10 on the 10th – October 2018

Happy October film nerds! This month’s list of the last ten films I’ve watched reflects my concerted effort to spend most of my time watching horror films. And while I quite enjoyed most of these films, I once again seem to be running against the popular grain by not loving Martyrs. It felt unfortunately dated in its looks and style, philosophically thin despite its “big idea,” and somehow less violent than I expected. (I’m obviously a monster.)

  1. The Unholy (Camilo Vila, 1988)
  2. The Fly (Kurt Neumann, 1958)
  3. Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon (Michael Goguen, 2012)
  4. Demon (Marcin Wrona, 2015)
  5. Santo vs. Frankenstein’s Daughter (Miguel M. Delgado, 1971)
  6. Solo: A Star Wars Story (Ron Howard, 2018)
  7. Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
  8. Are We Not Cats (Xander Robin, 2016)
  9. Let Me Make You a Martyr (Corey Asraf and John Swab, 2016)
  10. Horrors of Malformed Men (Teruo Ishii, 1969)

Are We Not Cats was a surprisingly enjoyable body horror romance about a pair of underemployed twentysomethings with a proclivity for eating hair, Demon remains a secret masterpieceSolo‘s production design was the movie’s star by capturing the janky technology and frontier spirit of the first two Star Wars films, and I loved watching a priest level-up on Catholic demon-fighting powers in The Unholy (even if my mother, who watched the film with my wife and I, thought the sexy demonic temptress had “ugly boobs” – Wha?). I watched Let Me Make You a Martyr specifically based on Sam Ashurst‘s description of it being “True Detective if it were directed by Andrei Tarkovsky” and while I’m not sure it’s quite the success he makes it out to be, the film’s unusual combination of ellipsis-heavy plot structure, white trash criminality, portentously philosophical dialogue, and grimy mise-en-scène kind of won me over.

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I Remember You (Ali Khamraev, 1985)

Like Fellini’s Amarcord, whose title it recalls, I Remember You is a semi-autobiographical meditation on the past. Kim, a veterinarian, leaves Samarkand at the request of his seriously ill mother and heads on a voyage across Russia in search of the grave of his father who died during the war. Reflecting Ali Khamraev’s own personal history – his Ukrainian mother and Tajik father, his father’s death during World War II, his own subsequent voyage with his brother to find the grave – this poetic journey into the subconscious memory is rendered in images of extraordinary intensity and beauty and one of Khamraev’s true masterpieces.

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Trailer Tuesday

Let’s kick off this “Trailer Tuesday” with my favourite film of the year so far – Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy (2018). For me, this is Cage Rage by Tor Books and I completely love it. Mandy is so clearly defined in its aesthetic bravura, so hilariously aware of its fantastic absurdity. Cosmatos’ direction is stunning, managing to swing between hilarity, tragedy, awe, and back again within the same scene. (Plus, it’s always great to see the dildo from Se7en still working.)

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Triptych (Ali Khamraev, 1980)

Ali Khamraev’s sleek, stylish film, a modernist political melodrama that earned prizes abroad but official disapproval at home, interconnects the stories of three women struggling with traditional social constraints in post-World War II Uzbekistan. One is an illiterate but very determined young woman committed to building a house even though local custom does not permit it without the approval of her absent husband. Another is a school teacher seeking to bring progressive ideas to a village long subjugated by strict old-fashioned practices. The last is an elderly woman who was kidnapped by a poor peasant in her youth and forced into marriage. A dreamy and impressionistic remembrance set in a hardscrabble world, Khamraev’s Triptych is an underseen achievement in international art house cinema.

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Criterion Made Mine! The Forty Guns Edition

The Criterion Collection’s December announcements are up and MMC!‘s three-and-a-half-year old proposal has finally come to fruition with the release of Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957)! Sharp-eyed film fans will note that this edition includes Criterion’s long-awaited hard media release of A Fuller Life, Samantha Fuller’s documentary on her father’s life and career. So, once again, you’re welcome film nerds.

Check out the Collection’s “Coming Soon” page to see the rest of Criterion’s December titles: A Dry White Season (Euzhan Palcy, 1989), Panique (Julien Duvivier, 1946), and a blugrade of Sawdust and Tinsel (Ingmar Bergman, 1953).

10 on the 10th – September 2018

This latest list of the last ten films I’ve watched kicks off with a movie recommended to me by the TIFF Cinematheque Recommendation EngineSandra was recommended for me along with RashomonSeven SamuraiIn a Lonely Place, and To Live and Die in LA. I’d say that the TIFF Engine knew me pretty well but Visconti’s film is certainly the least of these five titles and probably would have not been remarkable but for Claudia Cardinale’s starring role. My hunt for a Visconti film to fall in love with continues!

  1. Sandra (Luchino Visconti, 1965)
  2. Design Canada (Greg Durrell, 2018)
  3. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
  4. Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)
  5. Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975)
  6. Shanty Tramp (Joseph G. Prieto, 1967)
  7. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  8. Save the Tiger (John G. Avildsen, 1973)
  9. The Cat o’ Nine Tails (Dario Argento, 1971)
  10. David Lynch: The Art Life (Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivi Neergaard-Holm, 2016)

Those looking for sneaky fun titles should check out Design Canada and Shanty Tramp. The former is a conventionally congratulatory but thoroughly charming take on the golden age of Canadian design, while the latter is a byNWR hicksploitation title that crazily mashes up white trash hussies, hep cat biker gangs, legit racism, moonshiners, gangsters, and plenty of cheap deaths. I can’t really decide what that titular tramp is worse at: dancing or stabbing!