These wildly, radically different films explore what it means to be women living under Eastern European communism.
In sober and beautiful black and white, Hungarian Márta Mészáros‘ Adoption (1971) brings the perspective of an emotionally isolated woman to the plight of a minor girl young enough to be her daughter. In vibrant colors and dizzy edits, Czechoslovakian Věra Chytilová‘s Daisies (1966) is like an anarchist paint bomb tossed into an uptight dinner party – and there’s no stopping its unleashed creativity. I think of Daisies as a hybrid of Luis Buñuel, Monty Python, and Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904), the first punk novel.
Arsenic and Old Lace
Director: Frank Capra
Conceived and made during WWII, this frantic comedy of murder among American eccentrics and sweet old ladies made a nearly seamless transition from Broadway hit to Hollywood hit. Cary Grant gets put through his paces with a brilliant supporting cast, including Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre.
We’ve chosen Frank Capra‘s Arsenic and Old Lace almost at random from numerous classics given Criterion’s spit-and-polish this year, including Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948), David Lean’s Summertime (1955) and Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind (1956). Just so you know, those three are all in swoon-worthy Technicolor.
We don’t know what we’ve done to deserve it, nor why the gods or planets aligned in 2022 to deliver home-video debuts of five films directed by the illustrious Robert Siodmak, but we’ll take them all. They span his career from Weimar Germany to Hollywood and back to postwar Germany, revealing his sensibility of average people manipulated by social forces.
Kino Lorber unveiled Farewell (Abschied, 1930), Time Out of Mind (1947), Deported (1950), and The Devil Strikes at Night (Nachts wenn der Teufel kam, 1957). Flicker Alley provided the obscure and fascinating labor drama The Whistle at Eaton Falls (1951).
The Guilty/High Tide (and more)
Director: John Reinhardt (and others)
In the valiant world of cinematic recovery, almost nobody is doing film buffs a better service than the partnership between Film Noir Foundation, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and Flicker Alley. The roll call of this year’s illustrious Blu-ray debuts should bring any noir fan to a deliciously sweaty delirium, and they’re packaged with well-informed scholarship.
This year’s titles: the John Reinhardt double-feature of The Guilty/High Tide (both 1947), Alfred Werker‘s Twilight-Zone-esque fantasy Repeat Performance (1947), and Román Viñoly Barreto’s Argentinian El Vampiro Negro (1953). These noir films testify not only to the diversity and richness of the genre, or perhaps it’s more of a mode, but they hint at how much remains to be discovered.
Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 4
Criterion’s fourth box set of Martin Scorsese‘s World Cinema Project belongs to an ongoing initiative of The Film Foundation to restore important films from countries with little or no self-funded resources. We think it’s probably the most important project in the recovery of film history today. This volume includes rediscoveries and rescues from Angola, Argentina, Cameroon, Hungary, India, and Iran. Read about them here on PopMatters.