HomeReviewsBlu-ray Review Round-Up: Films by Lino Brocka, Julie Dash, Leos Carax &...

Blu-ray Review Round-Up: Films by Lino Brocka, Julie Dash, Leos Carax & more!

The world of cinema is adorned with visionary storytellers who have left an indelible mark on the art form. Stay with us as we will do the Blu-ray review of some of the famous director’s movies.

Lino Brocka, a trailblazing Filipino director, became a leading figure in Philippine cinema’s Second Golden Age during the late 20th Century.

His films, often characterized by a keen social consciousness, delved into the complexities of Filipino society, addressing issues of poverty, corruption, and human resilience.

An African American filmmaker, Julie Dash, shattered glass ceilings with her groundbreaking work, most notably the iconic “Daughters of the Dust” (1991).

Dash became the first African American woman to direct a feature film widely released in theatres, offering a mesmerizing exploration of Gullah culture and the complexities of generational identity.

Leos Carax, the enigmatic French director, stands as a symbol of uncompromising artistic vision.

Known for his surreal and visually arresting films, Carax has captivated audiences with works like “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf” (1991) and “Holy Motors” (2012).

It’s fascinating to delve into the movies of Lino Brocka, Julie Dash, and Leos Carax and explore the rich tapestry of their distinguished careers.

Each of them has made a significant contribution to the evolution of cinema, and it’s exciting to celebrate their visionary work.

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Blu-Ray Review: Two Films By Lino Brocka Manila in the Claws of Light (1975) 

The World Cinema Project by The Film Foundation has consistently delivered remarkable restorations of overlooked films.

The spotlight now falls on two creations by the prolific Filipino filmmaker Lino Brocka, whose untimely death at 52 left behind a significant cinematic legacy.

Although Criterion’s second volume of the World Cinema Project box sets will grant Region-A viewers access to “Insiang,” those with Region-B capabilities need not wait, as “Manila in the Claws of Light” is equally essential.

Both films offer poignant portrayals of life within Manila’s impoverished communities, featuring protagonists besieged by physical, spiritual, and financial challenges.

Brocka seamlessly blends vérité authenticity with profound emotional insight, utilizing on-the-ground shots of bustling slums that shift into intensely personal moments with strategic zooms.

Two Films by Lino Brocka
Two Films by Lino Brocka

In “Manila in the Claws of Light,” the central character is Julio (Rafael Roco Jr.), a young man who abruptly relocates from the countryside to the city in search of his girlfriend, Ligaya (Hilda Koronel).

Julio’s quest proves futile as he faces the harsh realities of urban life—a low-paying job on a construction site, exploitation by a corrupt foreman, and a reluctant involvement in prostitution, each inflicting its own set of indignities.

Brocka weaves an episodic, miserablist narrative and intersperses it with glimpses of Julio’s memories, starkly contrasting his current struggles.

In one poignant moment, there is a fleeting sense of recapturing a fraction of the idyllic past shared with Ligaya.

“Manila in the Claws of Light” masterfully captures the rarity, preciousness, and transience of interpersonal connections in the harsh urban environment, establishing it as one of the most compelling entries in the “alienated in the city” genre.

Insiang (1976)

In Lino Brocka’s international breakthrough film, “Insiang,” the director presents a more concentrated portrayal that immediately captivates viewers.

With a visceral opening shot of a slaughtered pig, setting a tone devoid of the grace notes found in his earlier work, “Manila in the Claws of Light.”

Hilda Koronel takes on the role of Insiang, a young woman repeatedly confronted with the harsh reality of being perceived as a mere commodity.

The strained relationship between Insiang and her mother, Tonya (Mona Lisa), worsens with the arrival of Tonya’s boyfriend, Dado (Ruel Vernal).

Insiang briefly finds relief, though no real solace, in her relationship with Bebot (Rez Cortez), who bears similarities to Dado.

The film takes a late turn into a rape-revenge narrative, seamlessly integrating with the groundwork of desperation laid throughout the story.

Brocka skillfully underscores that these societal issues are systemic, yet Insiang, trapped in her immediate struggles, lacks the luxury of a broader perspective.

The BFI’s four-disc dual-format set features stunning Blu-ray transfers sourced from 4K restorations. “Manila” and “Insiang” offer exceptionally film-like visuals, beautifully handling light and shadow nuances.

The images are detailed and clean and boast naturalistic and stable colours. While Insiang’s audio has some fidelity issues, the restoration process is extensively detailed in the accompanying notes.

The set includes solid LPCM mono tracks for both films.

Apart from the stellar transfers, the BFI set stands out for its extensive extras.

The “Manila” disc features a making-of documentary, a 40-minute piece on Filipino film with interviews by Tony Rayns, and a stills gallery.

On the “Insiang” disc, viewers can explore Christian Blackwood’s 1987 feature-length documentary “Signed: Lino Brocka” and a 1982 audio-only conversation between Rayns and Brocka, presented as a commentary track.

The set is complemented by a booklet containing an essay by Cathy Landicho Clark and a 1980 interview with Brocka.

Even for those considering Criterion’s World Cinema Project box set, the BFI’s offering is a worthwhile addition for its wealth of supplementary content.

Daughters of the Dust (1991) Cohen Film Collection

The captivating beauty of Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust” immediately envelops the viewer.

As the first feature by a black woman to receive a general theatrical release in the United States, Dash’s film centres on a close-knit Gullah family living off the coast of South Carolina in the early 20th Century.

The narrative unfolds at a pivotal moment as family members grapple with migration decisions, marking a cultural crossroads for the West African-descended community.

The matriarch (Cora Lee Day) staunchly refuses to leave the island home, setting the stage for varied perspectives among her grandchildren.

Dash’s film offers a visually rich tapestry, delving into cultural traditions through immersive depictions of food preparation, religious ceremonies, and lush costuming.

In this cultural context, where past, present, and future intertwine, Dash employs dissolves, slow zooms, and wide shots to create a riveting cinematic experience that goes beyond conventional plot structures.

Daughters of the Dust
Daughters of the Dust

The film’s free-associating structure may challenge grasping certain character relationships, but the visual storytelling is so compelling that it becomes an immersive, wash-over experience.

The Cohen/UCLA restoration of “Daughters of the Dust” is a monumental achievement, rescuing the film from a lacklustre DVD release.

Cohen’s 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer does justice to the film’s lyrical imagery, preserving the grain structure and delicate colour gradations.

The soundtrack, presented in 2.0 LPCM, complements the film with vibrant clarity, showcasing John Barnes’ synth-heavy score.

Cohen goes above and beyond with supplementary content, placing all extras on a second Blu-ray disc.

Notable features include a new audio commentary by Dash and producer Michelle Materre, an hour-plus interview with Dash conducted by Stephane Dunn, and an additional interview with cinematographer Arthur Jafa.

While lacking academic extras, Cohen’s edition is a must-own for cinephiles, celebrating the film’s visual prowess and its significant place in the black film canon.

The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) Kino Lorber

Another highly anticipated title has been checked off the wishlist as Leos Carax’s third feature, “The Lovers on the Bridge,” arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino.

This release stands alongside Kino’s distribution of Gaumont US Blu-rays for Carax’s first two features, further solidifying the significance of this release.

While we eagerly await a rescue of his divisive follow-up, “Pola X,” the arrival of “The Lovers on the Bridge” is a vital cinematic event.

Carax’s film is a cinematic ecstasy, where every emotion bursts forth on the screen, mirroring the film’s extravagant recreation of a French Revolution-celebrating fireworks display.

This film stands out as a quintessential moment in his oeuvre among Carax’s many indelible setpieces.

The story, rooted in recognizable humanity, follows two self-destructive individuals, played by Denis Levant and Juliette Binoche, colliding in orbit repeatedly.

Levant’s physically deteriorating portrayal of homelessness contrasts with Binoche’s portrayal of Michèle, a woman from a well-off family losing her eyesight, revealing a primal need for connection.

Set against the backdrop of the Pont Neuf, which is closed for repairs, the film weaves a subplot involving bridge denizen Hans (Klaus-Michael Grüber), culminating in a moving scene with a Rembrandt.

However, Carax focuses intensely on the relationship between Alex and Michèle, oscillating between gut-wrenching affection and gut-churning conflict.

The Lovers on the Bridge
The Lovers on the Bridge

While the film’s conclusion may feel somewhat conventional, Carax’s unique blocking, virtuosic camera movement, and inventive use of music create a potent blend.

Kino’s Blu-ray offers a beautiful 1080p, 1.66:1 transfer with excellent detail, natural skin tones, and vivid colours.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack carries weight, delivering dynamic sound for the various soundtrack selections.

Although extras are minimal, they maintain high quality.

A video essay by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin explores the distinctions between land and water spaces. In contrast, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s booklet essay delves into the film’s intersection of reality and artifice.

A standard-definition trailer emphasizes the significant improvement of this transfer.

Story of Sin (1975) Arrow Video 

Arrow continues its commendable efforts to introduce Walerian Borowczyk to English-speaking audiences with the release of another long-unavailable title, “Story of Sin.”‘

Following the success of their Region B box set and the US/UK release of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne,” Arrow once again showcases their prowess in film restoration and comprehensive supplemental content.

Notably, this release marks one of the initial titles as Arrow expands its arthouse-focused Academy line to the US market.

“Story of Sin,” a rare film by Borowczyk in his native Poland, leans more towards the arthouse spectrum than the exploitation genre, a characteristic that defines much of the director’s work, oscillating between these two poles.

Adapted from Stefan Zeromski’s novel, “Story of Sin” presents an elaborate literary narrative infused with surrealism.

Set in the 19th Century, the film delves into religious hypocrisy and the harsh sexual politics of an era dominated by the Catholic church, prioritizing thematic exploration over narrative coherence.

Grażyna Długołęcka portrays Ewa, whose journey of self-discovery unfolds after a brief affair with Lukasz (Jerzy Zelnik), the family’s lodger.

Manipulating and being manipulated in various relationships with leering men, Ewa navigates a whirlwind of episodes marked by grim occurrences.

The film, elegantly shot and scored with classical selections, possesses the appearance of a novelistic historical tale, contradicted by Borowczyk’s frantic cutting style.

While seemingly an outlier among Borowczyk’s better-known works, the film is best appreciated by viewers familiar with the director’s obsessions.

Arrow’s Blu-ray, featuring a 1080p, 1.66:1 transfer, stands out with a spectacular presentation.

Story of Sin
Story of Sin

Sourced from a 2K restoration of the original film negative, the images are lush, detailed, and exceptionally clean, with stable and beautifully rendered grain structure.

The LPCM mono soundtrack provides clean dialogue and dynamic renditions of classical selections.

The disc is packed with Borowczyk extras, showcasing the director’s overall body of work rather than focusing solely on “Story of Sin.”

Notable inclusions are three animated shorts, a commentary track, an interview with Długołęcka, an introduction by Andrzej Klimowski, and a video appendix by Daniel Bird cataloguing Borowczyk’s recurring motifs.

Featurettes explore poster art and Borowczyk’s collaboration with Jan Lenica, while David Thompson provides insights into Borowczyk’s use of classical music in his films.

Arrow’s dedication to Borowczyk’s legacy is evident in this well-rounded release.

Behind the Door (1919) Flicker Alley

Irvin Willat’s “Behind the Door” concludes with one of the silent era’s most notorious endings, living up to its reputation for a leap into gory revenge-thriller territory.

Hobart Bosworth’s lead performance adds to the film’s impact, with his wild-eyed intensity becoming a crucial asset as the narrative unfolds.

The story begins with a sombre frame story suggesting a tale of loss, featuring Bosworth as Oscar Krug, a former naval captain aspiring to a quiet life as a taxidermist and marriage to his love, Alice (Jane Novak).

However, when the United States enters war against Germany, Krug’s German ancestry makes him the target of the town’s latent xenophobia.

To prove his American patriotism, Krug enlists, triggering a series of personal tragedies and setting the stage for a confrontation with a sneering German U-boat commander (Wallace Beery).

To prove his American patriotism, Krug enlists, triggering a series of personal tragedies and setting the stage for a confrontation with a sneering German U-boat commander (Wallace Beery).

“Behind the Door” by Willat is both a thrilling war drama and a psychological portrait of a displaced man, heightened by Krug’s active inner life filled with memories and fantasies that often intertwine with his harsh reality.

Flicker Alley’s dual-format release, produced by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, is an impressive restoration and reconstruction effort.

With no original elements known to exist, the restoration drew from a Library of Congress print, a Russian print, and footage from Bosworth’s library, reconstructed using the original continuity script.

Behind the Door
Behind the Door

Despite some missing scenes (replaced with still images) and recreated intertitles, the 1080p, 1.33:1 tinted transfer is remarkable considering the sources.

Nitrate decomposition affects certain scenes, but the image is robust overall, with fine detail, clarity, and sharpness.

The LPCM stereo soundtrack features a new score by Stephen Horne, enhancing the film’s climactic moments with avant-garde elements.

Flicker Alley includes valuable extras, such as what remains of the Russian export version, a featurette on the restoration process, outtakes with Horne’s music, and a slideshow gallery of lobby cards and stills.

The booklet contains an essay by Jay Weissberg, restoration notes by Robert Byrne and a note on the score by Horne.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) Criterion Collection

Pedro Almodóvar, known for navigating high emotions in both melodrama and comedy, showcases his knack for comedic brilliance in “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”

The international breakout film presents a series of romantic misadventures with a screwball tenor, where comedy and tragedy exist closely.

Almodóva’s colourful and inclusive style shines through the vibrant, primary-colour aesthetics and primary-colourful comedy.

The film’s energy is derived from pacing or verbal exchanges and its visually striking look. It features a blazing red telephone and an extraordinarily artificial colour palette heightened by using miniatures for certain shots.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Carmen Maura, a frequent collaborator, adds emotional depth as actress Pepa Marcos senses her relationship with fellow actor Iván deteriorating.

While dubbing a Spanish version of “Johnny Guitar,” Iván’s voice continues to haunt her, leading to a series of mishaps, including a bed set on fire and a gazpacho mix-up.

While the central theme revolves around the idea that love makes you crazy, the film’s bold and colourful depiction of this craziness creates a visually captivating experience.

Criterion’s 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer, sourced from a new 2K restoration, showcases stunning colours, exceptional clarity, and careful handling of film grain.

The 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks are included, providing an immersive auditory experience.

Criterion’s new supplements include a filmed interview with Almodóvar and another with his brother and producer Agustín.

An engaging interview with Carmen Maura traces her career, while Richard Peña discusses the film’s breakthrough in the US.

Additional features include a trailer and an essay by novelist and critic Elvira Lindo in the insert.

My 20th Century (1989) Second Run

Here’s a treat from Second Run, whose latest Blu-ray release is an underseen Hungarian gem from Ildikó Enyedi, who just premiered her first feature in almost two decades at the Berlin International Film Festival.

It’s a shame Enyedi hasn’t been allowed to make more films since her wondrous debut, My 20th Century (Az én XX. századom), which manages to be both effervescent and serious-minded.

Enyedi’s film zooms from big-picture storytelling to the intensely intimate and back again, opening with a prologue that details a variety of leaps forward.

It would be hard for anything to outdo the luminosity of the film’s cinematography, which wows you over and over on Second Run’s excellent disc.

Still, the film’s visuals have an equal in Dorota Segda, who stars as twin sisters separated at infancy in Budapest who go on to live very different but crossing lives.

Dóra finds entry into the upper class, rubbing elbows with the well-to-do and taking advantage of her disarming beauty, which makes it easy to manipulate and steal.

Lili is a political revolutionary, fully committed to the ideals of her anarchist group.

There’s a wisp of a love triangle here, as each is pursued at points by an acquaintance named Z (Oleg Yankovskiy), who doesn’t realize they are two separate people.

But Enyedi’s episodic and nonlinear storytelling style doesn’t fit neatly into expected genres.

Unease over modernity’s advents mingles with the harsh reality that progress is still a dicey proposition where women are concerned.

Dóra and Lili navigate vastly divergent worlds, but each considers women inferior in starkly similar ways.

Even hints at enlightened thinking turn sour, like in a scene that features a lecture by famed Austrian philosopher Otto Weininger (Paulus Manker) that begins promisingly before devolving swiftly into a spittle-flecked misogynistic tirade.

My 20th Century
My 20th Century

No plot summary can convey how inventive and lively the film is, and no description of some of its more unusual elements.

Films are always called unique, but My 20th Century earns the descriptor.

Second Run’s region-free Blu-ray presents the film in a 1080p, 1.33:1 transfer that consistently reinforces the stunning visuals, which often recall the look of early silent cinema with their high-contrast black-and-white images.

The film elements are fairly marked up, but the scratches and speckling are minor, and clarity and detail remain strong throughout.

The LPCM mono track has some inherent flatness due to post-dubbed dialogue, but it sounds clean.

The disc features a newly filmed interview with Enyedi, conducted (unseen) by filmmaker Peter Strickland, where she details her entry into film production and the history of the film.

Also included is a booklet with a deeply researched essay by Jonathan Owen.

The Love Witch (2016) Oscilloscope Laboratories

I am confident in asserting that Anna Biller’s delightful film, “The Love Witch,” released last year, stands out uniquely in its visual aesthetics.

Shot on 35mm, the movie boasts meticulous design, ranging from the artistic makeup and lighting to the intricately crafted costumes, many of which Biller personally sewed.

While drawing inspiration from classic Hollywood Technicolor melodramas and ’60s Euro-horror, Biller clarifies, both in the extras and on Twitter, that the film is not intended as a parody or pastiche.

Despite some performances that may appear exaggerated, the film transcends being a mere style exercise due to Biller’s genuine concern for the main character, Elaine (Samantha Robinson).

Elaine, a woman who relocates from San Francisco to Eureka to start anew, is burdened by a history of heartbreak due to her overwhelming capacity for love.

As she embraces her inner witch, the narrative turns dark, with Elaine seducing men to their demise.

“The Love Witch” combines sumptuous melodrama and feminist horror. It portrays a woman’s futile quest for lasting love and explores the impact of societal gender roles on her and the men she loves.

The film cleverly plays with seemingly outdated roles in a modern context, and its blend of retro and contemporary visuals further blurs temporal lines.

Although I missed seeing the film in a 35mm projection, Oscilloscope’s 1080p, 1.85:1 Blu-ray transfer is a commendable substitute.

The transfer presents a convincingly film-like image that accentuates the film’s vibrant colours, showcasing distinct details in hair and fabric fibres.

The Love Witch
The Love Witch

The Blu-ray includes 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. Oscilloscope has curated noteworthy extras, featuring a commentary track with Biller, Robinson, cinematographer M. David Mullen, and producer/actor Jared Sanford.

The track delves into technical aspects and visual influences, citing works like “Jeanne Dielman,” “Black Narcissus,” and “Written on the Wind.”

Notably, there’s an amusing line: “So much of this movie had to do with putting cakes everywhere.”

Additional extras include a short audio interview with Biller, behind-the-scenes shots, and an interview with Mullen.

Discussing the challenges of shooting on 35mm in the current era, deleted and extended scenes, an audition video from Robinson, and two trailers, one of which was previously unreleased.

Deluge (1933) Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Felix E. Feist’s once-lost disaster film “Deluge,” with a runtime of approximately 70 minutes, depletes its assets within the first 20 minutes.

This timeframe concludes the film’s central moment, the destruction of New York City through a global tsunami, a remarkable achievement in miniature craftsmanship surpassing the touch of Roland Emmerich.

Following this cataclysm, the narrative shifts to survivors attempting to rebuild society in the Catskills.

Unfortunately, the subsequent storyline fails to match the intensity of the initial disaster.

The initial frantic pace, with scientists in constant motion, gives way to a leisurely exploration of masculine predatory behaviour, where surviving women become a sought-after commodity.

Martin Webster (Sidney Blackmer), assuming his family’s demise without evidence, quickly falls for Claire Arlington (Peggy Webster), a competitive swimmer escaping a potential assailant.

The film introduces numerous characters seeking revenge on the new couple.

There could have been an intriguing exploration of how social and personal norms shift after a tragedy.

Especially considering the cavalier behaviour of the film’s supposed hero, the limited time remaining after the budget-intensive disaster sequence allows only for fragmented exploration.


Kino’s Blu-ray, featuring a 1080p, 1.33:1 transfer sourced from Lobster Films’ recent restoration, provides an excellent package.

Despite some density fluctuations and a vertical line of damage affecting parts of the film, the detail and clarity are commendable.

The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, with occasional hiss and dropouts, maintains overall clarity. The Blu-ray includes two substantial extras.

The bonus film “Back Page” (1934) tells the story of Peggy Shannon’s editor overcoming small-town prejudices to run a newspaper.

The HD transfer is decent, though lacking significant restoration.

Additionally, an audio commentary for “Deluge” by Richard Harland Smith offers valuable production information.

Historical context and a touch of crankiness, particularly towards any “millennial wag” unimpressed by the disaster sequence.

Also Read: Khiyarul Fadli Wedding Photo And Cost: Where Is Fatin Amira Husband Now?

Ashish Dahal
Ashish Dahal
Ashish is a prolific content writer, blends with the creativity with precision in his writing. His work, characterized by clarity and engaging storytelling has gathered a loyal readership. His passion for words fuels his constant pursuit of excellence.

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    Ashish Dahal has combined his interests and content writing. Through his work, he showcases enthusiasm and ability to deliver captivating content consistently. Ashish's writing demonstrates his passion for storytelling and content creation.



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