Movies Till Dawn: Here and There, Then and Now

* indicates that the film is also available for digital sale or rental on various platforms.

The Worst Ones” (2022, Kino Lorber*) A filmmaker (Johan Heldenberg) and his crew seek an authentic tone to their socially conscious drama by casting a group of teens from an impoverished suburb in northern France who are deemed “the worst ones”: kids marginalized by money, circumstance, and unguided emotion. Former casting directors Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret won the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes 2022 for this mostly satisfying look at good intentions and the road it paves in the filmmaking world, where the personal struggles of real people are often tapped to add real pathos to manufactured premises, including that of this film itself, which uses real non-professionals (all exceptional presences) for its four young leads. Kino’s subtitled DVD includes a short, “Chasse Royal,” by the filmmakers.

A Question of Silence” (1982, Cult Epics) Three women, all strangers to each other, are inextricably linked when they decide to murder the male shop owner who accosts one of them as she attempts to steal a dress; a psychiatrist (Cox Habbema) must unravel the reasons behind the random crime by delving into the women’s lives. Dutch arthouse drama from future Oscar winner Marleen Gorris takes what is, at first blush, an untenable scenario – the accused women were driven to kill by societal treatment of their gender – and makes a compelling argument for it that will undoubtedly polarize many viewers; Gorris’s skillful direction and her talent leads help sell the allegory by rooting it in real trauma that will undoubtedly carry a ring of truth even as the story tips into fantasy. Cult Epics’ Blu-ray – a 2K HD transfer/restoration – include extensive commentary by scholar Patricia Pisters, interviews with Gorris and Habbema, newsreel coverage of the film, and the theatrical trailer.

“La Civil” (2022, Kino Lorber*) The seemingly random abduction of her teenage daughter leads a mother (Arcelia Ramirez) to submerge herself in the ugly shadow world of northern Mexico’s kidnapping industry, in which both sides of the law are steeped in corruption and casual sadism. Revenge becomes the fuel that drives the narrative, but this is no adrenalized Hollywood action pic: violence here solves almost nothing and begets more horror and tragedy with no exit points. Harrowing feature by Romanian filmmaker Teodora Ana Mihai, which netted the Prize of Courage at Cannes 2021, offers no solutions to this destructive cycle but does humanize the various sides of the conflict, which are often compartmentalized by Stateside press as “Mexican problems.” Kino’s subtitled DVD includes a making-of doc and deleted scenes.

Morgiana” (1972, Second Run DVD) Displeased that her confectionary-sweet sister Klara (Iva Janzurova) has inherited the lion’s share of their late father’s wealth, put-upon proto-Goth Viktoria (also Janzurova) decides to kill her off, which spurs cosmic visions of a hidden identity for prim Klara and a kaleidoscope of emotions, from crippling guilt to ecstasy, from Viktoria. Extraordinary fantasy from Czech director Juraj Herz (“The Cremator“), who imbues it with remarkable mind-bending visuals and a plot that revels on all the colors of a fairy tale, from magical allegory to Gothic nightmare (with allusions to Poe in the form of an all-seeing Siamese cat). With a extraordinary score by Lubos Fisher (“Valerie and Her Week of Wonders“); Second Run’s all-region Blu-ray offers a full-frame HD transfer and Projection Booth commentary, as well as an interview with Herz and liner notes by Daniel Bird and Dr. Ian Conrich.

Blitzed! The 80s Blitz Kids Story” (2021, Pop Twist/MVD Entertainment Group*) Engaging doc about London’s Blitz Club, which according to the filmmakers and testimonials from Those Who Were There, was as crucial to the development of the New Romantics scene in the early ’80s as Studio 54 and CBGB’s were to disco and punk, respectively. An oasis for those seeking creative, gender, or sexual freedom of expression in the wake of punk and the repressive Thatcher regime, Blitz was a proving ground for numerous musical acts, including Boy George (who regularly picked pockets while manning the club’s coat check), Midge Ure, Spandau Ballet, and Sade, as well as future lights in the worlds of literature (Robert Elms), fashion (Darla Jane Gilroy, Fiona Dealey), and others, many of whom contribute affectionate recollections for the film. The film is anchored by Blitz DJ Richard Egan; his partner in Visage and the club’s host and imperious doorman, Steve Strange, died in 2015, but remains an active presence here through Egan’s recollections of the scene and its tastemakers who elevated the club, however, briefly, into a cultural magnet that attracted the likes of David Bowie (who tapped several “Blitz kids” for his “Ashes to Ashes” video). The Pop Twist/MVD DVD is widescreen.

Frank Borzage: 1922 Silents – Back Pay/The Valley of Silent Men” (1922, Undercrank Productions/Library of Congress) Two silent features from director Frank Borzage, who won the very first Best Director Oscar (for 1927’s “7th Heaven”), both of which underscore the deft approach to intimate relationships and visual skills he employed during the sound period (“The Mortal Storm,” “A Farewell to Arms”). “Back Pay” travels along sentimental lines – Seena Owens comes to regret her decision to leave her small town and the affections of Matt Moore for the big city – but smartly sidesteps melodrama for a more nuanced take on regret and reinvention. “Valley,” also from ’22 (one of five films Borzage directed that year), is an rugged outdoor adventure set in the Canadian Rockies (played by Banff, Alberta, Canada and by other scenic vistas above the 49th Parallel) with gutsy Alma Rubens springing wrongly accused Lew Cody from jail and setting out to find the real guilty party with Cody’s fellow Mounties in pursuit. Though it’s missing reels of footage (details are filled in through text and photos), “Silent Men” is a brisk adventure marked by Borzage and cameraman John Lynch’s striking vistas. Undercrank’s Blu-ray – funded through Kickstarter – features digital remasters of both films and new piano/organ scores (both aces) by composer/performer Andrew Earle Simpson.

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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