Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Todd Haynes, I'm Not There, 2007

Return visit to Todd and his six different Dylans, and very pleasant it was too. To quote the last paragraph of Roger's review
https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/im-not-there-2007 "Coming away from I'm Not There, we have, first of all, heard some great music (Dylan surprisingly authorized use of his songs both on his own recordings and performed by others). We've seen six gifted actors challenged by playing facets of a complete man. We've seen a daring attempt at biography as collage. We've remained baffled by the Richard Gere cowboy sequence, which doesn't seem to know its purpose. And we have been left not one step closer to comprehending Bob Dylan, which is as it should be." Yes, agree on Richard there. There was a very good interview with the director here (in French, tant pis pour vous) https://www.lesinrocks.com/2007/12/05/c ... here-1207/
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Ken Russell - The Devils (1971)

Ok, so my forty(one) years old self LOVES this. It is truly awesome. First off, from my as yet limited viewing of Russell’s films, this is clearly the most artistically coherent and powerful, to the point that it is tempting to speak of a masterpiece. Often in film, much more than in literature or theatre because much more compromised and hectored an artform, there is a self or artistic vision straining forth towards visibility and body, working against the strictures and dictates of the industry, whatever these may be. For Russell, think the awful Chayefsky script for Altered States. Against this, the brilliant intensity of the special effects and montages of the film assert themselves. Also, Billion Dollar Brain: working in such a blatant genre enterprise as the Harry Palmer cycle, you get the awesomeness of General Midwinter’s Texan compound. Think that great shot of the camera opening through the fire from the refinery smokestacks, into the walled in territory of the fascist landscape, with images of communist leaders burning in Cold War fervour. So you have both Deserto Rosso and the schlocky memories of Vidor’s Duel in the Sun and Sirk’s Written on the Wind. For The Devils, everything fits together wonderfully. Kickass music, the Jarman sets, the ecstatic intensity of the performances. Yes, this is clearly Oliver Reed’s finest hour, but I would also call it one of Vanessa Redgrave’s finest moments (I kept thinking she had done another role like this, sweating and orgasmically pale and drawn, until I realised that no, I was thinking of Kathleen Byron in Black Narcissus…) And Michael Gothard, as the crazed Father Barre. One of the great manic actors of his generation, there is not a little trace of Patrick Dewaere in him (both actors struggled with mental health; both ended their lives through suicide), but also of Léaud. And, actually, of Jan Malmsjö’s satanic portrayal of the bishop in Fanny and Alexander. There is a blistering intensity to his work here, he tears down walls with his performance. Never, though, does this feel out of place, nor does anything else in the film. Amazing and a little liberating to be able to say that in a film like this, with the macabre and erotic commingling with visual opulence, perverse, unhinged energies worming and sprouting all over the place, nothing really feels gratuitous or salacious, there only to titillate or draw the exploitation crowd in. Interestingly, Jerzy Kawalerowicz did his own Loudon film, Mother Joan of the Angels, which should make for an interesting comparison. Somewhere on the viewing list, that.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Shirô Toyoda - Madame White Snake (1956)

Fun story - in my Discogs wantlist I have added, for some reason (my suspicions run toward David Toop), the Ikuma Dan OST CD for this film. Much easier to find the film in the usual place than to pay the 150€ for the record. And a small delight it is. An adaptation of a Chinese ghost story and set in China, it is my introduction to the director. Not a whole lot to say, other than to draw attention to a phrase of Chris Marker’s in Sans Soleil, about the Japanese horror film having the “cunning beauty of certain corpses” (“Pour exorciser l’horreur qui a un nom et un visage, il faut lui donner un autre nom et un autre visage. Les films d’épouvante japonais ont la beauté sournoise de certains cadavres.”) Yes, beautiful: think an amalgamation of Wizard of Oz, Michael Powell’s The Thief of Bagdad, Fritz Lang’s Indian films, and you’re almost there. Plus the surreal, animatronic glee in the female demon throwing a taoist exorcist to the top of a temple spire, deliciously artificial sets and miniatures, exquisite production design and lighting - what’s not to like? Have a look.

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Abbas Kiorastami, Shirin, 2009

OK, so you probably know by now that this film consists entirely of shots of 90 or so women sitting in front of a cinema screen watching an adaptation of a 12th century Persian love story (which we don't see, only hear). But, as Hamideh Razi's 26' documentary Taste of Shirin reveals, this is simply not true - Kiarostami filmed the women in small groups, telling them to look at a piece of cardboard with a cryptic illustration of a man and a woman and some arrows between them, occasionally dropping a large metal plate in the back of the auditorium to film them starting in surprise, and even administering eye drops to get those tears flowing. Then he had a cast of actors record the "story", added sound effects, and then chose whichever bits of the actresses' footage corresponded - so, to quote Robert Fripp, "the whole story was a complete hoax hahaha". So... why? The director was very good at straddling the fine line between "experimental" cinema (Five Dedicated to Ozu, 24 Frames..) and "normal" narrative cinema. But unlike the notorious "making of" ending of A Taste of Cherry where Hitch's booming tones "it's only a mo-vie" accompany the punters out onto the street, there's nothing in Shirin to reveal the trickery - unless you know the documentary background. Of course, there's no shortage of heavy academic gush - like this https://inreviewonline.com/2011/09/25/shirin/ but as The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw (with whom I'm rarely in agreement, fwiw) notes: "They [the women] are, however, all professional actors, all with a certain sleek poise. I couldn't help but wonder if it might not have been more valuable to create this movie as a documentary, with cameras trained on real people watching a film - not just actors pretending."
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Benoît Delépine & Gustave Kervern, Avida, 2006

"Avida Dollars" was André Breton's smart anagram of "Salvador Dali", you might recall - and it is to the memory of the notorious mustachioed opportunist surrealist that this wacky little mindfuck is dedicated. IMDb plot summary? Well, OK, if you insist: "The kidnapping of a plump billionaire's dog by a deaf-mute and two ketamine addicts goes wrong. The wealthy woman takes advantage of the situation to make them fulfill her last wishes." Hm. Not even sure if that's correct either, but who gives a toss? It's a trip - file alongside Miguel Llanso's Crumbs and Davide Manuli's Beket and La Legenda di Kaspar Hauser and (especially) Jodorowsky's Fando y Lis (see reviews passim). Look out for giraffes, lobsters, disabled folks (or whatever PC term one has to use nowadays to describe the mentally handicapped), awesome little cameos by Fernando Arrabal (aha! the Jodorowsky connection!), Kati Outinen, Jean-Claude Carrière, Albert Dupontel, Bouli Lanners and - yeees - Claude Chabrol. Comedy? Not really - unlike their other films - but for sheer abundant creativity, wonderful images and wild montage, it's the kind of thing I need to see these days. Enjoy!
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Woody Allen, Mighty Aphrodite, 1995

Having had a couple of weeks to recover from the angst of Husbands and Wives, this restored my faith in Woody to deliver a well-made fun film, though Mira Sorvino is largely responsible. She deserved her Oscar. This chap liked it too https://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/27/movi ... -heed.html
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Bille August, The Best Intentions, 1991

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Best_Intentions Just watched the four-part miniseries here, will try the condensed (but still three-hour) cinema version next time. And there will be a next time: this is absolutely magnificent, assuming you're ready for five and a half hours of Ingmar Bergman, who wrote the script based on the true story of his parents' marriage and chose both the director and his wife Pernilla as lead actress (because she'd previously played Maj in Fanny and Alexander, not because he'd had a nightmare vision of her future incarnartion as Shmi Skywalker :o ). I'm sure our resident Swedish master reviewer Henrik can enlighten us further (before you ask mate no I haven't got to the Life of Marionettes yet!). Almost makes me want to hop on a plane to Sweden - but maybe I'll wait for the summer :lol:
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Thu Nov 05, 2020 9:36 am
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Bille August, The Best Intentions, 1991

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Best_Intentions Just watched the four-part miniseries here, will try the condensed (but still three-hour) cinema version next time. And there will be a next time: this is absolutely magnificent, assuming you're ready for five and a half hours of Ingmar Bergman, who wrote the script based on the true story of his parents' marriage and chose both the director and his wife Pernilla as lead actress (because she'd previously played Maj in Fanny and Alexander, not because he'd had a nightmare vision of her future incarnartion as Shmi Skywalker :o ). I'm sure our resident Swedish master reviewer Henrik can enlighten us further (before you ask mate no I haven't got to the Life of Marionettes yet!). Almost makes me want to hop on a plane to Sweden - but maybe I'll wait for the summer :lol:
You're always welcome, but yes, summer is nicer. About this: I don't have much to say, really. I don't think I've seen all of it, but I do remember that it was shown with the same pomp and circumstance as Fanny and Alexander, still shown every christmas season on tv here. And what's your excuse, really, for Marionetten? :shock: :D

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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henriq wrote:
Fri Nov 06, 2020 9:33 pm
what's your excuse, really, for Marionetten? :shock: :D
Ain't got none.. other than I was watching this for the third time in a row:

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Abbas Kiarostami, 24 Frames, 2017

Roger Ebert famously described Kiarostami's Palme d'Or winner Taste of Cherry as "excruciatingly boring", but thankfully other reviewers over at rogerebert.com don't agree: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/24-frames-2018 The Iranian director's swansong, three years in the making, takes up somewhat where Five (Dedicated to Ozu) left off, and consists, as its title suggests, of 24 photographs (the first is of Pieter Brueghel the Elder's Hunters In The Snow) which "come to life", thanks to the trickery of CGI. A plume of smoke billows out of Brueghel's chimney, a bird flies off a branch, a dog sniffs around one of the trees and takes a pee. Each of the frames lasts about four and a half minutes. People only appear in three of them - if you count Brueghel's hunters, that is - but there is evidence of human activity in seven others, often destructive (shots ring out in three of them, and in the penultimate frame two trees are felled). Elsewhere, Kiarostami's principal concerns are animals: birds feature in 17 of the 24, but there are also cows (2), dogs (2), deer/reindeer (2), wolves (2), and one each featuring horses, sheep and even a pair of fucking lions (sorry, that should read lions fucking :) ). In half of the frames it's snowing, or has recently snowed. Six out of 24 are at the seaside. Six of them feature music, from vintage tango via Iranian improv and Schubert to.. erm, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies (let's just say the director's eye was more discerning than his ear), and six (not including the Brueghel) are in colour. Some eyebrows have been raised at the CGI - the exemplary painstaking use of sound to illustrate the events isn't always matched by precision in the video montage (watch out for disappearing footprints here and there) - and, given the predominance of birds and snow, one wonders whether 12 would have sufficed. But, whatever, nobody said you had to watch it all in one go - I didn't. Shame he had to go out listening to Lloyd Webber - at least Coogan and Brydon got Strauss's Four Last Songs in The Trip - but never mind.
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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Hong-jin Na, The Wailing, 2016

To quote Wiki quoting Lincoln Michel of GQ wrote "At just over two-and-a-half-hours long, The Wailing definitely takes its time, yet you could never describe it as a slow burn. This is a horror film that jumbles up ghosts, zombies, body horror, Eastern exorcism, Christian mythology, demonic curses, creepy children, and a lot more into one sustained narrative. This description may make it sound like the movie is a messy mash-up, but director Na Hong-jin ties it all together seamlessly. Instead of being a mess, the combination of tropes makes each individual one feel both fresh and terrifying." Hats off to the director for pulling it off - not as easy as it seems to crossbreed Se7en, The Exorcist, Memories of Murder and 28 Days Later and end up with something recognisable - at nearly two and three quarter hours long, it is, as this review https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertai ... olumn.html puts it, a supremely patient freakout. Did I like it? Weeell, yes (though it's a different kind of like button to the one you press with other genres of films). Would I like to watch it again? Um, probably not.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Le fils, 2002

I'm assuming that, in the age of Coronavirus, there won't be any more films by the Dardenne brothers - if "social distancing" is the order of the day, they'll soon be on their way to the local unemployment exchange in Seraing, the dreary suburb of Liège where they grew up and where they've shot most of their features, their camera barely a metre away from the actors throughout in a succession of tight, almost claustrophobic close-ups. If Hitchcock described his modus operandi as "putting the viewer through it", I'd say the Dardennes' was "drag the viewer down into it": when Olivier Gourmet (extraordinary performance) eats his choucroutte sandwich under a streetlamp on a gloomy night, you can almost taste the grease. No spoilers, if you want to know who the eponymous son is, you'll have to watch it yourself. Bring your own punnet of chips.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Michael Winner, The System, 1964

"In a seaside village, a group of local young men mingle among the seasonal tourists in search of sexual conquests. Near the end of one summer, the leader of the group, Tinker, a strolling photographer, aims to conquer a fashion model from a well-to-do family, but he finds himself unexpectedly falling in love. The tables thus turned, Tinker begins to see that maybe it’s not the tourists who are being used in these sexual games." A little gem, this - don't be put off that it's Michael Winner: he did make some fine films and this is one of them - beautifully photographed by Nicolas Roeg on what Basil Fawlty called "the English Riviera", it features a stellar performance from Oliver Reed. Looking back to both La Dolce Vita and I Vitelloni, and forward to Darling and Blow Up (watch out for David Hemmings!), it's a fine bridge between the continental New Wave and good old British kitchen sink. Well worth checking out, and if you like Oliver Reed, essential viewing.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Krzysztof Kieślowski, Przypadek ("Blind Chance"), 1981

Oh, what a great film. Wiki: "The film presents three separate storylines, told in succession, about a man running after a train and how such an ordinary incident could influence the rest of the man's life. Originally completed in 1981, Blind Chance was suppressed by the Polish authorities for several years until its delayed release in Poland on 10 January 1987 in a censored form." Not for nothing is it number one in this list https://movielistnow.com/10-movies-abou ... -chance/5/ - and no wonder it's spawned several decidedly inferior imitations. Stellar performance from Bogusław Linda as Witek, but all the actors are excellent, the script detailed and dense, and the montage superb. KK's best film? Discuss. https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2007/cteq/blind-chance/
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Chloe Zhao, The Rider, 2017

Maybe it's because I have a more than a little jaundiced view of the United States of America right now, but I didn't thrill to this as much as I thought I would (or should have). That said, Brady Jandreau and his (genuinely autistic) sister Lilly are utterly convincing - you know when he's training those horses he's doing it for real - and the landscapes of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation (the cast is once more Lakota Sioux) magnificent. Guess it's just me, but I've never really had much interest in rodeo riders, though several fine films have been made about them (The Lusty Men, Junior Bonner..) - and the idea that trying not to get your head stomped into the dirt by a fucking enormous mad bull is the only thing worth living for somehow doesn't work. But that's just me - when it comes to sport I'm with Noam Chomsky and KRS One. Meanwhile, interesting little interview with the director here https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/s ... ing-horses and I'm looking forward to seeing her Nomadland, whenever cinemas open again.
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Jacques Rivette, Le Quadrille, 1950

The second of three hitherto unreleased Rivette silent shorts discovered by his wife in 2009, now spruced up and released, is prefaced with a handwritten quotation from a letter from Prosper Merimée to Stendhal, which translated roughly goes as follows: "We find ourselves in a gilded salon surrounded by male and female escogriffs. We don't know who to talk to. We take an ice cream and get the hell out of there." (In case you're wondering what an escogriff is - I was - the dictionary definition runs as follows: "Someone who is very tall, often very thin and strangely built." And: "A person who arouses suspicion because of his or her strange or unusual appearance.") And then we see three men and two women sitting in a room - three of them leave eventually - doing very little for 38 minutes. Haha! Actually, the one thing the men do is smoke furiously (hey, this is France!), and to my great amusement flicking their cigarette ends on the floor (one bloke stubs his out on a marble mantlepiece). Dunno where Rivette filmed it, but I hope he warned the owners their parquet and antique furniture would be ruined :) I have no idea what kind of script he was working from, but it's credited to "J.Rivette and J-L.Godard" - and, yes, that's Godard in the picture above, sans lunettes and avec cheveux. Let's just say it's an interesting historical oddity, like Godard's early Opération Béton. New Wave completists won't want to be without it, but if that's not your tasse de thé you can give it a miss without feeling guilty.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Michel Deville, Ce soir ou jamais, 1960

"At the time I was filming commercials for Monsavon and Palmolive. Jean-Luc saw them and offered me a very small role in À bout de souffle. Undressed. I refused. He insisted, arguing that I was naked in those commercials." In the end, it was Michel Deville who gave her her chance by offering her the lead role in Ce soir ou jamais. "It was my first small personal success. Jean-Luc had seen the film and sent me a telegram that read: 'This time, Mademoiselle, maybe for the lead role. Signed: Jean-Luc Godard.'" Though Anna Karina will forever be remembered for the films she made with Godard, it's worth checking her out in other director's films - Rivette's La Religieuse, Visconti's Lo Straniero, Delvaux's Rendez-vous à Bray and this, her debut feature (Godard's Petit Soldat was made before but came out later). It was also Michel Deville's first solo outing as director, after seven years working as Henri Decoin's assistant, and the first of his many collaborations with Nina Companeez. Quite how these early New Wave marivaudages will stand the test of time is open to question: future generations wondering what life was like in France at the turn of the 60s probably won't learn much from these amorous pouting farces (that would even include JLG's Une femme est une femme, though it's a nice showcase for the interior design of the period), but they'll be treated to some splendid acting and elegant mise-en-scène.
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André Delvaux, De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen ("The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short"), 1966

As well as Senne Rouffaer, who I'm sure you've never heard of but whose performance here you'll never forget, and "the First Lady of Polish Cinema" Beata Tyszkiewicz as his muse, Delvaux's magnificent debut feature, based on a 1947 novel by Johan Daisne, "tells the story of a schoolteacher who falls in love with one of his students, and moves away in order to escape his infatuation." It's one of those rare, delicate and profound examples of 1960s cinema exploring mental illness - file alongside Lillith and La vie à l'envers - beautifully written and meticulously shot (Ghislain Cloquet, say no more). Henrik, this is one you'll like. Magnificent.
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Paolo Sorrentino, Le conseguenze dell'amore, 2004

If it's Sorrentino, it's probably Toni Servillo. And that's fine by me: the 61-year-old actor (and opera director, incidentally) has starred in half a dozen features with Sorrentino, playing characters as diverse as Giulio Andreotti and Silvio Berlusconi, with a washed-up pop singer, a cynical journalist and (here) a reclusive Mafia pawn permanently exiled to a chic hotel in Lugano along the way. Styish cinematography - see above: shades of Point Blank, except Titto doesn't have the energy to walk anymore, he just lets himself be carried - fine soundtrack (Mogwai, Boards of Canada, Lali Puna..), cool story, great ending.
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Woody Allen, Shadows and Fog, 1992

Shot entirely in Queens in a studio on the biggest set ever assembled there and with a soundtrack consisting exclusively of Jack Hylton and Kurt Weill, this is certainly one of the oddest films in the Woody canon, his homage to Weimar-era cinema - Pabst, Murnau, Lang all come to mind - liberally peppered with Kafka and a dash of Fellini (a travelling circus), based on a 1975 short story of his called Death. It is, as the folks at Rolling Stone said, a "noble misfire" - the comedy (Woody trades fours with Mia Farrow, of course, but the best exchanges are with Julie "Marge Simpson" Kavner) slips all too easily into the fog of melodrama (John Malkovich's clown) and angst (Donald Pleasence's mad doctor is particularly creepy). All the info you're ever likely to need here http://www.woodyallenpages.com/films/shadows-and-fog/
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2020

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Carlo Lizzani, San Babila ore 20: un delitto inutile, 1976

Based on a true story of the pointless killing (hence the title) of an innocent student and his girlfriend by a quartet of neo-Nazi blackshirt thugs in a deserted shopping arcade - ha! howzat for spoilers?! - Lizzani's return to Milan, which he makes look as unattractive, cold and grimy as mid-November Manchester, isn't as engaging as his earlier Banditi a Milano (whose English title, The Violent Four, could just as well have been used for this one). None of the boys is particularly sympathetic; not that you'd expect them to be, but some background context to explain their infatuation with fascism and hatred of communism might have been a good idea. We learn that one of them is married, but we never see the wife and child, and see the parents of two others (stereotypical bourgeois industrialists indeed - but would a father seriously threaten to stab his son in the neck for holding his fork in his left hand? I rather fancy not). That's about it. Excluding the two hysterical mothers, there are only two young women in the cast, one the hapless victim, the other a decidedly gormless girl the boys pick up, who allows herself to be raped with a truncheon and yet still keeps coming back for more abuse. She does get a kind of revenge at the end, at least. Elsewhere, it feels as if ideas haven't been followed through as rigorously as they could/should have been: the local police's turning a blind eye to the violence, for example. And even Ennio Morricone's angular jackbooting theme doesn't feature very much.
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