A few more comments on recent viewing, which includes a couple of interesting older horror movies and two overblown recent Hollywood blockbusters.
Soon after Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain, filmmakers Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak embarked on an ambitious project to revitalize a film industry in disarray. The result was the Infernal Affairs trilogy, which has its roots in the HK action movies of the 1980s, using familiar narrative tropes as a springboard for a complex meditation on identity amidst new political and economic uncertainties. Criterion’s three-disk Blu-ray set showcases the trilogy with an array of new and archival extras.
As usual, there’s no coherent pattern to what I spend my time watching. In the past few months, I given my overtaxed attention to quite a few movies from the ’70s and ’80s – British sex comedies and cop movies, Italian gialli, French and Spanish thrillers, Chinese martial arts movies and an Australian superhero musical – plus a pair of recent Korean action movies and two ultra-low-budget do-it-yourself movies from the ’90s.
Cauldron Films casts a wide net with their recent releases: Contraband (1980), a violent thriller by Lucio Fulci, is joined by Eloy de la Iglesia’s homage to A Clockwork Orange, Murder in a Blue World (1973), Jordan Graham’s mysterious folk horror Sator (2019) and Karoly Ujj Meszaros wistful Hungarian fantasy Liza the Fox Fairy (2015).
A couple of things seen long ago have resurfaced on disk, tugging at vague memories: Network’s 11-disk set of all 52 episodes of the BBC’s classic series based on Georges Simenon’s novels about Superintendent Maigret (1960-63), and Brian Damude’s scrappy Canadian thriller Sudden Fury (1975) from Vinegar Syndrome reveal just how flawed my memory is.
Writer-director Zale Dalen made one of the most distinctive Canadian features during the tax shelter years, but Skip Tracer (1977) all but disappeared with the tide of low-budget disaster movies and slasher films produced by financial support from the government between 1975 and 1982. Dalen ended up doing mostly episodic television, though he did briefly return to features in the ’90s, culminating in the absurd but entertaining sci-fi martial arts potboiler Expect No Mercy (1995).
Spanish zombies, rural American zombies, a Korean serial killer, monsters and illicit mindbending drugs, a blood-fuelled car, small-town fascism, an eccentric family in retreat from the modern world, and a man with a truffle-hunting pig – there’s no pattern here in my recent movie-watching other than a restless search for the original and the entertaining.
Bertrand Tavernier’s epic eight-part documentary Journeys Through French Cinema (2017) offers a personal and idiosyncratic history rooted in the filmmakers personal passions; Enzo G. Castellari’s The Big Racket (1976) and The Heroin Busters (1977) showcase the cynical, violent action of Italian genre movies of the ’70s; Andreas Marschall turns homage into effective horror in the retro-giallo Masks (2011); and Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch Miller’s documentary Other Music (2019) captures an experience all-but-lost today with their account of the final days of a great independent record store in New York City.