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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Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999)

JAPAN’S JET ROCK ‘N’ ROLL SCI-FI ZOMBIE HORROR MASTERPIECE!

Ace, a rockabilly fan who really wants to be cool, is on his way to see his favorite rock band, Guitar Wolf, when some strange things occur … flying saucers invade the Earth and flesh-eating zombies rise from the grave! With the help of the (real life) Japanese rock-punk band Guitar Wolf, Ace negotiates an array of misadventures involving crazy rock managers in very tight shorts, transsexual love-interests, naked women shooting guns in the shower, and blood-thirsty zombies ready to tear them all apart! Music video director Tetsuro Takeuchi packs his début feature with everything you need: leather jackets, screeching feedback, laser guitar picks, motorcycles, muscle cars, and LOTS of fire! Think Dawn of the Dead meets Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park with the humor of Evil Dead 2 and you start to approach riotous and ridiculous world of Wild Zero.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Original Japanese soundtrack with optional, newly translated English subtitles
  • Director Edgar Wright on Wild Zero
  • Behind-the-scenes music video
  • Guitar Wolf: Red Idol, director Tetsuro Takeuchi’s 2003 collection of videos, tributes, and live performances
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Rockin’ Jelly Bean
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese film expert Tom Mes

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Three Films by Ryan Prows

I had planned to wind up MMC!‘s coverage of the Chattanooga Film Festival with an imagined Arrow Video edition of Ryan Prows’s Lowlife (2017) but no sooner had I done my research and began writing did Shout! Factory announce a Blu-ray edition of the film slated for release on August 7. I’m usually pretty stoked to cross any film off my list of potential MMC! subjects as their circulation is far more gratifying than writing about them here, but I’m a little disappointed not to discuss Lowlife at greater length. I have stumped for Lowlife a fair amount already so let’s instead spend some time with three of Prows’s earlier shorts films, all of which seem to be working through some of the themes and concerns at play in Lowlife and all of which should be included as special features on the upcoming Blu-ray edition.

In case you’ve forgotten, here is a quick refresher on Lowlife taken from the film’s press kit.

When a simple organ harvesting caper goes awry, a twist of fate unites three of society’s forgotten and ignored: EL MONSTRUO, a disgraced Mexican wrestler working as hired muscle for a local crime boss. CRYSTAL, a recovering addict desperate enough to arrange a black market kidney transplant to save her husband’s life. And RANDY, a loveable two-strike convict fresh out of prison, cursed with a full-face swastika tattoo and a best friend guilting him into some hair-brained kidnapping scheme.

As the sordid lives of these small-time criminals collide, they must fight tooth and nail to save a pregnant woman from a certain, and surely gruesome, death.

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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!

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Issa Lopez, 2017)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Tigers Are Not Afraid.

Issa López’s festival-favourite is a darkly magical tale set in the real world tragedy of Mexico’s violent drug war, where thousands of murdered and missing people result in countless orphaned children forced onto the streets to fend for themselves. When her mother disappears, a young girl named Estrella uses one of three wishes granted to her to ask for her mother back and finds herself haunted by a vengeful ghost. Estrella takes up with a quartet of street kids led by Shine but the boys have their own problems, pursued by a vicious gang intent on reclaiming a lost iPhone. Blending artfully immediate handheld cinematography and convincing fantastical digital effects, López creates a realist fairy tale that stands as a prescient statement on Mexico’s deadly drug cartels and a hauntingly magical fairy tale.

Disc Features:

  • 2K digital transfer, approved by director Issa López, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with López, acting coach Fátima Toledo, and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
  • Tan Callando, López’s 1994 student film made at Mexico’s National University, with introduction by the director
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by novelist Stephen King

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Mute Witness (Anthony Waller, 1995)

SHE CAN’T SPEAK. SHE CAN’T SCREAM. SHE CAN’T BEG FOR MERCY.

Working on a low-budget horror film in Russia, Billy Hughes (Marina Zudina), a mute American makeup artist, witnesses a brutal murder on a movie-set, however her claims are doubted by her friends and by Moscow police. Still, the killers know the truth and the instructions received from their underworld boss is clear: no witnesses. So begins a night of terror for Billy as she struggles to save her own life and trust a KGB agent (Oleg Yankovskiy) who claims to be her saviour.

Anthony Waller’s Mute Witness is an expertly made thriller comparable to the classic suspense of Alfred Hitchcock and Wait Until Dark and the contemporary shocks of Brian de Palma and Silence of the Lambs. Watch it and be left speechless.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand-new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround Options
  • Audio commentary with writer-director Anthony Waller
  • Speaking Up, new interview with actress Marina Zudina
  • Bearing Witness, new interviews with actors Fay Ripley and Evan Richards
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Steven Jay Schneider

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