The Collapse of an 8mm Amateur: Krzysztof Kieslowski’s CAMERA BUFF (1979)


More than a decade before he mesmerized audiences with masterful works like The Decalogue (1988), The Double Life of Veronique (1991), and the Three Colors Trilogy (1993-1994), Polish-born filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski had mainly worked in documentary shorts. While some of these shorts had been fictional works, it was as a documentary filmmaker that Kieslowski had initially made his name, throughout his first full decade, as a director in the seventies.

Camera Buff (also known as Amateur) was not Kieslowski’s first feature-length narrative film (he had previously shot both The Scar and The Calm in 1976) but it was his first truly accomplished fictional work. Like his later more well-known pictures, including Blue (1993) and Red (1994), Camera Buff shows Kieslowski as a supremely gifted artist and storyteller and it remains a sometimes dazzling if mostly subdued, opening chapter to one of the most important careers of the modern era.

Relatively successful middle-class factory worker Filip Mosz and his wife have recently welcomed a newborn baby into their lives. Filip buys an 8mm film camera hoping to capture his new child in the early stages of his life. What he thought would be an innocent hobby turned serious when his boss asks Filip to use the camera to film his company’s board meetings. Soon Filip has a film crew at his disposal and his once-happy life fractures as he becomes more and more obsessed with capturing what is real, even if it means putting his marriage and career in jeopardy.

Camera Buff is a significant film in not only Kieslowski’s career but also Polish film, as it is not only a truly transcendent personal work but also a pointed political one, as it carefully criticizes the cloud of censorship that had hung over Kieslowski’s generation. Kieslowski shows the process for a young filmmaker to be a difficult one, as an authoritative hand often shutters an artist’s personal vision.

Camera Buff is, at its core, an extremely serious film, but it contains the particular wit and warmth that seems specific to certain Kieslowski works, like the often-undervalued White (1993). Few directors have ever come close to matching Kieslowski’s ability to get inside the spirit of a soul in transition and Filip, like Kieslowski’s greatest characters, is very much a man in crisis but by the film’s final frames, in which he bravely turns the camera on himself, he has had a valuable and necessary spiritual breakthrough.

While it lacks the refinement of Kieslowski’s later films, Camera Buff is a beautifully composed work that shows the influential filmmaker stepping away from the grittiness of his early documentary style and into a more polished cinematic technique.

Camera Buff is ultimately about a man’s growth as a filmmaker and one can easily draw a parallel to Kieslowski’s own strides. Camera Buff might be a transitional piece in Kieslowski’s career, but it is undeniably important.

Camera Buff wouldn’t completely solidify Kieslowski as one of the great filmmakers of his generation, but it served as a fair enough warning that, even at this early stage, he had qualities that few of his peers could match. While nowhere near as perfect as his triumphant run of final films, Camera Buff is a wonderfully rendered and moving work that acts as not only a meditation on the human condition but also film itself.

-Jeremy Richey, a rejected Directory of World Cinema piece published initially in 04-23-2014 at Moon in the Gutter-

Here is a collection of clippings marking Camera Buff’s theatrical release:

Frankie Teardrop is Dead. Viva Frankie Teardrop. Buddy Giovinazzo’s American Nightmares (Combat Shock)


“Frankie teardrop,
Frankie put the gun to his head.
Frankie’s dead,
Frankie’s lying in hell.
We’re all Frankies,
We’re all lying in hell”.

-Alan Vega, Martin Rev-

One of the great films of the eighties, Buddy Giovinazzo’s ferocious and visionary Combat Shock remains one of the most visceral works of American cinema ever created. The history of Combat Shock should be fairly well-known to most fans of American independent cinema, but a quick overview goes like this. Buddy Giovinazzo was a student filmmaker from Staten Island when he began shooting his self-funded feature film debut, under his preferred title, American Nightmares, in 1984 with family, fellow students, and friends. After some early screenings, Troma picked the film up and re-titled it the more commonly known Combat Shock. While we should applaud Troma for picking up such an uncompromising DIY feature, they cut many of Giovinazzo’s most extreme moments and added stock Vietnam footage to capitalize on the namsploitation movement of the mid-eighties. The cuts and new footage neutered the film, but Giovinazzo’s haunting story of a shell-shocked veteran collapsing under the weight of the ‘American dream’, on the streets of New York, still resonated. The most harrowing vision of the horrors of post-war trauma seen since The Deer Hunter shocked into submission audience members tricked by Troma’s poster promising a Missing In Action style exploitation flick. Met with disdain by ‘respectable’ critics, the likes of the great Stephen Bissette and other underground writers who recognized its importance championed Combat Shock. Despite Giovinazzo never being granted his proper place as one of modern cinema’s most important and visionary filmmakers, Combat Shock refused to die and by the mid-nineties, the uncut American Nightmares became one of the most essential and sought-after bootlegs on the grey market VHS circuit.

It was in this grey market area that I first encountered American Nightmares in the nineties via the mail-order company Midnight Video. Like many others, the film completely shocked and absolutely floored me in every way. While the film’s scenes of horrific violence originally stuck with me, as I have aged and matured, it is the film’s heartbreaking heart and humanity that keeps me returning to it. As played by Buddy’s brother Rick Giovinazzo (who also composed the film’s remarkable soundtrack included as a bonus CD on Severin’s set), the lead character Frankie remains one of the most moving creations in all of modern American cinema. Much like Alan Vega’s devastating title character in Suicide’s 1977 jaw-dropping track from their legendary first album, Giovinazzo’s character is a good man buried by a system designed to destroy the helpless and poor. It’s every sad headline of a man pushed to the brink of madness and murder brought to life. Sadly, American Nightmares plays better than ever now in this brutal era of Trump and modern American fascism. This film isn’t just a prophetic time capsule. It is instead a nightmarish depiction of NOW. I see Frankie every day, as the streets are crowded with homeless veterans desperately in need of help they aren’t receiving. Giovinazzo knew ignoring our veterans in need was a criminal act by the American government in 1984 and it remains one today.

Of course, American Nightmares doesn’t just survive as a political and sociological statement as it stands as a glorious reminder of the power of film in the hands of a truly visionary artist who refused to back down, no matter the financial and personal hardships. The essential book that comes along with Severin’s essential package, featuring Giovinazzo’s shooting diaries from the time, should be REQUIRED reading for all young students of cinema. It’s a triumphant portrait of an artist not enslaved by the dollar and corporate sponsorship…our tragic current sell-out culture should take note…this is how it should be fucking done.

While Combat Shock is available in several home video versions, Severin’s absolutely stunning out-of-print Blu-ray edition of Buddy Giovinazzo’s grueling 1984 masterpiece Combat Shock restores Giovinazzo’s mesmerizing vision to his original American Nightmares director’s cut in a package filled with hours of essential extras. Powered by a 4k scan of the fully uncut American Nightmares, an essential commentary by the Giovinazzo brothers (along with makeup effects artist Ed Varuolo), hours of interviews with the makers of film and the critics who championed it, short films and Troma’s original terrific extras the much sought after Blu-ray is an absolute triumph for Severin and Giovinazzo. if you can find it…get it.

-Jeremy Ross Richey, Originally written for Moon in the Gutter on 08/15/2018-


“He’s just trying to survive, well let’s hear it for Frankie, Frankie, Frankie…”
-Rev, Vega-

“Some Thought They Couldn’t Die”: Gordon Parks Jr’s THOMASINE AND BUSHROD (1974)


The strange saga of filmmaker Gordon Parks Junior’s Thomasine and Bushrod (1974) came to a tragic end on an April morning in 1979 when a small plane he was traveling in crashed into a Kenya mountainside. More than a decade later Parks’ father, famed photographer, poet, and filmmaker Gordon Parks, remembered that the crash had been so bad that “only ashes” were left of his son making a proper burial impossible. The death of the younger Parks not only marked an eerie footnote to his most overlooked film but also effectively ended one of the most controversial and misunderstood movements in Hollywood history.

The so-called Blaxploitation genre is often looked upon as a genre consisting only of urban films centering on negative stereotypes of African American culture made by white filmmakers. A deeper investigation into the genre reveals a treasure trove of mostly forgotten films shot, written by, and starring African Americans, focusing on family, childhood, politics, and civil rights, with none being more startling than Thomasine and Bushrod.

African Americans had appeared in Hollywood productions since the earliest films, but the only roles offered were ignorant sidekicks, apologetic caricatures, and other harmful stereotypes. While there had been many independently produced African American films as early as the twenties, the ‘blaxploitation’ genre in the late sixties would mark the first time that major studios would give African Americans financing to make their own films. Thomasine and Bushrod is a particularly special production, as it was one of the earliest and only examples of a major Hollywood studio financing a film written, directed, and starring African Americans in the oldest of genres, the Western.

The story of Thomasine and Bushrod begins with Max Julien, a writer, and actor best known for his role as the ambitious pimp Goldie in 1973’s The Mack. Author Darius James would note that Julien’s early life was far removed from his most famous role and that he had “studied at Carnegie Hall’s Dramatic Workshop” and by his early twenties appeared in “Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival”.

Julien’s role in The Mack would make him an overnight star, but the film, like most of the ‘blaxploitation’ films of the period, would garner as much derision as praise. Author Donald Bogle would argue that despite its popularity, The Mack exemplified the problems with the movement and “was a mess without much of a script” and it was “gaudy and cheap”. Still, others found much to admire in the film and the genre, such as film historian James Robert Parish, who noted that Julien was one of the genre’s shining lights and was “talented and charismatic”. Despite its many virtues and its success with audiences, The Mack was a film made by whites about blacks, something that Julien wanted very much to rectify for his next project. A meeting between Julien with a young, up-and-coming actress shortly after The Mack’s premiere would plant the seeds for what would eventually become Thomasine and Bushrod.

Vonetta Mcgee was born in San Francisco in January 1940. After graduating from San Francisco’s Polytechnic High School in 1962, she became more and more interested in acting. After traveling to Europe, she began appearing in several Italian productions in the late sixties before getting steady work in a slew of low-budget exploitation films in the early seventies upon her return to America. Shortly after their introduction, Mcgee became involved romantically with Julien, who was working on his first screenplay. The script, centering on an African American female version of James Bond named Cleopatra Jones, quickly refashioned as a vehicle for McGee, although Tamara Dobson ended up with the role, much to Jones and Julien’s displeasure. Disappointed and angry, Julien quickly wrote another script, a western called Thomasine and Bushrod.

Max Julien’s original script for Thomasine and Bushrod is a confrontational and genre-bending work posing as a take on Arthur Penn’s influential Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Focusing on a fictional outlaw in the old west named Bushrod and his partner in crime and love, a former female bounty hunter named Thomasine, who steals from the rich in order to help various minorities, Julien’s script and the final film would delight in reversing gender roles, questioning accepted history and rethinking the western genre.

Columbia Pictures purchased the script for Thomasine and Bushrod in 1973 and made an agreement with Julien and McGee that they could both star in it as long they didn’t mind working with a relatively inexperienced director who had just scored a major success with his first film, 1972’s Super Fly.

Gordon Parks Jr. was born just a few weeks before Christmas in 1934 and life immediately proved difficult for the young man. His father would remember years later that “Gordon Jr. had developed a serious asthmatic” condition and that “doctoring didn’t seem to help”. The young Parks would spend much of his early life inside and under his father’s shadow, but the two were always close, and they collaborated on various artistic endeavors and civil rights activities in the mid-sixties.

When his father, who had turned to filmmaking in the late sixties, scored big with his second theatrical feature, 1971’s Shaft, Parks Jr. could negotiate a deal to direct his first feature, which would be Super Fly. This production marked the first time the younger Parks would really make a name for himself and his short but intriguing film career that followed is an interesting mixture of his father’s early documentary work, his passion for photography and music, and his interest in changing the way Hollywood viewed African Americans in film.

The summer of 1973 found the production of Thomasine and Bushrod gathering steam. An early June edition of The Albuquerque Times featured news of the production attempting to find shooting location in the area on their front page. Incorrectly calling Parks’ film as a “million dollar production”, the newspaper noted that filming was scheduled to begin August 2nd. The lengthy piece noted the film’s main behind-the-scenes players were on hand searching for area locations that “haven’t changed much since the 1912 area”.

The same paper also celebrated Parks arrival in their community with another front-page article titled “No Super Fly Clothing For Him”. Calling Parks “soft-spoken, almost shy” the article quoted him saying that he planned for Thomasine and Bushrod to be a “tender, humorous love story” as opposed to Superfly which functioned to “sock(ed) is to the man.” Thomasine and Bushrod continued receiving much pre-release coverage throughout the New Mexico area. The Santa Fe New Mexican even devoted this nearly full-page dedicated to its filming in the area.

Thomasine and Bushrod is a daring but flawed production, hampered by a quick shooting schedule on a low budget in a scorching New Mexico summer, yet remains downright ingenious in the way it confounds so many expectations. There are several things that separate the film from almost any other before or since, with the most obvious being that it would have African American protagonists in the old West. The most daring move the film makes though is with McGee’s character Thomasine, placed in the clearly more traditionally masculine role. Not only does her name come first in the title, but the character of Thomasine is smarter, stronger, more controlled, and more interesting than the weaker Bushrod. Julien’s script suggests strongly a rethinking of not only the Western genre in the placing of African Americans as the leads, but also in its forceful questioning of clear gender roles.

Parks understood the subtleties of Julien’s script and how subversive it was. Filming McGee often from lower angles to give her power and authority while placing Julien much lower in the frame with the camera tilted down at him, Thomasine and Bushrod shows Parks to be a sensitive and intelligent stylist. This role as a stylist also distinguishes the film in another way, which is perhaps even more subversive than the gender and race relations it delights in subverting.

Thomasine and Bushrod’s biggest attribute is one of its most surprising, that being how much Parks, Julien, and McGee highlighted it was a film made in 1973 about 1873. Not content with making a mere historically accurate piece, Parks fills nearly every frame of the film with visual references to the seventies, a move that makes it clearly more about the period they made it in than the period they set it in. The outlandish and stylish costume design by Andrea Lilly and Mcgee herself, the hairstyles, the soundtrack (which features a title track by San Francisco band Love), and even some of the dialogue are clearly products of the seventies. Many critics mis-viewed this as laziness and lack of research on the part of Parks and Julien, but today it looks to be a clear-headed and deliberate decision on their parts that goes along perfectly with the other subversive thematic elements of the film. Thomasine and Bushrod isn’t a film attempting to be historically accurate, it is instead a work that questions just what accuracy means in cinema.

Interviewed by Don Kralle in The Courier Post in April of 1974, McGee recalled Max based the script on his great uncle” and that Thomasine was like herself, “a woman’s libber”. Most perceptively, McGee told Kralle that the movie just wasn’t a “love story” but that it was actually about her and Max’s love affair. The eye-opening interview, scanned below, was far more perceptive that the majority of critical attention.

Thomasine and Bushrod is typified as the work of Gordon Parks Jr. by several visual motifs that appear throughout his short filmography. These include a bittersweet slow-motion love sequence and most notably a mid-film montage of still photographs of not only the actors but an extraordinary collection of rare shots of actual African Americans in the century’s turn old west. This section of the film is important as it shows Parks marking himself as an auteur in the making while questioning Hollywood’s continuing betraying of the historical events that critics accused Thomasine and Bushrod of ignoring.

Briefly released in the summer of 1973 with a half-hearted ad campaign by Columbia attempting to capitalize on the real-life relationship between Julien and McGee, Thomasine and Bushrod failed to attract an audience and the critical community mostly ignored the production, although Nora Sayre in The New York Times found much to admire and picked up on how “utterly contemporary” the film was and said that Parks brought “considerable freshness” but “the talents of the performers” carried the film.

Other critics slammed the film, such as Gene Siskel in The Chicago Tribune. Awarding the film, just a star and a half, Siskel stated he thought the film had one of “the worst titles on record” and “wasted” “two talented actors” and “hundreds of thousands of dollars”. Critical reception continued to be mixed at best. The only real point of recognition came in late 1973 with Julien’s script’s NAACP Award nomination.

After a handful of television airings and a brief European run, Thomasine and Bushrod was pulled from circulation by the mid-seventies and was virtually a lost film for decades. The film’s failure hurt all three of the main player’s careers. McGee has spent the rest of her career in mostly supporting roles while Julien dropped out of sight for nearly a quarter of a century. He resurfaced in the late nineties as his role in The Mack gained more and more popularity, but Thomasine and Bushrod remains his swan song as a lead actor and a screenwriter.

Gordon Parks Jr. completed just two more films, 1974’s Three The Hard Way and 1975’s Aaron Loves Angela, before losing his life in that Kenya plane crash of 1979 while scouting a new film.

His father would write that television stations all over the world were “reporting my death” instead of his sons marking the talented Gordon Parks Jr. as anonymous in death as in life. His Thomasine and Bushrod is one of the great-unnoticed chapters in not only African American film history but American film in general.

-Jeremy Richey, Originally Presented at a 2008 Research Conference at Western Kentucky University and then published in print via The Amplifier and Moon in the Gutter-

Unlike when I initially wrote this piece, Thomasine and Bushrod is now available via DVD and streaming, although an HD Blu-ray has still yet to appear. Parks’ film would make an ideal selection for The Criterion Collection. I hope they might one day consider it for their collection.

A Week Beats A Year: In Tribute To Toshio Matsumoto and FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES (1969)


Toshio Matsumoto, one of the great cinematic rebels and non-conformists, passed away this month back in 2017 at the age of 85. Matsumoto was a fierce artist and boundary pusher who challenged his viewers as much as he enlightened and entertained them. Here is a short piece I wrote about his absolutely breathtaking 1969 work Funeral Parade Of Roses back in 2013, along with some vintage clippings.
It’s a film unlike any other and Toshio Matsumoto was a filmmaker like no other.

Thinking of Toshio Matsumoto’s 1969 cinematic powerhouse Funeral Parade of Roses…a brick hurled through a window of complacency…a raging kick to the face of traditional narrative cinema…a retelling of Oedipus that transforms that classic legend into something altogether new.

The questions one gets asked after typically viewing a film are mute in regards to Funeral Parade of Roses.
“What’s it about?” and “Did you like it?” have no place here and are like asking someone if they had ‘fun’ at a protest against oppression.

Product of its time?
YES but in the best way possible. This has passion and anger that simply no longer exists in today’s cinema. We’ve traded soul and intensity for a day at the mall, glued to small films on small screens that fit in our pockets.

The Plot of Funeral Parade of Roses doesn’t hold my attention…instead, it is the elements that it transcends in every frame that hits me (I beg for its punch time and time again). Opening shot…blinding white light. Is that a boy and a girl? Boy and a boy? Unclear, until it pulls into focus and throws us into a labyrinth of confusion that questions gender, sexuality, family, life, death, and beyond.

The Record
08 Jun 1973, Fri · Page 36

Warhol, Morrissey…their deconstructive techniques are apparent. Rollin’s Rape of the Vampire is its bloody sister-in-arms from a year before. Brakhage (sure), Deren (of course). How about Kubrick, who loved Funeral Parade of Roses so much that he paid tribute to it stylistically and spiritually in his A Clockwork Orange. Ultimately this is punk rock before punk rock…before punk rock was exploited and made meaningless. That brick through the window reflects the student riots happening in Paris, Japan, and all over the free-thinking world in 1969.

The art of deconstruction….destruction of our scripted roles in life, love, and death. It’s that final shot of Godard’s Weekend with the ominous “End of Cinema” flashing on the screen taken several steps further. It’s a beautiful monster that no modern special effects house could muster. It’s a party film with a wild youthful abandon breaking through every moment…Superbad for the art house as a celebration of questioning gender roles and rampant unhinged sexuality. And that ending has the visceral impact only perhaps Deodato later stumbled upon.

It pops with an eye-gouging intensity that builds and builds until a wonderful moment when an old man stumbles exhausted onto the screen and thanks everyone for attending. Thank you and you are very welcome! A little moment that could have derailed the film completely, but this bold and audacious act is like the film itself…a joyous revolution turning a mirror back to the audience.

Toshio Matsumoto defiantly channeling Lou Reed’s “My Week Beats Your Year” in the purest cinematic way imaginable.

-Jeremy Richey, Originally Published at Moon in the Gutter 04-14-17-

Variety, 1968-1970 Film Reviews
The San Francisco Examiner
30 Oct 1970

Blackouts, Berkowitz and Billy ‘Fuckin’ Bagg: THE VIOLATION OF CLAUDIA (1977)


Most moviegoers back in the early eighties wouldn’t have blinked an eye at the casting but, for those in the know, Sharon Mitchell’s brief bit as “2nd Nurse” in William Lustig’s ferocious 1980 masterpiece Maniac was a small but significant milestone for the both of them. The New Jersey native Mitchell was just shy of a year younger than the Bronx bread Lustig when they first met during a New York casting session in early 1977. The proximity of their ages wasn’t all Mitchell and Lustig had in common during that first fateful meeting. They were both hungry (literally and figuratively) and struggling to make a name for themselves in the electric, and sometimes insane, world of film in the New York cinema in the seventies. Just past twenty in 1977, Mitchell was smart, feisty, lovely to look at, and a junkie. A former N.Y.U. film student, Lustig only had a tiny pot to piss in at the time but he had found a handful of investors in that sweltering summer of 77 to fund what would be his first feature as a director and Mitchell was his ideal, if surprising, leading lady. Inexperience and youth be damned, the two were a perfect team and the little film they made together, The Violation of Claudia, would help launch two extraordinary and wild careers that would be as unpredictable as they were influential. New York in 1977…a year of blackouts, Berkowitz and Billy ‘Fuckin’ Bagg.

Written, edited, and directed by William Lustig under the pseudonym Billy Bagg in just a few days for a measly budget even the most seasoned filmmakers could have barely cut a trailer on, The Violation of Claudia is a shockingly well-made and effective feature. An adult take on Bunuel’s 1967 stunner Belle de Jour, Lustig’s first film is a fascinating hour-long time sex film that is both erotic and witty. Label it exploitation, but it is intellectually driven exploitation crafted by a man clearly immersed in film history and captivated by all things cinema. Seemingly creatively birthed by the infamous NYC blackout of the summer of ’77 and the Son of Sam shootings, The Violation of Claudia marked the beginning of the creative cinematic bond between New York City and the gritty filmmaking style of William Lustig. It would be the first of many distinctly New York films Lustig created throughout his uncompromising career.

Dealing with sexual repression in an openly sexual arena, The Violation of Claudia would be an essential entry in William Lustig’s filmography even if it wasn’t his first feature. What could have been a by-the-numbers quickie becomes a truly rewarding and satisfying experience. You can sense Lustig’s creativity and drive in every shot of The Violation of Claudia. For a film shot so quickly by an artist so young, there is real clarity and fluidity in The Violation of Claudia‘s direction and Sharon Mitchell’s performance as the frustrated title character is really quite wonderful. Had she been around in Hollywood’s Golden Age, Mitchell could have been a real contender, a Myrna Loy with a ‘fuck me’ smile. Sharon Mitchell was more than a good actress, she was a unique one and her work in The Violation of Claudia is both endearing and touching.

Mitchell isn’t the only on-screen powerhouse appearing in The Violation of Claudia. The mighty Jamie Gillis turns in a typically strong supporting turn and the legendary Long Jeanne Silver also makes a brief, but memorable, appearance. The intense and extremely talented Gillis appeared in nearly a dozen films throughout the tumultuous year of 1977, which included not only Lustig’s debut but Radley Metzger’s Barbara Broadcast and perhaps most unforgettable, the terrifying Waterpower which saw Gillis delivering one of the great performances of the period. Silver had also appeared in Waterpower and it along with The Violation of Claudia marked two of her earliest performances on screen.

While it feels like it belongs exclusively to 1977, The Violation of Claudia would play throughout the late seventies, well into the mid-eighties, often on the bottom half of double-bills with a variety of other adult films. Besides its seemingly endless theatrical run, The Violation of Claudia also appeared on late-night cable television throughout the eighties in a heavily edited cut.

Like much of his work, Lustig watched as The Violation of Claudia created no small amount of controversy. A hysteria-driven article from a 1977 edition of Newsday used the film as an example of why ads for adult films were in their estimation a major “problem” and “blight”.

An even more hysterical uproar surrounded the film’s television cut in 1982 when an insurance sales agent named Kevin Finn went on an anti-porn crusade after he watched the film out of “curiosity” with his wife. Despite having all the hardcore sex being cut out, the neutered cut of The Violation of Claudia still left Mr. Finn “embarrassed, sickened and appalled”. Lost to time, is whether his wife felt the same way.

Distribpix’s special edition of The Violation of Claudia is another grand slam. Paired with Lustig’s second feature, Hot Honey, The Violation of Claudia has never looked or sounded better and the extras Distribpix have assembled include the original trailer, a slideshow of vintage articles, clippings and pictures, and a terrific hour-long podcast featuring Lustig talking about his background and films with Distribpix’s Steven Morowitz. The best extra is the incredibly informative and entertaining commentary track featuring Lustig and Nicolas Winding Refn, amid filming his Drive.


More information on this now out of print release can be found at Distribpix’s original listing and this article from their blog focused on the film. Used copies of the now hard to find disc can be ordered at Amazon.

-Jeremy Richey, Originally Published at Moon in the Gutter, 09/08/2014-



At the turn of the last century, the growing city of Lawrence, Kansas, was still a relatively rural area located in the very center of The United States. Lawrence was suffering a bit of an identity crisis grappling with modern technology in 1909 when a new streetcar system made life a little easier for the town’s residents. These included the staff and students of The University of Kanas, located in the heart of Lawrence. A melting pot of beliefs and ideals, Lawrence was a quintessential American city. Still, in the early Spring of 1909, the town was abuzz with news of visiting who had traveled nearly 5,000 miles from his European home to visit the town’s University.  

The news that Dutch novelist Frederik van Eeden was planning on visiting Lawrence made headlines throughout the state. The Jeffersonian Gazette noted the event in their pages:

“Frederik van Eeden, a poet, dramatist, physician, sociologist, and lecturer, will be in Lawrence early in April to deliver a course of afternoon lectures at the University of Kansas. He will he here from April 1 to 7, and will speak on each school day at 4:30 0’clock in the afternoon in the college chapel, will give a chapel talk Friday morning of his visit here at 10 0’clock, and will give the Sunday afternoon vesper address at 4:30 0’clock on April 4. His subjects are such as “Treating Diseases by Mental Suggestion- “Happy Humanity,” The “Religion and Business Mission of the Poet.” 

Born in The Netherlands city of Haarlem in 1860, Frederik Willem van Eeden was by 1909 known as much for his work in psychiatry as his literary strides. Van Eeden was also a political livewire as he was a founding member of the world’s first Communist political party, the Dutch Social-Democratic Party, in 1909. Van Eeden’s unique American visit occurred less than a decade after one of his great novels had been granted an English translation as The Deeps of Deliverance.  

Initially rumored to be inspired by one of van Eeden’s real-life patients, the dreamy and provocative Van de koele meren des doods originally appeared in 1900 in The Netherlands. Concerning the sad tale of death-obsessed and a sexually frustrated young woman coming of age in a brutally oppressive era for women named Hedwig Marga de Fontayne, Van de koele meren des doods dramatically positioned itself as one of the most progressive 20th century female-driven novels.  

Van Eeden’s startling novel was hailed by both the literary community as well as the psychological one. The blossoming women’s movement embraced and hailed the novel as a significant work, and it remains one of the great Feminist literary works written by a man.  The New York Tribune summed up the book’s importance upon its American 1903 release:

“Here is another volume dealing with the eternal feminine, the minutest portrayal of a woman’s inner consciousness, a dissecting knife laying bare a conflict between body and soul; a condition fostered by environment and augmented by a union contrary to natural law. The character of Hedwig de Fontayne, as shown by Van Eeden, is complex from its inception.

‘The history of a woman’s life,’ writes Van Eeden of his book. ‘ ‘how she sought the cool deeps wherein is deliverance, and how deliverance came to her.’ But to what depths did she sink before bodily release brought her spiritual relief? Abased, exhausted, wrecked, there is that still left in her that craved salvation, emancipation from a weakness that held her in a thrall seemingly impossible to overthrow.”

Van Eeden’s novel was greeted with similarly heady reviews everywhere it appeared.  The Baltimore Sun called it one of the most “noteworthy” works of the period, while The New York Times praised van Eeden’s ability to thrive in whatever field he chooses to write about. With his unforgettable character Hedwig, van Eeden managed to capture the often dark frustrations and the stark reality of being a woman at the turn of the 20th century. It was a remarkable work of literature steeped in realism that flirted with naturalistic elements.     

Van Eeden passed away in 1932.  Van de koele meren des doods continued to reappear in various translations in the decade after his death. Such an important work might have seemed an ideal vehicle for a filmed adaptation, but several barriers made it an exceedingly tricky prospect. The novel’s decidedly adult themes ranging from sexual desire, repression, addiction, religious hypocrisy, and madness made any early film adaptation all but impossible. The novel’s nocturnal digressions and how it dealt with time-related to a character’s memories were incredibly cinematic. Still, it would take the perfect filmmaker to bring them to fruition. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for a possible filmed version of van Eeden’s book was how relatable its themes of desire and repression would be. Van Eeden had written a period piece, but the beating Feminist heart at the center of Van de Koele Meren des Doods made it a dangerously timeless work that a male-dominated film industry had no interest in touching.  

It would take Van de Koele Meren des Doods (or The Cool Lakes Of Death as it is now most commonly known) more than eight decades before it finally became a film. With so many international translations, an adaptation could have appeared anywhere, so it was particularly pleasing to see a Dutch company finally option the property. The man who ultimately determined it was time to bring an ‘unfilmable’ novel to the big screen was famed Dutch producer Matthijs van Heijningen.

By the end of the seventies, van Heijningen had become known for his big-screen adaptations of popular novels. It was a successful pattern that had begun near the beginning of van Heijningen’s career with his successful Tim Krabbe adaptation of Flanagan (1975). Three films, in particular, would be essential to The Cool Lakes of Death’s ultimate release. The remarkable 1978 Knut Hamsun adaptation he had produced for director Paul de Lussanet, Mysteries, had failed to light up the Dutch box office. Still, it had shown that van Heijningen could successfully bring an ‘unfilmable novel’ to the theaters. Even more important were the two masterful films (The Debut and A Woman Like Eve) he had produced for the remarkable Feminist filmmaker Nouchka van Brakel.  

It is impossible to imagine a more perfect director for The Cool Lakes of Death than Nouchka van Brakel, but she was hesitant about how cumbersome the book would be to film. She finally agreed and drafted a breathtakingly great screenplay with Ton Vorstenbosch that managed to distill the novel’s many themes down perfectly. Along with the adaptation itself, the trickiest part of bringing The Cool Lakes of Death to the big screen was finding the ideal actress to play the doomed Hedwig.  

The Dutch press was ablaze with the news of a big-screen adaptation of The Cool Lakes Of Death throughout 1981. Rumors swirled as to just who would end playing the plum role of Hedwig.  Het Parool noted at the very end of 1981 that a certain Dutch actress was in the possible running for the part:

“Sylvia Kristel has expressed her willingness to play the lead film in the film adaptation of “Van De Koele Meren Des Doods” by Frederik van Eeden, directed by Nouchka of Brakel The financing of this film is 40 percent by The First National Film Participation Company and there is money from the Netherlands Production Fund. Sylvia has proposed to participate financially in the project as well.”

The Het Parool notice about Sylvia’s possible involvement in the film was a solitary one. It was just one of many promising roles that didn’t come to fruition in this period.  The Cool Lakes of Death appeared a year after Sylvia’s final quality film of her most significant period, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. In the wake of The Cool Lakes of Death’s release, Sylvia was stuck in the English language film market, making the worst films of her career. Sylvia’s struggles at the time mirrored Hedwig’s in specific ways, so it is easy to see what attracted her to the role, but whether she could have pulled it off in her own increasingly fractured state remains a question lost to time. Sylvia and van Brakel had been friends since the dawn of her film career, and they would finally properly work together on van Brakel’s De vriendschap (2001). The time wasn’t right in 1982, and another actress emerged as the only real option for Hedwig.   

Renette Pauline Soutendijk had yet to turn twenty-five when she secured the role of Hedwig in The Cool Lakes of Death. A former gymnast and, unlike Sylvia, a professionally trained actress, Soutendijk had only been making films for a few years, but she had already clearly established herself as The Netherlands greatest young actress of the period. Wim Verstappen had ‘discovered’ her a few years previously for his masterpiece Pastorale 1943 (which featured Sylvia as well in one of her most significant roles). Soutendijk was crazy talented, and her rise was justifiably fast. After appearing in a small role in van Brakel’s A Woman Like Eve, Soutendijk’s career exploded with the double shot of Paul Verhoeven’s Spetters (1980) and Ben Verbong’s The Girl With The Red Hair (1981).  

Soutendijk is amongst the great screen actors and is a phenomenally gifted chameleon with a startling and even unnerving ability to disappear into whatever role she is playing. Like Sylvia, Soutendijk was later grossly misused in some English language productions. Still, her career in The Netherlands has been astonishing, and she earned a much deserved lifetime achievement Golden Calf in 2011, while just in her early fifties. Her Oscar-worthy performance as Hedwig remains perhaps the most remarkable performance of her career.  

The Cool Lakes of Death’s expansive cast included popular actors Derek de Lint and Peter Faber, but the film belongs to Soutendijk, who dominates every frame. Behind the scenes, van Brakel assembled another reliable crew that included her partner Theo van de Sande working on the film’s gorgeous cinematography.   Mysteries Production Designer Benedict Schillemans and multiple Golden Calf nominee Set Designer Harry Ammerlaan ensured the film’s period setting was rendered perfectly.

Considering the material’s dreamlike nature and epic scale, van Brakel’s choice of an editor was vital. Edgar Burcksen would eventually find much success in American film and television, but his early editorial work in The Netherlands is superb, especially on The Cool Lakes Of Death. His cutting, along with van Brakel’s wonderfully fluid directorial style, perfectly compliments The Cool Lakes of Death at every turn. It is a genuinely marvelous cinematic achievement.  

The making of The Cool Lakes Of Death was covered extensively in the Dutch press. One of the longest articles appeared in a mid-February 1982 edition of Het vrije volk. The article called van Brakel the “most successful film director in the Netherlands” and guessed correctly that the film would indeed be a “masterpiece.” The paper marveled at how Soutendijk managed to “effortless” nail every scene perfectly no matter how many times it was filmed. Van Brakel praised her remarkable young star in the article:

“The dialogue comes directly from Van Eeden’s book. At first, I doubted whether it was possible to use that old Dutch. But Renée pronounces those sentences like she’s never spoken any other language. It’s beautiful.” 

Van Brakel noted that Hedwig was punished by her surroundings, and sadly, not much had changed for women by the early eighties. Stating that she was “primarily interested in the psychology of women,” van Brakel was the absolute ideal artist to bring The Cool Lakes of Death to the big screen. The wait had been worth it.  

Van Brakel wanted her filmed adaptation of The Cool Lakes of Death to follow its source material as closely as possible. She admitted in the Het vrije volk that ideally, a ‘mini-series would probably be the best way to adapt the epic book fully.  The Cool Lakes of Death needed to be seen on the big screen though, and van Brakel’s screenplay was a masterpiece in its own right. Ultimately she admitted that “I make films about women, and I help women who want to do the same.”

The Cool Lakes of Death was a massive undertaking.  Het vrije volk detailed just how complex the project was:

“The recordings take an unprecedented amount of time by Dutch standards, eight weeks. The number of locations used in this is enormous. Filming is also taking place in England, Belgium and France.”

Van Brakel was up for the challenge. She told that Algemeen Dagblad, “This film is the most laborious I have made, but it gives you enormous satisfaction, especially because of the theme of the film. In addition, it is a great luxury that you can work with so many good actors and actresses.”   She noted to the paper just how topical the story still was, “there are still many women who are subject to demands that they feel they cannot meet.” Interviewed for the same article, Soutendijk mentioned, “It’s a very emotional role. I always work strongly on intuition, but with this woman, it is often very complicated. Psychotic behavior, childbirth, morphine addiction, you can’t get those things out of your own experience.”  

Interviewed about Soutendijk’s remarkable abilities as an actress in De Telegraph, Paul Verhoeven noted how amazing it was that she shot his legendary The 4th Man (1983) just three weeks after wrapping The Cool Lakes of Death:

“The audience will be baffled by Renee Soutendijk, who has not yet been seen in such a creation and who will now come across as a completely different woman. She has every opportunity to make a great foreign career. And the way she’s doing this role right now, and you look at those eyelids from underneath, she looks like Marine Dietrich.” 

Another lengthy piece appeared in NRC Handelsblad. Van Brakel noted:

“I see a victim of the circumstances in Hedwig. At the end of her life, she finds a way to shape her existence a little and not go into complete destruction. After a film about a young woman choosing a man who is a lot older (The Debut) and one about a woman who chooses lesbian love, I wanted to make a film about a woman who, and that is also taboo, is deeply concerned with death.”  

Soutendijk discussed the role and her career further with Algemeen Dagblad:

“There are a few people in America who are very enthusiastic about me. Although, enthusiasm is still weakly expressed. I’ve had 40 meetings and spoken to about 70 people. A strange country, by the way, that America. They are very cordial and common, and at the same time, you feel that they are only interested in you when you can possibly raise money. In the Netherlands, being commercial is a very dirty swear word. For me, Van de koele meren de dood has been a project with a lot of risks because of all the unknown things. I think some things worked out very well, some things didn’t, but then I’ll be the only one who feels that way. In short, I jumped all the way in, I always do, and at least I tried to do my job as well as I could. It’s been hard, but I have loved being a part of it, and I don’t regret anything.” 

A Woman Like Eve and The Debut had been out of the gate masterpieces from van Brakel, but The Cool Lakes of Death is on another level altogether. It is an elegant, refined, and beautifully realized motion picture on par with the great films of the post-war era. Watching The Cool Lakes of Death, now restored nearly forty years after its release, the film towers above almost any other period film from the period. Compare it to say the Merchant-Ivory productions of the period to see just how deeply daring, distinctive and intelligent The Cool Lakes of Death is. 

With The Cool Lakes Of Death, van Brakel and her talented cast and crew managed to make a unique work in the realm of modern cinema, a rarer and rare occurrence with each passing year. There are certain connections. Van Brakel’s film at times recalls Truffaut’s astonishing The Story of Adele H. (1975), another film centering on cruelty and madness that Sylvia Kristel was coincidentally also in consideration for. Then, of course, Polanski’s remarkable adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess (1979) also shares several stylistic and thematic themes with van Brakel’s film. Commonalities aside, The Cool Lakes of Death stands as one of the most idiosyncratic films of the eighties and one of the final great European art films of cinema’s last golden age.    

The Cool Lakes of Death received much acclaim upon its release and was submitted for Best Foreign Film at The Oscars, but it did not get the worldwide release it deserved. The film would have been an ideal candidate for The Criterion Collection, which has routinely ignored Dutch cinema in a profoundly disturbing way since its inception in the late eighties. Instead, it has gone nearly wholly unseen outside of The Netherlands for decades. After all, Criterion has had Wes Anderson and Michael Bay films to add to their collection.

The Cool Lakes of Death was a challenging shoot. Budgetary problems between van Brakel and van Heijningen caused issues, and the lengthy filming schedule was unbelievably stressful. The hard work was more than worth it in the end.  Algemeen Dagblad summed up the film calling it a ‘Beautiful triumph” while De Volkskrant hailed the acting and again noted how jaw-droppingly lovely the movie was.  Limburgsch dagblad hailed Soutendijk’s performance and again praised the film’s remarkable visual appeal. 

Cult Epics’ new Blu-ray and DVD release of The Cool Lakes of Death indeed serves that great visual appeal exceedingly well. The new 4K transfer is marvelous, and the film is presented completely uncut and restored. Extras include a vintage Polygood newsreel featuring the film’s reception at The Netherlands Film Festival. A terrific photo gallery is also included, and the trailer. A bit of Erik Van Der Wurff’s haunting score can be heard as well. The entire soundtrack from The Netherlands Harlekijn label badly deserves a re-release. 

Van Brakel would reunite with both Soutendijk and her Woman Like Eve star Monique van de Ven on her next feature-length film, Een maand later (1987), and she remains amongst the most incredible living filmmakers on the planet. These new Cult Epics discs, along with the upcoming Van Brakel box-set, are landmark home video releases restoring the great works from one of cinema’s most distinctive voices. I cannot recommend them higher.

Jeremy Richey, Originally Posted -4/02/2021 at Moon in the Gutter-




What in the hell was Monique van de Ven doing in Starsky and Hutch? After all, it had only been a few years since van de Ven’s Oscar-worthy work in Paul Verhoeven’s 
Turks Fruit (1973) and Keetje Tippel, so seeing her play opposite Antonio Fargas’ Huggy Bear in “A Body Worth Guarding.” was one of the oddest sights of the late seventies. 

Van de Ven had been on a television set before, but the Dutch miniseries Sil de strandjutter (1976) was a much more serious affair than an American cop show.  “A Body Worth Guarding” had not gone unnoticed back in van de Ven’s home country. In a July 1978 edition, De Telegraph noted that the episode was a waste of time for a highly talented actress and “worthless” in general.  Starsky and Hutch would prove to be a most inauspicious American debut for Van de Ven, but a much more significant role awaited her back in The Netherlands as the seventies drew to a close.  

Starsky and Hutch had indeed been a ‘worthless’ step in van de Ven’s noteworthy career and would prove a tragic foreshadowing of later attempts to breakthrough in the American market. Van de Ven had no way of predicting the future in 1978, but she knew scripts like “A Body Worth Guarding.” were a waste of her considerable talents. Van de Ven’s other roles in 1978 were thankfully much more exciting and included Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Australian cult oddity Stunt Rock and Ate de Jong’s Inheritance. They were fine films, but Van de Ven’s passion project was a script she had on Starsky and Hutch’s set. She would tell Algemeen Dagblad in July of 1978 that the script’s title character had already wholly taken her over and cameras hadn’t even begun rolling yet.

Van de Ven was reportedly so excited about the new project that she had turned down a major Hollywood film to make it. This would prove nearly disastrous when van de Ven discovered the film’s writer and director had second thoughts about her casting as she was concerned the 26-year-old actress was too young for the role. A panicked van de Ven refused to be denied the part and persevered, even going so far as threatening legal action, as the film’s producer had promised her the role.  

The plum role Monique van de Van refused to let slip away was as Eve in Een vrouw als Eva, the groundbreaking work from the pen of the film’s director, Nouchka van Brakel. Telling the story of a lonely wife of an uncaring husband who falls in love with another woman, Een vrouw als Eva was poised to be one of the great films of the period, and van de Ven knew it.  

Born in the spring of 1940 in Amsterdam, Nouchka van Brakel had been a part of the exploding new Dutch film wave that had begun to take shape throughout the sixties. A fading photograph in a September 1963 issue of Het Parool, marking Cinestud – Amsterdam International Student Film Festival, showed a young Van Brakel pictured with a number of her peers who would help revolutionize Dutch cinema, including Pim de la Para and Wim Verstappen.  

Van Brakel had been around artists all of her life. Her parents were musicians who were as passionate about left-wing politics as art, and both would surround the young Van Brakel, although film and theater would spark her passion, not music. Inspired by her mother’s feminist ideals, Van Brakel became the first-ever woman accepted to Nederlandse Filmacademie, the prestigious Netherlands Film Academy. Just as crucial to her blossoming career was the group she would host at her house, the influential Dutch Feminist organization, Dolle Mina.

Formally established in 1969, Dolle Mina’s origins went back to pioneering Dutch Feminist Wilhelmina Drucker, who argued for women’s equal rights throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. A key group of Feminism’s second wave, Dolle Mina, was dedicated to equal pay, rights, and protections for women. The group’s, at times, absurdist political acts and demonstrations not surprisingly attracted much press attention as the seventies dawned.     

De Volkskrant covered one of Dolle Mina’s first significant demonstrations in January of 1970 at the men’s only Nijenrode Castle. The paper noted the calamitous protest was a campaign “for equal rights for women.”  Trouw would feature the event in a relatively long piece that featured quotes by Dolle Mina’s representation:

“The man is still in charge. Only on election day are a husband and wife equal. A real emancipated woman is not the rule but an exception. This ruling is for the account of the action group ‘De Dolle Mina,’ which met yesterday afternoon in the Atheneum News Centre to inform the ‘outside world’ of the motives that led to its creation a month ago and its future activities. The organization, born out of a group of ‘troubled girls,’ currently has more than 40 members and believes that women in this society are continuing for the lesser part of the man, that she is not completely, evenly matched. ‘Most girls have a worse education than the boys. After school, they become typists or waitresses or go into a store. They wait for a man to pick them out, and then they get married. And that’s where she’s waiting, the rut, which deprives her of any opportunity to develop her talents: “And when she goes to work, she pays more tax than he does. She earns less for the same job. The group advocates a change of mindset for both men and women so that ‘they become aware that women have as many and equal rights as the man.’ There will be a tough action, including “a call for a general cooking strike against oppression by men,” an action for free nurseries, and an action for public toilets for women.”

More demonstrations followed and more press coverage.  Het Parool summed up the group in the headline, “Doll Mina to Fight Against A Man’s World.” The article summed up the group’s adventurous protest stylings:

“The emancipation of women will be dealt with considerably this year. Dolle Mina has had enough of petitions and pamphlets. Mad Mina’s going out on the street to demand public urination right also for women. Dutch housewives are advised to hold a cooking strike tonight. Dutchmen should now feel that the female is against oppression. She no longer wants to play the slave that’s ready for sir, who cooks for sir, who irons, sews, dishes for sir. Dolle Mina wants equality in 1970. The action group consisting of thirty housewives, young mothers, and students, assisted by ten men who share these ideas, took action yesterday. The Nijenrode training institute, which is only accessible to men, was stormed by Dolle Mina. It came to a slight collision, but eventually, a conversation was reached. Dolle then entered Mina Amsterdam to burn a corset at the statue of her patron Wilhelmina Drucker. This symbolized the elimination of oppression of women.”

As the seventies began, Van Brakel became known for her Dolle Mina role. Het vrije volk featured her in a piece on the Feminist group just a few days after 1970 had begun. Van Brakel had been active in the Dutch film world throughout the sixties in various capacities, and her activities with the group would inform her film work. Her directorial career began with several short narrative and documentary films. Van Brakel’s intelligence, love for cinema, and fiery left-wing politics made her one of the most fully-loaded filmmakers of the seventies. This would become especially apparent with the early seventies documentary she directed, Ouder Worden.   De tijd noted the film concerned “the division of roles imposed on boys and girls in primary school.” It was a startling documentary, and Van Brakel talked about it to the Dutch paper:

“Women are victims of a complicated indoctrination process. Whether you are born as a boy or as a girl depends on chance. But the girls have to play their role as human beings differently from the boys. The simple fact that you have become a boy or a girl immediately robs you of a piece of freedom.”

Ouder Worden garnered much attention for a short documentary and would help Van Brakel finance her first narrative feature. Finally, after more than fifteen years working in the Dutch film world, Van Brakel’s first feature, Het debuut, appeared in 1977 to great acclaim and controversy. The film would introduce audiences to one of the most exciting young actresses of the period, Marina de Graaf, and solidified Van Brakel as one of the premier filmmakers in The Netherlands.  

Het Debuut became one of the most discussed Dutch films of the seventies, and it made a star out of de Graaf. The film’s success paved the way for Van Brakel’s equally ambitious follow-up, which she began scripting with the Dutch poet and fellow Dolle Mina’s figure, Judith Hertzberg. The two defiant feminists would take a concept (inspired by a real-life court case) by fellow Dutch screenwriter Carol Donck and transform it into Een vrouw als Eva (A Woman Like Eve).  

While van de Ven was struggling to retain her lead role in A Woman Like Eve, Van Brakel began assembling what would turn into a most extraordinary cast. The choices included Peter Fabar as Eva’s selfish husband, Ad, and the extraordinary Renée Soutendijk in a critical supporting role. Along with the title character, Eve’s lover Liliane would be the most challenging part to cast, and the perfect actress turned out to be French, not Dutch.  

Parisian Maria Schneider had just turned twenty-five when the script for A Woman Like Eve was sent to her. The embattled Schneider was having a very rough time personally and professionally by 1978. The worldwide fame attached to her landmark role in Last Tango in Paris (1973) proved too much for the young woman, and she had increasingly turned to drugs and alcohol for relief. After working with Antonioni on his masterpiece The Passenger (1975), Schneider’s choices became more militantly feminist and less commercial. Tinto Brass had just fired her from Caligula (1979) for refusing to appear nude in the film when A Woman Like Eve came her way. The role of Liliane would turn out to be amongst the finest of Maria Schneider’s career, but her emotional problems were apparent on the set and onscreen. Fresh from rehab, a briefly sober Schneider was an exposed nerve on the set of A Woman Like Eve, but her performance ultimately made her casting worthwhile.    

Van Brakel recalled in 2020 that she and van de Ven had been friends, and she greatly admired the young actress. Her hesitancy in casting her only had to do with her age. She recalled arriving home from a scouting trip in Paris to find stacks and stacks of letters from fans pleading that she cast van de Ven in the role. Thankfully the two finally realized they could make it work, and Monique van de Ven’s place as the title role in A Woman Like Eve was finally situated shortly before the film went into production. While the film’s cast was the focus of much press attention, the near-all female crew was just as fascinating. For the film’s cinematography, Van Brakel and producer Matthijs van Heijningen turned to another strong female, Palestinian-born Nurith Aviv. A future filmmaker in her own right, Aviv would be just one of several strong women working on A Woman Like Eve, including another future director working as the film’s editor, Ine Schenkkan.  

One of the critical names working behind A Woman Like Eve’s scenes was composer Laurens van Rooyen, who supplies the film with its remarkable soundtrack. It was one of two masterful scores van Rooyen would deliver in 1978, as his Mysteries appeared shortly after A Woman Like Eve. Van Rooyen’s gorgeous score guides the film’s emotional impact but is never intrusive or overwhelming.  

A Woman Like Eve’s shooting was fraught with difficulty. Schneider was brilliant but challenging and a mess on the set. Van Brakel noted in 2020 that being “complicated and difficult” could be a positive and that it can make “someone special and exceptional.” Van Brakel found Schneider a bit impenetrable and struggled with what she saw as compromised love scenes due to the actress, noting that the scenes in Blue Is The Warmest Color were more what she had in mind.  

Schneider’s problems were minute compared to the day a radical lesbian group threatened the cast and crew during filming at an outdoor festival. Angry that van de Ven was cast because she wasn’t a real-life lesbian, the group threatened Monica with violence and attempted to destroy the crew’s camera. Van Brakel and Aviv were particularly hurt and shocked by the misguided protest. Van Brakel remembered in 2020 the sight of a raging Aviv screaming at the protesters that they were making the film about and for them.  

The rest of the shoot was thankfully calmer, and the film got tons of press attention, primarily thanks to the cast. Het Parool featured a full-page profile of Schneider discussing her drug abuse, emotional issues, and her recent rehab stint:

“Maria Schneider, born 26 years ago in Paris, her father is still a valued stage actor there, talks with little emotion about a period in her life that must have been very profound. In Italian boulevard magazines at that time, 1974, articles appeared that Maria had voluntarily been locked up in a psychiatric hospital with her friend. At the beginning of this year, persistent rumors that Maria had been hospitalized for narcotics in a clinic in Sweden to rest so that she could work with a complete commitment on the film A Woman like Eva, for which she has been in the Netherlands for several weeks now. The film will be made in Haarlem and the South of France. Maria stays in a large Amsterdam hotel until the beginning of September.

Now, after seven years, Maria Schneider says of the Last Tango period, ‘It was hell. I was just 19 when Bertolucci picked me out of many girls for the role. I was a model and had played some minor roles in meaningless movies. I was incredibly naïve, without any experience. Exactly what Last Tango in Paris was about only dawned on me much later. Working with Marlon Brando was great, a fine man, never difficult. In fact, for me, the big blow came after the shoot, when the film was released. The reactions were really horrendous. I was called a whore, Marlon, a child molester. Whereas the movie wasn’t about that at all. It was just a relationship between two people, like the one that flourishes almost daily in the world. I really freaked out about all those people who had an opinion of me. I just couldn’t go out on the street without being harassed. 

Yesterday, director Nouchka van Brakel characterized the content of A Woman like Eva. Nouchka denied it will be a feminist film. ‘I don’t like stamps like that. It’s just a movie made by women. The only important man is Eva’s husband (Peter Faber). I even chose a woman for camera work (Nurith Ariv) because she has the same way of looking at things. Women usually look at certain situations less aggressively. Men jump on everything much more quickly. I know I’m generalizing now, and I’m not a man-hater. I’m not saying I’m sending a message with this movie; people have to see for themselves what they want to do with it.” Monique van der Ven, who takes on the role of the approximately 35-year-old mother, was quite angry during the Amsterdam Central Station meeting about the stories about the argument she would have had with Nouchka van Brakel. ‘We discussed the problems of that role very quietly. There was no argument. I feel very suitable for motherhood. It’s very good with that role.’  

‘How do you know about the clinics,’ Maria asks in a soft voice when I ask about the background of all the stories published about her. ‘I hardly ever give interviews; everything in the Italian magazines about me is a lie. In Sweden I stayed with a very good friend who has a farm. It’s none of your business whether or not I’ve been in institutions, those are private matters, and I don’t talk about that. It’s just none of your business, and that’s it. I’m not going to give you an explanation of what I’m doing. The only thing I got from Last Tango in Paris is that I was offered prominent roles and could make much money. From my role in Last Tango in Paris, I have earned almost nothing. Marlon Brando. got $20,000, and I got $2,000, while I had to work harder because I was more in the movie. I never took a role for the pennies. It’s was to work with Michelangelo Antonioni. Together with him, I will make an extraordinary film in the future that I can’t tell you about yet – because nothing is fixed yet. Oh, yes, why I’m in A Woman like Eva, that was the question. A few months ago, I worked on a movie where only women participated, apart from some unimportant male technicians. The woman who did the camera work also works for Nouchka van Brakel. That’s how I got in touch with her. I’m not an outspoken feminist, but I enjoy working with women. I believe that women do many things, for example, making a movie. I liked the script Nouschka made me read. A 35-year-old woman who lives in a commune in France and begins an affair with a young girl. The story ends well. The two women decide to stay together and separate the oldest woman from her husband. Kind of a love story. 

This is the 20th movie I’m doing. I started at 16, so that would be two movies a year. But sometimes I don’t work for a while. I lived in America for three years: I didn’t do anything. I could afford it. I either work hard, or I rested. That’s my way of life. I don’t have my own house or anything. I’ve lived in hotels for ten years. Well, no, that’s not boring. The advantage is that in the big hotels all rooms around the world are the same, so you don’t notice where you are at some point. If the recordings last longer than a month, I usually rent an apartment or a house near the set. Gradually I start to feel the need for a place for myself. I’ve been planning to buy a home in the countryside in central France for a while. Sometimes a person has to come to his senses. Filming is a tough job where people are not taken into account. Some people have to fight for years to get recognition, and some are just thrown out. Take Marlon Brando; that man has been successful since he was 20. What’s he got to lose? He’s only acting for 101. With Jack Nicholson, it’s very different. That’s a complicated man. He often thinks he’s not taken seriously, that they don’t appreciate him as an actor. That’s because he had to fight for recognition for twenty-five years.

In A Woman like Eva, I’m going to sing for the first time. That way you always learn something. I don’t have any movie plans after A Woman like Eva. First, I go to Japan to record an advertising video about engines, and then I plan to take a course for sound engineer. I’m intrigued by the technical side of filming. In my spare time, I still photograph sometimes. So far, I’ve always played an independent young woman’s role: A little confused sometimes. That’s another aftermath of Last Tango in Paris. I want to get rid of that, but how, that’s another question. With this role, I realize that I only build on that image.”

Press coverage continued as the film’s production wrapped. Most of the attention remained on Van Brakel and her two lead actresses, but actress/singer Marijke Merekens was also profiled in the pages of Het Parool, where she discussed the filming:

“It was a bit uncomfortable for me with the movie A Woman like Eva, which was not rehearsed. I also didn’t get the script until three days before the recordings started. Nouchka van Brakel left us every freedom to do whatever we wanted. We weren’t bound by the text either. I thought that was quite a dare; I missed something because I was used to a tight director’s hand. But when I saw the movie, the result wasn’t bad for me. You can’t imagine how panicked I was when I went to watch. I didn’t feel like I was working for a moment during the filming. It was like I was a little out of it. After all, we also had a serving task: we were there for Monique van de Ven, who is strongly central to the film. I don’t mean that meanly. It’s just like that. After all, the only interesting scene in my role, a scene with Peter Faber, wasn’t shot. There is now no indication in the film of a growing contact between Peter and me. I’m sorry about that. Everything is about Eva. Nouchka van Brakel did not intend to make a lesbian or other typical “women’s film.” She is concerned with Eva’s emancipation, about the woman who separates herself from her routine existence, thereby causing herself many difficulties, but persevering, finding herself, and finally becoming free. There’s much love in A Woman like Eva. Nouchka does not do so for commercial reasons. She has great integrity. During the recordings, I constantly had a great admiration for the professionalism of Monique, Maria, and Peter.”  

After well over a year of rumors and speculation, A Woman Like Eve was finally released in January 1979 to tempered acclaim. Leeuwarder courant called it an “excellently filmed story” and especially praised van de Ven’s performance. NRC Handelsblad had problems with the film, and especially Schneider, but praised van de Ven and Renée Soutendijk. Algemeen Dagblad commended the cast and called it a decidedly “unadulterated Dutch film.”

Van Brakel continued to defend and promote the film throughout 1979. Interviewed by De Volkskrant, she discussed the film and the difficulty of filming sex scenes:

“That’s why I thought about Monique for a long time before I could decide: ok, we’ll do it, the story is solid, and we need to be able to work it out together. And I have to say; I don’t regret it. I think Monique did a great job.  

I see making love much more as something tender, something erotic and not so: boom, clothes off and making love • and that’s it. I had only worked with children myself at the time, so I didn’t have those problems there. For this film and The Debut, I had to do love scenes, and I have to say that I find it very difficult. I know what I don’t want, but I find it very difficult to explain – especially with a whole crew of people around it.

I expected a little more support from Maria in this film, because she knows the situation of making love to women. But yes, it turned out that the ladies both had as much trouble with it as I did. So it’s a pretty tricky situation. I tried not to do it in too much detail, but mainly to let the warmth between two women come across. Show that it is not scary, but very sweet, very warm, very tender, very close to each other. And I like that first love scene, the very first time Monique overcomes her embarrassment. I think that’s very nicely filmed, too. I find the scene on the stairs, when they first hug each other, much more poignant, also much more erotic.”

Viewed more than four decades after its release, A Woman Like Eve stands as one of the seventies’ most groundbreaking and influential films. A trailblazing and tender work, A Woman Like Eve, has much in common with another of 1979’s best, Robert Benton’s Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979). Van Brakel’s dramatic piece is one of the most critical chapters in the history of LGBTQ filmmaking. A beautifully realized, performed, directed, and written work, A Woman Like Eve is an important film. Its relatively unassuming and subdued quality makes it a truly transformative experience rare in the world of modern cinema. Van Brakel’s film is a genuine masterpiece, on par with the great films centered on family and fractured relationships. Submitted but ultimately rejected for that year’s best foreign film at The Academy Awards, A Woman Like Eve has gone unseen for years, making this new release from Cult Epics so genuinely noteworthy.  

Cult Epics’ new special edition of A Woman Like Eve features the following specs:

New HD Transfer & Restoration (from original 35mm print)

Original LPCM 2.0 Mono track

New DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track

Interview with Nouchka van Brakel by journalist Floortje Smit at Eye Filmmuseum HD 2020 (40 Mins)

Theatrical Trailers

Some minor print damage doesn’t distract from a terrific-looking and sounding presentation. The forty-minute chat with Van Brakel is terrifically informing, and the photo gallery is surprisingly moving. A Woman Like Eve is the first of three Van Brakel titles coming from Cult Epics, as The Debut and The Cool Lakes of Death will be released soon. More information on all three discs can be read here.

-Jeremy Richey, Originally published 04/11/2021 at Moon in the Gutter-

Nouchka van Brakel’s HET DEBUUT (THE DEBUT) on Blu-ray and DVD from CULT EPICS


Nouchka van Brakel’s

Published initially in 1975 by Dutch publisher Peter Loeb, Het debuut served as the startling introduction to Amsterdam-born authoroess Hester Albach. Told from the point of view of a teenage girl who is having an affair with a middle-aged man, Het debuut proved a controversial literary sensation upon its release. Barely out of her teens herself in 1975, Albach was just as sensational as her first novel and was profiled in numerous pieces by the Dutch press.  NRC Handelsblad praised Albach’s prose as “often witty, rarely dramatic” and championed her “bold” use of language.  

Interviewed around Het debuut’s release by Leeuwarder Courant, Peter Loeb described himself as the youngest independent publisher in The Netherlands. At only twenty years old, the statement was probably an extremely accurate one. Loeb already had several books in his publication house arsenal when he agreed to publish Albach’s first novel, but none had garnered as much attention as Het debuut.  

Stories of illicit romances are as old as art itself, but Albach’s decidedly feminist perspective made Het debuut quite unlike any other similar literary work. Not surprisingly, comparisons to Nabokov’s Lolita were rampant. The NRC Handelsblad piece even titled their profile piece on Albach, “Lolita Tells.” The talented young Arbach couldn’t get away from the comparison, but it didn’t affect Het debuut’s success.  Het Parool praised Albach as a significant new literary talent with a knack for heartfelt “honest reporting” about subject matter most authors wouldn’t dare touch. Their only real complaint about the book was its brevity of less than a hundred pages.  

Het Parool would also feature an interview with Albach in which she discussed some of her fears writing such a daring book. Stating that she didn’t want Het debuut to be known just as a “female book,” Albach recalled she wrote the book in a deliberately “fast and hard” style. She also humorously noted with wild teenage confidence that her main goal was to write “the novel of the century.” The most notable news that came out of the interview was Albach’s hope that a young feminist aspiring Dutch filmmaker would adapt the book into her first feature-length movie.  

Nieuwsblad van het Noorden would also report the news of the film during a lengthy interview with Albach, where she discussed the creation of the book further:

“Hester, introduced at the age of sixteen in the Amsterdam “De Kring” and no stranger to the capital artist world, came into contact with the young publisher Peter Loeb through Hans Sleutelaar, who had read some of her work and saw something in it. This encouraged her to write the novella. The Debut, supplemented with more childhood memories, is to be made into a film next spring under the direction of Nouchka van Brakel. 

Before writing The Debut, she’d done all sorts of things. “After three years of lyceum and two years at the academy, I restored antiques and studied electronics. After that, I had all kinds of jobs because I had to take care of myself early on. I was at a secondary school, a computer assistant, at a theatre company, a packer at Patria, in cafes behind the bar, and that makes you so miserable. But I don’t want to be dependent on others. I still want to have a tenner in my pocket to come home on my own.

Meanwhile, Hester’s faith in humanity has taken some dents since the publication of her novella. The reactions weren’t always that pleasant. Some think she’s cynical; some think she’s an ego tripper. “It’s like you’re a threat by writing a book and doing something on your own rather than together. Someone said, “You know what I thought was right?” If you’d written a book about the kids of Vietnam. Why do we always have to talk to each other about guilt? Is that progressive? I agree that a lot needs to change. We should move mountains to help ravaged areas to a better climate. But why can’t you feel good, be sure of yourself, try to get the best out of yourself? I am very ambitious. I want to go to the moon or at least to America. And live in the most expensive hotel in the world, but I still eat a bag of fries every day if I feel like it. I would also like to have a car. And tour Amsterdam without guilt with an environmentally polluting exhaust.”

As Het debuut was quickly selling out its first run, Albach continued to be profiled by the Dutch press, who couldn’t get enough of her youthful punk rock spirit. New of the film version began to pick up steam in November of 1976 when De Telegraph ran a full-page article on the film’s casting. Noting Van Brakel’s history (which I covered in my look at A Woman Like Eve), the article closed with the following call that echoed throughout The Netherlands:

“Candidates for the starring role can report by letter, with a photo embedded, to the FILM EDITOR of De Telegraaf/ Courant Nieuws van de Dag, P.O. Box *** in Amsterdam. The registrations must be sent as soon as possible.”

Not surprisingly, applicants flooded the offices of De Telegraph as the long process of finding the perfect young-adult actress for The Debut was underway. The adult cast Van Brakel had already assembled was extremely impressive and included Peter Faber and Kittie Courbois. Van Brakel wanted an unknown for the lead, though. It was essential that the part not be played by a recognizable actress.   

While the actress that would eventually play the lead role of Carolien in The Debut ultimately got the majority of press attention, van Brakel’s behind-the-scenes crew was just as impressive. Van Brakel would end up adapting the book along with fellow $corpio film veteran Carel Donck. Award-winning cinematographer Theo van de Sande was brought on board for the film’s photography, which would be a perfect fit for its crisp fall and winter setting.  Daughters of Darkness editor August Verschueren was hired for the film’s cutting, as was another $corpio member Inger Kolff for the film’s unfussy art direction. Van Brakel and producer Matthijs van Heijningen did all they could to ensure that her long-awaited feature-length debut would be worth all of the anticipation that was building.  

Van Brakel wanted something spare but unique for the film’s soundtrack and reached out to composer Ron Westerbeek and Dutch prog rock band Water for the film’s sublimely effective score. Water had just unleashed their terrific second album, Damburst (1976), when they came aboard The Debut. Their work on the film’s soundtrack occurred just before they broke up in 1977.  

While the cast and crew on The Debut were extremely distinguished, the film’s success depended on the casting of Carolien. A week before Christmas, 1976, De Telegraph announced the actress who Van Brakel had cast. Her name was Marina de Graaf.

Originally from Sylvia Kristel’s hometown of Utrecht, lovely and talented Marina de Graaf was the ideal actress for The Debut.  De Telegraph detailed the process that led to her discovery:

“No less than fourteen hundred letters with striking photographs were sent to our editors after the publication of the story in which girls were asked to compete for a major role in a new Dutch film. With director Nouchka van Brakel and producer Matthijs van Heijningen, all letters were carefully studied, after which test recordings were made for days with prospective actresses. The winner eventually emerged as MARINA DE GRAAF as the girl to whom Nouchka van Brakel dared to entrust the important role in her film Het Debuut.”

It was a terrific introduction story. Albach was particularly pleased with Van Brakel’s young discovery as this lengthy piece in Nieuwsblad van het Noorden pointed out:

The Debut is produced for half a million guilders, a low-budget film, with a contribution from the Dutch Production Fund. The cast also includes Pleuni Touw, Kitty Courbois and Dolf de Vries. The crew features Nouchka’s husband, Theo van der Sande. Filming will be completed within six weeks. It is filmed at locations in Amsterdam-Zuid and in the Belgian seaside resort of Knokke. The film will be released by Tuchinski in 1977. Hester Albach’s novel was rewritten into a script by Karel Donck and Van Brakel. An attempt to find someone through a call in newspapers and television had done little. Marina de Graaf was eventually suggested by friends. Nouchka van Brakel and Hester Albach are very enthusiastic about this choice: Marina even seems to look like Hester. Marina never had plans to be an actress, she says and she just read the book last week. Playing the lead role in the film adaptation seems to her to be a lot of fun to do. And other than that, she’ll see.”

Marina perhaps never planned on a career as an actress, but her extraordinary performance in The Debut all but assured that undesired destiny. Van Brakel’s young protege kept the director and her crew busy as she was a bit of a wild child on the set.  Het vrije volk called de Graaf wildly spontaneous while filming and reported that she was obsessed with getting a motorcycle license. Dealing with a delightfully bratty young woman in her late teens on the set of The Debut was a challenge for Van Brakel, but it was well worth it as de Graaf gives one of the great debut performances of the period. She is so perfectly cast that it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role.  

De Graaf’s powerful performance controls nearly every frame of The Debut, but the rest of the cast is uniformly fine. As her older lover, future award-winning actor Gerard Cox gives a complex and uneasy performance. The film contains numerous rich performances, including a scene-stealing turn by Van Brakel’s daughter, Sandrien. 

While most of the press attention went to De Graaf, the most head-turning figure on The Debut’s set was none other than legendary scenester and artistic muse Mathilde Willink. Making her only big-screen appearance in a striking scene featuring her tenderly applying makeup to the young de Graaf, Willink is captured by Van Brakel during her most captivating period. 

Watching Willink and de Graaf in their brief scene together is truly exciting. The fact that Willink died under mysterious circumstances just a few months after the film premiered makes her brief appearance all the most haunting.  

The Debut is not only one of the best first films of the seventies, but it is also one of the best Dutch films period. You can feel Van Brakel’s years of experience in both film and the feminist movement bursting through every scene.  The Debut never feels at all preachy or condescending. It is a beautifully directed and written work that manages to be poetic but not predictable. Most importantly, The Debut never feels exploitive, something that it would have struggled with had a man attempted to direct it.  

With its confident direction and knockout performances, The Debut is an entirely unforgettable and distinctive experience. Critical reaction was mostly positive, with some mixed reactions mixed in.  The Debut was a popular hit, though, and inevitable stardom was predicted for the quirky and mesmerizing de Graaf. The exciting young actress was struggling with the sudden onslaught of fame, though, as this piece in Algemeen Dagblad made all too clear:

“I don’t like the fame at all. They now recognize me as Marina de Graaf, the girl from the film, but they don’t know the real Marina – that’s very annoying. A lot of people I used to see now say, “Oh, how nice to see you again; I want to be your boyfriend.” When I hear something like that, I get really mad. They only like me because they think I’m a movie star. By the way, I don’t think I’m a star at all! When they ask me if I’m not proud now, I answer, “proud? Not at all.”

Admitting that she had “cried with emotion” when she finally saw the completed film, De Graaf was struggling with the unexpected stardom. Interviewed by Leeuwarder courant, De Graaf noted a terrifying incident that had occurred just before The Debut premiered:

“I got beat up last week, two days before the premiere. A girl attacked me; she probably had someone else’s orders. I didn’t even know them. It’s heavy! She pulled my hair out of my head, and I’ve got another bruise here. I didn’t do anything back because she was twice as strong as me. I just got down on the ground and got beat up. I don’t want people to be jealous of me. Incredibly childish! And then they say I hit her first! And that never actually happens there, but once it happened and then I was screwed. I cried, mainly because it had never happened to me before that someone hit me for no reason.”

Incidents like the one above certainly didn’t help the anxiety stricken de Graaf, who never did achieve the stardom that had seemed so inevitable. The majority of her performances in the years directly after The Debut were mostly blink-and-miss eye-grabbing supporting turns. She would continue acting in film and television, but The Debut remains her signature role. Major stardom might have never occurred, but even the most prominent stars would kill to have a performance as accomplished as The Debut on their resume.  

The relative success of The Debut would lead Van Brakel to one of the most exciting careers of the period. It might not be Van Brakel’s greatest film, but moments like when she films de Graaf riding her bike through the streets of Amsterdam captures an authentic youthful freedom not seen in other movies. Add that on to the fact that Van Brakel managed to film what could have been a grossly offensive story so honestly and sensitively makes The Debut all the more remarkable.  

The Debut is making its worldwide Blu-ray debut via a new release from Cult Epics. Featuring a stirring new HD transfer from a rare 35 mm print, The Debut looks fantastic. Extras include vintage behind-the-scenes footage, a packed photo gallery, and trailers. 

It is available as a single disc release and will also be in the upcoming Nouchka van Brakel Trilogy box-set.

Even though it is both a decidedly feminist work and not exploitative, The Debut could not be made in today’s climate.  Cult Epics’ fine new edition not only restores one of the finest debuts of the seventies, but it also harkens back to a time when filmmakers were eager to tackle controversial subject matter, and audiences weren’t afraid to view them.    

-Jeremy R Richey, Originally Published 05/05/2021 at Moon in the Gutter-

Agusti Villaronga’s 99.9 (1997)


Born in the Spanish capital region of Palma in the spring of 1953, Agustí Villaronga came from a family of artists who encouraged the young man to follow suit, with his father being primarily instrumental in getting Villaronga interested in film. While all aspects of the craft would fascinate Villaronga, dreams of directing powered his teenage dreams that led to a life in cinema.  

Villaronga’s decades-long career in film started in the mid-seventies when he began working in various capacities across the Spanish film industry. His first short film as a director, Anta mujer (1976), showed his interest in the supernatural from the outset of his career. He would complete several more shorts before his dazzling feature-length debut, In a Glass Cage (1986) that established him as one of the most interesting Spanish directors of his generation.  

The powerful Moon Child (1989) followed up In a Glass Cage, proving just as spellbinding. Both In A Glass Cage and Moon Child were unforgettably distinctive and striking works wholly removed from other similar-minded films from the period. Sadly, the years following Moon Child would prove frustrating for Villaronga, who struggled to release a follow-up. This would finally change in the mid-nineties with a startling supernatural mystery entitled 99.9 (1997).

Centering on a radio talk-show host attempting to discover what was behind the mysterious death of her lover, 99.9 stands as one of Villaronga’s most compelling works and one of the best supernatural thrillers of the nineties. Starring the brilliant Goya-winning actress María Barranco, 99.9 is a highly engrossing experience powered by great performances across the board and Villaronga’s intelligent directorial skills.  

99.9 is a methodical work that bravely takes its time in a cinematic era where that was going against the grain. Wonderfully slowly paced, the film builds and builds in intensity throughout its 105 minute running time, all the way guided by Barranco’s powerful performance.  

By the mid-nineties, horror films were becoming more and more quickly paced and less intelligent in equal parts, making 99.9 stand out. Much of this is due to the film’s skillful editing, realized by multiple Goya winning Pablo Blanco, who had just finished his extraordinary work on Álex de la Iglesia’s Acción mutante (1993).  

The look of 99.9 is particularly vital to its success as well. Perhaps the biggest strength of the film is the photography by the legendary cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe. Spanish born just after World War 2, Aguirresarobe has recently found great success with major Hollywood blockbusters like the Twilight saga and some Marvel films. Capable of highly varied work (such as Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine), Aguirresarobe lends a unique visual touch to every film he has photographed, and 99.9 is no exception. Within just a few years of 99.9’s release, Aguirresarobe would land Alejandro Amenábar’s mesmerizing ghost story, The Others (2001), which set in motion his incredible career in Hollywood these past couple of decades. It is his Spanish work on films like 99.9 that remains the purest example of his excellent skills.  

Out of print for years, 99.9 has recently been re-released by Cult Epics via a terrific new 2K scan direct from the original 35mm negative, and the results are stunning. The Blu-ray/DVD combo also contains some eye-opening extras, including a vintage making-of documentary subtitled in English for the first time. Also included is a new interview with Villaronga, the isolated unreleased score from Javier Navarrete, and a trailer gallery. Cult Epics had previously released a special edition of Moon Child, making this new version of 99.9 a most welcome one indeed. 

-Jeremy Richey, Originally Posted at MOON IN THE GUTTER, 10/20/21 10:47 AM-