MMC! concludes its short film preview of our next Criterion Collection proposal with Joseph Strick’s Oscar-winning documentary short, Interviews with My Lai Veterans (1970). With Haskell Wexler and Richard Pearce behind the camera, Strick interviews five former American soldiers involved in the My Lai Massacre of March 16, 1968, a search and destroy mission by the US military that killed hundreds of defenceless Vietnam civilians. Notwithstanding orders that barred them from speaking about the event, these veterans candidly describe the orders provided, the expectations that were held, and the brutality that proceeded. These accounts resisted the misinformation about the massacre circulating officially and offered chilling insights on some unimaginably outrageous acts.
FOR MAURY DANN, EVERY DAY IS “PAYDAY”
In a rare starring role, Rip Torn plays Maury Dann, a hard-living country singer traveling the Deep South honky tonk circuit. Dann’s good ol’ boy smile charms even passing fans, but in private he is a greedy, entitled, and pitiless tyrant ruling from the back seat of a Cadillac sedan. Set over a day and a half, Payday reveals Maury’s unrepentant selfishness and cynicism, bedding young fans, popping pills, and casting off members of his entourage once they have outlasted his needs. Dann’s self-serving and hedonistic ways come to a head in a late night parking lot scuffle, transforming his megalomania into inevitable self-destruction.
Music critic and Payday producer Ralph Gleason declared that the objective of this staggeringly jaundiced portrait was a desire to provide an honest portrayal of life in the country music business. Under the direction of Daryl Duke (The Silent Partner), Payday rejected the polished image of country music, pointed the way toward the approaching outlaw country movement, and placed a spotlight on the magnetic presence of Rip Torn.
Special Edition Contents:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Feature-length audio commentary with director Daryl Duke and producer Saul Zaentz
- Risk Management, a new interview with actor Michael C. Gwynne
- Ride-along, a new interview with actor Elayne Heilveil
- Passing Through, a new interview with actor Cliff Emmich
- The Music Man, a new interview with music supervisor Ed Bogas
- Original theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by musician and scholar Kim Simpson
An inspiration to the Nelvana animation studio’s first feature, Rock & Rule (Clive A. Smith, 1983), The Devil and Daniel Mouse (Clive A. Smith, 1978) was the Canadian animator’s second television special. Following 1977’s A Cosmic Christmas (Clive A. Smith, 1977), this Halloween program takes its inspiration from Stephen Vincent Benét’s classic short story “The Devil and Daniel Webster” and mines Canadian artistic anxieties over American cultural imperialism and selling out. Struggling folk duo Jan and Daniel Mouse are fired from their last gig and Jan sells her soul to the demonic record producer B.L. Zebub, transforming her into the hit sensation Funky Jan. Success is bittersweet for Jan as she misses Daniel but when B.L. claims his payment under the contract, it’s Daniel who stands up for her in a trial of the damned that culminates in a musical final statement that carries the day. The short features some solid tracks by John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful and singer-songwriter Valerie Carter, as well as some stunning animation for the infernal B.L. Zebub.
Those looking for more on The Devil and Daniel Mouse, Rock & Rule, and the failed early efforts of Nelvana to achieve its own commercial and artistic independence should consult Keir-La Janisse’s excellent essay “A Song from the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time: The Fear of Selling Out in Nelvana’s The Devil and Daniel Mouse and Rock and Rule” in Gina Freitag and André Loiselle’s The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul.
In anticipation of our next found footage Criterion proposal, MMC! is taking a brief and relevant tour through a favourite genre – the city symphony. We start with the unconventional example of Claude Lelouch’s C’etait un rendez-vous (1976), a thrillingly accelerated tour through Paris, from the Paris Périphérique tunnel, around the Arc de Triomphe, through red lights, up one-way streets, and across centre lines to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Lelouch’s then-girlfriend Gunilla Friden. Lelouch shot the film himself one Sunday morning in August, driving a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 with a camera mounted to its front bumper and reaching a top speed of 200 km/h, although the film’s soundtrack is dubbed to the sound of the director’s Ferrari 275GTB. The short gets much of its charge from the fact that Lelouch is obviously not driving on a closed course. In fact, Lelouch had only one assistant along the route, Élie Chouraqui, who was posted at the Rue de Rivoli with a walkie-talkie to caution Lelouch on the blind junction located on the other side of an archway. The radios failed but Lelouch thankfully had a green light.
Those looking to connect C’etait un rendez-vous with our upcoming proposal might consider the short’s unconventional approach to the city symphony, the prominence of driving, and the potentially self-destructive actions undertaken for a beautiful blonde at an old basilica.
For every MMC! proposal that turns into an actual spine numbered release, there are numerous other films that get swanky editions before this blog ever gets to imagine one. These films are unfortunately struck from MMC!‘s list of potential titles with no fanfare, never achieving the glory of stepping into our fantasized spotlight. Today’s “Trailer Tuesday” post celebrates a few of these films recently denied the chance to shine MMC!, but first we’ll celebrate an overdue title proposed for a spine number 6½ years ago!
As a longstanding favourite of MMC!, we’re naturally overjoyed with news that Severin Films is debuting a new 4K restoration of Álex de la Iglesia’s Perdita Durango (1997) at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival and that a Blu-ray release is expected to be announced later this year! Personally, I can’t wait to decommission my two bootleg copies of the film and finally get to discuss with others the genius that is Rosie Pérez and the further proof that the quality of a film is directly proportional to the craziness of Javier Bardem’s hair. Thank you Severin! Better late than never!
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