A quick survey of movies I watched recently which I haven’t already commented on …
Quiet, contemplative character-based science fiction movies feel like a refreshing oasis in a desert of big, loud, empty franchise blockbusters. James Gray’s Ad Astra (2019), Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja’s Ad Astra (2018), Sion Sono’s The Whispering Star (2015) and Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008) provide satisfaction on many levels.
A new three-disk Blu-ray from Criterion showcases three fantasies by the great Czech animator Karel Zeman, whose unique, inventive style creates a child-like sense of wonder in even the most jaded viewer. The superb restorations provided by the Karel Zeman Museum in Prague are supplemented with some terrific extras, including an excellent feature-length documentary about Zeman’s career and four of his early short films.
“Folk horror” is one of those categories which is hard to define – but you know it when you see it, like film noir.Two very different features and two dubious documentaries seem to fit the category – Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), Erik Blomberg’s The White Reindeer (1953), Malcolm Leigh’s Legend of the Witches (1970) and Derek Ford’s Secret Rites (1971) – all available in excellent Blu-ray editions.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition of Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan (1922) reveals a startlingly complex and modern work; a multi-layered essay on the subject of the European witch craze of the 14th to 17th Centuries, the film is richly detailed exploration of religion, power and madness which still has relevance today.
Following the surprise international success of Gregory’s Girl (1980), writer-director Bill Forsyth was given greater resources by producer David Puttnam and made what on the surface was a whimsical comedy reminiscent of Ealing Studios in the ’50s; three-and-a-half decades later, the delightfully charming Local Hero (1983) can be seen as a subtly prescient warning about the most urgently pressing issues we now face – climate change and the need to find sustainable ways to inhabit the planet.