Three Films by Ryan Prows

I had planned to wind up MMC!‘s coverage of the Chattanooga Film Festival with an imagined Arrow Video edition of Ryan Prows’s Lowlife (2017) but no sooner had I done my research and began writing did Shout! Factory announce a Blu-ray edition of the film slated for release on August 7. I’m usually pretty stoked to cross any film off my list of potential MMC! subjects as their circulation is far more gratifying than writing about them here, but I’m a little disappointed not to discuss Lowlife at greater length. I have stumped for Lowlife a fair amount already so let’s instead spend some time with three of Prows’s earlier shorts films, all of which seem to be working through some of the themes and concerns at play in Lowlife and all of which should be included as special features on the upcoming Blu-ray edition.

In case you’ve forgotten, here is a quick refresher on Lowlife taken from the film’s press kit.

When a simple organ harvesting caper goes awry, a twist of fate unites three of society’s forgotten and ignored: EL MONSTRUO, a disgraced Mexican wrestler working as hired muscle for a local crime boss. CRYSTAL, a recovering addict desperate enough to arrange a black market kidney transplant to save her husband’s life. And RANDY, a loveable two-strike convict fresh out of prison, cursed with a full-face swastika tattoo and a best friend guilting him into some hair-brained kidnapping scheme.

As the sordid lives of these small-time criminals collide, they must fight tooth and nail to save a pregnant woman from a certain, and surely gruesome, death.

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Logorama (Ludovic Houplain, Herve de Crecy, and Francois Alaux, 2009)

Back in January, the Criterion Collection paired the Oscar-winning short film Logorama (Ludovic Houplain, Hervé de Crécy, and François Alaux, 2009) with Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin (1966). Created by the French collective H5, the short constructs Los Angeles entirely from (3,000 or so) trademarked logos and then presents these sanitized images of friendly consumerism in the sun-drenched violence typical to films like To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985) and Heat (Michael Mann, 1995). The result is a clever statement on the ubiquity of capitalist commodification in our daily life and a somewhat nasty dismantling of the corporate messaging shorthanded into these capitalist symbols. Those interested in the legality of Logorama (or at least the American legality of a French film) should read Rose Lawrence’s “LOGORAMA: The Great Trademark Heist.” Lawrence’s unpacking of the legal tests for parody, satire, infringement, and dilution are particularly useful in considering the artistic aims, popular interactions, and social commentaries at work in the short film. As a bonus, Lawrence also touches upon important legal texts like George of the Jungle 2 (David Grossman, 2003) and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”

Our Friends in the North (Simon Cellan Jones, Pedr James, and Stuart Urban, 1996)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Our Friends in the North.

criterion logoBased on Peter Flannery’s 1982 stage-play, this award-winning BBC mini-series charts the lives of four friends from Newcastle over four decades – Nicky, a radical socialist preoccupied with the class struggle; Tosker, a cocky young man with dreams of celebrity and success; Mary, who struggles with the pressures of marriage and motherhood while pursuing her own professional ambitions; and Geordie, a troubled young man who flees his hometown for London. Over its nine episodes, Our Friends in the North traces the fortunes of an ever-changing England through the break-out performances of Christopher Eccleston, Mark Strong, Gina McKee, and Daniel Craig. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this sprawling milestone in British drama for the first time ever in North America.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interview with Christopher Eccleston and Gina McKee
  • Retrospective with Peter Flannery, producer Charlie Pattison, executive producer Michael Wearing, and directors Pedr James and Simon Cellan Jones
  • New interviews with Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee, Mark Strong, and Daniel Craig
  • Visual essay by playwright Michael Eaton
  • Complete soundtrack listing with chart history
  • Precis and color stills of the original first episode
  • TV spots
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film scholar Marcus Hearn and television scholar Robin Nelson

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A Taxing Woman (Juzo Itami, 1987) and A Taxing Woman’s Return (Juzo Itami, 1988)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Taxing Woman and A Taxing Woman’s Return.

criterion logoRyoko is Japan’s hardest working female tax inspector, a ruthlessly diligent investigator whose only match is Gondo, a “love hotel” owner and master tax evader.  Against a backdrop of stake-outs, searches, and a spectacular raid, this taxing woman and her clever prey test their respective skills of detection and deception, stirring their mutual sexual attraction.  Nobuko Miyamoto and Tsutomu Yamazaki give performances in the best tradition of romantic farce, resulting in a hit film for director Jûzô Itami and a darker, edgier sequel, A Taxing Woman’s Returns, that pits the title character against a religious cult leader and a complex conspiracy involving gangsters, politicians, and a prestigious construction project.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restorations, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Introduction with Nobuko Miyamoto, star of the films and wife of filmmaker Jûzô Itami
  • Masayuki Suo’s 108 and 110 minute documentaries on the making of A Taxing Woman and A Taxing Woman’s Return
  • New interview with Jake Adelstein on the films, the Japanese yakuza, and Japan’s National Tax Agency
  • Theatrical trailers and teasers
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Violent Panic: The Big Crash (Kinji Fukasaku, 1976)

KINJI FUKASAKU’S ODE TO AUTOMOTIVE ANARCHY

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddAcclaimed Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku breaks free from his iconic yakuza films with Violent Panic: The Big Crash, a deliriously wild ride through Japanese and American exploitation cinema.  Takashi Yamanaki (Tsunehiko Watase) and his partner tear across Japan committing daring, daylight bank-robberies in hopes of eventually escaping to Brazil, but when his partner is killed escaping from a heist, Takashi finds himself on the run as a wanted man.  Standing between him and his getaway to South America is a beautiful woman in love with him (Miki Sugimoto), his partner’s vicious brother (Hideo Murota), an ill-tempered cop (Takuzo Kawatani), and every news truck, motorcycle gang, and delivery driver that crosses their path.  Violent Panic crashes cult film genres (sex comedy, crime, erotic horror, carsploitation) into Fukasaku’s trademark handheld cinematography to create an irreverently careening caper flick, culminating with an outrageous multi-vehicle demolition derby that must be seen to be believed!

Fans of Japan’s master of gangster cinema will recognize Fukasaku’s unique storytelling and visual style, but Violent Panic contains a madcap spontaneity that is wantonly cartoonish and uncharacteristic to the director’s better known works.  Fun, frothy, and fierce, Violent Panic: The Big Crash is a cult film spectacle that pulls out all the stops.

Special Features:

  • New High Definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • New interview with star Tsunehiko Watase
  • Interview with Fukasaku biographer, Yamane Sadao
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Booklet by critic and scholar Tom Mes of Midnight Eye, illustrated with original stills and new artwork

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Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time (Yoon Jong-bin, 2012)

“The Korean mob film Scorsese would be proud of.” – Jacob Templin, TIME.com

Drafthouse Films Logo1982.  South Korea.  Set to lose his job as a customs officer, Choi Ik-hyun has no hesitation in approaching a local crime syndicate to sell drugs confiscated by him and quickly partners up the city’s most powerful mob boss, Choi Hyung-bae (Ha Jung-woo, The Yellow Sea).  In less than ten years, Ik-hyun becomes a powerful criminal force in his own right, armed with a book of contacts and knack for exploiting distant family relations, but his longtime partnership with Hyung-bae strains under their own success.  A blockbuster film in its home country, Nameless Gangster features another bravura performance by Choi Min-sik (Oldboy, I Saw the Devil) as the buffoonish yet canny Ik-hyun and a spot-on reconstruction of 1980s and ’90s Busan, South Korea, set amid the country’s period of rampant crime and corruption.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Yoon Jong-bin
  • The Golden Age of the Bad Guys, a making-of documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
  • The War on Crime, a featurette on South Korean organized crime and the government’s war against it in 1990
  • Gangsters of the 1980s – Busan, reviewing the style, fashion, and production design of Nameless Gangster
  • The Music in Those Days …, a review of Nameless Gangster‘s period music
  • Footage from the première
  • Theatrical trailer, teasers, and TV spots
  • 24-page booklet of photos, production stills, and promotional materials, plus an interview with director Yoon Jong-bin

“Who You Know” Edition – Package Includes:

  • Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 3 hours of bonus material!
  • DRM-free Digital Download of the film in 1080p, 720p, and mobile/tablet formats
  • Instant Download of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Jo Yeong-wook and including Jang-Ki-ha and the Faces’ “I Heard a Rumor”
  • 27″ x 40″ reversible theatrical one-sheet

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