Bingeing has been my default viewing mode for some time, but it’s only more recently that it’s come to encompass indulging in multiple releases by a particular company – which in turn is a result of those company’s offering regular sales and discount packages of monthly releases. The most prominent examples of this are Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films, both of which specialize in genre and exploitation titles, pulling me into deep, often sordid, black holes.
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.
Social isolation and “working from home” mean a lot of time for movie-watching … and the volume far outstrips my ability to say anything substantive about many of the films I do watch: so here I mostly just acknowledge what I’ve been viewing in the past 4-6 weeks. Part one of four.
Although there are obviously differences from culture to culture, many Asian movies share a tendency to to ignore the kind of “realism” Western, and particularly American, movies so often feel is necessary – which is one reason so many U.S. remakes of Asian genre movies take on a pedestrian quality nowhere evident in the originals. Three recent Asian movies – from Korea, Japan and China – use different approaches to explore societies in which economic and social inequality engender violence and to some degree madness. One uses blackly comic satire, one pushes genre tropes to absurd extremes, and one pushes neorealism into the realm of nightmare.
Among recently viewed Arrow Blu-rays are a classic Italian political satire, a scrappy independent from Dayton, Ohio, a dark children’s fantasy, an end-of-the-world romance, and a violently stylish Japanese series of women-in-prison movies.
More recent viewing, heavy on the sci-fi, fantasy and horror – the latter including an ambitious Netflix series and a grim documentary about violence in America.
More brief notes on recent random viewing choices; another mixed bag of classic fantasy, generic thrillers, dramas drawn form real life, spectacular martial arts and gritty war action, and a scattershot, off-the-wall satire by “the world’s worst living director”.
With the recent death of Brazilian filmmaker Nelson Pereira dos Santos, I’ve just re-watched his feature How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman (1971), an ethnographic/historical/satirical depiction of the beginnings of European colonization of South America in the 16th Century.
Frank Sinatra, a star and celebrity, could also be an impressive actor when he cared to make the effort: two of his best performances from the 1960s, in John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Mark Robson’s Von Ryan’s Express (1965), reveal a willingness to play flawed characters and expose their weaknesses.
More notes on recent viewing, from a sadistic thriller to emotionally resonant anime, from a literary adaptation to two investigations of racism in America.