The Holy Mountain (1973)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
For years, the two early 70s films on which the cult of Chilean magus Alejandro Jodorowsky rests were almost impossible to see, with dodgy tapes of 1970’s El Topo being exchanged for big bucks. Finally restored, these two infamously out-there features are being bundled with his 1968 debut, Fando y Lis, in an upcoming boxset by Arrow Video. But the cinema is where these visionary singularities really belong, so kudos to Arrow for fronting a big screen run of the restorations. El Topo dropped earlier this month, while today sees The Holy Mountain get a pretty wide release. More structurally accessible than the earlier film, this 70s midnight-movie mainstay remains a ferociously idiosyncratic work, pregnant with the kind of imagery you couldn’t hope to catch on a Friday night anywhere else in 2020. John Lennon put up money for this one after seeing El Topo. Your move, McCartney.
What Did Jack Do? (2017)
Where’s it on? Netflix
On Monday, the date of his 74th birthday, David Lynch dropped a new short film on Netflix. Well, new-ish. It originally premiered at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris back in 2017, before popping up in New York a year later. Whatevs. Any new(-ish) work from Lynch is cause for celebration, especially when it turns up on Netflix, where the potential ramifications for the filmmaker’s future output are sized up against his host’s deeper-than-deep pockets. What Did Jack Do? runs a mere 17 minutes and sees Lynch – channelling Twin Peaks’ Gordon Cole – interrogating a capuchin monkey called Jack Cruz about a local murder, with Jack’s superimposed lips (voiced by its director) attempting to make a case for innocence. One non-sequitur follows another, even as it appears to make perfect sense within its own strange walls.
I vitelloni (1953)
Anyone using the occasion of Federico Fellini’s centenary to work their way through his filmography will likely come to a pair of conclusions. Firstly, that his CV can be split into four distinct parts; and secondly, that one of said parts has hit you harder than the other three. So if you’re still struggling to find much love for 8½ (1963), or you’ve only seen the latter-day likes of City of Women (1980) or The Voice of the Moon (1990), you may find Fellini’s earlier, neorealism-inclined features just the tonic. I vitelloni is the best film to come out of this period, a loose-limbed but finally heartbreaking study of a group of lads struggling to transition from youth to adulthood. If you’re a fan of Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola, this is the defining cinematic text when it comes to paving the road to The Godfather (1972) and Mean Streets (1973).
Sign ‘o’ the Times (1987)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
For many years, one of the greatest concert films of all time was in distribution limbo, given away on multiple occasions back when newspapers were bundled with DVDs at the weekend. This Blu-ray release from 101 Films, unbelievably, is the first time the film has appeared in the UK in an edition up to snuff. A hybrid record of the tour supporting Prince’s 1987 double-album of the same name, it was initially conceived as a straight-up recording of the Dutch dates performed that summer, but the Prince the perfectionist felt much of the footage wasn’t up to scratch, so restaged proceedings at his Minneapolis studio-cum-home-cum-concert venue, Paisley Park. Choosing a highlight is basically impossible: from the gender-bending rendition of ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ via the horny-as-funk take on ‘Hot Thing’ to the pseudo-religious ecstasy of ‘The Cross’. The linking narrative sections may be absolute nonsense, but this remains Prince at his peerless prime.
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Where’s it on? TCM, Saturday, 01:45am
John Ford’s third from last feature, Cheyenne Autumn, which is getting an airing on Turner Classic Movies this weekend, was the most expensive the director ever mounted. Drawing from both Howard ‘Spartacus’ Fast’s novel The Last Frontier and Mari Sandoz’s Cheyenne Autumn, it attempted to tell the story of the west from a Native American perspective. “Let’s face it, we’ve treated them very badly – it’s a blot on our shield; we’ve cheated and robbed, killed, murdered, massacred and everything else,” said Ford. The final film proved a massive compromise on its director’s initial vision, remaining the most epic act of western-apologism this side of Dances with Wolves (1990). But one can hardly judge a film based on its creator’s intentions. What we have is a fascinating relic from the end of an astonishing career, one that arguably fails in its moral purpose, but makes last-ditch amends in its inimitable visual poetry.