Patricia Mazuy, Travolta et moi, 1994
Mazuy's 68-minute contribution to the series of nine made-for-TV movies Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge (other notable contributors included Chantal Akerman, Olivier Assayas and Claire Denis https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tous_les_ ... r_%C3%A2ge )
is a little gem of a film, a chance encounter of Thus Spake Zarathustra and Saturday Night Fever in la France profonde (Châlons-sur-Marne, chosen for its skating rink). Whatever became of actress Leslie Azzoulai (whom had Mazuy spotted in Pialat's Van Gogh and cast her for "sa violence presque aggressive")? Described by the Cahiers du Cinéma's Camille Nevers as the "actrice adolescente la plus épatante de tous les temps", she just.. disappeared. Let's hope the film doesn't, it's magnificent. Practice yr French https://www.rayonvertcinema.org/travolta-et-moi/
E. Elias Merhige, Begotten, 1989
God disembowels himself with a razor, Mother Nature emerges from his mutilated remains, copulates with the corpse and later gives birth to the Son of Earth who's strangled, burned and dragged across a barren landscape for the rest of the film. Sounds like fun, eh? Plenty of background information here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begotten_(film) but I started losing interest after about 15 minutes (the film runs for 72, and could quite easily be half as long, I reckon). Much as I admire the director's tenacity pf purpose and dogged pursuit of a singular vision (and there any comparisons with Eraserhead can end), and much as I like (like?) many of the folks Merhige cites as inspirations - Bacon, Beckett, Brakhage et al. - this one didn't connect, sorry.
John Dahl, The Last Seduction, 1994
Smashing (but I am a bit biased when it comes to Linda Fiorentino..) And here's what I wrote last time, whenever it was
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Wed May 13, 2015 11:24 am
What a bitch! You can see Linda Fiorentino just loved playing this preposterous but wildly entertaining story for everything it was worth (it if hadn't aired on TV first she might have scooped up Best Actress, which imo she certainly would have deserved). Best neo-noir I've seen this year, but you can't go wrong if you dig deep into Double Indemnity and Strangers On A Train, can you? Music's a bit obtrusive, but you're so busy gasping for breath at the femme fatale's brazen audacity ("here I baked you some cookies" hahaha) you don't notice it that much.
John Dahl, Red Rock West, 1993
Enjoyed it even more this time, especially Hopper.
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Wed May 13, 2015 11:24 am
Wow, one-arm pushups. I guess that's what you get when you pay Nicolas Cage's asking price He's very good here, thankfully not as over the top as he can get - but there's no way he could ever upstage Dennis Hopper, who's on fine form here. Nice, tight neo-noir, full of "oh nooo!" plot twists, though you can figure out how it's going to end quite easily. Still, the journey there is fun.
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Fri May 22, 2020 12:47 am
Peter Strickland, In Fabric, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed this, despite its numerous and evident flaws (pacing goes a bit askew in the second half, and the ending is a bit.. well, you'll see). Strickland has always had a good ear for music, and there's Ferraro and Nurse With Wound along with the delicious gialloesque OST by Berlin-based Cavern of Anti-Matter (two thirds ex-Stereolab) to accompany this entertaining if slightly potty tale of.. a killer dress! I wonder if Strickland knew Alex van Warmerdam's De Jurk (see reviews passim) - the difference here being that instead of bringing bad luck, the dress itself is bad luck. Nay, fatal. And it has a life of its own. Don't try to put it in the washing machine, it really doesn't like it. Anyway, some wag over at IMDb described it as Dario Argento meets Mike Leigh (!) - and if that sounds a tad far-fetched, Marianne Jean-Baptiste played Hortense in Secrets and Lies, and washing machine repair man Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) and his fiancée of 14 years, Babs, could quite easily have walked right out of a Leigh domestic drama. As for Argento, Strickland's fondest of giallo's gaudy, gory style-over-substance was already on display in Berberian Sound Studio, and it's back with a vengeance here, notably in the trio of weirdos (vampires? witches?) who run the department store, including the spectral Richard Bremmer (Voldemort!!) and Fatma Mohamed as the spooky saleswoman Miss Luckmoore. But, more importantly than that, as Simon Abrams puts it in this very astute (beware spoilers) review https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/in-f ... eview-2019 it's a "slippery horror-comedy about the equally treacherous relationship between salespeople, consumers, and their possessions." Language is all-important, from the bizarre gothic patois of Miss Luckmoore ("dimensions and proportions transcend the prisms of our measurements") to Reg's banal soporific techspeak. Intriguing stuff, overloaded with ideas but well worth a look. See if you can spot cameos from Barry Adamson and Adam Bohman.
Marco Bellochio, Bella addormentata, 2012
Toni Servillo, Isabelle Huppert and (best of all) Maya Sansa - how can you go wrong? Well, maybe relatively slowmoving (Marco Bellochio's never been a sprinter) and decidedly serious (he's not Benny Hill either) portrayals of people confronting the agonising decision of whether or not to turn of the life-support system of a loved one in a vegetative state aren't your cup of tea. Can't say they're always mine, but this is a particularly fine example.
Jean Cocteau, Le sang d'un poète, 1930
Here's James: http://www.frenchfilms.org/review/le-sa ... -1930.html The early Bunuels always get a lot of airplay, but this deserves the same treatment. If the history of cinema comes down to a binary choice between Lumière and Méliès, you know whose side Cocteau is on. Magnificent.
José Giovanni, Dernier domicile connu, 1970
Splendid hardboiled film policier with a tight plot and a great cast (Ventura and Jobert - nice chemistry and the ever-impressive Michel Constantin), directed by José Giovanni, whose own life would make a great film in itself https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Giovanni
henriq wrote: ↑Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:29 am
Martin Brest - Midnight Run (1989)
I probably shouldn't like this as much as I do, but I LOVE it. About as mainstream as Hollywood fare gets, with De Niro as a bounty hunter buddying up with Charles Grodin's mob accountant on a cross country run from New York to Los Angeles. Granted, De Niro really phones it in at times - the scene with the ex-wife doesn't work at all - but no matter, he is enveloped by the genius and timing of Yaphet Kotto, Charles Grodin and the wonderful Joe Pantoliano (I dare any Sopranos fan to not love that man and his voice) - no one can like him say "FUCK the bus" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcbXE8cFLak) and have a volume of air move through your living room. And Charles Grodin - too much to declare him the Harry Dean Stanton of comedy? I want to, anyway, the man is funny just standing in the frame. And, for you Repo men out there, Tracey Walter has a minuscule cameo
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:52 am
Don Siegel, Coogan's Bluff, 1968
Shrewd career move for Clint in 68, moving to the city from the desert, from cowboy to cop, in what became the precursor of the Dirty Harry films (and Dennis Weaver's rather lame McCloud TV series). There's enough material here to keep one of Michel Chion's Morality In Cinema 101 classes busy for a week studying Eastwood's character, Walt Coogan (though I don't think he ever reveals his first name in the movie - he even asks Julie (Susan Clark - dig the eye makeup) to call him Coogan). An intriguing figure: old school macho (insists on paying for Julie's lunch) but not as interested in ladies as he at first seems (except when they can lead him to his prey), man of few words but with some smart putdown lines when he needs them. Siegel takes the old "country boy comes to the big city and tests his frontier values against corruption of civilization" (Ebert) and extends the theme to cinema itself: for "country boy" read "Western" and "big city" read "Cop Movie", drawing some fascinating parallels along the way between Coogan's hunting down of the Navajo Indian in the Mojave desert at the beginning of the film and his pursuit of Ringerman (Don Stroud, deliciously wacko) in Cloisters. What has the sheriff learnt along the way, if anything? He denies the Indian a cigarette at the beginning of the film but lights one up for Ringerman at the end.. is that it? Love the scenes in the hippie disco (how many films before this one showed joints being openly passed around and girls kissing each other?) and the bustup in Pushie's poolroom - compared to the violence in movies today it probably looks tame (my blasé teenage boy was unimpressed, sigh) but it still packs a nice punch. And oh, how I'd have loved to arrive in NYC on a Sikorsky S-61 on top of the (then) PanAm building.. and be able to smoke during the flight!
Roger Avary, Killing Zoe, 1994
There are a lot of choice quotes in this review https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php? ... viewer=416 , my favourite being "Reservoir Dog Day Afternoon" and Rob Gonsalves nails Avary with brutal accuracy - without Tarantino, you'd be nowhere, mate. Seems Avary penned parts of True Romance and Pulp Fiction, the two have been buddies since geeky videostore daze gone by, Quentin co-produced this one.. and there the similarities end. Quentin ended up in the Hollywood hall of fame; Avary ended up in Ventura County Jail https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Avary.
In this brutal and brutish heist movie mishmash of the abovementioned Lumet, Goldfinger, and the worst of Besson (though in 1994 the worst of Besson was still to come), there's none of the finesse of Tarantino's dialogue, which has quickly acquired the kind of cult quotable status of Python, no sense of timing, and none of the soundtrack magic that Quentin's deservedly famous for: the music here, written a pair of nonentities who go by the name of tomanandy, is too nondescript to be awful. Jean-Hugues Anglade's a fine actor, but he didn't have to stretch himself very far to become the crazed AIDS-infected drugged up killer. Maybe he needed the money? "Let me show you the real Paris!" he says, as he drags Eric Stolz into a drug den basement nightclub where the in-house music is.. Dixieland. WTF?! (Avary obviously thought it'd be cool to use those Otto Nemenz Swing and Tilt lenses to distort perspective, presumably so that we can experience the scene from Stolz's drugged POV, but like everything else here, it's not thought through, as it's clear Avary doesn't give a toss about Stolz, hiding him away in the basement while Anglade goes apeshit upstairs..) The only real Paris we see is the high-speed drive to Roissy 1 in the opening credit sequence - everything else was shot in LA - and yet the vast majority of the dialogue is in French (I can only guess they were aiming at Besson's target audience), but so obviously English-translated-into-French, and as a result not sounding like either. The only decent bit is the intercutting between Murnau's Nosferatu and Julie Delpy plying her trade (as it were). The less said of the Neanderthal attitude to women, the better; but the film must be as offensive to gays as it is to feminists.
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Il est plus facile pour un chameau... , 2003
I had to remind myself that Jean-Hugues Anglade had better things to do with his time than Killing Zoe. But that doesn't stop him at one point delivering a mighty slap to the unsuspecting Federica (Bruni Tedeschi). In a story loosely but quite extensively (it seems) based on her own early life - megarich Italian family decamps to France to avoid being kidnapped by Red Brigade terrorists -VBT plays the smiling-but-soon-to-fall-to-pieces heroine very well (as she did in Noémie Lvovsky's Oublie-moi nine years earlier), but it's a little hard to take the basic premise of the plot all that seriously. Are you really feeling all that bad because you have too much money? Open a hospital in Africa, as one of her counsellors suggests. Good supporting actors, including Marysa Borini as the mother (she's VBT's mother in real life), Lambert Wilson (awesomely unlikeable) and Chiara Mastroianni. Fun ending. Music happily not by Valeria's (half?-) sister.
Carlos Saura, El jardin de las delicious, 1970
The mighty José Luis López Vázquez plays Antonio, in a film in which, as Kevin Hagopian notes here https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/web ... f00n8.html "Saura’s anti-Fascism was gloriously outed. Now, his symbolism became more brazen, his settings less allegorical, his antagonistic characters more recognizable as Fascist surrogates. The film features an oddball collection of greedy relatives sniffing after a dying millionaire’s secret fortune. The man has been paralyzed in a car accident, and has the lost his memory. The money-mad relatives want him to be able to remember where he’s stashed his money, and in an effort to jog his memory, begin acting out scenes from his past. But the man’s past is the past of Spain itself, and the scenes they choose for their tableaux have the scent of the Civil War about them, as once again, the past masters the present in Saura’s agile, cynical mind. El jardin de las delicious gleefully assassinates the institution of the family, one of the Franco regime’s most sacred social constructions. The film also struck some as suspiciously like a preview of the power struggle that was sure to follow the aging Franco’s death. The film’s conclusion is bitter and apt, yet it replaces an even more angry ending, in which the vile relatives are torn to pieces by a pack of wild dogs bearing some resemblance to themselves."
Yasujiro Ozu, The Only Son,1936
From time to time I have to go back to Ozu to remind myself how terrific he was, like occasionally splashing out on a really good bottle of single malt. And although this was his first talkie he already had a very clear idea how to use sound: here beginneth the Bresson. So subtle, in every detail. https://www.newyorker.com/goings-on-abo ... e-only-son "Ozu distills a lifetime of silent misunderstandings and muffled frustrations in a painful succession of false smiles and showy courtesies; with wicked irony, he illustrates the generation gap in a scene where Ryosuke takes his mother to see her first talkie—which, true to Japanese politics of the time, is in German. Ozu watches with his own stifled fury, as modernity uproots both the best and the worst aspects of tradition." Magnificent.
Robert Hossein, Le Vampire de Düsseldorf, 1965
This is a weird but intriguing addition to the Hossein oeuvre, an odd Franco-Hispano-Italian co-production ostensibly set in Düsseldorf - but actually shot in and around Madrid - and based on the true story of German serial killer Peter Kürten, which had already inspired Fritz Lang (M) and, arguably, Robert Musil (The Man Without Qualities). Set against the backdrop of Hitler's impending rise to power - bands of SA thugs roam the streets, smashing Jewish-owned shop windows and beating up folks with clinical brutality, while Hossein walks calmly by on the other side of the street. What's odd about it is that the character he plays, though clearly based on Kürten, is nowhere near as unhinged and vicious as the real man: there's a sense of pathos to the guy, with his hangdog stare and strange Bela Lugosi-like ambling gait. But unlike Lorre's killer in M, brought to "trial" by the criminal underground, we never feel pity for Hossein's Kürten, because we're denied almost any information about how he ended up doing what he did. The result is a curious sense of (postmodern?) detachment, reinforced by the cinematography, which is great. (Hossein knows how to do noir, both as an actor and a director) but with an element of fantastic irreality to it, rather like Welles' The Trial. The bustling smoke-filled cabaret where torch singer Marie-France Pisier struts her stuff turns out to be in the middle of an urban wasteland; the streets are uncannily empty. Intriguing, and worth a look.
Sidney Lumet, The Morning After, 1986
Trawling around the web for a film that featured both Jane Fonda and Jeff Bridges, I came across this. Fonda plays an alcoholic actress well past her prime who wakes up next to a bloody corpse and has no idea how she got there; Bridges is a cop on sick leave who just happens to run into here at the airport when she tries to take off. The plot's been done before (Blue Gardenia meets Lost Weekend), and better: it's as if Lumet wasn't interested in the whodunnit at all, but more concerned about the location shoots. Empty streets and anonymous warehouses and garages painted in garish primary colours against a blue sky: looks great, like late 60s Godard doing Edward Hopper. The chemistry between Jeff and Jane is good - she got an Oscar nomination for this - but the cheeeeesy Paul Chihara soundtrack makes it feel like a bog standard mid 80s TV movie. I agree with Roger on this one https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the- ... after-1986
Cathérine Breillat, Anatomie de l'enfer, 2004
Erotic drama? More like "sex not as comedy, but as the deepest, darkest male nightmare".. It's neither erotic (unless soaking a used tampon in a glass of water and then drinking it is your kind of thing) nor dramatic, but painfully slow, with the director providing voiceovers that remind me of Marguérite Duras (the only thing that raised a smile here), and two performers who look thoroughly grief-stricken throughout. Rocco Siffredi is, of course, a lousy actor, and manages to make Breillat's stilted, unnatural prose sound even more stilted and unnatural than it is - but then again, he wasn't hired for his acting ability, was he? We do get a few shots of the legendary Siffredi member (Amira Casar, on the other, had a cunning stunt double ), but he looks like he's enjoying the sex act as much as someone in a Bruno Dumont film. Anatomy of hell, indeed.
Paul Vecchiali, C'est la vie!, 1980
Never too late to discover a new director.. but with 57 directing credits to his name and alarmingly little info immediately available online to provide an overview of a career that started in 1961 and is, apparently, still going strong, I can't say whether C'est la vie! is typical of Vecchiali's way of working or not (I suspect it isn't, but what do I know?). Shot in just four weeks on a grassy knoll (as they say) in a drab cité in Villejuif south of Paris, on which he built a one-room set open on both sides and above to the sky - a kind of Dogville banlieusarde - and consisting of successive four-minute single takes (a roll of film), it's unlike anything I've ever seen. Like its open air mise-en-scène, it's a curious mixture of natural and artificial: early Brisseau comes to mind, as does the director's old pal Jacques Demy (there is a musical number and a dance routine, which amusingly goes astray) and his hero Max Ophüls, but there's a healthy dose of Dogma 95 whatthefuckness to it all which I found most refreshing. Paging mon ami Henrik who knows more about this chap than I do.. where do I go next with Monsieur Vecchiali?