Another eclectic week – Italian gore from Joe D’Amato, regional American exploitation, a pair of Amicus horrors from director Roy Ward Baker, a documentary about Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, and a glorious restoration of the Russian folk-horror Viy.
Criterion’s two-disk Blu-ray release of Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace showcases a restoration of what may well be the most expensive film ever made. Truly epic in scale, this adaptation of Tolstoy’s revered novel balances awe-inspiring spectacle with emotionally charged character drama. The 7+ hour feature is supplemented with three hours of informative new and archival extras.
Hard to Be a God (2013), the final film of Russian director Aleksei German, more than a decade in the making, is a dense, obscure, visually stunning adaptation of a novel by the Strugatsky brothers. While German’s storytelling is extremely oblique, this depiction of a brutal medieval world which eventually corrupts Earth scientists who have traveled there to study a Renaissance which failed to happen, is realized with such visceral power that the viewer becomes immersed in the filth, madness and horror, occasionally gleaning brief moments of transcendent beauty.
Mikhail Kalatozov, whose career began in his mid-20s with a number of documentaries, made some of the most interesting films to come out of Soviet Russia. Like most major filmmakers under the communist regimes of the ’30s through the ’60s, he had a rocky relationship with the authorities who controlled filmmaking, at one point even […] Read More
Criterion’s recent Blu-ray release of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972) spurred me to watch the film again for the first time in almost a decade. I originally saw Solaris in London in 1975, my initial experience of Tarkovsky, and while I now recognize that it’s not his best work, I was enthralled. I’ve always liked films […] Read More