The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1159): The INFERNAL AFFAIRS Trilogy -- More Important Hong Kong Action Cinema Added to the Collection
By Sean Boelman
Many viewers likely recognize the first Infernal Affairs film thanks to its enormous legacy, but fewer cinephiles have gotten the chance to see and appreciate the two other movies in the original franchise. Criterion’s box set of the Infernal Affairs trilogy allows cinephiles to bring home all three films on Blu-Ray, or perhaps even discover them for the first time.
The first Infernal Affairs is perhaps one of the most acclaimed movies to ever come out of Hong Kong — its story of a mole and an undercover cop trying to outwit each other and figure out whose allegiances lie where entertaining audiences worldwide. Thanks to a perfect whirlwind of Andrew Lau and Alan Lak’s direction, Andy Lau and Tony Leung’s acting, and a sharp script, it became a global sensation.
The influence of Infernal Affairs has stretched internationally, to the point of inspiring Martin Scorsese’s Best Picture-winning crime saga, The Departed. Although the film had already received some recognition thanks to its warm critical reception, this remake catapulted it into the spotlight and cemented it as an important movie in cinematic history.
Infernal Affairs would also kickstart a series in Hong Kong with two more feature films that had been much less widely available internationally until Criterion put out this box set. Infernal Affairs II, a prequel following the younger versions of the characters as they first embed themselves into the triad and the police force, the movie does lack the starring duo of Leung and Lau.
Leung and Lau would return for Infernal Affairs III, a true sequel to the first film, which was still not as acclaimed as the first movie but still very enjoyable. Released in the same year as Infernal Affairs II, this had all the potential of becoming an event trilogy a la The Matrix, but suffered the same fate of giving audiences too much too quickly.
All three of the films are presented in beautiful new 4K restorations that were released in theaters earlier this year. And while there are only a handful of new bonus features, the relative unavailability of the sequels in the United States means that these materials will largely feel brand new to audiences.
Now that audiences across the world finally have the opportunity to easily access the remaining two movies in the Infernal Affairs trilogy, this Criterion box set is one that any cinephile will want to add to their shelves. Criterion has recently been showing a commitment to releasing important Hong Kong action cinema, and this was a natural progression.
The Criterion edition of the Infernal Affairs trilogy is now available.
DOC NYC 2022: Cinematic Cerebrations
Review by Sean Boelman
Bringing nonfiction cinema to viewers across the United States in a hybrid format for the third year in a row, DOC NYC returns with a 2022 edition that is even bigger and better than in years past. Featuring an extensive lineup of documentary films — from ones that have been picking up buzz on the festival circuit to smaller independent productions waiting to be discovered by audiences — there is something for everyone who loves watching docs.
We, at disappointment media, are excited to again be covering the festival remotely. As we screen films in the lineup, we will continue to update this page with more thoughts about the films so that you can find something you want to watch in-person or at home via their virtual festival offerings.
Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net
Dawn Porter has made several acclaimed and successful civil rights documentaries over the past few years, so the subject of her newest film is rather surprising. However, Porter brings her same humanistic touch to Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net, which documents the iconic acrobat troupe’s return to performing live after the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally, the performers at Cirque du Soleil are hailed for their nearly inhuman abilities, but this documentary focuses on the people behind the costumes and spectacles. While this may be a relatively straightforward stagecraft story, Porter tells it in such a way that it is enormously compelling for fans and neophytes alike.
Finding Her Beat
Finding Her Beat tells the story of a troupe of women specializing in the Japanese drum performance of Taiko — a historically male-dominated artform. The mission of these women is extraordinary, and their performance skills impressive, but the film gets a bit too focused on their personal lives at times to be as captivating as it could have been. While the cutaways to the performers’ families are a welcome bit of grounding, the portion of the film that explores how the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic almost affected their performance showcase feels unnecessary and ineffective.
Plenty of documentarians have attempted to ape the style of filmmakers like Michael Moore, who seamlessly integrates humor and wit into his political takedowns, but few manage to pull it off in a way that is satisfying. Blake Zeff’s Loan Wolves tackles an interesting and timely subject — the student debt crisis — yet all of the genuinely important things Zeff and his interviewees have to say are undermined by his constant attempts to make wisecracks. There’s definitely some worthy information to be found in this documentary, but Zeff’s apparent need to constantly prove himself to be hip is annoying at best and distracting at worst.
The 2022 edition of DOC NYC runs in-person from November 9-17 and online November 9-27.
By Sean Boelman
While much of the focus in the fall festival season circuit goes to Oscar contenders, there’s another subsection of films that can be just as (if not more) rewarding: international films. Miami Film Festival’s GEMS program does showcase some of the higher-profile prestige pictures of the year, but it also leaves room for some of the most acclaimed films from the rest of the world, and audiences shouldn't pass up the chance to see them on the big screen.
Take Carla Simón’s Alcarrás for example. I got the opportunity to see the film via screener recently, and it did not resonate nearly as well watching it from home as it did seeing it in a theatrical setting. Getting the chance to see the gorgeous cinematography by Daniela Cajías on the big screen and hear the score by Andrea Koch and the precisely-crafted sound design made me feel that much more immersed in the world of this Spanish farming family.
Before the screening of No Bears, the festival honored Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi — who is currently serving a sentence in prison after having been arrested by the Iranian government for speaking out against the country — with its top honor, and Panahi delivered an audio message from prison. Although much of the audience had not yet seen the film, they knew they were about to experience something special after having that experience of hearing from Panahi.
However, perhaps the single best experience I had at the festival was seeing Saint Omer with a small audience of people at the Tower Theater who were completely engrossed by the film. This courtroom drama is shot in a straightforward way — and there’s nothing about the production of the film that really heralds it as a “theatrical” experience, but there’s still something that made that moviegoing experience magical. Feeling the tension in the air during every second of the testimony made the film hit unexpectedly harder.
Indeed, seeing international films in theaters gives us the opportunity to have a communal experience of being immersed in a different culture. And after all, isn’t that what cinema is all about? Whether the film is meant to transport us to a fantastic world beyond our imaginations or peel the curtain back on a portion of our world that we might not have known about, the filmmaker’s goal is to draw the viewer in and make them feel something.
Kudos goes to small festivals like the Miami Film Festival for running programs like GEMS to provide moviegoers with these experiences. Although some of these films weren’t particularly busy, as festival attendees flocked to the higher profile selections like The Whale or Women Talking (and there’s nothing wrong with that), those of us who are more canny to the world of international cinema got a glimpse into another part of the world, and left the cinema feeling profoundly moved.
The 2022 edition of Miami Film Festival GEMS runs November 3-10.
By Sean Boelman
Although the main Miami Film Festival happens every spring, the fall brings with it the Miami Film Festival GEMS program, an eight-day showcase of some of the films that have been taking the fall festival season by storm and which festival-goers can expect to be hearing a lot about this awards season.
We at disappointment media have gotten the opportunity to attend a few screenings at the festival, but we wanted to make sure you knew what you should check out yourself. Here are some of our favorite films playing at the fest that we have been able to see earlier in their festival runs.
Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont’s directorial debut Girl was relatively acclaimed, even if it was somewhat controversial, but his sophomore feature, Close, has been much more universally beloved. It’s understandable why, as it’s a thoroughly impressive film. Although it might have some characteristics typical of a tear-jerker, the script — written by Dhont and Angel Tijssens — is enormously sensitive, and young actor Eden Dambrine gives what is the child performance of the year.
One of the major awards given out by the Miami Film Festival is the Art of Light Award, and Raúl Castillo will be in attendance at the festival to receive the honor for acting alongside a screening of Elegance Bratton’s The Inspection, in which he co-stars. Inspired by Bratton’s experience as a young gay man dealing with discrimination and homophobia when he enlists in the Marines, the film is a deeply moving and unexpectedly unconventional experience. Bratton has made a film that not only feels enormously personal, but also extraordinarily artistic. It is certainly one of the indie gems of the season.
Jafar Panahi’s film No Bears could not come at a better time given that the Iranian filmmaker was recently arrested in his country (again) for speaking out against the government. Like the rest of his recent films, Panahi made this film in secret, and it’s virtually a miracle we are getting to see it. A late addition to the lineup, cinephiles won’t want to miss this fascinating exploration of Iranian society. It is perhaps one of the best works of metafiction in the history of metafiction, and something that only Panahi could do.
Florian Zeller’s first film, The Father, took the cinema world by storm and won two Academy Awards — one for Zeller’s screenplay and another for Anthony Hopkins’s performance. While the prequel, The Son, has been met with much more of a mixed reception, it is still a fascinating, moving film. It might not be particularly subtle with its themes, but Zeller’s exploration of depression and mental illness nonetheless resonates thanks to a slew of great performances, especially a knockout turn by Hugh Jackman in the leading role.
The 2022 edition of Miami Film Festival GEMS runs November 3-10.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.