Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lone Wolf and Cub Like Never Before

It's not news that Lone Wolf and Cub is possibly the best action series ever produced in Japan. Originating from a manga, it spawned several TV sequels and an Americanized jigsaw known as Shogun Assassin.

What could be news to some is Eureka UK's re-mastering of all 6 features. Simply titled The Complete Lone Wolf and Cub Boxset, this collection is an absolutely stunning presentation that immediately renders every other release (incl. the the US Animeigo boxset) utterly obsolete.

Using original Toho elements, it has a sheen and freshness of image that never betrays its almost forty year vintage. Watching one of my favorite installments, Yoshiyuki Kuroda's 'White Heaven in Hell' (#6 in the series)...

I experienced visual wonders that I'd never experienced before. From the snow-bound vistas to the rich rural locations, every frame is like a shot of electricity to the eyes.

Surprisingly, the UK boxset appears to be Region O, so is playable all over the world on region-specific players. Artwork and slip cases are top notch, and Shogun Assassin is also included as part of the 7-disk set.

Do yourself a favor and pick this up. Unless you caught these when they were first released, you have never seen them like this before.

Masterpieces given the masterpiece treatment!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Loves of Andy Milligan

Jimmy McDonough's book on exploitation filmmaker Andy Milligan, The Ghastly One, is one of the best books I've ever read on filmmaking and forging a life true to your nature. The two somehow go hand-in-hand.

I'm reading the book slowly, and savoring every word like Belgian chocolate, because I don't want it to end. I know it will end, of course, but I'm putting the inevitable off. I'm delaying a miserable future without this book's magnificent revelations and life lessons. If nothing else, Milligan understood human beings very well. He wasn't terribly impressed with them, but he sure had a handle on what makes them tick, lick, trick, and fick.

He had great taste in movies, too. Tony Richardson's Mademoiselle ('66) was a glittering favorite of his, and it's not hard to see why. Aside from being a stunning piece of subversive cinema, it reflects Milligan's cynical and deliciously lurid world view.

Jeanne Moreau plays a young woman, a school teacher, who is occupied with the destruction of a small, country town while pining for a handsome Italian wood chopper. The Italian is being blamed for Moreau's acts by the racist locals, but he soliders on regardless, handicapped by his weakness for the (not-so) fair sex. Hefty complications ensue.

The film, written by Marguerite Duras, and based on a story by the inimitable Jean Genet, is an unforgettable essay on evil, racism, and deep repression. Moreau, as usual, is a revelation, and proves once again that she was and still is an original without peer. What she does with a stare or the subtlest of gestures transforms every moment of her screen time into a work of complex artistry.

Ettore Manni plays 'Manou', the object of Moreau's affections and the town's simmering hatred. In one scene, he enjoys a siesta beside a fallen log in the forest. His partner berates him for being lazy, but he clearly benefits from this act of renewal. What makes this scene particularly fascinating is that the film's late and great cinematographer, David Watkin, was renowned for snoozing on the set of his movies. On imdb, he is quoted as saying that sleeping is "... the one thing you can do on a movie set that doesn't make you more tired!"

I'm curious now about the source of this scene in the film. Did Mr. Watkin's presence inspire it, or did it inspire Mr. Watkin?

The film's cinematography is ravishing. I mean truly ravishing. Orgasmic ravishing. I stared at it with breathless anxiety, marveling at Watkin's use of single source light and shadows. I shoot a great deal myself and favor the natural over the artificial. As a passionate cinematographer, the work on this movie filled me with enough inspiration to power another dozen movies. I urge you to buy the DVD and submit to its power. Please permit yourself to be sucked into the emotional and visual maelstrom of its fevered wonder.

Beyond highly recommended!


A review of Jimmy McDonough's The Ghastly One will be
posted when I'm ready to bid adieu to it (sometime this year or next)