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by Michael Barrett

3 Feb 2016


Home movies become primal shimmers in Walden

“I live, therefore I make films. I make films, therefore I live.” So sings the ragged, unmusical, heavily Lithuanian accented Jonas Mekas—one of the prime movers of American avant-garde cinema in the second half of the 20th Century—as he accompanies himself with an accordion on the soundtrack of Walden (1969): his three-hour “diary film”. Later he says, “They tell me I should be searching, but I just celebrate what I see.” Still later: “The images go, no tragedy, no drama, no suspense, just images for myself and a few others”; and he adds that cinema is light, movement, the sun, the heart beating.

This monument to the world around him—mainly New York in the ‘60s—is in one sense as accessible as any home movie: clips of weddings, the park, friends, children, street activities. True, his friends are luminaries of avant-garde film, such as Stan Brakhage and Shirley Clarke, and along the way we glimpse even more famous guests: Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Bed-In.

by Michael Barrett

22 Jan 2016


Many people are nostalgic for ‘70s cinema, even those who didn’t live through it the first time. Contrary to popular wisdom, every ‘70s movie isn’t a classic, but some ‘70s movies are more ‘70s than others. It’s something about the sweat, the grain, the cynical tone, the sense of exploring new narrative by-ways and styles for kicks, or with the idea that this might somehow be important.

Then, of course, you have the lapels, the aftershave, the sideburns, and the discovery of nudity. Here’s a handy guide to a baker’s dozen of the increasing flood of Blu-ray releases from that era.

by Michael Barrett

22 Jan 2016


Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas is a landmark silent epic about the adventures of a diabolical criminal played by René Navarre. This shadowy yet elegant figure, a master of disguise, engages in an endless game of cat and mouse with a police inspector (Edmund Bréon) who can never catch him. When Kino released the five-film serial on DVD in 2010,

PopMatters

reviewed it here with analysis so insightful and informative that we can add nothing to it except our praise of the reviewer’s brilliance.

This new Blu-ray upgrade contains exactly the same program, including the critical commentary, the two excellent bonus shorts and the profile of Feuillade’s career. The only new feature is a gallery of the stylish, colorful, sometimes gory covers of the Fantomas novels in various editions. It stands to reason that people who haven’t seen the previous edition should benefit from the Blu-ray, but will those who already own the DVD derive anything in particular from this reissue?

by Michael Barrett

5 Jan 2016


Anamoprhosis (1991)

“Dark fairy tale-ish with an element of grotesquery and the pathological” is how one of the Quays, American twin brothers who live and work in London, describes their aesthetic in a commentary for This Unnameable Little Broom. We can’t be sure if it’s Stephen or Timothy talking, but it doesn’t matter in this case. That film is loosely inspired by an incident in the ancient epic of Gilgamesh, if you can imagine Gilgamesh as a Punch-like figure on a tricycle who wheels around a box-like room and cuts the wings off a weird flying creature.

It’s one of 16 titles in The Quay Brothers: Collected Short Films, a Blu-ray upgrade of the 2007 two-disc DVD Phantom Museums, with four new films added. Fans shouldn’t discard that DVD, however, for the contents of Disc 2 mostly aren’t included on the new Blu-ray.

by Michael Barrett

4 Jan 2016


Are you in the mood to be retro-hip? Do you get the urge to be mod and pop, ‘60s style? Sure you do.

A batch of recent Blu-rays (and a couple of more digitally challenged items) offers a cross-section of the cinematic era when you couldn’t swing a hepcat without hitting something groovy. Here’s a guide to programming your own marathon. Only a few of these titles are certifiable “classics”, but they all exude distinctive flavors and aromas of that stylish decade. You can spot them at 100 paces.

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