Category Archives: Avant Garde

Blind Beast | Yasuzo Masumura’s 1969 Japanese arthouse erotic horror shines again on Blu-ray

From the pen of Japan’s foremost master of the macabre, Edogawa Rampo, comes Blind Beast – a grotesque portrait about obsession, art and sensuality.

Waking up inside a dark warehouse studio whose walls are decorated with outsized women’s body parts, artist’s model Aki (Mako Midori) discovers she has been abducted by Michio (Eiji Funakoshi), a blind sculptor who desires to create the perfect female form. Defiant at first, Aki soon finds herself drawn into his warped sightless world in which touch is everything.

This 1969 arthouse erotic horror from director Yasuzo Masumura, adapted from Rampo’s 1931 novel Mojo: The Blind Beast, is a trippy, stylish, fetishistic affair, boasting lashings of dark humour, fantastical set design and way out performances from the two leads. It now gets a Blu-ray release from Arrow, alongside some entertaining extras. Check out the trailer and special contents below.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand new audio commentary by Asian cinema scholar Earl Jackson
• Newly filmed introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
Blind Beast: Masumura the Supersensualist, a brand new visual essay by Japanese literature and visual studies scholar Seth Jacobowitz
• Original Trailer
• Image Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella
• Illustrated booklet featuring new writing by Virginie Sélavy (first pressing only).

Jubilee (1978) | Derek Jarman’s anarchic punk satire still stings after 40+ years

Jubilee (1978)

Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported forward in time by her court astrologer, John Dee (Richard O’Brien) to a shattered Britain of the 1970s, where the present Queen is dead, Buckingham Palace has been turned into a recording studio, and law and order have completely broken down. Moving through the city, Elizabeth observes a group of aimless nihilists, including Amyl Nitrite (Jordan), Bod (Runacre in a dual role), Chaos (Hermine Demoriane), Crabs (Nell Campbell), and Mad (Toyah Willcox)…

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This notorious study of British punk culture from avant-garde director Derek Jarman has garnered a huge cult following over the years. But when it was first released (on 3 February 1978 in the UK), Vivienne Westwood famously created a T-shirt with an open letter to Jarman printed on it denouncing the film and his misrepresentations of punk. And when it got its first C4 screening, it was deemed ‘corrupting, pernicious filth’.

Vivienne Westwood, “Open T-Shirt to Derek Jarman…,” 1978.
Collection: V&A, London

Today, Jubilee stands as one of the few British features of the  late-1970s to capture on film performances and cameos from some of most iconic bands of the era, including Adam and the Ants, The Slits, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. And for that reason alone is why you should add the BFI’s 2018 Blu-ray to your collection. Featuring a 2K re-master from the original camera negatives, and presented in both HD and SD (on the DVD). A must-see over and over.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• A Message from the Temple (1981, 5 mins)
Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014, 8 mins); the singer and actress looks back on her role in Jubilee
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018, 33 mins): punk icon Jordan looks back on her friendship with Derek Jarman and the making of Jubilee
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018, 17 mins): Derek Jarman’s friend, and later collaborator recalls his unconventional involvement in the making of Jubilee
Jubilee image gallery
• Illustrated booklet featuring a contemporary review

Night Tide | Curtis Harrington’s cult fantasy feature debut and eight rarely-seen experimental shorts get a luminous UK release on Blu-ray

Presented by Nicolas Winding Refn in a new 4K restoration, Curtis Harrington’s 1961 fantasy thriller Night Tide is an offbeat classic of American independent cinema, and it makes its UK Blu-ray debut with this must-have box-set from Powerhouse Films.

Night Tide sees Dennis Hopper (in his first starring role) playing a sailor on shore leave in San Diego, where he meets a young woman called Mora (Linda Lawson) who not only works in a sideshow as a mermaid, but actually believes she is one of the mythical Sirens, who lure young men to their deaths…

A dream-like fusion of arthouse, expressionism and the surreal, dominated by high-contrast lighting and deep shadows, Harrington’s first feature pays homage Val Lewton (one of Harrington’s heroes) and his classic 1942 chiller Cat People – and cements the young film-maker’s poetic cinematic vision that was born out of his earlier experimental shorts. This new restoration is simply luminous and one that I can happily watch over and over again.

Exclusive to this two-disc region free set is a bonus Blu-ray devoted to eight of Harrington’s short films. Previously released by Flicker Alley and Drag City in the US following painstaking restoration by the Academy Film Archive (that was carried out between 2003 and 2007 – the year of Harrington’s death, aged 80), these shorts (also making their UK Blu-ray debut) are a key insight into Harrington’s development as a film-maker…

The Fall of the House of Usher (1942, 10 mins): Inspired to become a film-maker after reading Paul Rotha’s The Film Till Now: A Survey of World Cinema, Harrington was just 16 when he crafted this hallucingenic and campy homemade short in which he plays both Roderick and Madeline Usher. It might be very low budget is bursting with style that would later inform his cinematic vision.

Fragment of Seeking (1946, 14 mins): This ‘examination of youthful narcissism’ was heavily influenced by Maya Deren’s influential Meshes of the Afternoon and is very much a companion piece to Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks in its exploration of homosexuality. In fact, when the two friends first screened their ‘erotic dream pieces’ to an LA art group, they were deemed ‘very sick boys’. Good on them!

Picnic (1948, 23 mins): Harrington persuaded his own parents to star in this ‘satire of middle-class life’, in which an angry young man chases false love and desires to escape authoritive control. Acclaimed French director and film critic Jacques Rivette praised the film’s poetic expression.

On the Edge (1949, 6 mins): Surrealism comes to the fore in this powerful short about youthful dissatisfaction and human frailty, which uses the wild and desolate landscape of Salton Sea (near Brawley, California) to great effect.

The Assignation (1953, 8 mins): In this love letter to Venice and in his first short in colour that was long deemed lost until it was rediscovered in the vaults of the Cinematheque Française, Harrington explores themes of ‘fleeting human connection’ while also showcasing the city’s brooding architecture.

The Wormwood Star (1956, 10 mins): This is my personal favourite and comes with a very interesting history. Entranced by the LA artist Marjorie Cameron, a magnetic and alluring woman whom he had met while appearing in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and who makes a witchy cameo in Night Tide, Harrington crafted this arty occult short to ‘present Cameron/the artist as alchemist who, through her creative work, becomes herself transmuted into gold’.

Very much part of the occult milieu of Southern California at the time, Cameron was a unique and troubled soul whose lovers included rocket scientist and Aleister Crowley follower Jack Parsons (who developed a belief system that was later appropriated by Ron L Hubbard — guess what that was?) and psychedelic artist Burt Shonberg (who was commissioned to create the ancestor paintings in Roger Corman’s House of Usher). Cameron later burned most of the pieces that appear in the short (which was filmed in the home of surrealist collector Edward James), so this is only record of her unique artistry.

The Four Elements (1966, 13 mins): Commissioned by the United States Information Agency, Harrington was tasked to make this propaganda film to show off the might of American industry. He does so, but with his distinctive flair. Following this short, Harrington went on to craft a host of psychological thrillers like Games (1967) and Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) that have now attracted cult status, and TV movies like Cat Creature (1973) and Killer Bees (1974), then ended up helming episodes of the biggest and campest soaps of the 19870s, Dynasty and The Colbys.

Usher (2002, 37 mins): This final inclusion sees Harrington return to what made him become a film-maker in the first place: ‘the art of it’. Filmed at his home with a crew made up of friends (and Church of Satan members, Nikolas and Zeena Schreck), its an atmospheric and humourous take on the same Poe tale that began his cinematic journey.

This box-set is currently my No.1 home entertainment release of 2020, and could only be bettered by seeing all of Harrington’s features and TV movies in another box-set or two. In the meantime, here are the complete specs on Powerhouse/Indictator’s fabulous release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
DISC ONE: NIGHT TIDE
• New 4K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary (from 1998) with writer-director Curtis Harrington and actor Dennis Hopper (This is a must-listen and very informative on the making of the film – also a piece of cinema history as both of them are no longer with us)
• New audio commentary with writer and film programmer Tony Rayns (excellent as always)
Harrington on Harrington (2018, 25 mins): wide-ranging archival interview with the filmmaker
The Sinister Image: Curtis Harrington (1987, 57 mins): two episodes from David Del Valle’s public access series devoted to cult cinematic figures (It was fantastic to finally see this)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
• New and improved English subtitles

DISC TWO: DREAM LOGIC – THE SHORT FILMS OF CURTIS HARRINGTON
• High Definition remasters
• Original mono audio
• Eight short films: The Fall of the House of Usher (1942, 10 mins); Fragment of Seeking (1946, 14 mins); Picnic (1948, 23 mins); On the Edge (1949, 6 mins); The Assignation (1953, 8 mins); The Wormwood Star (1956, 10 mins); The Four Elements (1966, 13 mins); Usher (2002, 37 mins)
• Image gallery: production photography and a rare selection from Harrington’s personal collection
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• 80-page collector’s book featuring new writing on Night Tide by Paul Duane, Curtis Harrington on Night Tide and the short films, archival articles by Harrington on horror cinema, experimental films and the making of Picnic, an overview of critical responses, Peter Conheim on the restoration of Night Tide, and film credits
• Limited edition exclusive set of five facsimile lobby cards

Arrow Video FrightFest 2019 – Short Film Showcase

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

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 2

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 1
SATURDAY 24 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA from 1pm

Wither 
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.

Hana 
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.

Marianne 
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.

The Hitchhiker 
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.

Abyssus
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

Service 
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.

Old Beginnings 
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…

Makr 
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.

Patron 
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

Pig 
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.

Dog Skin
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.

Re-Possessed Homes 
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.

Hunting Season 
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.

Toe 
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.

Midnight 
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.

Sleep Tight 
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.

Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 | Six of the best from the iconoclastic British artist collected and restored on Blu-ray

Jarman Volume 124 years have gone by since his death aged just 52, but the legacy of British filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942-1994) lives on, and his highly personal work has lost none of its relevance or impact. The BFI have now released the first of two deluxe limited edition box sets that bring together six of his feature films on Blu-ray for the first time.

In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Jarman’s debut abstract short film is comprised of a series of Super 8 films and is provided with a soundtrack from music group Throbbing Gristle. Personally, it was thanks to this film that I started experimenting with my own short films, and turned me into a big fan of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Coil.

Sebastiane (1976), Jarman’s debut feature film, spoken entirely in Latin and featuring an ambient score from Brian Eno, is an homoerotic account of the life and martyrdom of Saint Sebastiane (Leonardo Treviglio), a Roman soldier who is exiled to a remote outpost where his commanding officer (Barney James) becomes obsessed by him.

Jubilee (1978) | Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported through time from 1578 to 1978 by her astrologer John Dee (Richard O’Brien), where she sees what has become of her once glorious kingdom where law and order has broken down. Adam Ant, Toyah Wilcox and Jordan co-star.

The Tempest (1979) | Jarman creates his own interpretation of Shakespeare’s final play. Abandoned on a remote island by his brother Antonio (Richard Warwick), Prospero (Heathcote Williams), the former Duke of Milan, engineers a shipwreck to bring Ferdinand (David Meyer) the Prince of Naples, and his daughter Miranda (Toyah Wilcox) together in a bid to restore peace between Milan and Naples.

The Angelic Conversation (1985), a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets are read by Judi Dench over atmospheric music by Coil and tableaux images of landscapes and people.

Caravaggio (1986) | A heavily stylised biopic of the Renaissance Italian painter Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) who falls in love with his muse, street thug, Ranuccio Thomasoni (Sean Bean).

Derek Jarman’s first six feature films have all been newly scanned at 2K from original film elements and are presented in this first box set alongside some incredible extras (listed below), all drawn from Jarman’s archive of workbooks and papers held in BFI Special Collections, plus a host of interviews with key cast, crew and friends, which have been exclusively produced for this release.

You can purchase Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 direct from the BFI bookshop or from Amazon and HMV (in the UK).

SPECIAL FEATURES
Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (1975): newly remastered from 16mm film elements held by the BFI National Archive, this sadly incomplete early black and white work-print differs significantly from the finished film. This previously unseen alternate edit – assembled in a different order, featuring a different soundtrack – was never subtitled or released
The Making of Sebastiane (Derek Jarman & Hugh Smith, 1975): previously unseen Super 8 footage shot on location in Sardinia
Jazz Calendar (1968): a rarely screened documentary record of the 1968 ballet by Frederick Ashton, performed by The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, for which Jarman designed sets and costumes
Sloane Square: A Room of One’s Own (1974-76)
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers Sebastiane (2018)
• Message from the Temple (1981)
• TG: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981)
Pirate Tape (WS Burroughs Film) (1982)
Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014)
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018)
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018)
Stormy Weather: the Magic Behind The Tempest (2016): Toyah Willcox and Stuart Hopps share their memories of working on The Tempest
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers The Tempest (2018)
• Don Boyd remembers The Tempest (2018)
A Meeting of Minds: Christopher Hobbs on collaborating with Derek Jarman (2018)
Fragments of Memory: Christopher Hobbs on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
To the Cliffs: James Mackay on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
Derek Jarman: The Films that Never Were (2018): A look back on unrealised Derek Jarman features, including Egyptian period drama Akhenaten and science fiction horror Neutron
Akhenaten Image Gallery & Neutron storyboards
• Audio commentary for Caravaggio by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain
Caravaggio in Docklands (1985)
Kind Blasphemy: Nigel Terry on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Tilda Swinton on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Italy of the Memory: Christopher Hobbs on Caravaggio (2007)
• Dexter Fletcher on Caravaggio (2014)
• Christopher Hobbs remembers Caravaggio (2018)
• Derek Jarman interviewed by Derek Malcolm (1986, audio only)
In the Studio: Caravaggio soundtrack recording sessions (1986, audio only)
• Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio notebook (Gallery)
• Five galleries featuring storyboards, production designs and Jarman’s notes on Caravaggio
• Image galleries
• Original theatrical trailers for The Angelic Conversation and Caravaggio
• 80-page collector’s book

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Der Todesking (1989) | Jörg Buttgereit’s ‘Let Us Die’ existential horror gets a deluxe release in HD

DER TODESKING

The second feature film from German underground director Jörg Buttgereit, Der Todesking (aka The King of Death) gets the Arrow treatment on Blu-ray and DVD.

Der Todesking (1989)

‘In six days, God created heaven and earth. On the seventh, day he killed himself…’
And so, we The Brotherhood of the Seventh Day’ say ‘ Let Us Die’!

As a chain letter from an unseen, unknown group circulates encouraging its recipients to end their lives, a series of grim murder-suicides unfold over the course of a week while a body rots in limbo… But could this all be in the mind of a schoolgirl?

On Monday, a hard-working white collar worker climbs into a bath and takes a lethal overdose of pills.

On Tuesday, a slacker settles down to watch a Nazi death camp exploitation VHS film in which a victim is castrated with a pair of shears. But when his wife returns, he pulls out a gun and blows her head off (and then frames her bloodstains). But it all turns out to be a movie playing on TV in a room where a man’s dead body hangs.

On Wednesday, a woman pining for her former lover takes a rest on a park bench, where a man divulges his marital problems that ended in his wife’s decipitation. The woman then aims a gun at the man’s head. But before she can shoot, he takes the gun from her and blows his head off.

Der Todesking (1989)

On Thursday, the names of several people who committed sucide appear over shots of a bridge where people have jumped to their deaths.

On Friday, a woman living alone is so jealous of the couple in the apartment opposite that she schemes to interrupt their love-making. But when she tries calling the couple, she gets no answer because they have just joined the Brotherhood of the Seventh Day’s suicide cult.

On Saturday, a projector plays several reels of 16mm film in which a woman ties a camera to her body and heads to a heavy metal gig where she films herself shooting a gun at the concert-goers before turning it on herself.

On Sunday, a man, driven to madness by some unspecified mental disturbance, repeatedly slams his head into a wall before collapsing in a pool of his own blood.

Der Todesking (1989)

Jörg Buttgereit is most one of those Marmite directors whose transgressive films (Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2) you either ‘get’ or loathe. I’m certainly a big fan of his DIY underground style of film-making, which elevates the super 8mm home movie format (and 16mm) into arthouse territory.

Der Todesking is Buttgereit’s most accomplished work: an unapolegtic existential howl of rage laced with dark humour and the odd cinematic in-joke. Tuesday’s episode is an homage to the king of existential European art cinema, Jean-Luc Godard: beoming a joke about art, just like Weekend and Pierrot Le fou. While the other vignettes deal with some very serious issues: rejection, depression and mental illness.

But the episode that inventively fuses art with social comment is ‘Saturday’. Made up of bits of found-footage (surely ground-breaking back in the 1990s), it may have been inspired by the 1966 murder of 16 people by the Texas Tower Sniper, Charles Whitman (which informed Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets), but it also has continued relevance – especially when you consider the awful gun-led murder sprees (mainly in the US) that continue to dominate the news and make us question our humanity.

Der Todesking (1989)

Der Todesking is all bound together by some polar opposite imagery: a rotting corpse in limbo (like a Francis Bacon painting: all fleshy tones set against a blackened backdrop) and a little girl happily drawing a image of Death (which bizarrely has become a popular tattoo) in a playground where the gay laughter of other children can also be heard. What’s most unsettling about these striking sunlight scenes is that all that we have just witnessed might have come from the imagination of the little girl. It’s food for thought and worthy of discussion.

Arrow’s release features a brand-new director-approved HD transfer from the original 16mm negative in high definition (on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD), with the original stereo audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray), and optional English subtitles.

Der Todesking (1989)

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary by Jörg Buttgereit and co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen
From Bundy to Lautréamont: Jörg Buttgereit interviewed at the 2016 Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films (the same place where Der Todesking had its British premiere on 14 October 1990)
Todesmusik: actor and composer Hermann Kopp on his numerous collaborations with Buttgereit
Skeleton Beneath the Skin: Graham Rae on the phenomenon of Todesking tattoos (plus, tattoo gallery)
• The Making of Der Todesking: Vintage production featurette (viewable with both an English-language audio track and a German-language audio track with subtitles)
The Letter: This is the alternate English-language chain letter insert used for the original UK VHS release
Eating the Corpse: Footage from the January 25 1990 premiere in Berlin at the Sputnik cinema using music from the film
Corpse Fucking Art: 1992 documentary on the making of Nekromantik, Der Todesking and Nekromantik 2 (choice of English-language and German-language with subtitles)
Die Reise ins Licht: Short film by Manfred O Jelinski (1972, 27mins) – Based on an LSD trip, this is a cardboard and paper 2001: A Space Odyssey-styled sci-fi set in a Blake’s 7 quarry. It’s actually more entertaining than John Carpenter’s student lo-fi Dark Star, and features some evocative bombed out ruins. Jelinski also provides an optional commentary – in broken English, which he apologises for.
Geliebter Wahnsinn (aka Beloved Madness): Short film by Manfred O Jelinski (1973, 7mins) – The hypnotic soundtrack (which reminded me of the Oz-electronic outfit, Severed Heads) is a perfect fit to the fusion of double-exposure and cut-ups that make up this widely experimental oddity.
Der Gollob: Short Super 8mm film by Jörg Buttgereit with optional audio commentary (1983, 25 mins, HD) This is Buttgereit’s take on Alien, in which some cops (played by Buttgereit and some mates) track down a pink putty-faced monster (a transmutated pizza) in the basement of a suburban Berlin house.
• Image Gallery
• Trailer Gallery

DER TODESKING

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Endless Poetry (2016) | Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ode to beauty is one of pure exalted joy

Endless Poetry (2016)

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If you’re already familiar with the outré  cinema of Alejandro Jodorowsky, then you’re going to have a whole lot of fun spotting the real-life influences on his 1989 surreal horror Santa Sangre in this exuberant follow-up to his 2013 auto-biopic The Dance of Reality.

Endless Poetry (2016)

In 1940’s Santiago, alienated youngster Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) has an epiphany that his destiny is to become a poet. When he finally rebels against his ultra conservative father, Alejandro (now played by the director’s real-life son, Adan) moves in with a group of young anti-establishment artists, where he turns his hand to puppetry and clowning. Immersing himself in this carefree creative world, Alejandro’s metamorphosis leads him to discover an inner truth: that every path in life (both good or bad) is meant to be lived…

Endless Poetry (2016)

This is one Jodorowsky’s most personal films, where he strips away layers of ego to lay bare his inner self – and, in doing so, reveals up his influences for Santa Sangre. It’s also very much a family affair (both on and off-screen), for at the heart of his second auto-biopic is the troubled relationship that the director’s twentysomething self had with his father Jaime (played by another of Alejandro’s sons, Brontis).

Endless Poetry (2016)

Jodorowsky’s portrayal of Jaime is very much like the character of Orgo in Santa Sangre, which centred on the circus performer’s unstable son Fenix (who were played by brothers Adan and Axel) enacting revenge in the guise of his dead mother.

Watch carefully and you’ll spot a man with missing arms appearing in Endless Poetry. This is another reference to the director’s brilliant surreal horror in which Fenix’s mother Conchita has her arms cut off by Orgo after pouring acid on his testicles. Two other characters also appear – the Tattoo Lady (in the form of Alejandro’s red-headed muse) and the tutu-wearing Alma (as a dance-obsessed member of the art collective).

Endless Poetry (2016)

Endless Poetry (2016)

In Jodorowsky’s universe symbolism is everything, and here he weaves a visually-rich tapestry in which every image is a metaphor or signifier linked to the Tarot’s cycle of birth, death and renewal. Some images are quite strong – almost too much so, like the sex scene involving a dwarf having her period – but in Jodorowsky’s hand, these images become transformative rather than for shock value.

Others – like the incredible Day of the Dead carnival sequence – are just pure exalted joy. United these stunning images bring to visceral life the chaotic paths that we must all take to seek out our own inner truth, self enlightenment and life’s ‘endless’ poetry, which only Jodorowsky can get away with describing as ‘the luminous excrement of a toad that swallowed a firefly’ and make it sound truly beautiful.

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Man With a Movie Camera and Other Works by Dziga Vertov (1929) | Five Soviet cinema masterpieces in HD

Man With A Movie Camera (1929)

Voted the greatest documentary of all time in the 2014 Sight & Sound poll, Soviet director Dziga Vertov’s radical, ground-breaking 1929 city-symphony, Man With a Movie Camera (Chelovek’s kino-apparatom), used every trick in the cinematic textbook and invented new ones to record Moscow’s masses at work and at play from dawn to dusk, while celebrating the cameraman as hero.

Hugely influential, Vertov’s dazzling film certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the most contemporary of silent movies – and continues to inspire awe with each revisit thanks to its virtuoso camera trickery. This is cinema absolute and essential viewing.

Man With A Movie Camera (1929)

In July 2015, the BFI released a Special Edition Blu-ray of the documentary featuring a score by Michael Nyman (read all about it here). Eureka’s Masters of Cinema new Dual Format release features the 2014 HD restoration from EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam and Lobster Films, with brand new score by the Alloy Orchestra, alongside newly restored prints of four of Vertov’s silent classics (below). The special features include audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin, a video interview with film scholar Ian Christie on Vertov’s career, a visual essay by filmmaker David Cairns, and a collector’s booklet.

Other Works by Dziga Vertov
Kino-Eye (1924, 78min): this seminal propaganda documentary is the most successful application of Vertoz’s principals and editing techniques, and paved the way for the deconstructionist movement. It is featured here with a newly recorded score by Robert Israel.
Kino-Pravda No.21 (1925, 36min): one of 23 newsreels made over three years, this film charts the success of Soviet progress under Lenin. It was also the name of the movement (Film Truth) spearheaded by Vertov who envisaged a cinema composed entirely of such newsreels that followed the principles developed in Kino-Eye.
Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbass (1931, 67min): this avant-garde aural experiment dedicated to the First Five Year Plan was the first sound film shot in the Ukraine and featured a complex, pioneering soundtrack (Charlie Chaplin was a fan) that was made up of machinery and factory noises.
Three Songs of Lenin (1934, 61min): this poetic propaganda film is based on three songs of the Soviet East. The first shows secular Communism’s victory over Islam and the empowerment of women, the second shows a country in mourning over Lenin’s death, and the third showcases Soviet military might and industrial expansion.

 

The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) | Wojciec Has’ surreal supernatural masterpiece restored on Blu-ray

The Saragossa ManuscriptA huge favourite of cult director’s Luis Buñuel and David Lynch, as well as rock star Jerry Garcia, the surreal supernatural tale The Saragossa Manuscript  from legendary Polish director Wojciec Has is a mysteriously magical and sometimes disturbing 1960s cult classic like no other.

Adapted from the highly esteemed explorer Jan Potocki’s magnum opus, The Saragossa Manuscript encompasses a whole new supernatural world. During Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, two soldiers of opposing sides discover a strange manuscript at an Inn.

Spanning centuries and nations the magical text chronicles the adventures of Alfonso van Worden and follows a rich slew of journeys from the humorous to the horrifying, to the chilling final revelations.

Alternatively frightening and comical in its mind-bending exploration of human nature, the surreal 1965 film beautifully presents Has’ intricate approach to story telling, and is now available in a restored version on Blu-ray from Mr Bongo Films.

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The Jacques Rivette Collection | The French director’s most celebrated New Wave adventures restored

The Jacques Rivette CollectionFrom those fine purveyors of world cinema Arrow Academy comes the Jacques Rivette Collection, which brings together some of the director’s hardest to see works, each given a 2k restoration, newly translated and debuting on home video (Blu-ray and DVD) for the first time in UK.

Out 1 is one of the crowning achievements of Rivette’s remarkable career. Conceived as a television mini-series, this 13-hour monolith consists of eight feature-length episodes revolving around two theatre companies, blackmail and conspiracy. Multiple characters introduce multiple plotlines, weaving a rich tapestry across an epic runtime. Originally screened just the once in its full-length version in 1971, Out 1 was then re-conceived by Rivette as a four-and-a-half-hour feature and re-named Out 1: Spectre to acknowledge its shadow-like nature.

Complementing Out 1 are two ‘parallel films’, Duelle (une quarantaine) and Noroît (une vengeance). The former sees Rivette head into fantasy territory: the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) search for a magical diamond in present-day Paris. The latter is a loose adaptation of The Revenger’s Tragedy and a pirate tale, starring Geraldine Chaplin. Also included is Merry-Go-Round, in which Joe Dallesandro and Maria Schneider are summoned to Paris, kick-starting the most surreal of all Rivette’s mysteries.

rivette_montage

Arrow Academy’s limited edition Blu-ray/DVD box-set (only 3000 copies) includes the following bonus features…
The Mysteries of Paris: Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 Revisited – a brand-new feature length documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew, and director Jacques Rivette.
Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers – archive interview with the director, in which he discusses Duelle, Noroît and Merry-Go-Round.
• Interview with critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who reported from the sets of both Duelle and Noroît.
• Collector’s book containing new writing on the films.

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