Saturday, May 27, 2023

RED SUN (1970) (Radiance Films Blu-ray Review)

RED SUN (1970)
aka Rote Sonne 

Label: Radiance Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Cert 12 
Duration: 89 Minutes 6 Seconds 
Audio: German PCM 2.O Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Rudolf Thome
Cast: Uschi Obermaier, Marquard Bohm, Sylvia Kekulé, Gaby Go, Diana Körner, Peter Moland, Don Wahl, Hark Bohm, Henry van Lyck

In Red Son (1970) down n' out slacker Thomas (Marquard Bohm, Kings of the Road) hitches a ride from Hamburg to Munich to visit his ex-girlfriend Peggy (the hypnotic Uschi Obermaier, Detektive). He catches up with her at a night club where she's bartending, after securing a gin and tonic on the house he manages to charm his way into her lettings him stay on at her stylish flat for a few days. Peggy lives with three other attractive women in a commune-like lifestyle, and together they have hatched some ambiguous sort of feminist ideology wherein they allow themselves to have a male lover for five days, but then they must kill them, before they can fall in love. 

Free-loading moocher Thomas is blissfully unaware of this perverse house rule, and stays on, over the course of a couple of days he senses somethings odd is afoot, which is later confirmed when he witness one of the girls shoot her lover in a public space, which clues him in to the fact that he might be in danger, though curiously he seems to do very little to extract himself from the situation. Thomas ends up being a pretty charming guy and the girls seem to take a liking to him, Peggy attempts to warn him to leave and her roommate Isolde (Gaby Go), who was suspect about killing her lover previously, even confesses to him about the five-day kill rule. The set-up sounds like it would make for a terrific thriller, and it is sort of, but it's told from an outsider perspective in a way, you're kind of watching it from above and don't get much of any character inner-thought or character development, we're just sort of watching things unfold before us, which makes for a unique experience, if not the most engaging one.  

The two leads here manage to hold you're attention quite well considering how little story we get to chew on, Bohn as the slacker freeloading off his ex's generosity is somehow quite charming in an uglier-Mick Jagger sort of way, he's an affable opportunist for sure but not a malicious jerk by any means. Obermaier as his ex Peggy is absolutely hypnotic, a model who was some sort of counter-culture icon at the time of filming in Germany, she exudes a magnetic allure that just pulls you in with those eyes and the way her hair frames her stunning features. She looks like she should have been a bigger movie star, but apparently had done very little film work. Funnily, despite the five-day kill rule none of the women come off as particularly malicious either, at least not until they're cold-bloodedly shooting you to fulfill their man-murdering manifesto. Even when they're building a bomb in the bedroom and later testing it by setting it off in the countryside it all seems so casual and non-threatening. I didn't even mind that their undeveloped feminist philosophy about killing men doesn't really ever get discussed, it's mentioned only in passing, it's just what they do, and the weird narratives style of the film fits that ambiguity quite well. You're meant to watch it, not understand it fully, and I can honestly say I am not sure what, if anything, the film is "meant" to be saying about the relationship between men and women, the femenist movement, or anything else for that matter, but I was pleasantly intrigued by it none the less. It's a sort of late-60's counter culture anti-thriller with plenty of quirk and a bevy of attractive young women who want to kill their male mates. Admittedly the thriller elements fail to generate tension until the final frames during a shootout on the shore of a lake at sunrise, but I found the film on the whole rather captivating and unique. I also loved this as an unfiltered  document of late-60's German culture and fashions with bright colored decor, short skirts, hip hair cuts, vintage cars including a surprisingly waterproof Volkswagen Beetle, and for some reason I love seeing grocery store displays from the past in movies and this film delivers that as well.

Audio/Video: Red Sun (1970) makes its worldwide Blu-ray premier from Radiance Films in 1080p HD framed in 1:66:1 widescreen, offering a 2K scan of the OCN overseen by director Rudolf Thome. The source is in terrific shape with only a few minor film blemishes popping up. This is a very colorful presentation that captures the vibrant late-60's fashion and design trends with the multi-colored interior of the apartment looking terrific, blacks are nice and deep and there's some good depth and clarity to the image. The lone audio optional is an uncompressed German mono with optional English subtitles. The sound events are in great shape, the soundtrack plus songs by The Nice (featuring Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and Small Faces sounded quite wonderful. 

Onto the extras, we get Select scene commentary with Thome and Rainer Langhans, who was Obermaier’s boyfriend and Kommune 1 member, who was inspiration inspiration for the film. There's also a new 21-min Rote Sonne between Pop Sensibility and Social Critique - A newly produced visual essay by scholar Johannes von Moltke on Red Sun, in addition to another 51-min video essay From Oberhausen to the Fall of the Wall: A visual essay by academic and programmer Margaret Deriaz

The single-disc release arrives in a clear, full-height Scanavo keepcase with a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork featuring original movie poster designs, both options featuring a numbered spine [this being #6], plus it has Radiance's Removable OBI Strip, aka a spine card. The OBI strip is an additional removable strip of paper wrapped around the spine of the release containing a rating, synopsis, technical info and advert for other Radiance releases on the flipside of it, and when removed it leaves the wrap free of credits or ratings logos. Inside there's a whopper of a Limited Edition 52-page Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Samm Deighan that talks about Thome's influence, the principal cast,  the influence of communes, and the feminist movement and sexual revolution, and how it was a film that was a bit ahead of it's time, plus plenty more, newly translated archival letters by Wim Wenders, critic Enno Patalas and the German Film Evaluation Office on the film’s official submission. Also in the booklet is a newly translated archival interview with Rudolf Thome that gets into making the film, the eccentricities of Obermaier, Marquard Bohm (a few good stories there), the film's reception and distribution, plus we get cast and crew credits, transfer and release credits, and several new and insightful newly translated reviews spanning from the time of it's release to re-release in the 90s, both good and bad. 

Special Features:
- High-definition digital transfer overseen by director Rudolf Thome
- Select scene commentary with Thome and Rainer Langhans, Obermaier’s boyfriend and Kommune 1 member who served as inspiration for the film and was on set for the shoot
- Rote Sonne between Pop Sensibility and Social Critique - A newly produced visual essay by scholar Johannes von Moltke on Red Sun, which looks at the social and cultural influences on the film and provides context for the era in which it was made (2022) (20:39)
- From Oberhausen to the Fall of the Wall: A visual essay by academic and programmer Margaret Deriaz tracing the development of the New German Cinema from the Oberhausen Manifesto to the fall of the Berlin wall (2023) (49:53) 
- Reversible sleeve featuring designs based on original posters
- Limited edition 52-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Samm Deighan, newly translated archival letters by Wim Wenders, critic Enno Patalas and the German Film Evaluation Office on the film’s official submission, newly translated archival interview with Rudolf Thome and an overview reviews
- Limited edition of 2000 copies (each for the UK and US), presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings

Screenshots from the Radiance Films Blu-ray: 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A QUESTION OF SILENCE (1982) (Cult Epics Blu-ray Review)


Label: Cult Epics
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: Dutch LPCM 2.0 Mono /DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Marleen Gorris
Cast: Cox Habbema, Nelly Frijda, 
Edda Barends, Henriette Tol

In the Dutch feminist film A Question of Silence (1982), directed by Marleen Gorris (Antonio’s Line), three women, complete strangers unto one another enter a clothing store, each on their own independent excursion. When one of the women is caught by the male shopkeeper the other two women, seemingly with no premeditated thought, surround and kill a male shopkeeper, bludgeoning him to death with foot, hand and random object from inside the shop, while a group of other women shoppers look on, almost trance like. When the act of finished they depart the store, separately, each embarking on a celebratory bit of ritual. The next day the women are rounded up by the authorities for the crime with very little fanfare, seeming quite content to be apprehended, as if it was expected.

Incarcerated prior to their trial the court assigns female psychiatrist Janine (Cox Habbema) to the case, tasked with finding out the the why of it all, we already know the who, and to ascertain if they are clinically of sound mine to stand trial. The three women are a stay at home mother of three, Christine M. (Edda Barends), a talkative and happily divorced older waitress, Ann Jongman (Nelly Frijda), and a vibrant twentysomething executive secretary, Andrea Brouwer (Henriette Tol). Janine sets about interviewing the three women individually, as well as their significant others and co-workers to get to the bottom of why they committed such a violent and seemingly unprovoked crime. As the interviews unfold the tightly knit story offers flashbacks into the lives of the three women, of their unhappy experiences with men in general, as well as offering insight into the killing of the shopkeeper. The murder itself is actually unseen, we see the women's actions as they as they direct it towards the man on the floor, but the carnage is not seen at all. More descriptive is the coroner's assessment of the injuries inflicted on the corpse, which paints quite an image of mutilated genitals and a desecrated face and chest. The interviews are interesting in the women's different takes and approaches to being interviewed, though they never do talk about the why of it all, it's more of an open-ended why not sort of thing. Christine M. chooses to be mute, her lack of a verbal response speaking directly to her belief that men don't listen to what you have to say so why bother? Waitress Ann Jongman talks quite a bit, even off-color joking about that she'd be willing to kill for some chocolates, while the Henriette Tol speaks about how she know more than her bosses but has never been able to break through the male-dominated ranks. As for Janine, the interviews are having an effect on her as well, questioning her own marriage to a lawyer who second guesses her professional assessment of the women and why they've done what they've done, as it might have an adverse effect on his professional career. The film itself culminates in a bit of ambiguity during the court room trial with the three defendants erupting into caucauphounous laughter which spreads throughout the women gathered in the courtroom, including Janine herself, who walks out of the courtroom seemingly infused with a more vibrant sense of self and sharper feminist edge. 

It's an interesting whydunit, we know who did it, there's no question, but why would three women, strangers unto each other, team-up to kill a man who is just doing his job? The answer is both shocking and pedestrian in it's simplicity, and it's a testament to the film that it still has power to ruffle the feathers. It really all comes down to women just being tired of dealing with the patriarchy and their suffering male micro-aggressions. It's both that simple and that complicated. 

While I think the film is quite procative I think it's also going to be divisive, even after forty-plus years, it's still shocking,  it's extreme feminist POV, by design, and it will certainly upset the dinosaur-thinking patriarchy who even to this day are desperate to hold onto power and keep women under their thumb. This is simply a film that was shocking in it's debut and sadly is still relevant today, it has a power and potency to it, even without visceral violence, the ideas are powerful, even if exaggerated, and no matter how you feel about it's content or ideology I think it's a film that will get you talking. 

If you're a fan of the film you will be pleased to know that Cult Epics will be following up this release with Marleen Gorris' Broken Mirrors (due August 2023) and The Last Island (due October 2023), looking to give Gorris the same excellent multi-release treatment afforded to other Dutch filmmakers like Pim de la Parra and Nouchka van Brakel - so keep your eyes peeled, there are more Dutch treats on the way soon!

Audio/Video: A Question of Silence gets a region-free Blu-ray from Cult Epics, presented here in 1080p HD widescreen (1.66:1), sourced from a 2K scan and restoration from an unspecifies source. The source itself looks solid with only some intermittent flaws, the film has course looking grain with fuzzy detail, it looks like it was shot on 16mm with less than stellar depth and clarity, but colors and textures are quite pleasing throughout. Audio comes by way of Dutch LPCM 2.0 Mono or Dutch DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with optional English subtitles, both tracks are well-balanced, no serious issues aside from some minor source related wear.

Extras start-off with an Audio Commentary by Film Scholar Patricia Pisters, plus we get a 11-min archival Interview with director Marleen Gorris (Cinevisie, 1982), as well as an archival 16-min Interview with actress Cox Habbema (Cinevisie, 1982). Extras are buttoned-up with a brief Polygoon Journal NewsreelPromotional Gallery, and 18-min of Trailers for the film and other Cult Epics releases. 
The single-disc release arrives in a clear Viva Elite keepcase with a 2-sided non-reversible sleeve of artwork, the reverse side featuring a scene from the film.

Special Features:
- 2K HD Transfer and Restoration
- Audio Commentary by Film Scholar Patricia Pisters
- Interview with director Marleen Gorris (Cinevisie, 1982)(11:15)
- Interview with actress Cox Habbema (Cinevisie, 1982) (16:22)
- Polygoon Journal Newsreel (1982) (0:46)
- Promotional Gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3:02)
- Cult Epics Trailers: AmnesiaA (1:43), All About Eva (2:52), The Cool Lakes of Death (3:33), The Debut (2:52), Frank & Eva (2:42), Blue Movie (1:52)
- Double-sided Sleeve of Artwork (Blu-ray only)

Screenshots from the Cult Epics Blu-ray: