Two Films by Marguerite Duras: Criterion Blu-ray review

Vera (Claudine Gabay) is trapped by emotional inertia in Marguerite Duras' Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977)

Criterion has released a two-disk set of Marguerite Duras’ mid-’70s features India Song (1975) and Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977), highlighting the novelist’s idiosyncratic approach to cinema, particularly striking in the separation of image from sound in the earlier film, though the languid pacing and slow, exploratory camerawork gives both a hypnotic effect in their exploration of bourgeois marriage, infidelity and ennui.

Political thrillers, horror and metaphor

Three recent releases blend reality and fiction to explore political themes, with varying success. Alain Jessua’s Les Chiens (1978) is an allegory of Fascism, while Jean-Claude Lord’s Mindfield (1989) and Jayro Bustamante’s La llorona (2019) are both rooted in real crimes, the former turning history into pulp entertainment, the latter into a haunting exploration of national trauma.

Lars Von Trier’s Europe Trilogy (1984-1991): Criterion Blu-ray review

Fisher (Michael Elphick) confronts the violence inside himself in Lars von Trier's Element of Crime (1984)

Criterion start 2023 with an excellent three-disk set of Lars von Trier’s Europe Trilogy, the three aggressively confrontational movies with which he began his career by digging into the lingering traces of Fascism which plagued the continent in the second half of the 20th Century. Impressive new transfers are given context by commentaries and seven hours of documentaries and interviews with and about von Trier, his intentions and creative process.

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.

Blasts from the past

Three Films by Luis Buñuel: Criterion Blu-ray review

Gualtiero Jacopetti (1919-2011)

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

Googie Withers (1917-2011)

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