Recently Watched Films 2021

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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Victor Erice, El sol del membrillo, 1992

"How can such a small tree bear so much fruit?" https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes ... eview.html What a marvellous film - and I'm still kicking myself for waiting so long before seeing it (it had been sitting in the intray for years) - maybe because I'd read that it's a film about a man painting a tree in his back garden and that sounded sort of dull after Erice's truly sublime earlier outings (The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973 and El Sur, 1983). No, no. Erice has only made three features but they're all magnificent. Of course, it's about so much more than Antonio Lopez Garcia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_L ... arc%C3%ADa painting his quince tree. Along with Clouzot's Le mystère Picasso and Rivette's La belle noiseuse, it's a great study of the artist in action, but touches on so much more than the simple act of creation. Can't recommend highly enough.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Dan Warburton wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 4:57 am
Glorious! Those last two sentences remind me of Greg Kelley's remark (after my rather chilly putdown of his solo album Trumpet about a million years ago http://www.paristransatlantic.com/magaz ... _text.html ) about preferring negative to positive reviews every time. Keep 'em coming, Henrik!
You know, it is a lot easier writing about something you really don't like than the opposite. You don't have to do justice to anything, just a bunch of stuff that annoys the shit out of you - get it out of the system, and really pee on it from great height while you're at it.

So, did you have a nice vacation? Mine is coming up October, and I can't wait...

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Yes, a couple of weeks in Burgundy with a pile of DVDs, a carton of Chablis and Proust - nice. Meanwhile, came back to find this on KG:

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Dennis Hopper, Backtrack, 1990

Return visit - a super new rip of the Director's Cut! - and enjoyed it even more than I did last time. Comparing it to the dismally truncated commercial release (re-entitled Catchfire) is quite instructive: Hopper's wonderfully awful saxophone playing (and the dreamy Michel Colombier soundtrack) is replaced by a dismal Curt Sobel soundtrack, and most of the deliciously self-indulgent arty farty backstory is dispensed with. It's still pretty daft, and doesn't explain why Jodie Foster ends up falling for Dennis, but not a patch on the longer version. Here's what I wrote last year
Dan Warburton wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 12:24 am

Bob Dylan's cameo as a chainsaw-wielding sculptor is one of many funny details in this decidedly potty tale of an eccentric Mafia hitman (Dennis) who ends up falling in love and running off with the woman he's supposed to take out (Jodie Foster, a conceptual artist who specialises in writing trite clichés in digital signage, who accidentally witnesses a mob killing). I watched the director's cut, which is no doubt more self-indulgent than the commercially released version, which was 18 minutes shorter and retitled Catchfire. Very entertaining, with a good cast - Vincent Price, Joe Pesci (uncredited), Dean Stockwell (but why did the director insist they all speak with that same dumb guinea shit accent Jack Nicholson adopted as Charley Partanna?!) - and Foster seems to be enjoying herself. But the ending is absolutely bloody ridiculous. Eh, who cares? Watch out for Alex Cox as D.H.Lawrence (I kid you not) :D
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Charlène Favier, Slalom, 2020

Bradshaw: "A retired slalom ski champion – whose retirement might have been due to injury – is now pouring all his passion and frustration into coaching in a facility leased from a school. This is Fred, played by Jérémie Renier, who is a fierce and exacting teacher of teenage skiers, turning them into possible national champions and even future contestants at the Olympic Games. Almost from the very first, it is clear that his star pupil is 16-year-old Lyz, played by Noée Abita, who has got what it takes both in terms of skill and energy but also those dark, fissile ingredients of submission and self-abasement."
Schwarz: "The subdued story held my interest even if it’s a familiar one. The location shots are beautiful. The acting by the two main characters is outstanding. The production values for this well-crafted film are excellent. The few skiing shots were well done. The only thing lacking was a story with more depth."
Quite. No shortage of laudatory reviews online, which is hardly surprising since the film was selected for Cannes (and who's going to come out against a film whose subject matter is so in-the-news? when I was a kid, "grooming" was something to do with horses) - but A+ acting is no excuse for B- script. It's as Favier thinks the story will tell itself simply through Abita's face. It won't. As such, a very competent film, but I wonder why it got selected for Cannes.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Mads Brügger, The Mole: Undercover in North Korea, 2020

Dunno, if I was a chef forced to retire early for health reasons and live on (presumably quite generous? Danish) state benefit, I certainly wouldn't deceive my wife and family for seven years by infiltrating the Korean Friendship Association and getting drawn into exposing a shady triangular deal involving oil, weapons and crystal meth.. It's an intriguing story - my favourite character was "Mr James", played by a certain Jim Mehdi Latrache-Qvortrup "a former French foreign legionnaire and convicted drug dealer" - but we all have an idea now of what the North Koreans get up to. I doubt the film / series has had any major international repercussions (we all have other things to think about right now), but I bet it's fucked up mole Ulrich Larsen's marriage.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Ingmar Bergman, Winter Light, 1963

That's more or less how you'll feel by the end of the film, too. Only 80 minutes long - and with an 80% approval rating on the Tomatometer - but it's slow. Intense, though - but that depends how much you're prepared to be moved by the pastor's loss of faith (Susan Sontag wasn't all that smitten). A couple of wonderful touches - the sound of a distant train, and later part of the pastor's confession - what is / should be, I guess, his key speech - obscured by the sound of another passing train at a level crossing. But.. I wanted to like it (if "like" is the word for Bergman) more than I did, and not sure whether I want to give it another go to find out why.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Tomas Alfredson, Let The Right One In, 2008

This is a smart and engrossing take on the bullied-schoolboy-gets-revenge trope crossed with vampire movie, quite simply because Oskar, the boy in question falls for the girl (well, she says she isn't really a girl at all, and she's right there) next door, who, once her hapless manservant fails miserably and hilariously (see above) to get her enough of the red stuff and ends up offering his own blood and his life by way of exchange, eventually confides in Oskar and, oh dammit, I'm not spoiling anything else, see it for yourself, it's fun. Much more fun than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, anyway.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Larry Fessenden, Wendigo, 2001

This one pushes some classic American horror buttons - the isolated house in the forest, the gun-toting scary redneck neighbours and a roaming evil spirit, and an Indian one at that, just to make all you white city folks feel guilty. Oh, and they run over and kill a deer on the way - the classic image of Man defiling Nature. Ho hum. Well done, if the ending's a bit hard to take.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Abel Ferrara, The Driller Killer, 1979

I can't decide what's worse here: Ferrara's acting or his painting (though I suppose the croutes on Reno's studio walls weren't daubed by him anyway..). I'm tempted to add his directing, but as there seems to be a school of Abel-worshipping crrritics who are prepared to walk through fire for him (here's a good example: this bloke actually compares him to Van Gogh - holy shit! -
https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmbl ... al-choices ), and as the director insists it's a comedy (of sorts - I was frequently amused but never laughed).. weeeell, I dunno.. I suspect it's another example of what I call the Mattin Songbook syndrome: you release something absolutely fucking awful and when somebody points out how bad it is you say it was meant to be that way in the first place. Impossible to verify, or to argue with. Whatever, two years later with Ms.45 (which I love) he had his shit together; this one's a bit of a bloody mess. Literally.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Maurizio Lucidi, La vittima designata, 1971

If somebody told you they were going to remake Strangers On A Train you'd probably either laugh or try to have them arrested - but basically that's what Maurizio Lucidi and his fellow scriptwriters did. And very well too! OK, it's not Patricia Highsmith, but it's sufficiently different in detail (set in Italy - fabulous location shoots in Venice - and spiced up with a complex sex / blackmail plot) to work, with a splendidly weird performance from the splendidly weird Pierre Clémenti (dig the costumes!). Cool Aldo Tonti photography, but the music (courtesy The New Trolls) could have been a bit better. Guess Morricone wasn't available. You might see this tagged as giallo, but it's not really: no gore, and no J&B whisky :) Well worth checking out.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Terry Gilliam, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, 2018

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_W ... on_Quixote Well, was it worth spending nearly three decades (and goodness knows how much money) on? I'm afraid that - since (maybe because of) Annette - I've become somewhat allergic to Adam Driver, so seeing that he plays the principal role here, and that's not the Don himself (I've lost count of the number of actors Gilliam has cast to play Quixote, half of whom are dead: Rochefort, Duvall, Palin, and oh yes this time it's Jonathan Pryce), I suppose my answer to the question above would be no. That said, the fact that it's your "normal" Gilliamesque picaresque story-within-a-story affair, means it's quite close to the spirit of the Cervantes. Indeed, watching this made me want to read the novel again, so I guess that's a point in its favour. And visit some of the filming locations (listed in the end credits, hoorah). But watch this one again? I rather doubt it.
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henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Monsieur reminded me that I've had this ready for some time...

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Douglas Cheek - C.H.U.D. (1984)

An excellent entry in the exploitation canon, a quite pleasant surprise. Put it down to a splendid cast: John Heard, Kim Greist, Daniel Stern, Eddie Jones. The director maintains a soiled New York realism to proceedings - no excessive, dorky special effects, but rather a street level unease. Even the homeless start to disappear, people with no place or home feel fear and want to arm themselves. Mangled bodies start piling up in the tunnels and caverns under Manhattan, to horrifying effect. Yes, the monsters are shown and look as silly as you would expect, but Cheek knows how to shoot a scaly torso suddenly entering your apartment as something quite scary. He learned the lessons from all those Universal horrors well. Creature from the Black Lagoon comes to mind: the way the monster is relegated to the edges of image and narrative, shown only as much as absolutely necessary. And then the cast: John Heard is great, and sorely missed; Kim Greist is just lovely, as she was in Manhunter and Brazil. Daniel Stern as the hippie priest and parishioner of the lowest and most destitute of urban dwellers: quite incongruous - was this a thing during the seventies and eighties? - but a clear echo of Donald Sutherland in Little Murders.

henriq
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Stanley Donen - Arabesque (1966)

Oh, come on! One can only imagine what possessed Stanley Donen to do this, as it is studio confectionery of the silliest order. Not that he doesn’t try: there is indeed an auteurist watermark on a few things in here. Gregory Peck hopped up on sodium pentothal, escaping into oncoming traffic and playing the matador in a quite intense montage, a few set pieces handled from weird angles, so bravo on those. But the rest… Let’s forego the obvious strike with English, Italian and American actors only in a film populated by Arab characters - Alan Badel is as elegant as ever, even in brownface, and one can pick up a campy glee in having him strut around with a peregrine falcon on one arm and a ceremonial plate of dates on the other. Let’s also disregard the ludicrous notion that someone as striking as Sophia Loren, and one as conspicuously bumbling as Gregory Peck, can not only breach security and push through into the scope of television cameras AT THE SCENE OF AN ASSASSINATION and then just stroll out, in the middle of an international airport no less. I've said it before, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has absolutely ruined me for tradecraft. These are too obvious flaws, and you don’t need to latch on to them to realise that this is sub-James Bond drollery of the lowest quality. And of course, Gregory Peck is as awful as ever. Stay away.

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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henriq wrote:
Fri Sep 10, 2021 7:29 pm
Monsieur reminded me that I've had this ready for some time...

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Douglas Cheek - C.H.U.D. (1984)

An excellent entry in the exploitation canon, a quite pleasant surprise. Put it down to a splendid cast: John Heard, Kim Greist, Daniel Stern, Eddie Jones. The director maintains a soiled New York realism to proceedings - no excessive, dorky special effects, but rather a street level unease. Even the homeless start to disappear, people with no place or home feel fear and want to arm themselves. Mangled bodies start piling up in the tunnels and caverns under Manhattan, to horrifying effect. Yes, the monsters are shown and look as silly as you would expect, but Cheek knows how to shoot a scaly torso suddenly entering your apartment as something quite scary. He learned the lessons from all those Universal horrors well. Creature from the Black Lagoon comes to mind: the way the monster is relegated to the edges of image and narrative, shown only as much as absolutely necessary. And then the cast: John Heard is great, and sorely missed; Kim Greist is just lovely, as she was in Manhunter and Brazil. Daniel Stern as the hippie priest and parishioner of the lowest and most destitute of urban dwellers: quite incongruous - was this a thing during the seventies and eighties? - but a clear echo of Donald Sutherland in Little Murders.
I thought you'd use that splendid pic of Kim wielding the samurai sword you sent me earlier - thanks for hipping me to this, it was fun. A good killer B - reminded me of Larry Cohen. Nice!

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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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henriq wrote:
Fri Sep 10, 2021 7:33 pm
Gregory Peck is as awful as ever. Stay away.
I will. Shame our man Walto doesn't post here anymore to rush to his defence :D
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Kantemir Balagov, Dylda "Beanpole", 2019

From https://www.thewrap.com/beanpole-film-r ... purgatory/ : "An immaculately color-coded, visually resplendent serving of European art-house severity, Beanpole brings its sharp performances and even sharper production design to a landscape wholly untouched by humor. Which is, in itself, a kind of irony, as the Cannes prizewinner sketches out a central premise that plays as a vicious cosmic joke [..] Drawing inspiration from oral history from the era and from the book The Unwomanly Face of War, Balagov applies this gangly blonde and fiery brunette to dramatize a central paradox: Those most damaged by the war and least equipped to move on were the very ones tasked with taking society forward." Impressive, for sure. Whether I'll be in a hurry to see it again, I don't know - how times do you read the same Dostoevsky? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beanpole_(film)
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, A Prayer Before Dawn, 2017

Joe Cole delivers an outstanding performance as Billy Moore, a heroin addict thrown into jail in Thailand for drugs and eventually transferred to a British prison and ultimately released after boxing his way to freedom. Awfully impressive - the fight scenes especially - but not easy to watch, let alone enjoy. Once is enough. True story, too: the real Mr Moore shows up at the end playing the father. And, yes, his ear really was half hanging off. Ouch. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Prayer_ ... awn_(film)
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Andrea Molaioli, La ragazza del lago, 2007

Not to be confused with La ragazza nella nebbia (Donato Carrisi, 2017), in which Toni Servillo also plays an inspector investigating the disappearance of a young girl in the mountains of Northern Italy (watch out then for another ragazza in 2027?), this one is, to my mind, a more successful film. Whereas in the later film Servillo (superb as always) played the rather charismatic media-savvy Agent Vogler, navigating a plot of Millennium-like Nordic complexity, his Commisario Sanzio here is a more touching and vulnerable - but no less rigorous and impressive - figure. It might not take you too long to figure out who actually killed the girl, but it won't spoil the experience. Very well made, nicely paced, and a great cast. Watch out for the wonderful Omero Antonnuti as the grouchy father. Recommended.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur, 2011

"Joseph, a man plagued by violence and a rage that is driving him to self-destruction, earns a chance of redemption that appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker." Shot in Leeds (where else?), and tailor-made for Peter Mullan (Joseph), who can play a good guy with the same viciousness as the bad guys he excels at, it's a pretty bleak affair. There seems to be a market for this gritty, hellish, rundown-housing-estate-complete-with-beerswilling-halfnaked-thugs-with-pitbulls-tied-to-their-waists stuff, but Alan Clarke did it much better back in the 1980s. Nor is there any Loachian oldschool Labour Thatcher-was-to-blame moralising to, umm, raise the spirits. Maybe England really is as awful as this, I dunno. I'm not going back to Leeds to find out.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

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Sacha Guitry, Napoléon, 1955

Abel Gance's five-and-a-half hour 1927 epic only got as far as 1796, but Guitry managed to cram the whole Bonaparte life into just over three hours, in an often hilarious high-speed roman-photo narrated by Guitry himself as Talleyrand (if you're expecting Wellington to show up, forget it: Guitry airbrushes the English out of the story with breathtaking bravura). It's an all-star affair, and was a box office success, but there's little for the cast of heavyweights - Gabin, Darrieux, Marais and even Orson Welles - to get their teeth into, and the director gives himself all the best lines. Add to that a ridiculously chirpy soundtrack by Jean Francaix that would be more appropriate for a Feydeau farce and, well, it's an entertaining curiosity, shall we say..
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