MMC! keeps our creepy October rolling with Dave Fleischer’s spook-errific animation classic, Snow-White (1933). This Betty Boop masterpiece was animated almost single-handed by Roland Crandall over six months, his reward for loyal service to Fleischer Studios. The short features an array of creepy gags and set-pieces, the highlight of which is the Mystery Cave portion where a rotoscoped Cab Calloway performs “St. James Infirmary Blues” as a ghostly Koko the Clown. I first saw Snow-White in a class on the Disney Company where the very knowledgeable professor cited the rotoscoped appearance of Cab Calloway as an introduction of realism into the film, something I never understood given the very fantastic animation applied to the phantom Koko transforms into and the almost unnatural, counter-intuitive physics of Calloway’s glides and moonwalks. Snow-White has been preserved by the National Film Registry and can be found on Blu-ray in Volume 4 of Olive Films’ Betty Boop: The Essential Collections.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki.
In the summer of 1962, small town Finnish baker Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) has a shot at the world featherweight boxing title held by dominating American champion Davey Moore. Olli is thrust from his countryside home into a fraught training camp with the pressures of national stardom and a draining publicity circuit, but he has bigger problem – he has just fallen in love with a sweet country girl (Oona Airola) and can think about little else. Based on a true story, Juho Kuosmanen’s exquisitely lyrical, verité-styled inversion of the sports biography won the Un Certain Regard Prize, charming Cannes audiences with its gentle humor and bittersweet romance.
- High-definition digital master, supervised by cinematographer Jani-Petteri Passi, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with director Juho Kuosmanen, production designer Kari Kankaanpää cinematographer Passi
- New interviews with actors Jarkko Lahti, Oona Airola, and Eero Milonoff
- Roadmarkers (2007), Citizens (2008), and The Painting Sellers (2010), three award-winning short films by Kuosmanen
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A new essay by critic Manohla Dargis
I recently watched Redes (Emilio Gómez Mariel and Fred Zinnemann, 1936), from the first Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project box set, and Kent Jones’s visual essay which makes reference to Manhatta (1921), a documentary short made by photographer and Redes-cinematographer Paul Strand and painter Charles Sheeler. The short is not included in the WCP set (although it was included on the now OOP DVD set, Unseen Cinema), and so I thought I would share it here at MMC! The short is inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem “Mannahatta” and is considered the USA’s first experimental film. Strand and Sheeler link their respective art forms (painting and photography) to cinema by preferring dynamic angles and compositions over movement, using editing and intertitles to express a monumental day in Lower Manhattan. The result is a visually engaging and invaluable document of the time.
MMC! readers will know by now my soft spot for classic East Coast animation pastiche, so needless to say I’m currently awestruck by Jay-Z and Mark Romanek’s stunning video for “The Story of O.J.” Sampling Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” “The Story of O.J.” unpacks the unavoidable consequences of blackness’s various shades and the place of capital as a potential countermeasure. It’s a cool and canny track whose video takes as its reference point the racist stereotypes of early animation such as the Censored Eleven. Blogs like Cartoon Brew, Birth. Movies. Death., and Dazed have provided excellent accounts of the works referenced in “The Story of O.J.” and of the transtextual subversions being made by Jay-Z in this retrofitted homage, but I’m particularly struck with how the artistry and creativity of those problematic cartoons are merged with hip hop music video conventions and the issues addressed in conscious rap – the way an MC in direct address is situated with Fleischer-style backgrounds and vanishing points, how chipmunk soul vocals are fittingly located in a cartoon cabaret or how wacky surrealism is used to draw a shortcut connection between historical exploitation and its consequential products, and the way Jaybo’s matter-of-fact, unruffled skepticism reflects on the three-fingered cool of Bugs Bunny. A welcome companion to Beyoncé’s stunning Lemonade from last year, “The Story of O.J.” is a daring and ambitious work, sure to be one of the best of 2017.
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Incident.
As cynical and despairing a view of New York as you’re likely to find, Larry Peerce’s The Incident is a bitter pill clipping along a Bronx train line, gathering unsuspecting passengers and transforming them into the victims of two young thugs fresh from mugging a helpless old man. Tony Musante and Martin Sheen star as a pair of hoodlums who bait, taunt, and terrorize a melting pot of late-night commuters that includes a husband and wife with a sleeping child, a pair of young lovers, two soldiers recently returned home, an irritated Jewish couple, a bitterly anti-white African American man and his peaceful wife, and an introverted homosexual. Featuring performances by Beau Bridges, Ruby Dee, Jack Gilford, Brock Peters, Thelma Ritter, Donna Mills, and Ed McMahon, The Incident captures the social dissolution of late ’60s New York in the longest, tensest commute ever made between Mosholu Parkway and Grand Central.
- Restored 2K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with director Larry Peerce
- New interview with actor Martin Sheen
- Ride with Terror, a 1963 teleplay for The DuPont Show of the Week written and adapted from by Nicholas E. Baehr and starring Tony Musante, Vincent Gardenia, and Gene Hackman
- PLUS: A new essay by Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum
With the Criterion Collection’s tease of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992) and the screening of the first two parts of Lynch’s new Twin Peaks 18-part feature at the Cannes Film Festival, it seems like much of the CC world is abuzz over David Lynch and the prospects of new spine numbered editions being announced. This has got me thinking about my favourite shorts by Lynch and so today MMC! casts its spotlight on Premonitions Following an Evil Deed (David Lynch, 1995), a 52-second film made for the Lumière and Company anthology film (1995) celebrating the centenary of Auguste and Louis Lumière’s first films. Contributing shorts to the anthology used the original Cinématographe camera, were edited in-camera, could not be longer than 52 seconds, could not have synchronized sound, and were allowed no more than three takes. This eerie and foreboding short was filmed on five sets constructed at the house of Gary D’Amico, Lynch’s special effects co-ordinator. Premonitions is one of six restored short films included on Criterion’s edition of Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977).