Once again, Arrow Video introduces me to a previously unknown filmmaker whose work is wildly imaginative, playful and challenging. Their two-disk set of Miguel Llansó’s Crumbs (2015) and Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019) is one of the year’s most engaging releases.
With volume 3 of their World Cinema Project box sets, Criterion has released another treasure trove of largely unknown (in the West) features spanning five decades and six countries, from the Expressionist horror of Mexico’s Dos Monjes (1934) to the Neo-realist horrors of life on Brazil’s streets in Hector Babenco’s Pixote (1980), with stops in between in Indonesia, Iran, Mauritania and Cuba.
The British have a tendency to indulge in miserablism, a characteristic that filmmakers have been turning into powerful dramatic art for decades. Bryan Forbes’ The Whisperers (1967) and Ray Davies’ Return to Waterloo (1984) approach it from very different directions, but both create powerful portraits of people living depressing lives.
This year’s New Year’s Eve movie binge with my friend Steve spanned from ’50s 3D Red Menace sci-fi to ’70s blaxploitation horror to a political thriller about right-wing apocalyptic political paranoia which, while dating from 1972, suggested the atmosphere of the coming 2020 presidential election year.
Criterion’s exemplary Blu-ray release of Alan Pakula’s second feature, Klute (1971), offers a superb 4K scan from the original negative and extensive extras which highlight the film’s importance in the evolution of American cinema at a particularly turbulent time in both politics and popular culture, with a particular emphasis on Jane Fonda’s development as both actor and activist.
The Criterion Collection presents a new 4K restoration of Elia Kazan’s best film, A Face in the Crowd (1957). The excellent image showcases two of the finest performances of the 1950s: Andy Griffith in his screen debut as the countryboy-turned-demagogue Lonesome Rhodes and Patricia Neal as the smalltown radio reporter who discovers him and facilitates his rise to national stardom.