Recently Watched Films 2015

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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Dominique Benicheti, Le cousin Jules, 1972

http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/cousin-jules
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Mark Rappaport, Becoming Anita Ekberg, 2014

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Mark Rappaport, The Vanity Tables of Douglas Sirk, 2015

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Mark Rappaport, I Dalio, 2015

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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François Truffaut, La sirène du Mississippi, 1969

I've just read Arnaud Guigue's entertaining if rather one-sided Truffaut & Godard, which imo comes out rather too firmly on the side of the former, while making some good points about the directors' respective influences and reception-history. I think he's certainly right to say that many of Godard's films, notably those made in post-68 political period, are tough nuts to crack, but even if the Maoist claptrap of things like Le gai savoir and Numéro Deux has dated badly and both films are pretty heavy going, at least they're well-made films. Whereas La sirène du Mississippi, Truffaut's second adaptation of a William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich) pulp thriller after The Bride Wore Black, is quite simply not up to scratch. The story is pretty hard to swallow anyway, and the screenplay just doesn't convince - throughout the film Deneuve has been lying her ass off, and it's impossible to believe her declarations of love at the end - but even if disbelief could be suspended, I have no idea which actors could have brought it off. Certainly not Belmondo, who is spectacularly miscast here - we need a lovestruck idealistic geek, not a muscle man shinning up lampposts and doing handbrake turns - and Deneuve's too cool by half in her snazzy YSL dresses. (I see there's a remake with Banderas and Jolie, which, although the movie has a low rating on IMDb, makes more sense to me.) Throw in unnecessary in-jokes like the pair coming out of a cinema having seen the director's beloved Johnny Guitar, or ending up in the same cabin Truffaut used in the (far superior) Shoot The Pianist, and I'm ready to hit the pause button and reach for the whisky bottle in despair. Want to see a good Belmondo-on-the-run movie? Try Pierrot le fou.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Ishiro Honda, Rodan, 1956

You can't help admire those painstakingly crafted special effects, even if the story (radioactive fallout causes pteranodon eggs buried deep in a coalmine to hatch and a pair of giant supersonic birds subsequently trash major city before the army moves in and blast the shit out of them, triggering a volcanic eruption to boot) is pretty laughable. Funniest thing though is why those birds leave vapour trails..
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Luchino Visconti / Mauro Bolognini / Pier Paolo Pasolini / Franco Rossi / Vittorio De Sica, Le streghe, 1967

Yes indeedy that is Clint Eastwood, playing bored/boring husband (and he does Mastroianni quite well), but the film belongs to Silvana Mangano, who stars in each of the five sketches, and is just as good playing a spoilt starlet (the Visconti sketch) as she is a delightful deaf-mute waif (the Pasolini) or a sexually frustrated housewife (the De Sica, above). Or one of her fantasy incarnations (below)

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Pier Paolo Pasolini, Il Decameron, 1971

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Pier Paolo Pasolini, Il Fiore delle Mille e Una Notte ("Arabian Nights"), 1974

What a delight to see these two in HD.. I can still recall the first time I saw Arabian Nights, a scratched and scuffed print at the Accatone cinema here in Paris a quarter of a century ago. OK, youngsters today will no doubt scoff at the primitive special effects, but even Franco Citti looks better flying high in 1080p. And now that many of the locations where PPP shot are off limits to us, either because they've been fucked up by satellite dishes and brand logos (or earthquakes) (Kathmandu) or become shell-scarred Islamist no-zones (Sana'a), these wonderful films are all the more precious.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Returned to this one, with great pleasure, and can do no better than quote MRS's fine post from the old thread..
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True Confessions (Ulu Grosbard, 1981)

It seems that anything ever written about this is prefaced with the question of how long it's flown beneath the radar and I can't help but share the sentiment. Bear in mind the first twenty-odd minutes are a painful bore, an arch, conceited cutting room tinker with plot syntax from the bookend portent at the mission through the gala fundraiser. DeNiro, Duvall, Durning and it took two turns for me to get past it. After which though things evolve into what TV critic David Bianculli might term "smart" and "sexy." Growing up Society of Jesus Catholic I often smiled (or winced) at Fr. Des' measured Realpolitik, artfully circumspect choice of words, constantly checking his watch: "Looks like a leprechaun, thinks like an Arab."

Most memorably I would consider this Duvall's finest hour. His wrinkled, shit-eating smiles nodding down to the floor have never been more penetrating. His two confrontations with Durning's greasy Jack Amsterdam are the film's active highlights. Upon entering the scene of the butchery/porn set, Tom's ripping down of the huge drapes elicits intense chiaroscuro straight out of Vermeer (albeit on the opposite side of Vermeer's room) that has to be seen to be believed. Burgess Meredith's recalcitrant old priest may sound too cute a fit but it's indeed perfect. Durning is as ever a hoot, even on the dancefloor, and you keep waiting for Des' caul to elicit some kind of leak that yet never materializes. If there are eventual failures, a few fraternal contrasts are forced, Des will have a Rob Roy, his brother a Schlitz. The confessional compositions unfortunately just had to happen. We do witness one of the great DeNiro f-bombs: "Yeah but you fucked her." In the mode of quintessential 40s/50s Los Angeles settings, cold greys and bistres, near Kabuki makeup in the foreshadow bookends stand out against glistening LA lawns and black cossacks. Funny how Grosbard ends the movie in what must be the same Palm Desert outpost as that in Straight Time.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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And paid this one a return visit too, can't praise it highly enough. Everyone deserved an Oscar, including the cat.
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Pierre Granier-Deferre, Le Chat, 1971

Oh what a great film, really. Signoret can do more with an eyebrow in two seconds than most Hollywood actresses can do in two hours - the scene where she tries to stare out the cat (who's also a pretty good actor, as it turns out) is simply awesome. The story is heartbreaking but not without a few occasional touches of humour - ageing childless married couple who can't stand each other (or so they think) living in a house slated for demolition (shot in Courbevoie during the construction of La Défense - terrific archive shots of what the suburbs of Paris looked like back in 71 - yikes). Script (based on Simenon, yet again) minimal and every word is there for a reason, music (Philippe Sarde, with a hint of Satie) sparingly but beautifully used, and editing is absolutely masterly. Find it, watch it and tell me if I'm wrong.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Robert Kramer, Route One / USA, 1989

Part documentary, part fiction, Doc (Paul McIsaac, excellent) goes “back, not home” to the States after several years abroad, and travels the length of Route One from Maine to Key West, stopping off along the way to help out serving Thanksgiving dinners in a soup kitchen in Bridgeport CT and as a supply teacher in a school in the Bronx, as well as visit an ex-Army buddy and end up living under a bridge in Miami. Accompanied by Robert (the filmmaker of course, who speaks but doesn't appear on camera), it's a moving but melancholy road movie, filmed from October through Christmas 1988 (we join Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson on the campaign trail for a while), refreshingly if surprisingly free from any sign of Reagan's economic success, such as it was. Kramer was a real outsider, eventually settling in France (the music here is provided by another great American expat, Barre Phillips), which also explains why the best review I've read of this is in French. A long one, too. Bonne lecture https://transatlantica.revues.org/6010
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Sidney Lumet, Fail Safe, 1964

Kubrick rather wisely insisted that Columbia - the studio that produced both this and Strangelove in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis - release his pic first. Hard to compete with Peter Sellers and Dame Vera Lynn, but Lumet's tale of a bomber accidentally dispatched to nuke Moscow has much to recommend it (it's not a comedy though), notably a strong cast, with Dan O'Herlihy playing the Good General and Walter Matthau the (ex-Nazi, I wonder?) preemptive strike-loving Scientific Advisor, Larry Hagman (ha, yes) as the interpreter sent down to the bunker with President Fonda to say sorry to the Ruskies. It ends badly for the US too, though I won't spoil that for you.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Dagur Kári, Nói albínói (Noi the Albino), 2003

Well, if you had to spend a winter in Bolungarvik (population 950 according to Wiki) in the remote western fjords of Iceland, you'd probably fall in love with an old View Master reel showing a Hawaiian beach too. This is a touching tale, with that slightly washed-out turquoise sheen that seems to be a hallmark of every Icelandic film I've seen so far, and though it doesn't end all that well for anyone apart from Noi himself, the final shot of those swaying palm trees (reminds me of the ending of Barton Fink) holds out some kind of hope. Looking at the place in wintertime though, I'm mighty glad we'll be taking our holiday there in summer :)
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Jean-Charles Fitoussi, Les jours où je n'existe pas, 2002

Based on a 1936 short story by Marcel Aymé, this is the intriguing tale of Antoine (as he's called in the movie, not in the story) who simply disappears - ceases to exist - every other day from midnight to midnight, and how he manages to fall in love and sustain a relationship with Clémentine, who eventually tells the story to the man (Luis Miguel Cintra, one of Manoel de Oliveira's favourite actors) who narrates the tale to his young nephew (also named Antoine), who eventually enters the story himself and meets up with the real disappearing man.. got all that? Chronology and identity get drawn into a fascinating time loop, which might explain the director's closing shot, a 360° pan around a Mediterranean landscape. Though that could also be a deliberate homage to Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, who Fitoussi worked with as assistant director on Sicilia! (he also made a fine documentary on that experience, Sicilia! si gira, you may recall). Certainly, Straub/Huillet's fondness for shooting at a 45° angle, and their Bresson-inspired flat delivery of carefully written prose (folks round these parts don't use the past subjunctive or the passé simple in normal conversation) have both left their mark. Well worth a look if you like the folks namechecked above.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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John Huston, The African Queen, 1951

No wonder she doesn't look happy. Hepburn was just about the only person on the shoot who didn't drink heavily (Bogart recalled that he and Huston downed so much whisky that "every time a fly bit us it dropped dead") and ended up contracting dysentery instead. I don't know why this film is so admired (7.9 on IMDb.. but then again IMDb ratings aren't anything much to go by) - the plot is utterly implausible, there's no possible way these two characters could ever fall in love with each other, let alone win World War I, the acting is all over the place, the music's terrible.. just about the only thing to commend it is Jack Cardiff's cinematography. In places. The horror, the horror..
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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John Carpenter, In The Mouth Of Madness, 1994

Yeah, those blue rinses used to scare me as a kid too.. What a blast! Deserves to be better known, this HP Lovecraft-inspired headfuck tale of a sceptical insurance investigator who's sent off to find out what happened to elusive horror story author Sutter Cane (based on JC's pal Stephen King) and ends up being part of his nightmarish fiction world himself. Plenty of Carpenter trademark surprises, gore and goofy humour - love it when the inmates of the psychiatric hospital are forced to listen to.. The Carpenters! - with a fine performance from Sam Neill, who's not normally one of my favourite actors, and great cameos from David Warner and.. Charlton Heston :lol: Fun, check it out
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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SAN ANDEAS in 3-D (2015) -- My first and likely last disaster film. Some striking photography and good special effects, but a real bad day for San Francisco, screenwriting, and filmmaking. Despite all the opportunities to exploit my acrophobia, the movie never engaged me physically, and never seemed to aspire to more than that. Formulaic melodrama for the so-called plot.

Only cool thing was that the theater has this new device Image
that you get at the box office and you insert into your seat's drink holder that gives you (in this case my wife, who is hard of hearing) your own private closed captions. Kind of wasted on this film, though.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Nice shot (not the best place to fill your tank though) - and it happened for real once upon a time.. here's where we're going on holiday this year, Thingvellir in Iceland -

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Dan Warburton wrote:[img]John Huston, The African Queen, 1951

No wonder she doesn't look happy. Hepburn was just about the only person on the shoot who didn't drink heavily (Bogart recalled that he and Huston downed so much whisky that "every time a fly bit us it dropped dead") and ended up contracting dysentery instead. I don't know why this film is so admired (7.9 on IMDb.. but then again IMDb ratings aren't anything much to go by) - the plot is utterly implausible, there's no possible way these two characters could ever fall in love with each other, let alone win World War I, the acting is all over the place, the music's terrible.. just about the only thing to commend it is Jack Cardiff's cinematography. In places. The horror, the horror..
Took that out from the library recently since I remembered watching it as a kid, as sort of a feelgood movie which proved that people where human after all since over time the jungle will bring out the inner Albert Schweitzer in the crankiest of us. But yeah this was awful, Bogart in particular. (I seem to remember there's lots of awful performances in Houston films, though sometimes that's just perfect (Monty Clift in Freud!).)

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Clift is terrific in Freud - poor guy was fucked up before shooting started, and Huston pushed him way over the edge :)

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Bertrand Tavernier, Le juge et l'assassin, 1976

I'd forgotten how good this is, and how annoyed I got when I read some of the ridiculous and stupid comments about it on IMDb – happily in the minority. Taking Tavernier to task on account of the screenplay is particularly jawdropping, though if the cretin who did so can write a script better than Aurenche and Bost's, I'd love to read it. S/he might want to learn to spell first, though. No, apart from the closing song, which even the director admits was the wrong way to go out, this is a first class film, based closely on real events – check out the Wiki entry on Vacher, the original serial killer – with magnificent performances from Galabru, Noiret and Brialy, gorgeous location shooting (Pierre-William Glenn, yeah) in the Ardèches and a fine if a little too-high-in-the-mix soundtrack from Philippe Sarde.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Takeshi Kitano, Boiling Point, 1990

Now I know why he calls himself “Beat” - feel so sorry for the girl he slaps around mercilessly here (and it always looks so damn real too – I know those slaps were for real in Violent Cop..). Though – just as well – Kitano's psychopath doesn't stick around long enough to become the film's major character, the wonderfully listless and inscrutable Masaki. As the movie ends where it started – in ... 's death).Always a bit of a cop-out, an ending like that.. but you don't have to believe it if you don't want to. And I still don't understand the rules of baseball.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Jean-Luc Godard, Allemagne Année 90 Neuf Zéro, 1991

Post-Histoire(s) Godards are more or less all like this – peppered with quotes both literary (on screen and spoken, in several languages) and filmic, just enough of them to make you feel uncomfortably dumb. This one is manageable though at just 62 minutes, and not without its moments of humour (love Don Quixote and the Trabant..), but the overriding emotion that its drab green and brown hues seems to stir up is, as is the case with much recent Godard, melancholy. Eddie Constantine's face sums it up beautifully. "Where is the West?"
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