Three movies from producer-director Stanley Kramer, spread across two decades, highlight his liberal sensibilities … and expose the limits of that liberalism in the face of a messy world.
More random viewing: two obscure independent films from the BFI, Margaret Tait’s poetic Blue Black Permanent (1992) and Maurice Hatton’s gritty fake-umentary about the film business, Long Shot (1977); and three from Twilight Time – George Sluizer’s interesting Americanization of his existential thriller The Vanishing (1993), Terrence Young’s straightforward fact-based crime saga The Valachi Papers (1972), and D.W. Griffith’s monumental but deeply troubling Birth of a Nation (1915).
Abbas Kiarostami’s multi-layered triptych of films dubbed The Koker Trilogy begins with a neorealist depiction of childhood in a small Iranian village and continues with an increasingly complex blend of documentary and fiction in which the director interrogates the nature of cinema itself through the impact of a devastating earthquake on the lives of the people who appeared in the first film. Criterion’s Blu-ray set showcases this masterpiece with excellent transfers and a substantial array of supplements.
The discovery of a previously unknown documentary, Robert Kaylor’s Derby (1971), plus a Blu-ray edition of Stephanie Rothman’s Terminal Island (1973), a rough-and-ready exploitation B-movie, are of much greater interest than Jack Cardiff’s Holiday in Spain (1960), a bloated mainstream Cinerama showcase which dresses its travelogue in a tissue-thin “mystery” plot.
Four Twilight Time releases showcase exceptional acting in a variety of styles: Spencer Tracy and Frederick March in Stanley Kramer’s Inherit the Wind (1960); Jeff Bridges, John Heard and Lisa Eichhorn in Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way (1981); Sean Penn and Christopher Walken in James Foley’s At Close Range (1986); and David Thewlis in Paul Greengrass’ Resurrected (1989).
Criterion’s release of Felipe Cazals’ Canoa: A Shameful Memory (1976) makes available a key film in Mexican cinema history. A devastating depiction of political violence, the film uses radical techniques to deconstruct a brutal incident which actually occurred in the small town of San Miguel Canoa in 1968.