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Radiance Films

Being prone to collector disease, I have bought some Blu-rays during the last few years of obsessive movie watching. I’ve been more restrained than I used to be — I focus on movies I’m pretty sure I’ll like. I got the Criterion Ingmar Bergman boxed set after watching a handful of his movies, and I’m working through it slowly but happily. I picked up both Arrow Shawscope sets and S. and I are watching our way through those. Restraint.

But I’m me.

As you may know, the last few years have seen an explosion in the number of boutique Blu-ray labels. It’s not just Criterion for the arthouse and Arrow for the exploitation any more. I’m not sure of the economics of this business, but it seems that releasing a couple of titles a month in limited editions of 1,000-3,000 is enough to sustain a business if you’re in it for the passion.

And a couple of them have subscription programs. Vinegar Syndrome is the most notable example. They land a bit further on the exploitation side than I do, so their subscription program wasn’t interesting to me. (I do recommend checking out their partner labels even if you aren’t into sleaze — I have a couple of Deaf Crocodile releases from the amazing Aleksandr Ptushko, and they distribute Music Box Films Blu-rays.)

On the other hand, Radiance Films, well. They hit this incredibly sweet spot for me that’s sort of in the place where genre film overlaps with arthouse cinema, plus they do a great job of finding movies I’ve never heard of. Their definition of “Radiance-core” matches my tastes so well: Wong Kar-wai, Aki Kaurismäki, old movies, new movies — and everything I hadn’t heard of was interesting.

So I picked up their World Noir and Piotr Szulkin sets while over in Dublin — at the Irish Film Institute store in Temple Bar, it’s great, check it out — and I liked those a bunch. Theory confirmed, 2024 subscription purchased. And the movies are panning out wonderfully so far.

If 2022 was the year I dove into film, and 2023 was the year I broadened my experience with great films, 2024 may be my year of diving into great pockets of genre. None of that is completely accurate; all of it is a bit glib; it’ll do as a thematic statement.

The Big Move

No, bigger than that. We’re moving to Dublin!

Long story short, my illustrious employer needs someone with my skill set in the Dublin office, and both S. and I think living in Dublin sounds like an interesting adventure, so we’re doing it. Estimated move date is sometime in September, pending the excitement of getting a visa (in process) and all the other logistics details. The plan is to keep us there for three years, after which we’ll return to the Seattle area and carry on with our lives.

Even though we’re getting a good relocation package, it’s daunting. We may not need to find our own place to live eventually; we still need to talk to tax consultants on both sides of the ocean, and get paperwork done, and figure out what we’re going to move.

That last is a whole thing of a thing. We can ship stuff, but it’ll take months to get there by boat. We can take a few bags on the plane. We can maybe move a few things by air, like maybe one of the televisions? I am in the middle of the somewhat difficult task of figuring out which tabletop games I want to bring. There’s gonna be a lot of stuff going into storage for a few years.

Such an adventure, though. I have a spreadsheet of cities which are direct flights from Dublin. Rome is three hours away. This is going to be ridiculous.

2023 In Movies

Aw, that’s cute, I thought I wasn’t going to watch as many movies as I did in 2022. Instead I went from 423 watched to 508 watched. Remember when I said “I want to spend more time following my whims”? That worked out really well. In 2022, I did a weekly challenge plus a weekly movie watching club plus another weekly movie watching club — it got to be a grind. In 2023 I was more varied about my tastes and I had more fun.

I also went to not one but two film festivals, SIFF and Fantasia. S. came with to Montreal! Including shorts, I watched 36 movies at SIFF and 45 movies at Fantasia, so that’s a pretty big chunk of the additional movies right there. The festivals were immensely fun and I really, really need to remember how much I enjoy that kind of thing.

My time spent watching movies was absolutely worth it. My top ten movies of 2023 were excellent, and there were way more good ones than just those ten. Plus this was the year I really discovered Iranian cinema (A Separation, Certified Copy, No Bears), I got that Bergman boxed set and watched a ton of it, and I dug into 1970s American film in a more serious way.

Directors who were largely new to me who I really liked: Bergman, as per the above; Claire Denis, as a direct result of watching Trouble Every Day and Stars at Noon as a double feature at the Grand Illusion; and Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, thanks to the 2023 Hooptober challenge. I also kept watching more than my share of Aki Kaurismäki.

Oh, and while I only watched one Bela Tarr/Agnes Hranitzky movie in 2023, it was in fact enough to cement them among my very favorite directors. It gets no more grim than this. I’m very glad I got to watch Werckmeister Harmonies on the big screen, and I made a point of making Satantango the first thing I watched in 2024.

My most watched actor was Juliette Binoche, thanks to Claire Denis and a rewatch of Three Colours and a bunch of other good movies. After her it’s a lot of Shaw Brothers character actors — we finished the first volume of the Arrow Shawscope set, and got started on the second — plus some 70s Italian actors which I chalk up to a lot of poliziotteschi. Huh, I watched nine of those grimy nihilistic Italian crime flicks in 2023! Not bad. I did say I was more varied about my tastes.

How about 2024? For the second year running, I’m going to watch more TV. One reason I held off on this post for a month was because I wanted to test that theory out, and in fact I only (ha) watched 24 movies in January. Six a week is a lot of movies, but I also caught up on some Slow Horses and got started on a couple of other shows. It feels good.

S. and I won’t be attending Fantasia, barring something pretty unusual. I do plan to hit SIFF harder, since I got a pass this year, and I’ll be doing Noir City at SIFF this month. I also got a subscription to Radiance Films‘ releases for 2024. Not cheap! But I think of all the boutique Blu-ray labels they come closest to hitting my sweet spot, and S likes the look of the upcoming releases. So that’ll be cool.

All in all, if I had to guess, I’ll probably see close to 400 movies… but no weekly challenges again, other than our beloved Boofest.

As is perhaps obvious, I’ve stopped copying Letterboxd reviews to this blog. I finally figured out how to script downloads of my Letterboxd data, though, so over the course of the next month or so I’ll be writing code to pull my reviews into Datasette, which accomplishes my goal of making sure I control my own words without clogging up a mostly inactive blog.

And just like I said last year, the best video store in the country makes it possible for me to watch a huge range of movies I couldn’t see otherwise. If you have a local video store, and you like movies, support them. They need you.