Jean Negulesco, Humoreske, 1946
This is the shot, I believe, that Mark Rappaport described as Joan Crawford thinking about John Garfield's penis Given the number of cocktails she downs in the movie, it's a wonder she can even see six inches in front of her. But what a cracking good melodrama! And hats off for filming it so well that you really do get the impression it's Garfield playing the fiddle, and not Isaac Stern (the producers wanted Jascha Heifetz, but he was too expensive). Franz Waxman's score - arranging both Carmen and Tristan as mini violin concerti - deserves to be released in its own right, and Clifford Odets and Zachary Gold's script fizzes with Mankiewicz-like precision (and Oscar Levant not surprisingly gets most of the best one-liners). Splendid stuff! I've always been more a Bette man than a Joan man, but she's smashing here. Nice.
The Roberto Gavaldon thing is happening at the Christine 21. I'm no ghost of those movie rooms it was just an happesntance?, And a good one, correct my french if there is a mistake.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul - Memoria (2021)
Whatever else 2021 was, it was an awesome year for cinema. The finest viewing of these last weeks have all dated to the year just behind us. Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging, or Loony Porn (thank you monsieur Warburton); Radu Muntean’s Întregalde (and again); and this, the Thai director’s first foray into international filmmaking. I had this experience with Antonioni a few years back, and a lovely one it is. Now I get it, now all intellectual blockages and apprehensions melt away, levees break and things rush in from in back of me. Let me drown, voluptuously, I’m THERE, completely, in front of the image, and in it. I have certainly seen and even got and liked Weerasethakul before: Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady, Uncle Boonmee, yes of course, but a little bit it has been more that I get the hype, and believe it. But I might have viewed them a bit distractedly, fallen asleep a bit maybe, ticking off more than anything. But not now, not for this. So how to write about it? The story, as it is: an absolutely phenomenal Tilda Swinton playing an expatriate Scot in Colombia, working as a flower merchant. Haunted, as is the soundtrack, of a loud banging noise that keeps her up at night, and that only she can hear. Hallucination, or what? Coming to Bogotá from Medellín to visit a sister sick in the hospital with some unexplained ailment, possibly to do with a stray dog she didn’t treat right, possibly with the anthropological work she’s about to undertake in the Amazon interior. At the hospital, you meet and befriend Jeanne Balibar’s forensic archaeologist, inviting you to a dig somewhere in the mountains. And so the thread and weave of the film begins, and an astounding experience it is. The banging sound: a gorgeous doubling of that theme when a young man dives for cover at the sound of what might be gun fire, but is more likely a backfiring motor on the street. But can you know? The kid isn’t convinced, keeps running. The haunting is real, a tracing of an actual landscape of terror and unease. Same thing with the dog that Swinton’s Jessica sees in the street: the dog that got her sister sick? Why is it following me? Is it? No, it deflects a bit, goes another way. But the banging continues. So in its way a ghost story…
But it’s when the film shifts from the city to the country that it becomes truly engrossing. Swinton travels to the site of the dig, past military checkpoints (I seem to remember the director is fond of this trope, this inscription and thrownness of the landscape.) She loses her way a bit beside a stream, down a hillside, the booming sound reappearing, and in more detail - increasingly obsessed with it, she stops in her tracks. A bit difficult to describe, but there is a gestural slowness and thickening, something hieratic and ritualised but slowed down, like noh at 16 rpm. As I said, Swinton is absolutely awesome, extending and distending along the surface and body of the sound, with the stream babbling beside her. And also, introduced here is a man, Hernan, who might be an older version of a boy that was or wasn’t there for her in Bogotá. With him, the haunting of memory: he suffers from total recall, can remember everything that ever happened to him, every meal he ever ate, all the suffering, all the joy. He has to stay in the country, away from the city, too many impressions and memories there. Working the field, cleaning the fish, listening to and understanding the speech of howler monkeys in the jungle. So time in a sense stands still, and the image correspondingly becomes atemporal, still and static but infinitely textured and rich. Sound becoming body becoming image: you can write these utopian series as far as you want. (Nowhere near something like Alan Clarke’s Contact or Sokurov's Days of Eclipse, but still, the same proximity of cinema to field recording and microphony). I’m reminded of critic David Thomson, praising Powell and Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going! as a genuinely superstitious film. Exactly the same as here: a film that establishes its own concept and terrain and follows it through to the end, vague and weird as it is. Wonderful and essential viewing.
Dan, I think that appeared in an interview with Serge Daney in Claire Denis' Jacques Rivette, le veilleur. The same interview where he speaks of Vecchiali's Encore.Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Mon Jan 17, 2022 10:09 am
Patricia Mazuy, Peaux de vaches, 1988
Proof that good things come to those who wait - with a Karagarga freeleech due shortly, I can't recommend this smashing new 1080 rip enough. It's a terrific film in every way: great cast - Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacques Spiesser and, in what I think is his greatest role, the late great Jean-François Stévenin (and not forgetting his daughter Salomé, who plays the kid: not his in the film, but that makes the triangular tension all the greater) - superb use of sound and excellent photography of the rainy Pays d'Artois. I can't put my finger on the review where Jacques Rivette raved about this film, but will try to do so. Meanwhile, as I wrote a few years back, this is right up there with the best Pialat and Bresson imho
Ah, that's where I first saw The Sacrifice on a cold winter's afternoon back in 1988. Blew my mind. Thanks for the kind words, you're most welcome round these parts (maybe wait for some better weather?), drop me a PM.
Alain Corneau,Crime d'amour, 2010
As promised (and not to be confused with Guy Gilles' 1982 Le crime d'amour). Yes, as I expected it's better than the trashy De Palma remake Passion, which I mentioned on the previous page: no silly Eyes Wide Shut masks and sex toys, no lesbo erotico undertones (De Palma's sulphurous redhead Dani is a prematurely balding Daniel in the original), no ballet (Isabelle goes the movies instead) so no Debussy (we get Pharoah Sanders' Kazuko instead, nice). But there's the same flat, soap opera lighting, and rather drab sets and costumes - OK, so Isabelle is a workaholic neat freak, but did she have to buy all her furniture at IKEA? The age difference between Christine and Isabelle makes more sense (solid enough performances from Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier), but.. when all's said and done, what was the motive for the murder? We're supposed to believe Isabelle was just pissed off that Christine publicly ridiculed her with that CCTV footage? Christ, talk about thin skin.. And, presumably, if she were such a hotshot at her job, she'd just give Christine the finger, fire up the Blackberry and get herself headhunted into another one instead of going to such elaborate lengths to commit the perfect crime. Anyway, whatever, if you want another point of view (sorry Ben, but you don't have to open the link ), here's a lengthy and well-argued blogpost on the De Palma, which enjoyed all the things I didn't https://www.courte-focale.fr/cinema/ana ... -de-palma/
Maurice Elvey, High Treason, 1929
You can laugh at the model aeroplanes (or 'planes as they're referred to in the intertitles - this is the 75' silent version not the 60' later talkie), and at the idea that world war could break out over a game of cards at a frontier post (actually, it's a bit more complex than that: Prohibition is still in effect and the (American?) border guards take aim at a driver trying to smuggle liquor in to the Atlantic States), but those visiophones look quite cool. And bombing the Channel Tunnel is an interesting idea It's Europe versus Atlantic States by the way (the film is set in 1950..) - and it looks like Britain is not in Europe. Ha! They Got Brexit Done indeed. Fun. https://horrornews.net/70148/film-revie ... ason-1929/
Joachim Trier, Verdens verste menneske ("The Worst Person in the World"), 2021
"There’s beautiful footage of Oslo at all hours of the day and night, too, enough to make you want to visit this picturesque Scandinavian city - in summer, at least - and Ola Fløttum’s lovely score adds poignancy to the visuals. Trier’s charming film will delight and surprise you." Whooo, that's the kind of write-up that has me running a mile in the opposite direction in a hurry, to be honest, but - amused at the snarky comments in the Karagarga thread (like, how come there's stuff like this on the tracker) - we decided to check it out Joachim Trier's tale 30-year-old Julie (Renate Reinsve - good, but I was wondering what she does here to merit the Cannes Best Actress award) trying to figure out what to do with her life. So... well, erm, yes... It is indeed charming.. Trier manages to push a few trendy buttons along the way (#metoo, mansplaining, climate crisis, a woke TV interviewer who takes Julie's ex Aksel to task for using the word "whore" instead of "sex worker", etc. etc. - only thing missing's a bit of transgender LGBTQ+-?* action), and there are a couple of special effects bonanzas to wow viewers (the faux-tableau vivant scene where Julie jogs through the city to meet Eivind; the magic mushroom bad trip where she sees herself in an ageing flabby body and throws a used bloody tampon in her father's face.. Freud 101), but the basic underlying storyline is pretty light, echt romcom. It's not a bad film - and mention should be made not of the Ola Fløttum soundtrack but of the many other pieces Trier throws into the pot, from Cymande to Harry Nilsson to Art Garfunkel covering Jobim's Agua de Marco (personally I prefer Elis Regina) - but it's about twenty minutes too long and lacking in bite.
Guillaume de Fontenay, Sympathie pour le diable, 2018
I do hope Niels Schneider took out some extra health insurance before making this - not to cover for the risk of actually being shot in a hellishly realistic reconstruction of Sarajevo under siege, but for all those Cuban cigars he had to chomp as he careered down Sniper Alley at breakneck speed. Based on the true story of French war correspondent Paul Marchand, it garnered surprisingly mixed reviews, which I don't understand, as I found it far more impressive than Michael Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo (er, no, I haven't seen Angelina Jolie's Land of Blood and Honey). Schneider is terrific, a ball of anger, arrogance and reckless bravura: the real Marchand did indeed write "don't waste your bullets, I'm immortal" on his car. But of course, he wasn't. Though airlifted out of Sarajevo after being shot in the arm, he later resumed his war coverage in Chechnya before publishing four novels and taking his own life in 2009.
Rowan Woods, The Boys, 1998
I have my dear pal Henrik to thank for hipping me to these bleak Aussie crime drama, and bleak it is too. Woods screws with the timeline very inventively, jumping into the future and back on numerous occasions - we soon learn that Brett, newly paroled, will lead his two siblings back into prison with him, and we wait with dread to find out what they do to end up back there. You can probably guess. I'm not telling you. Christ, I always wanted to go to Australia, but this - along with carbon footprint guilt - has finally killed that idea. Yikes. Soundtrack - not much of it, but what there is is excellent - by The Necks. Very good indeed.
Maurice Labro, Le fauve est lâché, 1959
The fauve (wild beast) is Lino Ventura, dragged out of respectable retirement as a former army heavy to recover some top secret military documents held by his old buddy Raymond, which he's about to sell to the enemy - which happens to be the Americans (Jess Hahn, for Rohmer fans). Double crosses galore, nice location footage on the cliffs of Etretat, and plenty of opportunity for ex-boxer Ventura to flex those muscles. Dard, Sautet and a number of French noir notables had a hand in it. Good solid stuff, not great, but not bad at all. Maurice Labro is no relation to Philippe, btw.
Michael Winner, The Sentinel, 1977
Ian Jane from DVD Talk described it as "a gleefully perverse slice of seventies horror that makes no qualms about taking things in a few entirely unexpected directions while still sticking to some tried and true genre conventions. [N]ot a perfect film but it's definitely interesting and always entertaining." I'll go along with that. The idea that a brownstone in Brooklyn is in fact the Gateway to Hell is amusing (but misguided: I can tell you for a fact it's the Departure Lounge at Luton Airport), and invites inevitable and unfortunate comparisons with Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, neither of which Winner, despite casting a few Hollywood old school heavyweights like John Carradine, Eli Wallach, Jose Ferrer, Burgess Meredith and a rather puffy looking Ava Gardner, can really compete with. It doesn't help that his two principal actors, Cristina Raines and Chris Sarandon, are both underwhelming and unsympathetic - maybe deliberately so in the case of Sarandon, but even so he looks bored stiff. Raines apparently didn't get along with the director, though she should have known what to expect after not enjoying working with him on The Stone Killer, and Winner also caught flak for casting real physically deformed folks as the denizens of Hell (hell, I don't see why not, myself), and had a strained relationship with co-producer and author of the original novel, Jeffrey Konvitz to boot. Whatever, it's fun. And that's probably something you can't say of The Exorcist.
Lucio Fulci, Manhattan Baby, 1982
Well, you can give this one a miss. Egyptologist discovers a way into long lost tomb of some pre-Pharaonic devil, complete with Indiana Jones poisonous snakes, trapdoors and nasty spikes to impale his trusty partner, gets blinded by The Evil Eye, which subsequently reappears as a rather fetching necklace given to his blonde blue-eyed daughter in a nearby temple by some blind old hag who promptly disappears, after which they return to NYC and things start going awry for the girl, her babysitter, her bratty kid brother, and just about everyone else until a local "antique dealer" offers to exchange places with the cursed girl and gets pecked to death by his stuffed birds, which miraculously come to life and make a real bloody mess of his face (Fulci, y'all, tasty gore). Oh, did I spoil anything by telling you all this? You should thank me - you won't have to see it now
Ken Hannam, Summerfield, 1977
"When teacher Simon arrives in a small, secluded village to take over the local school, he is surprised to discover that his predecessor has disappeared without a trace - and that nobody seems too concerned about it. As Simon probes deeper into the disappearance, the inhabitants of a forbidding estate called Summerfield take on more and more significance - until events reach a tragic, shattering and unforeseen climax." Excellent film, with a touch of Wicker Man (the locals who are all in on a secret), a nod to Chandler's Long Goodbye, a magnificent Bruce Smeaton soundtrack, gorgeous Mike Molloy photography, and some very subtle performances from Nick Tate as the well-meaning if naïve Simon, Geraldine Turner as the bored busty landlady doing her best to seduce him, and Elizabeth Alexander and John Waters (no, not that John Waters) as the reclusive Abbott siblings on their isolated island.
Marcel Hanoun, Le printemps, 1971
Wow, gorgeous. This is, I imagine, what Pasolini would refer to as "cinema of poetry" - closer in feel to the nouveau roman of Robbe-Grillet (more his writing than his own films, I'd argue) than to other Nouvelle Vague filmmakers - not that Hanoun was ever part of that club (Godard admired his first feature, Une Simple Histoire, but Hanoun moved to Spain as early as 1960 and stayed there for six years). There's so little information about him available online - the only Wiki page is in French, but it's informative and recommended reading - that you'll have to excuse me while I go away and find something worthwhile to report back with. Meanwhile, what to say about this film without spoiling it (not spoiling it as in giving the plot away, because there is no plot - it's up to you to find connections, or invent them)? A brief description will have to do: there seem to be two interleaved "stories" here, one, predominantly but not exclusively shot in black and white, about a man (Michel Lonsdale, who appeared in several Hanoun outings) who is apparently on the run from somebody, hiding out in the countryside (near the village of Echiré, just north of Niort, in case you're interested); the other of an adolescent girl (and her brother) staying (living?) with her grandmother on a farm. Impossible to say if the man is her father trying to find his way back to her - at one point Lonsdale is given a coat and a sandwich by the owner of a local café, so we assume he's not entirely unknown in the community - or where her mother is. Maybe Lonsdale has killed her (not going into more detail), maybe not. The minutiae of life on the farm - we see (and she sees) the grandmother killing and skinning a rabbit, feeding her chickens, hiding hardboiled eggs in the garden for Easter - and, for the girl, impending adulthood with its attendant cruelty, interspersed with fairy tales, medieval chivalric legend and the sermons of the local curé. The juxtaposition of the traditional and time-honoured with Hanoun's radical mise-en-scène is quietly thrilling. Jonas Mekas, who said a few daft things in his time but knew how to recognise the cutting edge of cinema when he saw it, described Hanoun as the most important filmmaker since Bresson. He may have had a point. Recommended without reservation. https://www.culturopoing.com/cinema/sor ... s/20160414
Angelino Fons, La primera entrega ("First Surrender"), 1971
Angelino Fons should have stuck to writing - he's responsible for the screenplay for several excellent early Saura films (The Hunt, Stress-es tres-tres, Peppermint Frappé) - as this tale of a couple of thugs plotting to rob a bored, rich and decidedly sexually frustrated middle-aged housewife while her hubby is away having a dirty weekend in Rome is a real bore. Billed as a giallo (it isn't), dubbed atrociously into Italian (why redub Franco Citti? he's Italian to start with - though as the character he plays is so two-dimensional, you're not missing much), it's a flabby mess that should build to a violent bloody climax but fails spectacularly to do so. Apparently Javier Bardem's mum's in it, but even IMDb can't be arsed to tell us who she plays. Nor can I find a decent screenshot.
Claude Goretta, Pas si méchant que ca, 1974
When Pierre's father suffers a stroke and he has to take over the family's struggling carpentry business, the hitherto carefree young man (it's a really great performance from Gérard Depardieu) has to find another more, shall we say, unconventional way to make ends meet and pay his employees - not spoiling anything when you see that the English title of the movie is The Wonderful Crook - and when one of his holdups goes tits up (literally: Marlène Jobert faints and he feels so bad he forgets the robbery and takes care of her), it leads to eventual complications with her boyfriend (Philippe Léotard) and Pierre's wife (Dominique Labourier). But what sounds like it might be a banal story - especially the way I've told it - is anything but: there's a freshness and naturalness to the plot and especially the dialogue that dispels any idea of Bonnie and Clyde glamour, and the ending is absolutely magnificent.
Anatole Litvak, The Long Night, 1947
I read with horror that when RKO bought up the distibution rights for Marcel Carne's 1939 Le jour se lève to be remade, they tried without success to have all prints of the French film rounded up and destroyed (!). Thank goodness they failed, because though the Carné is a hard act to follow, with its standout performances from Jean Gabin and Jules Berry, Maurice Jaubert's fine soundtrack, and Alexander Trauner's legendary decor, Litvak (Ukrainian born, but who'd spent years in Germany and, subsequently, France) does a very good job, retaining the story-told-through-flashback structure. Only Fonda would do to play the Gabin character, and Vincent Price is perfect as the sleazy magician villain. Dmitri Tiomkin goes a bit heavy on the Beethoven 7 second movement, but I'll forgive him. Worth a look.
Howard W. Koch, Big House, U.S.A., 1955
Mean, lean noir crossed with a police procedural with voiceover: if you think Ralph "Iceman" Meeker is a nasty piece of work for kidnapping a boy at summer camp and then throwing his body over a cliff when the poor kid accidentally falls to his death from a condemned lookout tower, wait until you meet the hardened cons he ends up in prison with, led by the perennially magnificent Broderick Crawford. Good one.