Category Archives: Film

“LUZ”— A Horror Film

“LUZ”

A Horror Film

Amos Lassen

In “Luz”, Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt)  a police psychologist meets and flirts with Nora Vanderkurt (Julia Riedler) at a bar. Nora is possessed by a demon and was a passenger in the cab of Luz (Luana Velis), her former schoolmate. Luz crashes her cab after picking up Nora and then goes to a police station where Dr. Rossini interrogates her. 

This is a bold, horror film written and directed Tilman Singer. The plot becomes increasingly bizarre and preposterous as it subverts preconceived notions of genre. The lighting and camerawork are stylish and intriguing. Shot on 16mm and with a hypnotic synth-driven score, the film pays homage to Euro Horror films. Director Singer smartly avoids the usual clichés for demonic possession films.

Boyish looking woman Luz, an émigré from Chile, works as a female cabbie in an unnamed German city. We first see her on a rainy night and she is bloodied from an accident. She is walking quickly into a run-down police station, but is ignored until she starts screaming at the desk receptionist. While Luz is speaking about the crash to two indifferent detectives, who are unable to respond in her, the police psychologist Dr. Rossini is at a bar on the other side of town where is being seduced by the only woman in the place, Nora  who happens to be Luz’s old schoolmate from Chile and who was a passenger in Luz’s cab during the accident or maybe wasn’t. She mentions that Luz was obsessed with the occult while they were together at school in Chile. In some unexplained way, a strange transference occurs between Nora and the doctor. She seems to knows that Rossini is about to get a call from the police station to evaluate Luz. 

Rossini, even though drunk, interviews Luz, who speaks in a disembodied voice that doesn’t feel like her own. Rossini uses hypnosis on her and she relives the evening’s events in the presence of Commissioner Bertillon (Nadja Stübiger) and the Spanish translator Olarte (Johannes Benecke). 

The film is totally ambiguous. It is built around this off-beat interview and the presence of an evil force in the room. Things dramatically change at a moment’s notice confusing the viewer who has to figure out what is happening on his own. I can’t give you more details because this is a film that must be experienced.

The film is technically sound, stylish and well-acted. It is very watchable even if it doesn’t amount to much. It definitely is not for everyone.  Singer gives us a refreshing take on demonic possession an while some viewers will feel alienation, it is an interesting movie.

The setting, like the movie itself, is ambiguous. Various props reflect different periods in history. The cinematography is widescreen 16mm, grainy and dirt-speckled and the film looks like Italian giallos. The story takes place in two rooms (and one flashback elsewhere), and it is as if the outside world hardly seems to exist.

Rossini’s interrogation is far from ordinary— hypnosis plays a part as does some kind of transfer of spirits. It is clear that the action we see has something to do with Luz’s childhood interest in the occult. Rossini gets rather dramatically wrapped up in things, becoming different characters in the story while Luz appears passive. She isn’t. When the film ends, Luz seems to be just at the beginning of her frightening path.

Special Features include:

  • 2 Short Films by Tilman Singer.
  • New Interview with Director Tilman Singer.
  • International Teaser Trailer.
  • S. Theatrical Trailer.
  • Pull-out Poster.
  • Reversible Cover Art.

“IS ANYBODY LISTENING?”— Understanding Veterans

“IS ANYBODY LISTENING?”

Understanding Veterans

Amos Lassen

Paula J. Caplan grew up listening to the stories her father, Jerome Caplan, told yearly about being Captain of an all-Black battery in The Battle of the Bulge. However, she did not remember these. Her inability to remember those stories bothered her and led her to listen to hundreds of veterans. She became upset with the fact that veterans’ deeply human reactions to war and rape are diagnosed as mental illness and this drove her to set up free sessions nationwide for a nonveteran to listen in wholehearted, respectful silence to whatever a veteran wants to say. This reduces  feelings of veterans’ isolation and nonveterans’ illiteracy about war and rape. In “Is Anybody Listening”, Paula takes us on her journey through interviews with veterans including Sgt. Isaac Pope — a 96-year-old man who served with her father.

The film gives us real understanding of veterans. This is a powerful and moving film that brings the non-veteran world to interact with the Veteran as a human being and gives the Veteran the chance to speak and feel safe doing so. Both sides are helped to connect.  The veterans in film enlighten the darkness.

“KANSAS CITY”— Music and the Movies

“KANSAS CITY”

Music and the Movies

Amos Lassen

Robert Altman’s “Kansas City” is “an evocative, bullet-riddled tribute to the music and movies” of the director’s youth in the city of the title..

Blondie O Hara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) uses desperate measures when her low-level thug husband Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) is caught trying to steal from Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), a local crime boss operating out of The Hey Hey Club, a jazz haunt. Blondie kidnaps socialite Carolyn Stilton (Miranda Richardson), hoping that her influential politician husband can get Johnny away from Seldom Seen. “Kansas City” is one of Altman’s most underrated films.

Johnny messed with the wrong man when he tried to steal from Seldom Seen. Two kidnappings bring forward the complex power dynamics in the corrupt thirties; the movie takes a look at the big issues of love, crime, race and politics.

The jazz soundtrack is integrated into the film, re-creating the Kansas City jazz of the time. The performances of Leigh and Belafonte are the main high points in this well written screenplay.

The movie opens with Blondie faking her way into a mansion and kidnapping Carolyn whose husband is a powerful Democrat. Blondie’s plan is to hold the wife to force the husband to use his influence in order to free her husband. This takes a lot of influence because Johnny has foolish in trying to rob best customer of the local black gambling boss. O’Hara pulling his stickup in blackface adding an extra insult.  

A memorable scene is an extended exchange of solos involving Craig Handy, Joshua Redman and James Carter. The musicians not only celebrate their own styles but quote and borrow from one another, and weave elements of other songs into the one they’re playing.

The film does a fine job of re-creating the 30s in the look of interiors and the tone of the colors.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

  Original 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio

  English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  Audio commentary by director Robert Altman

  Newly filmed appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew

  Gare, Trains et Déraillement, a 2007 visual essay by French critic Luc Lagier, plus short introduction to the film narrated by Lagier

  Robert Altman Goes to the Heart of America and Kansas City: The Music, two 1996 promotional featurettes including interviews with cast and crew

  Electronic press kit interviews with Altman, Leigh, Richardson, Belafonte and musician Joshua Redman, plus behind-the-scenes footage

  Four theatrical trailers

  TV spots

  Image gallery

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors booklet featuring new writing by Dr Nicolas Pillai, original press kit notes and an excerpt from Altman on Altman

“AFTER PARKLAND”— Coping with Tragedy

“AFTER PARKLAND”

Coping with Tragedy

Amos Lassen

“After Parkland” gives us an up close and personal look at tragedy, revisiting the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting from the perspective of those who were there the day when 17 students were murdered. They share first-hand experiences, as well as actual cell phone camera footage taken by students as they were running for cover. We learn how terrifying it was to live through the event. What also comes across is the anger and outrage of the Parkland community, stirred up by what many of them see as a situation that’s become all too familiar in America.

Directors Emily Taguchi and Jake Lefferman follow a cross-section of Parkland residents, all of whom have a connection to the shooting. They rise up and speak out. The comments are not always the same. While students such as David Hogg call for stricter gun laws, others like Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed by the gunman, demand more resources for school safety instead. Survivor Victoria Gonzalez, whose boyfriend Joaquin was among the victims, simply tries to live her life despite the profound feeling of loss hanging over her. Time is equally divided between their subjects, respecting everybody’s right to process what happened in their own way. Some viewers may find the reactions frustrating at times.

The most compelling moments center on the re-opening of the school two weeks after the shooting. There is a massive police presence, which on the one hand represents a community coming together, but some students claim they don’t actually feel safer and that nothing has been done legislatively to ban assault weapons. Their frustration leads to protests intended to keep the shooting on people’s minds, which eventually connect them to larger national movements to bring about real change. The filmmakers show how the community of Parkland also needs to heal.

At one point, we see students taking part in anti-gun walkouts at towns and cities across the country, and the sight of thousands gathered together to make their voices heard is powerful. They are a portrait of resilience. Unfortunately, such a setting has become too commonplace to fit a particular place or time..

In the first few minutes cries and camera-phone footage stream across the screen in a harrowing and sad opening. The video puts the shooting within a specific period, as the intimacy and visceral availability of such footage is a recent phenomenon. We see the horrifying 6-plus minutes the students experienced that day. It is impossible to see this film with dry eyes.

Interviews with parents like Andrew Pollack (father of Meadow Pollack) and Manuel Oliver (father of Joaquin Oliver), and with students like David Hogg, Samuel Zeif, Brooke Harrison, Victoria Gonzalez, and Dillon McCooty dominate the documentary.  Much like the larger political discussions surrounding the nation, no one feels sure of how to proceed, to grieve, to fix the causes of their collective tragedy.

This is not an anti-gun documentary— the film doesn’t lend itself to either side. Clear opportunities exist for the filmmakers to pit the conservative solutions of respective parents against the liberal-activist demands of the students but the directors do not indulge in this. Instead, they make a personal accounting of grief and the courage to continue living. The footage of other “post-tragedy” events, like the school prom or graduation place a hevy weight on each passing day. We are reminded of the memories parents and their children were robbed of. 

The most poignant scene takes place when the students return for their first day of school. Faces of incoming freshman flash across the screen, teenagers who are only aware of their new school through news coverage. Life continues and is a reminder of the world’s cruel fact. It is not hard to forget the tragic stories that we’ve all heard since that day. The film gives us a look at what happened after the shooting and the far-reaching impacts those 6 minutes and 20 seconds had on so many people. 

The survivors, as well as the families of the victims, vowed that the deaths of their sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and friends would not be in vain. They reached out to their local representatives and challenged them in public forums. They organized marches and helped to register new voters. They wanted this to be the last time this kind of thing happened and they were going to make sure that their voices were heard. We see how people like David Hogg and Andrew Pollack lived their lives after the shooting. They and so many others refused to rest.

We are reminded that this happened in February 2018, and by the end of that year there were 340 Mass Shootings in the US in which 373 people died and 1346 were  injured. This is a film that must be seen and then, perhaps, we will vote out of power those politicians who seem fine to continue having blood on their hands.

“THE FREAKMAKER”— Mad Genius

“THE FREAKMAKER”

Mad Genius

Amos Lassen

The opening of “The Freakmaker (“Mutations”) is the work of mad genius.  The time-lapse photography of plants growing, giving way to shots of carnivorous plants eating insects, accompanied by the creepy narration by Donald Pleasence makes it feel like we are in for quite a film. “The Freakmaker” puts a smile on any horror lover’s face.

Directed by cinematographer Jack Cardiff, it is filled with surprises. Pleasence stars as Professor Nolter, a college professor who spends most of his time in his botanical lab trying to create half-man half-plant mutants.  Whenever he fails, he just sends the botched experiments to the local freakshow.   Lynch (Tom Baker) is his deformed assistant who abducts  college coeds for Nolter’s experiments.  When he turns one of his students into a freak, it prompts her friends to coming looking for her.

“The Freakmaker” blatantly rips off whole scenes from other movies making us wonder how it has never been sued. It often feels two movies spliced together.  The mad scientist plot works with lurid fun.  It is a mix of two stories sewn together.  One story involves a scientist looking to evolve humanity to the next level by making us all cyborgs.  The other story involves a deformed man running a freak show who captures people.  The two join forces to help each other. The film features a crazy creature, as well as some real life freaks. 

Nolter speaks about how plants evolve and adapt to their environment (we see stock footage of just that.) He wants man to evolve like plants do in order to survive.
He’s clearly the perfect genetic specimen, so he has all of the rights to judge us. The other main character is a deformed man who kidnaps people out in the open to experiment on them.
Nolter tries to work and show his crazy evolution machine (which can turn a rock into an orange!) to a colleague but that doesn’t get him far enough so he captures a new victim with Baker. Lynch hides out in a freak show that he runs and the ‘freaks’ celebrate and declare him one of them and this gets him angry.  An experiment earlier worked, giving birth to a new plant-man and he and Lynch target a female lead who ends up as Topless Woman.

Lynch’s plot wraps up before the finale as the ‘freaks’ turn on him and kill him. Nolter’s plant-man shows up and kills him and rescues the victim.  While this is a grotesque oddity, itis kind of fun and crazy at times even with its flaws.  Michael Dunn, who died after his scenes were shot brings a certain grace to the freak show.  Baker plays his role as mostly-menace, but some nice character moments sneak in.  His big one involves him asking a prostitute to say that she ‘loves’ him and offering her more money to do it.  Pleasance is insane here and critics have called his performance wooden. 

The freaks are a bit of a distraction, but they are real people and bring a certain charm. I really hoped that this could be a better film was better than it is. It has a lot of good things that work in its favor but ultimately falls a bit short.

Nolter is a professor at a London university specializing in genetic science. When he isn’t teaching, he uses human guinea pigs to experiment with intent to crossbreed plants with humans. What purposes this serves I’m not really sure and we never find out. Lynch becomes known as the “ugliest person in the world” because of his hideous face deformity. Because of the issues with his face, Lynch has part of a traveling circus freak show. He doesn’t see himself as a freak. He help Nolter with hopes that Nolter will be able to fix his face but we do not really get the sense from Nolter that he even intends to help Lynch. He seems to have his own motives. Again, what those motives are we never really know.

There’s little to no story. You watch some freaks at a circus and that’s about it. There are some mildly entertaining effects along the way, the best being when Nolter turns some poor man into some half plant-half man thing. They’re not great effects, but they are fun and practical.

BONUS FEATURES

  • Blu-Ray All Region
  • New Scan from an archival 35mm print framed at 1:66:1 
  • Featurette 
  • Commentary with Producer/Writer Robert D Weinbach and actor Brad Harris. 
  • Audio Interview with Jack Cardiff
  • Trailer and TV Spot
  • Still Gallery with Isolated Score
  • English SDH Subtitles  
  • Running Time Approx 92m 
  • The initial, limited release includes 2 double sided postcards featuring new and vintage poster art for the film plus a Slipcover with a reproduction of the original, hand painted Art by Mike Tommyrot (Instagram: @miketommyrot) inspired by the European VHS cover DR OF EVIL and the art of Basil Gogos!

“WHISKY GALORE!” & “THE MAGGIE”— From the Golden Age of British Cinema

“WHISKY GALORE! & THE MAGGIE”

From the Golden Age of British Cinema

Amos Lassen

 Available on Blu-ray for the first time in North America,“WHISKY GALORE! & THE MAGGIE” is A Double Bill Blu-Ray Release that features a duo of comic gems with special features Including audio commentary on “Whisky Galore”, the documentary,  “Distilling Whisky Galore”, a 16-page collectible booklet and more!

 Ealing Studios’ output from the 1940s and 1950s not only helped define what was arguably the golden age of British cinema but also fostered the emergence of talented directors such as Alexander Mackendrick (The LadykillersThe Man in the White Suit).

Named one of the BFI’s Best British Films of the 20th Century and shot entirely on location, Mackendrick’s 1949 directorial debut WHISKY GALORE! is a “tight little comedy of pure gold” (TIME) about a Scottish island deprived of its most essential libation. Mackendrick returned to his Scottish roots once again for 1954’s THE MAGGIE. Described by the Radio Times as a “cross between Whisky Galore! and The Titfield Thunderbolt,” this often “underestimated” Ealing comedy gem, which follows the exploits of a wily puffer boat captain, was nominated for three BAFTA Awards. Mackendrick 

Mackendrick, who expressed his love affair with the backwoods of Scotland in both WHISKY GALORE! and THE MAGGIE, was actually born in Boston, his parents having emigrated from Glasgow in 1911. However, he spent a great deal of his life in Great Britain, nine years of which at Ealing where he helped form their particular comedy style with other films such 1951’s The Man in the White Suit (for which he received a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination) and 1955’s The Lady Killers. After the BBC bought out Ealing, Mackendrick left the UK for Hollywood where he would go on to direct Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success(1957), a box office failure that would negatively impact the rest of his career, even though it is today considered among the greatest films ever made. 

 Whisky Galore! (1949)
Inspired by a true story. It is 1943 and the tiny Hebridean island of Todday is plunged into the depths of despair. Spirits are low – for Todday is without whisky! Then one night during heavy fog, a freighter runs aground which happens to hold a cargo of 50,000 cases of whisky bound for America. Soon a battle of wits ensues between the local Home Guard commander (Basil Radford) and the islanders as both attempt to seize the salvaged treasure.

The Maggie (1954)

The “Maggie” is one of the fifty-odd puffer boats which chug among the Western Isles of Scotland. The aging vessel is destined for the scrap yard unless her wily skipper, MacTaggart (Alex Mackenzie), can 

get her repaired. This seems a forlorn hope until he concocts a scheme for the humble “Maggie” and her crew of four to be entrusted to transport the valuable cargo of wealthy American industrialist Calvin B. Marshall (Paul Douglas).

BONUS FEATURES 

  • Whisky Galore!audio commentary by John Ellis
  • Distilling Whisky Galore!documentary
  • The Real Whisky Galore! featurette
  • 16-page booklet with notes by film scholar Ronald Bergen (Blu-ray only) 

About Film Movement— Founded in 2002 as one of the first-ever subscription film services with its DVD-of-the-Month club, Film Movement is now a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, King Hu, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com. Visit www.filmmovementplus.com for more information about Film Movement Plus, the new subscription streaming service from Film Movement.

“ONE MISSED CALL TRILOGY”— Two-Disc Special Edition

“ONE MISSED CALL TRILOGY”

Two-Disc Special Edition

Amos Lassen

“One Missed Call Trilogy” presents a modern, high-tech twist on that mainstay of Japanese folklore, the yurei or vengeful spirit, in the form of its own iconic antihero the terrifying Mimiko.

In the first installment in the trilogy (2003), student Yoko (Anna Nagata) receives a phone message from her future self and it ends with her own death scream. Two days later, she dies in a terrible rail collision. The mysterious phone curse spreads, claiming more young lives. Yoko’s friend Yumi (Ko Shibasaki) joins forces with detective Hiroshi (Shinichi Tsutsumi), whose sister met the same gruesome fate. They work against the clock but can they unravel the mystery before the clock runs out on the next victim, Yumi herself?

Mimiko’s curse continues to wreak bloody havoc in two sequels One Missed Call 2 (2005) and “One Missed Call: Final” (2006), and a TV series and an American remake. This collection from Arrow Video brings together the original trilogy and many in-depth bonus features for the ultimate spine-tingling experience.

The phone messages become an epidemic, while each following the same  pattern of supernatural terror. Director Takashi Miike is an innovator than an imitator, and he normally pushes genre filmmaking to outrageous extremes. For the first reel or so, Miike seems depressingly resigned to adding another film to the pile of mainstream thrillers but we soon see that the director has tricks up his sleeve. 

The turning point comes in a gruesome piece of black comedy. After the second victim receives a message from the future that plays back the moment before she’s going to die, she’s thrown off an overpass and onto a moving train, that decapitates her. Continuing the cycle, the next diabolical call is placed… by her severed arm! From this point, Miike ups the ante with a bizarre macabre twist. Once word leaks to the press about this pattern of scheduled murders, a TV show hijacks the next potential victim for a prime-time special with smiling commentators, a weird psychic, and a countdown to her demise. As her companions die off one by one, and Yoko’s brother try to figure out the identity of this vengeful ghost and what they can do to stop it. 

At a certain point, Miike stops the black comedy and reduces the angry-ghost mystery to a lesson in child psychology and staging the climax in a spooky old abandoned hospital. Miike could have done more to shake up the formula, but he’s still expert at delivering shocks, and his level of craftsmanship is high.

“One Missed Call” is almost totally without  elements designed to capture and hold the viewer’s interest. The film follows a group of teenagers as they’re forced to battle an evil spirit that’s haunting their cell phones – moves slowly while Minako Daira’s convoluted screenplay ensures that even the most astute viewer will have problems following the storyline. At the movie’s core is a mystery that simply isn’t even interesting, even though it’s clear immediately that the complete and utter lack of interesting characters gives us no one to root for.

Set a year after the original, “One Missed Call 2” follows a young teacher (Mimura’s Kyoko Okudera) as she receives a message forewarning her own death and subsequently embarks on a tedious investigation to figure out who/what is behind the deadly phone calls (which has already claimed the lives of a friend and a friend’s father). Although there are just a few creepy images and sequences, the film suffers from an atmosphere of pervasive pointlessness that’s compounded by its overlong running time and slow pace. There’s simply never a point at which the viewer is drawn into what is happening on the screen. There is a lack of character development preventing us from caring about the characters.  The opening hour is dull and the last bit is almost oppressive with  the surviving characters stumbling around a dark mineshaft searching for clues and avoiding the villain. Director Renpei Tsukamoto’s took his images and elements from other, better horror movies. His efforts at establishing an atmosphere of spookiness doesn’t work.

In “One Missed Call Final” the phone call loving ghost is back again. The main characters started an email attack on the demon possessed computer in order to flood its Inbox and cause it to explode and that is what happened. This time the story is about a group of high school kids on a class trip. One of their classmates hung herself due to bullying and now her friend or a ghost or somebody is giving “death calls” to the students and they have an option to forward the “death call” to another person. The story becomes more and more convoluted as it goes on.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentations

  Lossless Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 soundtracks

  Optional English subtitles

  New audio commentary on One Missed Call by Miike biographer Tom Mes

  The Making of One Missed Call, an hour-long archival documentary on the film s production

  Archival interviews on One Missed Call with actors Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi and Kazue Fukiishi, and director Takashi Miike

  Archival interview on One Missed Call with director Takashi Miike

  Archival footage from the One Missed Call premiere

  Live or Die TV special

  A Day with the Mizunuma Family

  One Missed Call alternate ending

  The Making of One Missed Call 2, a half-hour archival documentary on the film s production

  Gomu, a short film by One Missed Call 2 director Renpei Tsukamoto

  One Missed Call 2 deleted scenes

  One Missed Call 2 music video

  The Making of One Missed Call: Final, an hour-long archival documentary on the film s production

  Maki and Meisa, an archival behind-the-scenes featurette on One Missed Call: Final with actresses Maki Horikita and Meisa Kuroki

  Behind the Scenes with Keun-Suk Jang, an archival featurette with One Missed Call: Final‘s South Korean star

  The Love Story, a short film tie-in for One Missed Call: Final

  Candid Mimiko, an archival location tour with the series iconic villain

  Theatrical trailers and TV spots

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin

“MANON”— Manon in Israel

“MANON”

After the Great War

Amos Lassen

This cinematic adaptation of Abbe Prévost’s 1731 novel “Manon Lescaut” was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French director lauded for his acclaimed thrillers “The Wages of Fear” and “Les Diaboliques.” It is a classical tragic romance moved to a World War II setting. It follows the travails of Manon (Cécile Aubry), a village girl accused of collaborating with the Nazis and is rescued from imminent execution by a former fighter for the French Resistance, Robert Desgrieux (Michel Auclair). The couple move to Paris, but their relationship becomes stormy as they struggle to survive. They turn to profiteering, prostitution and even murder. They eventually escape to Palestine where they face a treacherous desert crossing. They hope to find the happiness which seems to constantly elude them. Clouzot gives us an astute portrayal of doomed young lovers caught in post-war France and the film swept the jury of the 1949 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion award. However, it has been unjustly overshadowed by the director’s suspense films. “Manon” now returns to screens in glorious High Definition and excellent extras.

Clouzot had worked in Nazi-occupied France as a screenwriter and director for the German-owned company Continental Films and, after the liberation of France, he was tried in court for collaborating with the Germans and sentenced to being banned from going on set of any film or from using a film camera for the rest of his life. However, his sentence was later shortened from life to two years, so he was only banned by the French Government from film making until 1947.

Clouzot re-tells the story of ambitious, gold-digging femme fatale Manon Lescaut whose insatiable lust for money destroys her relationship with lover Robert Desgrieux and finally her life. Robert is a French Resistance veteran who rescues Manon from villagers intent on lynching her for collaboration with the Nazis. They quickly relocate to Paris, where they become embroiled in crime.

Clouzot gets extraordinary performances from his cast and particularly from Aubry and Auclair, but also from Serge Regianni as Manon’s dirty brother Leon Lescaut, Gabrielle Dorziat as the bordello madam Mme. Agnès and Héléna Manson as a Normandy peasant, The Gossip. The screenplay by Clouzot and Jean Ferry is subtle and impeccable, and the depiction of the post-war Parisian underworld is vivid. The film was shot in black and white by Armand Thirard, produced by Paul-Edmond Decharme, scored by Paul Misraki, and designed by Max Douy.

Bonus Materials

  • 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

“UNA FAMILIA DE TANTAS” (“A Family Like Many Others”)— Lost Family Traditions

“UNA FAMILIA DE TANTAS” (“A Family Like Many Others”)

Lost Family Traditions

Amos Lassen

Rodrigo Cataño (Fernando Soler)  sees and runs his household like his own private kingdom. He demands obedience and respect from his submissive wife Doña Gracia (Eugenia Galindo) and their five children. This is disturbed with the arrival of charming travelling salesman Roberto (David Silva), who convinces Rodrigo to purchase his household wares (a vacuum cleaner and a refrigerator). Roberto also enchants the family’s 15-year-old daughter Maru (Martha Roth). When Maru declares that she intends to marry Roberto, she defies her domineering father and the entire patriarchal order he represents. The film has long been considered one of the key films of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Director Alejandro Galindo’s  family drama shows the tension between tradition and modernity that was taking over Mexican society at the time (1949).

This film is not only one of the most representative achievements of how high were the productions standards in those days, but also artistic precision. It was filmed in the classic American way with a solid narrative, economic shots and a very strong screenplay. The plot is simple but full of heart and mind: It was a cleaning machine that broke the stability of a conservative family; the modern time pulls apart the strong 19th century comfort. Post-revolutionary society enters in crisis: the sons will be raised against his parents to discuss the authority terms. The generational barrier rises. Here is classic cinema that explains the history of Mexican modern urban society in the middle of 20th century.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Mexicans were influenced in their daily lives by France’s elegant and traditional culture. France combined perfectly with Spain’s heritage in their family values. Mexican family members were very close and their Religious beliefs allowed them to see the family as the center of their lives. This changed— after World War II the European influence gave way to the one from the United States, which was totally different. The upper and middle classes younger generations, in a desire of new guidelines looked to the North to adopt what that Country had to offer. Families were never the same since then. The control that the Father once had over his family members diminished abruptly as kids wanted to live their own lives even if this meant not to accept what had been the Patriarch’s decision. This is what this movie is about: the initiation of lost family traditions, which through the beginning of the 21st Century has taken down many families in Mexico. We are encouraged to think about traditions and modernity.

PREMATURE”— A Romance at the Wrong Time

“PREMATURE”

A Romance at the Wrong Time

Amos Lassen

Director Rashaad Ernesto Green introduces us to Ayanna (Zora Howard), a high school senior riding the subway home to Harlem. At first, we do not that realize she’s with friends, she seems to be alone with her thoughts, but she’s thinking of them. She sees  a guy on the other end of the car looking at them and she takes matters into her own hands when he’s too shy to approach, making sure she gets his phone number for her friend. She’ll never be the one to call him herself; she is good at having guys’ numbers.

Howard co-wrote “Premature” with Green. Ayanna never has to speak about her distrust of men; we see it everywhere from her mother cuddling up with a different guy on their couch depending on the day or her friend T, caring for a baby with no father around. Ayanna will soon be at college at Bucknell, so it’s easy for her, at first, to avoid the advances of Isaiah (Joshua Boone), a handsome and thoughtful friend of a friend who  has just arrived in Harlem, but when they meet again at a laundromat but his persistence and charm wear her down.

In one gorgeous scene as night turns into morning, Isaiah asks her to stay and we see her thoughts on her. It is the first time she hears that she did not have to go and we see that she thinks she can trust him. She surrenders to what she feels rather than what she suspects the end result could be and this is quite a moment.  “Premature” lets us know early that its sympathies are totally with Ayanna. Although we worry that she looks for reasons to protect herself and misinterprets Isaiah’s work with a singer as a music producer for flirting. She keeps some things from him that he might be able to ease her mind about, the film rather shows how her instincts can serve her well just as much as they can hurt her happiness.

Howard is amazing in the part. She projects a Bronx bravado that’s been Ayanna’s shield as she figures out who she wants to be. Boone is also excellent— he is smooth and sensitive enough to be a compelling enough reason for her to get rid of all her plans, yet we see his nerves in unexpected ways. The screenplay is both tender and alive is both timeless and relevant for today in its observations of what possibilities there are for the pair romantically and otherwise as well as what stands in their way. While the future isn’t promised, this film makes it feel like anything is possible for those who make it.

When Ayanna meets Isaiah everything changes for her. She’s in love. She deals with her friends, her love and her family and when certain things happen that prove to be life-changing that’s yet something else for Ayanna to deal with.

The script takes place in the different days of Ayanna and the story works through some of its potential melodrama with finesse and truth. Some of the developments feel like normal affectations of Ayanna’s most dramatic summer yet. 

As we move from one major life experience to the next, Green and Howard are the crucial forces that make “Premature” feel so wise as it tells its story of coming-of-age. The charisma comes from the film’s lived-in moments, scenes that are filled with Ayanna’s friends joking with each other, or show Ayanna finding ways to take on the world’s latest new adventure. While this is a film about love, it is also about age, opportunity and timing.