Nikita Mikhalkov, Urga, 1991
Decided to revisit this one, and was not disappointed. Quite apart from the amazing landscapes it was filmed in, it's remained a touching, amusing, quirky and often very moving piece of work. Love it when Gombo walks out of the yurt and then reappears on the TV screen of the programme he was until a minute ago watching.. and that the grandmother spends her time popping the bubbles in the wrapping the TV came in instead of watching George H.W. Bush. (Wouldn't you?) A delight.
Ride The Pink Horse, Robert Montgomery, 1947
While the original title is kind of cryptic, the French one - Et tournent les chevaux de bois aka And turn the wooden horses - is poetic in a way that doesn't say much either about the film, but foreshadows its ride aspect. The film indeed is tremendous fun while not being reserved to children, a bit like the vintage merry-go-round that serves as one of the main decors here and acts as viaticum in one of the film's most threatening scenes. What is marvelous about that masterpiece of film noir is how organically the scenes, resembling in that way Moonfleet by Fritz Lang, seems to segue into one another, thanks to what is a deft script partly written by Ben Hecht. Robert Montgomery is very cool in the main role, radiating some sort of haughty disdain while being likeable at the time. It's set in some fictitious equivalent of Santa Fe, with lots of elements of Mexican folklore - more or less spurious, you tell me. Seem to fit right into the movie though, which has several dialogues in Spanish for instance that are not translated, giving it an air of authenticity. Mandatory watching.
That's good enough for me - it's on its way. Thanks Ben. (BTW, as you were asking about Ferreri I'm sure you've seen that a decent rip of La dernière femme is up now )Lao Tsu Ben wrote:Mandatory watching.
Would like to write something about I Don't Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, even though Armond White's review and that of Variety do the job quite neatly, leaving not much to say, or Black Journal by Bolognini which I saw at the cinema on monday.
Have you got a link to that one? I'm not as big a fan of his as you are, but I did like what he wrote about the last Tarantino. Haven't seen the Radu Jude film yet, but I did treat myself to a dose of Romanian suburban gloom yesterday, as it turns out:Lao Tsu Ben wrote:Would like to write something about I Don't Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, even though Armond White's review
Cristi Puiu, Aurora, 2010
Avoid IMDb user reviews at all cost, and read this instead: https://filmquarterly.org/2010/12/07/ed ... es-aurora/ Those who saw The Death of Mr Lazarescu might recognise some of the characters here, but those who didn't like that one should steer well clear of Aurora, as it's longer, slower and bleaker. Any further discussion of it here will necessarily reveal that Viorel, played by the director himself, gets hold of a shotgun and kills his ex-wife's lawyer, ladyfriend, and mother and father-in-law. But this quote from the above-linked interview doesn't give too much away, and it explains the title, which I was wondering about: "This is a guy who has trouble with others’ identities. A wife is a wife, not an ex-wife or a divorcée. She has to be his wife. He has a very, very rigid vision of the world. That’s why I ended up putting this story of Little Red Riding Hood at the beginning of the film — in order to have a reason, a trigger for his actions. He was preparing for a long time, so why this day? Maybe he was waiting for a confirmation. Maybe that seems very complicated. But that’s why the film is called Aurora. I don’t think that everything is black and white. Aurora—dawn—is the moment when night and day meet. In French this moment is called entre chien et loup [between dog and wolf]."
Paul Joyce, Sam Peckinpah Man of Iron, 2017*
Ten hours of uncut interviews with actors, screenwriters, relatives and crew members - bit of a slog (mostly due to having to put up with Joyce's rather inane questions) but certainly recommended for Peckinpah fans.
Quentin Dupieux, Le daim, 2019
Along with Réalité, Dupieux's best film to date, imo, with great performances from Jean Dujardin and Adèle Haenel. I love the way the film manages to touch on deadly serious issues and still remain uproariously funny, all in 75 minutes, too. Typically quirky - you know you're in Dupieux country when you see Dujardin trying to flush his jacket down the loo in a motorway service station.. and it gets weirder than ever when he turns up in a small town in the Pyrenees, books a cheap hotel room for a month but can't pay for it right away as he's withdrawn 7550€ (!) in cash to buy a.. second-hand deerskin jacket. The first of several articles of clothing - deerskin de rigueur - which lead to disturbingly hilarious changes in his character (not saying more) and in the plot - not only of this film but the film he ends up shooting himself on an obsolete camcorder. How many films do you know that manage to reference both Monty Python's Meaning of Life and Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer? And take a delightful potshot at Pulp Fiction too. Welcome to postpostmodernism. Excellent!
Marco Bellochio, The Traitor, 2019
Excellent - as is this review, to which I have nothing to add https://variety.com/2019/film/reviews/t ... 203224495/
I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, Radu Jude, 2018
In spite of its rather loaded subject, Jude seems far from the gloom that, from what I'm told, characterizes Puiu's filmography. There is some sort of playfulness at work here that nicely counterbalances in the end the proclivity of its protagonists towards smartaleckness. Highbrow references abound, the kind that look more cosmetic than deep, in that film about what is seemingly a forgotten page of Romanian History : the massacre of Romanian Jews during the Second World War. I don't hold that against the movie since it's really a smart and witty exploration of a subject I didn't know anything about, and that willingness to be intellectual, at the risk of being pedantic, is something that I miss in movies nowadays I think, especially French ones (to quote an example : Jude escapes that shallow intellectualism which in my opinion distinguishes late Rivette and his films that were written by Pascal Bonitzer, that said, I'm usually harsher with my fellow countrymen).
The film's title, kind of cool from the outside, reminding me of those bold album titles by Ornette Coleman and the likes, is actually a quote from Antonescu, who ruled over Romania at the beginning of the war and allowed those massacres to take place. The film makes its points by way of a mise en abyme that culminates in a last part which rather strikingly wraps up all that was adressed in the film before and ends up in a kind of anti-climax that feels just right, while leaving some lingering feeling of distress or, more rightly, powerlessness.
Read Armond's review and that of Jessica Kiang after you watch the film. Nothing much to add to what they write, IMO. (I like Armond but it doesn't mean that I don't find him grating quite often!).
https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/i ... 202863055/
https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/ ... -the-year/
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, 2017
Another timely reminder to read Euripides one day..
https://www.vulture.com/2017/10/the-kil ... myths.html
https://www.wickedhorror.com/features/t ... cred-deer/
This is a distressing film, deliberately so - Farrell's Irish intonation is a perfect vehicle for the intentionally stilted declamatory text, Kidman is disturbingly scrawny, but the Grand Prize goes to Barry Keoghan (Martin), who, as the above-linked review says somewhere, can even make eating spaghetti frightening.
i tried this because it sounded like it might be up my alley (wherever that is) but found it unwatchable (for what little that's worth). i very much like beatty in certain films, but he's not much of an actor, and that seemed more of a problem in a film that follows no dramaturgical or psychological logic, as he gave none of the scenes any depth, and also i found the pacing to hectic, again none of the scenes had any room to breathe. so you're stuck with: oh wow it makes no sense. and some nice stan getz licks (though these become rarer as the film goes on). maybe it would have worked better with peter sellers in the lead (though peter sellers films also are unwatchable)?Dan Warburton wrote:
Arthur Penn, Mickey One, 1965
http://www.cineoutsider.com/reviews/blu ... ne_br.html "Mickey One is a pretty fantastic viewing experience wrapped in a superbly uneven movie. It's an oddity in the best sense, and the overlap of interest should be significant. Warren Beatty fans, obviously, need to take a peek. Those who appreciate the cinema of the French New Wave, too, must find time to give it a chance. What really sets the movie apart is just how different it is from its ostensible peers. Penn made nothing else like it and neither did Beatty. One could even say Columbia Pictures made nothing else like it. Strictly on feel it gives off a similar effect as something like John Frankenheimer's Seconds - a movie that you can hardly believe exists even as you watch it. The sheer exhilaration might not be exactly comparable but they're both precious unicorns in the studio system landscape." Indeed they are: this is a real find, well worth checking out, as is the above-linked review. Trailer here: https://alchetron.com/Mickey-One "Guilty of not being innocent", a great line - Pynchon would love that. Check it out!
Lamberto Bava, Body Puzzle, 1992
Can't resist quoting one of IMDb user reviews in full here.. Read if you have no intention of watching the film yourself (though there's not much to spoil, to be honest):
"James Blish's definition of the Idiot Plot is familiar to Bad Movie fans: it's the sort of plot that would be dealt with in seconds by normal people, which only works in the movies if everybody in the cast is an idiot. Body Puzzle is a classic example of the device.
None of the "professional people" in the movie behave as though they knew anything about their jobs. The policemen do things that would have them booted off the force. There's a female psychiatrist who makes snap judgments on patients she's only seen for a few minutes, and shares these judgments with the police as though there was no such thing as doctor-patient confidentiality. There's a medical examiner who makes pronouncements on the times of death that don't fit even remotely with the timeline of the movie (a lot of this is Bava's and the editor's fault, though). We have a lifeguard (it seems to me he's performing his duties a very short time after a kidney replacement, but I don't know about such things) who gets killed in broad daylight in a swimming pool -- but nobody notices! And there are no traces of blood in the water, even though the victim has been dismembered. Then there's the final twist. It's a twist so jaw-droppingly stupid that I would never dream of giving it away.
I will give one bit away, though, to give a further example of how awful the movie is: the hero comes across a freezer chest. Suspense builds as he opens the chest, to find... frozen pasta! Ahh, but underneath the pasta he finds the frozen corpse we've been expecting. Now, at this point, we're expecting the killer to sneak up behind him and surprise him. Everything points to this happening: the camera angles, the music, the rules of bad movie making... so what happens? The killer jumps OUT OF THE FREEZER CHEST! He was hiding UNDER THE BODY, UNDER THE PASTA!! First, how did he get there without assistance, covering himself up with frozen stuff and then closing the lid; second, why didn't he freeze to death, trapped under all that ice; and third, how did he know the hero would stop by and open the freezer? The mind boggles."
Yeah, I somehow don't think the director's dad would have approved.
Ingmar Bergman, A Ship Bound for India, 1947
The really good stuff was a few years down the road (so was Sven Nykvist), but the seeds are certainly there to be seen, as this review and others points out https://fountaininthereddesert.wordpres ... ndia-1946/
"The transition from stage play to film isn’t a smooth one but there is one chilling scene – composed of sights and sounds, and no dialogue – that make it all worth it: creaking noises, dark shadows, pouring sweat and bubbling seawater effectively bring to life the father’s hurried, jealousy-induced attempt to drown his son. A fine display of technical skill in a movie characterized by dense dialogue, the sequence visually evokes the themes of familial decay, reckless despair and tragic insecurities that form the thematic crux of the film."
Jacques Becker, Dernier Atout, 1942
Like many, I suspect, I was drawn to this one after seeing Bertrand Tavernier's magnificent Voyage, in which he recalls that it was this particular flick that opened his eyes to film as an impressionable youngster. It's a complicated tale of two competing police cadets who are set to work on the same case (a rather involved spat between two gangsters over a suitcase full of loot and a pearl necklace), ending up in a spectacular Hawksian nocturnal shootout in a tunnel in the mountains above Nice - though the action is supposed to take place in some fictional Latin American country. For a debut feature it's pretty damn good. Practice yr French: https://www.avoir-alire.com/dernier-atout-la-critique
Tobe Hooper, Lifeforce, 1985
I snatched this because Steve Railsback was in it, having been mightily impressed by him in Kazan's The Visitors and as Manson in Helter Skelter. Reading up about the story of Lifeforce - a totally fucking insane tale of vampires from outer space hiding in a spaceship the size of Belgium tucked away behind Halley's Comet, who, Solaris-like, incarnate themselves in the form Mathilda May (naked throughout, fwiw) and then take over London prompting an outbreak of plague which turns everyone into zombies and destroys everything in sight, including (happily) Buckingham Palace (and its occupants, I trust), the Prime Minister and Home Secretary (hooray!) - I wasn't, shall we say, convinced in it as a potential vehicle for showcasing Mr Railsback's thespian prowess.. But it's so utterly demented I couldn't resist. It's remarkably well-made - though you could say that of the hideous Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (number one is awesome, lest I should be misunderstood) - but I seriously wonder how the cast, which also includes some decent actors (Peter Firth, Frank Finlay..) managed to keep a straight face delivering such atrociously bad dialogue. Monstrous - but very enjoyable! This guy liked it too https://www.rogerebert.com/far-flung-co ... -lifeforce (but then again he also liked TCSM2.. go figure). John Dykstra special effects and a Hank Mancini soundtrack.. plus Mathilda May sucking the lifeforce out of the SAS.. how could you resist?
Anatole Litvak, Cette vieille canaille, 1933
Harry Baur was a mighty actor - sad that he died as the result of injuries sustained when tortured during WWII having been falsely accused of being Jewish - and this tale of a rich surgeon who takes a shine to a young girl working at a local fairground makes for a nice comparison with Renoir's La Chienne, with Michel Simon. The dialogue is sparkling - I look forward to a rip with subtitles one day. Sorry for the fuzzy screenshot, best I could find
Michael Glawogger, Untitled, 2017
If he hadn't died of malaria in Liberia, what would Glawogger have done with this extraordinary footage? We can only imagine, but hats off to Monika Willi for putting it together two years after the director's untimely demise. “The most beautiful film I could imagine is one which would never come to rest." Trailers:
Jean-Daniel Pollet, L'acrobate, 1976
Claude Melki was discovered by Pollet by chance in a dancehall in the 50s, while working as an apprentice tailor in his home town of Saint Denis (where he died "en misère" aged just 55 in 1984), and his character Léon appears in no fewer than five films directed by Pollet (and also Luc Moullet's Brigitte et Brigitte) between 1957 and 1976. Of which L'acrobate, in which Léon, now working as an attendant in a Turkish bath, finally finds love through a passion for dancing tango.
Nagisa Oshima, Gohatto ("Taboo"), 1999
Peter Bradshaw nails it in his Guardian review https://www.theguardian.com/film/2001/aug/03/1 : "The movie's title - which means "code" or "taboo" - is its paradox. The samurai have dozens and dozens of rules governing almost every aspect of their behaviour, but there seems to be no explicit rule against homosexuality. The men's yearning for Kano is gruffly noted by their superiors and is perhaps shared by one; it is transgressive, yet somehow everywhere." And, later: "The strange erotic tensions accumulated during the movie are never discharged in battle. More often than not, the samurai's enclosed male society looks like nothing so much as a British public school, with all its pashes and crushes; it is as if Oshima had remade Another Country." Nice one.. But Oshima's smartest move is to cast Takeshi Kitano as one of the head honchos - as Bradshaw puts it, "Kitano's face is impassive, except for his now familiar tic, but he is often suppressing a grin or a spluttering laugh, especially when he playfully tells a subordinate that he must take Kano to a brothel to introduce him to women. As the camera drinks in the full splendour of Beat Takeshi in his 19th-century samurai outfit, there is another insight to be had into the enigma of Kitano's dual career interest in violence and broad comedy. Can it be possible that Japan's favourite yakuza-hard man/children's entertainer is sending it up a tiny bit?"