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).
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Aniki-Bóbó.
Set in the director’s hometown of Porto, Portugal, Aniki-Bóbó features a romantic rivalry amongst a group of young, school-age children. Eduardinho, an unofficial leader and bully to a band of his classmates, has affection for Teresinha, a pretty girl who begins noticing the interest of a shy boy named Carlitos. When Carlitos steals a doll for Teresinha and is accused of pushing Eduardinho off an embankment and toward an oncoming train, the youngster must negotiate feelings of guilt, betrayal, and persecution. Manoel de Oliviera’s first feature film was a commercial failure on its initial release, but has become regarded as a classic work in Portuguese cinema, a forerunner to Italian neorealism, and an inspiration to generations of Portuguese filmmakers.
- Restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- A new piece about Manoel de Oliveira’s first career in cinema with scholar Randal Johnson
- A pair of city symphonies by de Oliveira on Porto – Labor on the Douro River (1931) and The Artist and the City (1956)
- Excerpt from Sergio Andrade’s documentary Manoel de Oliveira: His Case, featuring interviews with de Oliveira and actors Fernanda Matos and Horácio Silva
- Manoel de Oliveira and the Age of Cinema, a short documentary made for Portuguese television on the filmmaker
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim and a reprint of Aniki-Bóbó‘s source story, José Rodrigues de Freitas’ Millionaire Children
MMC! rounds out this proposed Tai Katô set with another film from the director’s tenure at Shochiku and arguably the best work considered here – Minagoroshi no reika (1968), otherwise known as I, the Executioner or Requiem for a Massacre. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it; Tony Rayns shouts his admiration for I, the Executioner loudly from the rafters of the Time Out Film Guide.
Up there with Oshima’s Violence at Noon and Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine as one of Japan’s most disturbing anatomies of a serial killer, Kato’s shattering film eschews suspense (it confronts male violence against women head-on from its very first shot) in favour of mystery. What links the murders of five women with the suicide of a 16-year-old delivery boy? Plodding cops (one with a bad case of piles) investigate, and solarised flashbacks eventually provide a denouement, but the near metaphysical ending ensures that the mystery somehow lingers. Kato anchors it in location-shot observation of Tokyo’s quotidian realities, which makes the unorthodox approach to questions of sexual politics all the more bracing.
With the holiday season in mind, enjoy this short made for The Candid Eye documentary series recounting Christmas preparations in Montreal, Canada. The Days Before Christmas (Stanley Jackson, Wolf Koenig and Terence Macartney-Filgate, 1958) has everything you’d expect from the Christmas season and more – department store Santas and anxious children, choir practices, recitals, and Christmas pageants, holiday travellers and long-distance calls home, smoky nightclubs and lively jazz acts, cab drivers, traffic cops, and Brink’s guards with pistols drawn.
And to all those wonderful readers who arrive here regularly or stumble into MMC! accidentally, happy holidays and the best of the season to you! Enjoy yourselves, stay safe, and keep those titles in order of spine number!
MMC!‘s proposed collection of Tai Katô films continues with another exceptionally titled movie – Fighting Tatsu, the Rickshaw Man (1964). Adapted by Katô and Noribumi Suzuki from Gohei Kamiya’s novel, Shafu yukyoden – kenka tatsu (Fighting Tatsu‘s Japanese title) is a lighter take on the yakuza genre, injecting a romantic comedy into its story of mob politics and gang warfare. The film still manages its share of bloodshed, untimely deaths, and wild, riotous street fights to satisfy strict genre fans.
The movie opens in 1898 with scruffy and truculent rickshaw driver Tatsu (Ryôhei Uchida) arriving from Edo to Osaka ready to start his career with the town’s only rubber-wheeled carriage. Before even leaving the Victorian-designed train station, Tatsu bumps into a high-ranking official and gets into a brawl with him, his assistant, and his bodyguard. When told to mind his place and defer to the official, Tatsu proclaims that they live in a new era where all are “born equally now.” By these first few minutes, the film’s main character is immediately and perfectly defined – headstrong, independent, egalitarian, pugnacious – and no question is left as to how Fighting Tatsu will develop its dramatic conflicts.
Tai Kato’s Bakumatsu zankoku monogatari goes by multiple translated titles such as The Executioners and various permutations on Brutal/Cruel Story/Tale of the Shogunate’s Downfall/at the End of the Tokugawa Era/Shogunate. In this bundle of terms and referents are numerous evocations – institutionalized murder, mercilessness, the degradation that typifies a historical era’s demise, a retrospective view and an exemplum account. Made by Toei as a no frills genre picture, Tai Kato offers a daringly grim view of Japanese militarism and the radical lengths such top-down pressures drive individuals toward.
Hashizo Okawa, a handsomely baby-faced actor departing from more commercially agreeable fare, plays Enami, a naïve and unskilled samurai looking to join the Shinsengumi. During the mid- to late-1860s, the Shinsengumi acted as a special militarized police force devoted to protecting the Shogunate and, though valourized in some dramatic treatments as heroes, they are regarded by many historians as vicious death squads. Kato’s film prefers the historical view of the Shinsengumi, first introducing them as blood-drenched foot soldiers stoically overseeing the aftermath of some late-night operation on an urban street. Enami’s story commences with a savage try-out held for samurai aspiring to join the group, forced to display their swordsmanship against one another with wooden swords rather than bamboo ones, thereby inflicting grave injuries on each other. The savagery of these sword-fights and the shock of the injuries sustained leave many of the hopefuls in utter panic and Enami vomiting under a nearby tree.