Shura (Toshio Matsumoto, 1971)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Shura.

Experimental filmmaker and critic Toshio Matsumoto followed up his queer opus, Funeral Parade of Roses, with a “mere” samurai film, yet underneath its seemingly traditional surface lurks just as many subversions. In Shura, a samurai poised to join the famous 47 ronin and avenge the death of his master becomes distracted from his duties by his love for a lowly geisha, who in turn betrays him. Driven mad by his desire for vengeance, the samurai embarks on a bloody path of revenge marked by riveting intensity, a nightmarishly black aesthetic, and an uncertain blurring of fantasy and reality. A Borgesian satire in the guise of samurai horror, this nocturnal masterpiece is one of the darkest films of its era, both visually and politically.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
  • Security Treaty, a 1959 short film by Toshio Matsumoto
  • For My Crushed Right Eye, a 1969 installation piece by Matsumoto
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays on the film by Matsumoto and Nagisa Oshima, director’s notes, and an essay by Japanese film scholar Hirofumi Sakamoto

Continue reading

SFFF Day 5 – The Good, the Bad and the Heavy

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.

Continue reading

SFFF Day 3 – Hard Knock Lives

‘Stead of treated, the kids were getting tricked on Day 3 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival. Certainly the SFFF’s most celebrated film was Issa López’s festival darling Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017). MMC! has discussed López’s film on more than one of occasion, and so we’ll take its greatness as read and briefly discuss Jérémy Comte’s Fauve (2018), a Canadian short that feels tailor-made to open for Tigers. A Special Jury Prize-winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Fauve concerns a pair of boys exploring a surface mine who “sink into a seemingly innocent power game with Mother Nature as the sole observer.” The short brings to mind Gus Van Sant’s Gerry (2002) and a very specific John Mulaney joke about an impression he had as a child, but these glib comparisons belie the truly heartbreaking nature of Comte’s film. Fans of Tigers would be well served to seek out Fauve.

Continue reading

SFFF Day 2 Report – Sex and the Unruly Screen

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.

Continue reading

5 Great Reasons to Attend the Buried Alive Film Festival – The November 15th Edition!

MMC! will cover the 2018 Buried Alive Film Festival by previewing each day of its programming, focusing on those wonderful films that achieve MMC!-approval!

With BAFF’s emphasis on short films and a full program of these titles playing each day the Fest, there’s hardly any limit on the number of good reasons to attend! BAFF kicks off on November 14 with a screening of the films made as part of its 3rd annual Sinema Challenge, a 13 day filmmaking challenge that sees its participants randomly select a horror genre and a subject from a deck of Cards Against Humanity cards and then make a movie based on their selections.

The Fest’s main program starts on November 15 with a feature, a supporting short film, and BAFF’s first short program: “For the Love of the Undertaker.” For those counting, that’s thirteen separate works in a single evening of film fest-ing! There’s lots to enjoy, but here are MMC!‘s five favourite reasons to BAFF next Thursday.

Continue reading

Demon (Marcin Wrona, 2015)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Demon.

Adapted from Piotr Rowicki’s 2008 play Adherence, Marcin Wrona’s Demon is a horrifyingly comic and darkly atmospheric exploration of suppressed histories and dissolving minds. Set at a crumbling Polish country house, Polish-Brit Piotr is set to marry his fiancée Zaneta and meet for the first time her appearance-conscious parents. But as the ceremony proceeds, Piotr begins to come undone, and a dybbuk, an iconic ancient figure from Jewish folklore, takes hold of the groom and the entire celebration. Combining horror movie possession with unearthed national traumas and frivolous consumption, Demon is a modern art-horror classic.

Disc Features:

  • 2K digital transfer with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Almonds and Raisins, new interviews with actors Itay Tiran, Agnieszka Zulewska, and producer Olga Szymanska
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic J. Hoberman

Continue reading