Recent viewing includes a range of genre titles, high and low-end, from Vinegar Syndrome and Arrow Video: serial killers, Japanese vampires, sewer-dwelling mutants, zombies and a schizophrenic woman struggling to maintain a tenuous hold on reality.
David Lynch’s memoir/autobiography Room to Dream and a message from an old acquaintance now living in Mexico have stirred up memories of my experiences with the filmmaker in the early ’80s, when I wrote about Eraserhead and worked on Dune.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray of Victor Erice’s second feature, El Sur (1983), presents this exquisite depiction of childhood innocence and loss in a breathtakingly rich hi-def transfer, with excellent, informative supplements.
Recent Blu-ray editions from Indicator in the UK call attention to a couple of interesting but largely forgotten movies from the ’60s: Sidney Lumet’s John le Carre adaptation The Deadly Affair (1966) and Jack Gold’s The Reckoning.
Indicator’s Blu-ray finally does justice to The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), Dr. Seuss’ nightmarish musical plunge into childhood anxieties.
Film history is full of lost movies and forgotten filmmakers, but the case of Sadao Yamanaka is one of the saddest; a brilliant director in 1930s Japan, he died young and all but three of his twenty-seven features are lost. The three that remain are all great works of narrative art.
Remarkably, despite the fame of Fassbinder’s adaptation of Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), author Alfred Döblin remains little known among English-speaking readers, with few of his monumental novels translated. My brother Chris has made it his mission to change that situation with the launch of Beyond Alexanderplatz, a website devoted to his own on-going translation project.
Two recent Criterion releases, Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills (2012) and Graduation (2016), illustrate the richness of the Romanian New Wave; formally rich, morally complex, and dramatically powerful, they both look superb on Blu-ray and Criterion supplements them with substantial contextual material which reveal Mungiu to be one of the finest artists working in film today.
Karl Marx City (2016) is a strange, disturbing documentary exploration of family history in the context of an oppressive police state, East Germany. In uncovering the story of her father, co-director Petra Epperlein reveals how powerful political forces distort and control people’s everyday lives.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray of Dead Man (1995) presents a luminous transfer of Jim Jarmusch’s masterpiece, a western which is also a poetic contemplation of the conflict between a material world and spiritual survival.