Friday, February 13, 2015
Fifty Shades of Clay - A love story between two sculptors.
Fifty Shades of Fey - A doomed love story about two clairvoyants.
Fifty Shades of Gay - A bisexual, transgender love story.
Fifty Shades of Hay - A love story between two horses.
Fifty Shades of Lay - A love story between a sex addict and a neurotic.
Fifty Shades of May - A love story set in France during the revolts of May '68.
Fifty Shades of Nay - An anti-love story.
Fifty Shades of Pay - A love story between rich men and a hooker.
Fifty Shades of Stay - A story about a couple dealing with their impending divorce.
Fifty Shades of Way - A love story between a Buddhist and a Taoist.
Fifty Shades of Yah - A positive love story.
Monday, February 02, 2015
This terrific film made in 1983 by Australian filmmaker Paul Cox is about an eccentric, lonely middle aged man [Norman Kay] who derives pleasure from flowers, bronze statues, music and a female stripper named Lisa [Alyson Best] whom he has hired to perform in his house once a week.
The film opens on a close-up of a painting and then segues into the striptease. Charles, too uptight [possibly due to premature ejaculation issues] to do anything [including talk] with the stripper when she finishes he runs out of the house across the street to the church to play the organ. Something he does with such frequency that the pastor has given him a key to come and go as he pleases.
But more than just another film about a lonely man the film has style. For instance flashbacks shot in 8mm [or possibly 16mm], accompanied with opera music in which we see young Charles who had a serious Oedipus complex, which led to him ogling his aunt and other women who come to the house. This in turn leads to beatings by his strict father [played by Werner Herzog!].
In the present day Charles tries to live a normal life but his search for perfect aesthetics and sexual frustrations as well as religious convictions [or confusions] lead him to a solitary confinement within his memories. Lisa, the young stripper, has problems of her own; her artist, drug abusing boyfriend is continually in debt and all they do is fight. Lisa thinks she has found a friend with Charles but really she needs someone her own age. Although she has decided to attempt a sexual relationship with her girlfriend for a while.
As in many of Cox's films the pace is leisurely but engaging and there is an undercurrent of melancholy with a touch of witty humor as well. Characters try to exert their individuality in unique and funny ways; in one scene in which Charles attends an art class is drawing a naked model [who happens to be Lisa] and what he draws are a bouquet of flowers. The busybody class teacher tells him he can't paint flowers in place of a naked body and he yells back that if she tries to stop him he will go to the arts board and claim artistic freedom.
The one weak character in the film is the artist boyfriend who tries to force Charles to buy one of his paintings so he can feed his drug addiction. However, his presence in the film drives the narrative - especially after he leaves Lisa with a black eye thus forcing Charles to take matters into his own hands. In short; don't mess with a mamma's boy.
The final shot of the movie is a beauty; as four men stand in a seaside park in the dark as the sun is going down overlooking the brightly lit sea and sky as seagulls fly around. It lasts about two minutes. My reading of this scene when I saw the films 20 years ago was that it says from the dark we see the light and therefore in the dark we see our dreams flying around but not away. Perhaps that's too fancy a reading but nonetheless it's a visual wonder to behold; like a painting by Caspar David Friedric.
The DVD is tough to find although it is available in Australia at a reasonable cost.
Monday, January 26, 2015
I found 2014 to be a good year but not an exceptional year; even though there certainly were exceptional moments in many films.
Here, then, is a list of films I enjoyed last year.
Tier 1 [meaning I enjoyed these films without many reservations]
The Dance of Reality
The Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
Tier 2 [meaning I enjoyed these films with some reservations]
The One I Love
Under the Skin
Tier 3 [meaning I enjoyed these films despite reservations].
Goodbye to Language
A Most Violent Year
The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
Two Days, One Night
Friday, January 16, 2015
The Agony and the Ecstasy [Carol Reed, 1965] - Charlton Heston as Michelangelo! Even if it is just another one of his many epics it is also a Carol Reed film and worth a look. And, yes, Michelangelo does see 'The Creation of Adam' in the clouds one evening! Perfect schmaltz.
Chair de Poule [Julian Duvivier, 1963] - A nice slice of French noir by Duvivier that no one has seen.
Club de Femme [Jacques Deval, 1936] - A mixed group of lonely women in a women-only Parisian boarding house try to come to grips with their [mainly sexual] frustrations.
Corridor of Mirrors [Terence Young, 1948] - The influence that Cocteau had on British filmmakers is evident in this rarely seen [not on DVD] film about a woman who falls for a mannequin wax figure from the past.
Il Cristo Proibito [Curzio Malaparte, 1951] - An Italian neo-realist film about a disillusioned man who comes back from WWII to his small Italian village to avenge the death of his brother who was ratted out to the Germans by one of the locals. Excellent film - rarely seen.
The Most Wonderful Evening of My Life [Ettore Scola, 1972]
Wonderfully dark Italian comedy about a man whose car breaks down following a beautiful woman biker who then ends up the dinner guest of a bunch of old judges who, for fun, put him on trial for his life.
London Belongs to Me [Sidney Gilliat, 1948] - My appreciation for Gilliat films continued with this tale of a young man (Richard Attenborough) who commits a crime to get money to impress his girlfriend.
Madeleine [David Lean, 1950] - Based on a famous 1857 trial of a woman who was accused of killing her husband. Is she guilty, not guilty or is it not proven!? Beautiful black and white cinematography.
Murder He Says [George Marshall, 1945] - A crazy, fun comedy about hicks in the sticks and a government census worker (Fred McMurray) who stumbles into their world and can't get out.
Films I finally caught up with:
Big Trouble in Little China [John Carpenter, 1986] - Classic 80's!
Le Deuxieme Souffle [Jean Pierre Melville, 1966] - The only bad thing about this is that I only have one more Melville film to see before I've seen them all. Darn! I love his films.
Eden and After [Alain Robbe Grillet, 1971] - A sexy, psychedelic, French, acid trip movie by Robbe Grille. This really fits the bill as a"they don't make like this anymore" film.
From Here to Eternity [Fred Zinneman, 1953] - You know that scene on the beach with the lovers kissing as the wave overtake them? Yeah, they fight after they kiss. No one tells you that. Great film.
Phantom of the Paradise [Brian DePalma, 1974] - DePalma knows well how to make a movie that is both a mess and terrifically entertaining. When the phantom takes revenge the film soars into blissful madness.
White Dog [Sam Fuller 1982] - Is racism treatable or incurable? Would this film be made today?
Wild River [Elia Kazan, 1960] - Great script, story, acting... how come it's one of Kazan's least seen?
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Here are some of the films I saw again in 2014.
Downhill Racer - I grew up in Colorado and I love skiing so it fits the bill every time. This is really one of the best sports movies ever made because it cuts through the rah-rah-rah.
The Ruling Class - As wicked and clever as ever. Peter O'Toole is terrific.
Casablanca - I'd forgotten how good this film was. Curtiz is often underrated.
Flirt - A forgotten Hal Hartley, which is saying something. Still, a good film.
Nostalgia - I hadn't seen this Andrei Tarkovsky film in years; and always on the big screen. The images on the small screen are still powerful and the ending just as harrowing and mysterious.
Badlands - Leaning towards Malick's best because each scene doesn't stay vacant for long.
The Train - Burt Lancaster commandeering a Nazi train full of art. What's not to love?
Hiroshima mon amour - One remembers the beauty of the images rather than the tragedy, which makes it all the more powerful when you see it again.
Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud - Claude Sautet's last film and still a solid, effective love story.
Peking Opera Blues - I watch this Hong Kong classic every few years. It's ridiculous but fun. Or is that ridiculous AND fun?
Pursued - When they made psychological westerns.
Miller's Crossing - Man, I forgot how good this was. I liked it better this time around.
Pascali's Island - No one remembers this film but it's got fine performances by Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren
The Long Day Closes - Terence Davies' beautiful, personal and nostalgic film is one for the ages.
Life and Nothing But - Bertrand Tavernier's film about World War I and the effect on two people; one an officer and one the wife of a lost soldier - is a film I watch every few years.
Red River - Is this the best Western ever made? Maybe. Still entertaining.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - Has any director ever continually cut as deep and as sharp as Fassbinder did film after film? This film is still so darn good.
Excalibur - I put this in to test my Blu-ray player and decided there was nothing better to watch at that moment. Fun film.
The Yakuza - Robert Mitchum doing his thing; only as an older man in the 1970's. Better than I remembered it.
3 Women - Robert Altman's Persona made at the height of his artistic powers - when zooming was all the rage and people still ate patty melts.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Some would say Whiplash is about a music conservatory student drummer who - with the help of a sadistic teacher - achieves success. But really the film is about a student who has to endure the abuse and manipulative tactics from the teacher on the way to achieving success.
The teacher - played brilliantly by J.K. Simmons - tells a story to the kid about how Jo Jones threw a cymbal at Charlie Parker's head and it made Parker practice harder until he achieved his legendary success. The story is apocryphal but it sets the stage for the lesson the teacher wants the student [Miles Teller] to understand, which is that abuse and intimidation will bring out the best in someone with talent.
I don't think the filmmaker - Damien Chazelle, believes this method works. But he teases it out enough to make us at least believe the student thinks it has some merit. However, by the end, he finds that the only real way to achieve success with this teacher is to fight back - and hard.
It's a terrific film; entertaining, intense and rather unpredictable. Especially the final scene when the student gets humiliated and then turns the tables - all on stage for the world to see. He finally finds a way to achieve the success he would have achieved earlier with a better teacher. But sometimes you have to overcome hurdles to win.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
It's all the more remarkable because the director Benedikt Erlingsson is a first time filmmaker who manages to capture the story visually better than many seasoned directors. Through editing juxtapositions, close-ups as well as the majestic use of horses in many different scenarios, he keeps the tale going strong for its 86 minute running time.
The film takes place in and around a quirky small Icelandic community where everyone knows one another and no one holds a secret from anyone. The film unfolds much like a series of short stories; each one loosely connected to the others and all in one way another involving horses and the various characters of the region.
Both the horses and the men [and women] live off the loamy, windy, fjords that surround them. And the only thing that separates man from beast is that the men attempt to be a bit more formal in their proceedings - although barely. The film's first scene is indicative of this. A man rides his horse to call on a lady friend. He is dressed in formal attire. She greets him with - who we assume - is her mother and her young son. They have tea and commence with small talk and laughter. Meanwhile his horse has drawn the attention of a stallion who begins to go wild. As the gentleman leaves the wild stallion managers to break through the fence holding him and he rushes to the mare to mate with her. What ensues is a major embarrassment for the gentleman and a good hearty laugh for everyone else.
One thing Erlingsson does really well is present each story in such a unique way that you don't exactly know what's happening. Many times I found myself surprised by unpredictable [but subtle] narrative twists. Each story has its own delight or shock or revelation and all of them have moments of exhilaration, which are helped along by the amazing cinematography of Bergsteinn Bjoergulfsson and a terrific score by David Thor Jonsson.
Movies like 'Of Horses and Men' is one of the reasons I go to movies. I hope it finds a distributor.
UPDATE: It has been picked up by Music Box Films.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Make no mistake, this is a Alejandro Jodorowsky film through and through. It is not a compromised, mainstream film put together by studio producers or marketing hacks. It's not safe and easy yet it's not too outrageous to scare away the timid. For every bit of harsh or clunky mise-en-scene it segues into confident narrative structure and the assurance of faith or a mother's love.
This is entertainment that astonishes and pushes us; from scenes like the mother urinating [for real] on her ailing husband, to dancing naked with her son both blackened with shoe polish, to the craziness of not one but a dozen crippled one [or no] armed men drinking themselves into despairing drunkenness. It's a world that not only embraces atheism and faith, but cornball sincerity [the mother sings every line as if in an opera] with outrageous sadistic madness [the father hurts the child early on to gain his respect].
It's a film about the cruelty of dictatorships and economic difficulties but a one of hope too. Ultimately, it's a film about the rebirth of both a man and his country.
It's tough to recount the plot. And since I saw it with no knowledge of the plot I'll leave it there.
See it. It's a great, unforgettable film.
Friday, May 23, 2014
#Cannes2014 Olivier Assayas Sils Maria an ambitious, intriguing study in life and art, acting & ageing. V fine performances, esp. J Binoche— Geoff Andrew (@Geoff_Andrew) May 23, 2014
Government and God: Leviathan is a BIG film and a strong contender for the Palme d'Or. Magnifique #Cannes2014— Total Film (@totalfilm) May 23, 2014
The Tribe was bold, extraordinary, upsetting and a teeny bit dull. Definitely deserves to be seen. #Cannes2014— Tom Linay (@TomLinay) May 23, 2014
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Well, here's a surprise: I was totally charmed by Ken Loach's JIMMY'S HALL. Old dog, old tricks, executed with sweetness and grace.— Guy Lodge (@GuyLodge) May 22, 2014
The Egoyan getting poor reviews again. SMH, when is this guy gonna get it together again? Disappointed.— ThePlaylist (@ThePlaylist) May 16, 2014
THE HOMESMAN (A-): A whisper of a town, a good woman on the verge, a man without a plan. Boetticher given a feminist humanity. #Cannes2014— Glenn Heath Jr. (@MatchCuts) May 18, 2014
The Salt of the Earth - Wim Wenders doc on Salgado. Unforgettable photographs, patient storytelling. Stirred up something deep, good stuff.— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) May 22, 2014
My favorite thing to ask great European actors is how soon until they're playing a Bond villain. #Cannes2014— Your Canadian GF (@YourCanadianGF) May 22, 2014
The bad reviews make me want to see LOST RIVER more than the good reviews make me want to see FOXCATCHER. #Cannes2014— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) May 20, 2014
Jean-Luc Dogard.— Alison Willmore (@alisonwillmore) May 21, 2014
LEVIATHAN (Zvagintsev) A character explains the Book of Job as another drinks vodka from the bottle. You get the picture... #Cannes2014— David Jenkins (@daveyjenkins) May 22, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
That the Dardennes basically made one of the great 1930s Hollywood melodramas in 2014 makes me immensely happy. #Cannes2014
— Glenn Heath Jr. (@MatchCuts) May 20, 2014
Dolan's MOMMY is a masterful, operatic look at motherhood and madness. Tonally ambitious, musically equisite. Stellar. #cannes2014
— Jason Gorber (@filmfest_ca) May 21, 2014
In Godard's GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE, a man discusses the meaning of Rodin's The Thinker while taking a dump. En 3D! #cannes #cinema
— erickohn (@erickohn) May 21, 2014
Hazanavicius' THE SEARCH is a stilted, obvious, preachy and egregiously overlong Chechen war drama. Not a patch on the Zinnemann original.
— Scott Foundas (@foundasonfilm) May 21, 2014
David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, the world's first melodrama/Hollywood satire/supernatural horror/psychokiller movie #cannes2014
— Steven Zeitchik (@ZeitchikLAT) May 18, 2014
#Cannes2014 More I think about Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, more I think it’s a major achievement. Pushing himself, us & cinema itself
— Geoff Andrew (@Geoff_Andrew) May 17, 2014
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Julien Duvivier is best known in the United States for 'Pépé le moko'. But he had quite a distinguished career that lasted from 1919 to 1967 and included over 70 films. Jean Renoir is noted to have said: "If I were an architect and I had to build a monument to the cinema, I would place a statue of [Julien] Duvivier above the entrance….This great technician, this rigorist, was a poet."
I've seen few Duvivier films but each film I have seen is impressive in one way or another. Even if he was just knocking off a genre picture. One such film is Chair de poule [translates as Goosebumps but was also known as 'Highway Pickup']
It's a French film noir and the plot is rather typical. A criminal named Daniel [Robert Hossein] after being caught robbing a safe escapes from a train on the way to prison, finds himself in a remote location where he is befriended by a man, Thomas [Georges Wilson], and his wife, Maria [Catherine Rouvel] who run a roadside restaurant and gas station. It's evident rather quickly that the young wife is not interested in her older husband. The only reason she hangs around is because he has a fortune of money stashed away in a safe. Daniel, it turns out, is a safe cracker. Once Maria finds out this convenient fact she decides to double-cross her husband with this handsome criminal. However, Daniel wants nothing to do with her.
Enter Paul [Jean Sorel] Daniel's partner in crime who in the we saw in the movies first scene manage to escape and avoid Daniel's prison fate.
The plot thickens.
I don't want to recount the plot or give anything away but suffice it to say the film fits into that niche we might call cynical noir. It builds to a very satisfying conclusion. The story is not Duvivier's. It is based on a novel by James Hadley Chase titled Come Easy Go Easy. But it is well directed and it's terrifically entertaining.
The reason the film is not well know is most likely because it has no big movie stars we can associate with. The biggest being Jean Sorel who was in 'Belle de Jour' and 'The Day of the Jackal'. But it's got big talent behind the lens. The cinematography is by Léonce-Henri Burel who shot Abel Gance's Napolean as many Robert Bresson films. The score is done by Georges Delerue. It would be nice to see this film get the Criterion treatment at some point. Or just any old release will do. Look for it.