Category Archives: Arthouse
The macabre and grotesque fiction of Russian author Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852) has long been a source for some classic (and not-so-classic) cinematic adaptations – and two of the best are now available in a two-disc Blu-ray edition from Eureka, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series: Aleksandr Ptushko’s Viy (1967), the first Soviet-era horror film, and Serbian director Đorđe Kadijević’s 1990 Yugoslavian adaptation Sveto Mesto (AKA A Holy Place).
Based on Gogol’s influential 1835 horror novella, Viy follows a seminary student in 19th-century Russia who, while on a break from his studies, is asked by a wealthy merchant to pray over the body of his deceased daughter. Rising from her coffin each night, she evokes vampires, werewolves and even the dreaded Viy in a bid to stop him from completing his ritual.
Featuring striking visuals from Aleksandr Ptushko, this is a masterpiece of Soviet and fantasy cinema that requires multiple viewings to understand just how influential it has become on generations of film-makers – including Mario Bava (the I Wurdalak segment in Black Sabbath), Guillermo Del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone & Pan’s Labyrinth) and even Michael Winner (The Sentinel).
Eureka’s 1080p transfer (from an HD restoration of the original film elements) is simply stunning and the extras include a new commentary from Michael Brooke, a video essay on Gogol, an archival documentary on the film, and three Russian silent film fragments – The Portrait [1915, 8 mins], The Queen of Spades [1916, 16 mins], and Satan Exultant [1917, 20 mins].
The second disc features Sveto Mesto (AKA A Holy Place) as a bonus extra – and what bonus it is. I had never heard of Djordje Kadijevic before, and having watched his perversely erotic take on Gogol’s classic tale, I need to see more of his fantasy films which he made for Serbian TV in the 1970s.
Again, it involves a student priest tormented by a young witch (called Catherine here) – but he also expands on the story with three flashback stories that reveal her to be the embodiment of the femme fatale.
Artfully shot, with evocative lighting, it has a 1970s Euro-horror and a rather catchy synth theme tune. Eureka’s set also includes a booklet containing a fascinating essay about Kadijevic by Serbian critic Dejan Ognjanovic, and one on Ptushko by Tim Lucas.
Peter Greenaway’s intricately ornate love story The Pillow Book (1996) follows Nagiko, a Japanese girl (Vivian Wu) whose calligrapher father (Ken Ogata) paints her face on every birthday. As a woman, her continued obsession with body painting leads to a bizarre relationship with Jerome (Ewan McGregor), an English translator living in Hong Kong.
Imitating Sei Shonagon, an aristocratic female courtier living in 10th-century Japan who wrote a journal of exquisitely poetic lists, Nagiko writes 13 erotic poems on the subject of The Lover on the bodies of 13 naked men, including Jerome. But the poise and beauty of Sei Shonagon’s text soon gives way to violence and revenge…
As with most of the British director’s films, 1991’s The Pillow Book is visually sumptuous and intellectually challenging. If you are a fan of his very personal cinema, then you’ll find the film’s languid eroticism utterly beguiling, if you’re not, then it will seem arty, impenetrable and a turn off. But regardless of which side you find yourself on, The Pillow Book is most definitely a revealing showcase for McGregor.
The Indicator limited edition blu-ray release includes the following special features…
• High Definition remaster
• Original stereo audio
• Selected scenes commentary with Peter Greenaway (2015, 38 mins)
• The Book of the Editor (2020, 27 mins): editor Chris Wyatt recalls his work with Greenaway
• Rosa (1992, 16 mins): performance film by Anne Teresa De Keersmaker’s Rosas dance company, directed by Peter Greenaway and shot by Sacha Vierny, newly restored from the original negative by Belgium’s Cinematek
• Image gallery
• Original theatrical trailer
• Original theatrical calligraphic subtitle presentation
• New and improved English subtitles
• Booklet with a new essay by Adam Scovell, Peter Greenaway on The Pillow Book, excerpts from Greenaway’s 26 Facts About Flesh and Ink and the original press book, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Anthony Nield on Rosa, Bruno Mestdagh on restoring Rosa, and film credits
One of the big highlights at FrightFest are the terrific short films from around the globe that get their own showcase over the weekend, and there’s something for everyone this year – from folk horror (Marianne) to body horror (The History of Nipples), the weird (The Cunning Man), the surreal (Five Course Meal), the sinister (Service) and the very odd indeed (The Video Store Commercial).
There are just a handful of tickets left for Showcase 1 and 2… just click on the links below
SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 1
SATURDAY 24 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA from 1pm
Director: Ethan Evans. Cast: Lamissah La-Shontae, Phillipa Howard. UK 2019. 4 min.
A young girl finds herself vulnerable to a sinister mythological farmer after failing to contribute to the annual tradition.
Director: Mai Nakanishi. Cast: Hee-jin Jeon, Do Eun Kim, Jeongbi Lee. Japan 2018. 13 min.
Not all babysitting jobs are alike, as college student Sujin is about to discover when she is left in charge of a strange young girl.
Director: Matthew Losasso. Cast: Mae Losasso. UK 2019. 7 min.
A distinguished investigator is called to the grounds of an isolated rectory in a remote English hamlet to observe an enigmatic young tenant.
Director: Adele Vuko. Cast: Liv Hewson, Brooke Satchwell. Australia 2018. 13 min.
Jade and her friends are on their way to a music festival when they pick up a strange hitchhiker, who makes Jade an offer she might not be able to refuse.
The Dead Ones
Director: Stefan Georgiou. Cast: Olivia Hallinan, Sebastian Armesto, Vinette Robinson. UK 2019. 19 min.
In this world, those whose lives are cut short by violence do not disappear; they live to haunt the person who killed them.
Director: Kim Westerlund. Cast: Sampo Sarkola. Finland 2019. 9 min.
A man regains consciousness as he is being buried alive. Overwhelmed by panic, he tries to force his way out of the box.
Glitter’s Wild Women
Director: Roney. Cast: Grace Glowicki, Cotey Pope. Canada 2018. 13 min.
In the Canadian backwoods, sisters harvest and smoke glitter that gives them super strength.
The Video Store Commercial
Director: Cody Kennedy. Cast: Joshua Lenner, Kevin Martin, Jesse Nash. Canada 2019. 4 min.
A desperate video store owner hires a crew to shoot a commercial in his shop. But when they accidentally destroy a cursed VHS, suddenly, all their lives are in danger.
The Cunning Man
Director: Zoë Dobson. Cast: Simon Armstrong, Ali Cook, Ian Kelly. UK 2019. 13 min.
An old farmer must resort to extreme measures to clean up his dead cattle or face a hefty fine from the Inspector.
The History of Nipples
Director: Bailey Tom Bailey. Cast: Joseph Macnab, Lily Wood. UK 2019. 10 min.
‘What are my nipples for?’ With this question Ron falls into an existential crisis which seems to have only one solution.
SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 2
SUNDAY 25 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA – from 15:45
Director: Theo Watkins. Cast: Paul Clayton, Alison Lintott. UK 2019. 8 min.
Ted is just trying to pay for his shopping, but the shoddy self-service till and eerily elusive shop workers have other, more sinister ideas.
One in Two People
Director: Ali Mashayekhi. Cast: Katie Strain, Jade Hassoune, Ashley Leggat. Canada 2019. 8 min.
Emily’s friends are getting a bit tired of her insistence that someone in her room is trying to kill her. But maybe they should listen more closely.
Director: Suni Khan. Cast: Hannah Arterton, Lewis Reeves. UK 2019. 16 min.
A young couple trying to rid themselves of the past use an unorthodox and bizarre ritual as they rekindle their love.
Tomorrow Might Be the Day
Director: Josefa Celestin. Cast: Jocelyn Brassington, Tim Barrow. UK 2018. 20 min.
A fanatical believer sets into motion a chain of dark events that he believes will spare his rebellious niece from the impending apocalyptic doom.
Five Course Meal
Director: James Cadden. Cast: Melissa Kwasek, Murray Farnell. Canada 2018. 6 min.
Mark and Jenny agree to take part in a mysterious experiment for money. Things get exceptionally messy.
Under the Parasol
Director: Stanislava Buevich. Cast: Sarine Sofair, Joe Wredden. UK 2018. 6 min.
Marie comes to the beach to catch some sun. The only problem is that it’s nighttime…
Director: Hana Kazim. Cast: Mansoor Alfeeli, Mohammed Ahmed, Madiya Humaid. United Arab Emirates, 2018. 15 min.
A fake exorcist visits the home of a man who thinks his wife is possessed by a Djinn, only to find out that things are not as they seem.
Directors: Emily Haigh, Alon Young, Cast: Mhairi Calvey, Jamie Lee-Hill. UK 2019. 11 min.
Vickie has her employment sights set high, but the questions from her faceless male interviewers soon become predatory.
The Obliteration of the Chickens
Director: Izzy Lee. Cast: Bracken MacLeod. USA 2019. 3 min.
The universe does not care. The abyss is stupid. Existence is banal.
Torching the Dusties
Directors: Marlene Goldman, Philip McKee. Cast: Clare Coulter, Eric Peterson. Canada 2019. 14 min.
Frank and Wilma are finding that retirement life is more trouble than they had imagined, as protestors appear outside making some very serious demands.
SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 3 ***SOLD OUT***
MONDAY 26 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA – from 13:00
Director: Evan Powers. Cast: Aaron LaPlante, Lindsey Rose Naves, C.J. Vana. USA 2019. 8 min.
A self-conscious psychopath struggles with his body image while terrorizing a group of unsuspecting campers.
One Last Meal
Director: Jill Gevargizian. Cast: Matt Mercer, Jake Martin, Tim Marks. USA 2019. 11 min.
A prison guard is forced to fulfil an unusual request from a violent criminal on death row.
Director: Tiago Teixeira. Cast: Maxwell Cavenham, Laura Obiols. UK 2019. 13 min.
A man in a self-imposed exile is haunted by a mysterious dog, who transforms into an elusive woman every night.
Director: Matthew Evans Landry. Cast: Natalie Lisinksa, Jordan Gavaris. Canada 2018. 15 min.
Shirley Parker is a real-estate godsend who has discovered a niche market. However, it might put her family in some danger.
Director: Shannon Kohli. Cast: Hannah Levien, Luke Camilleri. Canada 2018. 11 min.
It’s a creepy evening when gas station attendant and recovering alcoholic Callie must deal with a wild beast roaming the area, and the men who are determined to hunt it down.
This Little Death
Director: Alex Hardy. Cast: Sarah Bauer, Jay Simpson. UK 2018. 19 min.
Young chef Zoe who falls for Mortimer the poet. The beginning is filled with love, lust and laughter, but as the months pass, they realise they have very different ideas of happiness.
Directors: Neal O’Bryan, Chad Thurman. Cast: Cassie Carey. USA 2019. 7 min.
A starving boy eats a toe he finds sticking out of the ground. Later that night, something ghastly comes to his bedroom wanting it back.
Director: Katie Bonham. Cast Eleanor Crosswell, Ian Recordon. UK 2019. 8 min.
A ticking clock. Hurried footsteps. A woman struggling. Who are the ghosts that come haunting your apartment at the stroke of twelve?
The Game of the Clock
Director: Michele Olivieri. Cast: Simone Mumford. UK 2018. 7 min.
A young woman innocently comes to a friend’s home, only to find herself stalked by menacing creature, and time is running out fast.
Director: Lewis Taylor. Cast: Mark Field, Joseph Richard Thomas, Péline Liberty. UK 2019. 8 min.
A wheelchair-bound teen complains about lack of personal space to his overly attached father. But maybe he shouldn’t complain when the lights go out.
One of the most underrated filmmakers of his generation, Spanish-born director José Ramón Larraz (Symptoms) finally receives his due with this collection of his work, the first of its kind, bringing together a fascinating cross-section of films from the first half of his lengthy cinematic career.
In Larraz’s debut feature, the hitherto ultra-rare Whirlpool (1970), Vivian Neves stars as Tulia, a young model invited to a photographer s secluded country home for what purports to be a quiet weekend retreat – but soon transpires to be anything but. 1974 s Vampyres – perhaps the best known and most widely-released of all José Larraz s films – sees a duo of blood hungry female vampires prowling the British countryside, from where they lure unsuspecting male motorists back to their imposing, dilapidated mansion for draining… in more ways than one. Meanwhile, in 1978 s The Coming of Sin (La Visita del Vicio), a young gypsy girl experiences a violent sexual awakening as her dreams of a naked young man on horseback become reality.
By turns terrifying, titillating, artful and scandalous, these three films collected here – all newly restored from original film elements, with Whirlpool and The Coming of Sin making their Blu-ray world premieres – collectively offer film fans a unique perspective on the fascinating, highly-varied career of one of the horror genre’s most-overlooked auteurs.
Out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Three films all newly-restored in 2K from original film elements
• English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing for all features
• Newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
• Collector’s book featuring new writing by Jo Botting, Tim Greaves and Vanity Celis
• Original US Theatrical Cut
• Brand new audio commentary by Tim Lucas
• Obsessive Recurrence: The Early Films of José Larraz – author and critic Kim Newman reflects on the recurring themes and underlying obsessions linking together the early productions of José Larraz
• A Curious Casting – actor Larry Dann on the strange story behind his casting in Whirlpool
• Deviations of Whirlpool – featurette comparing the differences between the US Theatrical Cut and a previously circulated, alternate cut of the film
• Archival interview with José Larraz
• Image Gallery
• Brand new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger
• Brand new interviews with producer Brian Smedley-Aston, actors Marianne Morris, Anulka Dziubinska, Brian Deacon, Sally Faulkner, makeup artist Colin Arthur and composer James Kenelm Clarke
• Reimagining Vampyres – a brand new interview with Larraz s friend and collaborator Victor Matellano, director of the 2015 Vampyres remake
Archival interview with José Larraz
• Jose Larraz and Marianne Morris Q&A at 1997 Eurofest
• Image Gallery
THE COMING OF SIN
• Spanish and English language versions of the feature
• Brand new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger
• Variations of Vice: The Alternate Versions of The Coming of Sin exploitation expert Marc Morris on the strange and scandalous release history of José Larraz’s most censored film
• Remembering Larraz author and filmmaker Simon Birrell shares his memories José Larraz
• His Last Request (2005, 27 mins) – short film by Simon Birrell
• Archival interview with José Larraz
• Image Gallery