It's been a long time since I've done a round-up. Below you'll find micro-reviews of these recent releases if I've seen them, otherwise I'm giving you the blurbs or awards that have piqued my interest in each. Manda Bala Winner of Cinema Eye awards for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Documentary Cinematography Prize.
Ganja & Hess I saw a tattered print of this landmark of African-American cinema in Philadelphia in the mid-90s. As a vampire film, I'm not sure it's the "lost masterpiece" it's sometimes claimed to be. But it's definitely a strange and mysterious film worthy of a second viewing, and possibly more. The film stars Duane Jones (the original Night of the Living Dead).
The Guatemalan Handshake A goofy take on Americana and the eccentrics that inhabit it, Todd Rohal's Slamdance hit gets "the Benten treatment" in this deluxe 2-disc set. The road-trip plot sputters in parts, but the constantly-inventive cinematography kept me involved, suggesting a post-post-modern update of David Byrne's True Stories.
Lake of Fire J. Hoberman (Village Voice): 17 years in the self-financed making, Lake of Fire may be as daringly aestheticized as any social documentary since Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line.
The Delirious Fictions of William Klein: Eclipse Box Set From the Criterion/Eclipse website: An American expatriate in Paris Klein [has been] making challenging cinema for over forty years yet with the exception of his acclaimed 1969 documentary Muhammed Ali The Greatest his film work is barely known in the United States. In his three fiction features...Klein's politically galvanizing and insanely entertaining social critiques seem even more ahead of their time than works of the more famous New Wavers that overshadowed them: colorful surreal antidotes to all.