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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Politics > Propaganda > Mystery > Brainwashing > Conformity > British > Racism > Sexploitation > Bla > Alam (2022/DVD*)/Club Zero (2023/Blu-ray/*both Film Movement)/Goodbye Uncle Tom 4K (1972/Blue Underground 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-rays and CD)

Alam (2022/DVD*)/Club Zero (2023/Blu-ray/*both Film Movement)/Goodbye Uncle Tom 4K (1972/Blue Underground 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-rays and CD)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: C/B/B Sound: C/B-/C+ Extras: C-/C+/C+ Films: D/C+/D

Up next are two exploitive propaganda films, one of which tries to be an art film, plus a movie about cult mentality that almost worked...

Firas Khoury's Alam (2022) was made before the outrageous, hideous, horrid, unacceptable events of October 7, 2023 that have led to the fiasco going on in the Middle East as we post this one. The screenplay is constantly vague, likely often on purpose and assumes the viewer is idiotic. Not as as smart as it thinks it is, a Palestinian guy in Israel falls for a gal he likes, but what he does not like it the Israeli flag flying where he lives (it is never explained why he is living there, nor anyone else for that matter, not even briefly, so the victim thing is already there early on) and sick of this, he wants to get some friends together and tear it down.

Ads they also plot to replace it with a Palestinian flag, we get Israeli guards (portrayed in a strange, shallow way) and can they do it or will they be arrested? The 109 minutes has zero suspense, credibility or realism, but it drones on and on in its real mission to bash Jews and Israel in subtle, manipulating ways. I wish it was otherwise, but that is not what we get and this is made for a certain audience in the Middle east and often 'useless idiots' back here in the U.S., so now you know what you're getting here.

As a side note, if Hamas had not delivered their October 7th massacre, Israel (and their worst-ever Prime Minister) would have never crossed the line doing what he has been doing since. I also believe (maybe with top secret information he should have never had) Putin, Iran and Syria backed Hamas and underestimated what was going on, but the former wanted distraction from his own genocidal campaign. Additionally, the hatreds between Israel, Palestinians and others in the Middle East in the middle of the current conflict has been going on for almost two centuries, since sometime after 610 A.D., so the madness is far and beyond what is being discussed.

To say any more requires a separate essay and would get us away from how bad this film is, but I needed to express that this viewer more than grasps the situation, so bad is bad.

Trailers are the only extra.

Jessica Hausner's Club Zero (2023) has Mia Wasikowska (Albert Nobbs, Defiance, Map To The Stars, Double, Crimson Peak, Piercing) as a teacher trying to help students eat less and better, or so it seams. They are at a school where they have to wear uniforms and it seems fine for what it is, but does she have issues and maybe some strange motives?

Well, the film moves slowly in a droning way and on purpose, to give us the feel of being struck in this institution, but these are children. We eventually discover she has issues and wants some of them to join the special group of the title, which takes the 'next step' (one or two at least too far) in not eating anymore. Part of this suggests nausea in purpose, which reminded me of the underrated Korean thriller 301/302 (1995, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and a film much better at this kind of thing.

The students seem to all have passive parents and the odds are high that could happen at such a school with such conformity, though I was nto always convinced, though that is what the makers wanted. I like the cast, Wasikowska is one of those underrated actresses you see all the time but cannot name, perfectly cast, but this never adds up to what it could despite the Kubrickian approach of slow zooms, balanced compositions and letting the film move slowly. It might we worth a look to the curious, but I was disappointed after an early start where this could have really gone somewhere and been a home run. Look forward to seeing them all in their next works!

Extras include trailers for this and other Film Movement releases, plus two brief on-camera interviews with the Director and one with the lead Wasikowska.

Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi's Goodbye Uncle Tom 4K (1972) is often considered part of the Mondo cycle, but also the Blaxploitation cycle that were both going strong at the same time, though as part of the later would be one of the only entries made outside of the U.S. as it was made in Italy. Claiming to be some kind of documentary, though most of the events portrayed happened before the advent of motion picture film. It claims to show the 'true story' of slavery and how bad it really was, so bad it cannot be shown on TV.

Released five years before ABC-TVs massive hit mini-series Roots (which inspired a sequel and remake series, all reviewed elsewhere on this site,) this is unrated (and graphic enough to potentially have earned an X-rating in its time, or an NC-17 now,) a ton of actors were hired for some of the most graphic sequences of slaves being shipped en masse, but I felt bad for the actors, myself and anyone viewing it for how gross and exploitive it was and is.

The violent sequences are meant to shock, people branded alive, beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted, which gets gross, is edited and designed to trigger anger and hate in the audience and has plenty of race-baiting, anger-baiting and even gay-baiting among the many, many things this mess wallows in.

Of course, it should be restored and seen like any other film, no matter how bad or how much anyone likes it or not, but it rings fake all the way also with stereotypical, cold Southerners, bad dubbing, bad dialogue and sound sloppily added later showing its cheap, low-budget roots. It also made me ask the eternal question in this case, it took two people to direct this!?!?!?!

Some films had obviously been made on slavery before, or addressed racism in broad ways and around this time like The Klansman, Mandingo (which is actually a good film, believe it or not,) Drum, smart drama Sounder, the 1969 films Slaves and Burn! with Marlon Brando just before either cycle kicked in, Emmanuelle-esque Italian sexploitation film Passion Plantation and a few with titles I will not repeat. This is far more exploitive than even The Klansman, with its obnoxious ending, et al.

I will not waste my time much more on this one, though it is like Pasolini's Salo with no point and its ending tells you everything you need to know about its intent. See it at your own risk, but don't say I did not warn you.

Extras are many and include......

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF SHOCKING: GUALTIERO JACOPETTI - A feature-length documentary by Director Andrea Bettinetti (94 Mins.)

  • THE GODFATHERS OF MONDO - A feature-length documentary by Director David Gregory (89 Mins.)

  • Goodbye Cruel Mondo - Interviews with Writers/Directors Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi, and Composer Riz Ortolani (20 Mins.)

  • Behind-the-Scenes 8mm Footage with Audio Commentary by Production Manager Giampaolo Lomi (50 Mins.)

  • Mondo Mercenaries - Interview with Author & Academic Mark Goodall (27 Mins.)

  • Abjection Under Authoritarianism - Interview with Professor Matthew J. Smith (20 Mins.)

  • Extensive Still Galleries, including Giampaolo Lomi's Behind-the-Scenes Photos

  • BONUS! GOODBYE UNCLE TOM Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Riz Ortolani

  • BONUS! Collectible Booklet with new essay by Dan Madigan

  • and a nice slipcase.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Tom was shot in the 2-perforation Techniscope format and that makes it a little rough, though that is part of what the makers were going for and of course, some of the stock footage was not, so it matches better. The 4K edition only has the shorter English version, but as much as I did not like either cut, it does look really good and as the film was issued in 35mm, dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints. That is rare for such a film, but thus was the great period of filmmaking at the time and this is the best just about anyone will ever see this film. Color looks great, even with the low budget and stock footage, so Blue Underground delivers yet again. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Italian-language Blu-ray longer cut still looks good for what it is, but it cannot match the 4Ks similar footage, like the film or not. As well, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless mixes on their respective discs sound as good as they ever will from the original theatrical monophonic sound, though the CD of the soundtrack obviously sounds even better.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Club Zero looks good for a new HD shoot and does what it can to look Kubrickian, with consistent color too, but with limits. Maybe this could improve with a 4K version, but I would have to see that one. Of the two soundtracks offered, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is not bad, but the PCM 2.0 Stereo mix was richer, more convincing and sounded better to me.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Alum DVD is on the soft side and can be challenging to watch, while the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes are about even and not great either, so the combination lacks impact.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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