By Sean Boelman
Drylongso is the type of smaller, independent film that might go under-the-radar among the month’s higher-profile Criterion releases, but must absolutely not be ignored. Cauleen Smith’s film is an exceptional work of independent filmmaking, with wonderful visuals and a challenging exploration of its themes.
The movie follows a woman who takes up an unorthodox project in her photography class: photographing Black men in the belief that they will soon become extinct. As one would expect from the premise, it’s a film that feels quite politically charged, but not in a way that is overbearing or unpalatable — simply thought-provoking.
Perhaps the most exciting reason for Drylongso to be added to the Criterion Collection is the fact that it is yet another piece of independent Black American cinema from a unique and distinctive voice. Between Drylongso and The Watermelon Woman, it’s nice to see this underseen corner of cinematic history getting the representation it deserves. Smith and Salim Akil’s exploration of Black identity is fascinating and compelling, pulling no punches when it comes to the systemic issues the community faced at the time — some of which still reverberate through society today.
All of this is set against the backdrop of a murder mystery. However, this is not a murder mystery in the Agatha Christie whodunit sort of way, nor even a procedural way, but one that interrogates the system that continues to perpetuate violence against Black people and cause so many senseless and unjust deaths.
The thread that ties the movie together is its tender character work, as well as a beautiful leading performance from Toby Smith. The film has a great deal of nuance in its emotion — even during the romantic plot that hits a few familiar beats — and it allows the movie to feel extraordinarily personal and lived-in.
The film is shot with exquisite 16mm cinematography from Andrew Black, which is lovingly and gorgeously restored in 4K by the folks at Janus Films for this release (as well as a theatrical run that has toured the art house circuit for much of the year). Considering that much of Smith’s work is in multimedia installation art — Drylongso is her first and only feature — it makes sense that this is so exquisitely beautiful.
When it comes to bonus features, the main draw of the Drylongso Criterion Collection edition is a smattering of Smith’s short films: Chronicles of a Lying Spirit by Kelly Gabron, Songs for Earth & Folk, Lessons in Semaphore, Egungun (Ancestor Can’t Find Me), Remote Viewing, and Suffolk. The disc also boasts a new conversation between Smith and scholar Michael B. Gillespie, as well as an essay by scholar Yasmina Price.
Drylongso is the type of Criterion Collection addition whose purpose is to showcase and preserve an important and underseen part of cinema history. Cinephiles should certainly pick this one up and discover an extraordinary piece of independent cinema.
The Criterion Collection edition of Drylongso releases on August 29.
By Sean Boelman
Every year, the Fantasia International Film Festival is a showcase of some of the most exciting genre cinema of the year. From horror to action to thriller and other films that are just downright weird, Fantasia is where genre cinephiles go to make their next big discovery.
We at disappointment media again had the pleasure of covering Fantasia remotely. Here are some quick thoughts on some of the films we saw as part of the lineup.
Korean filmmaker Park Hoon-jung has become something of a mainstay in the Fantasia lineup, best known for his duology of action horror films, The Witch: Part 1 - The Subversion and The Witch: Part 2 - The Other One. His latest work, The Childe, doesn’t have as much of a horror influence, opting instead for more of a gritty crime thriller approach — albeit with Park’s penchant for shocking brutality. Although the action sequences are a ton of fun, the story that surrounds them is overly convoluted and, worse yet, not all that interesting. There are some moments that are inspired and shine very brightly, but it just doesn’t all come together.
Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping’s Femme is the type of movie that is extremely difficult to watch, but in a way that feels necessary and thought-provoking. Following a drag artist who finds a way to get revenge against his assailant after a brutal homophobic attack, this is definitely not your standard revenge thriller. The film creeps under your skin, thanks in part to strong direction by Freeman and Ping, but also from a wonderfully vulnerable performance by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and a truly chilling turn by George MacKay. Although it might be too much for some to stomach, it’s quite effective.
Reiki Tsuno’s Mad Cats is the type of movie where its success will depend heavily on the viewer’s willingness to get onto its absurd wavelength. The film follows an unlikely hero as he goes on a bizarre quest to rescue his missing brother, bringing him up against a group of ferocious warriors who may or may not be cats. It’s a wild concept that has the potential for plenty of wacky, fun moments, but its aggressive quirkiness gets overwhelming at times. The martial arts action sequences are also quite enjoyable. However, despite a bunch of individual elements that work well, the film never congeals as well as it needed to.
Soi Cheang’s Mad Fate is a literal manifestation of the description “your mileage may vary.” The film is a vile cacophony of superstition and violence. It’s extremely unpleasant, but that’s exactly what some audiences will be looking for with a film like this. This story of a fortune teller and the man he foretells to be destined to murder simply doesn’t make a ton of sense. However, regardless of if one connects with the film’s weirdness and brutality, there’s no denying that the film boasts an impressive visual style, as well as more than a few moments that will be etched into your memory — for better or worse.
Stay Online is meritorious in the fact that it’s impressive that it was even able to be made, and its heart is in the right place. As the first Ukrainian fiction film shot during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the film shows the importance of the Ukrainian resistance movement. Unfortunately, the film’s story of a volunteer trying to reunite a young boy with his missing father feels like too much of a tear-jerker to really work. Add in some less-than-impressive performances, and the fact that the director often breaks the film’s Screenlife conceit, and you have a film that is thoroughly frustrating despite its noble intentions.
The 2023 Fantasia Film Festival runs from July 20 to August 9.
By Sean Boelman
Outfest is one of the most important LGBTQIA+ organizations in film, and their annual festival in Los Angeles is one of the most exciting events of the year. A showcase of some of the year’s best LGBTQIA+ films — from both established and up-and-coming talent — the film is a great place for the community and allies to see stories that represent the LGBTQIA+ experience.
Many of the film’s playing at this year’s festival have been touring the festival circuit to great acclaim. Here are just a few recommendations of films that we think you shouldn’t miss if you’re attending this year’s Outfest in-person or online.
Chasing Chasing Amy
Chasing Chasing Amy is the closing night film of this year’s Outfest, fresh off its warmly-received Tribeca premiere. There truly have not been many documentaries that feel this intimate in a very long time. In the film, director Sav Rodgers explores his complex relationship with Kevin Smith’s controversial romance Chasing Amy, and how the film helped him in his journey of coming out as a trans man. It’s a great LGBTQIA+ film, but it’s also an exceptional dive into what it means to appreciate problematic art.
Egghead and Twinkie
Adapted from her award-winning short of the same name, Sarah Kambe Holland makes her debut with the ridiculously charming Egghead and Twinkie. Although the film’s a little bit scrappy, being a low-budget feature debut and all, what it has no shortage of is personality. It’s consistently funny and cute, telling a story that has undeniably familiar beats from a perspective that feels refreshing and honest. This is a film made for the younger attendees of festivals like Outfest, thus filling a worthy niche in the lineup.
D. Smith’s documentary Kokomo City took home both the Audience and NEXT Innovator awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, showing how much it resonated with viewers and the industry alike. Telling the story of four transgender sex workers in their own words, this is not the type of documentary that’s polished and slick — instead opting for production values that could almost be described as amateurish. However, the storytelling on display here is so captivating that it’s hard to deny the power of the film.
Rotting in the Sun
When Rotting in the Sun played at Sundance, we called it “audacious” and expected it to never be seen again because of its edgy, explicit, and dick-filled gay dark comedy. Thankfully, Mubi picked it up for a release later this year and is making a stop at Outfest to build up some buzz. If you are able to see one movie at this year’s festival, make it this. Sebastian Silva’s film remains one of the most idiosyncratic and singular to come out this year, and while some viewers may be put off by the film’s aggressive nature, it’s the type of film that you just have to see.
Outfest runs in-person in Los Angeles from July 13-23, and online from July 17-30.
The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1182): THE SERVANT -- One of the Most Gorgeous Restorations in the Criterion Collection
Review by Sean Boelman
Filmmaker Joseph Losey’s The Servant is a product of a time where it’s stunning that a movie this transgressive was even able to exist. Although the film suffers from some issues with pacing, its historical context and beautiful visuals make it more than a worthy addition to any cinephile’s Criterion shelf.
The movie follows an upper-class man who hires a new servant, whose intentions may not be as altruistic as they seem. The film’s commentary on class relations is quite interesting, and made even more so when one realizes the context of the director having been blacklisted from Hollywood during the height of the Red Scare.
In many ways, the movie is an extremely slow burn. And given how bleak so much of the story is, the combination of the dark tone and slow pacing can start to feel somewhat oppressive at times. By the end of the nearly two-hour runtime, viewers will be absolutely exhausted, and not necessarily in a way that feels rewarding.
Although the film is effective in developing characters that are morally ambiguous, this can also end up being somewhat frustrating. We are presented with protagonists who, for lack of a better word, simply aren’t very likable. And while the purpose is clearly to challenge and provoke audiences, it’s not always effective.
That being said, the movie is brilliant as an exercise in formalism. The visuals are fantastic, as is the score. Even when the story and its power dynamics aren’t able to keep the viewer engaged in the film, the brilliant aesthetics will keep their eyes glued to the screen. The atmosphere that Losey is able to correct is fantastic.
The new 4K restoration of the movie included on the Blu-Ray edition is perhaps one of the finest restorations the Criterion Collection has put out in recent years. It’s absolutely stunning — a sight to behold, making the crisp black-and-white cinematography by Douglas Slocombe pop in ways one would never expect.
The bonus features are much stronger than recent output from the Criterion Collection, with some new documentary materials as well as interviews, including a rare one with director Losey that cinephiles might not be able to find anywhere else. Additionally, author Colm Tóibín contributed an essay for the booklet.
The Servant is an interesting product of its time, and while the story might not be the most captivating, the beautiful 4K restoration offered by the Criterion Collection accentuates its gorgeous visuals. The fact that the Criterion Collection is giving a platform to such challenging films as this is why cinephiles love them.
The Criterion Collection edition of The Servant is now available.
By Sean Boelman
The Tribeca Festival is one of the largest gatherings for film and media in New York City, and represents the transition from the spring to the fall festival circuit. Before film festivals become all about predicting who are going to be the next big awards contenders, we get another opportunity to see some great premieres and encores of other films that have been lighting up other festivals.
We at disappointment media are covering the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival — in person for the first time ever, as we have only covered previous editions virtually. We have already gotten the chance to sneak a peek at certain films in the lineup, and here are some we think you shouldn’t miss out on.
Dustin Guy Defa’s dramedy The Adults debuted earlier this year at Berlinale and is making a stop at Tribeca before its theatrical release later this summer. Starring Michael Cera as an awkward guy who finds his short trip home extended by an addiction to a local poker game, this is the type of comedy that gets most of its humor from putting its characters in increasingly uncomfortable situations. The characters are purposefully grating at times, but excellent performances from Michael Cera, Hannah Gross, and Sophia Lillis are more than worth the price of admission.
One of the biggest world premieres at this year’s Tribeca Festival is the LGBTQIA+ drama Our Son, which plays out almost as a gay version of Marriage Story. The film stars Luke Evans and Billy Porter as a long married couple who decide to separate suddenly to one of their dismay, setting off a devastating custody battle. It would be difficult to find a more emotionally harrowing film than this in the lineup this year, and Evans and Porter’s performances are the icing on the exceptional cake.
Irene Lusztig’s documentary Richland is the type of film that is hard to recommend in that it is not a particularly pleasant watch, but it is essential viewing despite its often depressing nature. The film tells the story of a town in Washington state that was created to house the workers of a nearby nuclear site, but has since grown to be a microcosm of the generational conflict happening in America right now. The points that Lusztig is able to make with her verité footage are shockingly profound and harrowingly effective.
Rule of Two Walls
This year’s Tribeca Festival lineup includes several documentaries about the war in Ukraine, but there’s unlikely to be one as innovative and unique as David Gutnik’s Rule of Two Walls. What makes this documentary stand out is its hopeful approach to the topic. Although the film pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the aftermath of this conflict on the Ukrainian people, its focus is on a group of artists who have decided to remain in their country and continue to create their art despite the circumstances. The result is a surprisingly hopeful reminder of how the human will can overcome, and how perseverance is necessary in the face of adversity — a perspective that needs to be heard right now.
With its 2023 edition, Tribeca is introducing a new “psychotronic” sidebar called “Escape From Tribeca,” which features a much weirder and wilder set of midnight movies than festival-goers may be used to seeing in the festival’s usual Midnight lineup. One of the highlights of that group of films this year is Suitable Flesh, directed by Joe Lynch (Mayhem) from a story by H. P. Lovecraft. As one would expect, it’s a fittingly unhinged, campy throwback — with tons of gore and sex. You really couldn’t ask for more from a midnight movie.
The 2023 Tribeca Festival screens at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, which runs June 7-18 in NYC and June 19 through July 2 online.
The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1174): LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVALRY -- A Wuxia Hit From Iconic Filmmaker John Woo
By Sean Boelman
One of the most in-demand titles in the Criterion Collection is the out-of-print edition of John Woo’s Hard Boiled. It only makes sense that Criterion would add more of the filmmaker’s movies to their lineup, and the next one to join the fold is an early film of his — the Wuxia romp Last Hurrah for Chivalry.
The film is an epic adventure about a nobleman seeking vengeance with the assistance of two expert swordsmen. As is the case with many martial arts movies, the story is convoluted, with it being hard to follow whose allegiance rests with whom, but the fun is the absurd and larger-than-life nature of the narrative.
This type of film falls firmly within the wheelhouse of Hong Kong action director John Woo, whose movies are known for being heavily stylized and ridiculous, but impressive technical feats nonetheless. The same is very much true here, even though it is one of the earlier works in his filmography.
Although Wuxia films have existed for decades, they weren’t really popularized in Western culture until the early 2000s. As such, it’s always fascinating to see an early work in the genre, especially when it is made by a filmmaker with such technical prowess and maximalist tendencies as Woo.
As one would expect from a Wuxia film, there are some amazing martial arts fight sequences throughout. And for a movie that was made in 1979, the special effects are shockingly good, allowing the film to make the most out of its surreal and buoyant tone and action sequences. At a point, the swordplay begins to become somewhat monotonous, but then the action choreography takes a turn that is far more ambitious.
Last Hurrah for Chivalry contains what might be one of the greatest sequences ever committed to film. The candle room sequence includes both amazing choreography and some absolutely insane pyrotechnic effects. It sets a very high bar for the rest of Woo’s career, but fans know that the master action filmmaker one-ups himself with each and every movie he makes.
The only new bonus feature on this edition is a new interview with kung fu cinema scholar Grady Hendrix. Otherwise, it’s a bit bare-bones in that regard. Still, the film’s 2K restoration is pretty great, its crisp image being more than enough reason alone to pick up the Blu-Ray edition of this previously hard-to-find classic of Asian cinema.
Last Hurrah for Chivalry is exactly as enjoyable as you would expect from a Wuxia movie made by John Woo. Genre cinephiles will certainly want to pick up this pivotal piece of martial arts cinema history.
The Criterion Collection edition of Last Hurrah for Chivalry is now available.
The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1172): Two Films by Marguerite Duras -- Experimental Cinema Lovers Rejoice!
By Sean Boelman
French filmmaker Marguerite Duras’s filmography has been a mainstay on The Criterion Channel for a while now, so it was only a matter of time before her films were added to the physical collection. Two Films by Marguerite Duras is a two-disc set that collectors will want to add to their shelves, as it combines two important works of woman-helmed experimental cinema.
For those unfamiliar with Duras’s style, it’s known for being very experimental — with gorgeous visuals, interesting uses of sound, and lots of poeticism in its dialogue. She is arguably better known for her literature and for writing the French New Wave classic Hiroshima Mon Amour, but cinephiles are certainly familiar with her directorial efforts.
The set is primarily defined by its inclusion of Duras’s visually splendid period piece, India Song, following the wife of a French diplomat in 1930s India as she drifts through her unsatisfying life. It’s long and talky — and perhaps even outstays its welcome — but it’s an impressive feature nonetheless.
As the “Side B,” if you will, the Two Films by Marguerite Duras set includes Baxter, Vera Baxter, which is arguably the superior of the duo despite getting second billing. Like India Song, this film is quite visually stunning despite its restrained use of setting. The use of music in this one also stands out, with a catchy island tune recurring throughout.
It makes sense why these were the two films picked for the set — beyond being Duras’s two most recognizable films behind the camera: they feel very thematically connected. Both are about women stuck in unhappy marriages and having affairs, but the approach that Duras takes is quietly internalistic rather than the melodramatic love triangles we are used to seeing in the genre.
Both films also boast impressive leading performances. Delphine Seyrig — whom cinephiles may know as the eponymous protagonist from Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles — is just tremendous as the discontent diplomat’s wife in India Song. She also has a supporting turn in Baxter, Vera Baxter, but the more inspiring performance in that film is from Claudine Gabay as the eponymous character.
This set has what might be one of the most interesting bonus features on any Criterion Collection edition to date: a newly-discovered alternate English-language audio track to India Song that was directed by Duras herself. Although dubbing is usually something to stay away from, it’s interesting to see that option on a set like this and may be worth considering checking out.
The work of Marguerite Duras is an acquired and very particular taste, but Two Films by Marguerite Duras is a worthy addition to the collection. Both films mean a lot to the world of experimental cinema, and it’s nice to see them getting their time in the spotlight.
The Criterion Collection edition of Two Films by Marguerite Duras is now available.
By Sean Boelman
The Sundance Film Festival kicks off the year of independent cinema as a breeding ground for some of the most exciting films from around the world. Even before festival-goers began to convene upon the mountains in Park City, distribution deals were in the works for the movies that are going to be the next big thing. The most exciting part of attending a festival like Sundance is getting the opportunity to discover these indie gems.
We at disappointment media are covering the 2023 Sundance Film Festival remotely again, and we will be reporting on what we think may be the gems to look out for — many of which are accessible from your own home. (We will note if a film is not available for online viewing.) Be sure to check back in on this article, as we will be updating it with more brief thoughts as we continue to see more films!
There’s no questioning that Greenland Inuit lawyer and activist Aaju Peter is an extraordinary woman who has managed to accomplish some amazing things, and Twice Colonized does an excellent job of giving us an intimate, fly-on-the-wall look into her life. While the film’s call to action isn’t as urgent as one would hope, especially considering the breadth of the work that Peter is doing, the film asks some interesting questions about the idea of legacy and how the impact we make can last.
Against the Tide
One of the signs of a great verité documentary is that it doesn’t even feel like a documentary, and that is the case with Against the Tide. Telling the story of two fishermen in a village torn between traditional and modern ways, the storytelling and cinematography in this film are so exceptional that viewers will feel as if they have been transported to this village and are among its villagers. The result is a really captivating, compelling look at this remote part of the world.
Going Varsity in Mariachi
There’s no question why Going Varsity in Mariachi won the Jonathan Oppenheim award for Documentary Editing — it’s one of the most sleekly-produced documentaries in this year’s lineup. However, this unorthodox underdog story about a high school band participating in competitive mariachi runs a bit longer than it should. There are always a few documentaries at Sundance that would have been better off as a short than a feature, and while this is one of them, it’s still a ton of fun.
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project won the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Documentary Competition, and it seems like an award more for the subject than the film itself. There’s no denying how amazing of an artist Giovanni is — and hearing her poetry spoken by herself or narrator Taraji P. Henson is wonderful — but the film otherwise follows a pretty standard biographical documentary format. Still, the film is powerful and captivating if only because of the power of Giovanni's presence and story.
A Still Small Voice
Luke Lorentzen’s A Still Small Voice has a premise that sounds like it shouldn’t be terribly interesting: an aspiring hospital chaplain begins to experience self-doubt as she attempts to provide reassurance to patients on their deathbeds. However, Lorentzen’s storytelling is so intimate — providing a level of access that borders on feeling like voyeurism — that it’s absolutely riveting. There are some parts that feel unfocused, such as a subplot about the protagonist’s supervisor experiencing his own crisis of morality, but the core of the film is so quietly resonant that it is hard to shake.
The Accidental Getaway Driver
Sing J. Lee’s The Accidental Getaway Driver isn’t differentiated as much by its story as it is by how it approaches it. The story is a somewhat straightforward crime drama — a taxi driver is accidentally caught up in a criminal scheme when three escaped convicts take him captive — but Lee tells the story with such a focus on humanity that it feels refreshing. Is it a tad sentimental? Perhaps. Still, Hiep Tran Nghia’s performance is absolutely exquisite and what makes the film successful.
Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis)
This year, more so than average, the Sundance documentary slate is full of bleak and depressing films. As such, it’s nice to see something like Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis), a lighthearted music documentary that offers a relieving reprieve from the tension and devastation. Telling the story of the designers behind some of the most iconic album covers in music history, the documentary gives us the chance to hear from plenty of great musicians, and even more importantly, hear their music.
Like last year’s Klondike (which had an in-person encore showing at this year’s festival), the documentary Iron Butterflies tells the story of the downing of Malaysia Air flight MH17. While this is undeniably an important story and there is plenty more to learn and be told about this topic, the documentary’s overly abstract and experimental nature holds it back. The filmmakers were so devoted to creative expression and experimentation with form that they fail to capture what makes this story so powerful in the first place.
The Persian Version
It’s no surprise that The Persian Version won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance, as it’s an inoffensive, crowd-pleasing comedy benefiting from its filmmaker’s extremely personal touch. However, even though it is nice to see a film with such great representation as this, its beats are so conventional and formulaic that it ends up being rather predictable. It’s not a bad film by any means, but it never ascends beyond its saccharine nature.
The Moroccan film Animalia is perhaps most effective as an exercise in atmosphere over anything else. Although the plot itself is rather simple despite putting up the guise of something more profound and challenging, strong direction by Sofia Alaoui and a great performance by Oumaïma Barid make this film an absolutely riveting watch. I do wish it had engaged with its themes a bit more deeply, but I was constantly engaged by the filmmaking on display.
The Eternal Memory
Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberdi follows up her Oscar-nominated documentary The Mole Agent with a film that is arguably equally sentimental. The Eternal Memory certainly presents a compelling look at the lives of a couple who are devastated by the effects of Alzheimer’s, but its attempts to get an emotional reaction out of the viewer by any means necessary become somewhat overwhelming at a certain point. It’s certainly a well-made documentary, and it’s hard to fault anyone for liking it, but Alberdi’s style simply isn’t for me.
One of the common things about many of this year’s Sundance documentaries is that they were extraordinarily stressful, and that is certainly the case with Beyond Utopia. Following a network of people throughout Asia who strive to help North Korean defectors reach safety, the film is shot and edited in a downright captivating way. Although this arguably could have used a tighter cut, removing some of the subplots in favor of the main family, it’s still one of the most captivating documentaries of the festival.
Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck’s Fantastic Machine won an award for Creative Vision in the World Documentary competition, and while its editing is nothing short of impressive, it grows somewhat monotonous at a certain point. Additionally, the film thinks it’s more profound in its statements than it really is, as its central thesis is actually very obvious and straightforward.
A Little Prayer
Angus MacLachlan’s A Little Prayer boasts a star-studded ensemble but suffers from overly minimalistic writing and direction. The film’s dialogue is very stilted, but it certainly doesn’t help that MacLachlan directs his actors as if they are performing in a play, leading to delivery that fails any attempt it makes at realism. Beyond that, the film’s clumsy handling of conservative politics comes across as it endorsing pro-life opinions, which is certainly frustrating.
Food and Country
Documentarian Laura Gabbert is known for making some of the greatest culinary documentaries of the past decade, so it’s shocking that Food and Country is such a dud. Exploring the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the food supply chain, Gabbert’s arguments are filled with fallacies and myths that might have done some good had they been shared a year ago, but instead reintroduce a problem that the industry has already managed to fix. The result is a film that feels both half-baked and entirely irrelevant to where we are right now.
Zackary Drucker and Kristen Lovell’s The Stroll is one of two documentaries playing at this year’s Sundance, and arguably the less effective of the two. In this portrait of the transgender sex workers of New York’s meatpacking district, the filmmakers can’t seem to figure out how we, as the audience, are supposed to feel about these subjects. Are we meant to be inspired by how these women were empowered by better trans rights and sex positivity, or are we to be disturbed by a system that continues to oppress them? Ultimately, the film wants us to feel a bit of both, and it struggles to make us feel anything as a result.
By Sean Boelman
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival is back, and for the first time since 2020, has an in-person element in Park City in addition to its beloved online options. Now, cinephiles can again converge in the mountains or can choose to watch most of the lineup from the comfort of their own homes!
For the second year in a row, we at disappointment media are covering the festival remotely, and we wanted to call your attention to what we think are some of the films you should keep your eye on — whether you’re attending the festival in person or kicking back on the couch to watch some great indie cinema!
Other People's Children
Having debuted on last year’s fall festival circuit, Rebecca Zlotowski’s wonderful romance Other People’s Children is making its U.S. Premiere at Sundance as part of the Spotlight section. Buoyed by a performance by budding starlet Virginie Efira — who gives what is sure to be the single best turn in any film at the festival this year — the film refreshingly avoids being melodramatic while being an absolute emotional powerhouse of a film.
The Tuba Thieves
For many years now, Sundance has been a champion for films telling disabled stories — just a couple years ago being the launchpad for the Best Picture-winning film CODA. The metafiction documentary The Tuba Thieves is the latest in that legacy of d/Deaf representation, and it might be the most unorthodox film at the festival this year. Don’t let the title (or the Sundance description) fool you, this is straight avant-garde cinema. That’s not an insult by any means, though. This is a singular, fascinating cinematic experience.
20 Days in Mariupol
Although there have already been some documentaries about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it would be hard to imagine one as viscerally powerful as journalist Mstyslav Chernov’s 20 Days in Mariupol, premiering in the World Cinema Documentary competition. This is an extraordinarily brutal watch, with Chernov offering a no-holds-barred glimpse into the very real terrors being experienced by the Ukrainian people at the hands of the Russians, but viewers will absolutely feel how important it is to watch this film.
The Longest Goodbye
Also in the World Cinema Documentary competition is The Longest Goodbye, which is poised to be this year’s documentary breakout hit a la Fire of Love. Like the acclaimed documentary from last year’s festival, The Longest Goodbye is a science documentary with some of the most gorgeous nature cinematography you may ever see in your life. The shots included in the film depicting the vast beauty of outer space are simply breathtaking — and the Earth-bound stuff is pretty great too. In its exploration of the isolation experienced by astronauts, the film finds an unexpectedly human and empathetic angle. It’s a crowd-pleaser in the best way.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls
For those looking for a bit more brevity in their Sundance viewing, Midnight selection Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls fits that bill perfectly. Inspired by writer/director/star Andrew Bowser’s character known from the “Weird Satanist Guy” meme, this is a throwback horror-comedy blending elements of so many of the movies that hardcore genre cinephiles grew up with. In other words, it’s perfectly at home in Sundance’s Midnight lineup.
And these are just a few of the amazing films playing in the lineup! Other exciting films to look out for are Slow (World Cinema Dramatic), Sorcery (World Cinema Dramatic), Kim’s Video (NEXT), Rye Lane (Premieres — playing in-person only), and L’Immensità (Spotlight). Be sure to buy your tickets now before they sell out!
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival runs January 19-29 in-person in Park City, UT and January 24-29 online.
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.
The Snake Hole
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