Emilio Fernández’s Victimas del pecado (Victims of Sin, 1951): Criterion Blu-ray review

Emilio Fernández’s Victimas del pecado (Victims of Sin, 1951), newly restored in 4K from the original nitrate negative, is a Mexican musical melodrama loaded with tragedy punctuated with ecstatic dance numbers from star Ninón Sevilla, who plays a cabaret dancer whose life is upended when she takes responsibility for an abandoned baby. Taut direction by Fernández and stunning photography by the masterful Gabriel Figueroa provide a remarkable showcase for Sevilla’s considerable talent.

Allen Baron’s Blast of Silence (1961): Criterion Blu-ray review

Documentary background detail in Allen Baron's Blast of Silence (1961)

Shot on a small budget, first-time writer-director-actor Allen Baron’s Blast of Silence (1961) is a taut film noir about an out-of-town hit man beginning to question his career as he closes in on his target in New York a few days before Christmas. Striking documentary images of the city, presented on Criterion’s Blu-ray from a new 4K scan, serve as background for the killer’s existential doubts.

Bo Widerberg’s New Swedish Cinema from Criterion

A circus tightrope-walker (Pia Degermark) is swept away by romance in Bo Widerberg's Elvira Madigan (1967)

Criterion’s new four-disk Blu-ray set Bo Widerberg’s New Swedish Cinema introduces the work of a filmmaker who deserves to be better-known; a critic who rebelled against the dominant work of filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman which ignored issues of politics, economics and class, Widerberg drew on the French New Wave and New British Cinema to create politically engaged and expressive films which reflected contemporary Swedish society and recent history.

Carl Franklin’s One False Move (1992): Criterion Blu-ray review

Fantasia (Cynda Williams) just wants to get home to see her child in Carl Franklin's One False Move (1992)

One False Move (1992), a slow-burn character study of small-time criminals and a small-town cop punctuated by disturbing burst of violence, gave Tom Paxton his best role and launched the careers of director Carl Franklin and writer-actor Billy Bob Thornton. This low-budget independent production gets an impressive restoration from the Criterion Collection in a dual-format 4K UHD/Blu-ray release.

Joseph Losey’s The Servant (1963): Criterion Blu-ray review

Architecture reflects social divisions in Joseph Losey's The Servant (1963)

Criterion’s new 4K restoration of Joseph Losey’s The Servant (1963) provides an excellent showcase for this pitch-black satire about the collapse of the British class system after World War Two and the dissolution of Empire. Harold Pinter’s script (adapted from Robin Maugham’s novella), Losey’s direction, Douglas Slocombe’s rich black-and-white cinematography and and a superlative cast – Dirk Bogarde, James Fox, Wendy Craig and Sarah Miles – combine to create one of the defining British films of the 1960s.

Steve McQueen’s Small Axe (2020): Criterion Blu-ray review

Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) loses herself to the music in Steve McQueen's Lovers Rock (2020)

Small Axe (2020), Steve McQueen’s five-part film series for the BBC, corrects a glaring omission in British film and television’s treatment of the post-war history of social and political struggle and change; while the lives of the working class became increasingly visible in the ’60s and ’70s, issues of race remained largely unaddressed until this belated project created something like a parallel history to go alongside the classic work of filmmakers like Ken Loach and Alan Clarke. Criterion’s three-disk Blu-ray set also includes Uprising (2021), McQueen’s powerful three-part documentary (co-directed by James Rogan) about the New Cross fire and the subsequent Brixton Riots, which gives added context to the stories told in Small Axe.

Recent releases from the BFI Flipside

Ian (Edward Woodward) goes off the road, just as he did in his dream in Lindsey C. Vickers' The Appointment (1981)

Two recent BFI Flipside releases unearth an odd assortment of movies from the fringes – the standalone feature The Appointment (Lindsey C. Vickers, 1981) and volume 2 of the Short Sharp Shocks anthology series which includes the allegorical horror of Ian F.H. Lloyd’s The Face of Darkness (1976), a mix of crime and ghosts in John Gillings Escape from Broadmoor (1948), horror as feminist thesis in The Mark of Lilith (1986), the proto-music video Jack the Ripper with Screaming Lord Sutch (1963), a couple of unsettling PSAs and other ephemera.

Blasts from the past

Winter 2022 Arrow viewing, part two

Political thrillers, horror and metaphor

Combat! Television’s Last “Good” War

Establishing Shots by Kevin Nikkel: book review

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