I've been particularly enjoying the recent spate of blogs highlighting great movies currently unavailable on Region 1 DVD, and thought I'd kick off our blog properly by making a small contribution to the discussion. However- these choices relate to Region 2 though, as I live in Europe.
5. Suture (Scott McGehee, USA, 1993)
Shot in lustrous black and white by cinematographer Greg Gardiner, this neo-noir made a big impression on me when I first saw it in the cinema. Exploring themes such as the nature of memory and racial identity, whilst remaining in essence a revenge- thriller, this is either an empty exercise in style, or one of the most underrated movies of the 90's, depending on whom you talk to. One things that's incontestable though, is that it features the best use of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire yet put to celluloid.
4. Vamp (Richard Wenk, USA, 1986)
Grace Jones' impossibly sculpted physique finds its perfect cinematic representation in this gaudy cult horror. The movie's cocaine-and-shoulder-pads sheen heightens both the seediness, and the sexiness of the proceedings, aided by a great italo synth score by Johnathan Elias. I absolutely loved this as a kid when it was broadcast on Alex Cox's great cult movie series Moviedrome. Robert Rodrigueuz really plundered the concept with From Dusk Til Dawn, but failed to deliver such an authentically garish atmosphere.
3. Faust (Jan Svankmayer, Czechoslovakia, 1994)
Svankmayer's dizzying blend of stop motion, live action and puppet theatre makes this an excellent and original adaptation of Goethe and Marlowe's tale. Realities collide and merge as the puppets begin to occupy human spaces, and the amorphous clay skull of Mephistopheles pursues Faust to his inevitable demise. A lot more playful and accessible than the Czech surrealist's later works like Little Otik, this is one film I'd love to see again.
2. Yol (Serif Gören, Switzerland, 1982)
Kurdish political prisoner Yilmaz Guney made this film from his Turkish prison cell by smuggling detailed scripts and storyboards to his assistant Gören, who faithfully recreated his anti-authoritarian critique of Turkey in the aftermath of 1980's coup d'etat. As a group of prisoners make their way home to see their families during a brief period of leave, they struggle with the dehumanising effects of both secular and religious law. Despite having the infamy of its 8 year ban in Turkey, and its winning of the Palme D'Or, this is conspicuous by its absence on DVD, and ranks amongst the finest political films ever made.
1. Ich War Neunzehn (Konrad Wolf, DDR, 1968)
Made in East Germany's DEFA studios, this semi-autobiographical film depicts Russian-born German Gregor Hecker serving in the Red Army as it pushes its way towards Berlin in 1945. An intelligent study of violence, patriotism and identity, this film depicts war as an slow, elliptical process, sharply punctuated by surreal episodes, intense fear and horror. I was lucky enough to see it in the cinema at university, as our enterprising tutor had managed to rent a copy from the Goethe Institute, and was enthralled by Wolf's highly original depiction of warfare. Warmly recommended.
Please join the debate over lost films- I'd be very interested to hear about more films of merit that have slipped through the perilous cracks of film distribution.
Until next time...