Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Edouard Molinaro, Le dos au mur, 1958

Gérard Oury's best known for his blockbuster comedies like La grande vadrouille, but he was a pretty good actor with a great voice - here he finds out that his wife (Jeanne Moreau) is two-timing him and sets out on an ingeniously perverse project of revenge that starts out with blackmail and ends up in murder and suicide. Par for the course for screenwriter Frédéric Dard. Fine film - though it lacks the iconic Miles soundtrack, I'd put it alongside L'ascenseur pour l'Echafaud. Hope you can find English subtitles.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Saskia Boddeke, The Greenaway Alphabet, 2017

Oddly enough, Peter Greenaway above looks rather like a recent incarnation of Boris "I shake hands with everybody" Johnson, but I assure you that wasn't my intention :) Nice work, recommended if not entirely essential viewing for Greenaway fans https://www.unsungfilms.com/25550/the-g ... -alphabet/
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Nicolas Klotz, La question humaine, 2007

Adapted from the book of the same name by François Emmanuel, this is an excellent if disturbing tale of an ambitious HR manager (Mathieu Amalric, superb) called upon by one top manager of his German-based petrochemical company (Jean-Pierre Kalfon, chilling) to conduct a covert investigation into the mental health of the CEO (Michael Lonsdale, excellent). Needless to say there are skeletons in the closet (remember I said German-based.. say no more). Reminds me of WG Sebald's comments on the German language's propensity to describe acts of unspeakable horror in the blandest or bureaucratic jargon. The parallels between contemporary corporate capitalism and the efficiency of the Third Reich are evident - underpinned by an awesomely disturbing soundtrack ranging from Schubert to Syd Matters via New Order and fado, Klotz's cinematography is exemplary. Interiors are Kaurismäki grey / green, décor is Play Time, lighting is Grandrieux and framing is Bresson (Klotz worked with the master on L'Argent). If that doesn't tempt you, I don't know what will. But I warn you: it's not a feelgood movie.
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Steve Minkin
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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QUINCY (2018) – Documentary about Quincy Jones, co-directed and co-written by his daughter Rashida Jones.

There's a hazy line between paying a sincere tribute to a artist and descending into hagiography, and this movie takes the dip early on and never rises.

For most of the movie we watch an old Quincy being adored wherever he goes and spouting cliches about discrimination (he faced a lot and did more than his share to fight it), hard work (he was a compulsive workaholic, a prime factor in the failure of his marriages), and the long strange trip it's been from a Chicago slum with a mentally ill mother to universal celebrity. The film jumps awkwardly back and forth between the contemporary, old-man Quincy, emceeing and managing big tribute events, and the man's achievements, which includes the biggest selling album of all time (Thriller), one of the biggest selling singles of all time (We Are The World), dozens of movie scores, etc.

There are moments where the film generates a local energy around a theme – the early effect of music on his life, his experiences as a jazz musician (playing in Billy Eckstine's band alongside Bird and Dizzy), his work with Michael Jackson, his central role in the opening ceremonies for the National Museum for Black History and Culture in Washington – but these moments are relatively brief and the film as a whole never gathers any narrative momentum. Kind of boring.

If you're a substitute teacher for a music class and need to fill up a couple of hours, this film may come in handy. Otherwise, maybe not so much.

Lao Tsu Ben
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

Dan Warburton wrote:- and you've probably seen that a spanking new 720 rip of the director's earlier I am 20 is now up for grabs at the usual place..
Yes, I should get around to it soon enough (funny that you also took a screenshot from that print shop sequence).


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Twilight Portrait (Portret v sumerkakh), Angelina Nikonova, 2011

The usual suspects of Russian cinema, the one that is not popular but might get a screening abroad or through the festival circuit, are rounded up here : corruption, despair and a general sense of hopelessness, sex too maybe perhaps (very rough here, to say the least). I watched this because it is set in Rostov-on-don which I happened to visit last year (no sight of Don though) - it's a somewhat purposefully intractable, well, portrait of woman whose behavior after a rape is supposed to be puzzling for the lay spectator. The puzzling thing for me is whether we should ascribe some particular meaning to such a story or just accept it as some updated little chekhovian snapshot. It is competently made and actually quite good but I found myself wishing Russian directors would not that easily surrender to that tendency of being gloomy without being, I don't know, a little sardonic sometimes.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:Image

Nicolas Klotz, La question humaine, 2007

Adapted from the book of the same name by François Emmanuel, this is an excellent if disturbing tale of an ambitious HR manager (Mathieu Amalric, superb) called upon by one top manager of his German-based petrochemical company (Jean-Pierre Kalfon, chilling) to conduct a covert investigation into the mental health of the CEO (Michael Lonsdale, excellent). Needless to say there are skeletons in the closet (remember I said German-based.. say no more). Reminds me of WG Sebald's comments on the German language's propensity to describe acts of unspeakable horror in the blandest or bureaucratic jargon. The parallels between contemporary corporate capitalism and the efficiency of the Third Reich are evident - underpinned by an awesomely disturbing soundtrack ranging from Schubert to Syd Matters via New Order and fado, Klotz's cinematography is exemplary. Interiors are Kaurismäki grey / green, décor is Play Time, lighting is Grandrieux and framing is Bresson (Klotz worked with the master on L'Argent). If that doesn't tempt you, I don't know what will. But I warn you: it's not a feelgood movie.
Whoa, excellent. I'm thinking Harun Farocki, Alnoy's Elle est de notre, even the occluded office rituals of Corneau's Stupeur et tremblement. Essential viewing.

Lao Tsu Ben
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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I have no other choice but to play the "mauvais coucheur" part, sorry pals, and based on my faulty memory at that. While I commend the film's ambition, I remember it as the kind of film that is just a bit too full of itself, and not much else save for the rave scenes, which I found just a bit too you glacial, like the rest. I have to admit, now I'm wondering if I was not too harsh. The cast is good at any rate. And good call about Elle est des nôtres, henriq, similarly frozen but more interesting and less obvious in my opinion.


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Fish & Cat (Mahi va gorbeh), Shahram Mokri, 2013

Shrewdly advertised as some sort of slasher, and let's not forget an Iranian one which would be a first I think, I don't want to disclose too much about the actual proceedings of the film. Like Victoria by Sebastian Schipper, and unlike 1917 by Sam Mendes, it consists in just one tracking shot, which I didn't know when pushing play. Another proof that you don't need much money to make a very inventive film, which seems to be more than anything else a glimpse into the Iranian middle-class youth, their dreams, and as they say, their aspirations, and of that feeling of unease and longing that invades characters both at home or exiled. It's a very ingenious film, which manages to weave a very special spell by playing on circularities and recurrences by way of that one tracking shot (that doesn't say much but that's done on purpose). Think New Rose Hotel without the forceful editing. I'm kidding here, but not that much.

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walto
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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I've been thinking a lot about the English Civil wars. I've also long been interested in the French and Russian Revolutions. So, with a lot of time on my hands, I've watched some docs and feature films depicting those epochs recently.

Pictured here are scenes from Cromwell (Hughes, 1970) and La Revolution Francais (Enrico/Heffron, 1989). They're both "cast of thousands" epics, complete with horses and muskets, and Cromwell, in particular, has lovely cinematography and an excellent soundtrack (though it's less accurate, historically and Richard Harris is hard to watch).

But what seemed to me most dramatic difference when comparing these movies--made about 20 years apart, about revolts that occurred about 150 years from each other--is that everyone is almost always dour/determined in Cromwell, while there is a ton of smiling/joie de vivre in (at least the first volume of) La Revolution. That made me curious about whether the difference was mostly a function of (i) the eras being depicted; (ii) the style of film-making in the early 70s versus that popular in the late 80s; (iii) the sort of actors utilized (e.g., Both Cluzet and Brandauer have great smiles and seem to know it. While Guiness has always focused a good deal on....I dunno I guess mild regret, and Harris just likes to look tough; or (iv) the simple fact of British v. French styles throughout the history of movie-making.

[As someone suggested to me on FB, maybe it's that Cromwell was supposed to have taken his Puritanism somewhat seriously.]
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Lao Tsu Ben
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:Image

Nikos Papatakis, La Photo, 1986

A new discovery for me, though I maybe should have started with his earlier films (à suivre!).. Papatakis was born in Ethiopia but fled when Mussolini's idiots arrived, ending up in Paris where he befriended (amongst others) Sartre, Genet (he produced the mythic Le Chant d'Amour and based his own first feature on Genet's Les bonnes), married Anouk Aimée, ran a club where Juliette Greco performed, then moved to NYC where he produced Cassavetes's Shadows and shacked up with Ms Christa Päffgen, who borrowed his first name and called herself Nico. Quite a biography for a start! La Photo is set in the Greece of the Colonels, in 1971, where Ilyas returns from a punishing stint in the army where he's been persecuted for having a Communist father (even if the poor kid was only three when he died) and, unable to find work in the nasty little redneck town, is forced to relocate to France where he's helped by Gerrasimos, another Greek exile, who helps him out with work and papers. Unfortunately, Ilyas doesn't repay the compliment.. Not saying more. Very fine. Awesome ending.
Agreeing with Dan here. I'm a little bemused after seeing that, having a quick glimpse at a filmography that looks a lot more than intriguing, and considering his biography that he has been forgotten. I didn't know his name before Dan wrote the review above two months ago. Perhaps it'll change since his films look to have been (re)released in blu-ray. Four of them appeared on a mainstream torrent website in the last few weeks (I should buy some films sometimes but I wouldn't want to pile up physical object so...). The file came with two subtitles, English and French, the former being horribly sketchy.
Also interesting, Arnaud Desplechin is co-credited to the cinematography, which looks amazing. The color palette reminded me of Deville's Péril en la demeure, which I also saw recently.
The film works for me as a sort of allegory about power relations by way of an immigrant drama that poignantly resonates with the world as it is today and as it will be tomorrow. There's a term for it, which is timeless and signals a very fine piece of work. I could not help but think of Polanski's The Tenant which I also watched recently, and in which lurks some immigrant drama as well. But while Polanski is in that film typically paranoid and solipsistic, I find myself more drawn towards Papatakis' more ambiguous, richer vision of the clash that can happen between minds.That's enigmatic a statement to make ? Well, the film is enigmatic as well, and not less so with the moral of the story stated by the main protagonist at the end.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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James Benning, L.Cohen, 2017

How to write anything remotely interesting or informative about a film if by doing so you spoil the whole shebang? Let's just say that I'm not spoiling much by revealing that a song by the titular hero makes an appearance - but something else quite extraordinary happens before that. It lasts 45 minutes and it's a masterpiece, that's all I'm saying. Of course, you could go online and find out more but if you have three quarters of an hour (and who doesn't, these days?) I can recommend this without the slightest reservation. And I'm not really a Leonard Cohen fan either. Check it out, it's gorgeous!
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Chantal Akerman, La folie Almayer, 2011

Akerman's adaptation of the Joseph Conrad story is striking in a number of respects (the character of Dain, the role of the mother in letting him escape etc.. none of which will mean much if you haven't read the original) and has understandably rubbed up one of the silly IMDb punters up the wrong way. But anyone who goes into a Chantal Akerman film expecting a "ripping yarn" needs rubbing up the wrong way. The opening sequence - who'd a thunk a Dean Martin karaoke song would feature? - is fascinating. As is the character of Nina, precisely because she's so goddamn inscrutable - love the way the dialogue dips in and out of French, English and the local (Malay? it was filmed in Cambodia apparently) languages. Of course, this is Akerman so don't be surprised if things move slowly - the final shot recalls that of Jeanne Dielman - my only reservation (and it's really only a slight one) is that Stanislas Merhar does a look a tad young to be Nina's father (in real life he's only 14 years older than the actress) - but apart from that the stifled fury of his performance is exceptional.
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Steve Minkin
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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THE FAREWELL (2019) – What a wonderful little film! Based on a true lie. What's the lie? A Chinese family scattered throughout the world reunites in China, ostensibly for the wedding of a young man but actually because the matriarch – the beloved grandmother – has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a few months to live. Nobody plans to tell her; Awkwafina wants to, but she is alone. One of the uncles explains to her that in American she has been raised to think her life belongs to her, but in China they believe their lives belong to others, to family and society, and that it is their duty to carry the burden for the grandmother.

The film is emotionally authentic, powerful and nuanced, and the characters all ring true. Cultural differences are explored without heavy-handedness. Awkwafina, who I've known and loved only from her comedy show, is a powerful center for the film, showing an unsuspected range to her abilities. Her grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen) and parents (Tzi Ma and Diana Lin) are brilliantly rendered, great performances from highly accomplished actors.

A great little film!

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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John Pilger, The Dirty War on the NHS, 2019

Goodness knows why I chose to watch something as profoundly depressing as this - one can only hope that the fallout of the COVID mess will result in a new Aneurin Bevan.. But I rather doubt it..
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Robin Davis, J'ai épousé une ombre, 2019

Based on a novel by William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich), this tale of a woman (Nathalie Baye) who assumes the identity of another killed in a train crash and ends up being accepted into her family (nice location shooting at Chateau Pontet-Canet - good wine too if you can afford it) until her ex (Richard Bohringer) pops up to cause trouble could have been much better if it had been scripted, directed and edited with more flair. Says on IMDb that Johnny Hallyday did the soundtrack, or at least the title song, but the music I heard last night was by Philippe Sarde. An earlier version of the same story appeared in 1950 under the title No Man of Her Own with Barbara Stanwyck (directed by Mitch Leisen) - haven't seen that one. Yet.
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IRWING AND FRAN (2013) – Gentle documentary about the great 'Professor' Irwin Corey, The World's Foremost Authority, which I wish were a lot better than it is. It's filmed when Irwin is between the ages of 95 and 98, and too little of his great archival footage is included in the movie. Irwin and his (mostly silent) wife of 70 years are still lucid and clever; but the slow-paced reminiscences don't serve the under-rated old comic as well as the brilliant but too short and too few samples of the man in his prime. Dick Gregory has several spots in which he claims that the opportunities Irwin gave him led to his success, and those of future black comics, although it's clear that his affection for Corey may cause him to overstate the case. Susan Sarandon is an old family friend and also provides some of the narration.

Corey was blacklisted in his prime, which damaged his career for years to come. He was part of the cutting edge of American comedy along with Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley, and he deserves a film treatment that showcases his brilliance – "Why is the sky blue? These are really two questions. First question, Why?" And then he goes into a dazzling three-minute roller-coaster speech that always hovers just on the edge of making sense and covers Roman history, Keynesian economics, baseball, Mozart, and parking in New York City. "Second question, Is the sky blue? Yes!"

This is not that film. This is a gentle little movie, almost a home movie, about an old man who gave himself a paper route so he'd get excercise and have something to do, and his wife, and their strolls down an extraordinary but bittersweet memory lane.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Barbet Schroeder, Tricheurs, 1984

Schroeder's never shied away from dealing with difficult (ie not normally cinema-related) issues - think More, Barfly, or the Idi Amin bio (see below) - and this study of addicted gamblers is no exception, with a bloated, bleary Jacques Dutronc cooking up roulette scams with Fassbinder-regular Kurt Raab and not-as-stable-as-you-might-think Bulle Ogier in Oscar Niemeyer's glitzy but scary Pesta Casino Park in Funchal. Another Fassbinder connection is the queasy music by RWF's house composer Peer Raben. Not a great film, but one that's likely to stick in your mind nevertheless
Champ-contrechamp, mon ami. I think it is a great film, and I liked it so much more the second time I saw it. If I can play the contarian just once, heist films never do it for me. It's always a convenient excuse for directors to look jazzy and cool in a casino somewhere, and to impress everyone that they can make movies with a stop watch in their hand. And always the hackneyed denouements, where passion or what passes for it tears through the clever fabric and topples everything. As tidily held and arranged as sums in a schoolbook. But what the director does here intrigues me - the shifting oscillation between the embankments of le triche and the messy, violent dissolution of le jeu. The casino and the passion and desire it frames and articulates more important than anything else. You can certainly see the sophistication of Schroeder here: not only does it bring to mind maître Rohmer but also Antonioni - the way plans and stratagems are laid out and developed, only to crumble. You see the metallic skeleton of something you think will carry you through, but no, it was only a temporary and tenuous grasp, things will fall apart and keep together at the same time. What I also like is the staging of the three principals. Kurt Raab's Jörg is no devil leading Dutronc into temptation, but an accentuation of Dutronc's own mania. As is Ogier's Suzie, as possessed with winning and game as the two others. No facile lure of hearth and home to save Dutronc (literally: that boat goes to Annecy...). And, as you say, scary structure, that casino. The blue corridor into hell is awesomely queasy, brilliant and haunting, guaranteed to stick to me in dreams and elsewhere. Awesome!

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Lao Tsu Ben wrote:I have no other choice but to play the "mauvais coucheur" part, sorry pals, and based on my faulty memory at that. While I commend the film's ambition, I remember it as the kind of film that is just a bit too full of itself, and not much else save for the rave scenes, which I found just a bit too you glacial, like the rest. I have to admit, now I'm wondering if I was not too harsh. The cast is good at any rate. And good call about Elle est des nôtres, henriq, similarly frozen but more interesting and less obvious in my opinion.
I must say, that is precisely what I like about the film, though I get what you mean. I like films that take themselves seriously, that have the stamina and courage to advance a thinking or a philosophy. It's easy to see all the simple exits that would beckon in a film like this, and that many others would opt for, and have. Rejecting it all, leave the company and the whole rotten enterprise once the horrifying continuity with the atrocities of the past are laid bare, you see how bad it could have turned out? But the director chooses to stay with the chilling ideas he articulates, the articulation and evaluation of bodies and language common to managerial capitalism and nazi instrumentality. But yes, vertigionus is right for Elle est des nôtres: that pivot with the killing in the piscine and her ascendancy through the ranks in the company: to move from clichéd indictment to philosophical capture, just brilliant.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:Image

Robin Davis, J'ai épousé une ombre, 2019

An earlier version of the same story appeared in 1950 under the title No Man of Her Own with Barbara Stanwyck (directed by Mitch Leisen) - haven't seen that one. Yet.
You should, it's great. I'll dutifully stay away from this, cheers a bunch.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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GOSHEN: PLACE OF REFUGE FOR THE RUNNING PEOPLE (2015) – Leisurely, somewhat geeky, documentary that I liked more than most will because I'm a lifelong runner.

This is a film about the Tarahumara Indian tribe of Mexico's Copper Canyon, legendary runners whose community celebrations include running ultramarathons in the steep canyons where they live. One of the filmmakers researches 'cold spots' – the opposite of hot spots for diseases, these are places with little or no evidence of certain diseases. The Tarahumara have zero incidence of any form of diabetes.

It's a beautiful film visually, with spectacular scenery and colorful clothing.

Part of the film concerns their diet, which consists primarily of corn and beans. They've recently experienced droughts, and seed banks have been established to keep them in traditional vegetables. And part of the film deals with the inclusive tribal culture, tilling the fields, planting the crops, the meals are all prepared and eaten together, community celebrations are frequent, and children are involved in the life of the group early on.

And of course much of the film is about running, and by osmosis I'm feeling the effects in my own running. "Run like a child." Shorter strides, running for distance rather than speed, running so it's fun . . . The film has several varieties of running geeks analyzing the form, foot falls, etc. And the footwear – they run in relatively thin huaraches, made from used car tires, because they don't want to be cushioned from the impact, they want to feel and react to the irregularities in the ground.

Not for all, but if you're into running, or simplified diets, or gentler living, you might give it a look-see.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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henriq wrote:
Dan Warburton wrote:Image

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Barbet Schroeder, Tricheurs, 1984

Schroeder's never shied away from dealing with difficult (ie not normally cinema-related) issues - think More, Barfly, or the Idi Amin bio (see below) - and this study of addicted gamblers is no exception, with a bloated, bleary Jacques Dutronc cooking up roulette scams with Fassbinder-regular Kurt Raab and not-as-stable-as-you-might-think Bulle Ogier in Oscar Niemeyer's glitzy but scary Pesta Casino Park in Funchal. Another Fassbinder connection is the queasy music by RWF's house composer Peer Raben. Not a great film, but one that's likely to stick in your mind nevertheless
Champ-contrechamp, mon ami. I think it is a great film, and I liked it so much more the second time I saw it
Like you I grabbed the 1080 rip and look forward to seeing it again - after Reversal of Fortune which is also in the intray
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