Movies Till Dawn: Somewhere Else

Bacurau” (2019, Kino Lorber) Faced with extinction on two fronts – starvation, addiction and neglect by the government, and “Most Dangerous Game”-style slaughter by wealthy Western tourists (led by Udo Kier) – the residents of a remote Brazilian village turn to a disparate group, including the ornery town doctor (Sonia Braga) and a local outlaw (Thomas Aquino) to help them wage violent resistance. Exuberantly bizarre genre hybrid from Brazilian filmmakers Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles wears its influences and timely politics on its sleeve – European Westerns, ’50s science fiction, John Carpenter in the former, and Western boorishness and hometown corruption in the former – and manages, somehow, to make them all work together in vibrant, blood-soaked harmony. Kino’s Blu-ray includes a making-of doc, multiple interviews with the filmmakers, and commentary by Filho.

America as Seen By a Frenchman” (1960, Arrow Academy) The Frenchman in question here is director Francois Reichenbach, who captured on film a wide array of U.S. customs and culture during an 18-month visit to the States. The result is a sort of refined mondo movie, alternating scenes of abundance (Disneyland) with high weirdness (diving horses) and social extremes (prison rodeos). There are also some poignant moments, like footage from a segregated Mardi Gras, but mostly, “America” generates an air of Gallic bewilderment, underscored by Jean Cocteau‘s amused narration, at our talent for conspicuous consumption. Arrow’s Blu-ray includes an appreciation by author Philip Kemp.

Go Go Mania” (1965, Kino Lorber) Jukebox-style rock and roll film highlighting British Invasion groups of the period. Two songs by the Beatles (“She Loves You” and “Twist and Shout”) bookend the film, though the footage is from a 1963 Pathe newsreel; the rest of the acts lip-sync against variety show-style sets for journeyman director Frederic Goode and cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (“2001”). The Animals (with Alan Price) and the Spencer Davis Group (with Steve Winwood) are the standouts, respectively, though your mileage may vary in regard to the Nashville Teens, Peter and Gordon, and Honeycombs (with their boss female drummer, Honey Lantree). DJ Jimmy Savile – decades before the revelation of his predatory behavior – is also present, but don’t let him detract from this enjoyable glimpse at an early phase of British pop-rock; Kino’s Blu-ray includes informative commentary by writers Bryan Reesman and Jeff Slate.

Time Zone Inn” (2020, IndiePix Films) Two couples, facing the possibility of long-distance relationships, take rooms at the titular bed and breakfast, where mandatory separation and immersion into different cultures test their abilities to adapt. Thoughtful Italian drama from first time feature director Andrea di Iorio is slight in length and adopts a tone that at times strays too far into academic territory, but still manages to raise some intriguing questions about how and why we make choices. The picturesque qualities of the cast and Italian locations fill in the gaps when your attention may wander; IndiePix’s DVD includes a very brief promotional trailer for the company.

Smash Palace” (1981, Arrow Video) A combination of loneliness and isolation drives Anna Jemison into the arms of a supportive cop (Keith Aberdein), which in turn spurs her husband – racing obsessive and junkyard owner Bruno Lawrence, who also co-scripted – into a desperate and destructive response. New Zealand filmmaker Roger Donaldson paints neither party as the villain in this fine-grain character study, and makes no excuses for Lawrence’s toxic behavior, but rather serves as a primer on how neglect, even if unintentional, can have disastrous consequences. Donaldson, whose film career would expand to America following the critical success of this film, provides a commentary track for Arrow’s Blu-ray, which also includes a lengthy making-of doc.

L’important c’est d’Aimer” (1975, Film Movement) Photographer Fabio Testi meets actress Romy Schneider on the set of a trashy B-movie, and the pair’s bond, forged by mutual desperation over the state of their careers, blossoms into something between love and obsession, and leads to an ill-advised attempt to fund a film version of “Richard III” starring cracked actor Klaus Kinski as a pathway to more respectable fare. Polish director Andrzej Zulawski’s French/Italian/West German drama is filled with the extreme characters and situations that populated his other films (see “Cosmos“), but also a surprising and melancholy tenderness, exemplified by Schneider’s vulnerable performance (which won the first Cesar Award). With Jacques Dutronc as Schneider’s eccentric husband; Film Movement’s Blu-ray includes an interview with Zulawski and liner notes by Kat Ellinger.

Deadline” (1980, Vinegar Syndrome) Writer Stephen Young, who specializes in gory horror films, wants to move into more respectable fare, but finds it hard to shut off the ultraviolent setpieces in his head, even as they appear to spill over into real life. Obscure low-budget thriller and Canadian tax shelter film by Mario Azzopardi, is a real curiosity that stitches together a downbeat portrait of psychological collapse with over-the-top splatter sequences (one featuring punk/New Wave act Rough Trade). The halves work on their own – Young and the cast, which includes Cindy Hinds from “The Brood,” are better than expected, and the bloodshed is almost hallucinatory in its grossness – but together, the result is disorienting and at times, contradictory. That may be the chief appeal for psychotronic-minded viewers and Canuxploitation completists; Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray/DVD set includes interviews with producer Henry Less and cinematographer Manfred Guthe.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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