Nanni Moretti, Aprile, 1997
Another acquired taste, perhaps: it's amusing to read the negative IMDb user reviews taking Moretti to task for not making the political documentary about Berlusconi and Bossi and instead focusing on the joys (and anxieties) of becoming a father, but that's the whole f**king point of the film, isn't it? Any father who's ever bathed, changed and played with his child can't fail to be moved watching Nanni and his son (it is his son too) rolling around in a sea of newspaper clippings. And if you can't enjoy the closing scene with the pasticcere and his crew dancing to Perez Prado's "Why Wait", I reckon there's something wrong with you. But in terms of cinematic craft there's much to admire here: some spectacular shots - love the cruise liner gliding into view behind him in Venice, the receding shot of him dancing alone on the banks of the Tiber (I think it's the Tiber), the Albanian refugees arriving on their rusty ferry.. - and the editing and pacing is tight and accomplished. He packs a lot into 78 minutes. Of course, the downside - if you don't like Moretti - is that he's all over every scene, and rarely shuts up.
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:24 am
Baltasar Kormákur, A Little Trip to Heaven, 2005
It's a Featured Torrent at KG, and if you haven't snatched it I'd strongly recommend this stylish neo-noir (very Nordic, those filters make everything look like it came out of The Element of Crime or Män som hatar kvinnor). Supposedly set in Minnesota but filmed in Iceland, the only weak spots are the ending (a bit limp) and Forest Whitaker's truly bizarre accent (he obviously never got over that IRA kidnapping in The Crying Game). But strong performances all round, classy camerawork and great colour. Nice
This was excellent - I see you mean above, but I enjoyed the shallowness of it all: how do you do a Melville or a Sautet or a Dassin noir post-A bout de souffle? Like this! Nice write-up again, Ben, thanks. I'll be checking that Lautner out shortly too, on your recommendationLao Tsu Ben wrote: ↑Thu Jan 14, 2021 9:12 am
Lucky Jo, Michel Deville, 1964
Deville's direction is as elegant as they come and well-complimented by Nina Companeez's sharp, witty lines - though just a tad too ironical, just like the film as a whole. The opening looks like Pierre Etaix filming some Westlake's bits of Dortmunder (same remark has been made in this review) and the mix of melancholy and burlesque, to the sound of a fitting soundtrack by Delerue, seems to strike a perfect balance. The problem is that Deville is almost never serious enough, his is the standpoint of an aesthete, detached, ironical, playful, all things I like and favor, but also regrettably shallow. In that sense, the wistfulness of the first few scenes tend to disappear into thin air once things get going, that is, fights and bodies accumulate, and the tragic overtones are too elusive to scrape at the comic-book aloofness de rigueur that's perhaps associated with Eddie Constantine. One "merci Jo" at the end has that tragic, though discreet quality, that characterizes a good série noire but has been a bit lacking. Very impressive camerawork through and through.
Adam Curtis, Can't Get You Out Of My Head, 2001
Though I still essentially agree with Tom Waits's closing lines in Jim Jarmusch's zombie movie - "We're fucked!" - there's a glimmer of hope at the end of Curtis's latest sprawling eight-hour six-episode "emotional history of the modern world" (he could also have called it "Operation Mindfuck", in honour of one of the many characaters who pop up throughout the series, Discordianism's co-founder Kerry Thornley). As usual, the filmmaker juggles various stories throughout, digging up intriguing cross-connections in an exhausting piece of virtuoso montage accompanied by an excellent choice of music (old Curtis faves like Aphex Twin and Messiaen reappear, but there's some great stuff I'd never heard of - Shazam got busy). Mercifully light on Brexit and Trump (but Dominic Cummings certainly features), where else could you find Michael X (seen above with John and Yoko's shorn locks), Jiang Qing, Tupac Shakur? Alas, despite the title, Kylie Minogue doesn't appear.. What do I think? Still reeling, but I happen to agree with much in the two reviews below, haha
Pro: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radi ... curtis-bbc
Con: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/inc ... d-reviewed
Various, Les ponts de Sarajevo, 2014
Cannes promo blurb: "13 European directors explore the theme of Sarajevo and what this city represents in European history over the past hundred years, and what Sarajevo incarnates today in Europe. From different generations and origins, these eminent filmmakers offer many singular styles and visions. François Schuiten, famous Belgian comic book artist (Cities of the Fantastic) imagined animated cartoon links in between these films, a metaphoric transposition in his graphically luxuriant world of the emblematic bridges of the city of Sarajevo."
No IMDb user reviews (maybe a blessing), but a rather good write-up here: https://variety.com/2014/film/festivals ... 201195101/
Like the reviewer, I didn't care all that much for those cartoons, but I guess you need a little light relief between the shorts. Interesting to see how another journalist came to very different conclusions: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/m ... f-sarajevo Of course, to compare the two points of view, you'll have to watch the film, and it's not one of the cheeriest experiences, as you can well imagine. Some of the shorts were too, well, short, too elliptical, but the advantage of a film à sketchs is that you don't have to watch it all in one go.
Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, La maison des Bories, 1970
A splendid adaptation of a 1932 novel by Simonne Ratel telling the simple (seemingly) tale of a young German geology student (Mathieu Carrière plays Carl-Stéphan, and very well too) who arrives in Provence to help translate the latest thesis of a rather overbearing père de famille (Maurice Garrel, exceptional) and gets entangled - well, you'll see - with his wife (Marie Dubois, excellent) and garners the affection of their two young children, until.. no, you watch it. Beautifully filmed by Ghislain Cloquet - say no more - it's another damn good little film that really deserves a 4k remaster and a handsome BluRay release.
René Clément, Les félins, 1964
Funny, I thought I'd already written about this one when I saw it last (a while ago..) - apparently not. I'm a bit miffed I couldn't read the (unfavourable) Joan Didion review in Vogue (paywall, forget it), because she writes so well - but I can hazard a guess at what she might have written. The film exists in a French and an English version - Joy House, a stupid title if ever there was one, leading you to expect a romcom, which it sure ain't - and I think I saw the French version last time round. Whether Clément filmed two versions or merely overdubbed, I'm not sure: the actors here are certainly speaking English. Maybe that's why Delon comes across as so utterly detestable - you'd have thought that a playboy wouldn't have been able to resist to not inconsiderable charms of Jane Fonda (but she gets her wicked way in the end, which I won't spoil) - I suspect it's better in French. Anyway, on: set in and around Nice, it's the tale of our (anti)hero Marc who's on the run from some rather inept NY hitmen out to take his head back as a trophy to their boss, by way of punishment for his (Marc's) banging his (the boss's) wife. He's eventually taken in by Fonda and her older cousin - Lola Albright, equally gorgeous, both of whom have some dark secrets to hide in their house, along with an art collection that rivals the Fondation Maeght up the road (man, I'd love that Giacometti in my front room..). Follows an intriguing game of cat and mouse, accompanied by a glorious - if a little excessive - Lalo Schifrin soundtrack and some classy photography courtesy Henri Decae. "As good as an [sic] Hitchcock!" crows one of the IMDb punter reviews, and with its over-the-top campiness and fine performances from the leading trio, s/he could be right.. French version next time, though.
Corneliu Porumboiu, La Gomera ("The Whistlers"), 2019
Strange as it seems, there is indeed a local whistling language used by the inhabitants of the remote Canary island La Gomera to communicate with each other across distant and hard-to-access mountain valleys https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silbo_Gomero though, upon reflection, there's no real reason for its inclusion in what is essentially a classic noir dolled up with (too) many post-Tarantino stylistic flourishes. Hard to believe that a sultry femme fatale - named Gilda (haha - well, it was either that or Laura), and played by Catrinel Marlon - would fall for a pale, balding and, well, thoroughly insignificant cop like Cristi (Vlad Ivanov), who is, as this review https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the- ... eview-2020 rightly points out, little more than "a walking plot device"; even harder to swallow that she might one day come to his rescue and spirit him off to, of all horrendous places, Singapore. Far from being what Bradshaw calls a "a neat and unexpected coda", it's an utterly implausible ending (the director should have pulled the plug after Cristi's run over in the forest), and I can only imagine it was included because Porumboiu fancied a few days' holiday in Singapore (idem La Gomera, actually: anything to get out of Bucharest). Still, for all its many faults, it's intriguing, a film about watching, and being watched: surveillance is the key word - almost everyone is being filmed or bugged, and most know they are - and we spectators are of course watching all the time. Add obvious references like Iggy Pop's "The Passenger" and (an extract from) Ford's The Searchers and it's not hard to see why the movie got shortlisted for Cannes. But.. that dreadful plastic Garden Rhapsody ending, ugh. Well see what you think..
Gaspar Noé, Lux Aeterna, 2019
Well, this chap liked it https://students.washington.edu/film/20 ... eversible/ and this one didn't https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/m ... gaspar-noe Me? I nodded off. Even the epileptic seizure-inducing flashing lights didn't have much effect. Who did he make this for? Yves Saint Laurent ostensibly - but it's hard to imagine that esteemed fashion house being able to use it to shift product... "For himself" is the answer. Gaspar's been tagged as "auteur-provocateur" since Irréversible (if not before: I still reckon Seul contre tous needs some beating), and clearly loves it. But there's nothing particularly provocative about this navel-gazing self-referential movie-about-a-movie starring stars-playing-themselves. Only 51 minutes long, though: a plus point, that.
Pierre Zucca, Rouge-gorge, 1985
The third of only four films Pierre Zucca directed before his early death aged 51 in 1995, though you have probably seen his stills photography - for Franju, Truffaut, Eustache and Rivette (the black and white shots framing each episode of Out 1 are Zucca's). Here's a truncated DeepL'ed plot summary, incomplete so as not to spoil your fun. "When Louis Ducasse leaves on a business trip, his daughter Reine discovers the mysteries that surround his life and that intrigue her. He asks her to give a package to Philippe, his stockbroker. She discovers it's a video cassette and watches it, seeing a gang of young bikers handing out bundles of notes. What is their relationship with Louis and Philippe? She decides to keep the tape. Then she receives a visit from a certain Marguerite who has come to return a bag of gold coins to her father... [..]" It's much more interesting than that, of course: the relationship between Reine and her father (played by father and daughter Philippe and Laetitia Léotard.. and one of the other characters is played by the director's son.. it's a family affaaaaair) is left tantalisingly ambiguous - the ending is terrific - and the narrative subtly skewed. The following review https://www.senscritique.com/film/Rouge ... e/87145420 (French only, tant pis pour vous) is spot on to call out Rivette: if you enjoyed Le Pont du Nord, try this. No subs alas on this rip - I see there is a 4DVD boxset, already hard to find, dunno if that has subs.. A vous de jouer.
Claudia Heuermann, A Bookshelf on Top of the Sky (12 Stories about John Zorn), 2004
"There’s nothing wrong with a documentarian in love with her subject, but there is when, by extrapolation, that subject is herself." So ends the Variety review. Agreed. Stalker might have been a better title. For all the fine footage of Zorn in action - and there's plenty - the director can't resist including herself, recycling useless answerphone messages from the elusive Mr Z (with whom she never manages to set up a decent interview, though he's obviously given her film an official seal of approval by releasing it on Tzadik), padding what is essentially a rather thin story out with repetition and "artistic" jumpcut montage of NYC streets and rooftops.. It's a bore. Any Zornie - and I was one for a long time, racing around buying every Zorn disc I could get my paws on (back in the early 90s the FNAC record stores had a special JOHN ZORN!! sticker they used to slap on anything he'd had any connection with at all, and I got them all) - knows all the stories about Carl Stalling, hardcore, etc etc. And anyone coming to Zorn for the first time will probably be so pissed off at having to look at Claudia looking at herself, they might not make it to the end. Always good to see Ribot in action - Zorn's never been much to look at, as a saxophonist - but check out Anaïs Prosaïc's La corde pendue documentary instead (see above, somewhere).
Yoshishige Yoshida, Onna no mizûmi ("Woman of the Lake"), 1966
https://cinema-talk.com/2015/10/12/onna ... lake-1966/ Intelligent review of a fine film - whole essays could be written on this one (probably have been). First Yoshida I've seen, but I'm sure my japanophile pal Henrik can point me in the direction of others
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland, 2020
By way of background research, I googled "Empire, Nevada" - which our heroine Fern is forced to leave when the local gypsum mine closes down and her husband dies - and took the little yellow man for a drive along the deserted roads of northwestern Nevada. A virtual roadtrip on Google Maps is probably going to be the only foreign holiday I get this year. Yikes. They even deleted the zip code. Anyway, hard to find a negative review of this unless - of course - you browse the perennially amusing IMDb users' reviews, and sure enough, there are some choice examples, mostly written by real nomad / van dwellers taking Zhao and Frances McDormand to task for a) eating canned food b) not carrying a spare tyre c) not having a dog etc, or by vitriolic conspiracy theorists bemoaning the near-certainty of Nomadland sweeping the board at this year's Oscars. Or - and more interesting - describing the film as "pretentious" just because it's.. well, quite slow. Pretentious ("attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed") is about the last adjective you could choose, as far as I'm concerned; Zhao's way of working, using predominantly non-actors - real life nomads Linda May, Charlene Swankie and Bob Wells play major roles, and often seem to be "acting" more than McDormand - and DOP Joshua James Richards, whose eye for landscape and light recalls the mighty Nestor Almendros's work in Days of Heaven. Much more so than Emmanuel Lubezki's in the recent Malicks, which several punters have namechecked, for reasons I don't really understand - Barbara Loden, Kelly Reichardt, Lodge Kerrigan and Jon Jost would make for a more sensible comparison. But the folks in Nomadland aren't wounded, suicidal depressives: melancholy and emotionally fragile, sure, but imbued with the commonsense no-bullshit strength of a Raymond Carver character. McDormand's performance is exemplary - the story goes she spent time living a van herself during the shoot (living the part, ha..) - which makes me wonder whether she's really acting when she uses the horrible portable toilet "loudly and abundantly" (to quote George Orwell). Seems it's now hip to dump on Chloé and her film, but I ain't hip.
Georges Lautner, Ne nous fâchons pas, 1966
Lautner made the most of his first outing in colour, bright reds and greens sharing the screen with the spectacular Riviera landscape. It's a film that really enjoys itself and won't take itself seriously, with a thoroughly daft plot: Lino Ventura, Michel Constantin and Jean Lefebvre are pursued by a gang of overgrown English public schoolboys - complete with caps! - led by "The Colonel", a dapper effete character somewhere between Wilfred Hyde White and Jean Poiret (Tommy Duggan, in fact). Typically juicy Audiard dialogue, which the cast seems to relish delivering (my imagination, or did Lino Ventura actually smile there, for once?). Great fun. File alongside similarly wacky mid-60s fare like Modesty Blaise, Our Man Flint and Danger Diabolik.
Agnès Varda, 7p., cuis., s. de b., ... à saisir, 1984
"An unusual visit to a large, empty apartment. But is it empty or not? Maybe a family has lived there or is going to live there. Maybe a young girl is going to escape from there. Maybe some of the old-timers who lived there never left. The walls themselves tell the stories of the time passing by." A seemingly abstruse title - standard abbreviations for real estate in a newspaper - for an elusive little film, mildly surrealistic and slightly disturbing. Some great images - check out the snowstorm of feathers - and a touch of Belgian quirkiness from the great Yolande Moreau, chainsmoking and spitting in the omelette ("Monsieur l'aime baveuse" haha).
Bertrand Blier, Beau-père, 1981
As James Travers notes in his review http://www.frenchfilms.org/review/beau-pere-1981.html "no director would dare to make a film like this today (and even if he did the likelihood is no distributor would touch it)" - and check out the poster too! But lest you think this is just Blier doing what he does very well, i.e. being as shocking as he possibly can just for the hell of it, it's a remarkably sensitive and subtle exploration of a 30-year-old cocktail bar pianist, Rémi, (Patrick Dewaere, superb) drawn inexorably into a sexual relationship with Marion, the 14-year-old daughter of his ex-wife. The girl is played by Ariel Besse, 15 at the time, who only made two more films before leaving the profession - Sophie Marceau turned the role down, fyi. Much as I admire Blier for tackling the thorny subject of paedophilia, and much as I admire Dewaere (and Nathalie Baye)'s skill at miming at the piano, I was a little underwhelmed by the ending. Ms Baye is a splendid actress, but all she does here is smile - and I can't for the life of me figure out why Dewaere doesn't tell her he's a pianist himself. Bref, I suppose he had to end it somehow and it couldn't be with Marion and Rémi ending up together. Fine supporting role for Maurice Ronet as Marion's alcoholic estranged father - he already knew about the cancer that ended his life just two years after this was made, which may explain why he looks so fucking miserable throughout. (That said, he looked fucking miserable in Le feu Follet and that was made in 1963..) Of course, Dewaere took his own life in 1982. Ariel Besse eventually ended up working for the Post Office on the French Riviera. Funny old world.
Irvin S. Yeaworth, 4D Man, 1959
Some cool - for the period - special effects and impressive makeup art can't cover up a decidely thin (if not frankly stupid) story, which I won't bore you with. Robert Lansing isn't all that bad - with a few more decent breaks he might have had a more stellar career - but Lee Meriwether (later the first Catwoman) is too good to be true, and the other actor, a certain James Congdon, who discovers how to pass your hand through a solid metal plate thanks to a couple of buzzing transistors and a few clunky knobs, doesn't even have a Wiki page, which means he's little more than a footnote in TV series bit part history. Come to think, I don't have a Wiki page either hahaha. A brash big band bop soundtrack from Ralph Carmichael - best known perhaps for his arrangments for Nat King Cole, but later dubbed The Father of Contemporary Christian Music, which should have you running a mile in the opposite direction if you have any sense - is foottappingly fun but decidedly out of place. Ah, 1959.. when babysitters allowed their kids root beer and peanut butter sandwiches before bedtime. The old weird America.
André Cayatte, Les risques du métier, 1967
If you didn't already know that André Cayatte https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Cayatte spent all his life - as a lawyer, writer and later filmmaker - denouncing police corruption, injustice and waging a furious war on the death penalty (Nous sommes tous des assassins still packs a mighty punch), you'd figure it out within ten minutes. A young girl with a torn blouse runs crying through the streets a provincial French town - and as she's coming from the local school, I'm not spoiling anything for you by telling you that her teacher is going to end up facing a serious accusation of child abuse. Not one, but three, in fact. It's an outstanding film debut for Jacques Brel, ably assisted by Emmanuelle Riva as the wife who never doubts his innocence. Here's James: http://www.frenchfilms.org/review/les-r ... -1967.html but very much a no-frills affair (a review I saw claims Thomas Vinterberg was inspired by it for his Jagten, similar story.. wouldn't be surprised if that was true): Chabrol or Boisset (think Le boucher, or Dupont Lajoie..) would have cranked up the smalltown racist / sexist tropes and probably ended up with a more exciting (?!) film, but that's not what Cayatte's about. As it is, the minor characters come across more dumb than diabolical, and the plot has to incorporate several not altogether convincing "coincidences" to frame the hapless Brel. Chabrol and Boisset set out to entertain; you get the impression Cayatte's out to teach. School can be fun at times - but it's still school.
Elia Suleiman, The Time That Remains, 2009
From https://www.seattleweekly.com/film/the- ... i-history/ : "'Where am I?' a disoriented Israeli cabdriver asks his dispatcher at the beginning of Elia Suleiman’s The Time That Remains. This pointillist portrait of Israeli Arabs in Nazareth tries to answer that plaintive question in four quiet, uneven, partly autobiographical, seriocomic episodes set in 1948, 1970, 1980, and the present. Suleiman’s treatment of the ’48 Arab-Israeli War showcases the Palestinian filmmaker’s eye for a mordant set piece, as Nazareth’s mayor must pose for a photo with Israeli army officers after signing terms of surrender. The photographer’s big ass fills the screen, pointed directly at the rest of the city’s Arab leaders." Suleiman, a Greek Orthodox Arab Israeli who spent a decade in New York and many years in Paris, must be unique in being the only filmmaker who can show the absurdity, injustice, hypocrisy and brutality of the Palestinian plight with almost serene, bemused detachment - he's there, sphinx-like, watching the film of his life play out - and deadpan humour. Think Tati / Etaix, but also, with his fondness for set-piece sketches, Roy Andersson. One of the (many) wonderful scenes shows an Intifada shoot-out in the streets of Nazareth being momentarily interrupted by a mother pushing her baby across the street in a pram. "Go home!" orders the Israeli soldier. "Me go home?" she retorts. "You go home." She walks off, and the shooting resumes.