Jean-Pierre Mocky, Le furet, 2003
The opening credits inform us Monsieur Mocky adapted this from a novel by a certain Lou Cameron entitled The Subway Stalker, but I'll bet the cast of characters Mocky has assembled bears little or no resemblance to the book - from our "hero" Jacques Villeret, the last person on Earth you'd take to be a professional hitman (wait till you see how he gets rid of the dealer in the park) to his fez-sporting mentor Anzio (Michel Serrault) to the local mafia boss / olive oil magnate Don Salvadore (Michael Lonsdale, not to mention the usual crew of ugly, brutish, stunted misfits that turn up in every Mocky movie. Don't be put off by a miserable 4.8 score on IMDb (only 148 people voted and I'm sure 95% of them came to the film by mistake and probably gave up before the end), it's fun - hope English subs turn up before long.
Patricia Mazuy, Paul Sanchez est revenu, 2018
Excellent and original thriller from Mazuy, who hasn't exactly flooded the market with product - this is only her sixth feature in a career that started in 1984 - set in the sunny south (Var). "The reappearance of notorious criminal Paul Sanchez becomes an obsession for a young police officer [Marion] who will do anything to catch him."So goes the IMDb plot summary. No point scrolling down that webpage to read the one (and only) user review, written by someone who neither paid attention to the story nor understood what the director was aiming at. It's not a question of "bad" acting - Marion's boss is supposed to come across as dumb (I suspect Mazuy was thinking of Dumont's cops in P'tit Quinquin) - and the music (John Cale) is too obtrusive at times, there's a reason for it. This is not Nolan Zimmer Sensory Overload, there's a reason for it. Mazuy's smart. Now I love in hope of a decent, beautifully restored Peaux de Vaches.
John Huston, A Walk With Love and Death , 1969
Based on a novel by Hans Königsberger written in 1961 but set in mid 14th-century France during the Jacquerie, a peasants' revolt in the Oise region north of Paris, this is an odd but curiously touching entry in the Huston canon. Daughter Anjelica, looking like someone that's just stepped out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting, plays Lady Claudia, who bestows her favour upon (i.e. gives her scarf to) a wandering Sorbonne scholar "in search of the sea" played by Asaf Dayan (son of Moshe, trivia hunters), amusingly reminiscent of Ninetto Davoli at times. (There's another slight Pasolini connection in the casting of Nicholas "Jug Ears" Smith, who also appeared in PPP's own medieval romp Canterbury Tales three years later..) Funny how the world of medieval romance attracted filmmakers about that time. Quoth Wiki: "Some contemporary reviewers considered that the film held up the past as a mirror of the events of 1968, when it was made. Comparisons were variously made with the Vietnam War or the Paris rioting of May/June that year, which required filming to be relocated to Austria and Italy. However a recent and detailed analysis of both novel and film by the essayist Peter G. Christensen concludes that the story is literally a period one, intended to evoke the turbulence of its 14th century setting, rather than illustrating cultural or generational issues of the late 1960s." Yeah. Anyway, it bombed spectacularly at the box office. But worth a look.
Hollis Frampton, Zorns Lemma, 1970
"This radical example of reductive cinema is a warning of things to come: 'Meaning' (political, psychological, personal, or whatever) has been eliminated and the work exists purely for itself, demanding attention to structure, pattern and orchestration. Reality is declared impalpable, faceless, incoherent, existing in inexplicable grandeur, independent of us." - Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art
Describing it spoils the fun, but if you've already seen it you can read this for more background info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zorns_Lemma_(film)
You can see why Greenaway loves it.So do I.
Benoît Delépine & Gustave Kervern, Louise-Michel, 2008
These guys are rapidly becoming favourites of mine. Trashy, politically incorrect (where appropriate - watch out for Benoît Poolvoorde's idiot savant reconstruction of the Twin Towers in his trailer park) but skewering the absurdity of the times we live in so well. Once more, Yolande Moreau and Bouli Lanners deliver the goods, the former as a frumpy, overweight and somewhat "mentally challenged" factory worker whose solution to being laid off is to find the boss and kill him, the latter the hilariously cowardly paranoid she chooses to do the job. Let's just say that that hyphen in the title is significant: without it it's the name of the Communard militant feminist (a quotation of hers appears in the closing sequence), with it it hints at the gender confusion of our two protagonists, and I'm not saying anything more. If you can read French, you might get some extra info here https://www.lemonde.fr/cinema/article/2 ... _3476.html - if not, watch the movie, it's hilarious.
Takashi Miike, City of Lost Souls, 2000
To quote the beginning of this review https://asianmoviepulse.com/2018/11/fil ... shi-miike/ : "Takashi Miike’s The City of Lost Souls, while containing a few fun moments that embrace the director’s often dark and over the top sense of the humour, does fall flat in many aspects and to a certain degree that shows a lack of depth or intelligence, that fans of Miike`s work will know is not a true representation of the director's talent." The Matrix-like CGI cockfight is fun, and Miike's whambam editing is never dull, but I suspect there was more of a plot - or at least more character depth - in the novel he based it on. Events fall over each other at such a rate you're not sure where you are half the time (Brazil? Japan?) and the ending (though not some of the snippets over the closing title sequence) is a bit.. meh. Not a word I'd usually associate with the director. But see what you think, if this kind of thing is your cup of tea.
Anne Maregiano, Charlemagne Palestine: The Golden Sound, 2010
I've always been surprised by my own ambivalent reactions to Palestine's work: on the couple of occasions I've seen him live I was seriously impressed, and am indeed very fond of several albums, but the flipside - the carnival barker schtick, the silly hats, the fifth of cognac (or whisky), and all those tacky fluffy toys he drapes over whatever instrument he's playing (should we say "fingering"? the man's made a career out of giving two fingers to the establishment, albeit two index fingers ) - is what tends to win out in this rather poor documentary, if documentary is what it is. I guess Chaim was just in the right place at the right time, ringing his bells and hanging out with the in-crowd. Goodness knows what he learnt from Pran Nath, his singing is terrible.. and of performance pieces like Body Music, included as an extra to pad out the DVD, less said the better. Anyway, it won't stop me enjoying his music, even if I'm left with the nagging reminder that "charlatan" starts with the same five letters.
Richard Quine, Pushover, 1954
Wiki: "Most critics seemed to find the film's plot similar to other films noir, with some specifically comparing it to Double Indemnity (1944). The reviewer for The New York Times commented: "Fred MacMurray is going through the motions of his Double Indemnity role in a mild facsimile." However, Kim Novak is usually singled out as a rising photogenic star. Much later, Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "An aging cop (Fred MacMurray) falls in love with a bank robber's girlfriend (Kim Novak in her first major role, and if you're as much of a pushover for her early work as I am, you can't afford to miss this)." Film critic Craig Butler wrote, "Aficionados will doubtlessly argue whether Pushover should be classified as film noir or merely as a suspense film, but whichever its category [I'd be curious as to how he defines the two genres.. I have enough difficulty defining noir as it is - DW] this overlooked movie deserves to be better known. Not that it's a great film, for it's not—the characters don't develop fully enough, remaining just film types rather than flesh and blood people, the themes of the film are not explored deeply enough to have resonance, and there's a late development that asks the audience to change its mind about the leading lady that just doesn't work. Still, it's immensely entertaining, skillfully directed by Richard Quine with the requisite suspense trappings (and a wonderfully unsettling sense of voyeurism), and covering a lot of territory in its 88 minutes." Critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film and wrote, "Pushover covers familiar film noir territory, but does a good job of showing how easy it is to lose control of one's life when one is so vulnerable, obsessed and emotionally weak. Novak does a fine job in her first starring role as a heartless femme fatale who does have a heart after all.""
Hal Ashby, Shampoo, 1975
Jeez, it's so embarrassing to read old reviews. Back in 2013 I was underwhelmed (probably drunk, actually) - but this time we were blown away (no hairdryer puns intended). Go figure. No, don't - not worth looking up the old review, honest. Anyway, there's a huge amount to digest in this excellent article, which I strongly recommend https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2005/spo ... e/shampoo/ - the origins of Robert Towne's script in Restoration Comedy, the often strained relations between the film's three auteurs - Towne, Ashby and Beatty (with Warren coming out on top), and the political context ("99% my idea" sez Beatty), i.e. setting the events on Election Night 1968. Nixon and Agnew haunt the proceedings. Terrific soundtrack too, both the Paul Simon incidental music but the better-known pop songs, from "Wouldn't It Be Nice" to "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" (Ashby's editing of that party scene is especially wonderful). Pauline Kael's glowing review's also a good read, with lines like "in this role she [Christie]'s a gorgeous, whory-lipped little beast, a dirty sprite."
Jean-Pierre Mocky,Y a-t-il un Français dans la salle?, 1982
Frédéric Dard and Jean-Pierre Mocky, a match made in heaven (well, no, the other place actually): talk about dark, whoo. The difference between them perhaps being Mocky was able to laugh more at his characters. Or maybe not. Anyway, this is the tale of a sleazy politician (Victor Lanoux) being (eventually) blackmailed by a cynical sneering paparazzo (Jacques Dutronc) aided and abetted by a psychotic sex-obsessed detective (Jean-François Stevenin - nobody does psycho better) until Lanoux's nymphomaniac secretary screws everything up. There's only one remotely likeable character in the whole affair, the girl Lanoux falls in love with, but.. no, I won't spoil it. Maybe you can guess. Anyway, it's a most impressive piece of work, great characters, well-acted - nowhere near as funny as other earlier Mockys but one of his best. And there are subtitles (you'll need them)
James Benning, Faces , 2010
"Experimental filmmaker James Benning created a radical, dialogue-free remake of John Cassavetes' marriage crisis film (1968). He based his eponymous 'reconstruction' on three rules: 1) Only close-ups of the faces of the actors in , who included Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel and John Marley. 2) Every actor should be on screen the same length of time that they were in the original. 3) Every scene should last as long as it did in Cassavetes' film. So if the original features Gena Rowlands for 15 minutes in a 30-minute scene, then Benning will have her on screen for 15 minutes in his version. To this end, Benning sometimes had to really slow down shots, giving free reign to the human fascination with faces. Unhampered by story or dialogue, viewers can concentrate fully on the faces and study and clarify the various expressions at their leisure."
I suppose I could watch the 1968 masterpiece again with a stopwatch in hand, timing all the scenes and noting down who's in each of them, and I suppose I could also use Shazam to find out the names of the songs Benning sticks in in their entirety at two points in the film, but, much as I like looking at Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel's faces, I think I'd much rather watch the Cassavetes original again and forget about this doubtless conceptually admirable but rather tiresome "remake". I wonder what Benning was after - there's precious little online to explain it. Whatever.
Sylvester Stallone, Paradise Alley, 1978
Return visit, and just as impressed as I was back in 2013. Excellent, strongly recommended
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Mon Dec 16, 2013 1:24 amStallone wrote the script in the early 70s, but it was only accepted for production a) when he changed the principal protagonists from African-Americans to Italian-Americans and b) when he hit the jackpot with Rocky. I'll be honest and say the only reason I bought this one was because Jonathan Rosenbaum mentioned it was the first film young Leos Carax had reviewed for Cahiers du Cinéma (that review, and comments on it, is here http://torontofilmreview.blogspot.fr/20 ... carax.html) - how about that for snobisme - but I was completely won over. The dialogue is bright and sharp, the decor and lighting garish and flamboyant and there are several truly inspired shots: the rooftop race over the credits sequence, the scene where Victor hurls the block of ice down the stairwell and most notably the final wrestling apocalypse, in which it seems to be raining on the ring (though we're inside) - what is this, Tarkovsky? Wow! Beautifully choreographed falls by pro wrestler Terry Funk, water splashing everywhere (Ritchie nicked this for Snatch, btw). And the desperately sudden and clearly false happy ending is as brutal as the hospital bed hugs of Ray's Bigger Than Life. Terrific. Armand Assante is just fine as Lenny, but imagine what might have been if Stallone had been allowed his first choice, Pacino. Can't understand why the film bombed so spectacularly at the box office - I think it's a little gem myself.
Claus Peymann, Thomas Bernhard: Die Jagdgesellschaft AKA The Hunting Party, 1974
It's hard to find much info online about this TV movie, other than it was dedicated to Bruno Ganz, whom I imagine the author might have had in mind to play the part of The Writer, though Joachim Bißmeier does an excellent job delivering his (Bernhard's - the physical resemblance is striking) furiously bleak observations on humanity in an enormous hunting lodge decorated with so many pairs of mounted antlers it looks like an entire species of deer was wiped out. Here's a summary on the Mubi page, which reads amusingly like a Google Translation from somewhere else: "The bark-beetle has invaded the big forest of the general, just as a fatal illness has into the body of its owner. The general is suffering from eye cataract, preventing him from seeing the symptoms of the trees’ decline, just as he is unable to see his own rottening." Rottening, indeed. Great stuff, but you might need a bottle of schnapps nearby.
Marc Lawrence, The 13th Pig, 1973
To quote from this little blogpost http://groovydoom.blogspot.com/2009/09/ ... -pigs.html we're talking cheap drive-in screamer here. If you want the plot (not that the above screenshot doesn't give a lot away), read the blogpost. The title was originally The 13th Pig, but was later changed to Pigs pure and simple, and also Daddy's Deadly Daughter. Dumb story, lousy acting (Lawrence himself included) but bloody good fun with the emphasis on bloody.
George McCowan, Frogs, 1972
Snatched at the same time as Pigs above, so I watched them as a double bill. This one was much better (though that's probably not saying much) Poor old Ray Milland - after a career starting with some stellar roles he ended up in crappy gialli like The Pyjama Girl Case (William Bennett described him memorably as "geriatric") and, here, as a wheelchair bound stroppy Southern patriarch determined to celebrate the Fourth of July with his family (all of whom he seems to hate, and the feeling's mutual) on an island in the bayou which is being slowly and surely taken over by its non-human inhabitants. Apart from the frogs - despite the poster, they don't actually eat anybody but they do seem to be controlling events - there are lizards, alligators, geckos, leeches and almost every conceivable species of snake (must have been a blast for the technicians draping the trees with these beasties), all of which take their splendid revenge on the Crockett family. There's an environmentalist subtext to it all of course: the Crocketts obviously made their money running a papermill which generously polluted the surrounding swamps, but, fun fun fun, it seems the rebellion isn't confined to the island, as our surviving protagonists find to their horror when they finally make it to the mainland.
Warren Beatty, Reds, 1981
Superlatives seem to abound in any discussion you read of this, and while it's for the most part very well done and well acted (Diane Keaton's finest hour? discuss), you won't find any serious discussion of political issues here, despite Beatty's oft-stated leftist leanings and the statements of the witnesses he inserts throughout the story. It's more about the relationship between Reed and Bryant, and is, as Roger Ebert says a "traditional Hollywood romantic epic, a love story written on the canvas of history, as they used to say in the ads. [..] It is the thinking man's Doctor Zhivago, told from the other side, of course." Beatty and Keaton broke up for real after the shooting wrapped - there are some terrific fights between them, and she really does smack the shit out of him at one point (best onscreen row since De Niro and Minnelli in New York New York). And the scene above, where Reed's train returning to Moscow from Baku is ambushed by counter-revolutionaries, with fully mounted riders leaping from the wagons Butch Cassidy-style, just never happened. Nor did Bryant trek across thousands of miles of Lapland tundra wearing little more than a peasant headscarf to find him. She did indeed travel to Russia (via Sweden) when she learnt he'd contracted typhoid. Then he died. Bit banal, really. (She went on to have quite an interesting life, as it turns out - but that's another story..)
Woody Allen, Manhattan Murder Mystery, 1993
On a bit of a Diane Keaton trip lately, and her return to an onscreen partnership with Allen 14 years after Manhattan (OK, there was a cameo in Radio Days) doesn't disappoint, as long as you don't mind Woody recycling his old jokes ("listening to Wagner only makes me want to invade Poland" etc). Intrigued by the sudden death of their neighbour, Keaton turns enthusiastic amateur sleuth (Grace Kelly in Rear Window a clear inspiration), assisted by Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston. As well as the Hitchcock nod, there's a clear reference to Double Indemnity (they go to see the movie) and the fabled hall of mirrors shootout in Lady from Shanghai. Fun. Why not.