Shura (Toshio Matsumoto, 1971)

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.

Disc Features:

  • 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
  • Trailer
  • 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

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How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps (Ben Berman, 2016)

Happy 2019, kids! It’s less than a week after New Year’s and that means it’s primetime at gyms everywhere, so it’s the perfect opportunity to spend time with Ben Berman’s hilarious, moving, and all too true short film, How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps (2016). The film is based on Aaron Bleyaert’s essay of the same title, discovered by Berman when it was forwarded to him by a friend after joining a gym. The short was shot in two halves with SNL‘s Beck Bennett (in a wonderful starring performance as a heartbroken mattress salesman) losing 30 pounds in the three months in between. Funny and disarmingly inspirational, How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps is actually perfect anytime of the year.

This post is naturally dedicated to work-out loving wife and her friend who loves anything with “humping” in it.  LOL.

Piercing (Nicolas Pesce, 2018) – Ithaca Fantastik 2018

A MODERN SCREWBALL GIALLO

Family man Reed (Christopher Abbott) is going on a business trip but in lieu of a suitcase filled with clothes, he’s packed a toothbrush, a murder kit, and a plan to kill a prostitute so can rid himself of his homicidal impulses and continue to be a good husband and father. That call girl, an alluring but unusual woman named Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), is more than he bargained for and the balance of control over their fraught meeting begins to sway back and forth between the two. Before the night is over, a feverish nightmare unfolds, and Reed and Jackie seal their strange bond in blood.

Based on the critically acclaimed cult novel by Ryu Murakami (Audition), director Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother) blends psychological horror with screwball comedy and sets it against an iconic giallo score, resulting in a sly take on the fantasy of escape and the hazards of modern romance.

Special Edition Contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Nicolas Pesce
  • Making-of documentary
  • Piercing Murakami: Japanese film scholar Tom Mes on the source novel
  • Knowing the Score: Giallo music expert Jon Dobyns on the music of Piercing
  • According to Plan: New interviews with actors Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, and Laia Costa
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Wendy Ide Continue reading

Body Melt (Philip Brophy, 1993)

HORRIBLE MUTATION IN ONE EASY-TO-TAKE SUPPLEMENT!

In the Melbourne suburb of Homesville, the residents of the Pebbles Court cul-de-sac enjoy their middle-class comforts unaware that they participate in experimental testing of a “dietary supplement” called Vimuville. Suspicions are raised by a mysterious man who crashes his car into their small community but no one sees the unearthly tentacles that erupt from the man’s gaping neck wound and force their way down his throat. Soon after, the folks in Pebbles Court quickly find themselves deforming, mutating, and exploding in hilariously frightening ways that involve living mucous, rib removals, killer placentas, giant tongues, exploding erections, collapsing craniums, cannibalism, and BODY MELT!

Co-written and directed by Philip Brophy of the experimental rock group → ↑ → and featuring the gory special effects magic of Braindead‘s Bob McCarron, Body Melt is a splatstick classic in the spirit of early Peter Jackson, hailed by Quentin Tarantino as “the best movie of its kind since Re-Animator” and “the best Australian film of the ’90s.”

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

  • 2K Remastered High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Audio commentary with writer-director Philip Brophy, writer-producer Rod Bishop, and producer Daniel Scharf
  • Audio commentary with Brophy discussing his score for the film
  • Making Bodies Melt, the making of Body Melt
  • Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat, Brophy’s 1988 experimental short film
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Complete storyboards
  • Stills gallery
  • Original trailer
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Australian film critic Adrian Martin and Philip Brophy’s 2004 article on the film’s making

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The Temple of Wild Geese (Yuzo Kawashima, 1962)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Temple of Wild Geese.

Ayako Wakao stars as Satoko, mistress to an accomplished artist who passes her along on his death to the lascivious head priest of a prominent Buddhist temple famous for its paintings of wild geese. She is drawn to a melancholy young disciple who also resides at the temple in similar dependence to the priest and who is treated cruelly for his efforts. Fascinated by the pitiable young man and aware of their similarly impoverished upbringings, Satoko seeks him out, slowly drawing him closer to her and unwittingly placing further strain on his tortured soul. Yuzo Kawashima’s film, exquisitely shot by cinematographer Hiroshi Murai, is a sharply observed exploration of moral weakness and a darkly ironic adaptation of Tsutomu Minakami’s 1961 semi-autobiographical novel.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
  • New program with Eric Nyari on the film and its restoration
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Irene González-López and Tsutomu Minakami’s original story

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SFFF Day 4 – Go Big and Go Home

The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s final day was even more massive than expected. With a packed program and an extra short film (moved from the previous day due to a technical issue), there was little downtime between screenings and the Festival’s final midnight show started late and wrapped well past 2:30 a.m. Those that saw the marathon day of screenings to its bleary end enjoyed without question the SFFF’s best block of films (plus some welcome giveaways for lucky attendees).

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