The Quest, Amazon Women on the Moon and Pierrot Le Fou: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations
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Pierrot le Fou

Brian Trenchard-Smith, who started filmmaking in the 1970s as part of the Australian New Wave that included Peter Weir and George Miller, is not only one of the most talented and entertaining directors of his generation, but also one of the most versatile. His production includes lyrical children's films and sex comedies, disreputable exploitation films and delicate romances, documentaries and low-budget disaster films, as well as episodic TV episodes from Flipper and Mission: Impossible Reboots to Silk Stalkings, the guilty pleasure of the 90s. Trenchard-Smith is a filmmaker who freely admits that he was never given the green light that he didn't like. He's a handyman whose best work is often hired under less promising circumstances – three of his best films (Night of the Demons 2, Leprechaun 3, and Leprechaun 4: In Space) are franchise assignments that he transforms into fun vehicles of personal expression could. The 1986 fantasy film The Quest (released in Australia as Frog Dreaming), which alongside The Siege of Firebase Gloria and Stunt Rock as one of my favorite Trenchard-Smith images, is one of many times it has overcome unfavorable origins to craft a film of infectious energy and ingenuity. Founded two weeks after filming after another director was fired, Trenchard-Smith created a fable of enchanting mystery and humor about a boy (Henry Thomas) whose obsession with a local myth leads to a spirited adventure. Due to a number of distribution snafus, The Quest was difficult to come by for many years, but now there is a new Kino Lorber Blu-ray that offers an invaluable opportunity to discover the film and gain numerous insights into Trenchard-Smith's methodology to gain complementary materials. As luck would have it, the Blu-ray release coincides with the release of Trenchard-Smith's extraordinary memoir Adventures in the B Movie Trade, one of the finest books ever written by a film director. On almost 600 pages, Adventures in the B Movie Trade is a literary festival not only for fans of Trenchard-Smith, but for everyone who is fascinated by film as an art form and profession and knows how this profession is changing with the change in culture and economy overlaps imperatives of the past fifty years. Trenchard-Smith goes into detail about every facet of his life as a labor director, from flights of creative inspiration to navigating the business components of the profession to working with actors and managing disasters of all kinds, and illustrates each of his amusing stories with a generous offering of production stills and promotional materials. I can't recommend it or The Quest enough.

Two of Trenchard-Smith's colleagues on the must-see Trailers From Hell website, John Landis and Joe Dante, are among the directors of another highly recommended new theatrical release, Amazon Women on the Moon's Special Blu-ray (1987). Amazon Women on the Moon, an unofficial sequel to Landis' 1977 sketch comedy Kentucky Fried Movie, is a hilarious collection of closely related short films directed by Landis, Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Robert K. Weiss and Peter Horton. Although many of the sketches (populated by a great cast that includes Rosanna Arquette, Griffin Dunne, David Alan Grier, Michelle Pfeiffer, and many, many others) parodied various pop culture artifacts ranging from old horror films and sex education films to softcore porn Reality shows, others – like a very funny segment staged by Landis in which Arsenio Hall's apartment kills him – are self-contained comic set pieces with no connection to a uniform principle. Shockingly, however, the film doesn't feel as disjointed or inconsistent as so many anthology images, largely thanks to the strong comic book voice of Michael Barrie and Jim Mulholland's script. Her combination of cultural commentary and absurdism is daring and very distinctive, and often generates big laughs with somewhat unsettling ideas – a Dante story in which a pair of Siskel and Ebert-like film critics view a man's life with ruthless contempt is in Her comic had particularly unsettling effects, especially when Dante then followed up with a funeral for the man in the style of a Friars Club roast. Given their ancestry as master satirists, it's no surprise that Landis and Dante contribute many of the funniest sections of the film, but the other directors come for the occasion too – Gottlieb's riff on The Invisible Man, in which Ed Begley Jr. plays a guy who thinks he's invisible, but it's not, is brilliant and Weiss' "Video Pirates" is playing even better today than it was 33 years ago thanks to its nostalgia as a comedy about wars in home video format. The same is largely true of Amazon Women on the Moon as a whole. At the time of publication, reviewers complained that it was hopelessly uneven, but what struck me when re-viewing the movie on Blu-ray was how consistent it was – now it feels like a worthy companion to Kentucky Fried Movie and Dante's extravagant found footage on Die Filmorgie, which, like these films, is as fascinating a time capsule as it is a comedy. The Blu-ray is pure gold, with many deleted scenes, outtakes and daily newspapers (some newly discovered in Dante's personal archives) and a fantastic making-of documentary in which Landis, Dante and others set out the terms of production.

Just as Amazon Women on the Moon reproduces earlier work by its makers, Pierrot Le Fou by Jean-Luc Godard plays like a kind of mirror image of the director's 1960s feature film debut Breathless. Another film that follows lovers on the run replaces the naturalistic black-and-white photography of the earlier film with bold primary colors and cinemascope. While Breathless served as Godard's treatise on every crime thriller he had ever known and loved, Pierrot plays like a commentary on Breathless himself, as well as the eight other films Godard made in the five years since Breathless put him on the world map of cinema Had set. There are many visual and audio recalls to films like Le Petit Soldat and Contempt, most of which hint at a Godard who is both more playful and cynical than the man who made the earlier work. he's rather aloof here, ironically referring to his own images, but the irony seems to be the armor of a man in crisis. This is particularly evident in the portrayal of Godard's real wife Anna Karina in one of her last leading roles for the director (Jean-Paul Belmondo from Breathless is the male lead). Karina and Godard's marriage was more or less over when they shot Pierrot, and in the film, Belmondo's bourgeois husband escapes his marriage and, as the title suggests, goes insane. While Godard may have fled Karina in real life, in the film she doesn't play the suffocating woman, but the babysitter who Belmondo runs away with – and who ultimately acts as the agent of his destruction. The lovers' relationship quickly deteriorates, shifting from buoyancy to bitterness with shocking intensity. The tenderness and the strong sense of loss and regret in contempt have disappeared here, and it seems as if Godard is heading for some kind of break. Indeed, he would give up narrative filmmaking for a decade just a few years later – Pierrot Le Fou marks the beginning of the end of his early onslaught of notable films that ended with Weekend in 1967. It remains one of Godard's most entertaining, resourceful, and inventive recalcitrant films, and it looks better than ever on Criterion's new Blu-ray, taken from a brand new 2K restoration. While most of the additional functionality on disc was carried over from the 2007 Criterion release, the new broadcast is well worth upgrading. Cinematographer Raoul Coutard's vivid palette demands the best possible presentation. Pierrot is one of two major Criterion upgrades in recent times. The other is a new Blu-ray from Stephen Frears & # 39; The Hit, an intelligent, stylish and darkly funny thriller in which underworld informant Terence Stamp competes against the killers (John Hurt and Tim Roth) who are supposed to pick him up. Though Frear's robust classicism couldn't be further from Pierrot's premeditated anarchy, the two films do a great dual role as films that use old formulas and conventions for new ends.

Jim Hemphill is the writer and director of the award-winning film The Trouble with the Truth, which is currently streamed on Amazon Prime and Tubi. His website is www.jimhemphillfilms.com.

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