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"DVD Is The New Vinyl": Girls Gone Wild Edition

Features
by Aaron Hillis
July 24, 2013 9:59 AM
6 Comments
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"Heavy Traffic"
1973, dir. Ralph Bakshi
(Shout! Factory, available on BD)
Lovably crude in so many ways, Bakshi's semi-autobiographical, animated trip through the asphalt jungle (following the unlikely success of his X-rated 'toon debut "Fritz the Cat") might be on the nose with its penny-arcade pinball motif as a recurring metaphor for inner-city life, but its smutty and surreal sense of humor ages well as a Hubert Selby-esque document of NYC's gritty, groovy Seventies. Michael Corleone is an aspiring cartoonist who lives with his exasperating parents (an adulterous Italian pop, a nagging Jewish ma) in a politically incorrect wasteland of danger and desperation called the Lower East Side, where everyone's an addict, whore, thug, bigot, or outrageous stereotype. The narrative is a shaggy mutt sniffing garbage cans, as Michael takes to the streets, shacks up with Carole—a tough-and-sexy black bartender who is making the legless bouncer Shorty homicidally jealous—and then there's the insatiable transsexual Snowflake who gets off on being brutally assaulted. It's a dark and grotesque carnival, but the film's best moment is also its most jubilant: Michael's pencil-drawn ode to "Felix the Cat" animator Otto Messmer, which dances to the tune of Chuck Berry's "Maybelline."
The Skinny: Tits constantly fall out of every woman's shirt and a random pervert spins on his own erection before blasting off through the ceiling, yet The New York Times' Vincent Canby ranked "Heavy Traffic" on his Ten Best Films of 1973.
Bonus Round: Nah, it's a bare bones Blu-ray. But here's a quick link to the best song on the film's soundtrack, a hip retro cover of "Scarborough Fair" by Sergio Mendes and the Brasil' 66.
Makes a "Bakshi's Naked City" Triple Feature with: "Hey Good Lookin'," "Coonskin"

"Spring Breakers"
2012, dir. Harmony Korine
(Lionsgate/A24, available on BD, DVD)
With respect to James Franco's cornrowed, grill-mouthed, award-worthy showmanship as Alien, the most subversive quality of Korine's zeitgeist-fellating, sunburnt cartoon of a crime comedy is that it wound up in mall multiplexes across America, but at least this overrated goof exists in the world. In his earnest, gently eccentric commentary, Korine talks about making a frantic, impressionistic "post-articulation" that explodes time with its cyclical dialogue, similar to loop-based electronic music. Britney Spears acts as a "pop culture umbilical cord" for the film, Alien was originally based on the beach bums Korine rode the bus with, and after visiting several strip clubs while location scouting, he chose one that reminded him of a cock-fighting pit. "I think someone found a finger there while were shooting," the recovering bad-boy auteur says about a park locale where a body had been recently fished out, and swears his "good friend" Gucci Mane, the hip-hop maniac who costars as the ultimate rival gangsta, "only functions if he smokes a good ten blunts before breakfast."
The Skinny: Although cleared up in a GQ interview last year, this disc finally puts to rest the rumor that Franco's antiheroic persona was inspired by Riff Raff, when it was actually a Florida rapper named Russ "Dangeruss" Curry.
Bonus Round: Also on the disc is a behind-the-scenes featurette that's surprisingly self-serious, another about the soundtrack and Cliff Martinez's score, a deleted scene in which the bikini-clad gang of four bully a poor guy into stripping, expletive-riddled outtakes, and some irreverent Vice-produced promotionals. Sprang Brayyyyk forever, y'all.
Makes a "Girls Gone Wild" Triple Feature with: "Thirteen," "Foxes"

WORTH A SPIN:

"Boy" (2010, Kino Lorber, on BD, DVD) – New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi ("Eagle vs. Shark") co-stars in this delightful coming-of-age dramedy as the deadbeat dad of the eponymous narrator, an 11-year-old Maori who loves Michael Jackson and escapes into tall-tale fantasies as kicky, quirky and wistful as the films of Wes Anderson.

"Cohen & Tate" (1989, Shout! Factory, on BD) – Icily controlled Roy Scheider and moody loose cannon Adam Baldwin are hit men played against each other by their abductee, a nine-year-old kid in witness protection, in Eric Red's criminally underseen action-thriller—a riveting twist on O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief."

"End of Love" (2012, Gravitas, on DVD) – Mark Webber wrote, directed and stars in this sweet, sad, beautifully modulated drama, about a struggling L.A. actor and single dad still coping from the death of his wife. Shannyn Sossamon co-stars as a possibility for optimism, but Michael Cera steals it in a brief cameo as a party-hound version of himself.

"56 Up" (2012, First Run Features, on DVD) – One of the greatest and most humane experiments in the history of cinema beats on, as director Michael Apted checks in on the fourteen British volunteers (well, thirteen this time around) whose lives have been tracked on film every seven years since 1964's "Seven Up!".

"The House I Live In" (2012, Virgil Films, on DVD) – America's bullshit drug war is impressively, meticulously exposed as such in Eugene Jarecki's heartbreaking but riveting investigation, which would be worth seeing alone for the eloquently scornful testimonies of "The Wire" creator David Simon.

"Hands of the Ripper" (1971, Synapse Films, on BD/DVD combo, DVD) – That's Jack the Ripper to you, but it's his traumatized daughter Anna (Angharad Rees) whose seemingly possessed impulses drives Peter Sasdy's lavish yet savage Victorian-age chiller, arguably the grisliest production from Hammer Studios.

"The Life of Oharu" (1952, Criterion, on BD, DVD) – Renowned for his floating-camera formalism and proto-feminist takes on the struggles of women, Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi ("Sansho the Bailiff," "Ugetsu") exquisitely adapts a 17th-century novel about a prostitute reflecting on her former life as a lady-in-waiting (Kinuyo Tanaka).

"Punk Vacation" (1987, Vinegar Syndrome, on BD/DVD combo) – The burgeoning boutique label continues their trend of giving classy treatments to exploitation rarities with this schlockily entertaining, straight-to-video thriller about "punks" (anyone vaguely new wave or goth) facing off against local yokels.

"Shun Li and the Poet" (2011, Film Movement, on DVD) – After immigrating to Italy, a thirtysomething Chinese mother and barmaid (Jia Zhangke regular Zhao Tao) discovers a platonic bond with a weathered Slavic fisherman (Rade Sherbedgia) in Andrea Serge's sneakily affecting, gorgeously shot elegy of lost souls.

"Wild Bill" (2011, New Video Group, on BD, DVD) – Acclaimed in its native Britain but barely seeing a U.S. release, the solidly entertaining directorial debut of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" star Dexter Fletcher concerns—in, funny enough, an East End crime caper—an ex-con (Charlie Creed-Miles) and his social-realist struggle to rebuild his family and stay out of trouble.

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6 Comments

  • David Dean | July 25, 2013 7:02 PMReply

    Many thanks for the "Best of July" plug for "Affair of the Heart," Aaron. (I'm the editor of the film.) And bonus thanks for actually watching the bonus features.

  • James Kang | July 24, 2013 9:17 PMReply

    These things are great. Keep 'em coming, Aaron.

    Why is July a slower month for DVD releases? Does anyone know? Is there a good reason for that? August looks like a great month, at least as far as Criterion releases go.

  • Aaron Hillis | July 25, 2013 3:50 PM

    Thanks, James. Admittedly, I've usually only noticed the first couple of July weeks have less top-shelf product, but even July 16 was a slim week. I think it's pure economics, since Independence Day isn't as big of a media shopping weekend; it's more of a get-out-of-the-house to barbecue, skip town or consume multiplex popcorn kind of holiday. And yes, August is looking up, as is even July 23/30!

  • El Hanso | July 24, 2013 4:58 PMReply

    Interesting choices. Some (quite a lot) I'm so far totally unfamiliar with.

    But I've seen Combat Girls and it's actually not that good. The actors are decent and Alina Levshin is fantastic, but the whole film is full of clichés, is so naive and suffers from an obvious narrative. It looks as if the filmmaker had to use every little detail, secret symbols or aphorisms, he found and crammed it into the movie, mostly as tattoos on the main character's body. And as an portrayal of Neo Nazi youths I found it to be quite problematic. I'm not saying the depiction was unrealistic, but it seemed one dimensional and too easy. Young Neo Nazis portrayed as unemployed losers, school drop-out, post-teen virgins, or wannabe rebels. Listening to silly video and "let me tell how it used to be" propaganda from a creepy grandpa who just hangs with the "kids." That's too superficial and easy for my taste.

  • Aaron Hillis | July 25, 2013 5:43 PM

    Hope you get a chance to dig in. As for COMBAT GIRLS, I'll agree that the breaking-free-of-family-ideologies coming of ager is a familiar, even crowded subgenre, but I would argue that it's too thorny, lived-in and plausible (it is a German film, and a hit among its natives) to write off its straightforwardness as one-dimensional. But, here's just hoping that Alina Levshin gets more work...

  • Gabe Toro | July 24, 2013 4:30 PMReply

    Great piece. Will look for Combat Girls. Been waiting FOREVER for Cohen and Tate.

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