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by Michael Barrett

16 Jun 2016

Criterion puts out deluxe editions of many classic movies that have been on home video before, and it’s something of a special event when they unveil an important movie that hasn’t yet seen the digital light of day, at least in Region 1. Such is Kaneto Shindo’s The Naked Island, a unique film that caused a splash around the world upon its release in 1960 before pretty much dropping off the map.

Frustrated with the Japanese studio system, Shindo boldly founded an independent company in the ‘50s with actor Taiji Tonoyama and fellow director, Kozaburo Yoshimura. Their productions weren’t successful enough to keep them afloat and the company was on the verge of bankruptcy when Shindo made a film that, while unusual, was truly international in potential because it has virtually no dialogue.

by Michael Barrett

15 Jun 2016

Resurrected from obscurity is a rarely-seen sci-fi epic, or what passed for one in ‘30s Germany as the country was embroiled in electing Hitler and changes were starting to sweep over its film industry.

Far from the standard dashing hero, the main character is Professor Holk (Hans Albers), a somewhat portly and middle-aged boffin who barely survives a sabotaged experiment to convert lead into gold with atomic power. The man responsible for his misfortune is ruthless capitalist John Wills (Michael Bohnen), whose name harkens back to the concept of “will” that was freely bandied about by the Nazis, as in the propaganda film Triumph of the Will.

by Michael Barrett

14 Jun 2016

Crimson, also called The Man with the Severed Head, and whose Spanish title means “The Rats Don’t Sleep at Night”, is a Spanish-French crime drama masquerading as a horror film via a left-field plot twist about a partial brain transplant. It stars Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy, billed as Paul Nash, and hails from a golden era of horror cinema. Don’t get excited yet.

Gangster Jack Surnett (Naschy) is about to open a jewelry store’s safe when the greed of one of his henchmen accidentally triggers the alarm. Surnett is promptly shot in the head by police, and a drunken doctor (ubiquitous character actor Carlos Otero) suggests—wait for it—taking him to an old friend who’s working on brain transplants. That surgeon and his equally surgical wife (Silvia Solar, radiating warmth and intelligence) need a freshly decapitated head, so the gang picks a rival gangster (Roberto Mauri) known as The Sadist—the decisions just keep getting smarter—whose tendencies will naturally start taking over the patient.

by Michael Barrett

9 Jun 2016

City of Women begins as it will continue, with the voice of masculine authority and presumption undermined by the mockery of feminine voices. The blue field of opening credits announces Marcello Mastroianni’s name, to be answered with a woman’s teasing weariness at using him again, and Luis Bacalov’s nostalgic piano doesn’t begin until she orders “Music, Maestro”.

We begin with that almost parodically powerful image: the camera is a train rushing into a dark tunnel. As a passenger, Snaporaz (Mastroianni) begins to nod, signaling that the film is entering a dream-state, and the bottle on the table between him and a beautiful woman (Bernice Stegers) pokes its cheeky phallic pose into every shot until the man’s erotic fantasy leads him literally astray—off the train, into the woods and finally into a hotel hosting a feminist convention.

by Michael Barrett

8 Jun 2016

A middle-aged actress (Juliette Binoche) rehearses for a play with her young assistant (Kristen Stewart) at a gorgeous Swiss mountain retreat known for its gathering clouds in Clouds of Sils Maria (2015), one of last year’s most acclaimed films. As aesthetically beautiful in composition and movement as it is intelligent in dialogue and its layered conception of “acting”, the movie explores the women’s issues and relationships with depth and lightness, and nods to high art and popular art: all anchored in the mundane and suffused by the mysterious.

Most reviewers loved this movie. PopMatters previously reviewed the DVD release, and I’ve previously raved about it here. Yet some of you still haven’t seen it, right? Not to worry, it’s freshly out on Blu-ray from Criterion. We know it’s a great film, so all that’s left is to call attention to the extras on the disc.

//Mixed media

20 Questions: Rachael Yamagata

// Sound Affects

"After a four year break since her last album, Rachael Yamagata reveals a love of spreadsheets, a love for Streisand, and why it's totally OK to suck at playing guitar.

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