A few notes about disks from a couple of companies I’ve previously had little experience with – 88 Films and 101 Films, both from the UK – plus three box sets from Arrow.
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.
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.
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).
Criterion have re-released Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterful heist movie Le cercle rouge (1970) in a new dual-format 4K UHD/Blu-ray edition based on a 4K restoration by StudioCanal. Although there are no new extras (supplements adding up to almost two hours date back to the company’s original 2003 DVD release), the film looks better than ever, its narrative stripped to essentials as a meditation on professionalism, fate and the moral ambiguity of characters on both sides of the law.
The year gets off to an interesting start with a pair of excellent Argentinian films noirs – Román Viñoly Barreto’s The Beast Must Die (1952) and Fernando Ayala’s The Bitter Stems (1956) – beautifully restored by the Film Noir Foundation; Prana Bailey-Bond’s Censor (2021), a disturbing British psychological horror; and Kier-la Janisse’s Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched (2021), an epic documentary exploring the folk horror genre.