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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Puzzle of a Downfall Child (Jerry Schatzberg, 1970)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Puzzle of a Downfall Child.

Based on his own interviews with troubled fashion model Anne St. Marie, Jerry Schatzberg’s Puzzle of a Downfall Child is an unnervingly intimate, narratively-fragmented portrait of a top fashion model in personal and professional decline. Faye Dunaway, fresh from her star-making role in Bonnie and Clyde, delivers a tour-de-force performance as Lou Andreas Sand, once a celebrated model now shored up in an isolated beach house struggling to maintain her partial grasp on reality. Directly influenced by the European art cinema of Alain Resnais, Ingmar Bergman, and Michelangelo Antonioni and boasting a screenplay by acclaimed screenwriter Carole Eastman and supporting performances by Barry Primus, Roy Scheider, and Viveca Lindfors, Puzzle of a Downfall Child is a visionary film emblematic of the disenfranchised subjects, art-film sensibilities, and young, creative filmmakers that made the New American Cinema.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director Jerry Schatzberg, with uncompressed monoaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interviews with Schatzberg and actor Faye Dunaway
  • Alternate opening sequence prepared by the studio
  • New interview with playwright Elisabeth Bouchaud
  • Fashion of a Downfall Child, scholar Drake Stutesman on the film’s costumes and fashion trends
  • Sounds from Across the Ocean, scholar Jay Beck on the film’s sound design
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by filmmaker and photographer Bruce LaBruce

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The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (Juho Kuosmanen, 2016)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki.

In the summer of 1962, small town Finnish baker Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) has a shot at the world featherweight boxing title held by dominating American champion Davey Moore. Olli is thrust from his countryside home into a fraught training camp with the pressures of national stardom and a draining publicity circuit, but he has bigger problem – he has just fallen in love with a sweet country girl (Oona Airola) and can think about little else. Based on a true story, Juho Kuosmanen’s exquisitely lyrical, verité-styled inversion of the sports biography won the Un Certain Regard Prize, charming Cannes audiences with its gentle humor and bittersweet romance.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital master, supervised by cinematographer Jani-Petteri Passi, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with director Juho Kuosmanen, production designer Kari Kankaanpää cinematographer Passi
  • New interviews with actors Jarkko Lahti, Oona Airola, and Eero Milonoff
  • Roadmarkers (2007), Citizens (2008), and The Painting Sellers (2010), three award-winning short films by Kuosmanen
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A new essay by critic Manohla Dargis

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And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool (Makoto Nagahisa, 2017)

I’ve been catching up on short films lately and filling out my “Top Films of 2017” list. One favourite has been Makoto Nagahisa’s And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool (2017), the Short Film Grand Prize Jury Winner at Sundance earlier this year. The short follows Mayu (Reina Kikuchi), Tamiko (Rina Matsuyama), Ryoko (Marin Nishimoto), and Akane (Nina Yukawa), a quartet of rebellious sixteen year-olds unfulfilled in their hometown of Saitama and who release 400 goldfish in their high school swimming pool. Nagahisa aimed to emphasize “speed, dialogue, and sound” in Soushite watashitachi wa pûru ni kingyo o and the short draws quick comparisons to Edgar Wright for its exuberant style. For those won over Nagahisa energetic portrait of teenage apathy and cynicism, we encourage you to explore his previous works in music video and commercial film profiled on his website.

Van Diemen’s Land (Jonathan auf der Heide, 2009)

“A grey, horribly-beautiful vision of Hell.” – Simon Foster, SBS.

Drafthouse Films LogoNow called Tasmania, Van Diemen’s Land was originally a feared and dreaded penal settlement, a final stop at the edge of the world for those convicts unwanted by the British Empire. In 1822, eight convicts escaped the brutal Macquarie Harbour penal station and were forced into the brutal Tasmanian wilderness when their plan went awry. With little food and equipment, these Irish, English, and Scottish fugitives battled harsh conditions and aching hunger in a merciless and unforgiving land – a land where God wields an axe. Director Jonathan auf der Heide and actor Oscar Redding create a grimly poetic retelling of Alexander Pearce’s infamous escape from Macquarie Harbour and the unthinkable acts he committed during his 113 days at large.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director and co-writer Jonathan auf der Heide, co-writer and lead actor Oscar Redding, and cinematographer Ellery Ryan
  • A Journey Up River: Making Van Diemen’s Land
  • Three additional featurettes: The Battle of the Beards, Subtleties of the Slate, and From Bailbo to Van Diemen’s Land
  • Hell’s Gates, Jonathan auf der Heide’s 2008 short film
  • Two Devils, Jonathan auf der Heide and Gregory Erdstein’s 2014 short film
  • Theatrical teaser and trailer
  • Original storyboards
  • A 24 page booklet featuring production photos and a new essay by film scholar Roderick Heath

Deluxe Edition – Package Includes:

  • Van Diemen’s Land on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 2½ hours of bonus material
  • DRM-free Digital Download of the film on 1080p, 720p and mobile/tablet formats
  • 27″ x 40″ Movie Poster

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Two from The All-Nighter Room

A lot of time has been spent lately watching short films and some new favourites have been found, particularly from The All-Nighter Room, a Brooklyn based production company founded by Mickey Duzyj and specializing in distinctive animated and documentary shorts. First up is Duzyj’s The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere (2016), the story of Haru Urara, a Japanese racehorse with a massive losing-streak that became a national symbol of perseverance and pride in hard economic times. Next is Mickey Duzyj and Jeremy Johnstone’s Emmy and Webby nominated The Perfect 18 (2014) about IT manager Rick Baird’s perfect round of Putt Putt golf. Both films offer Duzyj’s clean, spare animation design, with the former subtly using colour to represent the expanding popularity of Haru Urara and the latter deploying this crisp style to elaborate on the precision required of competitive miniature golf. Both of these films are surprisingly affective and use the short film format to avoid allowing their subjects to become overblown.