Alain Cavalier, Le Paradis, 2014
I wonder if this will be Cavalier's last film – it certainly feels like a swan song, and the ending (not just the fabulous Lester Young playing “Stardust”, but the few brief scenes that follow it) is very touching. How to describe this? Totally idiosyncratic mixture of anecdotes interspersed with tales from Greek mythology and the Bible narrated laconically by the director and “acted out” by tiny kids' toys strategically placed (Cavalier enjoys playing with his Meccano robots and ceramic ducks as much as any small child) and exquisitely filmed. Sounds a bit odd, right? Try watching it back to back with other consciously “late” works – the last couple of Resnais, the last two Godards – and you'll find much to enjoy. In fact I'm far more likely to return to this than I am to Adieu au langage, that's for sure
Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, Une visite au Louvre, 2003
It starts out with one of those vintage Straub Huillet slow 180° back-and-forth pans taken from the Pont du Carrousel, but once we move inside the Louvre it's the paintings and sculptures we see – 14 of them, to illustrate the spoken text (the words of Paul Cézanne transcribed – maybe slightly rewritten – by Joachim Gasquet – but read here by a woman: great touch). Fine article (in French) here http://decadrages.revues.org/558
Timothy Carey, The World's Greatest Sinner, 1962
Underground film par excellence (the image quality's lousy at times and there are numerous little problems with the KG rip – but that's the only place you're ever likely to find it, so grin and bear it), with the mighty Timothy Carey, whom you will remember no doubt from his awesome minor roles in Paths of Glory, Minnie and Moskowitz and Chinese Bookie, who here gives up his “job” as an insurance salesman to become a self-styled god / evangelist, firstly by out-shimmying Elvis and dropping to his knees like Jaaaames Brown, and then by standing for President, until a final showdown with the real God (in the form of a communion wafer).. It's pretty fucked up stuff, with its seamy sex scenes (our God goes for old ladies as well as 14-year-olds..) and wild montage, let alone the Zappa soundtrack, and not hard to see why Hollywood backers wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. Ineptitude or utter brilliance, you choose.
Valerio Zurlini, Girl with a Suitcase, 1961
Claudia Cardinale was dubbed, it appears, but despite that there's no doubt she could act (maybe overact at times) at least as well as Bardot, and her portrayal of a (failing?) nightclub singer out to scrounge money from guys along the way is nuanced and effective. We start out feeling sorry for her when she's unceremoniously ditched by the detestable and cowardly pretty rich boy Marcello, but when she hooks his naïve younger brother Lorenzo (Jacques Perrin was 20 but he really does look 16) our sympathies shift subtly, only to swing back to Aida (Cardinale) when Gian Maria Volonté (always at his best playing baddies) shows up. A difficult role to bring off, but CC does it with style. Zurlini's work straddles late neo-realism and the 60s Italian avant garde, and as a result tends to get overlooked by aficionados of those respective movements – if you like pre-Dolce Fellini, pre-Avventura Antonioni and early Pasolini, check it out.
Robert Kramer, Doc's Kingdom, 1987
Apart from Cyril Collard's Les nuits fauves, I can't think of a single film shot in Lisbon that I don't like. But the rundown port zone where Doc (Paul McIsaacs again, taking up from he left off in the magnificent Route One USA – see above somewhere) lives with a few caged birds and a lot of whisky isn't exactly pretty. Nor is the story, a melancholy tale of how Doc's son – played very well by a young Vincent Gallo (above) – tracks him down after the death of his mother. It's not depressing as such, but leaves you feeling as sad as the characters. Think Philippe Garrel. If Kaurismäki were filming it, the image would be a sharp as razor wire, whereas Kramer's footage looks more like it was taken from a home movie, and a very dimly lit one too. Fine acoustic and electronic soundtrack by Barre Phillips. Nice, but have a bottle of something close to hand.
Tales of Tales 2015
The film serves as Garrone's English-language debut and will interweave three separate story strands bookended by brief bits in which Italians Alba Rohrwacher and Massimo Ceccherini will play a street circus family. In one tale Salma Hayek will play a jealous queen who forfeits her husband's life. In another, Vincent Cassel plays a king whose passion is stoked by two mysterious sisters.
Once upon a time there were three neighboring kingdoms each with a magnificent castle, from which ruled kings and queens, princes and princesses. One king was a fornicating libertine, another captivated by a strange animal, while one of the queens was obsessed by her wish for a child. Sorcerers and fairies, fearsome monsters, ogres and old washerwomen, acrobats and courtesans are the protagonists of this loose interpretation of the celebrated tales of Giambattista Basile.
Allen & Albert Hughes, Menace II Society, 1993
Now that gangstas are old enough to be portrayed in film by their own sons, thought I'd go back to see how some of the stuff I used to like has stood the test of time. Or not. We saw this one when it came out, and remember liking it - but 22 years down the road it's a different story. Heavy on fucks, shits and niggas, but woefully light when it comes to decent dialogue ("Being a black man in America isn't easy. The hunt is on, and you're the prey! Survive! All right?" - like, wow, man) or credible characterization, you're left with a yawning "so what" when our "hero" comes to his predictable bloody end in the inevitable stoopid drive-by.
Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich, 1999
Hats off to JM for being such a good sport! Actually, what I enjoyed most on my DVD was a five-minute bonus interview with Jonze in his car, feeling distinctly nauseous, which ends up with him throwing up out of his window. Whether it was for real or not, who knows?
Dino Risi, Profumo di donna, 1974
Well Gassman deserved his Oscar, or whatever he got, but the story's dated (not to mention pretty appallingly sexist) and the music sucks. Nice location shoots in Genoa, Rome and Naples though, if that makes a difference
Jean-Luc Godard, Week End, 1967
Ouch! I'd forgotten how BRUTAL this one is.. still one of my favourite Godards, but it's a pretty bleak and vicious tale for sure. Background reading for anyone who has Alain Bergala's book Godard dans les années 60 - the humiliation and nastiness was as much part of the shoot as it was part of the finished film. Yikes!
Tim Hunter, River's Edge, 1986
Let's just say that Crispin Glover is an "acquired taste".. he drives me fucking potty in this film, and Dennis and his inflatable doll aren't much better. For once, Keanu Reeves is rather good (in fact, he's been going downhill ever since this debut), but the story and the reactions of the characters don't convince. I doubt they did in 1986 either, but then again 1986 was a pretty screwed up year from what I recall
Costa-Gavras, Conseil de famille, 1986
Yep, 1986 again. Johnny Hallyday's really quite good as the professional safe cracker, and Fanny Ardant rarely disappoints, but after starting out well the story gets more and more implausible, and by the time Johnny and Guy Marchand come home dressed as mafiosi you're about ready to throw in the towel altogether. Nice cameo from Fabrice Luchini as the crooked lawyer, but that's about as far as it gets
Marzieh Meshkini, The Day I Became A Woman, 2001
An absolute delight, as JR rightly enthuses: http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2001/0 ... he-chador/
Jean-Luc Godard, Notre musique, 2003
The reconstruction of the bridge in Mostar is one of the more memorable scenes in this otherwise rather melancholy (as are all post-Histoire(s) Godards) tale filmed for the most part in Sarajevo. You'd better dig the ECM catalogue too, as that's where all our music comes from.
William Wyler, The Westerner, 1940
Gary Cooper is great here, but the movie belongs to Walter Brennan for his splendid portrayal of the colourful but outrageous Judge Roy Bean, which beats Paul Newman's in the later John Huston film hands down. The one thing Huston's film had going for it though was Ava Gardner as Lily Langtry - Doris Davenport's leading lady here is a bit two-dimensional, which causes a bit of friction with Cooper's intriguing (good guy or bad guy?) character. A fascinating story, though - and a thoroughly enjoyable and well-crafted western.
Mike Leigh, High Hopes, 1988
Haha, that could be Jeremy Corbyn standing wistfully in front of the tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery.. The election of whom to the leadership of the Labour Party (who da thunk it?) was what prompted me to return to this blatantly anti-Thatcherite film, to see how it had stood the test of time. Alas, like Jeremy's politics, not too well - Leigh's over-the-top ridiculing of the yuppies (heh, that's a word we don't hear much these days) was fun at the time, but now seems rather quaint. Solid performances from Phil Davis and Ruth Sheen - yes, people like that still exist - but this, Meantime and Naked now belong to some bygone era, whereas Secrets and Lies and Vera Drake have fared better.
Richard Brooks, Lord Jim, 1965
Ugh.. Lawrence of Arabia is most definitely ain't. Brooks screwed up bigtime here, trying to turn Joseph Conrad's psychologically rich and layered novel into a swashbuckling action film, complete with some spectacular miscasting (James Mason and Eli Wallach, yeurk), sloppy editing (it could and should have been about an hour shorter) and dull music (even the "authentic" stuff from South East Asia). Worst of all is O'Toole, who spends most of the time looking as guilt-ridden and tortured as he does above. Read the book instead.
Lloyd Kaufman & Michaal Herz, The Toxic Avenger, 1985
Loved it! Totally obnoxious, over the top, gratuitously gory and hilarious grindhouse romp - be warned (spoilers ahoy!): this from the IMDb Parents Guide:
A child on a bike is hit by a car, the car then backs over his head, crushing it completely. This scene is very intense and incredibly disturbing.
Melvin falls out of a building and lands in a vat of toxic waste. He then proceeds to burn and become deformed, becoming the Toxic Avenger.
Nipples's eyes are gouged out.
Frank's arm is ripped off and is put in a pizza oven.
Leroy has a milkshake blender stuck down his throat.
Rico's hands are deep fried and we later see the results.
The top of a drug dealer's head is crushed (offscreen) with a set of weights.
Toxie rips out Mayor Belgoody's intestines. He then tries to put them back in but dies in the process.
Many people (including a dog) are shot with lots of blood.
Some people smoke cigarettes.
A man working at a Mexican restaurant is seen drinking alcohol.
Tinto Brass, Caligula, 1979
There's a short version somewhere without all the juicy bits (Penthouse's Bob Guccione couldn't resist including some totally unnecessary but rather titillating hardcore scenes, which I would have included as screenshots if I didn't know they'd be removed forthwith by The Moderators ) - but I don't want to see it. What a waste of a great set of actors - O'Toole (again, seemingly pissed out of his head), Gielgud (who does the only sensible thing and slits his wrists early on), Helen Mirren (I hear Elizabeth Windsor enjoyed her in The Queen.. wonder if Her Majesty ever checked her out here haha) and McDowell, who I suppose is the only actor who could have played Caligula. Shame the director wasn't Bertolucci (though he can fuck up pretty royally too when he wants to). A total bloody waste of time. I think I'll watch The Toxic Avenger again, 'scuse me
Pierre Etaix, Yoyo, 1964
Heartily concur with Steve's enthusiastic assessment of this above - it's a real cracker, full of outstanding gags (if the word Tatiesque comes to mind, that's because Etaix was the man behind some of his more famous visual thrills, but he also worked with Bresson on Pickpocket fyi) and nods to movies old (Meliès of course, but also Chaplin and Keaton) and new (Fellini, explicit and even Antonioni - what about that La Notte-like party, eh?). Totally brilliant, should be in everybody's collection. Go and find it at once, that's an order.