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.

Aleksandr Ptushko’s epic fantasies

The magical stone dominates the cave of sorceress Louhi (Anna Orochko) in Aleksandr Ptushko's Sampo (1959)

Deaf Crocodile has released two of Aleksandr Ptsuhko’s epic fantasies in gorgeous Blu-ray editions which restore the films to their original form after decades of only being available in badly-dubbed, re-edited versions. Ptushko’s practical and optical special effects create impressive worlds which blend folk tales and historical events, clashing armies and fantastic creatures, romance and sorcery.

Year End 2021

The Count (Udo Kier) is worried about his blood supply in Paul Morrissey's Blood for Dracula (1974)

It’s been a good year for movies on disk, with a remarkable range of releases from many companies which are devoting considerable resources to rediscovering, restoring and preserving movies in numerous genres. Ranging across nationalities and spanning cinema history, there was plenty to divert attention from a real world which has become so depressing and exhausting.

Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace (1966-67):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Napoleon surveys the field of battle in Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace (1966-67)

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.

Aleksei German’s Hard to Be a God (2013)

Don Rumata (Leonid Yarmolnik) driven mad by his enforced role of detached observer in Aleksei German's science fiction epic Hard to Be a God (2013)

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.

Blasts from the past

Shameless exploitation

Being human: two new Criterion releases

Listmania redux:
The Greatest Documentaries of All Time, part one

Recent deaths: Tobe Hooper and others

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