"Criterion's new editions of Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (64) form a sort diptych portrait of Fuller's transition from a career forged partly within the studios to one of arduous independence," writes Josef Braun. "Low-budget, sparely furnished, continuity-negligent and starkly illuminated — with photography from the great Stanley Cortez, who shot The Magnificent Ambersons (42) and The Night of the Hunter (55) — these movies prowled the greasy peripheries of American life for tales of murder and prostitution, corrupt public services and pedophilia, incest and repressed rage. The discs feature numerous terrific supplements, including an episode of The South Bank Show that finds its featured guest Fuller in top-form, but their most inspired elements are the illustrations that adorn their packaging and screen menus, courtesy of Daniel Clowes, author of the graphic novels Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron (93), Ghost World (97), and David Boring (00). Enveloping these movies in Clowes's art enables us to better appreciate the graphically dynamic, sophisticated comic book quality of Fuller's work."
Criterion's also enlisted Robert Polito, poet (Hollywood & God) and editor (Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber), to write the essays for each release. "During interviews about Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss, Fuller disdained cinematic subtlety — typically informing a New York Times writer in 1965, 'I learned early that it is not the headline that counts but how hard you shout it.' Still, Shock Corridor, a brutal fable about a hubristic journalist, Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck), who shams his way into a nuthouse to solve a murder and climb to the pinnacle of his profession, mixes its episodes of sensational bluntness with cunning, even delicate effects, sustained through a succession of astute contrasts and correspondences." And: "Critic Manny Farber, Fuller's sharpest, orneriest advocate, once described his own prose style as 'a struggle to remain faithful to the transitory, multisuggestive complication of a movie image and/or negative space,' indicating that he aimed to write as if from inside the shifting moments of a film. In these two 60s movies, Fuller similarly hustles overtime to implicate viewers in the axial, innermost experiences of his characters, making us feel as disoriented as they do."
Bill Weber in Slant on Shock Corridor: "Fuller's trademark of white-hot, idiosyncratic narrative that owes a stylistic debt to his youthful career in tabloid journalism unfailingly draws laughter in contemporary revival houses with its purple, punchy dialogue ('Do you think I like singing in that sewer with a hot light on my navel?' [Constance] Towers's nightclub angel pleads at one point). But with its focused, expressionistic marriage of florid, theatrically conceived 'madness' and bleak social commentary, Fuller's film overqualifies him as an artist to reckon with; it's cinema pumped purely from the auteur's heart." And Eric Henderson on The Naked Kiss: "Befitting the movie's vibrant cross-pollination of film noir and women's weepies, Kelly's [again, Constance Towers] Peyton Place dreams of domestic fulfillment are harshly derailed, and The Naked Kiss begins to grow positively feral as she uncovers the town's perverse, thriving criminal underbelly. She and Fuller come to the conclusion that even being a two-bit, big-city tramp is nobler than living anywhere that has a Main Street. It's Sirk-on-a-shoestring, and twice as cynical."
Update, 1/20: More on both films from Sean Axmaker.
Alejandro Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre (1989) "is finally getting a digitally remastered, Jodorowsky-authorized, double-disc DVD/Blu-ray release from cult boutiquers Severin Films," notes Marc Savlov, introducing his interview for the Austin Chronicle. The film also screens tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz. At any rate, among other things, Savlov asks Jodorowsky what's happened to projects such as King Shot, which was to have featured Nick Nolte, Marilyn Manson, Udo Kier and Asia Argento, and Son of El Topo (the Russian investors have disappeared).
Douglas Fairbanks's Black Pirate (1926) "has never looked as beautiful as it does on Kino's new Blu-ray release, which is sharp enough to expose the grain of the original film elements," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. Also reviewed this week are Michael Curtiz's Alias the Doctor (1932) and Frank Borzage's No Greater Glory (1934).
DVD roundups. Sean Axmaker, who has a new blog at MSN Movies, Videodrone, and Ed Gonzalez (House Next Door), Mark Kermode (Observer), Harley W Long and Peter Martin (Cinematical), Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel, Stephen Saito (IFC) and Mike Wilmington (Movie City News).
"Pedro Costa made a rare 'painters painting' movie of the French filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and now he has done another with Jeanne Balibar," writes Max Goldberg in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "The two films trail distinct voices: Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (2001) had the voluble Straub, whereas in Ne change rien Balibar speaks an obscure language of process ('Bring out the silences.' 'This is fragile.') that is outside the paltry domain of the conventional music documentary." Ne change rien screens tomorrow and Sunday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
"Precocious, ambitious, and deeply disturbed, [Francesca Woodman] committed suicide in 1981 at the age of 22; her work was discovered in the late 80s and she has since been hailed as a prodigy." J Hoberman in the Voice: "A body artist who used photography as her medium, Woodman was more expressionistic (and artier) than older contemporaries Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Nan Goldin; she made elegantly povera nude self-portraits and rawer Portapak performance videos as a form of psychodrama that concealed as they revealed." C Scott Willis's The Woodmans, opening today at New York's Film Forum, is a portrait of her, her parents, artists Betty and George Woodman, and her brother Charles, also a video artist. "Ultimately, The Woodmans is a haunting study in family dynamics." More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Noel Murray (AV Club, B) Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York, 3/5), Matt Singer (IFC) and James van Maanen.
Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT on Zenith, "a self-described 'retro-futuristic steampunk thriller'": "Skittering back and forth between two time periods and a small group of nut cases, this bewildering collision of noir narration and purple paranoia may be long on atmosphere but is woefully short on sense. This is probably by design, as viewers are encouraged to supplement the pitted story through a number of Web sites for a putative 'transmedia experience.'" Update, 1/20: More from Noel Murray (AV Club, C+). The L's Mark Asch interviews director (and Media Studies professor at the New School) Vladan Nikolic.
IN OTHER NEWS
With 14 nominations, Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, which'll be closing Rotterdam on February 6, leads the BAFTA list, followed by Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan with twelve. Guy Lodge at In Contention: "Despite odd commendable details, this remains a list riddled with lame-brained decisions, many of which show up crippling flaws in BAFTA's voting system. Theirs is the reverse of the AMPAS drill: while the winners in each category are determined by the applicable voting branch (or 'chapter,' in BAFTAspeak), the entire BAFTA membership votes on the nominees across the board. And the cluelessness of some voters about crafts unrelated to theirs is all too evident in some cases."
At last night's Cinema Eye Honors, Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop won what more or less amounts to best film (Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking) and Laura Poitras won the direction award for The Oath. Brian Brooks has the full list of winners at indieWIRE.
New York's e-flux has unveiled a series of video screenings scheduled through May.
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