Mohammad Rasoulof directs this Iranian thriller

‘Manuscripts Don’t Burn’ on Amazon Prime

What’s most startling about Mohammad Rasoulof’s Iranian thriller Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Iran, 2013, not rated, with subtitles) is its audacity. Iranian filmmakers have a history of couching their criticisms of life in Iran in metaphor. This film puts its portrait of authoritarian oppression out in the open. We open on a contract murder that plays like […]

Jafar Panahi’s ‘3 Faces’ free on Kanopy

In 2010, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was arrested and charged for “Propaganda against the Iranian government.” His sentence: he was forbidden to leave Iran or make any films for 20 years. 3 Faces (Iran, 2018) is the fourth feature he has made since the sentence was passed. And once again Panahi plays himself on screen, […]

Shih Chun in King Hu's 1967 wuxia pian classic from Taiwan

Blu-ray: ‘Dragon Inn’ / ‘Legend of the Mountain’ – King Hu on Criterion and Kino

Dragon Inn (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) Legend of the Mountain (Kino, Blu-ray, DVD) After the success of Come Drink With Me, the pioneering wuxia pian (“martial chivalry”) adventure that mixed martial arts, romance, comic action, and historical settings, Hong Kong director King Hu went to Taiwan for the opportunity to make films with greater freedom. Dragon […]

Giuliano Gemma (billed as Montgomery Wood) as Ringo in the spaghetti westerns from Dessario Tessari

Spaghetti Blu-ray: A pair of ‘Ringo’s and ‘A Fistful of Dynamite’

A Pistol for Ringo/The Return of Ringo: Two Films by Dessario Tessari (Arrow, Blu-ray) A Fistful of Dynamite (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray) Duccio Tessari is not one of the directors known for spaghetti westerns. In fact, he only directed two in his long and successful career, both with Giuliano Gemma (billed as Montgomery Wood) playing against […]

Szabolcs Thuróczy and Zoltán Fenyvesi in the film by Attila Till from Hungary

‘Kills on Wheels’ – Wheelchair assassins on Netflix

The offbeat Hungarian thriller Kills on Wheels (Hungary, 2016) turns a dark subject into an unexpected crime tale of triumph and hope with a streak of black comedy. Zoli and Barba are disabled teenagers in a rehabilitation facility where they meet Janos (Szabolcs Thuróczy), a former fireman now paralyzed from the waist down. Gruff and […]

Ava Gardner and James Mason star in the ravishing romantic drama from Albert Lewin

‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’ on FilmStruck

I have a soft spot for Albert Lewin, a literary Hollywood writer/producer turned director with a continental sensibility and an eye for handsome imagery (if not always cinematic storytelling). His productions tended toward literary adaptations (The Good Earth, which he produced, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, which he scripted and directed) but Pandora and […]

The Italian TV crime drama

‘Romanzo Criminale: The Complete Series’ on Amazon Prime Video

Romanzo Criminale: The Complete Series (Italy, 2008-2010) – In the late 1970s, ambitious young thug Lebano (short for The Lebanese) hatches a plan to leave the petty robberies behind and, in partnership with another gang, take over the drug trade in Rome, a city that is divided up by a number of small, unorganized gangs. […]

‘Dawson City: Frozen Time’ – Film/history on FilmStruck

Bill Morrison’s films straddle film history and avant-garde expressionism, mining the wealth of silent film history and exploring the abstract beauty of decaying nitrate film, a particularly volatile medium that breaks down over time. Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016) celebrates the “Dawson Film Find” of 1978, thousands of reels of film buried in the permafrost, […]