David Berlatzky, The Farmer, 1977
Wiki, but beware spoilers: "Decorated World War II veteran Kyle Martin returns homes to Georgia to start a farm, but realizes running a one-man farm isn't profitable, and the bank needs to foreclose, despite his being a veteran. At that point a gambler named Johnny has an auto crash close to the farm, in which Kyle spares his life. Johnny offers him $1,500, which actually isn't sufficient to spare the homestead. At this time, Johnny past-posts mobster Passini on a horse race for $50,000. This angers Passini who along with his three colleagues, murders Johnny's bodyguard, and blinds Johnny's eyes with corrosive acid to "make a example out of him". Johnny asks his mistress Betty to hire Kyle so he can kill to Passini and his men individually for $50,000, which he needs to save his farm. Kyle is initially reluctant to do so. However, one of Passini's men by the name of Weasel rapes Betty at Kyle's farm. Weasel then kills the farmhand Gumshoe while trying to save Betty, then burns down the farm. After arriving in time to save Betty from the burning farm and surveying through the burnt wreckage the next day, Kyle finally accepts Johnny's offer which sets the path for revenge."
It's a bit cartoony - Gary Conway's cigar-chomping vet is, shall we say, somewhat lacking in charisma - but there's a nice twist ending and plenty of pretty nasty violence. Makes a change from watching one-sided and depressing propaganda documentaries on Ukraine (none of which I intend to "review" here).
Bert I. Gordon, The Mad Bomber, 1972
Aka The Police Connection (ugh) and Detective Geronimo (!), this is pretty terrible (Chuck Connors probably should have stuck to baseball), but is of interest as a kind of distant precursor of both (the far superior) Falling Down https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106856/?r ... lmg_act_38 . and the hilariously so-bad-it's-great Speed. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111257/Anyway, Wiki: "William Dorn, a middle-aged man in Los Angeles, rigs and sets off bombs in places he associates with the drug-overdose death of his daughter and the collapse of his life. Investigating detective Geronimo Minnelli learns that at one of the locations of his attacks, a hospital, a rape took place, and both the victim and her rapist likely saw the face of the as-yet-unidentified bomber. The police desperately attempt to simultaneously identify and apprehend both violent criminals, hoping one will lead them to the other." You can live without it.
I caught this by accident on late night Channel 4 (or was it SBS here in Oz?) at some point in the '00s and really enjoyed it. Didn't make the "Deadly Weapons" connection but agree that's a nice record. NATO put(s?) out some unique records.Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Fri Mar 18, 2022 3:45 amTonie Marshall, Vénus Beauté (Institut), 1999
Here's James: http://www.frenchfilms.org/review/venus ... -1999.html The only thing I knew about Tonie Marshall before watching this engaging and quirky comedy (stellar cast! including Ms Marshall's real life mum, Micheline Presle) was that she recorded a splendid album with John Zorn, Steve Beresford and David Toop (Deadly Weapons, Nato https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadly_Weapons_(album)). Fine performances from Nathalie Baye, a wonderfully frumpy Mathilde Seignier and Audrey Tautou (great debut), but plenty of juicy second roles and fabulous little cameos from Claire Denis, Edith Scob, Emmanuelle Riva, Robert Hossein etc etc. Samuel Le Bihan is a tad hard to take as the infatuated sculptor, and the ending is rather surprising (but effective). Very enjoyable. That album kicks ass too.
Chantal Akerman, La captive, 2000
Last time I wrote this
I have to say that if you've read the Proust you'll find much more to admire than if you haven't. Akerman has very craftily grafted bits of other novels in the Recherche into her script (the grandmother in the books dies a long time before Albertine moves in with the narrator), but really follows Marcel quite closely: the shift from vous to tu is faithfully maintained, and Merhar's performance as Simon (Proust, of course - even in the book he's only named Marcel once) is absolutely stunning. The book, though magnificent, drove me absolutely up the fucking wall: who else could spend eighty pages being jealous of a girlfriend? If Stanislas drives you nuts in the movie, just wait until you read the book. In case you don't (I really wonder how many people in the world have), I should tell you that Albertine (Ariane in the film) doesn't end up the way she does here. And the slow driveby the putes in the Bois de Boulogne isn't in the book either, though it's perfectly in keeping with both the character in the book's curiosity about les invertis - and with Proust's own life. Anyway, it's a spectacularly good film. Great script, fabulous framing, and a fine soundtrack (Schubert, Rachmaninoff - both work extremely well).Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:19 pmAnother splendid review from Senses of Cinema (worth your while donating a couple of bob, imo) says it better than I could: http://sensesofcinema.com/2004/cteq/la_captive/ But in case you feel you have to read Proust before you tackle the film, don't worry, I haven't (yet) - and the film still works. There's a touch of Rivette (love those captions... "three days later..."), Bresson and maybe Rohmer (a coincidence the movie ends in Biarritz, like Le rayon vert?) Pialat and Cavalier in its impeccably understated artistry. It is also, as the late lamented director says in a bonus interview, a distant relative of Vertigo. Good pedigree, then.
A manysided-one is Close Relations, which I recommend.
Read the other NATO at the beginning.I thought Nato had gone the way of other great alt. French labels - Saravah, Futura, Palm, etc (all waiting for deluxe reissues curated by my pal Théo Jarrier at Souffle Continu)
Jean-Pierre Mocky, Litan, 1981
This is a trip all right. Mocky, apparently tired of taking the piss mercilessly out of the Church, the State, all other remaining pillars of French society and arguably humanity altogether, here sets his sights on a favourite genre of his, the horror film - plus sci-fi and cheap action movies thrown in for good measure. Set in the fictitious town of Litan (all signs are in English, btw), which seems to be celebrating some of sort of bizarre and unexplained (nothing is in this movie) Day of the Dead kind of ritual (masked figures abound playing cheesy fanfares on brass instruments), it stars Mocky himself, complete in that de rigueur ratty bomber jacket, and Marie-José Nat as his partner, who has a nightmare in which, amongst other things, he dies, and which basically comes true for the entire duration of the film. No point in trying to explain anything: like most nightmares this has a logic of its own, and defies any kind of rational explanation. The pair end up in a police station, a prison, a psychiatric hospital and an underground cave system, perpetually pursued by masked villains and deranged thugs. For some reason the townsfolk are also turning one by one into zombies of some sort, and, oh yes, if you fall in the river you get mysteriously attacked and dissolved by huge blue radioactive worms. I'm not making this up! Music is by Nino Ferrer (who, you might argue, did for the French pop song what Mocky did for cinema) with bits of Shostakovich thrown in for good measure. Ferrer also plays a doctor.. let's just say he's better as a singer. But then again, that's the point: Mocky is hilariously bad as an action hero (love the way he speeds up the film when he does his kung fu), and Nat's not much better. AND YET it's great! It looks awesome too, filmed in a disused tannery in a foggy, grey, bleak town (Annonay) in the mountains west of Lyon, and paying some serious homage to Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now (I think I also spotted references to Clockwork Orange, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and certainly several George Romeros and Jean Rollins), it actually won the Prix de la Critique at the Avoriaz Festival in 1982, which provoked a near fistfight between jury members Georges Lautner and John Boorman (or was it Brian De Palma). Anyway, check it out, it's a blast.
https://jpierre-mocky.fr/index.php?opti ... icle&id=74
http://thebloodypitofhorror.blogspot.co ... -1982.html
Jon Jost, Coming to Terms, 2013
Can't do better than quote a bit of this review: https://www.artforum.com/film/tony-pipo ... mage-49727
"A quite different focus on death is found in Jon Jost’s Coming to Terms, as a terminally ill old man (played by the filmmaker James Benning) asks the largely estranged members of his family, two ex-wives and two sons—one gay and one a Jesus freak—to help him die before unbearable pain sets in. They do so and debate the consequences afterward. Jost, who has conjured a number of unusual visions of Americana since the 1970s, manifests the same straightforward, unadorned cinematic style—static shots, long takes, no camera movement—alternating impressive vistas of the Montana landscape with intimate, though dissociatively framed and edited, encounters between mothers and sons. All of this is characterized by Jost’s predilection for deafening silence that allows the natural world to speak and suits the subject all too well. However stark and somber the film seems, one discerns an underlying bleak wit in the filmmaker’s farewell to a world he no longer recognizes and seems somewhat relieved to depart. As Benning, close in age and cut from the same cloth as his director, dissolves into the landscape near the end, a doubly resonant experience comes to a close in this paean to the American pastoral filmmaking tradition." Wonderful to see Benning here. A mighty, understated performance. Jost fans won't need any convincing - and those who haven't discovered him yet, check this out.
Henri Decoin, La fille du diable, 1946
What an intriguing film: Pierre Fresnay (excellent as ever) plays a wanted criminal who assumes the identity of a drunken driver who helped him to escape a police shootout, and ends up being blackmailed by the local doctor (Fernand Ledoux) and intrigued by the presence in the local village of "the devil's daughter", a nihilistic girl who hates everyone, played magnificently by Andrée Clément, who, in a cruel twist of irony, like the character she plays here, died far too young of TB. Superb filming, great score by the mighty Henri Dutilleux, another Decoin gem. Recommended.
Kuei Chih-Hung, The Boxer's Omen, 1983
Hilarious - as long as you don't mind people vomiting up live eels, piercing eyeballs with needles, biting into live rats and spraying their blood over bat skeletons that come back to life, cutting up a maggot-infested dead crocodile and stuffing its entrails with a partially mummified boxer.. etc etc Fear not, the special effects are so fabulously primitive (if you liked the bats, wait until you see those spiders) that you'll spend most of your time laughing rather than hiding from the screen. Story? Ach, who gives a fuck about story? The director obviously didn't, or he might have found a decent way to end it. https://asianmoviepulse.com/2018/03/box ... chih-hung/
Joseph Losey, Galileo, 1974
Another noble effort from the American Film Theater to bring European theatrical masterworks to a wider viewing public, the play in question here being Brecht's (so any slight deviations from historical accuracy can be seen in context). It's well done, if a little scenery-chomping, and Chaim Topol isn't the only one to blame either: Tom Conti goes way over the top too. Odd, that casting of Topol (I agree with Ebert here), considering the rest of the cast is heavily mainstream Brit thespian - John Gielgud, Edward Fox, Colin Blakely, Patrick Magee etc., but the Hanns Eisler score, complete with Brechtian choirboy choral interludes to frame each scene, is good, and the Charles Laughton translation (Losey directed Laughton in the play himself - shame Charles wasn't still alive to star at Galileo in the film) solid.
Christian Duguay, Screamers, 1995
For some reason, there seem to be many folks out there who actually like this, including whoever wrote this https://www.pophorror.com/screamers-199 ... ro-review/ , but I thought this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story laughably horrible. Peter "RoboCop" Weller does the best he can with a terrible script, which actually gets worse in the final half hour before the not-at-all-surprising ending (ha, beware teddy bears), though I'll be impressed if you manage to stay awake that long. I don't know how I did, come to think of it.
Steven Spielberg, Munich, 2005
"Gripping, shocking, unflinching, pessimistic, unforgettable" is the title of one IMDb punter review, but I wouldn't use any of those adjectives myself. Much prefer "stylish and well-intentioned action thriller that tries to ask big questions, but is stumped for answers." (Guardian). I'm always a little taken aback when I see how a film I haven't enjoyed very much is praised to sky by everyone else. Anyway, point by point: yep, the opening kidnap sequence is well done, tightly editing archive footage and all that, but you wouldn't expect anything less from Spielberg, would you? Elsewhere, I didn't feel much of the edge-of-yr-seat suspense (the little girl arriving home and nearly getting blown to bits by one of Mathieu Kassovitz's toys), which I've seen compared to Hitchcock in several reviews. Maybe those folks should go back and watch some Hitchcock again before making such claims. Then again, there's nothing like a John Williams soundtrack to kill an erection. Only Zimmer does it better. Nah, the most disappointing thing about this - and I really came prepared to like it (I think you did, Henrik?) - is the script, which is so cliché-ridden and unnatural it belongs in a comic book. As do most of the characters. None of the actors - and it's an impressive cast - has much to do in the way of acting. Zischler and Hinds could be dispensed with altogether, Craig is as appalling as his accent, Kassovitz has little to do other than look worried (compare his nuanced performance in Costa-Gavras' Amen. please), and Bana.. Bof. Looks a bit like Tom Cruise (who probably wasn't available for the shoot, and who doesn't look very Jewish anyway. But does Daniel Craig? ha), and that's about it. He was good in Chopper, but he doesn't have much to do here. And to hear truly fine actors like Lonsdale and Amalric spouting comic book drivel ("Fate's hand falls suddenly, who can say when it falls?" / "We love everybody; we hate everybody. I get my feelings confused") is simply depressing. Want to see a good film about the Arab Israeli conflict? Try https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0787442/ instead.
Vitaliy Manskiy, Close Relations, 2016
You were dead right, Ben. This is excellent. But seriously depressing - one wonders how many more families have been / are being / will soon be rent asunder by this ridiculous and unresolvable conflict. Meanwhile,
Mantas Kvedaravicius, Mariupolis, 2016
is, if anything, even sadder, especially when you know (as I didn't, when I discovered it just yesterday) that the director was recently killed - executed, according to some reports - by Russians in Mariupol just a week ago.
Andrey Konchalovsky, Runaway Train, 1985
This is awfully impressive, but I did find myself laughing a bit too often, which I guess isn't quite what the director intended. Then again, any film that contains a scene of someone climbing down a rope ladder from a helicopter onto a moving train, especially one whose roof is covered in ice in subzero temperatures, isn't, I suspect, supposed to be taken all that seriously. Lots of fascinating stuff (especially if you're a railway buff) here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runaway_Train_(film) , including how Konchalovsky got the job directing a picture that was written by and intended for Akira Kurosawa 18 years earlier. Jon Voight and Eric Roberts were both nominated for Oscars, but John P. Ryan wins it for me for his totally over the top Warden Ranken. Watch out too for Eddie Bunker as Jonah - as Bunker also had a hand writing the screenplay, I wonder whether it was he who suggested what strikes me as a rather obvious homage to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three with the cartoon characters whose job it is to run the railroad. Shame Konchalovsky couldn't have got a soundtrack as good as David Shire's for Pelham. But, whatever, fun stuff. Unlike Pelham, which I've seen at least half a dozen times and never tired of, I don't think I'll need to return to this one more than once, if at all.
Emir Kusturica, Underground, 1995
I wonder if the recently departed Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius had this picaresque epic somewhere in the back of his mind when he filmed the forlorn beasts languishing in the zoo in Mariupol (see above review), most of which I imagine are by now dead - and probably eaten. The Luftwaffe air raid that opens Kusturica's epic and blows open the cages of zoo, releasing tigers and elephants to wander among the smoking ruins of Belgrade, is an extraordinary opening to a typically over the top revisiting of Serbian history from World War II up to the dark days of a later war in the 1990s. Not sure I'd go so far as the bloke from Slant who described it as " the most important film of the last 25 years", but I do agree it's "a sweltering, morally inquisitive work of political narrative fiction that laments our propensity for auto-destruction." https://www.slantmagazine.com/film/underground/
That said, it certainly rubbed some people up the wrong way, like Alain Finkielkraut: "In recognizing Underground, the Cannes jury thought it was honouring a creator with a thriving imagination. In fact, it has honoured a servile and flashy illustrator of criminal clichés. The Cannes jury ... praised a version of the most hackneyed and deceitful Serb propaganda. The devil himself could not have conceived so cruel an outrage against Bosnia, nor such a grotesque epilogue to Western incompetence and frivolity." Worth bearing in mind Finkielkraut was a fervent supporter of (Croatian president) Franjo Tudman during the Bosnian War.. as with Ukraine today, you gotta pick a side, it seems. And here's the lisping laconic Lacanian, Slavoj Žižek:
"Underground is one of the most horrible films that I've seen. What kind of Yugoslav society do you see in Kusturica's Underground? A society where people fornicate, drink, fight – a kind of eternal orgy." A photo of the director beaming alongside Vladimir Putin on his Wiki page probably doesn't help. Must be hard to be a Serb, I guess. Well, see what you think.
Henri Calef, Jericho, 1946
I hope a restored version pops up before too long, as this wartime tale based on a true story (Operation Jericho was indeed an RAF raid on a prison in Amiens designed to liberate hostages, and also, according to recently revealed evidence, probably designed to distract the Germans' attention from intelligence that might indicate the forthcoming Normandy landings) has a solid script and a fine cast, including Pierre Brasseur, Raymond Pellegrin and the ever wonderful Pierre Larquey. Calef, of Bulgarian Jewish origin and a card-carrying member of the Parti Communiste, kept himself well hidden during the Occupation, fortunately; not as well known as he deserved to be, methinks, despite glowing accolades from Jean-Luc Godard and, later, Bertrand Tavernier. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Jericho
François Ozon, Tout s'est bien passé, 2021
If you've seen Alain Cavalier's Etre vivant et le savoir (and if you haven't, I can recommend it) or read my review of it somewhere above (and if you haven't, I wouldn't worry) you'll have seen Emmanuèle Bernheim, whose retelling of her own father's quest to end his life with quiet dignity is the story being told here in the latest offering from Monsieur Ozon. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movie ... 234978656/
Fine performances from André Dussollier and Sophie Marceau (and a smashing cameo from Hanna Schygulla), and, contrary to what you might think, a wry sense of humour. One could only imagine the mawkish horror of a Hollywood remake. Thankfully, I doubt it'll happen.
Xavier Beauvois, Albatros, 2021
Much to agree with in the following review https://www.criticsnotebook.com/2021/03 ... atros.html
and I feel a little sorry for those miserable punters who moan online that it's too long and/or too slow. Jeremie Renier's performance as a local police chief in Normandy whose career nosedives after - no, I'm not telling you (the above-linked review does anyway) - is outstanding, and the rest of the cast, including Marie-Julie Maille as his wife Marie and Geoffroy Sery - a farmer in real life - is excellent. The dialogue sounds like real people talking, too (makes a change from things like Munich and Runaway Train ), and, for once, I found myself being seriously moved by the use of the last movement of Faure's Requiem, which I've never really liked, in the magnificent closing sequence.
Xavier Giannoli, Illusions perdues, 2021
I'm quite happy to forgive Giannoli for only adapting what's basically half of the Balzac novel - the film concentrates on the rise and fall of Lucien, whereas the story of his sister Eve and fellow poet pal David is excluded altogether - because a) there's enough juicy material in the Lucien story alone for an entire series and b) he does a damn good job. Apart from a few odd scènes de cul (we even see the de Rumempré member) and several sly nods to French media culture (le masque et la plume, le canard enchainé..) which I don't remember from the novel, the film finds a nice resonance in today's real news / fake news world. Add to that a superb cast - Jeanne Balibar and Xavier Dolan are especially great - a fine soundtrack (I'm even prepared to forgive Max Richter for redoing Vivaldi, because he does it quite well) and some smart location shoots and you've got a good, solid box office success period piece, well able to hold its own against things like Valmont, Dangerous Liaisons etc etc. And once I finish with Proust, I'm heading back to Balzac, that's for sure.
Jean-Louis Trintignant, Une journée bien remplie, 1973
Trintignant's directorial debut is a cult (so it seems) black comedy telling the story of a village baker who sets off on his motorbike with his mum in the sidecar to murder the surviving jury members who sentenced his brother (or was it his son?) to death a few years before. Sounds grisly, but it's more comedy horror (think of those comedy gialli - yep, there's a Bruno Nicolai soundtrack too), and the ever crazed-looking Jacques Dufilho is perfectly cast as Monsieur Rousseau. In addition to Nicolai's jaunty tunes, the soundtrack pillages Mahler and other Romantic notables to great effect. Smashing filming by William Lubtchansky. Looks like it's just come out on BluRay, so expect a better rip soon. Or you can buy the disc, if you still do that.