Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by Dan Warburton »

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Quentin Dupieux, Wrong, 2012

The clock's a clear reference to Groundhog Day of course, and you know something's up when 8:00 fails to appear. Also missing is our (anti)hero's dog, Paul - the quest for the hound is the central narrative thread of the movie (Wendy and Lucy by way of Bunuel, as the review puts it https://www.npr.org/2013/03/29/17528583 ... 3148193486 ), but along the way we encounter characters that die and then reappear, palm trees that morph into pine trees, an office where it rains inside and other headscratching delights. Dupieux, quoi.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 3:28 pm

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Kim Jee-woon - I Saw The Devil (2010)

Henrik, old chum, I see exactly where you're coming from & appreciate the cross-references above, but I was curiously underwhelmed - despite the excellent cinematography and all that. It's a bit like Snowpiercer - fuckin' amazing sets, CGI, but.. um, what's the story? Obviously, the director isn't out to make any seriously heavy moral points here (Michel Chion can forget about this one for his "Cinema & Morality 101" course) - once again, we're talking cartoons. How does this compare to Ichi The Killer for you?
I'll have to watch Ichi before I answer. Re this - I can get where you are coming from too, and maybe the experience for me was the oomph of being blown away by dazzling, gorgeous colour, sets and kinetics. Many such "Hang on..." in my viewing history, things look fantastic at first but feel shit down the road. I shall se how it fares on second viewing.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Stifling hot here in Sweden, I find that I can't be fucked to do much more than work and watch The Sopranos- I know, not welcome here in these pages, I will resist (still the best tv show ever, btw) - but a couple of real stinkers came my way, so enjoy:

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John Schlesinger - Marathon Man (1976)

Playing the contrarian here, perhaps, but I really did not like this. Have I mentioned that I'm not the world's biggest Dustin Hoffman fan? Though, he's not really the problem here - the film is too long and manages to say nothing of any consequence whatsoever. But sure, let's go through the signposts of the narrative. Dustin Hoffman plays a hapless grad student and marathon runner (and sexual athlete, we're told, nice to know) whose brother, played with the usual class by Roy Scheider, works as a shady CIA operative and enabler of nazi war criminal Szell, played by Laurence Olivier. Szell has a fortune in stolen diamonds stashed in a New York bank vault, and when his brother dies in a freak (and frankly ridiculous) accident he becomes convinced that poor Dustin Hoffman knows something and sets out after him. Cue the dental torture. Might make for an effective thriller in someone's hands, though not here. Hoffman is a marathon runner, great, but is that necessary for him running away from his captors on the highways and on-ramps of Manhattan? We're shown him running laps in Central Park quite a few times, for no real reason. His father was hounded into suicide by McCarthy in the fifties - we are told this not once, but two, three, four, five times, and shown it too. So he was persecuted, and Jewish, just like the people Szell stole his riches from in the concentration camps - this could have been a glistening node of information worked through in a better script somewhere, but here, it is a soggy mess. This was the seventies, so maybe there was a licence to be vague and resonant, but Schlesinger here seem to believe there is a philosophical heft to all the bits he throws on the screen, when there clearly isn't. And the plot holes are big enough to put your hand through. If Szell's brother is just as much an escaped nazi as he is, and appointed as guardian of the treasure, would he not know better than to let himself be provoked into some stoopid antisemitic shouting match and attendant car chase on the streets of New York, dying in a car crash? And when Szell finally gets his hands on the loot, did he really have to have it appraised among the camp survivors in the Diamond District, massive hub that it is? And Szell is of course a dentist, so cue all those metal skulls in his South American lair, with Schubert playing. Elsewhere, William Devane bares all his teeth and Richard Bright look as unpleasant as always. Interesting how a film can be both gaudy and flaccidly tepid at the same time...

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Steve Minkin
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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henriq wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 2:31 pm
And when Szell finally gets his hands on the loot, did he really have to have it appraised among the camp survivors in the Diamond District, massive hub that it is?
Not a fan of the movie, but the diamond district has been overwhelmingly run by Orthodox Jews since at least WWII, kind of inevitable that he would have run into camp survivors there.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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"What do I know about diamonds? I'm a boxing promoter." :D

Haven't seen Marathon Man in ages, but I seem to recall not exactly being blown away - doesn't it start with a bomb in the fleamarket just north of Paris? - but we all remember the trip to the dentist's. Not the world's biggest Dustin fan either: Straight Time's my favourite. So, Henrik, you're ready to sit through 143 minutes of Korean butchery again just see if you were right first time? Bon courage! I could rewatch Memories of Murder or A Tale of Two Sisters or One Missed Call, but I'd have a hard time with I Saw The Devil.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Steve Minkin wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 9:34 pm
henriq wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 2:31 pm
And when Szell finally gets his hands on the loot, did he really have to have it appraised among the camp survivors in the Diamond District, massive hub that it is?
Not a fan of the movie, but the diamond district has been overwhelmingly run by Orthodox Jews since at least WWII, kind of inevitable that he would have run into camp survivors there.
Yes, my point precisely, would he not be able to find a more friendly appraiser somewhere else? Not the silliest of conceits, maybe, the film is set in Manhattan, but still.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Though Marathon Man is Welles crossbred with Dostoevsky compared to this:

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Wolfgang Petersen - Outbreak (1995)

If, on the theme of pandemics, Soderbergh's Contagion was so-so, this is bad. I mean really, really bad. Full caveat: I only watched forty minutes or so before deciding, and remembering, how bad it is. My dislike for Dustin Hoffman? Go no further than the teary, maudlin earnestness on display here. Though the biggest problem here, as so many times, is the script. So an infected monkey gets exported from Zaire, ends up in a quarantine control facility in San Jose, whisked away by a profiteering technician. When a proposed sale doesn't go through, the monkey is then let go to roam free in the californian forests. Only after he has spit in the face of the guy trying to sell it, and scratching the arm of the pet store owner who rejects the sale. Of course, the technician is not a California native, but rather resides in Boston - that's a commute that you can afford, right, grunge slob that you are? So flying by plane, meeting your girlfriend at the airportr, precipitating an outbreak on the eastern seaboard. And, when a lab technician gets splattered with infected blood, his doctor colleague wipes him off with a rough cloth and sends him on his merry way. The technician, practically with blood running from ears, eyes and nose, of course goes TO THE CINEMA to cough all over everyone. I stopped watching. Were people really this susceptible in the nineties, this dumb? Did it take 9/11 for Hollywood to wake up to realism? I'm reminded a little bit of Billy Wilder: in Some Like It Hot: the blaring, cartoon implausibility of two guys dressing up in drag to hide with a bunch of female musicians. The conceitedness of the writing, the snobbish disdain for the viewing public: this is stupid entertainment, so let's make it look real stupid.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 1:45 am
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"What do I know about diamonds? I'm a boxing promoter." :D

Haven't seen Marathon Man in ages, but I seem to recall not exactly being blown away - doesn't it start with a bomb in the fleamarket just north of Paris? - but we all remember the trip to the dentist's. Not the world's biggest Dustin fan either: Straight Time's my favourite. So, Henrik, you're ready to sit through 143 minutes of Korean butchery again just see if you were right first time? Bon courage! I could rewatch Memories of Murder or A Tale of Two Sisters or One Missed Call, but I'd have a hard time with I Saw The Devil.
Sure, anything to prove me right, or wrong. I just have thirty more hours of Sopranos to watch.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

Post by henriq »

henriq wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:07 am
Steve Minkin wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 9:34 pm
henriq wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 2:31 pm
And when Szell finally gets his hands on the loot, did he really have to have it appraised among the camp survivors in the Diamond District, massive hub that it is?
Not a fan of the movie, but the diamond district has been overwhelmingly run by Orthodox Jews since at least WWII, kind of inevitable that he would have run into camp survivors there.
Yes, my point precisely, would he not be able to find a more friendly appraiser somewhere else? Not the silliest of conceits, maybe, the film is set in Manhattan, but still.
That is, I know this about the Diamond District and don't call that part of the script into question.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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henriq wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:35 am
Wolfgang Petersen - Outbreak (1995)
Splendid spoiler-filled summary (I too have no qualms about spoiling if it's something as evidently awful as this).
henriq wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:35 am
Were people really this susceptible in the nineties, this dumb? Did it take 9/11 for Hollywood to wake up to realism?
To answer your questions with two of my own: aren't they just as stupid in the 2020s? And did Hollywood ever wake up to realism? Meanwhile -

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Gavin Millar, Cream in my Coffee, 1980

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cream_in_My_Coffee I wonder how Dennis Potter's work will stand the test of time once his generation and the one just after it with parents old enough to remember WWII and the popular songs that preceded have passed away. Exemplary performances from Peggy Ashcroft and Lionel Jeffries, but the bitterness and cruelty of some of his remarks remind me so forcefully of my own parents I could hardly bear to watch at times.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Working my way through the 38 discs of the BBC Shakespeare collection.

My rave about Cymbeline, with Helen Mirren as Imogene, is above.

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Next up, an astonishingly good As You Like It. This is among the most frequently filmed plays, and this is my new favorite of all films of that play. Mirren is again a key, the first Rosalind to actually bring off the sex-disguise business with any degree of credibility. I'm not big on costumes, but I loved what they did with it in this play. It was filmed at a Scottish castle and is grounds served as the Forest of Arden. It was devoid of the gimmickry of exotic settings and famous film actors, acted with an obvious affection for the material, and put a smile on my face from start to finish. As good as it gets.


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The BBC's Midsummer Night's Dream unfortunately doesn't rise to the level of a memorable performance. It looks a little drab, has little magic and little laughter in it. I liked that it, like AYL, was free of the gimmickry and guest stars that often plague Th Dream's productions, and the understated presentation allowed for a greater emphasis on the poetry of the lines, which I appreciated. Some of the visual are striking and look as though they had their origins in paintings. But, overall, a lackluster Dream.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 3:30 am
To answer your questions with two of my own: aren't they just as stupid in the 2020s? And did Hollywood ever wake up to realism?
Oh of course, completely. I think I'm conflating 9/11 with my own teens in a way. Revisiting all the fluff I watched as an undiscerning teen, in the nineties, it's baffling how bad it many times is. I was only in maybe my third year of university when the towers fell, so it coincides a lot with maturity and education in my mind, a cutting and clearing. But I do think that a lot of Hollywood product did grow a conscience in the years following the attacks, stuck closer to the ground: stuff like Munich and Blood Diamond isn't half bad, for what they are. Though I'm dreading to revisit those too...

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Douglas Sirk, Slightly French, 1949

Hit the pause button just about anywhere in this 80-minute marvel and you'll find exquisitely framed, composed and lit shots like the above - you can see why Fassbinder loved Sirk. Quite apart from the Ophülsian elegance of the cinematography, it's a sparkling, bubbly comedy with a DeWolf / Fields script Joe Mankiewicz would have been proud of. Dorothy Lamour, after years on the Road to XXX with Bob and Bing, is hilarious as the fake française (though her gorgeous delivery of "Let's Fall In Love" seems to be aimed at Marlene) - and yet the film wasn't a box office smash (put that down perhaps to the rather wooden males - Don Ameche and Willard Parker aren't exactly Cary Grant) - but who cares? Enjoy!
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Abel Ferrara - The Funeral (1996)

Maybe it’s just me missing The Sopranos, but I love this. One of the best, if not the best, of Ferrara’s. Just the lineup: Chris Penn, Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Isabella Rossellini, Vincent Gallo. Benicio Del Toro is a perfect sleaze bag - love his Paul Muni entrance - and Ferrara regular Paul Hipp does an excellent turn as junkie fuckup Ghouly. And, for such a macho setting - grief, madness, revenge and redemption tracked around the funeral of a murdered brother - a lot of space is given the female protagonists. Rossellini is great as the wife of Chris Penn’s insane Chez, loving and suffering in equal measure, and Sciorra plays her role filled with doubt and ennui, resisting and questioning the pull of violent tradition. Only Gretchen Mol as Vincent Gallo’s girlfriend is left to the side a bit, for some reason. Though, someone, somewhere for the love of God, do proper subtitles for this. I have a French bluray, and watched it with only the Italian parts subtitled, and like that you only pick up maybe half of what is said. Quite likely, it is a conscious aesthetic decision, to either capture Ferrara’s typical volatile darkness with period technology - compare what Scorsese attempted with New York, New York - or a worked out acousmetre to shape and record the energies of Walken and Penn, softest whisper erupting into snarled, hissy explosion. Fantastic actors, and career-defining performance from both. But it’s a pity that so much of the script goes unheard, since what I can hear of it is quite smart. Thoughts about heresy, both of the brothers' Sicilian tradition, turning from God and grace towards vengeance, blood and family, and of the communism Gallo embraces. And Italian-American life in the thirties, with organised crime, organised labor, unions and fascism; madness and bloodlines and love. Great cinematography, and awesome use of music too.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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I'm with you on the above, though I still wince when I hear how "Gloomy Sunday" gets butchered. Seen this three times now, and it gets better every time. Walken's finest hour? Discuss.

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Joseph Stefano, The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre, 1964

Made-for-TV aborted series pilot B(+) movie written and directed by Joseph "Psycho" Stefano, with a strong Hitchcock vibe in the form of Judith "Mrs Danvers" Anderson playing another creepy housekeeper and another house on the hill, this time a tacky modern monstrosity designed and inhabited by our hero, Nelson Orion (Martin Landau, another possible Hitch link), architect-turned-ghosthunter. The plot's daft and the music (Dominic Frontiere) far too obtrusive, but it entertains and amuses.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Anatole Litvak, Sorry, Wrong Number, 1948

Terrific, if a tad wordy, noir with a rather hysterical Barbara Stanwyck as a bedridden spoiled brat bitch married to Burt Lancaster, who, for reasons I won't divulge here, arranges for her to be bumped off by a hitman and then regrets it when it's all too late. It's a virtuoso exercise in flashbacks - and flashbacks within flashbacks - very well-filmed and with a fine cast. Lancaster, of course, is the greatest actor in human history (actually I don't believe this at all, I'm only trying to elicit an irate response from my pal Walto, who hasn't posted here since the end of March, happy, carefree pre-lockdown daze when our priapic Mr Blobby British PM was still merrily shaking hands and superspreading.. Yo Walt, prove you're still alive mate), but there are numerous fine smaller roles for Wendell Corey, Ed Begley and William Conrad (Cannon, anyone remember?). And a great finish, which I'd love to spoil for you but, well, can't.. Suffice it to say that they must have gone through numerous hoops to get it past the Code folks, who demanded happy endings. I suppose you could argue though that since nobody here could be described as a hero, it doesn't matter who dies in the end as long as the baddies get their comeuppance. They do.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Claude Chabrol, La ligne de démarcation, 1966

The river Loue in Jura formed the boundary line between Nazi-controlled and free France during the occupation in WWII, and the film, based on actual memoirs of a Colonel Rémy in the Resistance, is about trying to get a parachutist (Jacques Perrin) across it to safety before the Gestapo get him to spill vital information. Chabrol was called in to direct after Anthony Mann backed out but claims he was drunk during most of the shooting, or so I read. Even so, it's not at all bad - much better than his next outing with Jean Seberg, the awfully disappointing Route de Corinthe - well-filmed and well-cast. In addition to Seberg's ex-pat English countess there's Maurice Ronet as her war-weary wounded husband, and strong supporting roles from Daniel Gélin, Stéphane Audran, Jean Yanne, Reinhard Koldehoff and Jean-Louis Maury as the Gestapo commander (and don't tell me Quentin didn't know this guy when he dreamt up Colonel Hans Landa..). Even though it's well-paced with a solid plot and good performances, it somehow lacks the gravitas of Melville - his earlier magnificent Le Silence de la Mer and the later classic L'armée des ombres - but makes for a nice comparison with both, as well as with Marcel Ophüls' incendiary documentary on Vichy France, Le chagrin et la pitié, which was made three years later.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Yann Gonzalez, Un couteau dans le coeur, 2018

"Imagine Cruising directed by Brian De Palma", says one of several perceptive reviews online (here's another one https://lwlies.com/reviews/knife-plus-heart/ ). Anne (Vanessa Paradis: check out that wig) produces cheap gay porn in pre-AIDS Paris (we're in 1979), but one by one her actors are being done away with by a sinister killer using a flick knife hidden in a dildo. Ouch. Gonzalez presumably saw Cyril Collard's Les nuits fauves when he was an inpressionable kid - which is why Romane Bohringer gets a cameo here - but his stylish queer slasher also references Fassbinder, Beineix, Carax and Jean Rollin. And of course giallo - the fact the killer is accompanied by a blind raven leads Anne away from the garish neon of the gay clubs to search for the bird in a fairytale forest. It's about here that the rhythm of the film changes - the director's less interested in pursuing the killer and is perfectly happy to let the narrative unravel (hey, since Lynch, who cares about coherent plot anymore?). Style over substance, for sure, but well-made and quite.. touching. Nice sweaty M83 soundtrack, too (group founded by Yann's brother Anthony btw).
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Bertrand Blier, Les acteurs, 2000

If you go along with Monsieur Lyotard's definition of postmodernism as "incredulity toward meta-narratives" then Les Acteurs might just well be the postmodern film par excellence. We've seen plenty of films about films - Hollywood was picking bits of fluff from its own navel long before Sunset Boulevard - but here's one about a director (himself the son of an actor) making a film about actors playing themselves playing actors. Before we go on any further, if you can't immediately identify the two chaps in the shot above, you might as well stop reading this. I assume that most of the folks reading this might be able to recognise Michel Piccoli, but how many of you know Jacques Villeret? Blier presupposes that his spectators are familiar not only with the prodigious body of work of the cast of stellar actors he's assembled for his film, but also with their lives offscreen: knowing Villeret was already struggling with the alcoholism that led to his demise five years after this was made makes his remark to the waiter - "no, just leave the bottle here" - especially touching. (Without such background knowledge you'd probably find this a near-incomprehensible and frustratingly self-indulgent exercise. And you'd be right: I wonder how many people even of my generation - forget the youngsters, they've probably never even heard of Jean-Claude Brialy or Claude Rich - can spot the references? Hell, I watch a lot of films and I didn't - this must have been a box office disaster). But for every touching moment - others include Delon paying homage to Gabin and Ventura, Claude Brasseur and Blier himself recalling their own departed actor fathers - there's a blast of very politically incorrect vulgarity, mostly in the form of seriously bad language (no point translating the swear words, they never carry the same weight). One of my favourite bits is Sami Frey stealing a disabled man's wheelchair and doing a gross imitation of the poor chap in the middle of the Champs-Elysées. Hallucinant. Pour les cinéphiles avertis - or maybe pervertis :)
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