Currently Watching : Criterion Blu-Ray THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957) by Mikhail Kalatozov

Letyat zhuravli (1957)

“I believe in poetic cinema. Poetic cinema is the cinema created in especially vivid form… by great masters like Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Dovzhenko. In my own work I strive to affect a viewer’s consciousness and soul by means of poetic cinema.”
-Kalatozov in a 1961 interview. Available on the Criterion Blu-ray

Tatyana Samoylova in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Tatyana Samoylova in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957)-Three things period Russian films do just about better than anyone else, is tragedy and beauty and grandeur, and Director Mikhail Kalatozov’s THE CRANES ARE FLYING is overflowing with all three. You get the deep focus cinematography immortalized by Orson Welles married to a balletic, spiraling, intimate ground breaking, “you are there” camera movement, that is uniquely Russian. what kalatozov himself would call— poetic cinema.Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Almost 7 decades later and without any need for CGI, and 20 years before the invention of the Stedicam – the cinematography in this film (by the equally acclaimed Sergei Urusevesky) remains— both unbelievable and sublime. It is a film that draws you in from frame one, and holds you and the characters like a lover— deeply, afraid to be parted.Aleksandr Shvorin in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

All in all, a transfixing and haunting viewing experience, greatest of which is the beauty of Tatyana Samoylova, whose beauty captured here for all time, is so great –- and her performance so affecting—- that at times looking at her – is like looking at the sun.

One of the great Russian beauties, she becomes the mythical Helen – whom all young men seek to impress with war; and ‘changed by the war’ young men; seek only to hold in peace. THE CRANES ARE FLYING is up there with I AM CUBA/SOY CUBA (another Kalatozov cinematic achievement, with this time a stunning Cuban beauty) as a milestone of Russian cinematography, and by extension a milestone of world cinematography; up there with Welles CITIZEN KANE and Lean’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS. There is no putting this movie on, and not being captivated by it.

THE CRANES ARE FLYING is another masterpiece lovingly provided by the Criterion Blu-ray label. I am on a hunt now to see the other available Kalatozov directed films, as well as Tatyana starring films. Kalatozov,while IMDB lists 20 directing credits for him, most of those appear to be documentaries or shorts or state sponsored work. It really appears he only has 6 or 7 feature films to his name, all coming toward the end of his career, especially once he found a kindred spirit in his cinematographer, Urusevesky.  So I look forward to adding THE FIRST ECHELON, LETTER NEVER SENT and RED TENT to the list of Kalatozov films to add to my collection. Grade: It is a simple enough story, but the visuals just make it, cinema undeniable— A+.Aleksey Batalov in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Click the image below to get the best price on the feature rich Blu-ray, and you also earn a few very appreciated pennies for this blog! A win-win!

Letyat zhuravli (1957)

The Final Word : Netflix’s EXTRACTION contrary to the Naysayers is a stunning Directorial Debut!

EXTRACTION (2020) – EXTRACTION is the latest in direct to Netflix films, that seem to be pilloried as a matter of course, seemingly more for being on Netflix, than for the actual content of the movie. Joining films like 6 UNDERGROUND and TRIPLE FRONTIER, as top-notch action films, that are arguably under-appreciated on the streaming service.

Extraction (2020 film).png

EXTRACTION while treading familiar ground, does it in a filmic and inventive and action drenched manner. And it does this while also managing to provide solid performances and the necessary emotional beats to the film. The only slight misstep being an exposition heavy scene between Hemsworth’s protagonist and his young charge, that comes off as forced and clumsy.

But it is a minor misstep into forced sentimentality and clumsy dialog. For the majority of its run-time the film is compelling and balances its themes; and showcases for viewers a riveting mission that is painted in hues of blood and sacrifice. For this viewer, the performers are strong and the characters striking (particularly the special forces bodyguard/antagonist, who visually is so interesting, his face unusual in a way that is both captivating and offputting) and coupled with the breakneck narrative, creates a film that checks all the boxes for satisfying and re-watchable viewing.

 

And, it is necessary to mention an extended multi-minute one shot-ish sequence that goes from car chase to interior, that is jaw dropping in its execution, and places this film on any list of most thrilling action sequences.

All in all a satisfying, straightforward film that while not on the level of say a MAN ON FIRE or JOHN WICK I or RAID, is still very good and is much better as a whole than theatrically released films such as JOHN WICK III and DREDD. Sam Hargrave, Actor/Stuntman turned fight coordinator turned Director, creates one heck of a debut film. Grade: B+.

 

 

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Currently Watching : POSSESSION by Andrzej Zulawski SECOND SIGHT Blu-Ray

The webpage will not show this image anonymously.

The webpage will not show this image anonymously.

I’ve seen this movie closing in on a half dozen times in my life. What astonishes you the first time you see this film, is the entire gestalt, the scenario, the performances, the audacity; this completely unhinged experience you are being taken on. It is a harrowing, inexplicable nightmarish journey, to the outer reaches of what it means to love and lust and lose and aspire.

Subsequent viewings, you shift attention to the craft, The simply spellbinding cinematography/camera movements by cinematographer Bruno Nyutten and previous Zulawski collaborator, Camera Operator Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz

The SECOND SIGHT Bluray lets you see this film, finally, in sumptuous quality befitting, what I and others without hesitation, have hailed as a masterpiece. The video quality is arguably better than it was in theaters back in 1981, and beyond how great the picture was, the special features are applause worthy. Not one, but two film commentaries. One with director Andrzej Zulawski, who suffers fools and idiotic questions, not well. No better than any creative person :). And an informative commentary with co-writer Frederick Tuten. Additionally a fantastic documentary on the making of the film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL is worth the price of the Blu-ray by itself. Add in many other compelling featurettes, and what you have is just hours of both entertaining and informative viewing.

POSSESSION is one of the only Zulawski’s films that is ‘widely’ available. Part of this is – being a Horror genre adjacent film, as well as an English language film, it is far more accessible and salable than the equally esoteric, but not as genre friendly, experimental dramas that make up the bulk of the late Zulawski’s filmography.

Zulawski made thirteen feature films in his career. And each film, as it is for many filmmakers making films under repressive conditions, was a monumental battle for finances, and against the controlling forces of the establishment.

2015 Cosmos
 2000 Fidelity
 1996 Szamanka
 1991 La note bleue
 1989 Boris Godounov
 1989 My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days
 1988 On the Silver Globe
 1985 L’amour braque
 1984 La femme publique
 1981 Possession
 1975 L’important c’est d’aimer
 1972 The Devil
 1971 The Third Part of the Night
I do look forward to viewing, when possible the rest of Zulawski films, but based on the description of those films, and my own taste, it is likely POSSESSION will be my favorite film of his. The genre frame work, I have often found, helps filmmakers who would otherwise get lost in the weeds of their own searching, still tell a compelling story.
Looking at the description of Zulawski’s other films, where his vision was not honed against another writer, Tuten, and other creative people, the films sound like they veer toward the self-indulgent and plotless. Again, just surmising… when I view these films I may be incorrect about that, however if the descriptions and feedback is accurate, based on my own taste with other filmmakers, being over self-indulgent tends not to make for films that appeal to me.
However, POSSESSION for all its strangeness, has a thru-line, a backbone, and an ending, that for me, for all its openness to interpretation, works. And it sports one of the great performances of all time by actress Isabelle Adjani. Who if you look at her filmography made a career giving really astonishing performances, but arguably none as horrific, and potentially damaging as this one.
For all these reasons POSSESSION from 1981, is a must watch, and in my opinion, must own film. Grade: B+.

 

‘Why do some films have longevity and others don’t?’

‘Here’s my facile answer. Do you want the facile answer? The more facile the film, the less likely it will be to last. Because the audience for facile films will drain away. They are not interested in film, they are interested in mere entertainment. So the easy, the accessible, the convenient, the popular, the flavor of the moment, that vanishes, replaced by another one like that. But something that has some grit to it, emotionally, intellectually, visually, something that seems aberrant at the time… somehow if it can survive by a few people seeing it, knowing about it, writing about it… that’s what lasts.’

Co-Writer Frederic Tuten on Zulawski’s POSSESSION

The last movie that… terrified me : ALONG CAME THE DEVIL II

ALONG CAME THE DEVIL II – I put this film on my Amazon Prime watch-list the other night, never having seen the first film, the poster image on Amazon looked interesting, and the 3.5/5 rating looked promising.

Along Came the Devil 2 (2019)

It was late when I watched it, or early.

And first I must admit, I am not now that force that had in days gone by moved heaven and earth, but what I am… I am. To roughly paraphrase Lord Tennyson.

Meaning I am of a milder temperament today, than of my reckless youth. And I am easier moved. I seek now in my old age, in my facts and my fictions, that no one dies badly, and that there always be a hero, to right wrongs.

So take that softness to note, and the hour, when measuring my feelings on this film.

I felt this film, was terrifying.

Much of horror, like in comedy, is setup and timing. And this film is not without failings, as portions of it seems to be telling of that unseen first movie, but those scenes never unhinge the central strengths of the film.

Namely it is well cast, convincingly even passionately performed, and I thought the Director/Writer Jason Devan and Editor Evan Algren masterfully used setup and timing, to create a chilling and effective movie. It is the work of a filmmaker, who understands viscerally the places in us that throb to the quick and the dead.

Is it a masterpiece? No. But not everything needs to be.

It is an effective, impressively made little chiller, that has more genuine chills in it than you’ll find in far bigger budget films, ala SINISTER, etc.

I went into this film, not having seen trailer or review, knowing nothing more than its title, and it rewarded me.

Go in likewise and you too may be, rewarded.

Grade: I’ve seen a lot of this type of film. Most are not very good, this one I hesitate not to call great. It is right up there with THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (far better than the first film); which I think is this type of film done, as well as I’ve seen it done. I guess the best thing you can say of a movie to really sell it, is having just finished watching it a few days ago, I want to see it again. That is in my book, the sign of an entertaining or compelling movie. B+.

 

Ulysses

Alfred Lord Tennyson – 1809-1892

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known—cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
   This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
   There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

 

Deal of the Day!

Stuck at Home? Currently Watching: HIGH MOON streaming on Roku via Amazon Prime Channel/App!

Stuck at home? Well here is a suggestion:

 

HIGH MOON aka HOWLERS(2019) – I like Westerns and I like Werewolf movies, so combine the two and I’m definitely the audience. Add to that this Josh Ridgeway directed flick is actually not the campy parody the title would suggest (HIGH NOON being one of my favorite Westerns).

Smartly written, also by Josh Ridgeway, with a nice mix of horror and wit, and excellently performed by a cast of solid actors, this movie is surprisingly good. Matthew Tomkins, who I have never seen give a bad performance, is his usual rock solid self, and the whole cast delivers. Chad Michael Collins is great as the primary protagonist, the time tossed Cowboy, Colt. Tom Zembrod, as his furry nemesis is the type of scenery chewing villain, that puts a smile on your face. Sean Patrick Flannery also keeps the film flying with his portrayal as a Mayor, quite a few steps beyond corrupt. And the ladies likewise, Chelsea Edmunson and April Hartman have roles of some complexity to dig into.

Add in good makeup effects, solid action, and characters you care about and you have a rip-roaring monster mashup. Man, did i have a lot of fun with this movie. A solid B+.

Howlers (2019)

Really glad I caught this courtesy of Amazon prime, and this one goes on my ‘to own’ list.

No Blu-ray at this time, but you can snag the DVD here!

Rare, Sold-Out and Rarely AVAILABLE ON STREAMING – film of the Day : THE DUELLISTS by Ridley Scott!

Ridley Scott’s feature film debut, and arguably still his most beautiful film, THE DUELLISTS is a simply masterful film. For me Ridley Scott’s first 6 films, are just a director on fire. From DUELLISTS to ALIEN to BLADE RUNNER to LEGEND to SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME to BLACK RAIN, is simply a director crushing it from movie to movie, and genre to genre.

Now that said, after those first six films, I think he had a long period of films that I did not love; where the films just did not interest or appeal to me. In the last 20 years, while I like THE MARTIAN, arguably the only film of his I’m jazzed to rewatch… the way I am his first six films; is AMERICAN GANGSTER.

It is funny the careers of Ridley, and his late brother… the great director Tony Scott, are kinda like polar opposites. I Loved the films at the beginning of Ridley’s career, I think they are odd, intimate masterpieces, but have not been crazy about his later films. Tony Scott was the opposite, I wasn’t crazy about his early movies, but feel his films later in his directorial career really start knocking it out of the park.

Tony Scott’s partnership with Denzel Washington being a great and rewarding director/star relationship, reminiscent of other such acclaimed pairings… Ford/Wayne, Woo/Chow-Yun Fat, Lee/Washington, Leone/Eastwood, Capra/Stewart, Kurosawa/Mifune, Scorsese/De Niro, Hitchcok/Grant to name a few.

That partnership yielding one hands down masterpiece in MAN ON FIRE, and four enjoyable films in CRIMSON TIDE, DEJA VU, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, and UNSTOPPABLE (Tony Scott’s final film). So it is unfortunate for many reasons, that we lost Tony Scott so unexpectedly.

But thankfully we still have Ridley making films, and despite some of his more recent films being not for me (GODS OF EGYPT), when he sticks the landing, we are all the better and richer for it. His upcoming THE LAST DUEL, from an Affleck/Damon script, sounding a bit like him revisiting his 40+ year old film, THE DUELLISTS.

 

Get the Blu-ray or get it via Streaming HERE!

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Ebay Deals of the Day!

Trailer of the Day : Mark Amin’s EMPEROR (2020) and great Black History Month and All Year Long DVD and Blu-Ray Pickups!

Dayo Okeniyi in Emperor (2020)

This trailer came out of nowhere, but I loved it.

I’m not crazy about the poster tag-line, a ‘true legend’, while many true things with time become the stuff of legend, and many legends are stories that have outlived and outlasted the crumbling and burying into dust of all things, even concrete evidence, the putting together of those two words… ‘true legend’ , if not exactly an oxymoron, is just slightly inept marketing. You want to put those two together, try this… ‘in a time of imposed truths, he became in his own lifetime… a galvanizing legend’ .

Took me two seconds to come up with that, and I think it shows more thought than what their marketing department did. Call me guys if you need to fire them and get a better marketing presence, we’ll talk. 🙂 .

But that aside, a very good poster and a GREAT Trailer! If the movie lives up to it, it will be a blast.

As someone who just picked up the 2 season set of UNDERGROUND (almost sold out, so you may want to pick it up while you can, use the attached link) and who is a huge fan of the best in Pan African cinema such as SANKOFA, DARESALAM, HYENAS, GENESIS, I AM CUBA, CAMP DE THIAROYE  (also available courtesy of the attached links) this film definitely goes on my must check out list. Probably along with the WITCH:SUBVERSION one of the best trailers for the Month of February.

 

UNDERGROUND 2 season DVD

SANKOFA – arguably one of the finest, and both savage and beautiful films made, of a true Holocaust. Haile Gerima’s masterpiece. and the fact that this film is out of print, and does not have a Criterion or similar high-scale Blu-ray or DVD release, is only proof that we have a long way yet to go. Get a copy, you will thank me later.

Sankofa

 

 

Daresalam

DARESALAM – This is simply put, cinema at its finest. Get your copy, while you can.

 

I AM CUBAFor years this film was not available in the west, and then when I finally saw it, I think at a film festival, yeas ago, the camera work, in a time way before CGI, blew my mind. As a fan of David Lean, and Hitchcock and Welles and Fritz Lang, geniuses with the camera, this film was like a generational evolution. In an age before Steadicam adoption, the shots were absolutely mind blowing. When it finally was released on a quality DVD boxset, I rushed out and picked it up, and I told all of you to pick it up. For those new to this blog, back in the day, those who listened to me picked it up for $40. It is decidedly more than that, but still worth picking up, if you have the funds. A Masterpiece.

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Quick rant, feel free to bypass this. 🙂

Here’s a tip you should know. Quality  non-hollywood  films about and by people of color, especially politically provocative films, have a tendency of not staying in print. And either dry up entirely on the secondary market, or explode in price before disappearing into private collections rarely to see the light of day.

I am never in a rush to pick up KNIVES OUT or 1917 or AVENGERS ENDGAME, because that is going to be there for decades to come. But when I hear about a THE GREAT WAR or EMPEROR or a DARESALAM or a BROTHER JOHN on dvd or Blu-ray, I can not race fast enough to purchase these movies. Haile Gerima, who I had the pleasure to interview back in the day, understood the importance of retaining positive images, and words, and movies, and music. That is culture.

And when the ability to view or hear or see these sounds and images, is at the mercy and whims of multinationals… culture itself is held hostage. And the people who depend on the reflective power of culture, to help define the width and the breadth of their aspirations, are likewise diminished.

And particularly today when so many are weaned on streaming, physical media is ironically both scarcer and yet more important and arguably esteemed and sought after, than ever before.

Because those in the know, understand streaming giveth and streaming taketh away, based on the uninformed whims of the lynchmob. You want your favorite film, available to watch when you want, and in the cut of the film you remember, there is no replacement for physical media. There just is not.

Here endeth the soap-box interlude. 🙂

You can take it, or you can leave it alone. 🙂
Either way, be well.

 

 

 

Movie of the Day : Blue Underground’s DELIRIUM

 

Rita Calderoni in Delirio caldo (1972)

1972’s Renato Polselli directed Italian Giallo/Thriller DELIRIO CALDO (loosely translated as ‘Hot Frenzy’, and in the US called… DELIRIUM), remains 48 years later jaw-droppingly ludicrous, ‘wtf’ inducing and bat-guano insane. One of the more luridly filmed of Italy’s spate of Giallo films, even for that genre this film was strange.

Strange in the performances, strange in the script, strange in the direction, the film lives somewhere beyond reason in more ways than one. Many times throughout the film, if you are anything like me, you will alternate between shaking your head at the ludicrousness of the movie, and ‘WTF?” exclamations at the audacity and luridness of the movie.

If you are familiar with films like PEEPING TOM and PSYCHO and the works of Dario Argento, you know the general ground this film covers, but this film seems to be as much about titillation as it is terror, covering that ground in very much a grind-house, soft core porn, exploitation way.

It is not a film made with any sense of humor (there is a slight comedy relief character, but as is typical in these films he is not remotely amusing), but there is a sense of ludicrousness in watching it, in just how extreme and over the top everything is, from the direction to the performances to the depravity to the fashion.

Delirio caldo (1972)

 

It is the odd period between the swinging sixties and free love seventies, Italian style, before it all went to hell; and even in a movie as debased as this one, that touchstone to the age of miniskirts and bell bottoms and psychedelic shirts (even for police officers 🙂 ) is strangely fun to see.

There are two distinct versions of this film, the Italian version and the US version, both pretty different, but both equally odd and equally worth seeing/comparing. Being a 70s Italian Giallo, these were typically recorded without sound, so both the Italian and English versions are ‘dubbed’ versions, the soundtrack put on afterwards. Both soundtracks are equally valid, you just have to determine which cut of the film you prefer.

The American version is a rather crudely cut, at times butchered and toothless version (at times not), tacking on a completely moronic vietnam war opening and flashbacks, and cutting the manic scenes that essentially make this movie, into pretty tepid, uninspired bits. Definitely see the Italian version if you can only see one. And if planning to see both see the Italian version 1st, and watch the American version more just to see the diferences.

Now one interesting plus to the American version is It does actually in parts make more sense than the Italian version, however it does this, again in parts, at the cost of the hyperbolic dream madness momentum that drives the Italian version.

It also loses and changes major subplots, by including scenes not in the Italian version, and the films divulge further the closer you get to the end. At first I see those changes as weaknesses, but as the film goes on, the American version, while not as fun, is bat crazy in its own way. The American version, particularly with its Vietnam wraparound, very much predates a similar far more popular 1991 horror-tinged American film.

It is a fascinating look at two very distinct cuts of a film. So yeah, this review is pointing you toward the Italian version, if you can only see one of them, but yeah comparing the two is very intriguing.

I have to tell you, re-watching this film, the Italian cut, after having not seen it in years, taken for what is is, a piece of 1970s era exploitation fluff, and with a caveat that violence against women is a bad thing of course, this film as a bit of not to be taken serious film-making, is absolutely mind-boggingly ludicrous and entertaining at the same time.

I would have to say if you are a fan of 1970s Italian Giallo’s and have not seen this one, you should rectify that. While not in the same cinematic league as the best of Argento ( DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA) or the best of Fulci (ONE ON TOP THE OTHER, SEVEN NOTES IN BLACK, DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING, and LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN) this is definite compulsive watch in its own right.

 

Unsurprisingly this film is currently not available on streaming (for me, this emphasises the ‘here today – gone tomorrow’ unreliability of streaming, and why physical media will always be necessary and king, and the gold standard for viewing… your way. And this comes from a guy who also enjoys and pays for streaming). However BLUE UNDERGROUND put out a great DVD of it, with both cuts of the film. Use the link below:

 

DELIRIUM by Renato Polselli

“One of the more bizarre and extreme giallo. Exactly as described – this one has not been oversold; it’s charms are not exaggerated.Even the most jaded “seen it all’ viewer will get some kicks from this underrated gem.”

–Amazon.com Review

 

Thanks for looking and if you liked this post, give a like. Always appreciated! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Katia Cardinali and Mickey Hargitay in Delirio caldo (1972)

 

 

 

Streaming VOD Movies, TV shows and Youtube Videos of Week 2 of 2020! SHUDDER Edition!

 

 

 

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These 4 films, which I have watched since starting my SHUDDER subscription (something like $2.49 for the month, for the next 3 months) are all FANTASTIC, films, in very different ways. But all of them have soared to the top of my MUST BUY List!

MANDY I raved about in a previous post is just a brilliant primary color tinged nightmare of a dream quest/revenge story committed to film.

THE HEAD HUNTER, is a claustrophobic, incredibly tense, incredibly rousing,  actioner/creature feature mash-up.

THE WAX MASK is one of the most sumptuously filmed and strangest Italian Giallo’s, being both a period piece and a Hammer studios homage, a stunning directorial debut.

And then we come to Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. I am not a champion of the nonsensical, gore filled films that most remember Fulci for, like THE BEYOND and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and this one, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. I think all of these are the films he made when the audiences  neglected his true masterpieces, to some extent when he stopped caring about making great films, and just decided to pander to the lowest common denominator horror crowds. When Fulci cared, he was one of the most imaginative, talented and stylish filmmakers of his time. He made some of the best Giallos, some of the best westerns, one of the best Hitchcock homages, and one that was his stab at a serious film/period piece. It was that film’s failure that soured him on film and audiences, and made him a gun for hire, and by reports misanthropic to his cast, his crew and the audience, and a churner out of his gore films. That said while I do see these films as Fulci no longer being that filmmaker whose westerns would inspire John Woo’s Blood Ballets and dove motif, despite these films being set-pieces of gore… loosely supported by a story, they are despite all that… still very, very compelling and entertaining. He builds moments of tension and dread and horror, as well as a good smattering of WTF!. Just the audacity of these films, particularly CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, is impressive. So while not a champion of this film like I am of his earlier films, even lesser Fulci… is jaw dropping. This movie has story structure issues, it doesn’t hold together as a cogent film, it is haphazard and at times silly, but all that aside it is always visually arresting and cinematically audacious. And once seen, you want to own the BluRay to see the making of features and here the interviews and commentary because you definitely want to know what the cast thought of him, after making them do some of the things he had them do in this film.

I’ll be doing an upcoming piece on Fulci, but I guess it says everything about Fulci, is that even what I consider his ‘slapped together/whatever’ film phase, consists of many films, such as CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, that are must watch films. Even his films of derision, are dripping with imaginative talent.

 

2019 End of the Year Director Overview – Henri-Georges Clouzot

2019 End of the Year Director Overview – Henri-Georges Clouzot

The best available films of and about the great Suspense Director Henri-Georges Clouzot

Product Description

In a squalid South American oil town, four desperate men sign on for a suicide mission to drive trucks loaded with nitroglycerin over a treacherous mountain route. As they ferry their expensive cargo to a faraway oil fire, each bump and jolt tests their courage, their friendship, and their nerves. The Wages of Fear (Le salaire de la peur) is one of the greatest thrillers ever committed to celluloid, a white-knuckle ride from France s legendary master of suspense Henri Georges-Clouzot.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
Restored high-definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Video interviews with assistant director Michel Romanoff and Henri-Georges Clouzot biographer Marc Godin
Interview with Yves Montand from 1988
Henri-Georges Clouzot: The Enlightened Tyrant, a 2004 documentary on the director s career
Censored, an analysis of cuts made to the film for its 1955 U.S. release
PLUS: An booklet featuring an essay by novelist Dennis Lehane

Review

A big, masterly movie…it joyfully scares the living hell out of you as it reveals something about the human condition. –Vincent Canby, The New York Times

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Before Psycho, Peeping Tom, and Repulsion, there was Diabolique. This thriller from Henri‑Georges Clouzot (Le corbeau, The Wages of Fear), which shocked audiences in Europe and the U.S., is the story of two women—the fragile wife and the willful mistress of a sadistic school headmaster—who hatch a daring revenge plot. With its unprecedented narrative twists and unforgettably scary images, Diabolique is a heart-grabbing benchmark in horror filmmaking, featuring outstanding performances by Simone Signoret (Casque d’or, Army of Shadows), Vera Clouzot (The Wages of Fear), and Paul Meurisse (Le deuxième souffle, Army of Shadows).


Special features

New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray editionSelected-scene commentary by French-film scholar Kelley Conway

New video interview with Serge Bromberg, codirector of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s, Inferno

New video interview with horror film expert Kim Newman

New and improved English subtitle translation

PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty

https://amzn.to/2SF4rTM

 

This masterful adaptation of Prévost s 1731 novel Manon Lescaut marks quite a departure for Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French director lauded for his acclaimed thrillers The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques.

A classical tragic romance transposed to a World War II setting, Clouzot s film follows the travails of Manon (Cécile Aubry), a village girl accused of collaborating with the Nazis who is rescued from imminent execution by a former French Resistance fighter (Michel Auclair). The couple move to Paris, but their relationship turns stormy as they struggle to survive, resorting to profiteering, prostitution and even murder. Eventually escaping to Palestine, the pair attempt a treacherous desert crossing in search of the happiness which seems to forever elude them…

Clouzot s astute portrayal of doomed young lovers caught in the disarray of post-war France wowed the jury of the 1949 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion award. Unjustly overshadowed ever since by the director s suspense films, Manon now returns to screens in glorious High Definition with a selection of elucidating extras.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

 

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

 

  • Original 1.0 mono audio

 

  • Optional English subtitles

 

  • Bibliothèque de poche: H.G. Clouzot, an archival documentary from 1970 in which Clouzot talks of his love of literature and the relationship between the page and the screen

 

  • Woman in the Dunes, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew

 

  • Image gallery

 

  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options

https://amzn.to/2ZGgT7f

In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot, the acclaimed director of thriller masterpieces Les Diaboliques and Wages of Fear, began work on his most ambitious film yet.

Set in a beautiful lake side resort in the Auvergne region of France, L’Enfer (Inferno) was to be a sun scorched elucidation on the dark depths of jealousy starring Romy Schneider as the harassed wife of a controlling hotel manager (Serge Reggiani). However, despite huge expectations, major studio backing and an unlimited budget, after three weeks the production collapsed under the weight of arguments, technical complications and illness.

In this compelling, award-winning documentary Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea present Inferno’s incredible expressionistic original rushes, screen tests, and on-location footage, whilst also reconstructing Clouzot’s original vision, and shedding light on the ill-fated endeavor through interviews, dramatizations of unfilmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

 

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French cinema expert and academic talks at length about the films of Clouzot and the troubled production of Inferno
  • They Saw Inferno, a featurette including unseen material, providing further insight into the production of Inferno
  • Filmed Introduction by Serge Bromberg
  • Interview with Serge Bromberg
  • Stills gallery
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Ginette Vincendeau

https://amzn.to/37u1B8z

 

 

 

La Prisonnière: Woman in Chains (Blu-ray)

The final film of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s (Diabolique, The Wages of Fear) brilliant career, La Prisonnière (1968) is a sensuously colorful film of voyeuristic sexual obsession. It maps a love triangle between abstract sculptor Gilbert (Bernard Fresson), his TV editor girlfriend Josée (Elisabeth Wiener), and art gallery owner Stanislas (Laurent Terzieff). At an art opening, Gilbert ditches Josée, so she ends up going home with Stanislas, who shows her a photograph of a woman in bondage. The image is shocking and alluring, and Josée asks to attend his next erotic photo shoot, her first step in unlocking the depths of her desires. Making full use of the psychedelic optical effects that Clouzot developed for the unfinished L’Enfer, La Prisonnière is a visionary swansong for this legendary cinema artist.

Special Features: Audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger • Booklet essay by film critic Elena Lazic The Rebellious Elisabeth Wiener (25 minutes) • Trailer

 

10/10

A disturbing masterpiece

slabihoud2 May 2019

Since there is little talk about “La Prisonnière” when ever there is some kind of documentary or article about Henri-Georges Clouzot , It hasn’t been shown on TV for a very long time and so I thought it must be a weak film, probably done with a small budget and only half-heartedly because of bad health. Boy, was I wrong! After Clouzot’s collapse at the filming of “L’Enfer” he had to refrain from filming for some time. He already had a breakdown earlier in his career and his reputation for being excessively obsessed with perfection was very likely the reason for it. He filmed only every few years because he planned his films methodically. After the disaster of “L’Enfer” it looked as if he had to retire because of his health problems. But he recovered and was able to finish one more film.

When you have seen the documentary “L’Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot” then you know that all the tests he had made for it have not been in vain. “La Prisonnière” looks very much like another try on “L’Enfer” from a different point of view. The strange lightning tests he made with Romy Schneider, Dany Carrel and Serge Reggiani and the experiments with shapes and optical illusions, that all and much more went into “Le Prisonnière”. And here it makes more sense than in “L’Enfer” since the male character is an art collector and gallery owner who exhibits modern designs. From all we can see of the fragments of “L’Enfer” through “L’Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot” it would have been a great film. And since so many good ideas could not be used there, he gave them all to “La Prisonnière” – and it is a great film! There are pure cinematic moments in this film too, and I had a feeling that Clouzot realized this would be his last film and he wanted to use everything that he had not tried yet and to finish with a bang.

 

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