HAPPY CANADA DAY!
MMC! is happily celebrating this Canada Day with Wavelength (1967), Michael Snow’s legendary experimental film. Essentially a slow 45-minute zoom through an empty Canal Street industrial loft (save for four brief sequences of human presence), Snow has called the film “a summation of my nervous system, religious inklings and aesthetic ideas.” Notwithstanding the appearances of its few human beings (including experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton and art and film critic Amy Taubin), Snow aimed to create “a definitive statement of pure Film space and time, a balancing of ‘illusion’ and ‘fact,’ all about seeing.” The camera is Wavelength’s true subject and its presence is always foregrounded thanks to the intervention of gels, superimpositions, and other visual effects and the intensifying sound of a sine-wave increasing the speed of its repetition. The artificial mechanism of Snow’s reproduction is never lost, but the slow progress of the camera, the static space of the room, and the drone of the sine-wave creates an experience that is both tedious and anxious, however the effect is also meditative, providing the spectator with room to consider Wavelength’s tensions between outside and inside, permanence and impermanence, and the space between ourselves and the cinematic apparatus. This “diary of a room” is hailed as the definitive “structural film,” an experimental mode typified by a fixed camera position, a flicker effect, loop printing, and rephotography, and it has become a canonical work of avant-garde cinema, with its initial screening in 1967 being hailed by experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas as “a landmark event in cinema.”
For those without the patience for Wavelength, there is WVLNT (Wavelength for Those Who Don’t Have the Time) (Michael Snow, 2003) which cuts the film into three equal portions and then superimposes them, creating a new film experience in the process (although one that is likely most rewarding having first seen the original).
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Savage Eye.
Los Angeles at the end of the 1950s. A recent divorceé arrives to break free of the past and journeys into the tawdry side of urban life, seeking refuge in salons and strip clubs, among poker-players and faith-healers, near boxing rings and in the drag scene. Out of the darkness, a voice speaks to her, questioning her cynicism and prodding her to find inspiration in the world around her. A hallmark of the direct cinema movement, The Savage Eye is an experimental documentary made over four years, told with poetic elegance by filmmakers Sidney Meyers, Ben Maddow, and Joseph Strick and featuring music by renowned composer Leonard Rosenman and footage shot by acclaimed photographer Helen Levitt and cinematographers Haskell Wexler and Jack Couffer.
- Restored high definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New video interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith
- People of the Cumberland, Sidney Meyers’ 1937 short film directed with Elia Kazan, Jay Leyda, and Bill Watts
- In the Street, James Agee, Helen Levitt, and Janice Loeb’s 1948 short film on street life in New York’s Spanish Harlem
- Muscle Beach, Joseph Strick and Irving Lerner’s 1948 short film
- The Quiet One, two versions of Sidney Meyers’ 1948 film, one featuring a narration by Gary Merrill and another featuring a previously unreleased narration by James Agee
- The Steps of Age, Ben Maddow’s 1950 short film for the Mental Health Film Board
- Interviews with My Lai Veterans, Joseph Strick’s 1971 short film
- PLUS: An essay by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents You Can Succeed, Too.
Sing, dance, and get ahead with You Can Succeed, Too, the closest Japanese cinema ever came to a full-blown Broadway-style musical! Set in a tourism company looking to secure a big American client in the run up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, an ambitious salesman (jazz drummer and comedian Frankine Sakai) and his handsome, undemanding colleague (musician and actor Tadao Takashima) struggle to negotiate love and business amid the pressures of a booming Japanese economy and the American-style changes brought to their department by the president’s daughter (Izumi Yukimura). Featuring music from avant-garde composer Toshiro Mayuzumi and lyrics by renowned poet and translator Shuntaro Tanikawa, director Eizo Sugawa creates a musical comedy in the spirit of Frank Tashlin’s Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, celebrating and skewering Japan’s growing global profile with singing salarymen and dancing office workers.
- High definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary with actor Tadao Takashima
- Audio interview with director Eizo Sugawa and actor Frankie Sakai
- A History of the Japanese Musical, a video essay by Hieu Chau
- Theatrical trailer
- Gallery of promotional materials
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by film scholar Michael Raine and 1994 interviews with composer Toshiro Mayuzumi
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Movie Orgy.
A send-up and a celebration of mid-century American kitsch, Joe Dante’s epic pop culture mash-up, The Movie Orgy, entertained college campuses through the late 1960s and 1970s, drawing upon an ever-changing library of ’50s drive-in movies, vintage commercials, TV westerns, and political speeches. Re-discovered and re-cut by Dante for a revival screening in 2008 into its 280 minute “Ultimate Version,” this legendary cinematic event is now available outside of theatres for the first time. SEE a colossal collage of nostalgia! SEE an experience of mind-rotting celluloid hysteria! SEE thousands of performers in roles that earned them obscurity! SEE bosomy starlets, juvenile delinquency, Christian puppetry, Elvis Presley, Groucho Marx, and Richard Nixon!
- High-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Joe Dante, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with Dante
- Rated Z, archivist David Neary on the history and significance of The Movie Orgy
- Posters and promotional materials
- PLUS: An essay by director John Sayles
In all my shout-out excitement this weekend, I neglected my main purpose: thanking everyone who voted in our year-end poll! Two films stood atop all others – Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters and Paul Schrader’s First Reformed. Naturally, you can expect to see one of those two films as the subject of MMC!‘s next imagined Criterion title. (No spoilers, but it’ll be Shoplifters!)
Now, on to some trailers!
The Criterion Channel is set to launch on April 8 and the Collection has cut together a rousing trailer promoting it. MMC! already has its charter membership, but there’s plenty here that pricks up our ears: The Safdies! Susan Pitt’s Asparagus! The Devils! Local Hero! The Holy Mountain! Hype! “Godzilla and Beyond!” The Channel’s initial line-up has been announced and there’s even more MMC! fan-bait there too: 11 films noir from Columbia, David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, John Woo’s Last Hurrah for Chivalry, Bi Gan’s Kaili Blues, a profile on Charles Burnett, seven films featuring Simone Signoret, AND Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone! (If the Collection ever released a hard media edition of Bugsy Malone, I swear my face will melt right off!)
The Criterion Collection’s announcements for January 2019 look great, but it’s the contrast between the trailers of two forthcoming films that I find particularly intriguing this month. On the one hand, we have the simple, elegant, unadorned trailer for Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames (2017). Painterly and quietly compositional in its attention, the trailer ably expresses Kiarostami’s focus on “movement, perception, and time.” More non-narrative films go Criterion please!