Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba (1964): Criterion Blu-ray review

A crowd bears away a murdered student in the wake of a riot in Mikhail Kalatozov's I Am Cuba (1964)

Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba (1964) uses the striking cinematography of Sergei Urusevsky to create a fever dream version of the Cuban Revolution, a series of archetypal moments of oppression and resistance leading to an ecstatic explosion of justified communal violence. Filled with heightened emotions rendered in breathtaking images and seemingly impossible camera movements, the film looks gorgeous in a 4K restoration on Criterion’s Blu-ray.

Action and politics in ’70s thrillers

Nice large-scale miniatures in Andrew V. McLaglen's North Sea Hijack (1980)

Thrillers may exploit real-world issues for story material, but often distort and trivialize reality in their quest to entertain. The terrorism which erupted and spread during the 1970s is used in quite different ways in Otto Preminger’s Rosebud (1975), John Frankenheimer’s Black Sunday (1976) and Andrew V. McLaglen’s North Sea Hijack (1980).

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.

World Cinema Project 4: Criterion Blu-ray review

Servant Kanizak (Shohreh Aghdashlou) schemes for power in Mohammad Reza Aslani’s Chess of the Wind (1979)

With their fourth set of World Cinema Project restorations, Criterion again present a fascinating collection of films from different periods and different cultures: two features from post-colonial Africa which illuminate the complex effects of tradition distorted by colonial influences; a South American movie which also deals with colonialism and the exploitation of labour; a pre-war Hungarian feature about two women struggling to survive in a city towards the end of the Depression; an Indian film exploring myth and the politics of Independence and partition through music and dance; and a pre-revolutionary film from Iran which uses melodrama as a metaphor for the nation’s transition from feudalism to modernity.

John Ford at Columbia 1935-1958: Indicator Blu-ray

Chief Inspector George Gideon (Jack Hawkins) knows that Joanna Delafield (Dianne Foster) is involved in a series of robberies in John Ford's Gideon's Day (1958)

Indicator’s four-disk John Ford at Columbia 1935-1958 box set raises some interesting questions about the nature of auteurism and how the ways in which a filmmaker comes to be defined influence how different films are viewed. Two of the movies in the set – The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) and Gideon’s Day (1958) – tend to be seen as minor and extraneous to Ford’s core body of work, yet both are among his most entertaining even if they don’t advance his familiar thematic preoccupations.

Ousmane Sembène’s Mandabi (1968): Criterion Blu-ray review

Ibrahim Dieng (Makhouredia Gueye) is at the mercy of a post-colonial society in Ousmane Sembene's Mandabi (1968)

Known as the “father of African cinema”, Ousmane Sembène’s films grapple with issues of identity in the complex social and political conditions of post-colonial Africa. His second feature (and first in colour) Mandabi (1968) is a tragi-comedy about a proud man clinging to an outmoded patriarchal role whose life is upended when a nephew working in France sends him a money order for 25,000 francs.

Blasts from the past

Recent Viewing: more horror from Arrow

Styles of Horror, part three

Notes on melodrama and film history

Desert noir and 3D from Twilight Time

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