Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films, an "attractively priced (if modestly packaged) three-disc collection from Sony offers six lesser-known, black-and-white thrillers from the studio," and for the New York Times' Dave Kehr, the centerpiece is These Are the Damned, "a slippery, unsettling blend of social commentary and science-fiction from the exiled American director Joseph Losey. Filmed in 1961 but not released in England until 1963 (and then with severe cuts), it's a transitional work that stands between Losey's last un-self-conscious genre piece (The Criminal, a 1961 prison picture with Stanley Baker, retitled Concrete Jungle in America) and Eva, a strenuously ambitious drama that pointed the way to Losey's later art-house career (The Servant, The Go-Between)."
The New Yorker's Richard Brody: "Losey's strongest critique of the times emerges in his wide-screen, black-and-white images, which convey the superficial charms of conventional society, the reproachful serenity of the sea and the sky, and the despairing humanism of modernistic sculpture — and do so with a unique stylistic flourish. His compositions, with their slow glides, skewed angles, and standoffish distances, seem to have quotation marks around them, as if they were not made for a movie but borrowed from one. They betray Losey's self-aware detachment, which is heightened by his sense that the cinema had become a part of the mediatized madness that he was criticizing."
More from Sean Axmaker, Glenn Erickson and Glenn Kenny, whose new piece here in The Notebook is on Robert Kramer's Route One/USA (1989): "The over-four-hour film takes its sweet time going from town to town, and never manages to define itself, which is part of what makes it so fascinating."
Regulars may remember Brecht Andersch's terrific piece on Losey's Eva and Accident for SFMOMA's Open Space. Michael Guillén gives us a little background on Andersch and an interview; meantime, Joseph Losey: Pictures of Provocation runs at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley through April 16.
"[S]eeing the actual footage that makes up Eyes on the Prize — the heralded documentary about the civil rights movement, coming to DVD for the first time — can still startle for its rawness and drama," writes Scott Timberg in the Los Angeles Times.
"Serge Bozon's singular extraordinary La France (2007), which never received a proper theatrical release in the US but will be available on DVD from Kino this week, might be thought of as the structural inverse of Jacques Demy's Umbrellas of Cherbourg," writes Melissa Anderson for Artforum. "In Demy's 1964 musical, every word of dialogue is sung; within this audacious exercise lies an achingly antiwar film, its hero shipped off to fight in Algeria. Bozon's film, similarly daring, unfolds as a drama about the horrors, loneliness, and camaraderie of World War I that intermittently (four times, to be specific) blooms into a delirious, anachronistic musical."
More from Michael Atkinson at IFC.com, where he also writes: "I dare to say that it's foolish to call yourself a cinephile or movie lover, should you care to do so, if you don't have the attention span required to watch silent cinema. But of course it's just a matter of focus and perspective, not patience. Semi-forgotten beauties like René Clair's The Italian Straw Hat (1927) require far less patience from me than contemporary romantic comedies or franchise blockbusters — for one thing, Clair's farce is as subtle as the smell of the wrong woman on a shirt collar." Out from Flicker Alley.
Speaking of Kino, though, you may have seen yesterday's pointer to David Bordwell's entry on the newly reconstructed and restored version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis; Kino has now announced that the print will tour the US in the summer and that they'll be bringing out the DVD and Blu-ray in November. Hercules has the full press release at Ain't It Cool News.
A new "First Cut" of Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man with an extra ten minutes or so will be out in Japan on May 15, reports Chris MaGee.
Jonathan McCalmont on Black Snow, available from Second Run: "Made in China in the late 1980s, the film initially presents itself as a rather generic art house film in which an alienated and isolated individual battles to re-engage with a society he long-ago turned his back on. However, Fei Xie's approach to this challenge reveals a political culture with a very different set of attitudes to ours."
Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is out today (this was not the poster for theaters) and, back in the LAT, Dennis Lim does a little comparing and contrasting with Abel Ferrara's 1992 Bad Lieutenant: "Ferrara's movie, infamous for its full-frontal nudity, violence against nuns and traumatized schoolgirls, is a serious (and seriously tortured) spiritual drama. Herzog's, despite the crime-procedural trappings and high sleaze factor, is a wild and giddy comedy, with singing iguanas. But there are obvious points of contact and the movies do make for an intriguing (if exhausting) double bill."
DVD roundups. Brad Brevet, Noel Murray (LAT), Bryce Renninger (indieWIRE) and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail).
IN OTHER NEWS
"Few debuts have struck home with more force, yet with more tender powers of observation, than L'Enfance Nue (Naked Childhood), directed in 1968 by Maurice Pialat," writes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. Tonight at the French Institute Alliance Française.
Also in New York tonight, "Paul Slocum presents two television manipulations: a selection of fan-made reconstructions of lost Doctor Who episodes, and the premiere of his latest project, Cops with House Music" at Light Industry. More from Mike Everleth.
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