DVD Review: ‘World Cinema Project – Volume One’


Martin Scorsese has always been a dedicated cinephile as well as a lauded filmmaker. Even his 3D fantasy Hugo (2011) extolled the virtues of film preservation. Looking to champion forgotten gems from around the globe, he has now found a natural home overseeing the work of the World Cinema Foundation (WCF). They are a body equally interested in restoring overlooked works, annually re-presenting long neglected films that convey the rich cultural diversity of the medium and their first UK Blu-ray release, World Cinema Project – Volume One comes courtesy of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series.

Trances (1981) was the first of the Foundation’s restoration efforts and one that Scorsese reminisces about in his introduction, having first discovered it late one night on television during a particularly arduous editing slog. The most formally striking of the trio it is a hypnotic performance-film-come-documentary following and inspired by Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane. Embracing the group’s hypnotic tones, director Ahmed El Maanouni impressively augments their music with a fast-flowing stream of live performances, interpretive imagery, and conversations between the members. He creates a portrait of the band after a decade of success having emerged originally as a voice of the people amidst political upheaval in Morocco.

Similarly conceived during a tumultuous period was the Kazakh New Wave which manifested directly after the country’s post-Soviet independence. Oft considered one of the gems of the largely neglected movement is Revenge (1989), a collaboration between director Ermek Shinarbaev and writer Anatoli Kim. Combining Eastern and Russian traditions, they crafted a poetic exploration of an obsession driven by the eponymous vengeance spanning decades, generations and nations. Ultimately forged around the chilling notion of a child conceived to exact revenge, it’s a tragedy rooted in mysticism and presented with glorious imagery. A man who seems determined not to fear vengeance is greedy landowner Osman (a dastardly Erol Tas) in Metin Erksan’s Dry Summer (1964).

One of the best known villains in Turkish cinema, he eats up the frame in this monochrome drama of land, passion and tensions baking in the unrelenting heat. Taking control of a supply of spring water on his land, he provokes the anger of the nearby farmers whilst also leering over his brother’s beautiful young wife, Bahar (Hulya Kocyigit). Not only does he enter into the bitter and violent dispute with the locals but also betrays his own kin in the lead up to a riveting conclusion. They make for a fantastic collection to showcase the work of the WCF with all three films, lovingly restored, looking sensational. Revenge is arguably the pick of the bunch, but it is easy to be seduced by both Dry Summer and Trances. Those with an interest in world cinema would be greatly encouraged to check all three out.

Ben Nicholson