A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…
Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.
You know the doldrums of the summer blockbuster season are finally over when interesting movies start to trickle back into theaters…
IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010): A mystery/action epic set in a fantastical steampunk China; the titular detective investigates a spontaneous human combustion plague. Many are saying this is a return to form for once-great director Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China, Zu Warriors). Opening in New York and LA, with playdates in major North American cities throughout September. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame official site.
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life [Gainsbourg: Vie Heroique] (2010): Biopic about the dashing chanteur who slept with Bardot and Birkin; it includes surrealistic elements (Gainsbourg’s libido, a grotesque, giant-nosed puppet, shares screen time with him). This one is currently buried deep in the reader-suggestion bin. Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life official site.
Love Exposure (2008): Shion Sono’s 4 hour (!) comedy epic involves Roman Catholicism, candid panty photos, and a butt-kicking, man-hating schoolgirl. It’s playing this week at Cinema Village in Greenwich Village, with future screenings highly unlikely. We’re hoping this exhibition is a harbinger of an imminent Region 1 DVD release. No official site, but this IFC News review (which describes the movie as ” totally bugs**t insane”) may get your juices flowing.
NEW ON DVD:
Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (1990): In one of his final movies, the world-class director films eight of his own dreams, including one where he enters the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh (who’s played by none other than Martin Scorsese). Normally, a re-release of Dreams would be cause to celebrate, but in this case it’s not. Here’s why: this is a “Warner Archives” release, which means an overpriced, features-free DV-R (the “Archives” are where Warners sends niche movies, such a silent films, that they conclude won’t make enough money to justify pressing DVDs). Further, the announcement page ominously warns that the film is not restored and has been made from the “best-quality video master currently available.” Since Warner’s 2003 DVD release is out of print, relegating Dreams to the Archives suggests they have no interest in investing in a quality production of this important film anytime in the near future. Buy Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (DV-R). You can also rent or buy Dreams via Video-on-Demand.
“The Complete Jean Vigo”: Truth in advertising: the Criterion Collection has packaged up the complete film works of Vigo, the son of an anarchist who died at 29 of a lung infection after completing his first feature film. That film, of course, was L’Atalante (1934), the lightly surrealist tale about newlyweds living on a barge; also of interest is the then-controversial 41 minute short Zero de Conduite, a revolutionary tale about a French boarding school that was banned by the French censors until 1946. Buy “The Complete Jean Vigo” (The Criterion Collection).
Face to Face [Ansikte mot Ansikte] (1976): This neglected Ingmar Bergman movie about a psychiatrist hallucinating and undergoing a nervous breakdown has long been unavailable, despite the fact that both Bergman and star Liv Ulman were nominated for Oscars in 1977. The movie has been compared to the Certified Weird Repulsion, among other tales of feminine madness. Olive films snapped it up while the Criterion Collection was looking the other way. Buy Face to Face.
Norwegian Ninja [Kommandør Treholt & ninjatroppen] (2010): An alternate-history story that re-imagines the career of diplomat Arne Treholt (who was convicted of treason for selling secrets to the Soviets) as a top ninja in a secret Scandinavian spy squad! We suspect a lot of the jokes in this absurdist political satire will go over the heads of non-Norwegians, but how can a weird movie site not at least mention a film entitled “Norwegian Ninja“? Buy Norwegian Ninja.
Orpheus [Orphée] (1950): Frankly, there have not been a lot of weird new releases in 2011 (as compared to the banner year of 2010), but the Criterion Collection has had us working overtime with their special edition re-releases of old classics. Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus, an update of the Greek myth about the poet who travels to the underworld in search of his lost love, is one of Surrealism’s greatest achievements. Dig those wavy mirrors. Another film currently languishing in our reader-suggested review queue (that should get bumped up with this release). Buy Orpheus (Criterion Collection).
Wrecked (2011): Psychological thriller starring Adrien Brody as a man who wakes up trapped in a wrecked car with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He hallucinates a lot. The fact this bravura one-man show performance by relatively big star Brody went straight to DVD does not bode well; hopefully, it was just too weird to be released in theaters. Buy Wrecked.
NEW ON BLU-RAY:
“Coen Brothers Collection”: Of course we love the Coen Brothers, but the only film in this four movie collection that might even be called mildly “weird” is Raising Arizona, the ultra-quirky story of a cop and a crook who get married, find out they’re infertile, and kidnap a baby. The other three movies—the neo-noir Blood Simple, the period gangster film Miller’s Crossing, and the hit black comedy Fargo—are all very accomplished, but fairly conventional. A 2007 DVD box set from MGM (buy) contained the same four films, but threw in the Certified Weird Barton Fink as the cherry on top. We’re hoping (probably in vain) that Fink‘s exclusion from this set means someone has plans to release it on Blu-ray separately. Buy the “Coen Brothers Collection” [Blu-ray].
“The Complete Jean Vigo”: See description in DVD above. Buy “The Complete Jean Vigo” [Blu-ray].
Deadgirl (2008): Read our capsule review. This controversial film explores what happens when two horny teenage boys find a beautiful undead woman on a slab and decide to keep her as a sex slave. Is it misogynist, feminist, or just plain exploitation-ist? Buy Deadgirl [Blu-ray].
If… (1968): The first film in the Lindsay Anderson/Malcolm McDowell “Mick Travis” saga (which continued with the Certified Weird O Lucky Man! and wrapped up with Britannia Hospital) is set at a British boarding school, and is one of the greatest (and weirdest) anti-authority howls of the 1960s & 70s. This Criterion Blu-ray adds no new features over and above what was on the 2007 2-disc DVD. Buy If . . . [Blu-ray].
The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D (1993): Read our review. This is the basically the same as Disney’s existing DVD/Blu-ray release, except that it adds 3-D capability for the few TVs that are set up for a third dimension. Note that Nightmare was not originally released in 3-D. The release includes a 3-D Blu-ray, a regular Blu-ray, a DVD and a digital copy. Buy The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D [Blu-ray].
Orpheus [Orphée] (1950): See description in DVD above. Buy Orpheus [Blu-ray].
“Radley Metzger’s Erotica Psychedelica”: Three of Metzger’s well-shot, pre-hardcore features: Camille 2000 (1969), The Lickerish Quartet (1970), and Score (1972). We can confirm that The Lickerish Quartet, at least, is pretty psychedelic. This three-disc limited edition (3,500 units) from Cult Epics comes with a soundtrack and “collectible lenticular artwork” (?) Buy “Radley Metzger’s Erotica Psychedelica” [Blu-ray].
Raising Arizona (1975): If you want to skip the non-weird films in the Coen Brothers collection listed above, you can buy this single disc offering from Fox. Buy Raising Arizona [Blu-ray].
Wrecked (2011): See description in DVD above. Buy Wrecked [Blu-ray].
What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.