Happy holidays to all Keyframe readers and Fandor users! As we reach the holiday weekend the Featured Films at Fandor include a mix of films that are timely, timeless and for anytime. In our “timely” category curators have selected a particularly zany representative from Fandor’s many holiday films to aid in the Christmas spirit, and as the world comes to grips with Kim Jong Il‘s death, we include one of Fandor’s several documentaries dealing with life and culture in North Korea. Our “timeless” selection is a wrenching drama that Roger Ebert describes as “ethereal” and Pauline Kael called “poetic.” And as for “anytime” films: does one ever need an excuse to watch an action-packed Hong Kong thriller? Of course not!
What It’s About: This legendary Mexican production packed every magical, wacky holiday oddity known to man into this wild, wonderful and strangely charming children’s classic. It’s not enough that Santa must deal with the usual suspects (the good little boys and girls; the not so good little boys and girls) but this season Lucifer himself is out to ruin Christmas and he’s sent his chief minion, Pitch, on a mission to Earth to turn all the children of the world against Santa. And that’s just the beginning! Must be seen to be believed and even then the whole thing is still quite unbelievable!
“After your first exposure to Santa Claus, watch out: Its crazy energetic pull will have you going back for just one more look (because the last time you couldn’t quite believe your own eyes) every Christmas if you’re not careful. Each viewing reveals fresh Santa-insanity”
–Alonso Duralde, Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas
“While many people rank Santa Claus among the worst films of all time, it was an enduring favorite on the ‘kiddie matinee’ circuit throughout the 1960s… It’s also become something of a cult classic among viewers who crave something a bit more psychotronic than the usual holiday fare.”
–Ken Fox for TV Guide
“This 1959 movie from Mexico dispels every common conception about jolly old Saint Nicholas.”
–Adam L. for It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie
What It’s About: An uproarious and provocative deconstruction of North Korean propaganda and philosophy. Mixing together eye-popping archival footage with deadpan re-enactments, Jim Finn has created a complex docu-fiction that is equally thought-provoking and entertaining. Inspired by the true story of how a South Korean director was kidnapped in the 1970s to invigorate the North’s movie industry, The Juche Idea is both sardonic satire and historical excavation, an exuberant collage that reveals the absurdity at the heart of Kim-Jong-il’s regime.
The Juche Idea “is a movie about the North Korean ethos of national self-sufficiency that, in its deliberate, garish crudeness, both embodies and travesties the principles articulated by Kim Jong Il in The Birth of Juche-Oriented Cinema Art… Finn is a unique figure, although, like the freewheeling assemblagist Craig Baldwin and obsessive artificer Guy Maddin, he has an acute sense of cinema as alternative history.”
–J. Hoberman for The Village Voice
The Juche Idea is one of the films included on a roundup of four documentaries focusing on North Korea highlighted this week here on Keyframe—make sure to check it out for more information!
What It’s About: Lillian Gish illuminates the screen! In this, the most heart-rending performance of her career, she plays a fifteen-year-old street urchin who longs to escape her miserable existence. Emotionally scarred by the torment and neglect of her abusive father (Donald Crisp), she collapses in the shop of the lonely and disillusioned “yellow man,” played by Richard Barthelmess. As he tenderly nurses her back to health, an unspoken romance flowers between them, awakening in each of them feelings of love they thought themselves forever denied. Griffith takes what might have been a bold interracial romance and turned it into something more ethereal: a form of cinematic poetry that engages the viewer through subtle gestures and changes of expression, meticulously choreographed and gracefully assembled.
“D.W. Griffith’s stylized lyric tragedy—a small-scale film that is one of his most poetic, and one of his finest.”
–Pauline Kael, collected in 5001 Nights at the Movies
“Though Griffith is remembered mostly for Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, many rightfully consider 1919’s Broken Blossoms (also known as The Yellow Man and the Girl) to be his towering achievement.”
–Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
“Griffith in 1919 was the unchallenged king of serious American movies (only C.B. DeMille rivaled him in fame), and Broken Blossoms was seen as brave and controversial. What remains today is the artistry of the production, the ethereal quality of Lillian Gish, the broad appeal of the melodrama, and the atmosphere of the elaborate sets (the film’s budget was actually larger than that of Birth of a Nation).”
Watch a number of D.W. Griffith’s pioneering shorts and feature-length films on Fandor, including several more of his famous collaborations with Lillian Gish, including Way Down East, The Mothering Heart and Orphans of the Storm, the latter which co-stars Lillian’s sister Dorothy. And while you’re at it, revisit Farran Smith Nehme‘s wonderful article on Gish here on Keyframe!
What It’s About: Ace action director Dante Lam is in top form once again with this raw, nail-bitingly intense action thriller and with award-worthy emotional performances by Nicholas Tse (Invisible Traget) and Nick Cheung (Connected). Tse plays a take-no-prisoners police sergeant who accidentally kills a girl during his relentless pursuit of armed robber, and when he hires the menacing “Beast Stalker” (Cheung) to kidnap the dead girl’s twin sister to avoid prosecution.
Lam “breaks out in a big way with a movie that has all the best elements of a great Hong Kong action film: It’s over the top and ingeniously plotted (even if that plot strains credibility) and never stops moving.”
–G. Allen Johnson for The San Francisco Chronicle
Beast Stalker “packs a visceral punch. Where it manages to unquestionably succeed is in the taut action set pieces and the dramatic thrust of the narrative, which generally hurtles along to a satisfying climax, with well-sustained tension and audacious plot twists that will keep your jaw on the floor.”
–James Gracey for Eye For Film
“Given the ferocious emotional intensity and the acute sense of fatalism permeating the proceedings, Beast Stalker plays like a Greek tragedy with a happy ending.”
–Edmund Lee for Time Out Hong Kong