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.

Three Revolutionary Films by Ousmane Sembène: Criterion Blu-ray review

Princess Dior Yacine (Tabata Ndiaye) defiantly challenges the audience at the end of Ousmane Sembène's Ceddo (1977)

Criterion follow their 2021 edition of Ousmane Sembène’s Mandabi (1968) with a three-disk set showcasing the features he made in the 1970s, works which continued his exploration of African identity in the shadow of centuries of colonial oppression. Emitaï (1971), Xala (1975) and Ceddo (1977) range across two centuries, from the pre-colonial incursions of Christianity and Islam to the brutality of French colonial oppression and on to the political corruption of the post-colonial era.

Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba (1964): Criterion Blu-ray review

A crowd bears away a murdered student in the wake of a riot in Mikhail Kalatozov's I Am Cuba (1964)

Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba (1964) uses the striking cinematography of Sergei Urusevsky to create a fever dream version of the Cuban Revolution, a series of archetypal moments of oppression and resistance leading to an ecstatic explosion of justified communal violence. Filled with heightened emotions rendered in breathtaking images and seemingly impossible camera movements, the film looks gorgeous in a 4K restoration on Criterion’s Blu-ray.

Tod Browning’s Sideshow Shockers on Blu-ray from Criterion

Alonzo (Lon Chaney) realizes that his romantic feelings for Nanon (Joan Crawford) will never be returned in Tod Browning's The Unknown (1927)

Criterion’s two-disk Tod Browning’s Sideshow Shockers showcases three of the director’s best movies, including the peak of his long collaboration with Lon Chaney in The Unknown (1927) and Browning’s masterpiece Freaks (1932) along with the lesser-known The Mystic (1925). Fine 2K transfers and some illuminating extras leave you hoping that more of Tod Browning’s work will turn up on disk in restored versions.

Johnnie To’s The Heroic Trio/Executioners (1993): Criterion Blu-ray review

Flights of martial arts fantasy in Johnnie To & Ching Siu-Tung's Executioners (1993)

Before attaining international critical success with a series of cool, formally precise thrillers, Johnnie To made a pair of wildly inventive superhero movies fraught with anxiety about the approaching hand over of Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997. The Heroic Trio and Executioners (both 1993) mix fantasy, science fiction, traditional martial arts and modern action into a potent dystopian stew centred on three of Hong Kong’s biggest female stars – Anita Mui, Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung. Criterion’s three-disk dual-formal edition showcases stunning restorations by L’Immagine Ritrovata.

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.

Claude Chabrol’s La cérémonie (1995): Criterion Blu-ray review

Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) and Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert) become allies against the bourgeois Lalievres family in Claude Chabrol’s La cérémonie (1995)

Four decades into a career which began with the New Wave, Claude Chabrol delivered a masterpiece with La cérémonie (1995), a psychological mystery adapted from a Ruth Rendell novel. Sandrine Bonnaire and Isabelle Huppert play a pair of working class women whose bitterness and resentment drive them on a collision course with the bourgeois Lelievre family. Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition provides some illuminating supplements on the director and his two stars.

Blasts from the past

The films of Eloy de la Iglesia

Michael Radford’s adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 (1984)

David Cronenberg, now … and then

Guest post:
A Weimar Cinema Revelation: Harbour Drift (1929), part one

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