Highlights this fortnight include, of course, the very quick turnaround release of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Fox, 4 stars). As you may have noticed we try not to focus on the really big releases in this column - more the curios and gems - but Larry Charles/Sacha Baron Cohen’s chokingly brilliant spoof documentary deserves a place on anyone’s shelf. Extras include three featurettes, one of which is a Kazakhstan Baywatch spoof and deleted scenes.
Bernard Ivans xtc Rose’s Snuff Movie (Lionsgate, 3 stars) never got a release in Scotland so it may be worth checking out. Showing the gift for terror he exhibited in Candyman Rose details what may have really happened when a famous horror director (Jeroen Krabbé) invites a load of actors to recreate some Manson family-style murders for a film he is making. Needless to say the line between truth and fiction is blurred. Another film that did not receive a Scottish release was The Lives of the Saints (Tartan, 3 stars), co directed by Scottish photographer Rankin. This odd, poetic tale of crime and angelic conversions in the Turkish area of London is something of a mess but an intriguing one.
Károly Makk’s lovely and tender 1971 exploration of Love (Second Run/DVD Retail, 4 stars), set in 1950s Hungary, opens with a lengthy sequence of a woman reminiscing in bed, and contrasting her nostalgic love in the past with her daughter-in-law’s desire to see her imprisoned husband. Based on famous Hungarian writer Tibor Déry’s book, the film asks what it means to love. As secrets, lies and hyperbolic letters pile up, a stupefied state of optimism begins to take hold of the film, not unlike that of love itself. This is a dreamy, beautifully distinctive work.
The best box sets include Margaret Tait: Selected Films (Lux, 5 stars). Tait was a Scottish filmmaker who studied film in Italy in the early 1950s before returning to her birthplace of Orkney. She believed more than most in William Carlos Williams’ famous declaration that there are ‘no ideas but in things’. Though she made a feature near the end of her life, Blue Black Permanent (1992), her genius was for capturing reality in the raw and shaping it, not to the demands of conventional narrative, but to the complexity of the moment. She would accumulate the moments until they took the shape of a film poem, and often used a music track to help bring out the poetry - as we find in perhaps her finest film, Where I Am is Here (1964). A haunting 35min masterpiece on Edinburgh in the mid 1960s, it shows Tait to be, alongside Bill Douglas, probably Scotland’s most important filmmaker. This is a vital collection for anyone interested in Scottish cinema.
Another box set highlight is the Catherine Deneuve Collection (Optimum, 4 stars) which includes Umbrellas of Cherbourg and the rare, sexy 1968 drama Manon 70. Meanwhile, the Guillermo Del Toro Collection (Optimum, 5 stars) features the director’s three best films The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth and his debut Cronos. Borat aside, the funniest film of the fortnight is the cheapo re-release of the 1972 Australian cult comedy film The Adventures of Barry Mackenzie (Guerilla Films, 5 stars) starring Barry Humphreys, Peter Cook and Spike Milligan. This is so funny that I guarantee you will ‘splash ye boots’. Next issue we’ll be grabbing some Golden Balls and trying to ‘Blow the bloody doors off!’