John Cameron Mitchell hasn’t been the best about keeping a secret of the forthcoming Criterion edition of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, even announcing just recently that the film was slated for a summer release. Thankfully, and true to John’s word, that announcement came earlier today from the Criterion Collection. MMC! is happy to say we had this back in 2015, right down to the booklet essay by Stephanie Zacharek. The announcement promises “More!” disc features, so MMC! has fingers crossed that the Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig documentary and the Anatomy of a Scene featurette will also find their way to this edition.
June 2019 looks extremely solid with releases of the epic 7-hour War and Peace by Sergei Bondarchuk, Astaire and Rogers’ Swing Time, a Blugrade of the Ingmar Bergman Film Trilogy, and two early efforts by MMC! favourite Bruno Dumont. Thank goodness that earlier today Arrow Academy only announced a multi-region release of Carol Reed’s The Running Man and a Region 2 release of Jacques Tourneur’s Nightfall. Fiscal responsibility, homes!
These last ten films I’ve watched represent various things: my effort to watch more great art house cinema (I Am Cuba, True Stories), my aim to work through the DEFA catalogue on Kanopy (Trace of Stones), my son’s love of giant monsters (the Godzilla films), my monthly horror watch-group (Horror Noire, Blood Bath). The only real failure amongst these ten films was Blood Bath, a too-brief take on a nonsensical story about vampirism and painting. Thankfully, Arrow Video provides three more versions on its Blu-ray release to hopefully offer some improvement. (Those looking for a Roger Corman take-down of artsy-beatnik pretentiousness should stick with A Bucket of Blood (1959).)
- Deadbeat at Dawn (Jim Van Bebber, 1988)
- I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964)
- True Stories (David Byrne, 1986)
- Trace of Stones (Frank Beyer, 1966)
- Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (Masaaki Tezuka, 2002)
- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (Shusuke Kaneko, 2001)
- Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (Xavier Neal-Burgin, 2019)
- Bodied (Joseph Kahn, 2017)
- Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier, 2013)
- Blood Bath (Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman, 1966)
I feel somewhat ambivalently about Bodied, a very funny and very talented satire about hip hop and political correctness, both of which are presented as kinds of word games. Without any spoilers, Bodied ends with a condemnation and then a celebration that felt very contrary to me. I expected a deflatation of its apparently happy ending, but it never came and I’m left wondering about Bodied‘s “rules” (or lack thereof) for rap battles and the morality of its contest. If anyone has seen Bodied, I’d love to hear some thoughts – Are the contradictions in Bodied‘s conclusion able to be reconciled? Are they meant to be? If not, what are we to take from its conflict?
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Shura.
Experimental filmmaker and critic Toshio Matsumoto followed up his queer opus, Funeral Parade of Roses, with a “mere” samurai film, yet underneath its seemingly traditional surface lurks just as many subversions. In Shura, a samurai poised to join the famous 47 ronin and avenge the death of his master becomes distracted from his duties by his love for a lowly geisha, who in turn betrays him. Driven mad by his desire for vengeance, the samurai embarks on a bloody path of revenge marked by riveting intensity, a nightmarishly black aesthetic, and an uncertain blurring of fantasy and reality. A Borgesian satire in the guise of samurai horror, this nocturnal masterpiece is one of the darkest films of its era, both visually and politically.
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
- Security Treaty, a 1959 short film by Toshio Matsumoto
- For My Crushed Right Eye, a 1969 installation piece by Matsumoto
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays on the film by Matsumoto and Nagisa Oshima, director’s notes, and an essay by Japanese film scholar Hirofumi Sakamoto
Word has come down from Lookout Mountain and Make Mine Criterion! will be attending and covering the 2019 Chattanooga Film Festival, home to Moon Pies and great genre films! Earlier today, Dread Central dropped an exclusive announcement of the CFF’s first wave of titles and MMC! is happy to see amongst the scheduled films the wilderness thriller Body at Brighton Rock (Roxanne Benjamin, 2019), the Cannes rock drama Leto (Kirill Serebrennikov, 2018), the desert punk documentary Desolation Center (Stuart Swezey, 2018), and Peter Strickland’s cursed dress tribute to Euro-horror, In Fabric (2018). MMC! has already set up a Letterboxd list for the 2019 Chattanooga Film Festival program, so be sure to watch out for updates as further titles are announced and for hot-takes during the Festival’s run from April 11 to 14.
Read on to get caught up on the CFF’s announcements thus far!
As promised (and after much 2018 bingeing over the last few weeks), here are my submissions for the Film Comment 2018 Readers’ Poll and Survey! These 20 films include MMC! favourite filmmakers, festival discoveries, and out-of-the-blue revelations. Those in the mood for another 30 titles can check out my Top 50 Favourites of 2018!
The opportunity to submit your favourite films from 2018 to Film Comment closes on February 28, so be sure enter for the chance to win a subscription to the magazine “and other potential prizes.” And while we’re on the topic of polls, why not help MMC! out by voting at the bottom of this page for which titles you’d like to see be the subject of future MMC! proposals or comment below on your favourites from last year?
1. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
With Shoplifters, Kore-eda once again steals my heart, sometimes to warm it and sometimes to break it. Yet another lovely exploration of the meaning of family, this time Kore-eda contemplates a very lived-in present and an encroaching past that is testing and fascinating in its various aspects. Wonderful performances and perfect production design, Shoplifters once more demonstrates Kore-eda as a magician of realism, naturalism, and mature, sincere emotion.
Alan Clarke’s Elephant (1989) is a short film made for television and produced by Danny Boyle and BBC Northern Ireland. Set amid the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the short presents 18 matter-of-fact murders with a coldly observational approach, providing limited dialogue and utilizing the predatory look of steadicam follow shots. The film takes its title from Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty’s description of the Troubles as “the elephant in our living room,” and it served as an inspiration to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003), a film that likewise attended to the broader social problems that underlie American school-shootings and gun violence.
Clarke’s short is overdetermined in its intentions, being full of intense men and purposeful walks, yet it is also disturbing empty. Despite its apparent single-mindedness, there are no explanations of the hows and whys of its killings and there are nearly no sounds of surprise or panic, yet there is always the banality of violence and death, a lifeless body in a drab room and a getaway that rarely strays from the same purposeful walk. For more on Elephant and the psychology it embodies (or withholds) in its particular cinematography, MMC! offers Jordan Schonig’s impressive and insightful video essay, The Follow Shot: A Tale of Two Elephants (2018). Schonig’s essay provides a concise exploration of what may be contemporary cinema’s most ubiquitous and conspicuous shot and perfectly unpacks the themes and tensions at work in Clarke and Van Sant’s respective films.