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by Michael Barrett

1 Oct 2015

This three-DVD set conveniently gathers six hard-to-find films that French filmmaker Agnès Varda made on California visits in 1967-1968 and in 1980. Beautifully restored, they look sunny and gorgeous, and bear her distinctive sense of curiosity, intelligence, color, and craft.

In 1967, Varda arrived in America with her husband, Jacques Demy, who was making the film Model Shop  for Columbia. The first disc has two short documentaries she made in Northern California. Saturated with color, light, and whimsy, Uncle Yanco  (1967) is an impromptu profile of her father’s cousin, an artist in a houseboat colony of young bohemians in Anaheim. By re-creating and filming their “first meeting” several times, Varda calls attention to the artificial aspect of the project. We have the option of hearing a largely French soundtrack or an English one narrated by Yanco and Varda.

by Michael Barrett

9 Sep 2015

In the sprawling lordly manor of multimillionaire Charles Richmond (Ralph Richardson, looking as he would 20 years later in Greystoke), who gets at least part of his fortune from copper mines and the exploitation of African labor therein, the wheelchair-bound tyrant barks and raves, querulously waving a stick at dogs, servants, managers, and the world. Besides abusing everybody, his only other pleasure is listening to classical music, and it pleases him that people thought Beethoven was a boor too. Everyone silently puts up with him, including his handsome errand boy Anthony (Sean Connery), who’s both his nephew and stepson.

Into this world of privilege and resentment strides Maria Marcello (Gina Lollobrigida), a fiercely proud nurse of Italian peasant stock who doesn’t mind quitting if she’s annoyed. This makes Richmond respect and wish to acquire her, even if it means apologizing and proposing marriage. Anthony has made his own proposal: that she should marry the old coot, inherit his fortune, and kick back a million dollars to Anthony. They can also carry on together.

by Michael Barrett

31 Aug 2015

Now on Blu-ray are gorgeous HD transfers of two 1970s Italian genre films from director Umberto Lenzi. He made Gang War in Milan and Spasmo one after the other, but in a logical world he’d have made them in reverse order, for Spasmo  is the last of his string of early ‘70s giallos while Gang War  is the first of ten gangster/cop thrillers he’d make before the end of the decade.

Gang War in Milan  focuses on Salvatore Cangemi (Antonio Sabàto), a handsome, high-living pimp from Sicily who, while supposedly running a wholesale produce business, markets a different kind of flesh entirely. He’s suddenly muscled in on by a dapper Frenchman (Philippe Leroy) who wants to partner with the whores to distribute heroin. The gang war is on, with the prostitutes’ bodies as the battlefield. The police are a virtual non-factor as the story’s parable of unrestrained capitalism winds toward cynical if credible “tragedy” about the replaceability of bosses and the transactional nature of love and sex.

by Michael Barrett

20 Aug 2015

Convoy  is another of those movies that divide the auteurist from the average filmgoing hedonist. To the ordinary viewer, it’s one of many 1970s vehicles (no pun intended) where cars or trucks speed and crash primarily for the delectation of Southern drive-ins, only it doesn’t happen to star Burt Reynolds or come from Roger Corman. In other words, it’s a throwaway, a project tossed together to cash in on C.W. McCall’s 1975 hit song of the same name, now with new PG-rated lyrics.

Yes, but: to the fans of Sam Peckinpah, this is the spectacle of a great director slumming. Since he couldn’t help making personal cinema, it kicks up plenty of his dust, not least in his distinctive style of editing action by intercutting regular and slow-motion bits from different angles. This recognizable and effective trait analyzes the violence in a self-conscious “alienating” way while making it more vivid and disorienting in the cinematic approximation of an adrenaline rush.

by Michael Barrett

18 Aug 2015

Cinematically, each era produces bits of musical nonsense that could only have come from that time. Just as Breakin’ 2: Electric Bugaloo  could have only been made in 1984, Oh, Sailor Behave! can only hail from 1930, a moment in the talkie transition marked by creaky stage properties of forgettable songs, unfunny schtick, and impudently, gloriously inane plots. The taste for lavish musicals died as quickly as it flowered in that year, and the result is a movie that, while intended for Technicolor, was released in black and white. It’s now available on demand from Warner Archive, looking and sounding none too spiffy for its obscurity in the vaults.

//Mixed media

Notes, Hoaxes, and Jokes: Silkworm's 'Lifestyle' - "Ooh La La"

// Sound Affects

"Lifestyle's penultimate track eases the pace and finds fresh nuance and depth in a rock classic, as Silkworm offer their take on the Faces' "Ooh La La".

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