Douglas Sirk, Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, 1952
Rock Hudson gets top billing, but he does little more than play second fiddle to Charles Coburn, whose eccentric grumpy millionaire steals the show. Lightweight and fun, but Sirk's eye for composition and use of colour is as meticulous here as it is in the later melodramas. Frustrating that a search on Google Images for screenshots invariably brings up James Dean, who has a tiny uncredited role as one of the kids in the drugstore.
Sam Field et al., Sunshine Daydream, 1972
Watched this for an upcoming review (the DVD is included in a 3CD set by Rhino) but must say that I would have watched it anyway, if just for all the grainy, saturated 16mm color. It depicts a single concert by the Grateful Dead from Veneta, Oregon. It’s a trip (no, not that kind!) to see what a concert of 20,000 people used to look like. Refreshingly free of security, advertising and any semblance of a stage, while everyone looks like they are having a blast, despite the heat (tough I do wonder how sunburned some of those naked bums got, not to mention other sensitive areas ). the Dead just set up and put on super-fluid show. If the music is your thing (or, as in my case, used to be), it’s the probably the height of what they could do in terms of improvising around and within songforms. Gotta love the creepy cut-out animation that gets inserted in the middle of the show’s centerpiece, “Dark Star”. Captures a history that seems so distant now.
Haha, yes, looks that way doesn't it? I bought the Sirk comedy DVDs for Marie as a Christmas present.. thought it might be rather unfair to make her wait a year to watch themMatt Wuethrich wrote:So Dan, are you making good on the promise only to rewatch favorites, or is that already out the window?
But, well, we have a shortlist (ha) of 110 movies we're determined to return to this year, not counting the complete works of Eric Rohmer (the other Christmas present was the wonderful Potemkine box, which has as many bonuses / shorts / documentaries / interviews as it does actual films!). Looks like a busy year ahead for sure
Samuel Fuller, Pickup on South Street, 1953
J. Edgar Hoover hated it, which is one of many good reasons for liking it. Fuller and Zanuck told him where to get off. Fuller told Zanuck where to get off too, when the director threatened to quit the film if the studio imposed Betty Grable as the leading lady (leading lady, not femme fatale..). He also turned down both Marilyn Monroe (too cute and cuddly) and Ava Gardner (too suave and sultry) in favour of Jean Peters. Good move. Terrific sharp script, no bullshit fight scenes (Peters really gets thrown around the room - goodness knows how Sam got some scenes past the Code people), great camera moves. Top notch noir, if you haven't seen it, you should. And Thelma Ritter will break yr heart.
Looks like one to put in the queue!Dan Warburton wrote:Samuel Fuller, Pickup on South Street, 1953
Shane Carruth, Upstream Color, 2013
Carruth is really adept at the bait and switch: just when you think you’re about to get an answer, you get another question. With Primer, it was the physics and logic that threw you first, then came the rush of psychological consequences. Plot, then people. With Upstream Color, it’s all psychological consequences. No plot, just people. And they all seem traumatized, but the film is not without redemption.
The acting is a little po-faced (though I did detect some absurdity when they are digging under the house), but Carruth is more about the visuals and the sound: the power of this film is in the gestures, the editing and the sound design. I could imagine this film working with just the Walden quotations and no dialogue.
Folks go on about how confusing it is, but it’s pretty simple I think. Take away the thief and the sampler and you have a pared-down portrait of intimacy. Stop seeing those as plot elements and more like internal conflicts of the main characters and the whole story gets a lot clearer.
Meanwhile, thoroughly enjoyed this this morning -
Byron Haskin, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 1964
They must have been hot as hell in those spacesuits filming in Death Valley! For all its manifest absurdities (dig the pistol! not to mention the guy playing "Dixie" on a set of improvised bagpipes accompanied by a monkey, or Friday, who looks like he's just wandered off the set of Cleopatra, or sausages growing underwater in triffid-like plants..) it was a well-researched (for the time) sci-fi extravaganza. Only regret is the just-in-time rescue at the end, just when it looked like Draper and Friday were going to drown in their newly-melted igloo, after narrowly escaping being buried alive in ash.. I kid you not! It's a trip!
Jean-Claude Rousseau, La nuit sans étoiles, 2006
Snippets of dialogue between Rousseau and fellow director Alain Guiraudie ("Do you dream in colour or black and white? Silent or sound? If there a voice-off or live sound?") accompany shots of interiors - Rousseau's especially fond of lonely hotel bedrooms - and empty city streets (I'm guessing this is Turin). Except they're not empty at all: Rousseau has a knack for setting up shots in which the foreground is dominated by a large object or light source, but in which the only moving element - and therefore what draws the eye - is tiny and far away. No wonder he's a great fan of Vermeer. The placement of the camera itself and duration of the shots seem arbitrary, but I suspect aren't ("this one's [supposed to last for] four minutes, is that right?" Guiraudie asks - and indeed it is, to the second.) We can search for clues (is it significant that one of the buildings on Rousseau's chosen street - filmed from both ends - is a branch of Grand Optical? should we look for meaning in the words we hear as he flicks through TV channels on his remote?) but after all, as the director says, "il suffit de regarder et l’attention est ravie. Ce ravissement vient de rien, de ce qui n’est pas montré, de l’harmonie silencieuse des signes qui naissent des correspondances sans limite dans l’espace limité du tableau ou du film."
John Frankenheimer, Seconds, 1966
As bleak and paranoid as anything shot in the 1970s, and creepier I’d venture, straddling as it does the transition from the ostensibly cozy suburban lifestyle of the 50s. Rock Hudson does not look at all comfortable in his role, which is very much the point. Like Upstream Color, another tale of erased identity, but this with a very Kafkaesque, conspiratorial bent but in a domestic setting. Upends the swinging 60s before they ever got going. Queasy cinematography (and an even queasier surgery scene). Recommended!
Sydney Pollack, The Way We Were, 1973
It really is a bloody mess. Obviously cooked up to rake in the $$$ (Redford! Streisand!) and edited sloppily overnight during previews - Pollack admits it - the only thing that glues the shoddy affair together is that awful schlocky sickly sweet Marvin Hamlisch song and its zillion derivative soundbites. Serious overconcentration on the two principal protagonists, especially Streisand - there isn't one secondary character to offset or contextualise their (improbable to say the least) romance. Where's the family? What would Hubbell's WASP mom'n'dad have to say about their blue-eyed boy shacking up with a Marxist Jewess? Idem for her parents. Redford looks bored most of the time - he was, it seems - and the script is anaemic in the extreme: where's the natural (ie bad) language? This is 1973 after all, a film for adults (it's certainly not for kids), about a sexually charged woman's rocky romance - who the hell would say "Don't belabour it" in an argument? Key scenes were cut - the couple's decision to separate only makes sense if you know Barbra was denounced to the HCUA by her former right-hand man (played rather well by a gangly James Woods). The last twenty minutes are fucking purgatory. Watch at your own risk.
Eric Rohmer, Pauline à la plage, 1982
"Qui trop parole, il se mesfait" - Chretien de Troyes
Moonfleet, Fritz Lang, 1955
Watched this the other day for the first time at the cinema and was thoroughly entranced. The film, which follows the child most of the time, has the logic of a fairytale - there is a fluidity in this that is astounding, and I need say nothing of Lang's command of the medium (use of space, colours, editing, frames - all is perfect, in a way that is now implacable, now self-evident!). There is also an eroticism that would put to shame most of those who try their hand at it nowadays.
Danièle Huillet / Jean-Marie Straub, Sicilia!, 1999
I was so entranced by this that I downloaded - but have yet to see - two documentaries about how the film was made and edited (assistant director Jean-Claude Fitoussi's Sicilia! Si gira and Pedro Costa's Où gït votre sourire enfoui?), each of which is considerably longer than the film it discusses (!). 64 minutes. The compositional rigour is almost scary, in the way that late Schoenberg and Webern are scary - the third of the film's four sections (maybe we could call it a movement? the symphony analogy seems appropriate) is itself divided into several sections, Straub distilling Elio Vittorini's 1938 novel (banned by Mussolini) into motives, and planning each shot accordingly. Check out the "score" below. Not an ounce of fat. No bullshit. Of course, that means this isn't everybody's cup of tea (have a laugh and read the 2 - out of 4 - IMDb user reviews that get the wrong end of the stick). Neither is Webern.
Wonderful though Webern is, I doubt I could spend the rest of my life listening to nothing else. I still need the occasional fix of 70s funk, like
Mike Nichols, Carnal Knowledge, 1971
Trivia whizzes might remember this as being the first time a condom appears on the bigscreen (though you can't see it all that clearly.. I'll take their word for it), or for Ann-Margret's heaving 38-D falsies (so it says here), but it's Jules Feiffer's juicy dialogue, which Nicholson and Garfunkel ("Arthur" here, not Art) attack with gusto, that wins the day. It starts out very funny, but gets progressively more sour and disillusioned as it goes on. Like life, I suppose
Returned to this again last night - what a cracking film, really. And, yes, those quenelles de brochet with a Gewuztraminer '28 are mighty tempting. What's so great about Gabin is not only that he looks like he knows what he's doing in that kitchen, but that he really loves what he's doing.Lao Tsu Ben wrote:
Voici le Temps des Assassins, Julien Duvivier, 1956
Couldn't resist to put a screenshot of the funny character who, in the film, goes under the name of Madame Jules. She's making crêpes flambées for those who wonder. There is an amusing anecdote on wikipedia: Duvivier had asked Gabin to play a garage mechanic, which he didn't want to do because he had already played one before. That's how, since the French star loved good food, Duvivier and his scriptwriters came up with the idea of having him play a great chef. That was a clever idea; it's a very good film but the scenes at the restaurant are really stealing the show for me. I could watch an entire film made of those. I must say, it's hard to keep track of all the dishes that are mentioned in passing.
Lao Tsu Ben wrote:
Himizu - Sion Sono
Monsters Club, Toshiaki Toyoda, 2012
It may not be the masterpiece that Himizu is, but it's funny how these two films overlap. Both have painted face scene à la Pierrot Fou, reek of adulescent despair, and ends with an epiphany of a sort during which nihilism is finally overcome- and they do so very finely and movingly. Toyoda, with this little film which runs no more than 72 minutes, draws inspiration from the Unabomber story, so you know more or less what it's about. At the end, the main character recites in the voiceover a poem by Miyazawa Kenji which I feel like quoting (I found the translation, which is assumed by its author to be imperfect, on the internet):
With a slow-motion shot of the hero walking in the streets of Tokyo, that's an epiphany for you - it may seem contrived, but it works, I think.Farewell – Miyazawa Kenji
I bet you probably don’t know how it sounds when you play those three notes with your contrabass. That joyful feeling, full of honesty and hope, almost blew my mind away like a piece of grass.
If you understood the character of each sound and a countless number of rich sequences fully, and if you could use them as you wish, you would do difficult, yet bright and divine work.
Just as famous musicians in this country took up their instruments when they were young, and already established their own schools, around the same time, you took up a drum made of leather and a flute made of bamboo.
But, among 10,000 people living in this town and that village, there are probably about 5 of them around your age who are as talented and capable as you. Every one of them, however, would lose what they have within 5 years. It might be because they have to work or because they simply give up. No kind of talent, power, or resource will stay with us forever. Not even people stay with us either.
I didn’t tell you, but I won’t be here at this school anymore from April. I will have to walk a dark and steep path.
If you lost the skills you have now, the right tone of your music, and the brightness you carry with yourself after I had left the school, I will not take care of you anymore. Because what I hate most is the majority, who feel comfortable and satisfied with the little bit of work they can do.
Please listen carefully.
When you fall in love with one sweet girl and think of her, there will be a statute in front of you, a statute made of countless shadows and lights. You must turn it into music.
When everyone else enjoys living in town and plays all day, you will cut grasses alone at that stone field. You must create music from that loneliness.
Bite every contempt and misery and sing anyway.
If you didn’t have a music instrument…
Listen, my disciple.
Play, as best as you can, the pipe organ made of lights that spread across the sky.
Dennis Hopper, The Hot Spot, 1990
Seriously disappointed. But with a nonentity like Don Johnson heading the cast (come back Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing, all is forgiven) I don't know what I was expecting. Dennis obviously thought he was hitting paydirt, what with a soundtrack featuring Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal, and pushed all the sexy buttons - scantily-clad lapdancers! Virginia Madsen and Don eat each other out!! Jennifer Connelly topless!!! - but nothing happens. As a femme fatale Madsen is hopeless, and that accent is utterly ridiculous (don't tell me you have to be Texan born and bred to get it right: Kelly Macdonald did just fine in No Country For Old Men). The script is so clichéd it's laughable - lines that might be convincing coming from Lauren Bacall or Marie Windsor sputter and die ignominiously - and the pace is lethargic. The one element of 50s B-movie noir Hopper forgets to steal is its tight structure. This could be the only the film that builds down to a climax. Then again, Dennis was always too enamoured with himself and his work to be able to edit it successfully - remember all that hoo-hah with The Last Movie - and loves his Jack Nitzsche soundtrack so much he sticks it in in all the wrong places - watching Don beat the crap out of William Sadler with Miles and Hooker tootling and twanging along in the background makes no sense at all. Give me Miami Blues any day.
Why guilty? I liked Hanging Garden very much and Blue Spring is quite impressive too.fslmy wrote:Thanks. Toyoda is a guilty pleasure of mine and I'm waiting to see this. Will check out Himizu too.
His last one, I'm Flash!, in spite of the Okinawa setting, some slick directing and nice touches of humor, is not very good, though.
The Tall T (Budd Boetticher, 1957)
Boetticher/Kennedy off Elmore Leonard, except for a brief opening act the whole pizza takes place inside and outside a dry cave. Randolph Scott to the inevitable rescue: "It just ain't right the best ramrod in this territory throwin' hisself away like you are." Two outlaws take a woman as collateral. Especially brutal implied sex/violence, rape/abduction throughout, Richard Boone's character (he will always be Paladin) grows into an almost homoerotic stuntcock next to Scott. All bogs down unto a waiting game in and out the cave. By far the best transfer of the Boetticher/Scotts.