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.

Winter 2024 viewing, part three: Other labels

You don't have to be crazy to do this job, but it helps: Grant Page in Brian Trenchard-Smith's Stunt Rock (1978)

More recent viewing, with excellent restorations of classic fantasies by Arrow – Roger Vadim’s Barbarella (1968) and John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian (1982); a pair of impressive German film school projects – Tilman Singer’s Luz (2018) and Lukas Feigelfeld’s Hagazussa (2017); a couple of entertaining Australian features which mix fiction and documentary in interesting ways – Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Stunt Rock (1978) and Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce’s Top Knot Detective (2017): and Shredder Orpheus (1990), a low-budget indie version of the Orpheus myth made by Seattle musicians and skateboarders.

Fall 2023 viewing, part two

Amnesiac Johnny McBride (Anthony Quinn) investigates his own past in Victor Saville’s The Long Wait (1954)

This week marks the thirteenth anniversary of the blog and there’s still no clear pattern to what I watch and write about! The first post went up on October 22, 2010. Hard to believe it’s been going this long, with almost 900 posts and over 3200 reviews so far. I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with anything this faithfully in my entire life! Thanks for reading!

Bo Widerberg’s New Swedish Cinema from Criterion

A circus tightrope-walker (Pia Degermark) is swept away by romance in Bo Widerberg's Elvira Madigan (1967)

Criterion’s new four-disk Blu-ray set Bo Widerberg’s New Swedish Cinema introduces the work of a filmmaker who deserves to be better-known; a critic who rebelled against the dominant work of filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman which ignored issues of politics, economics and class, Widerberg drew on the French New Wave and New British Cinema to create politically engaged and expressive films which reflected contemporary Swedish society and recent history.

Recent Asian releases from Eureka

Disillusioned Christians Shiro Amakusa (Kenji Sawada) and Hosokawa Gracia (Akiko Kana) return from the dead to seek revenge in Kenji Fukasaku's Samurai Reincarnation (1981)

Eureka, and their specialty label Masters of Cinema, continue to release a range of Asian films, from pulp action to classical tragedy. Among recent releases are a two-disk set of four sequels to Rickay Lau’s Mr. Vampire (1985), Cynthia Rothrock’s first lead role in Mang Hoi & Corey Yuen’s Lady Reporter (1989), and a pair of very different samurai epics: Tadashi Imai’s bleak dissection of the Bushido code in Revenge (1964) and Kenji Fukasaku’s mix of history and supernatural horror in Samurao Reincarnation (1981).

Steve McQueen’s Small Axe (2020): Criterion Blu-ray review

Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) loses herself to the music in Steve McQueen's Lovers Rock (2020)

Small Axe (2020), Steve McQueen’s five-part film series for the BBC, corrects a glaring omission in British film and television’s treatment of the post-war history of social and political struggle and change; while the lives of the working class became increasingly visible in the ’60s and ’70s, issues of race remained largely unaddressed until this belated project created something like a parallel history to go alongside the classic work of filmmakers like Ken Loach and Alan Clarke. Criterion’s three-disk Blu-ray set also includes Uprising (2021), McQueen’s powerful three-part documentary (co-directed by James Rogan) about the New Cross fire and the subsequent Brixton Riots, which gives added context to the stories told in Small Axe.

Recent Severin viewing

Alice Campos (Florinda Bolkan) searches for her own past in Luigi Bazzoni’s Le Orme (Footprints on the Moon [1975])

It’s taken me a while to work through some of the many Severin box sets that have been piling up over the past year – the folk horror set All the Haunts Be Ours, House of Psychotic Women and the latest set of Italian movies Violent Streets: The Umberto Lenzi/Tomas Milian Collection – along with some 4K special editions of movies by Dario Argento and Alex de la Iglesia.

Edgar G. Ulmer’s Cossacks in Exile (1938)

Ivan meets the Sultan (Nicholas Harlash), who's travelling incognito in Edgar G. Ulmer's Cossacks in Exile (1938)

Thanks to the Provincial Archives of Alberta I’ve been able to fill in another small gap in my experience of Edgar G. Ulmer’s eclectic filmography; although scanned from a very ragged print, the Archives’ upload of the Ukrainian-language musical Cossacks in Exile (1938) reveals some interesting connections between the 18th Century history of Ukraine and what’s happening there today.

Blasts from the past

The good, the mediocre and the annoying

Year-end ruminations: 2016

Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le cercle rouge (1970): Criterion Blu-ray review

B-horror nostalgia: Ryan Schifrin’s Abominable (2005/2018)

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