The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.
More random viewing: two obscure independent films from the BFI, Margaret Tait’s poetic Blue Black Permanent (1992) and Maurice Hatton’s gritty fake-umentary about the film business, Long Shot (1977); and three from Twilight Time – George Sluizer’s interesting Americanization of his existential thriller The Vanishing (1993), Terrence Young’s straightforward fact-based crime saga The Valachi Papers (1972), and D.W. Griffith’s monumental but deeply troubling Birth of a Nation (1915).
A random selection of recent viewing, from Nazi propaganda to British Angry Young Men, from classic sci-fi to the 1960s revival of a French criminal mastermind as slapstick pastiche.
Recent viewing includes an obscure arty film by the producer of Blow-Up and a pair of lesser known horrors from the heyday of British Gothic.
Two excellent recent Blu-ray releases illuminate different strains of British fantasy. They Came to a City (1944), written by J.B. Priestley and directed by Basil Dearden is a Utopian political fable proposing a new Socialist society for post-war Britain, while Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (1959) spins an epic tale of human evolution and our innate propensity for violence through the story of an ancient spaceship discovered buried beneath London.
Some comments about the past year’s DVD and Blu-ray releases.
The BFI Blu-ray release of Arthur Robison’s The Informer (1929) offers a fascinating glimpse of the sometimes rocky transition from silent cinema to sound, with restorations of the original silent version and the partial Talkie made simultaneously.
Three more black-and-white movies in excellent Blu-ray editions – Fritz Lang’s Hangmen Also Die!, Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow and John Baxter’s Love on the Dole – offer yet another reminder of the richness of monochrome film art.
Two new BFI releases, Peter Hall’s Akenfield (1974) and Andrew Grieve’s On the Black Hill (1988), view the 20th Century through the relationships of people in rural Britain to the land, evoking physical hardship and timeless mystical connections.
Two excellent recent Blu-ray releases from the BFI illuminate the extremes of high and low art in British film of the early 1970s. Ken Russell’s version of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love is exemplary literary adaptation, while Don Sharp’s Psychomania is … well, something else again!