The Old Lady and the Pigeons (Sylvain Chomet, 1997)

Before The Triplets of Belleville (2003) and The Illusionist (2010), Sylvain Chomet made the award-winning The Old Lady and the Pigeons (La Vieille Dame et les pigeons, 1997). The animated short features an impoverished and starving gendarme who dresses up like a giant pigeon in order to be fed by an old woman (and that barely scratches the surface of how hilariously bizarre the short gets). Chomet was inspired to make a film of his own after seeing Nick Park’s Creature Comforts (1989) and set upon his production after pitching the concept to Didier Brunner of the French animation studio Les Armateurs. Backgrounds were designed by Chomet’s comic book collaborator Nicolas de Crécy, although the two would later fall out over Crécy’s view that Chomet improperly copped his style for the designs of The Triplets of Belleville. The Old Lady and the Pigeons is silently comic and strangely surreal and establishes many of Chomet’s characteristic styles and themes, making it an easy access point to Chomet’s limited filmography. It is also a quick 24-minute scratch for those of us still itching to see his next film, The Thousand Miles, a Fellini-inspired story about the world’s most beautiful road race, Italy’s Mille Miglia.

A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Place in the Sun.

criterion logoBased on Theodore Dreiser’s landmark novel An American Tragedy, George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun is a swooningly noir-stained melodrama featuring Montgomery Clift as a handsome young man eager to win a place in respectable society. His ambitious dream seems to fall into place when he accepts a job offer from a wealthy relation and falls deeply in love with a beautiful socialite (Elizabeth Taylor), however a secret relationship with a factory girl (Shelley Winters) and her pregnancy threatens his future and inspires his murderous impulses. Called “the greatest movie ever made about America” by Charlie Chaplin, Steven’s film skillfully alternates between affluent, sun-washed romance and shadowy, fateful film noir, crafting an idealized vision of movie love against a sour portrait of the American dream and what lies beneath it.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New 4K digital master with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary with George Stevens Jr. and associate producer Ivan Moffat
  • New interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • George Stevens and His Place in the Sun, a 20-minute documentary on the making of the film
  • George Stevens: The Filmmakers Who Knew Him, archival interviews with Warren Beatty, Frank Capra, Joe Mankiewicz, Rouben Mamoulian, Antonio Vellani, Robert Wise, Alan J. Pakula, and Fred Zinnemann
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Laurent Jullier

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The Vinni-Pukh Trilogy (Fyodor Khitruk, 1969/1971/1972)

Spring is here, Easter is this weekend, MMC!’s next imagined release is taking typically longer than expected, and it’s been some time since a post have gone up, so now seems like the perfect opportunity to offer something cute, furry, and vaguely off-centre. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to appreciate Fyodor Khitruk’s trilogy of short films adapting A. A. Milne’s beloved tales of Winnie-the-Pooh for Soviet audiences!

Khitruk’s trio of Vinni-Pukh films — Winnie-the-Pooh (1969), Winnie-the-Pooh Pays a Visit (1971), and Winnie-the-Pooh and a Busy Day (1972) — were made out of Soyuzmultfilm studios and without the director having seen Disney’s theatrical short Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1966). Khitruk’s initial interest in the character came from English editions of Milne’s stories and he was only exposed to Boris Zakhoder’s Russian translations later. Zakhoder served as screenwriter to the Trilogy and he frequently clashed with Khitruk as Zakhoder promoted an approach faithful to the original stories while Khitruk sought to transform the material. The films reflect Khitruk’s vision, doing away with the authority-figure of Christopher Robin and presenting Milne’s characters living forest creatures, not stuffed toys brought to life. Pooh remains rather dim, but he is far more assertive and boisterous than Disney’s bear. The animation is wonderful, merging the primitiveness of children’s drawings with the clean abstraction of mid-century modernism and the earth-toned colour palettes of the ’60s and ’70s. The films adapt three stories from Milne’s original 1926 book, avoiding stories from Milne’s 1928 sequel, The House at Pooh Corner, which introduced the Tigger character. If these adaptations are new to you, congrats! You are now free from the adorable hegemony of the Disney films!

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Bait (Mark Jenkin, 2019)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Bait.

Martin (Edward Rowe) is a cove fisherman without a boat. His brother has repurposed their father’s vessel as a tourist tripper catering to vacationers and stag parties. Their childhood home has been sold for London money and transformed into a summer getaway, displacing Martin to public housing above the harbor. As Martin resists the erosion of local traditions and industries, the summer season brings increasing tensions between the locals and newcomers to a boiling point, leading to tragic consequences. Stunningly shot on a vintage 16mm camera using monochrome Kodak stock, Mark Jenkin’s Bait is a timely and funny, yet poignant film that gets to the heart of a community facing up to unwelcome change.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • 4K digital master, approved by director Mark Jenkin, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Alternate score performed by Cornish musician Gwenno, with introduction by Jenkin and Gwenno
  • Audio commentary with Jenkin and critic Mark Kermode
  • Bait Q&A with director Mark Jenkin, a conversation with Jenkin and Kermode recorded at the BFI Southbank in London
  • New interviews with Jenkin and star Ed Rowe
  • A behind-the-scenes film shot by students of Falmouth University’s School of Film & Television
  • Dear Marianne, Jenkin’s 2016 short film about a Cornishman’s travels in Ireland
  • The Essential Cornishman, Jenkin’s 2016 short film set in the mythical Cornish west and paying tribute to the spontaneous prose of the Beats
  • The Road to Zennor, Jenkin’s 2017 short travelogue to a small coast near St. Ives
  • Two archival short films set in the Cornwall region, Scenes on the Cornish Riviera (1912) and The Saving of Bill Blewitt (1936)
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: Jenkin’s Silent Landscape Dancing Grain 13 Manifesto and an essay by film critic Chloe Lizotte

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Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967)

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).

Winchester ’73 (Anthony Mann, 1950)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Winchester ’73.

A one-of-a-kind rifle, the Winchester ’73, passes through a diverse group of desperate characters, summarizing the Western genre while also revitalizing it. In his first of eight indelible collaborations with director Anthony Mann, James Stewart is cast against type as Lin McAdam, an upright frontiersman obsessed with tracking down murderer Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally) and always finding himself a step behind the iconic rifle wrongfully stolen from him. Featuring Shelley Winters as a saloon girl looking to settle down, Dan Duryea as a crazed outlaw, John McIntire as a sly gun trader, Rock Hudson as an aggrieved Indian chief, and a young Tony Curtis in an early screen role, Winchester ’73 ushered in a new era for the Western that replaced squeaky clean heroes with flawed, complex protagonists and re-made James Stewart into a mature, complicated screen presence.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New 4K digital restoration, undertaken by Universal Pictures in partnership with The Film Foundation and in consultation with filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New introduction by Scorsese
  • Audio commentary with actor James Stewart and film historian Paul Lindenschmidt
  • Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1951, featuring actors James Stewart and Stephen McNally
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Poster Gallery
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Sarah Hagelin and an except from firearm historian R.L. Wilson’s Winchester: An American Legend

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