Catherine Breillat, Une vieille maitresse, 2007
What's in a name? Well, everything - you just ask Maurice Micklewhite and Archibald Alexander Leach. I have to say Fu'ad Aït Aattou doesn't trip off the tongue but his performance in Breillat's adaptation of Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly's 1851 novel is simply stunning. Breillat spotted the young man (born in 1980 to a Moroccan father, hence the name), who'd previously appeared in only a few commercials, in a café in Paris and hired him on the spot. "J’ai tout de suite su que, s’il savait jouer, il serait Ryno [de Marigny, in the film]. Pour la première fois, j’ai trouvé cette beauté fulgurante, féminine sans être efféminée, que j’ai toujours cherchée. Ce fut un coup de cœur absolu, celui dont je rêvais depuis toujours." Quite apart from being something to look at - touches of the young DiCaprio - he's got a speaking voice to match. If he'd been born 25 years ago and been in the right place at the right time, he'd have been the perfect Tadzio in Death In Venice. But that's just, like, my opinion, man. Anyway, enough of him: this is basically Asia Argento's show, and what a fine actress she turned out to be. The daft critic who moaned about her accent could perhaps have been reminded of the fact that she's Italian and playing a Spanish woman, but enough of that. Great casting throughout, wonderfully shot (I doubt I'll be able to face Valmont or Dangerous Liaisons ever again). Deserves to be better known, check it out.
Yes, and Toby Kebbell has managed to grow into quite the annoying actor himself. I don't know how far into the Black Mirrors you got, but he stars in one of the least interesting (the one not scripted by Charlie Brooker). And this film: the guy with the makeup on his face, isn't that some boxer or other? Meadows is a hack.Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Sun Oct 04, 2020 11:42 pm
Shane Meadows, Dead Man's Shoes, 2004
Considine is excellent, but the rest of the cast aren't all that brilliant, and the editing is uneven (OK, so it was a low-budget affair and cast and crew went everywhere together in a camping car blabla.. nothing to brag about, because it looks cheap at times) - I fail to understand the ecstatic reviews over at IMDb. Then again, I often do.
Jean-Jacques Annaud, Le nom de la rose, 1986
Superlatives abound if you look this one up online, but I found it rather dull, myself. Wiki: "Director Jean-Jacques Annaud once told Umberto Eco that he was convinced the book was written for only one person to direct: himself." Let's have a bit of humility, as my Dad used to say.. I'm not averse to such monstrous ego self-trumpeting when it's Orson Welles (insufferable though he can be), but Annaud's not in the same league, even if he thinks he is. No, I haven't read the book - but, thanks to the film I guess, it seems a helluva lot of people have - though I'm sure it's much better than the movie. Eco didn't want Connery, but he's OK - Christian Slater otoh is singularly unimpressive. Nice exterior locations, but much of the film takes place indoors. Dimly lit and dimly edited. Underwhelmed.
Tony Richardson, A Delicate Balance, 1973
Not as steamy and hormonally charged as the other celebrated adaptation of an Edward Albee play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but the booze certainly flows here too. Magnificent cast - I'm no great fan of Hepburn (either of them), but Katherine's Agnes is just right. Paul Scofield, too. And Kate Reid is pitch perfect for the clairvoyant if permanently half-sozzled sister. Depends, I guess, if you like movies that are basically filmed plays; Albee's curious cocktail of Theatre of the Absurd meets F. Scott Fitzgerald isn't to everyone's taste, but if you enjoyed watching Burton and Taylor tearing each other to bits in Who's Afraid you'll appreciate this. Here are a couple of theatre critics having a go at it: https://parterre.com/2020/06/13/rust-bo ... -the-wind/
Philippe Le Guay, Alceste à bicyclette, 2013
Gauthier Valence (Lambert Wilson) stops off at the Ile de Ré to talk his old pal Serge Tanneur (Fabrice Luchini) into coming out of self-enforced retirement to play in Molière's 1666 masterpiece Le Misanthrope, the deal being they take turns in playing Alceste and Philinte - until the arrival of Francesca (Maya Sansa) throws a cat among the pigeons, as it were. Divine though she is, two's company and three's a crowd: the ensuing love plot derails the rehearsal schedule, and the principal attraction of the film (for me) and its central conceit, i.e. finding those precise connections between Molière's 300-year-old alexandrins and modern life, slips out of focus somewhat. Still, wonderful to hear Wilson and Luchini (an acquired taste for some, but I'm a fan) making such intricate poetry come to life.
Guy Hamilton, Funeral in Berlin, 1966
I was watching Soderbergh's amusing Harry Palmer mash-up Wild About Harry - you can, too: it's here http://extension765.com/soderblogh/28-wild-about-harry - and realised I hadn't seen the second of three films in which Michael Caine plays Len Deighton's bespectacled secret agent (whose name btw was not Deighton's idea: in the books he's unnamed). And very good it is too, if Berlin Wall spy intrigues are your thing. OK, the music's not as good as John Barry's in The IPCRESS File and the supporting cast could be better, but Caine's terrific and Guy "Goldfinger" Hamilton keeps things moving at a brisk pace. Super cameo too for Oskar Homolka too as the genial Colonel Stok.
Woody Allen, Husbands and Wives, 1992
Christ, I'm a glutton for punishment, for sure. OK, so working through the Allen back catalogue here as you know, and it really is a mixed bag. This one in particular, despite its rave reviews, drove me absolutely up the fucking wall. Especially the fact that each of the characters in the story is interviewed at some point by someone who is presumably an analyst - and that's you, dear viewer. Personally, I'd have preferred it if Woody had spent the budget of this self-indulgent (and not all that funny) nosedive into his own navel on a real shrink and got himself straightened out once and for all. One of many infuriating things is how he invariably manages to make almost everyone in the cast sound like - and behave like - he does. Mia and Judy Davis and Juliette Lewis all talk like little female Woodies. Even Sydney Pollack doesn't escape 100% intact (though I've always liked him as an actor). It's a real wank. And the wobbly handheld photos and jumpcuts just look like cheap "let's do a Cassavetes, let's do a Godard" stunt - they serve no purpose, as far as I can make out.
Anthony Mann, Side Street, 1949
Splendid little noir, here's a quote from the Wiki page: "Side Street is a triumph of visual savvy and moral exactitude—-a scurrying spectacle of dog-cat-and-mouse throughout the veiny streets of New York City. The Big Apple comes alive via a nervy mix of photojournalistic shots of people on the move and hieratic [formal] compositions that give the squeeze to Farley Granger's Joe Norton..." (Ed Gonzalez, Slant] Critic Nathan Gelgud wrote "Because it's an Anthony Mann movie, Side Street is similarly interested in detail, as well as great action sequences and even greater locations. The best stuff is inside a bar where Farley Granger leaves a bundle of stolen money. The scenes in the bar are the ones that come immediately to mind when you think of Side Street because the details are spot-on, and Mann constructs the place with the depth of the academy frame he’s so good at utilizing."
Amos Poe - Alphabet City (1984)
An intriguing fuck-up, this. Vincent Spano stars as Johnny, a mob operative in the titular area of Manhattan. Wearying of the life he leads, with artist girlfriend and tiny baby, he is tasked with the quite incredulous task of torching the building where his mother and sister lives, and things come to a head over one night. It starts out fine, with a shitload of shots of the Lower East Side, very insistent Nile Rodgers music, Johnny’s Pontiac tearing through rain-slicked streets. What exposition there is happens a little bit in the background, something said on the soundtrack, then more shots of the car on the streets. I’m reminded a little bit of Gone in 60 Seconds: narrative cohesion be damned, we’re here to shoot cars, show cars, chase cars. And it goes on like this, which is the strength and appeal of the film. So little time is devoted to buildup or exposition that everything has to happen quickly and messily, in the frame. If you have Exterior: Street outside a night club, not only do you need men and women dressed to the nines and beefy bouncers, but of course breakdancers, neon, flashy cars. Things and objects don’t point to a wider narrative structure or idea, but inwards, to themselves as fleshed graphs and symbols. Makes for a stimulating sort of street poetry - I especially like the scenes with Johnny’s wired street operative Lippy. It points to both the nouvelle vague and to the most sleek of noir or New Hollywood - it could remind you of Anthony Mann, John Carpenter, Dennis Hopper in Colors. Sidney Lumet or even John Cassavetes are obvious antecedents. Unfortunately, Poe doesn’t really have a handle on that economy, for a few reasons. First, the garish look of the film. “Stylish,” I read somewhere - yeah, congestively so. This makes Miami Vice look like Rohmer: impressive to shoot on location in Manhattan and make it look this over the top. Must have been hell to cast all those gels on buildings and alleys, if it isn’t done with filters in postproduction. You choke on it after a while though. Second, everything is splashed up on the screen in heavy quotation marks. You don’t have mobsters, you have Mobsters, Sleazebag Club Owners, Junkie Fuckups. Vincent Spano is clad in Leather. Difficult to shake the sense of disingenuous caricature. Churlish, maybe: Fassbinder did the same in Liebe ist kälter als der tod, and I don’t hear myself complaining about Ferrara’s King of New York. Still, it feels a bit amateurish, for all its accomplishments.
Too true - jay-sus, shut the fuck up already. Another fun counting game: clock how many four-or-more syllable words Chayefsky culled from whatever dictionary or second rate science textbook he did his "research" in. Piss on him, kudos to Russell for belting through all billion words of it. It really takes some writing to make William Hurt an obnoxious prick, but here you are, viewers, you're welcome. But, as you say, the special effects are awfully awesome, or awesome because awful, so a bit of a delight it remains. But, for endoexoprimordialmutatingfragicabbalisticblahwhatever, give me Akira, or Videodrome, any day.Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Thu Jan 07, 2016 1:46 am
Ken Russell, Altered States, 1980
"No one is gonna tell me you de-differentiated your goddamn genetic structure for four goddamn hours and then reconstituted! I'm a Professor of Endocrinology at the Harvard Medical School. I'm an attending physician at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital! I'm a Contributing Editor to the American Journal of Endocrinology and a I am a fellow and Vice-President of the Eastern Association of Endocrinologists and President of the Journal Club! And I'm not going to listen to any more of your kabbalistic, quantum, friggin' dumb limbo mumbo jumbo! I'm gonna show these to a radiologist!"
See the problem? Too many bloody words - but that's Paddy "Network" Chayefsky for you, and apparently his contract stipulated that nobody could change one of them without his permission. Arthur Penn was originally slated to direct, but left in a huff, probably saying "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Ken Russell's solution was to railroad through Paddy's pretentious claptrap at high speed (count the number of times Bob Balaban and Charles Haid speak at the same time), much to the author's displeasure. And it worked - you probably can't recall more than a couple of memorable quotes from this movie, but you sure as hell won't forget that seven-eyed sheep.. I love Russell's special effects - I've never gone for the idea that the best SFX are the ones that look most "realistic". Jurassic Park? I'll take Voyage dans la lune. Nobody who ever went to a Sun Ra gig really believed that this geezer with the motheaten cape and tinfoil hat actually beamed down from Saturn, but so what? The Arkestra kicked ass. Anyway, bravo William Hurt and Miguel Godreau (primal man) - shame about the terrible ending, though. He should have gone out like David Naughton in American Werewolf in London
Grímur Hákonarson, Héraðið ("The County"), 2019)
Well this chap seems to like it https://jaredmobarak.com/2019/08/26/the-county/ but, enormous fan of all things Icelandic that I am - with the exception of fermented shark - I was a tad bored at times. Old story, the widow takes on the establishment, here in the form of the local farmers' collective who are forcing their members to buy and sell through them rather than allow them go it alone as entrepreneurs (the word the French don't have a word for, as Baby Bush once memorably said). I mean, it's not as if we're talking child abuse and kilos of heroin (for once - seems to be plenty of both in Iceland if their cinema is anything to go by). But maybe her husband's suicide was more suspicious than it looked. Dunno, the ending was spoiled by the utterly horrendous pop song our heroine sings along with as she drives into the glorious Reykjavik free market paradise. No, don't ask me who sang it, I just don't want to know. Watch the director's Rams instead, that was a good one.
Sergio Grieco, La belva col mitra ("The Mad Dog Killer" aka "Ferocious"), 1977
Sometimes I'll admit to the guilty pleasure of enjoying a totally shit movie, and they don't come much shittier than this one. No, I didn't pick it because QT had Melanie watching it during Jackie Brown (had forgotten that, actually) - it was freeleech over at KG so WTF. No "that's not Rutger Hauer it's Helmut Berger" obviously the last guy you can imagine as a sex-crazed rapist. Even without background knowledge of Mr Berger's sexual proclivities the rape scene is hilarious. Come to think of it, everything is hilarious: the plot (such as it is) is silly, and rendered even more so by inexplicably bad editing. All the acting is atrocious, and that alas includes Helmut, who I suppose was only doing it for the money (or maybe they gave him the pair of sunglasses he's wearing, because they are cool), and I just can't decide what's worse: the music or its utterly inappropriate use. Plus the sound effects - screeching brakes, innumerable thumps and slaps - are amplified to Hans Zimmer pain threshold. https://www.bmania.no/2016/03/review-ma ... ller-1977/ Yikes.
Joseph Losey, The Romantic Englishwoman, 1975
After the horrors of Mad Dog Killer, I decided I had to rehabilitate Helmut Berger, and this did the job nicely: stellar casting (Michael Caine, Glenda Jackson, but watch out too for Michel Lonsdale and Nathalie Delon), sumptuous locations, excellent Reginald Beck montage and - most importantly - a tantalisingly enigmatic script by Tom Stoppard and Thomas Wiseman based on the latter's novel (he wasn't all that pleased with Stoppard's dialogue btw). Abridged Wiki plot summary: "Elizabeth, bored wife of a successful pulp writer in England, leaves husband and child and runs away to the German town of Baden-Baden. There she meets Thomas, who claims to be a poet but whom viewers know to be a petty thief, conman, drug courier and gigolo. Though the two are briefly attracted to each other, she returns home. He, hunted by gangsters for a drug consignment he has lost, follows her to England. Lewis, highly suspicious of his wife, invites the young man to stay with them and act as his secretary. Initially resenting the presence of the handsome stranger, Elizabeth one night starts an affair and the two run away with no money to the south of France. Lewis follows them, he in turn being followed by the gangsters looking for Thomas." JR wasn't overly impressed https://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2019/ ... 75-review/ but I'm inclined to think that some of his reservations turn out to be strengths (see what you think). Like Secret Ceremony, deserves to be better known. I suspect both Reisz (The French Lieutenant's Woman) and Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut) were aware of it too.
Oh, I just LOVE Peter Maxwell Davies' music in The Devils! I remember, pre-Discogs days, going on the hunt for that recording, coming up with nothing. Still true, I fear. That really is a soundtrack begging to be issued, along with Birtwistle and Zinovieff's The Offence. But, I guess there are still a few vaults of Riz Ortolani rehearsal tapes to go through before any chance of that. Sigh. Tommy: well, I might hold my nose and dive in, I absolutely hate The Who. Lisztomania, yes, you speak highly of it, and I am on a bit of a Russell tip right now (loved Billion Dollar Brain!). The Devils, I remember, was a bit too intense for my tender twenty year old self, I must give it another look.
Word, that was great. I wish I'd known about that film when I met Zinovieff at university (hilarious memories - he couldn't remember how to work his own synthesizer )henriq wrote: ↑Fri Oct 23, 2020 5:51 amOh, I just LOVE Peter Maxwell Davies' music in The Devils! I remember, pre-Discogs days, going on the hunt for that recording, coming up with nothing. Still true, I fear. That really is a soundtrack begging to be issued, along with Birtwistle and Zinovieff's The Offence.
Aww, they're not as bad as all that! Open up a can of baked beans and bon appétit! Meanwhile, The Devils is his masterpiece, I reckon - Derek Jarman's sets are cool, and it's maybe Oliver Reed's finest hour..
Julien Duvivier, Le Diable et les Dix Commandements, 1962
A patchy but nonetheless interesting film à sketchs - only seven of them (not much you can do with "thou shalt not covet your neighbour's slaves" is there?), mixing comedy (1, 2, 6 and 7), melodrama - or rather what the French call comédie dramatique (nice fudge) (4) and serious drama (3, 5). Here's a neat little plot summary by an IMDb punter: "1) Jerôme Chambard, a retired man, taken in by nuns in a convent, swears like a trooper. 2) Françoise takes a lover because he has promised her a diamond necklace. 3) Denis, a seminarist, decides to renounce his vows to avenge his sister. 4) God in person lands at a remote farm and works miracles there. 5) Pierre learns that his mother is not his mother, but a famous actress. 6) Didier, a bank clerk, teams up with a bank thief after being fired by the manager 7) Jerôme Chambard is invited to Sunday lunch by his friend the bishop and by dint of drinking to their friendship the holy man cannot remember the ten commandments anymore." The Rene Chateau DVD trumpets "dialogue by Michel Audiard" as a selling point, but in fact he only penned one of these - number 6 - and it's suspiciously similar to (but nowhere near as good as) his Carambolages (see reviews passim), complete with Brialy and de Funès trading fours. The others are written either by Henri Jeanson or René Barjavel. The casting is impressive - Michel Simon plays the foul-mouthed old Chambard very well; Charles Aznavour plays the lapsed priest out to get Lino Ventura the local mafia boss; Fernandel plays God (!) but the standout performance is Alain Delon as Pierre in the fifth sketch. It's an odd collection, and despite ending with two funnier scenes, the gravity of the cental three sketches leaves a bitter aftertaste. See what you make of it, if it comes your way.
Christian-Jacque, Les bonnes causes, 1963
http://www.frenchfilms.org/review/les-b ... -1963.html A wordy but distressingly cynical tale, with hair-raising performances from Marina Vlady and Pierre Brasseur as the wife and her lover/lawyer determined to pin the murder of her husband on the family nurse, and Bourvil the investigating magistrate who eventually has to declare defeat. The young lions of the New Wave heaped scorn on the likes of Christian-Jacque, but the last laugh was on them - despite its harsh darkness the film was a box office success. And despite its lack of expletives and physical violence, it gave my wife nightmares. So see what you make of it.
Stephen Frears, Dirty Pretty Things, 2002
As I teach folks who work in the cinema business from time to time, and know well how scripts can be mauled by producers well in advance of a film ever being shot, I wonder if the folks at Miramax (we know who they are) put some pressure on Frears and his scriptwriter Steven Knight to make this otherwise miserable tale of illegal immigrant exploitation in London's seamy underbelly end "happily". Everything's just fine until about 20 minutes from the end, when several utterly unnecessary twists in the plot (there was no need to remove Sneaky Juan's kidney at all after he'd been drugged - Okwe and Senay could just have jumped into the car downstairs and made a beeline for the airport, as they already had their fake passports; and the cursory details of Okwe's own backstory and how he had to flee Nigeria are entirely superfluous) and the "I love you"s at the airport make the whole thing mawkish and sickly sweet. I also wonder what the film would have been like if it had been directed by Ken Loach, Mike Leigh or Alan Clarke, Frears' esrtwhile left-leaning colleagues from BBC kitchen sink drama. Especially Clarke, who might have had the sense to see that there is no happy end to this dreary tale of life's losers: Senay would end up in some shitty job in a dirty café in New York, and Okwe would be driving cabs in Queens (forget about his cute lickle daughter).
Jean-Claude Brisseau, Des jeunes femmes disparaissent, 1972 / 1976 / 2014
The 1972 grainy b&w Super-8 original was put together as a student homage to Hitchcock - the soundtrack, stuck on afterwards, combines Bernard Herrmann's Psycho (well, what else) with - gulp - Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. Curious choice indeed for a film whose brutality - including rape and child murder - gave Eric Rohmer nightmares. Brisseau reworked the idea in colour four years later, with Ligeti's Lontano replacing the Oldfield (another odd choice in my opinion, as that's not exactly scary either - he should have gone for the Dies Irae from the Requiem.. but I guess Kubrick's smash and grab raid for 2001 ruled that one out). Fast forward to 2014 and JCB's mucking around with 3D, and takes advantage of the situation to include a long lesbian love scene over encrusted special effects of volcanoes erupting and galaxies spiraling ecstatically around. Yep, it looks as tacky as it sounds. But, wtf, it's an intriguing exercise in style and it's nice to hear the director in 2018 explaining the backstory. Brisseau fans will enjoy - if you're coming to his work for the first time, start elsewhere.