October has arrived and horror screenings at MMC! have accordingly increased. High marks go to the wonderfully over-determined melodrama/gothic horror of The Curse of the Crying Woman, with gentleman’s threes going to the proto-Saw insanity/bizarro body horror of Evil Dead Trap and the waking folk horror dreaminess of Savage Hunt of King Stakh. Let’s throw Junji Iwai’s All About Lily Chou-Chou in the mix as well, as its feed-bad high school angst gives way to traumatic cruelty and spiritual desolation.
The Curse of the Crying Woman (Rafael Baledón, 1961)
All About Lily Chou-Chou (Junji Iwai, 2001)
The Blue Planet (Franco Piavoli, 1982)
Savage Hunt of King Stakh (Valeri Rubinchik, 1979)
War of the God Monsters (Kim Jeong-Yong, 1985)
Evil Dead Trap (Toshiharu Ikeda, 1988)
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (John Carl Buechler, 1988)
The History of the Atlanta Falcons (Jon Bois, 2021)
The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021)
Of our remaining, non-horror screenings among these last ten films I’ve watched, Franco Piavoli’s The Blue Planet deserves special attention. A slow, contemplative survey of the seasons in the Italian countryside, Il paineta azzurro places flora, fauna, and humans on equal footing, living along the tides of melting ice and flowing water, of waving grasses and golden harvests, and of setting suns and full moons. This is a must watch for those who have discovered De Seta’s brilliant documentary shorts of the 1950s and ’60s and yearn for more.
My post-Fantasia movie hangover has ground my screening schedule to a near halt, but those that did get watched offered some great moments. I loved seeing Stevie Wonder shred a drum set in Summer of Soul, watching Tora-san tragically step around love in Tora-san Goes Religious?, being in awe of those stunning family portraits in The Fall of the House of Usher, and watching young Japanese men cry (a lot) in Koshein’s pressure cooker of high school baseball. Plus, MMC! does love its feel-bad Italian political thrillers and We Still Kill the Old Way definitely scratched that itch.
The Fall of the House of Usher (Roger Corman, 1960)
A final Fantasia shout-out to Ora, Ora Be Goin’ Alone, a lovely and quirky rumination on aging that (potentially) imagines dementia as the burden of a surfeit of memories. Its star, Yuko Tanaka, is gently magnetic as an elderly woman surrounded by companions real and imagined, wanted and not. MMC!’s rundown of its favourite short films at Fantasia will drop tomorrow and from there we start imagining hard media editions of Fantasia’s best and brightest. Let’s go!
MMC! is in full Fantasia International Film Festival-mode, powering through titles to the exclusion of all else! (Sorry, pending Criterion Collection title.) There’s plenty of good stuff here for any film fan. Like subterranean industrial dystopias, body horror monsters, and Tool videos? Check out Junk Head! Prefer decrepit production design, quasi-Biblical allusions, and the uncanny dread of early David Lynch? Spend some time with Hotel Poseidon! Enjoy alternate histories, mockumentaries, and Santo films? Watch Opération Luchador! Have an affinity for coming-of-age stories, samurai movies, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time? See MMC!’s favourite of these last ten films I’ve watched: It’s a Summer Film!
Let’s also give shout out to Fantasia’s Small Guage Trauma 2021 short film block which screens later today and Thursday! Boasting ten stand-out genre shorts from around the world, Small Guage Trauma is worth seeking out for those who want some blood spilled quickly. MMC! was particularly impressed with Jorge Sistos Moreno’s highly atmospheric and wonderfully vengeful The Darkness (2020) and Michiel Blanchart’s supernatural comedy-turned horror film-turned cathartic romance, You’re Dead Helen (2021). Fantasia’s various short film programs are the unsung gems of the Festival, so do yourself a favour and seek out these great offerings. FIFF’s programs in the My First Fantasia section are aimed for young and old alike and are even free to screen! So what’s your excuse now?!?
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!
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!
Reviewing these last ten films I’ve watched, we’ll start with a shout-out to our friend Ronn who had a birthday over the weekend and who celebrated with a private screening of Road House, a non-ironic favourite of his and a standard-bearer of late ’80s action – kick fights, male and female mullets, neon, unbuttoned shirts, blues rock, monster trucks, and gratuitous nudity. It’s probably a bit long, the one-liners are a bit weak, and there are probably a bit too many plot threads than are necessary, but these chinks in the armour of Road House might just add more to its character. Happy Birthday Ronn!
The Sentimental Swordsman (Chor Yuen, 1977)
Road House (Rowdy Herrington, 1989)
Tenebre (Dario Argento 1982)
Supermarket Woman (Juzo Itami, 1996)
Yearning (Mikio Naruse, 1964)
The Search for the Saddest Punt in the World (Jon Bois, 2019)
Mothra (Ishiro Honda, 1961)
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler, 2017)
Space Jam (Joe Pytka, 1996)
The Butterfly Murders (Tsui Hark, 1979)
High marks go to Chor Yuen’s The Sentimental Swordsman, an overstuffed merger of drawing room mystery and wuxia action, and Mikio Naruse’s Yearning, which turns mundane domesticity into tragic melodrama. MMC! would recommend a double bill of Yearning and Juzo Itami’s Supermarket Woman, but we’ll elaborate on that pairing later this month!