Watching Blacula (1972) while reading James Baldwin’s The Devil Finds Work turns up some surprising depths in the cheap blaxploitation horror movie.
Surprisingly, the underrated British director Val Guest has recently been represented by a flurry of Blu-ray releases, two of which highlight some of his finest work while the third makes available one of his lesser known minor films of the ’50s.
Studio Ghibli’s Isao Takahata creates a masterpiece in his final feature, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, while Hiroyuki Okiura seems a worthy successor to the studio’s achievements with A Letter to Momo; less successful is Ari Folman’s live action/animation hybrid Robin Wright at The Congress.
Despite the dominance of computer animation these days, there are qualities in hand-made animation, whether drawn or stop-motion, which offer a richer, more aesthetically pleasing viewer experience, as evidenced by a random selection of new and classic releases.
In their Blu-ray set of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s first six features, the BFI provide a superb introduction to novelist and filmmaker’s radical and frequently controversial work which combines high art with lowly genre tropes in illuminating and surprisingly entertaining ways.
Criterion’s resurrection of Robert Montgomery’s Ride the Pink Horse is a revelation; the noir-inflected movie serves as a critique of post-war despair and finds a way for its war-damaged hero to return to life.
An opportunity to meet my favourite film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, turned out to be a rich evening of films from around the world.
Watching horror, like watching war films, is a way to experience fear without actually being vulnerable. Vicarious thrills allow us to indulge emotions which, in real situations, would be very unpleasant. We always have the guarantee of personal survival, the threats contained within structured narratives which, traditionally, provided us with a way back to normality.
More releases from Arrow range from the reality based and historical horror of Deranged and Mark of the Devil to the flawed black comedy of The ‘Burbs.
Criterion’s Blu-ray edition of Fellini Satyricon should go a long way towards establishing this phantasmagoric adaptation of the ancient Roman novel as one of the director’s finest and most creatively significant films.