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Death In The Garden (12A.)
Directed by Luis Bunuel. 1956.
Starring Simone Signoret, Charles Vanel, Georges Marchal, Michel Piccoli, Tito Junco, Raúl Ramírez and Michele Giradon. Released on Blu-ray by Eureka as part of their Masters Of Cinema series.
Luis Bunuel was without question a master of cinema, and his mastery popped up over vast chunks of the middle part of the Twentieth century, from the late twenties to the mid seventies. In amongst the classics though there were long periods of buckling down and making ends meet. So when a Bunuel film you've never heard of drops through the letterbox, I think it's reasonable to be a little sceptical about claims to it being “A surrealistic tour de force.”
The Sorry and The Pity (E.)
Directed by Max Ophuls. 1969. Black and White. 260 mins. Released on Blu-ray/ DVD by Arrow Academy.
Or to be more precise: The Talking and The Smoking. For nearly four and half hours a selection of French people, along with some Germans, and English, talk about life under German occupation, generally waving around some form of nicotine dispenser to emphasise their points. Along with Shoah, it is the definitive cinematic oral history of the Second World War; its landmark status, to some extent, confirmed by its use as a running gag in Woody Allen's Annie Hall. Shot for television after the revolutionary events of 1968, to challenge De Gaulle's more heroic and defiant version of history, it was banned from French TV until 1981. It comes in two instalments: Part 1 The Collapse, part 2 the Choice. It is a film about the French Resistance where you have to wait a long time for the resistance to arrive, and when it does, there is less of it than you'd expect.
The 4 Marx Brothers At Paramount. 1929 - 1933 (U.)
Cocoanuts (1929)/ Animal Crackers (1930)/Monkey Business (1931)/ Horse Feathers (1932)/ Duck Soup (1933.)
Five films, four brothers, three discs. These are their first films; (most of) their best films; the films with the crap titles that would never be used for Queen albums; the titles that are so random you can never remember which film is which, or which has which good bit in it. Working your way through this set is to trace the sequence of them marching up to the top of the hill, culminating in the classic Duck Soup, without the marching back down again. In just five years they went from straightforward adaptations of their Broadway hit shows to a form of free flowing mayhem that is among cinema's greatest and purest comedic expressions.
One-Eyed Jacks. (PG.)
Directed by Marlon Brando. 1961
Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer, Katy Durado, Ben Johnson, Larry Duran, Sam Gilman and Slim Pickens. 142 mins. Fully restored version released on Dual Format Blu-ray/ DVD edition by Arrow Academy on June 12th.
One-Eyed Jacks isn't one of the really great movie titles, but it is a pretty good one and it has shown considerable staying power over the years; bobbing on down through the decades, being the name of the brothel in Twin Peaks, and managing to accrue a level of mystique and intrigue that Brando's western probably doesn't deserve. There is something about the idea of One-Eyed Jacks that transcends the actual film.
Mad Max Fury Road: Black and Chrome (15.)
Directed by George Miller.
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz and Riley Keogh. 120 mins.
Most people these days have a fierce allergy to black and white (possibly to the past in general) but not on this site where there has been a run of three black and white releases in a week: La Strada, Twelve Angry Men, The Goose Steps Out. Still, when even Mad Max films are coming out in b'n'w, I think the situation is getting out of hand. Even if you were born a week or two before yesterday, I think you will instinctively baulk at the notion that the best way to see Mad Max: Fury Road is in black and white, even if the person telling you that is its director George Miller.
Twelve Angry Men (U.)
Directed by Sidney Lumet.
Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Jack Klugman, George Voskovec, Robert Webber, Edward Binns and Joseph Sweeney. 96 mins. Black and white. Released on blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
It is cinema's greatest courtroom drama, and it doesn't take place in one. This tale of jury duty is an undoubted classic, a film that has elbowed its way to a position on a plinth just far another above the hurly burly of artistic squabble to be left unpestered. It has two cultural distinctions that drew me to it. One, it is the inspiration for my favourite ever Galton and Simpson line. In their Half Hour parody of the film, Tony Hancock, the chairman of the Jury, makes as impassioned speech to his fellow jurors including the line, “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?”
Hard Times (15.)
Directed by Walter Hill. 1975.
Starring Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Strother Martin, Jill Ireland, Maggie Blye, Michael McGuire, Bruce Glover. 93 mins. Released on Dual Format blu-ray/ DVD as part of Eureka's masters of Cinema series.
In Walter Hill's debut film one of his two stars got to play a character called Speedy. It wasn't Charles Bronson. Bronson was never an actor you could attach the moniker “speedy” too; even when making great escapes he never seemed to be in a hurry. Yet his whole approach to acting was devoted to making the shortest route from A to B, getting the message across with the least fuss possible. Though he was too old for the role of a Depression era bareknuckle fighter trying to make money in illegal streetfights, his minimalist aesthetic dovetailed perfectly with director Walter Hill's. As an action director Hill was all about keeping it mean and lean, but in his first film I think it's the bits of fat that you really cherish.
Directed by Joon-ho Bong.
Starring An Seo Hyun, Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Shirley Henderson, Paul Dano and Giancarlo Esposito. In English and subtitled. Limited cinema release, available on Netflix from June 28th. 121 mins.
International co-operation, hands reaching out over the oceans, nation speaking unto nation, is all very well, but generally such operations result in the production of finely crafted, no expense spared, pig's ears. In the old days we used to get Euro-puddings, unhappy collaborations from different corners of the common market; now we have transcontinental streamed puddings. Okja is a Netflix production of a film by Korea's second most prestigious director (the one that didn't direct Oldboy, but did do The Host), of a script written with Jon Ronson. There's a high quality international cast, many of whom are giving performances that seem brave and interesting for approximately the first minute, before revealing themselves to be utterly cringeworthy*, in support of a teenage Korean girl and a giant CGI Super pig.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (15.)
Directed by André Øvredal.
Starring Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton and Olwen Kelly. 85 mins. On EST on June 19th, DVD, Blu-ray and OD from June 26th.
One of the more nauseating aspects of society's lurch into mainstream nihilism is the way that pathologists have become the new kings of light entertainment. When Agent Dale Cooper dug around under the fingernails of the corpses looking for clues in the original Twin Peaks it was excruciating and transgressive. Now autopsies are a light entertainment staple - get the granny and kids in, Silent Witness is cutting up a good'un. They are the modern day Judith Chalmers, reporting back from places you aren't able to go to.
The Goose Steps Out
Directed by Will Hay and Basil Deardon. 1942
Starring Will Hay, Charles Hawtrey, Barry Morse, Frank Pettingell, Julien Mitchell, Anne Firth and Peter Ustinov. Black and white. 75 mins. Released on blu-ray for the first time as part of Studiocanal's Vintage Classic collection.
Trying to make a quid or two off of the 75th anniversary of a wartime comedy may seem like a desperate move on Studiocanal's part, but when one half of the nation premier power couple is an Arthur Askey lookalike (Big Hearted Arthur with Cold Hearted Teresa – who made that match?) it could be a timely move. As a kid, I spent a lot of mornings and afternoons sat in front of black and white comedies starring musical hall era comics. (I'm so old that when I was a kid Askey was still working, popping up on Crackerjack and the like.) I was more of a George Formby fan myself but a Will Hay film also constituted a perfectly reasonable excuse to stay indoors and avoid the fresh air of a summer holiday afternoon.
A Scanner Darkly. (15.)
Directed by Richard Linklater.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane. Released on Blu-ray/ DVD/ Digital pack from Warners Premier Collection. 100 mins.
You may prefer Blade Runner and Minority Report, but Linklater's 2006 live action animation version of his autobiographical novel is surely the truest cinema translation of his work. It is perhaps up there with Cronenberg's version of JG Ballard's Crash as the finest adaptation of a difficult literary work – and I say that with the confidence of a man who has never actually read the book, but doesn't really feel the need to bother after seeing this.
My Life As A Dog (PG.)
Directed by Lasse Hallström. 1985.
Starring Anton Glanzelius, Melinda Kinnaman, Anki Liden, Tomas Von Bromssen, Kicki Rundgren, Ing-Marie Carlsson, Arnold Alfredsson. Swedish with subtitles. Released on Dual Format Blu-ray/ DVD edition by Arrow Academy on May 8th. 99 mins.
My motto in life, stolen from Homer Simpson, is always do a half-arsed job. There is nothing to be said for excelling, because if you do it will only be used as a stick to beat you with. So it is that the release of Hallström's most celebrated film, indeed an as widely a celebrated film as you could wish to find, in the same week that his new film - the canine reincarnation drama A Dog's Purpose - is out in cinemas, feels like a cruel dig. After the worldwide recognition this received he was able to transfer his talents to Hollywood and become a comfortably successful failure.
Directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg. 1970
Starring James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton, Johnny Shannon, John Bindon, Stanley Meadows, Allan Cuthbertson, Anthony Morton, Anthony Valentine and Ken Colley. 105 mins.
Released on Warner Bros Premium Collection containing Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy of the films.
The first third of Performance is film making on another level, an extraordinary dam burst of creativity and provocation so potent that its influences are still washing up on the shores of popular culture to this day, arguably the most remarkable and dazzling piece of film making ever made on this island. Then Mick Jagger turns up and that's the end of that.
Woody Allen: Seven Films 1986 - 1991 (15.)
Directed by Woody Allen.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986.)/ Radio Days (1987.)/ September (1987)/ Another Woman (1988.)/ Crimes and Misdemeanours shadow and fog(1989.)/ Alice (1990)/ Shadows and Fog (1991.) Available as Blu-ray box set from Arrow Academy.
Arrow's previous two Woody Allen box sets have broadly covered the Early Funny Ones, and then Allen's most productive period. This one boasts one of his most popular films, Hannah and Her Sisters, and one of his finest artistic achievements, Crimes and Misdemeanours, but there are also some very clear signs pointing to where it would all go wrong.