To Sleep with Anger (Charles Burnett, 1990)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents To Sleep with Anger.

Charles Burnett crafts a masterpiece of independent cinema with To Sleep with Anger, a magical realist exploration of a black middle-class family living in South Central Los Angeles. Family tensions are already simmering in the household of Gideon (Paul Butler) and Suzie (Mary Alice) when their old friend Harry Mention (Danny Glover in arguably his greatest performance) turns up on their doorstep unannounced looking for hospitality and a temporary roof over his head. Reminding them of their Southern roots, Gideon and Suzie cannot refuse his request but when Gideon mysteriously suffers from an unexpected stroke, Harry’s easy charm gives way to a malevolent spell that provokes turmoil throughout the family, setting son against son and reviving past hatreds. Burnett reveals himself as not just the master of poetic urban realism that created his classic first film, Killer of Sheep, but an expert interpreter of African-American folk culture and one of the great chroniclers of the American experience.

Disc Features:

  • 4K digital transfer, approved by director Charles Burnett, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • The Trouble with Harry, an introduction by director Ernest Dickerson
  • New interviews with Burnett and actors Glover, Alice, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Carl Lumbly
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Andrew Chan

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Socks on Fire: Uncle John and the Copper Headed Water Rattlers (Bo McGuire, 2017)

Probably the only thing that improves upon Bo McGuire’s astonishing short, Socks on Fire: Uncle John and the Copper Headed Water Rattlers (2017), is that the film is available on his website right now to see – click HERE to visit his site and watch! The 15-minute short is an experimental fantasy of some family drama that resists easy description. McGuire labels it on his site as a “lyrical meditation exploring personal family relationships, archetypes and myths through a variety of means & textures” and a rough cut to a feature-length “transgenerational docudrama,” while the Chattanooga Film Festival offered this synopsis – “A failed poet takes up cinematic arms when he returns home to Hokes Bluff, Ala. to find his aunt has locked his drag queen uncle out of the family home.” When asked about his inspiration for the short by Indie Grits, McGuire offered this:

Gail Bryant was a lady from my hometown of Hokes Bluff. She had a tick where she would snap her neck to throw her silver hair to the side. One day Gail was snapping that neck and the next day she was in the ground. That pissed me off. The same thing happened to my Nanny and Papa without the neck snaps and that really pissed me off. Then my Aunt Sharon went behind everyone’s back and tried to sell Nanny and Papa’s house, and Meryl Streep got up on the Oscars hollering, take your broken heart, make it into art.

McGuire, the self-described “queer son of a Waffle House cook and his third-shift waitress on the corner of George Wallace Drive in Gadsden, Alabama,” crafts a Southern Gothic dreamscape that is equal parts John Waters and Terrence Malick. Steeped in corner store pageantry, Socks on Fire veers from scenes of straight documentary to magical realist reveries, with McGuire appearing in oscillating roles of interested relation, impartial chronicler, co-conspirator, and mystical trickster. While often ostentatious and unabashed, McGuire never stoops to exploitation but rather preserves an air of respect and poetic gravity throughout the short. It is McGuire’s greatest success here, creating a kind of cinematic eye dialect from the iconography of slim cigarettes, pick-ups, fireworks, Crimson Tide merchandise, and nature’s damp, inevitable power. It’s a mini-masterpiece and I can’t wait to see Socks on Fire in its full, feature-length glory!

Shout out to the Chattanooga Film Festival and to Bo McGuire! I was lucky enough to spend a little time with Bo (even catch a screening of Rock Steady Row with him) and he’s as affable and charming a guy as you’re likely to find. Bo was definitely a personal and cinematic high point of my CFF experience. Thanks Bo!

SFFF Day 3 – Actually, They’re All Labyrinths

There’s a running joke in Bill Watterson’s Dave Made a Maze (2017), a film about a man who builds a massive cardboard maze (bigger inside than out) and then gets trapped within it. As Dave’s friend Gordon (Adam Busch) repeatedly points out, the maze is full of traps, making it, in fact, a labyrinth. Day 3 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival offered a disparate collection of films – a comedy recounting a slacker’s epic quest in a DIY fortress; a trippy, coming-of-age, prom night parable; a genre-mixing, science fiction blockbuster; and a dreamy descent into a housewife’s trauma and a cult’s terrifying prophecy. Each offers its own twists and turns, finding new dangers as they progress through corrugated caverns, genre conventions, and layered realities. In fact, they’re all labyrinths in their own ways.

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HADES (Kevin Kopacka, 2015)

The packaged summary for Kevin Kopacka’s HADES (2015) reads:

A woman is caught in an endless cycle of dreams where she has to cross the 5 rivers of Hades, each representing different stages of her relationship.

The short film, based on the short story “Statusbezogen” by H.K. DeWitt, shows a young woman (Anna Heidegger) navigating in space the emotional trauma of a troubled relationship.  HADES is heavily symbolic, abstractly experimental, and colourfully metatextual, feeling like Maya Deren while looking like Dario Argento. MMC! loves its dream cinema and Kopacka provides an entry worthy to cap another spooky October.

Happy Halloween!

Mill of the Stone Women (Giorgio Ferroni, 1960)

SCARES THAT WILL LEAVE YOU PETRIFIED!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddHans, a young artist, arrives at the famous Dutch windmill of Professor Wahl to study the horrible stone statues contained within the local landmark, a mechanical carousel of history’s most notorious women meeting their gruesome and untimely ends. There, he becomes captivated with Wahl’s mysterious and seductive daughter notwithstanding Hans’s relationship with a local art student. Warned by Professor Wahl to stay away from his seriously ill daughter and suspicious of her private doctor, Hans begins to suspect that deadly family secrets are being kept within the mill…

Giorgio Ferroni’s Mill of the Stone Women was Italy’s first horror film shot in color and has become a classic of the Italian Gothic genre. Arrow Video proudly presents four versions of the film with this release, newly restored from the best materials available and including the notorious “topless” shots of sexy French star Dany Carrel originally cut from the US release.

Special Features:

  • New high definition transfers of the film in its 95-minute international version, 90-minute French version, 96-minute Italian version, and 93-minute German version
  • High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition
  • Newly translated English subtitles for French, Italian, and German editions
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Introduction to the film by author and critic Alan Jones
  • Audio Commentary with film critic Tim Lucas
  • Archival interview with actor Wolfgang Preiss
  • Deleted and alternate scenes
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Stills and poster gallery
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Andrea Bini, an essay by Pete Tombs, and a comparison of the versions of the film by Tim Lucas, illustrated with original stills and posters

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Aniki-Bobo (Manoel de Oliveira, 1942)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Aniki-Bóbó.

criterion logoSet 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.

Disc Features:

  • 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

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