Sunday, April 21, 2013

Scheme Caller

Upstream Color

Shane Carruth is some kind of genius. Either that or his films deal with such complex, elaborate narratives that it just seems like he is a genius. But he has developed a cult following; his last movie, Primer, has websites dedicated to figuring out the various timelines. [Here's an amazing timeline jpg].

He takes his stories one step further into a morass of [il]logic than such films as Memento or Inception by Christopher Nolan. Which is perhaps one reason he is not yet well know and perhaps one reason he is self distributing his latest film.

I'm not going to spend time recounting the plot. If you want all the bits and pieces described succinctly and well go here. [Although preferably after you watch it].

I think it's best to go into the movie cold, knowing as little as possible. Suffice it to say it is a romantic thriller, science fiction film that deals with such unrelated things as maggots, natural narcotics, memory loss, pigs, mind control and Thoreau's Walden. Not necessarily in that order.

One aspect I particularly like about Upstream Color is that it keeps its engrossing, enigmatic narrative to the end without letting the audience down with a disappointing, banal [is-that-all-there-is] ending. Too many films have a fantastic start but then peter out by the end with the usual Hollywood let down.

Part of the reason is that the film develops its own internal logic that defies what we would call normal everyday logic and therefore keeps you guessing long after the credits.

For a really terrific interview and FAQ with Shane Caruth go here.

Go see it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Industrial D'amour

Delitto D'Amore AKA 'Crime of Love' - 1974 - Luigi Comencini

This is a very good Italian film from the 1970's about two factory co-workers who fall in love. He is a northerner and she is a southerner so you know from the start that they don't match well. He, Nullo - marxist, pragmatic, middle working class; She Carmela - religious, cautious and working lower class. Both live with large families. His rather eccentric and lazy, her's fiery and superstitious.

On the surface the film deals with conflicts that derive in their relationship from region, class, working conditions and social conditions. He wants to marry her right away but she knows her family - headed by a violent brother - won't like the idea so they hide their love.

This is a well observed love story first and foremost. For that reason, it's important that one not know how the story ends or what happens along the way. I saw the movie cold only knowing that it was a 1970's film from Italy that dealt with working class issues. That's all one should know. If you haven't heard of it or seen it I highly recommend you look for the Raro video* edition. And stop reading here because spoilers will now be revealed.

The strength of the film comes from the fact that it develops the characters, the situations they find themselves in and the milieu of both the factory and the industrial region of Milan, in which they live, before it sets upon a plot of any kind.

The plot develops slowly and about three-fourths the way through shifts gears significantly to the point that you realize it is almost a message picture. Fortunately, Comencini - who wrote and directed the film - keeps the message fairly subtle instead continuing to focus on the two characters rather than hitting us over the head over the fate that befalls Carmela. Because of this the ending is much more effective and authentic.

Anyone watching closely will realize that the first scene and the last scene are the same. However, since the characters are not yet developed, it's tough to know exactly what that first scene is telling us. Like a Franceso Rosi film there is a murder at the beginning - but unlike a Rosi film this one presents us with events so quickly the film doesn't feel like a flashback or predetermined as it plays itself out.

The two leads are well cast. Giuliano Gemma has a strength and confidence but remains fair and intelligent while Stefania Sandrelli fits the role well as a young woman who is both guarded and aggressive as she tries to nudge against the familial and religions obligations she thinks is expected of her.

The film reminded me a bit of Antononi's Red Desert in that the polluted industrial environment plays a role not only as scenery but driving the plot. The difference being that the fears become more real for he characters who, in this case, are working class.

* Don't read the synopsis on the Raro page. Gives away too much.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

R.I.P., Roger Ebert

R.I.P., Roger Ebert. A sad day.

I’ll miss his reviews, his sensibilities and his open mind.

Here are all his top ten lists from 1967 to 2006

I’ll also miss his sharp barbs. Here are a few. [Via]

North, 1994
"I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."

Stargate, 1994
"The movie Ed Wood, about the worst director of all time, was made to prepare us for Stargate."

Mad Dog Time, 1996
"Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line."

B.A.P.S., 1997
"My guess is that African Americans will be offended by the movie, and whites will be embarrassed. The movie will bring us all together, I imagine, in paralyzing boredom."

Armageddon, 1998
"No matter what they're charging to get in, it's worth more to get out."

Godzilla, 1998
"Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter's Basilica."

Battlefield Earth, 2000
"Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way."

Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles, 2001
"I've seen audits that were more thrilling." 
Freddy Got Fingered, 2001
"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

The Brown Bunny, 2003
"I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny."

The Village, 2004
"To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It's a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It's so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore. And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we're back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets."

A Lot Like Love, 2005
To call A Lot like Love dead in the water is an insult to water."

Bucket List, 2007
"I urgently advise hospitals: Do not make the DVD available to your patients; there may be an outbreak of bedpans thrown at TV screens."

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, 2009
"If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination." 
The Last Airbender, 2010
"The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented."

Seven Days In Utopia, 2011
"I would rather eat a golf ball than see this movie again."