Michael Crichton, Westworld, 1973
Worth a look to see Yul Brynner playing the seemingly indestructible theme park robot-run-amok - shades of both Terminator and Jurassic Park to come - but it all looks a bit quaint to blasé modern eyes - unlike, say, THX 1138 (not sure the comparison is all that fair, but never mind). The premiss of the story is pretty absurd (how do you know you ain't shooting a fellow guest and not a 'bot, eh?), the acting is wooden and the script decidedly lame, but it's nice to see the first, albeit primitive, use of digital image processing.
I think it was mostly because of Atticus Finch. Also, he's awfully handsome in Spellbound. It was thus the cult arose.as soon as Papa Peck rolls into the frame it vanishes into thin air. What a terrible actor, someone puhlease explain the attraction
To Kill A Mockingbird, yeurgh.. I can't decide whether I disliked the film or the book more. Should have another look at Spellbound though, if only for that wild Dali dream sequencewalto wrote:I think it was mostly because of Atticus Finch. Also, he's awfully handsome in Spellbound. It was thus the cult arose.as soon as Papa Peck rolls into the frame it vanishes into thin air. What a terrible actor, someone puhlease explain the attraction
Vasali Pichul, Malenkaya Vera, 1988
It's sort of dropped off the news radar at the moment, but folks in the truly hideous city of Mariupol, Ukraine, are still fighting over the godforsaken place
which hasn't, it seems, changed much since this film was made. What a fine movie, though - poor Vera trying to find some kind of life in a household where father drinks himself into a stupour on a nightly basis and mother has, it seems, little to do other than try to keep the place clean and pickle vegetables in jars. This was real Soviet 80s kitchen sink, quite unlike its British equivalent with the rose-tinted spectacles of Loach or the hideous yuppie caricatures of Leigh, an invaluable document of a miserable bleak existence which probably consisted of little more than soul-destroying work at places like the Azov steelworks (above) and occasional dips in what looks like a heavily polluted Black Sea. Yikes. And I thought Rochdale was awful.
Bernardo Bertolucci, The Sheltering Sky, 1990
You've seen the movie, now read the book. Actually, I haven't (yet), but after wading through so many tepid reviews of the film, I am rather curious. So many details - the real state of Port and Kit's marriage, what they really think of Tunner, the repercussions of Port's night out with the local prostitute, Kit's apparent imprisonment and systematic abuse at the hands of the bloke down in Niger, her eventual rescue, the end of the story, etc etc - are just airbrushed away, as if the only thing Bertie's interested in is the stunning landscape photography of his DP Vittorio Storaro. But even that gets to be annoying after a while: unlike Nestor Almendros's awesome work on Malick's Days of Heaven, there's no connection between this place and the people in it, no idea as to why these tiresome expats (great casting, btw, Malkovich's laconic whatthefuckness.. "oh yeah, that guy just stole my passport... bummer") are in this vast, magical place and what they expect to find / become there.
I don't know what Bowles thought of the film, or why he agreed to appear in it. Guess he needed the money. Anyway, talking of that lady of the night, great to see Amina Annabi again.. I once had the pleasure of playing with her (haha, not like that - it was a recording session in Brussels in 1998) for a whole afternoon
Bertrand Blier, Merci la vie, 1991
It starts out with the same slap-the-bitch bang as Sam Fuller's Naked Kiss, and never really lets up. There are no half measures in Blier's cinema: he's out to shock you, and he does it in style, with AIDS, Nazi atrocities, rape, arson and murder all thrown into the pot with a heavy dose of bad language and plenty of surrealistic flourishes. I'm not sure it works, to be honest - eventually the novelty of shock wears off - but there are plenty of striking images that stay with you. Unfortunately, that's also true of the dreadful Philip Glass music - it's not all Glass I hasten to add, but those deadly arpeggios leave a sickly aftertaste that won't go away
Ken Russell, The Boy Friend, 1971
I wonder how much of the $3m budget went on the sets and costumes.. most of it, I'll guess, as the rest of the cast (with the possible exception of Miss Twiggy) was drawn from Ken's circle of pals - Glenda Jackson, Georgina Hale, Vladek Cheybal - with a few famous faces from Brit comedy thrown in for good measure - Bryan Pringle, Murray Melvin, Brian Murphy and Barbara Windsor. It's a bit on the long side, but its Busby Berkeley homages are a blast, and even if Twiggy can't exactly hold a tune very well, she looks great. As you would expect.
Ulrich Seidl, Import / Export, 2007
Second time, and even if I knew what was coming, just as powerful. "For those who think Michael Haneke has gone soft", as someone wrote.
Edgar Reitz, Die zweite Heimat - Chronik einer Jugend, 1992
In addition to watching as many films as we can get our paws on here, we've just finished the second, huge (thirteen episodes, total duration some 25+ hours, one a week every Sunday afternoon) Heimat saga, this time tracing the 1960s in and around Munich through the eyes of (composer) Hermann Simon and the circle of friends - musicians, filmmakers, philosophers and activists - he shares a house with. It's a singular achievement, for sure, but somehow I'm still not convinced, and only rarely moved; I've never quite understood the logic of Reitz's switches from black and white to colour, though for the most part b&w is used for daytime, colour for the night, and my impression is that the director has overloaded the story with too many characters, none of whom, with the possible exception of Hermann's wife, is all that sympathetic. There are some fine episodes, notably those featuring the late great Suzanne Lothar, and one can applaud the director for finding actors who were also excellent musicians in their own right - Henry Arnold, Salome Kammer, Armin Fuchs - but the frustration of not being able to follow all the individual characters' stories to a satisfying conclusion (Juan? Esther? Evelyne?) remains. Particularly annoying is Episode 12, in which almost everybody becomes either a stoned hippy or a slogan-wielding Maoist, or both. Maybe it was really like that at the time - Stefan's movie being abandoned because the crew couldn't turn it into a collective effort is indeed what happened to Reitz's own Cardillac - but I just feel the director is spreading himself too thinly here. You know, for example, that Helga will end up on the run as a wanted Baader Meinhof terrorist, but it would have been nice to see how she got that way. The 13th and final episode is a little like the wild concluding episode of Fassbinder's Alexanderplatz, and one wonders how much of what we see is Hermann's own fantasy or not. Anyway, an impressive slab of work, though I'm not likely to be returning to it in the near future. We'll tackle Heimat 3 next year.
Dušan Makavejev, Sweet Movie, 1974
Spoilers ahoy, colour camouflage be damned. OK, I'll be surprised if this screenshot is still around here tomorrow morning, but compared to many you could come across by a simple googling it's quite.. sweet. Carole Laure must have filmed this scene before the infamous food fight / vomit fest with members of Otto Muehl's actionist commune that precedes it in the movie, as she quit the shooting shortly afterwards. So I guess she never got to see John Vernon's golden penis in spurting action either. Short of material, the director added the parallel storyline of Pierre Clementi's lovestruck sailor boy and Anna Prucnal's Anna Planeta cruising the canals of Amsterdam, which is just as scandalous (these days child sex abuse is assumed to be carried out by adult males, so seeing a woman doing it is doubly disturbing). Even the sight of her victims apparently coming to life and crawling out of their body bags at the end of movie doesn't reassure, as the director has already seen fit to include actual footage of the aftermath of the 1940 gruesome Katyn Forest massacre. Anyway, if you like "explicit excretion from every bodily orifice, joyously and exuberantly performed" (a quote from this rather good essay on the film https://www.criterion.com/current/posts ... ie-wake-up), have fun. One more intriguing bit of trivia from the abovelinked article, is that Coppola originally invited Makavejev to direct Apocalypse Now (!). Goodness knows how that would have turned out.. Marlon Brando in the buff covered in chocolate? The horror, the horror..
Bertrand Tavernier, Capitaine Conan, 1996
I'm not usually a great fan of war films, but if I had to choose a top ten in the genre, I'd include this. Terrific firebrand performance from Philippe Torreton as Conan ("I'm not a soldier, I'm a warrior"), outstanding battle footage shot in Romania. If you like Losey's King and Country and Kubrick's Paths of Glory, try this. You will need subtitles though - the dialogue rattles along like Céline.
John Farrow, The Big Clock, 1948
I have a soft spot for Roger Donaldson's 1987 remake No Way Out (with Costner and Hackman), especially its Cold War spy twist, but the original, featuring Charles Laughton as a thoroughly detestable time-obsessed newspaper magnate and Ray Milland as his star crime reporter is worth a look, even if some of the comedy characters - the dotty artist and the regulars at the Irish bar - distract and slow things down.
James Ivory, Shakespeare Wallah, 1965
You might not be old enough to remember - or brave enough to admit you've seen - the deadly anodyne mid-70s BBCTV comedy series The Good Life, or recall Vyvyan in the laundrette in The Young Ones' "Bambi" episode (1984), imho the apex of 1980s British comedy ("This calls for a very special blend of psychology and extreme violence. Oh, la-di-da! Look what I found in my laundry bag. All of Felicity Kendal's underwear, that needs a good wash!"), but once upon a time Ms. Kendal (above) was quite popular. This is her finest moment, caught on film doing what she actually did in her teens with her father's theatre company, trying without much joy to interest a rapidly-evolving post-Raj India in Shakespeare. They all seem so frightfully far away now, these Oxbridge-educated cricket-loving Maharajas, but Ivory's film with its gentle Satyajit Ray soundtrack and on-the-fly handheld camerawork ("we never even thought about asking for permission to film inside the train, we just did it") is still fresh.
Aki Kaurismäki, Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses, 1994
This is one sequel that should never have been made, as far as I'm concerned. Kaurismäki's dry, deadpan humour is singular: his funniest scenes are often those that aren't explicitly intended to be so. When he deliberately tries for laughs, it just doesn't work as well, provoking embarrassed smiles rather than a genuine giggles. (I felt the same way about Alex Cox's spaghetti spoof Straight to Hell..) The first Leningrad Cowboys adventure was something of an acquired taste to start with, and I imagine those who loved that will be determined to find something to enjoy here, but this ragged road movie really struggles and literally never reaches its destination, and even great actors like Matti Pellonpää and André Wilms can't save it. For Kaurismäki completists only.
James Foley, At Close Range, 1985
"If the songwriting of Bruce Springsteen could conjure moving images, the result would be something very similar to At Close Range" writes the guy over at the blog I swiped the screenshots from http://thisdistractedglobe.com/2011/09/ ... ose-range/ and I think he's spot on. However, it's not The Boss who provides the soundtrack here, but Madonna, whose "Live To Tell" (always was her best song, imo) forms the backdrop to much of the action, albeit in a rather woozy and very Eighties "slow and meaningful" arrangement by Patrick Leonard. Nice to see both Penn brothers in the same movie - I always preferred Chris, even if, as is often the case, it's Sean who gets top billing here - but once more Walken steals the show, as the sleazy, grinning (beware Walken when he smiles) criminal who'd happily whack his own son to save his ass. And watch out for the mighty Tracey Walter as his weird brother Patch.
Werner Herzog, From One Second to the Next, 2013
If you haven't yet realised that trying to send a text message while driving a car is as dangerous as it is bloody stupid, here's a public safety message from Uncle Werner that you really ought to watch. It's free online, and the quality is excellent.
David Cronenberg, M. Butterfly, 1993
I'd never heard of this one until recently, probably because when it came out it was somewhat overshadowed by a couple of films dealing with similar themes (The Crying Game and Farewell My Concubine) and unfairly dismissed by fans of the director's usual body horror fare, though as Cronenberg explains himself, the question of identity that haunts many of his better-known horror films is just as present here. Based on a true story of a French diplomat who falls in love with a Peking opera singer, failing to realise that a) she is a he and b) he is a spy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Boursicot it's a touching tale, especially because Rene (Jeremy Irons) appears to be the only person who's not in the know - even we, the spectators, seeing John Lone's name alongside Irons' in the opening credits, are in on the joke. This makes for a rather odd, detached viewing experience, compounded by the fact that many of the supposedly French characters are played by so quintessentially British actors, none more so than Ian "House Of Cards" Richardson.