Spring 2024 viewing, part three

Violent J (Joseph Bruce) is perplexed that the government would designate him and his fans as a criminal gang in Tom Putnam & Brenna Sanchez’s The United States of Insanity (2021)

Yet more recent viewing, ranging from several documentaries about the intertwining of personal identity and the cultural products we attach ourselves to and consume to unsettling explorations of sex, violence and misogyny and an ambitious, though not entirely successful, work of folk horror from Switzerland.

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.

Ghosts, demons and cinematic experiments

Cruel doctor Age Krüger (Udo Kier) returns from the dead to sire a son in Lars von Trier's The Kingdom (1994)

The new MUBI seven-disk set of Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom provides an opportunity to re-visit the original two seasons from 1994 and 1997 and finally see the elaborate blend of satire, soap opera and ghost story reach some kind of conclusion with the third season made in 2022; while it proves impossible to attain the unique energy of the original, which achieved a perfect balance between horror and comedy, The Kingdom: Exodus does tie up many of the loose ends left dangling for twenty-five years. An even stranger piece of experimental horror has been restored by Le Chat Qui Fume with their 4K edition of Leslie Stevens’ Incubus (1966) in which a pre-Kirk William Shatner confronts demons while speaking Esperanto.

Spring 2024 viewing, part two

A strange young woman disrupts a middle-class home in Go Yeong-nam's Suddenly in the Dark (1981)

Continuing my survey of what I’ve been watching this Spring… Mondo Macabro Mondo Macabro is a label I haven’t mentioned much here, though they specialize in genre movies from around the world and I’ve discovered some real oddities through them – like H. Tjut Djalil’s Mystics in Bali (1981) and Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s Alucarda (1975). […]

Recent releases from the BFI, part two

Mary (Natasha Richardson) dreams herself into Henry Fuseli's 1781 painting The Nightmare in Ken Russell's Gothic (1987)

A wildly varied selection of recent releases from the BFI, with Pat Jackson’s Western Approaches (1944) transforming propaganda into art via Jack Cardiff’s Technicolor photography; Roddy McDowall’s The Ballad of Tam Lin (1970) infusing folk horror with the Hollywood glamour of Ava Gardner; and Ken Russell turning the famous 1816 house party presided over by Lord Byron on the shores of Lake Geneva into a fever dream of the Romantics’ fascination with love and death in Gothic (1987)

Recent releases from the BFI

Heroin addict Alex (Dexter Fletcher) retreats to a seedy hotel in Nichola Bruce & Michael Coulson's Wings of Death (1985)

Recent BFI releases offer a selection of amateur and professional short films from the 1950s to the ’80s in volume 3 of Flipside’s Short Sharp Shocks series, as well as a provocative documentary lecture from filmmaker Nina Menkes which asserts that the apparatus of cinema itself is gendered and weighted against women.

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.

The lasting pleasures of second-tier golden age Universal horror movies

Dr. Ernest Sovac (Boris Karloff) makes unethical decisions to further his research in Arthur Lubin's Black Friday (1940)

Three two-disk sets from Eureka provide an overview of Universal Studios’ horror movies from the mid-’30s to the early ’50s, in the period when the first wave of early sound horrors petered out and briefly flourished again as low-budget B-movies as the Depression gave way to World War Two. Karloff and Lugosi are joined by notable, if lesser, genre figures like Lionel Atwill and Rondo Hatton in a mix of science fiction and the supernatural, with gangsters and Gothic trappings spicing the mix.

Blasts from the past

Serendipity at the mall: disk discoveries from England and Australia

Speed reviewing: 50 Capsule Comments

Reading Movie History

Monsters, killers and existential dread on Blu-ray

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