The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Phenix City Story.
Corruption, brutality, and vice plagued Phenix City, Alabama, for 100 years, so who would dare to change it? Based on real-life events and filmed on location in what was called Sin City USA, director Phil Karlson’s semi-documentary tears this jolting tale from its Pulitzer Prize-winning headlines and tells the story of those citizens who risked their lives to bring down the burg’s syndicate of thugs and murderers. Signalling the end of stylish film noir and pointing to the crime-busting exposés that followed, this classic B-noir remains indelible for its shockingly transgressive violence, its unsettling authenticity, and its subtextual awareness of the struggling civil rights movement.
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Phil Karlson: The Core of Fact, a short appreciation featuring writer/film historian Alan K. Rode
- New interview with critics and one-time Alabamans Jonathan Rosenbaum and Nathaniel Thompson
- Historic photos of Sin City-era Phenix City
- PLUS: An essay by critic R. Emmet Sweeney
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Knife + Heart.
In the neon glow of 1979 Paris, Anne (Vanessa Paradis) makes her living producing low-budget gay pornography and struggles with the heartbreaking rejection of her longtime lover and current film editor Loïs (Kate Moran). She aims to inspire Loïs back into loving her with increasingly ambitious productions, even using the murders of her actors by a leather clad killer as inspiration, but as the killings continue and her troupe becomes increasingly cautious, Anne assumes the role of amateur sleuth investigating the secret of the mysterious figure that stalks her company. Deftly blending Parisian porn silliness and Italian slasher conventions with a pulsing score by electronic music group M83 and a perfect period production design, Knife + Heart is an affectionately queer tribute to cinema’s body genres and to love in its many forms.
- 4K digital master, approved by director Yann Gonzalez and director of photography Simon Beaufils, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Two audio commentaries, one featuring Gonzalez and actors Vanessa Paradis, Kate Moran, and Nicolas Maury, and the other featuring Gonzalez, Beaufils, co-writer Cristiano Mangione, and production designer Sidney Dubois
- New interview on the film’s soundtrack with Yann Gonzalez and his brother Anthony Gonzalez
- New interview with historical advisor Hervé Joseph Lebrun on the 1970s Parisian porn scene
- Mondo Homo: A Study of Gay French Porn in the ’70s, Lebrun’s 2009 feature-length documentary
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by Anthony Nocera
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s final day kicked off by wrapping up its body horror retrospective with Philip Brophy’s Body Melt (1993). MMC! imagined an Arrow Video edition of the film earlier this summer, back when word of its restoration began circulating. The film now has a packed Blu-ray release compliments of Vinegar Syndrome, bringing this lesser known wonder to the world. The SFFF paired Body Melt with Chris McInroy’s practical effects-based We Summoned a Demon (2018), a fun and goofy short about a couple of guys who just want to be cool and end up summoning a demon. Overall, a fun way to start the Festival’s end.
Day 4 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival was loaded with screenings and bracketed by a pair of animated programs – the Saturday Morning All You Can Eat Cartoon Party and the web-series Crisis Jung (Baptiste Gaubert and Jérémie Hoarau, 2018). MMC! has already proclaimed the greatness of Crisis Jung and we’re loath to spoil Keir-La Janisse’s program of Saturday morning content given that it continues to tour festivals and cinematheques. Themes do tend to run through the Cartoon Party programs and “women’s lib” stood at the forefront with cartoon episodes on equal opportunity, commercials for the YWCA, and PSAs that addressed federal pay equity laws through iconic comic book figures. The Cartoon Party enjoyed a large audience that was quick to applaud for great content and progressive messages and to shout along with the enthusiastic narration of the cartoons. Expect to see another Cartoon and Cereal Party at SFFF 2019!
A MODERN SCREWBALL GIALLO
Family man Reed (Christopher Abbott) is going on a business trip but in lieu of a suitcase filled with clothes, he’s packed a toothbrush, a murder kit, and a plan to kill a prostitute so can rid himself of his homicidal impulses and continue to be a good husband and father. That call girl, an alluring but unusual woman named Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), is more than he bargained for and the balance of control over their fraught meeting begins to sway back and forth between the two. Before the night is over, a feverish nightmare unfolds, and Reed and Jackie seal their strange bond in blood.
Based on the critically acclaimed cult novel by Ryu Murakami (Audition), director Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother) blends psychological horror with screwball comedy and sets it against an iconic giallo score, resulting in a sly take on the fantasy of escape and the hazards of modern romance.
Special Edition Contents:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Nicolas Pesce
- Making-of documentary
- Piercing Murakami: Japanese film scholar Tom Mes on the source novel
- Knowing the Score: Giallo music expert Jon Dobyns on the music of Piercing
- According to Plan: New interviews with actors Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, and Laia Costa
- Original theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Wendy Ide Continue reading
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s second day was unusually specific in its program, devoting itself to short films that explored “innocence being encroached upon by outside forces” and a pair of horror-thriller features set around the sex industry. It was an impressive night of screenings, but also one that certainly made demands of its audience.
The “Paradise Lost” block of shorts was long on atmosphere and scares but slim on explication. Most films chose to grab their shocks and get out rather than flesh out their worlds. Faye Jackson’s The Old Woman Who Hid Her Fear Under the Stairs (2018) recalled Bobby Miller’s The Master Cleanse (part of SFFF’s program from 2016 and now titled simply The Cleanse). The short considers the situation of its title character who extracts her sense of anxiety out of herself, hides it in a tin, and faces down some dark, ominous threat that stalks her outside her home. Jackson’s film is wonderfully constructed, full of humour and dreadful tension, and its quality therefore demands more of itself, needing to unpack its conflict and its resolution before letting its credits roll. And the same could be said of other shorts in the block. Milk (Santiago Menghini, 2018) is a chilling tale of a boy trapped between two unsettling maternal figures and choses aesthetics over explanation. Wild (Morgana McKenzie, 2018) is a pastoral fantasy about a girl’s encounter with a magical, deadly, and ultimately unresolved female figure in her uncle’s cornfield. Saturn Through the Telescope (Dídac Gimeno, 2018) follows a boy’s efforts to watch a scary movie at home and is a slickly made and energetic short, while Make a Stand (Camille Aigloz, Lucy Vallin, Michiru Baudet, Simon Anding Malandin, Diane Tran Duc, and Margo Roguelaure, 2017) is a gorgeously animated film set in pre-Columbian Mexico and that seems to tease a supernatural spectacle that never arrives. Uncertainty is a great tool of the macabre, but it’s best used as a lacuna where meaningful questions spring forth. These shorts are uniformly affective and expertly fashioned, sure to be enjoyed by viewers. My only wish is that these films more fully met their narrative challenges as well as the aesthetic ones.