Category Archives: World Cinema

Vampyr | The uncanny 1932 German horror returns to the big screen with an all-new 2k restoration for its 90th anniversary

“★★★★★ A vampire film like no other… a waking nightmare of eerie, ethereal horror” – Total Film

“As close as you get to a poem on film” – Guillermo del Toro 

Courtesy of Eureka Entertainment comes the release of the 2K restoration of director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s enduring 1932 Germany horror Vampyr, in cinemas (UK & Ireland from 20 May) and on Blu-ray as a part of The Masters of Cinema Series (also 20 May).

The first foray into sound filmmaking by one of cinema’s pivotal artists, Vampyr remains a cornerstone work of the horror genre. The dreamlike tale of an occult-obsessed student’s visit to the small French village of Courtempierre, as he is drawn into the unsettling mystery around a stricken family’s struggle with malevolent forces, remains an unparalleled evocation of the uncanny.

Adapting Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 story, In a Glass Darkly, Dreyer’s ceaseless innovation delivers a tour-de-force of supernatural phantasmagoria and creeping unease, via audacious camera work and sound design, as well as a mesmerising performance from the film’s producer, aristocrat Nicolas de Gunzburg (credited as Julian West), in the central role of occult student, Julian West.

Presented from an all-new 2K restoration by the Danish Film Institute (completed in 2020), and taking more than a decade to complete, this is regarded as the most definitive incarnation of Vampyr possible.

LIMITED-EDITION BLU-RAY (3000 COPIES) FEATURES
• Hardbound Slipcase
• All-new 2K digital restoration of the German version, with an uncompressed mono soundtrack
• Optional unrestored audio track
• Audio commentaries from critic and programmer Tony Rayns and Vampyr fan Guillermo del Toro
• Visual essay by scholar Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer’s Vampyr influences
• Interview with Kim Newman on Vampyr‘s place within vampire cinema
• Two interviews with music historian David Huckvale
Carl Th. Dreyer (1966) – a documentary by Jörgen Roos
• Two deleted scenes, removed by the German censor in 1932
The Baron: short MoC documentary about Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg
• Optional English subtitles
• Collector’s booklet featuring rare production ephemera, a 1964 interview with Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg, and essays by Tom Milne, Jean and Dale Drum, and film restorer Martin Koerber

VAMPYR Limited Edition Blu-ray available to order from the Eureka Store https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/vampyr-limited-edition-box-set-3000-copies/

VAMPYR 90th Anniversary Screenings www.vampyr90.co.uk

Saint-Narcisse (2020) | Bruce LaBruce’s transgressive love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers

Since making his debut with 1991’s No Skin Off My Ass, Toronto filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has challenged audiences with his startling, sexually explicit films whose subject matter has included amputee sex, hardcore porn, gang-rape, castration and racially-motivated violence. Following 2013’s Gerontophilia, however, LaBruce changed direction, eschewing the extreme for a more meditative approach to his ongoing fascination with sexual taboos.

With Saint-Narcisse, he has crafted his most accomplished piece of transgressive cinema to date. Nominated for the Queer Lion award at Venice Film Festival, this anarchic love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers looks certain to mark a turning point for queer cinema’s former enfant terrible. But never fear; he still has a few shocks in store – this time, its twincest. 

Félix-Antoine Duval stars as 22-year-old Dominic, a sexually-adventurous young man in love with his reflection but doesn’t really know himself fully. Finding some unopened letters in his grandmothers’ closet, he discovers a family secret: his mother Beatrice (Tania Kontoyanni) didn’t die in childbirth. Determined to uncover the truth, Dominic heads to the parish town of Saint-Narcisse, north of Montreal, where he is shocked to find a tombstone inscribed with his name and date of death in a local graveyard.

Finally tracking down his mother (who the locals have labelled a witch), he discovers she’s a lesbian who was excommunicated by the church and was led to believe Dominic was stillborn. Now she lives in exile in a cabin in the woods with Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk), her late lover’s daughter. But Dominic also learns he has a twin. Sequestered in a remote monastery since birth, Daniel is being raised and groomed by a priest, Father Andrew (Andreas Apergis), who believes he is the reincarnation of Saint Sebastian. 

Whether dressed in leathers and sporting stubble or naked and shaved, Duval has the look of the divine about him, and his sex scenes (with himself) are both erotic and very tender indeed. It takes a good hour before the twins meet, but LaBruce uses that time to develop the narrative and his characters fully. Setting the film in 1972 also allows him to explore critical issues, such as children being taken away from their mothers (who happen to be lesbian or even just unmarried) and priests preying on the young men in their care.

I won’t reveal what happens, but LaBruce comes up trumps with a scene involving a St Andrew’s Cross, communion wafers, a wedding dress and some Caravaggio-inspired lighting that will stay with you long after the ending.

Kudos go to Andreas Apergis (who appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past and the US version of Being Human) as the film’s villain, the depraved Father Andrew. If his scary eyes don’t creep you out, his toe licking of the equally scary-eyed Saint Sebastian statue will. Oh, and that scene with the (very fit) monks skinny-dipping is gloriously gratuitous.

Saint-Narcisse will be released theatrically in the UK on 22 April
with a DVD and digital release from Peccadillo Pictures on 2 May 2022

The Singing Ringing Tree (1957) | The surreal East German Brothers Grimm fantasy that traumatised a generation

If you happen to have grown up in the UK in the 1960s, then you will most likely recall The Singing Ringing Tree – an East German import whose transmission in three parts on the BBC in November and December 1964 caused an entire generation of children to have nightmares.

The surreal fairy tale adventure, which was originally released in 1957 in East Germany, is a variation of the Hurleburlebutz story by The Brothers Grimm. It centres on a self-centred princess (Christel Bodenstein) and the wealthy prince (Eckart Dux) who desires to win her love by bringing to her the mythical titular tree as a gift.

He finds it in a magical garden ruled over by a malevolent dwarf (Richard Krüger, AKA Hermann Emmrich), but when the princess again rejects him on his return, he loses a bet with the dwarf and is turned into a bear.

The princess, however, still wants her tree so she forces her father, the King, to fetch it. But he too loses a bet with the dwarf who places an ugly spell on the princess. The bear then tells her that the only way to break the spell is if she mends her ways. Will she?

Having grown up in Australia (in the 1970s), I missed out on this classic children’s fantasy – but British friends of mine have very vivid memories – especially the dwarf and the weird giant fish that the Princess befriends. Seeing it now for the first time, I can see why it must have been disturbing for young minds of the era. But it’s also a cinematic gem. I call it East Germany’s answer to the Wizard of Oz. The production design and sets are truly magical. No wonder it was such a hit in his home country, and still fascinates today. Its themes, of course, remain universal – even for the woke generation.

Presented in high definition for the first time, this Network release includes the fullscreen English narrated soundtrack (which was the one shown on the BBC back in the day), as well as the widescreen theatrical version with the original German audio. You can also choose the alternative music-only soundtrack as well as alternative French and Spanish soundtracks. The other special features include a 2003 interview with Christel Bodenstein, an image gallery and a booklet containing an essay by cultural historian Tim Worthington.

Order from Network: https://bit.ly/3yRgVJy

The Great Silence | Sergio Corbucci’s Western masterpiece on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes the first-ever Blu-ray release in the UK of Sergio Corbucci’s 1968 revisionist Spaghetti Western, The Great Silence, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.

The year is 1898, the year of the Great Blizzard, and a group of outlaws are hiding out in the mountains of Snow Hill, Utah after corrupt banker Henry Pollicut (Luigi Pistilli) puts a price on their heads. Now they are being hunted down and killed by a gang of bounty hunters led by the determined, yet vicious Loco (Klaus Kinski).

The outlaws hire Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a mute gunfighter, who kills his targets – always in self-defence – for a price. When Loco murders outlaw James Middleton, his widow Pauline (Vonetta McGee) offers Silence $1,000 to avenge her husband’s death, which sets him on his own path of personal revenge.

Corbucci’s bleak, brilliant and violent vision of an immoral, honour-less West, is widely considered to be among the best and most influential Westerns ever made. The second in his ‘Mud and Blood’ trilogy, which also includes Django (1966) and The Specialists (1969), it is also the Italian director’s Western masterpiece.

But it has taken decades since the film’s release to be regarded so – mainly due to its bleak and pessimistic tone and the devastating climax (spoiler alert: Loco wins big time) which resulted in the producers insisting on Corbucci filming a ‘happy ending’.

This version played well in Middle Eastern countries, while the original version did mediocre business throughout Europe, and never played in the UK until 1990 (as part of Alex Cox’s Moviedrome) and 2001 in the US. It’s only since its theatrical re-release in 2012 and 2017 that the film has attracted renewed interest – mainly over how Corbucci brilliantly subverts Western genre conventions and adds his own political subtext under the surface.

This Masters of Cinema Series features a 2K restoration print on Blu-ray and it’s a terrific way to see Corbucci’s masterpiece. Boasting terrific turns from Kinski (at his most restrained here), Trintignant (whose character was made mute because he had no command of English) and McGee (in a breakout debut that set her on the path to blaxploitation success); stunning landscapes (with Cortina d’Ampezzo, Veneto and San Cassiano in Badia, South Tyrol standing in for Utah); and Ennio Morricone’s lush, melancholic score (which he regarded as his personal favourite) conducted by Bruno Nicolai, you are in for a wild ride. There’s also a host of extras to savour – with my favourites being the Alex Cox audio commentary and the inclusion of 1968 documentary, Western, Italian Style. Plus, there’s that alternate ‘happy’ ending, which makes for a rather interesting debate.

Available to order from: Eureka Store https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/the-great-silence-il-grande-silenzio-limited-edition/

LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY CONTAINS

  • Limited Edition (3000 Copies Only)
  • O-Card Slipcase
  • Reversible Poster featuring the film’s original artwork
  • Set of 4 facsimile lobby cards
  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 2K restoration undertaken and completed for the 50th anniversary of the film’s original release 
  • English and Italian audio options 
  • Optional English Subtitles 
  • Brand new audio commentary with author Howard Hughes and filmmaker Richard Knew 
  • Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker Mike Siegel 
  • Audio commentary by director and Spaghetti Western aficionado Alex Cox, recorded live at the Hollywood Theatre, Portland in 2021.
  • Brand new interview with Austin Fisher, author of Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema
  • Cox on Corbucci – filmmaker Alex Cox talks about Sergio Corbucci [15 mins] 
  • Western, Italian Style – 1968 documentary [38 mins] 
  • Two Alternate Endings (both fully restored in 2K), with optional audio commentaries 
  • Trailers 
  • Stills Galleries 
  • PLUS: A Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing by Western expert Howard Hughes

The Ape Woman | Marco Ferreri’s anarchic 1964 satire gets a 4K-restored release from CultFilms

Italian film-maker Marco Ferreri (11 May 1928 – 9 May 1997) made over 100 very personal films over his long, and often controversial career, but is probably best-known for his 1973 satire La Grande Bouffe and 1981’s Tales of Ordinary Madness based on the work of US outsider poet Charles Bukowski (two of my cult film faves). Now one of Ferreri’s earliest films, 1964’s The Ape Woman (AKA La Donna Scimmia), is in my sights after getting a 4K restoration release on Blu-ray.

The Ape Woman is inspired by the true story of 19th-century carnival performer Julia Pastrana, an indigenous woman from Mexico with hypertrichosis, a condition that meant hair covered her entire body. Like Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man), she was exploited as a freak by her manager. She died, aged just 25, from postpartum complications following the birth of her son (who only survived three days). But her story didn’t end there, for her corpse and the body of her baby were taxidermically preserved and ended up being displayed in museums, circuses and amusement parks around the world for over a century.

Ferreri’s film is set in contemporary (1960’s) Naples and sees Annie Girardot playing Maria, a shy convent novitiate whose condition attracts the attention of Ugo Tognazzi’s wannabe entrepreneur, Antonio. Persuaded with the promise of marriage and money to be made, Maria leaves the convent and moves into a ramshackle backstreet warehouse where she begins to ‘perform’ as a captive wild African ape that Antonio found in the jungle.

At first, Maria feels ashamed but soon becomes more self-assured, while the selfish Antonio begins to feel real love for his wife – especially so when a professor tries to buy her virginity and a famous impresario turns their act into an exotic striptease. But tragedy strikes when Maria falls pregnant, then dies.

Ferreri originally closed his drama with Antonio recovering the bodies of his wife and child from a museum and then putting them on display in a makeshift tent. Deemed too dark and challenging at the time, producer Carlo Ponti had another ending filmed, in which Maria’s hair falls out after giving birth, and she goes on to become a normal wife and mother, while Antonio gets a regular job. It was this ending that scored the film a Palme d’Or nomination. CultFilm’s Blu-ray includes both (which were restored in 4K for the 2017 Venice Film Festival). I must say I do prefer Ferreri’s stark take as it really underscores his anarchic vision.

I thought this might be a tough watch, but Girardot’s performance is captivating as is her character’s journey and development. Tognazzi also brings much depth to the misogynistic Antonio, who starts off cruel and calculating and ends up being just very sad. There’s also a couple of stand-out scenes, particularly so when Maria is forced to sing while being paraded through the streets on her wedding day and the couple’s cringe-worthy Parisian striptease.

If you are not familiar with Ferreri’s work, then the documentary that’s included here is very illuminating. As is the story that the film is based on, which has had me check out whatever happened to Julia Pastrana. Seems she got a much-belated burial in 2012 near her Mexican hometown, Sinaloa de Leyva, after spending decades in storage in Oslo University in Norway.

Available on Blu-ray and digital on-demand from CultFilms

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Full HD 1080p from 4K restoration
• 2.0 dual-mono LPCM Original Italian audio
• Two separate endings: Marco Ferreri’s director’s version and producer Carlo Ponti’s version
• Documentary on Marco Ferreri featuring Gerard Depardieu, Philippe Noiret, Christopher Lambert and Ornella Muti
• New, improved English subtitles

Order direct from CultFilms: https://cultfilms.co.uk/product/the-ape-woman

Death Has Blue Eyes | Nico Mastorakis’ wacky 1970’s paranormal sex comedy action thriller on Blu-ray

There’s a whole lot of love over at Arrow for the crazy cine-verse of Greek film-maker Nico Mastorakis, as they have so far released his 1975 infamous ‘video nasty’ exploitation debut Island of Death (twice), Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), Blood Tide (1982), The Zero Boys and The Wind (both 1986), Bloodstone (1988) and 1990’s Hired to Kill.

I’ve seen and reviewed Island of Death and The Wind, and now have finally caught up with Death Has Blue Eyes, which was released back in April (2021) on Blu-ray in a new HD master in both widescreen and full-frame versions.

Be prepared as this is a wacky, messy but wholly entertaining cocktail of conspiracy thrills, psychic chills and action spills (with a bit of a 1970s sex comedy vibe thrown in).

International gigolo-cum-racing driver Ches (Chris Nomikos) and his dodgy Vietnam vet mate Bob (Peter Winter) meet up in Athens where they encounter the wealthy but mysterious Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin) and her psychic daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi).

All the lads want to do is have sex (with a penchant for threesomes – oo-er!!!), but they soon find themselves in the middle of an international conspiracy – and nothing is what it seems, especially Geraldine, who has a secret agenda.

While Island of Death was released first, this was in fact Mastorakis’ debut feature – and it’s one to watch with a gang of fellow exploitation film fans, while Graham Humphreys’ colourful poster artwork really captures the essence of Mastorakis’ lurid conspiracy thriller.

But what really thrilled me was checking out Jessica Dublin’s credits. She so steals the show here and should be better known as she’s been in so many cult faves – including Visconti’s The Damned, Mastorakis’ Island of Death, Kostas Karayiannis’ The Devil’s Men and was Mrs Junko in Troma’s Toxic Avenger sequels.

Mastorakis made his last feature in 1990, before turning his hand to TV sitcoms, but he’s recently scored renewed success as the writer of the award-winning 2018 documentary, Mykonos, the Soul of an Island.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
  • Two versions of the film: the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version
  • Original mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis
  • Exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi
  • Dancing with Death: tracks from the original soundtrack
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger

Viy (1967) and Sveto Mesto (1990) | Two visually-arresting Nikolai Gogol Euro horrors on Blu-ray

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.

Cinema Paradiso | Giuseppe Tornatore’s lyrical and evocative love letter to the magic of cinema

Set at a time when going to the movies was a near-religious communal activity, director Giuseppe Tornatore’s lyrical and evocative celebration of the magic of cinema won awards across the globe, including the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, five BAFTAs and the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Now, Cinema Paradiso has been giving a luminous 4K restoration.

Philippe Noiret is in winning form (and scored a BAFTA as a result) as the wise Alfredo, a middle-aged projectionist at the Cinema Paradiso movie theatre in a small Sicilian village; while Salvatore Cascio is a revelation as the young film buff Salvatore (AKA Toto), who befriends Alfredo and learns his trade.

Told in flashback, through the eyes of the adult Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) following Alfredo’s death, Tornatore’s semi-autobiographical drama is a bittersweet reflection on youth, love, and regret; and shows just how much a powerful force the flickering screen can be in shaping our lives. As Noiret’s Salvatore’s muses: ‘Life isn’t like the movies – life is harder’, but sometimes we all need to get lost in its glow.

This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray from Arrow Academy features both the theatrical and expanded Director’s Cut, with the following extras (ported over from their 2014 Blu-ray release).

4K UHD SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the restored Cannes Festival theatrical version (124-min)
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the restored Director’s Cut (174-min)
• Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary with Tornatore and Italian cinema expert Millicent Marcus
A Dream of Sicily: A 52-minute documentary profile of Tornatore featuring the music of Ennio Morricone
A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise: A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, featuring interviews with Noiret, Cascio and Tornatore
The Kissing Sequence: Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes in Alfredo’s private reel with full clips identifying each scene
• Original Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer
• Collector’s booklet

Also available is the BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION containing the theatrical version and Director’s Cut, and the DVD SPECIAL EDITION containing the theatrical version in original stereo and 5.1 surround audio. Both editions feature the same extras as included in the 4K UHD contents.

L’Assassino (1961) | Elio Petri’s Kafkaesque thriller is a neglected cinematic gem

L’Assassino (aka The Ladykiller of Rome)Released within months of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte, director Elio Petri’s dazzling 1961 debut L’Assassino (aka The Ladykiller of Rome) also stars Marcello Mastroianni, this time as sleazy thirtysomething antique dealer Alfredo Martelli, arrested on suspicion of murdering his older, far wealthier lover Adalgisa (Micheline Presle). But as the police investigation proceeds, it becomes less and less important whether Martelli actually committed the crime as his entire lifestyle is effectively put on trial…

L’Assassino (aka The Ladykiller of Rome)

Best known for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and The Tenth Victim (read my review here), Elio Petri was one of the finest and yet most underrated Italian directors of the 1960s and 1970s. Highly acclaimed on its original UK release but unjustly neglected since, L’Assassino is a remarkably assured debut from one of the cinema’s sharpest chroniclers of Italian social and political realities; fusing a thriller, a favourite genre of Petri’s, with elements of a mystery plot with a Kafkaesque air, while also being an explicit critique of the rising upper-bourgeois society in Italy in the early 1960s.

Written for the screen by Tonino Guerra (who also did Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Fellini’s Amarcord and Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia); lensed by Woody Allen’s favourite cinematographer, Carlo Di Palma; edited by Fellini regular Ruggero Mastroianni; and with music by Piero Piccioni (whose compositions have recently been used in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook), L’Assassino is certainly ripe for rediscovery.

L’Assassino (aka The Ladykiller of Rome)

THE UK 2014 BLU-RAY/DVD RELEASE
Following a high-definition restoration by Cineteca di Bologna, this is the first-ever UK home entertainment release of L’Assassino and comes in a Blu-ray and DVD combo pack from Arrow Films’ Arrow Academy label.

Alongside the 2k digital presentation of the film, there’s also a host of special features on offer, including the 52-minute documentary, Tonino Guerra – A Poet in the Movies, about the acclaimed screenwriter; an introduction by Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone; theatrical trailer; collector’s booklet (featuring some informative new and vintage writings on the film); and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw.

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles | This award-winning stranger-than-fiction animated tale is a must-see

This multi-award-winning animation from Spanish director Salvador Simó re-tells a transitional moment in cinema history – how Spanish director Luis Buñuel made his second film, 1933’s controversial travelogue Las Hurdes: Land Without Bread.

Based on the graphic novel Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas by Fermin Solis, it begins in 1932, when the scandal of L’Age d’Or, the surrealist satire Buñuel made with Salvador Dalí, led to him being frozen out by his peers. But he gets a lucky break when his friend, sculptor Ramón Acín, wins a Spanish Christmas lottery and gives him the prize money for his next film.

After reading an ethnographic study of the Las Hurdes region of Spain and intense poverty of its occupants (who were so backwards and isolated that bread was unknown), Buñuel hatched the idea of making a pseudo-documentary that would satirise recent documentaries about western travellers in the Sahara. It ended up being just as scandalous as L’Age d’Or and banned by Spain’s conservative forces. Critics, meanwhile, praised Buñuel’s film as being ‘revolutionary’ and a ‘frightening call to arms’.

Director Simó cleverly blends the animated scenes of Buñuel and his team’s filmmaking experience with the powerful and sometimes shocking footage from the original documentary, which Buñuel admitted to ‘heightening’ for dramatic effect. The end result is a compelling insight into the young Buñuel who was still finding his voice as a film-maker. It also pays tribute to Buñuel’s friendship with Acín who tags along to keep his spending in check and ends up becoming his moral compass. Sadly, while Buñuel went on to great heights, Acín’s life was cut short when he murdered by fascists in the first year of the Spanish Civil War.

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is available now in the UK via BFI Player

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