Like Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noé, Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidel has long polarized audiences with his boundary-pushing explorations of transgressive desire and abjection. His Paradise Trilogy, which debuted on the Criterion Collection on FilmStruck this week, exemplifies his unsettling mix of cruelty and compassion. Ranging from the exploits of a middle-aged sex tourist in Kenya to the tribulations of a teenage girl at a weight-loss camp, the stories in this ambitious triptych offer penetrating insights on morality and shame on the margins of contemporary European society.
Also up this week: a spotlight on the great New York director Shirley Clarke, a low-budget horror classic, and two heartrending adaptations of a novel by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle.
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Bridges-Go-Round and The Connection
Different corners of New York City come alive in two works by iconoclastic filmmaker Shirley Clarke: in the playfully structured 1958 short Bridges-Go-Round, she evokes the sculptural beauty of the urban landscape through an assemblage of looped footage, while in her jazz-fueled 1961 feature debut, The Connection, she reimagines a Jack Gelber play about a group of heroin addicts anxiously awaiting their drug dealer in a seedy apartment.
Carnival of Souls: Criterion Collection Edition #63
A young woman (Candace Hilligoss) in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she is haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Made by industrial filmmakers on a small budget, this eerily effective B-movie classic was intended to have “the look of a Bergman and the feel of a Cocteau”—and with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score, it has remained an influential cult classic decades later. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: selected-scene audio commentary featuring director Herk Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford; an interview with comedian and writer Dana Gould; a video essay by film critic David Cairns; The Movie That Wouldn’t Die!, a documentary on the 1989 reunion of the film's cast and crew; The Carnival Tour, a 2000 update on the film’s locations; and more.
Friday Night Double Feature: Oslo, August 31st and The Fire Within
Two European cityscapes serve as backdrops for dark nights of the soul in these adaptations of Pierre Drieu La Rochelle’s 1931 novel Will o’ the Wisp. In Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st (2011), a depressive writer on a furlough from drug rehab confronts his memories and temptations in the Norwegian capital; in Louis Malle’s The Fire Within (1963), a recovering alcoholic, having resolved to commit suicide, wanders a forlorn Paris paying final visits to a scattering of old friends. While Trier was in town last week, he spoke with us about Malle’s influence on his work in this interview.