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.
- The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964)
- Peking Opera Blues (Tsui Hark, 1986)
- Versus (Ryûhei Kitamura, 2000)
- Luca (Enrico Casarosa, 2021)
- Black October (Terence McKenna, 2000)
- Clueless (Amy Keckerling, 1995)
- The Pit and the Pendulum (Roger Corman, 1961)
- Death Duel (Chor Yuen, 1977)
- Monday (SABU, 2000)
- Soleil Ô (Med Hondo, 1970)
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 Woman Chaser 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!
Of these last ten films I’ve watched, high marks expectedly go to Claire Denis’ ephemerally masculine Beau Travail and Kenji Iwaisawa’s deadpan tribute to musical inspiration, ON-GAKU: Our Sound. This Easter holiday paired a re-visiting of Henry Koster’s delightful Harvey with a kiddie-version by the Children’s Film Foundation, Mr. Horatio Knibbles. Reports of the CFF film being nightmare fuel at Peanut Butter Solution-levels are definitely overstated, as Horatio is a quirky, if blunt, work of children’s entertainment and not much more. Still, one look at that screen grab and it’s hard not to resist the morbid curiosity it inspires.
- CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans (Bruno Dumont, 2018)
- Koko-di Koko-da (Johannes Nyholm, 2019)
- Tora-san’s Dream of Spring (Yoji Yamada, 1979)
- ON-GAKU: Our Sound (Kenji Iwaisawa, 2019)
- The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (Makoto Tezuka, 1985)
- Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
- Mr. Horatio Knibbles (Robert Hird, 1971)
- Harvey (Henry Koster, 1950)
- Little Dragon Maiden (Hua Shan, 1983)
- Runaway Nightmare (Mike Cartel, 1982)
The last film on this list, Runaway Nightmare, was screened during the American Genre Film Archive’s 10-hour marathon program, AGFADROME. An online fundraising event, AGFADROME was made up of five two-hours blocks each programmed by an AGFA member. Among the unhinged deep cuts, recent restorations, sneak peeks, and found footage mayhem were some MMC! favourites: the LAPD drunk-driving scare film, So You Think You Can Drink and Drive?; the Craig Baldwin-meets-Shinya Tsukamoto insanity of David Boone’s Invasion of the Aluminum People (1980); S. S. Wilson’s remarkable student film featuring killer reels of film, Recorded Live (1975); Damon Packard’s Dawn of an Evil Millennium (1988), a faux-trailer channeling some nasty, Carpenter-esque horror; and Bill and Coo (1948), Dean Riesner’s all-bird tale of a town terrorized by an evil black crow. If you missed AGFADROME, check out the American Genre Film Archive‘s website and support their project by picking up a disc, a shirt, or a download and by just making a donation!
Of these last ten movies I’ve watched, there is one clear masterpiece – Youssef Chahine’s The Land. My first introduction to Chahine was years ago through Typecast Picture’s DVD of Cairo Station (1958), a brilliant film set among the working classes around the Cairo train station. Sordid and sympathetic in its content, the film is hailed as a masterwork of neorealism, although I’ve always felt Cairo Station connects more strongly with French poetic realism. Having recently discovered that many of Chahine’s great works are buried in Netflix’s library (including Cairo Station), I started with the director’s most celebrated film and was completely enraptured. The Land portrays a village of peasants in the 1930s struggling against various layers of governmental authority to keep their land, irrigate their farms, and bring in their crops. Chahine’s characters are broadly drawn but they are cleverly arranged, making for some great social realist melodrama, and the film is beautifully shot with gorgeously arid settings and artful compositions. Screening the rest of Chahine’s library on Netflix has now become an MMC! priority!
- Marius (Alexander Korda, 1931)
- Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2000)
- Killer Clans (Chor Tuen, 1976)
- Killing (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2018)
- Kotoko (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2011)
- The Washing Machine (Ruggero Deodato, 1993)
- The President’s Last Bang (Im Sang-soo, 2005)
- Cash Calls Hell (Hideo Gosha, 1966)
- The Land (Youssef Chahine, 1970)
- Kikujiro (Takeshi Kitano, 1999)
The remainder of these screening were uniformly good, but I’d like to pay special attention to Killer Clans which was screened as part of the Spectacle Theater’s regular online Sunday “Mystery Meat” program. Each Sunday afternoon, Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater hosts two themed mystery screenings: “Fist Church,” a Kung Fu Matinee, and “Blood Brunch,” a horror film from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s. One of my favourite first-time watches so far this year is seeing Taylor Wong’s gleefully outlandish Buddha’s Palm (1982) compliments of a “Fist Church” screening. Thank you, Spectacle!
These last ten films I’ve watched include some great screenings. Marshland is a top notch police thriller ready-made for fans of True Detective and Criterion’s forthcoming release of Bong Joon Ho’s Memories of Murder (2003). Adrift in Tokyo is a breezy, quirky hang-out film between a gruff debt collector and the down-on-his-luck college drop-out that he pays to wander with him through Tokyo. Bandits of Orgosolo is a nearly decade-late neo-realist classic that is sure to please Criterion Channel viewers who have been entranced by Vittorio De Seta’s documentary shorts. (More on De Seta in a future post?)
- What Have You Done to Solange? (Massimo Dallamano, 1972)
- Tora-san Plays Cupid (Yoji Yamada, 1977)
- My Neighbors the Yamadas (Isao Takahata, 1999)
- And God Said to Cain (Antonio Margheriti, 1970)
- How to Train Your Dragon (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, 2010)
- Bandits of Orgosolo (Vittorio De Seta, 1961)
- Marshland (Alberto Rodríguez, 2014)
- The Flying Luna Clipper (Ikko Ono, 1987)
- Crystal Eyes (Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, 2017)
- Adrift in Tokyo (Satoshi Miki, 2007)
Animation also figures prominently in these last ten screenings, with the slice-of-life wonderfulness of My Neighbors the Yamadas, the fire-breathing spectacle of How to Train Your Dragon, and the 8-bit, proto-vaporwave weirdness of The Flying Luna Clipper. Between these screenings, MMC! also took in the underwhelming program of Pixar Popcorn shorts offered on Disney+ and the enjoyable Roland and Rattfink shorts collected in The Depatie/Freleng Collection released by Kino.
Finally, a shout-out to Gold Ninja Video, the Criterion Collection of Public Domain Bargain Bins! The Toronto-based label recent arrived on our radar and its was GNV’s release of And God Said to Cain that played at MMC! headquarters. Gold Ninja is an obvious passion project for label’s curator and one man band Justin Decloux, who provides liner notes, audio commentaries, featurette discussions, and other special features. GNV releases are fun, informative and affordable and with MMC! now in possession of a small stack of its releases, you shouldn’t be surprised to see more Gold Ninja titles appearing on its screening lists!