The Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002-03): Criterion Blu-ray review

An undercover cop and a triad mole face off on a Hong Kong rooftop in Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak's Infernal Affairs (2002)

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.

James Whale’s Show Boat (1936): music and race in Golden Age Hollywood

Black labour with echoes of slavery in James Whale's Show Boat (1936)

Although now he’s best-known for his four witty Gothic horror movies – Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein – Show Boat (1936) is arguably James Whale’s crowning achievement as a filmmaker. One of the decade’s great musicals, it is also one of the most complex and nuanced treatments of race and its impact on American culture produced at the height of Hollywood’s studio era. Criterion’s Blu-ray does full justice to the film’s intrinsic qualities and historical importance.

World Cinema Project 4: Criterion Blu-ray review

Servant Kanizak (Shohreh Aghdashlou) schemes for power in Mohammad Reza Aslani’s Chess of the Wind (1979)

With their fourth set of World Cinema Project restorations, Criterion again present a fascinating collection of films from different periods and different cultures: two features from post-colonial Africa which illuminate the complex effects of tradition distorted by colonial influences; a South American movie which also deals with colonialism and the exploitation of labour; a pre-war Hungarian feature about two women struggling to survive in a city towards the end of the Depression; an Indian film exploring myth and the politics of Independence and partition through music and dance; and a pre-revolutionary film from Iran which uses melodrama as a metaphor for the nation’s transition from feudalism to modernity.

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car (2021): Criterion Blu-ray review

Intimacy is unavoidable in the confined space of a car in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's Drive My Car (2021)

Taking its time, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s award-winning Drive My Car (2021) begins with a sense of detached observation and gradually draws you into emotional depths as its characters come to know each other and themselves during the process of rehearsing a performance of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima. Criterion’s Blu-ray presentation features a beautiful image, supplemented with a making-of, an interview with Hamaguchi and a press conference from Cannes.

Alex Cox’s Walker (1987): Criterion Blu-ray review

William Walker (Ed Harris) sees American expansionism as a mission from God in Alex Cox's Walker (1987)

Criterion’s Blu-ray release of Alex Cox’s masterpiece Walker (1987) revives this deconstruction of America’s self-mythologizing at a time when its themes are more pertinent than ever; imperial attacks on domestic and foreign societies driven by a toxic mixture of religious self-righteousness and unfettered capitalist greed have been on the rise for decades and Walker traces the roots back to the mid-19th Century doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

Blasts from the past

Genre On Disk, part two

Criterion Blu-ray review: The Sword of Doom (1966)

David Lynch book now available

Random thoughts: May 2017

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