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.

Serendipity at the mall: disk discoveries from England and Australia

Compromised effects undermine producer George Pal's attempt to depict space travel in Byron Haskin's Conquest of Space (1955)

A recent trip to one of the last places in Winnipeg where you can actually buy movies on disk, armed with a bag full of DVDs and Blu-rays to trade, netted an interesting assortment of items, new and used, including some from the UK and Australia; it brought back the pleasures of in-store shopping and immediately being able to go home and watch what I’d just bought.

Murder, robbery and paranormal activity: three new releases

Bank robber Milan (Johnny Hallyday) seems weary of his life choices in Patrice Leconte's Man on the Train (2002)

Three recent releases spanning nine decades offer radically different viewing experiences, from James Whale’s pre-Code courtroom drama The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933), rife with bourgeois misogyny, to Patrice Leconte’s Man on the Train (2002), steeped in existential weariness, to Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Something in the Dirt (2022), in which the residents of a nondescript Los Angeles apartment discover a portal to cosmic horror.

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.

2022 reading

Tony Dalton's biography of Terence Fisher from FAB Press

Three books which I read last year connect with my love of genre film, particularly horror: Tony Dalton’s hefty biography Terence Fisher: Master of Gothic Cinema from FAB Press; Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin, edited by Samm Deighan and now available as an e-book from Spectacular Optical; and – somewhat more esoteric – Powers of Darkness, an alternate version of Dracula first published in a Swedish newspaper from 1899 to 1900 and recently unearthed and translated back into English, published in an impressive limited edition by Centipede Press.

Blasts from the past

Criterion Blu-ray review: Jack Garfein’s Something Wild (1961)

Art of the Comic Strip: Dear Mr. Watterson

Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse (1973) and other recent Indicator releases

A picture needs a thousand words …

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