November 26, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Also this week: The Night of the Hunter, Salon Kitty, I'm Still Here

Highlight of the Week
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Mongrel) Upon said film’s theatrical release earlier this year, Banksy’s art vandal status went from notorious to legendary. But he isn’t the centrepiece of his own exposé on the underground art scene in which he dominates – Los Angeles-based bizarro Frenchman Thierry Guetta is. Thierry finally finds a focus for his incessant videotaping and this untapped movement becomes his canvas. Capturing all the street talent he can muster, Thierry grows obsessed with the British figure known as Banksy, publicized for such illicit acts as spicing up Israel’s Wall in the West Bank with his edgy brand of artwork. Things get even weirder when the two finally meet and Banksy turns the camera on Thierry, who unveils his own exhibit of highly profitable, highly derivative pop art under the handle MBW (aka Mr. Brainwash). This might seem like a gauche move but as Banksy maintains: there are no rules. That assertion also applies to this so-called documentary that may very well be a ruse, in which case it’s even more bat-shit brilliant. Tasty extras include additional footage, an unreleased film by MBW, a Banksy short and collectables. 

Also Available

The Night of the Hunter (Criterion) Robert Mitchum delivered his career best as a knuckle-tattooed preacher in the only film Charles Laughton ever directed (probably because it tanked). With its myriad styles and tones touching on comedy, fairytale, film noir and gothic horror, there has never been anything else quite like it since. (A modest attempt would be David Gordon Green’s clear-cut homage, Undertow.) Even to this day, The Night of the Hunter feels as jarring, artful and altogether distinctive as it must have a whopping 55 years ago. Only now we know better, and the film has become an exemplar of first-rate American cinema. Criterion is giving this classy classic the upgrade it deserves, with snazzy a/v in both standard and high-def and a smorgasbord of extras like commentary from second-unit director Terry Sanders and others, over two hours of outtakes and a handful of interviews. 

Salon Kitty (Blue Underground) And you thought Tinto Brass’ portrayal of sex-crazed Roman Emperor Caligula was kinky. That was a cakewalk next to Brass’ 1976 Nazisploitation pseudo-porn, Salon Kitty. Most would heave at the sight of S.S. officials getting freaky with escorts, but Salon Kitty has more going for it than randy Nazis and their depraved sexploits. It also features deliciously campy performances (namely from Ingrid Thulin, who starred in Bergman’s Cries and Whispers four years prior) and legitimately groundbreaking production design by Kubrick collaborator Ken Adam. For perverts and open-minded cineastes, this uncut high-def re-issue is both weird and somewhat worth your time. Extras are the same as before, we get separate interviews from Brass and Adam.   

I’m Still Here (Magnolia) This week sees the release of another dubious doc, one that has already been exposed as 100 percent fiction (so genuine drugs weren’t frequently snorted and inhaled – what’s the fun in that?). Alliances between Oscar nominees have typically yielded less trippy results, but after all the tabloid punking, Casey Affleck’s years-in-the-making profile of brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix’s physical, psychological and artistic descent into martyrdom is just that: trippy and out-and-out alienating. The resulting film often feels like a one trick pony, but it’s a dedicated act that gives way to hilarious insights about the nature of celebrity and public reception. Tony Klifton would be pleased. I’m not sure who else would. Extras: commentary with Affleck, Phoenix and others, deleted scenes, alternate ending.