Summer grab-bag, part three: Vinegar Syndrome partners

Casey (Anna Cobb) looks for validation and friendship on the Internet in Jane Schoenbrun's We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021)

In addition to their own regular schedule of releases, Vinegar Syndrome serves as an umbrella for an eclectic (and seemingly ever-growing) collection of small labels, many of which specialize in titles so far out on the fringe that their appeal lies in their strangeness and sheer audacity — like Pathogen (2006), a zombie movie made by 12-year-old schoolgirl Emily Hagins, or Final Flesh (2009), an experiment in which copies of a script were sent to producers of on-demand fetish porn who were free to film Vernon Chatman’s absurd apocalyptic family drama however they saw fit. The latest batch I received includes these, plus a sordid made-in-Florida slice of exploitation called Satan’s Children (1975), the faux ’80s local TV broadcast WNUF Halloween Special (2013), and a pair of more polished movies closer to the mainstream: Out of Order (1984), a claustrophobic German thriller about four people trapped in an elevator, and We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021), about an isolated teenager seeking connection in a potentially dangerous on-line cult.

Andreas Marschall’s Tears of Kali (2004)

Kim (Anja Gebel) cuts off her own eyelids to see more clearly in Andreas Marschall's Tears of Kali (2004)

I had to overcome numerous unforeseen difficulties to see Tears of Kali (2004), the first feature by German director Andreas Marschall (Masks, 2011), a stylish and artful collection of three loosely connected horror stories linked to a dangerous cult; each story centres on a couple of characters caught in psychologically tense conflict with occasional eruptions of graphic physical violence.

Miscellaneous May 2022 viewing

Would-be actress Stella (Susan Ermich) enrols in a prestige acting school in Andreas Marschall's Masks (2011)

Bertrand Tavernier’s epic eight-part documentary Journeys Through French Cinema (2017) offers a personal and idiosyncratic history rooted in the filmmakers personal passions; Enzo G. Castellari’s The Big Racket (1976) and The Heroin Busters (1977) showcase the cynical, violent action of Italian genre movies of the ’70s; Andreas Marschall turns homage into effective horror in the retro-giallo Masks (2011); and Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch Miller’s documentary Other Music (2019) captures an experience all-but-lost today with their account of the final days of a great independent record store in New York City.

Vinegar Syndrome Partners

Mr. Sunshine (Anthony Dawson) isn't interested in sharing the loot from a bank robbery in Roland Klick's Deadlock (1970)

Vinegar Syndrome distributes a number of smaller labels which offer a wide range of genre releases, from the ultra-low-budget Wakaliwood productions of Nabawana I.G.G. in Uganda to the impressively polished small-budget sci-fi of Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s Prospect (2018), from the gritty ’80s exploitation of Norbert Meisel’s Walking the Edge (1983) to the mythic spaghetti western-noir of Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970).

Two swansongs

Nothing goes right on board Stan's inherited yacht in Leo Joannon's Atoll K (1960)

A pair of Blu-rays from England showcase the final works of major artists who were considered at the time to be in decline: Laurel and Hardy’s last feature, Atoll K (dir. Leo Joannon, 1951) is a bittersweet mess which captures the Boys’ enduring charm while making their mortality all too clear, while Fritz Lang’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) comes full circle by reviving his Weimar criminal mastermind in a Cold War context which paved the way for James Bond’s high-tech thrills.

Sex-Death-Exploitation-Art

Jörg Buttgereit’s transgressive films are notorious for their gore and disturbing subject matter – murder, suicide, necrophilia – yet for all their graphic exploitation imagery, they display genuine artistry and a serious perspective on life, death and the emotional and psychological ties which bind being and non-being.

Year End 2019

Ahmad (Babak Ahmadpour) searches for his friend in an unfamiliar village in Abbas Kiarostami's Where is the Friend's House? (1987)

The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.

Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World (1991):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Claire discovers hidden memories through her recorded dreams in Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1991)

Wim Wenders’ most ambitious film, Until the End of the World (1991) was a huge commercial failure when released in 1991 in a severely truncated version; the almost five-hour director’s cut gets a stunning restoration on Criterion’s two-disk Blu-ray release – visually gorgeous, fascinating and frustrating, this sci-fi epic now looks prescient in its depiction of our solipsistic attachment to out personal electronic devices.

Year End 2018

Boriska (Nikolay Burlyaev) oversees the firing of the bell in Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev (1966) ...

Despite continuing rumblings about the demise of movies-on-disk, numerous companies continue to produce excellent editions on disk of a vast range of movies covering the entire history of cinema. Once again in 2018 there were far more releases than even an obsessive viewer could keep up with.

Blasts from the past

The Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing (1990):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Criterion Blu-ray review: Polanski’s Macbeth (1971)

Room 237: an obsessive search for meaning
in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

My one sad shot at stardom

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