of the film can refer back to my post on Bloody Spear as well as my discussion of Uchida’s other masterpiece, A Fugitive of the Past. Here’s hoping that Arrow Academy’s foray in Uchida’s filmography is a sign that an AA edition of Fugitive (and other Uchida films) might also be on the horizon and that Japanese film fans might find a new director to celebrate and, in the case of Fugitive, a new favourite crime procedural to embrace. Take that High and Low!

Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999)

JAPAN’S JET ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SCI-FI ZOMBIE HORROR MASTERPIECE!

Ace, a rockabilly fan who really wants to be cool, is on his way to see his favorite rock band, Guitar Wolf, when some strange things occur … flying saucers invade the Earth and flesh-eating zombies rise from the grave! With the help of the (real life) Japanese rock-punk band Guitar Wolf, Ace negotiates an array of misadventures involving crazy rock managers in very tight shorts, transsexual love-interests, naked women shooting guns in the shower, and blood-thirsty zombies ready to tear them all apart! Music video director Tetsuro Takeuchi packs his début feature with everything you need: leather jackets, screeching feedback, laser guitar picks, motorcycles, muscle cars, and LOTS of fire! Think Dawn of the Dead meets Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park with the humor of Evil Dead 2 and you start to approach riotous and ridiculous world of Wild Zero.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Original Japanese soundtrack with optional, newly translated English subtitles
  • Director Edgar Wright on Wild Zero
  • Behind-the-scenes music video
  • Guitar Wolf: Red Idol, director Tetsuro Takeuchi’s 2003 collection of videos, tributes, and live performances
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Rockin’ Jelly Bean
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese film expert Tom Mes

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Three Films by Ryan Prows

I had planned to wind up MMC!‘s coverage of the Chattanooga Film Festival with an imagined Arrow Video edition of Ryan Prows’s Lowlife (2017) but no sooner had I done my research and began writing did Shout! Factory announce a Blu-ray edition of the film slated for release on August 7. I’m usually pretty stoked to cross any film off my list of potential MMC! subjects as their circulation is far more gratifying than writing about them here, but I’m a little disappointed not to discuss Lowlife at greater length. I have stumped for Lowlife a fair amount already so let’s instead spend some time with three of Prows’s earlier shorts films, all of which seem to be working through some of the themes and concerns at play in Lowlife and all of which should be included as special features on the upcoming Blu-ray edition.

In case you’ve forgotten, here is a quick refresher on Lowlife taken from the film’s press kit.

When a simple organ harvesting caper goes awry, a twist of fate unites three of society’s forgotten and ignored: EL MONSTRUO, a disgraced Mexican wrestler working as hired muscle for a local crime boss. CRYSTAL, a recovering addict desperate enough to arrange a black market kidney transplant to save her husband’s life. And RANDY, a loveable two-strike convict fresh out of prison, cursed with a full-face swastika tattoo and a best friend guilting him into some hair-brained kidnapping scheme.

As the sordid lives of these small-time criminals collide, they must fight tooth and nail to save a pregnant woman from a certain, and surely gruesome, death.

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10 on the 10th – May 2018

Welcome back to “10 on the 10th,” a quick snapshot of my viewing habits by way of the last ten films I’ve screened (and a shameless theft of the recurring item in Film Comment magazine). I missed last month due to my attendance at the Chattanooga Film Festival but we’re back on track now!

  1. The Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979)
  2. Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog, 2007)
  3. Lowlife (Ryan Prows, 2017)
  4. Raising Arizona (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1987)
  5. Jane (Brett Morgen, 2017)
  6. Borg vs McEnroe (Janus Metz Pedersen, 2017)
  7. Tsukiji Wonderland (Naotaro Endo, 2016)
  8. The Third Murder (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017)
  9. Andre the Giant (Jason Hehir, 2018)
  10. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, 2013)

These last ten films I’ve watched skew toward recent titles due to some lengthy air travel. I must admit that while Borg vs McEnroe is not a great film, I did find myself rather taken in by it, and Tsukiji Wonderland, a documentary about daily life at Tokyo’s massive fish market, pleasantly scratched my Japanophilia and gastronomic itches – recommended for fans of Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb, 2011) and Ramen Heads (Koki Shigeno, 2017). Further foodie shout-outs to Viceland as I’ve lately been watching a fair amount of Fuck, That’s Delicious with Action Bronson and It’s Suppertime with Matty Matheson (plus the non-culinary film series, The Vice Guide to Film)!

Is it just me or does “suppertime” look really odd typed out?