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.
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.”
We must admit, the last couple days have been tough here at MMC! and morale is lagging with things looking to get worse before they get better. I’m not sure if Wes Anderson’s new short Come Together (2016), a promotional work for H&M stores, helps the situation by offering some Christmas cheer or gives some further reason to mope by another of Anderson’s characteristic sad sack dollhouses, but we’re glad for it either way. Enjoy it now here, before it appears on the Criterion Collection’s eventual release of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), and we’ll see you in December!
Aside from being an astonishingly effective and expertly depicted journey through space, Roman Kroitor and Colin Low’s Universe (1960) is probably most celebrated for its connection to Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). This Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning short was a revelation to Kubrick, who purportedly watched nearly every space movie made to that point in preparation for 2001. Universe proved that it was possible to depict outer space with complete realism, and Kubrick hired the short’s special effects technician Wally Gentleman as an uncredited special effects supervisor and cast Universe‘s narrator Douglas Rain as the voice of the HAL 9000. Colin Low was also invited by Kubrick to work on 2001, but the director turned down the offer to work with Roman Kroitor and Hugh O’Connor on the multi-screen documentary collage film, In the Labyrinth (1967), for Expo 67 in Montreal. In the Labyrinth served as a precursor to the IMAX format developed in part by Kroitor, and the film’s content anticipates the immersive travelogues and spectacular anthropologies of films like Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi Trilogy (1983, 1988, and 2002) and Ron Fricke’s Baraka (1992) and Samsara (2011), although Labyrinth proves even more daring in its formal construction. A link to In the Labyrinth is included below.
As per the NFB:
A triumph of film art, creating on the screen a vast, awe-inspiring picture of the universe as it would appear to a voyager in space, this film was among the sources used in his 2001: A Space Odyssey. Realistic animation takes you into far regions of space, beyond the reach of the strongest telescope, past Moon, Sun, and Milky Way into galaxies yet unfathomed.
A film without commentary in which multiple images, sometimes complimentary, sometimes contrasting, draw the viewer through the different stages of a labyrinth. The tone of the film moves from great joy to wrenching sorrow; from stark simplicity to ceremonial pomp. It is life as it is lived by the people of the world, each one, as the film suggests, in a personal labyrinth.
In the Labyrinth was first released as a multi-screen presentation for Chamber III of the Labyrinth at Expo 67. These separate images were integrated into a single strand of film, using a “five-on-one” cinematic technique.
A HORROR THAT GROWS ON YOU!
After a yacht is damaged in a storm and stranded near a deserted island, its passengers – a psychologist, his student, a wealthy businessman, a famous singer, a popular writer, a sailor, and the boat’s skipper – take refuge on a fungus covered ship marooned on the island’s shore. With food scarce and the ship’s logs warning that the island’s plentiful mushrooms, called “Matango,” are to be avoided, the castaways find their characters tested, leading to private deals, sexual tension, and violence. But when the hunger of the shipwrecked party becomes too great and its members begin eating the forbidden fungus, the true horror of Matango is revealed, transforming the castaways in mind and body into hideous fungal monsters!
Famed Japanese director Ishiro Honda assembles an all-star cast from his previous sci-fi films and monster movies for Matango, featuring performances by Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Hiroshi Koizumi, and Yoshio Tsuchiya. Captivating hallucinatory sequences, impressive set designs, and fantastically horrifying special effects by the celebrated Eiji Tsuburaya make this colorful B-movie a little known tokusatsu classic. Based on the 1907 story “The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hodgson, Matango is one of the strangest, most horrific Toho productions to date and is presented here, for the first time, in high-definition presentations of its original Japanese version and its American cut, Attack of the Mushroom People.
- New high definition digital transfer of the Japanese cut of Matango and of the 1965 American version Attack of the Mushroom People edited for TV by American International Television
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
- Uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition
- Newly translated English subtitles for the Japanese soundtrack
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary by star Akira Kubo
- Interview with SFX cinematographer Teruyoshi Nakano
- Spoken word reading by screenwriter Masami Fukushima
- Vinyl Fungus – Artist Barry Allen Williams on Matango and its collectibles
- “Voice in the Night,” a 1958 episode of Suspicion based on the same source material as Matango
- Theatrical trailer
- Production sketches
- Collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by scholar Richard Pusateri and William Hope Hodgson’s original 1907 story “The Voice in the Night”
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Forbidden Room.
Overwhelmed with narrative and fearful that their brains might explode under its pressure, Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin and his co-creator Evan Johnson offer the ultimate epic phantasmagoria from the ectoplasmic residue of early cinema’s lost films. Two-Strip Technicolor havoc is created with the assistance of master poet John Ashbery, actor Udo Kier, and a host of French and Québécois stars who filmed on public sets at Paris’ Pompidou Center and Montreal’s Phi Center. The Forbidden Room is a kaleidoscopic viewing experience borne from cinema’s past, present, and future where flapjacking eating submarine crews, forest bandits, skeleton women, and vampire bananas await!
- New 4K digital master, with 5.1 digital DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
- Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the Phi Center shoots
- Endless Ectoloops
- Living posters
- Theatrical trailer
- Seven-episode series on Guy Maddin’s Seances from the Phi Center
- New interview with cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke
- New interview with production designer Galen Johnson on his design of the film’s more than 400 intertitle screens
- La chambre interdite, French version of The Forbidden Room with French intertitle screens
- The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin, Yves Montmayeur’s 65-minute documentary on “the Canadian David Lynch”
- Once a Chicken, a séance with László Moholy-Nagy
- Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson’s short film on the making of Paul Gross’s Canadian war film, Hyena Road, with introduction by the filmmakers
- Footage from the Toronto Film Critics Association’s awards ceremony naming The Forbidden Room 2015’s Best Canadian Film
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Guy Maddin and film critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Hillary Weston