This week is full of movies that seem to have come out of nowhere: The Secret (David Duchovny, Lili Taylor), Smart People (Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Page) The Search for John Gissing (Alan Rickman, Janeane Garofalo), and Watching the Detectives (Lucy Liu, Cillian Murphy). You can watch those at your own risk, but here is what I would suggest:
Branded Upon the Brain! (2006) directed by Guy Maddin
Branded Upon the Brain! was originally more of a theatrical event than film that included live narrators and Foley artists when it premiered at Toronto in 2006. So when in came to town as a plain ol' theatrical run, I was initially disappointed. My regret faded as soon as I say the film. Branded Upon the Brain! is simply one of Maddin's best films with or without the live element. Full of brilliant dark humor and creative black and white wonderment, Branded retreats ever-so-slightly from The Saddest Music in the World into more surreal territory. This DVD release from Criterion (cool!) looks to add some of the elements from the live event with narration tracks by Isabella Rossellini, Laurie Anderson, John Ashbery, Guy Maddin, Louis Negin, and Eli Wallach. (The theatrical had only on narrator as I remember, which I think was Maddin.) Fans of Maddin will know that his shorts are equally as interesting, and the disc includes two shorts "exclusively for this release:" It's My Mother’s Birthday Today and Footsteps.
Larisa Shepitko from Eclipse: Wings (1966) and The Ascent (1976)
Here's a nice two disc set from a director I claim total ignorance of. As a result, I will use their pitch: "The career of Larisa Shepitko, an icon of sixties and seventies Soviet cinema, was tragically cut short when she was killed in a car crash at age forty, just as she was emerging on the international scene. The body of work she left behind, though small, is masterful, and her genius for visually evoking characters' interior worlds is never more striking than in her two greatest works." I'm sold.
Irina Palm (2007) directed by Sam Garbarski
I missed this film at MSPIFF merely due to scheduling conflicts. Both screenings were up against other films that won out, and I regret not seeing it. Starring the one and only Marianne Faithfull as a 50-year-old woman who naively takes a job as a 'hostess' at 'Sexy World' to earn extra money.
Poisoned by Polonium (2007) directed by Andrei Nekrasov
Here is a doc that was MSPIFF that I did see and was absolutely mesmerised by this web of Russian intrigue. (Read my brief take here.)
CJ7 (2008) directed by Stephen Chow
Maybe not Stephen Chow's best film, but it is okay-la. More of a kids film that would be cool for those old enough to read subtitles. Yes, it is a sci-fi comedy that is set in Mainland China. By far the best part of the film is young actress Jiao Xu as the young boy Dicky.
Kiss of Death (1973)directed by Ho Meng Hua
Here's a Hong Kong sexploitation revenge flick from the Shaw Brothers. Staring Lo Lieh and Chen Ping in her debut.