Nick Luciano (The Complete Lady Snowblood, F for Fake, Wanda)
The Complete Lady Snowblood
This is my only “blind buy” of the sale, but it is one that I’ve been thinking about getting for a long time because I have a soft spot for Technicolor samurai movies. The set collects both films in the series, Lady Snowblood and Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance. I was also attracted to the set because I knew that it was one of the primary inspirations for Kill Bill and that it’s based on a manga that was created by Kazuo Koike, who co-created my favorite samurai franchise, Lone Wolf and Cub. If it has the same levels of over-the-top action and cinematography as the Lone Wolf and Cub series and Kill Bill, I think I’ll end up very happy with my purchase.
F for Fake
I saw F for Fake in the final month before FilmStruck was shuttered, and it absolutely blew me away. The film is an experimental documentary detailing the lives and careers of art forger Elmyr de Hory and conman Clifford Irving, who wrote a fraudulent autobiography of Howard Hughes. It’s one of the only documentaries that I’ve seen with a twist ending, but in a movie about tricksters and liars, it felt right at place.
Welles narrates the film—often by addressing the camera directly—while wearing an incredible cape and large black fedora. The frenetic editing and tangential storytelling result in a chaotic film, but it’s held together by Welles’ mesmerizing charisma. Welles glides through the film as if a phantom and his narration is sly and mischievous. This is hands down one of my favorite Criterion releases.
While F for Fake was one of the last things that I watched on FilmStruck, Wanda was one of the first that I watched on Criterion Channel. Barbara Loden plays Wanda, an aimless woman living in a coal town who ends up taking up with a bank robber named Norman Dennis (Michael Higgins). Sadly, Wanda ended up being the only feature film that Loden directed.
The film is sort of an anti-Bonnie and Clyde. There is none of the romanticism of Bonnie and Clyde—Wanda and Norman have a largely passionless relationship and don’t particularly seem to even like each other. Norman is abusive and an incompetent criminal who, while a “bank robber,” is really a petty criminal that is more comfortable and successful stealing shoes out of unlocked cars than robbing banks. Wanda essentially only starts traveling with him because he’s there and she doesn’t have anything better to do.
Wanda indiscriminately floats through most of the film, usually in the company of similarly uninspiring men. You have to be prepared for a very deliberately paced and unconventional film, but it is certainly worth a look for its examination of gender politics and ennui.