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In the Soup (1992)
Try not to watch with the widest smile
This enjoyable indie feature, a one of a kind crossover of Jarmusch meets Coen brothers with a touch of David Lynch proved to be a true revelation. An outsider loser played with true perfection by Steve Buscemi with his wide-eyed naiveté, lives in a dingy apartment with Tarkovsky, Goddard and Renoir on his wannabe filmmaker's mind and is suckered into a passionate relationship with a smiling gangster beautifully portrayed by the late Seymour Cassel, a role that won him a prize at Sundance for his scene-stealing turn as Joe, the small-time hood who helps aspiring filmmaker Adolpho Rollo (Steve Buscemi) make his screen bow in return for the odd favour. Cassel once claimed that the fun part of acting was "filling out a part and making it a little crazy", and this is the key to his byplay with Buscemi. Buscemi on the other hand is filming his dream with 16mm camera exactly like the Kieslowski's "Film buff" and the centerpiece of this dream is beautiful Angelica Peña, played by Jennifer Beals in a truly memorable role. Their relationship is a roller coaster ride between contempt and affection a perfect antithesis to the role Cassel plays in both their lives. Stanley Tucci has a great cameo as French oddball wannabe husband to Beals and in a scene taken directly from David Lynch his favorite little man Michael J. Anderson appears and does the trick. Not to forget couple of idiotic landlords that spark up the story and LP record step-by-step guide to dancing the Cha-Cha.
I watched this movie with widest smile and it was such a refreshing experience to see the best parts of distinctive directors I love in each scene beautifully put together by Alexandre Rockwell. It's funny, it's refreshing and relaxing. You may even simpathize wit the characters. More than recommended.
Stormy Monday (1988)
Northern Neo Noir
In the best noir traditions, Mike Figgis directed this homage to the famous sub genre of American cinema in the mid 40's, depicting neon lit and jazzy wired story of two lost souls in grimly looking Newcastle upon Tyne, their fates spun by players of the new world order. Drawing from the same well of ideas and emotions as Truffaut's "Elevator to the gallows" (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud), which also featured Miles Davis jazz score, Figgis is leading us a step further, nicely interweaving the story of misfit lovers drawn together by chance, and clash between ruthless consumerism of "American week" featuring Frank Cosmo's thuggery and unscrupulous forcefulness of it's politics on one side, and on the other, poetic soul in grand persona of Gordon Sumner alias Sting, who is devoted to true art of living jazz in the old town, not budging from what he believes in, with lovers, Kate and Brendan at his side. "The Krakow Jazz Ensemble" a motley crew of actually British musicians serve as a great antitheses to Cosmo's violent kindness, that stops at nothing to achieve its goal. Sting alone in the club, his cigarette smoking from the ashtray, playing a double bass as nothing else in the world exists is one of the many high points of this film, same as a piano tuner who appears throughout, aligning the intervals between the tones of movie's narrative.
This beautifully filmed story with subtle touches of blues, B.B King "The thrill is gone" and "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)", from which it drew the title, is one of the best examples of modern noir. Wonderful film, worth revisiting, more contemporary today than when it was filmed, simply an announcement of the new era to come. Highly recommended - a must see.
Calamari Union (1985)
A homage to acclaimed 1979 Walter Hill film "The Warriors",(it even features a subway car), done in Kaurismäki peculiar, Godard inspired style, "Calamari Union" shows a group of uniformed named man, as opposed to uniforms of gang colors, fighting their way through Helsinki, trying to get to the promised neighborhood of Eira, not their native, but wishful place of living, where "there are no apartments". Along the way they meet and befall casualties to all sorts of transient enemies, asking for trouble as they go along. Their journey is futile, an attempt to overcome nonexistent and unseen boundaries, doomed from the start. Their resolve is even questionable and strong willed women are often derailing them from their unsure path, as the obstacles appear before them as a mirage.
Shot in typical Kaurismäki minimalist style, black & white photography, improvised dialog on a loosely based script, "Calamari Union", succeeds in bringing a viewer close to chaotic nature of the group's quest. This film is definitely worth repeated viewings, just for substance and style. Recommended.
The Disappearance (1977)
Canadian "Night Moves"
This film, done as a joint effort from the stellar cast and crew (script, cinematography, costumes, set design), is one of the best mystery, thriller-dramas, of the seventies. Ranking right along Arthur Penn's "Night Moves", "The Disappearance", in it's 91 minute, or better yet 101 minute director's cut, version is stylish neo-noir that glides perfectly through the story of alienation and betrayal, love and loss, mistaken emotions and gloomy memories, spanning between almost futuristic backdrop of Montreal, and rustic mansions and countrysides of Suffolk. Director's cut adds only a few nice linchpins to the story, explaining minor details, that are somewhat important to the plot, and without which, few things are left to our imagination.
Never really seen in it's real glory, as intended by the director Stuart Cooper, until the 2013 blu-ray release, that comprises both director's cut and 91 minute "third version" of the film,released in the UK, assembled by unknown author, as close to original as possible, retaining the feel, flashbacks essential to the film's structure and original score, director's cut and a "hatchet job" US version, "The Disappearance" is the best example of how a really good film can be mutilated beyond recognition, by an inept studio hacks. Making a linear plot out of non-linear story which is essential to the depth of the plot, is a true crime, and the rating that this movie holds on IMDb is the rating of the so called "US theatrical cut" which made this gem bomb at the box office after a single showing, and jettisoned into obscurity for over 30 years. The example of this, is also contained on the blue-ray in a horrid 15 minute long excerpt from the re-edited and re-scored U.S. release version of the film.
Now available as envisioned, (plus a non Hollywood ending) "The Disappearance" deserves it's place among the "must see" films. More than recommended, a true classic.
Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Intelligent, insightful and mesmerizingly beautiful
Clouds of Sils Maria is probably the best film of 2014. Insightful character study into the artistic and life defining moments in the life of great dramatic actress, featuring a career-defining performance by Juliette Binoche (one of her many), Sils Maria is meditation on power, desire, loyalty and the passing of time. Binoche and Moretz play actresses who are nothing like themselves: Moretz's Jo-Ann is talented, but a wild-child darling of the tabloids, while Binoche's Maria is frightened of aging and haunted by ghosts of her past.
Another area in which the film really excels is in its gorgeous landscape cinematography, courtesy of cinematographer Yorick Le Saux. The clouds of the English title (the original French title is superior, just Sils Maria) refer to the 'Maloja snake', a cloud formation that winds its way through the mountains of Sils Maria, which is beautifully captured on-screen in an inspired re-creation of a film shown within this film, Arnold Fanck's 1924 short Cloud Phenomena of Maloja.
In many ways, "Clouds of Sils Maria" is very similar to the mountain path that Maria and Valentine hike one morning, hoping to catch a peek at the ominous snaking clouds. It's winding, not all that clearly marked, and it sure takes time and patience, but by the end, you're left with quite a view.
Desperate Hours (1990)
Good, solid crime film
I liked this movie since it came out. The cast is really good, and their performances are strong all around. Cimino is good director, and I don't think that he made a bad movie. He was given a bad reputation by the industry since "Heaven's Gate" incident, simply because he wouldn't readily adhere to production guidelines, and wanted too much to be an "auteur", in a European cinema sense of the word. He was mostly not allowed to present his movies, as he wanted them to be, and the flickers of his talent just sparkle through the studio assembled films he made, visible to those who look for them, understanding visual poetry preserved in exterior scenery, his director's trademark.
I haven't seen the original, but "Desperate Hours" of 1990 is no worse than any far better rated crime or thriller movies that were hailed as a "box office hit". The plot is not weaker, and there aren't any goofs to report on this film, which means that it was done professionally or simply done well. It's aim to entertain, and involve it's audience in the plight of the family whose home is invaded by assortment of thugs, the main one being a truly disturbed individual, is fully served, helped by fantastic performances of Anthony Hopkins, whose gentlemanly grace in a desperate effort to protect his family is essential, along with Ann Archer, who is simultaneously strong and beautiful, as the mother caught in between the failing marriage and threat to her family. To understand Lindsay Crouse's performance, often labeled as overacting, it is essential to know what kind of a female would join police forces and be prepared to shoot, and be shot at. Not a femininely damsel for sure. So she is what she's supposed to be, hard talking, and behaving awkwardly in a sense that she is a military man's spirit, inhabiting female body, all to serve the story in each and every aspect that it has. It is hard to understand today, that Mickey Rourke was a unique kind of character actor back in the 80's, but we have filmed proof, one of which is Cimino's very own "Year of the dragon".
This is a good solid film that didn't age at all, but preserved it's qualities, beautiful cinematography, fierce acting performances, intensity and atmosphere, 26 years on, looking and feeling as good today, as when I first saw it. Not many more films of the genre, with far better rating, reputation of their director, and income, could say that about themselves now. Worth revisiting. Recommended.
Insignificance of relativity
Maybe the best Roeg film since "The Man Who Fell To Earth" (1976), and surely his last good one, "Insignificance"rolls along gathering momentum, like some enigmatic ball, seemingly going nowhere yet arriving everywhere as it explodes in a shower of illumination.
The time is 1954, a year in which Marilyn Monroe's career was beginning to crest, divorce from DiMaggio was in the offing, and the mixed blessings of her self-improvement program via psychoanalysis and the Actors' Studio were already under way. So, in the delightful encounter imagined by Terry Johnson's play (performed at the Royal Court in 1982), Marilyn flees from the gawking spectators and lowbrow frustrations of filming the subway grating scene for The Seven Year Itch to drop in unannounced on a shyly startled Einstein in the hope of intellectual stimulation ('Gee,' she sighs contentedly after being lectured sternly on the dangers of merely pretending to understand, 'this is the best conversation I ever had'). But just as a despairingly jealous DiMaggio is on Marilyn's trail, so McCarthy is hounding Einstein to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee; and in a valiant attempt to rescue the manuscript of Einstein's latest opus from being impounded as subversive, Marilyn gets punched in the stomach by McCarthy, causing her to abort the baby that might have saved her marriage. Significant events that are insignificant, in that physically Marilyn could never have borne the child anyway, while Einstein himself cheerfully throws away the manuscript he has already destroyed four times. Relativity. At the end, absently watching Marilyn go through her lines for him—only she hasn't any, Einstein sees a nuclear holocaust —only there isn't one.
Faithfully filming this scenario adapted by Johnson himself, Roeg has completely transformed it by placing it under his familiar sign of time and the stars. The opening image, of a wrist- watch spiraling in free-fall through space, has many ramifications: in its formal use as a device providing each of the four principals with childhood memories defining both the drives that turned them into stars and the inhibitions that burned them out; or in the more general symbolism of the timepiece stopped forever when a childhood experiment of Einstein's went wrong and which, for 'the Daddy of the H Bomb', signifies the guilty past horror of Nagasaki and the guilty future horror of what he has glimpsed next in his exploration of the precise nature of the universe.
Will Sampson, a mysterious Indian serving as a lift-boy addresses Einstein in a scene that seems like straight from David Lynch films: 'I know you. You're a Cherokee,' the elevator man had told Einstein, in a double-edged reference to the Cherokee belief that wherever he is, there is the center of the world. The thread of significance (or insignificance) has less to do with getting back to ancient wisdoms than with Einstein's complaint that people, though seeing themselves at the center of the universe, 'won't take responsibility for their world, they want to put it on the shoulders of the few.' The point is that, revered as the world's greatest repository of knowledge, Einstein knows that knowing is nothing, and thinking is what makes us significant.
Far better than the original
One of the greatest Hollywood rogue & maverick directors, represented in grand persona of Bob Rafelson, (who was given a free hand by Lorimar on this one) did a mighty good job in adapting famous Cain novel for the big screen. Packing a whole lot more wallop then the original, constrained in studio system - censorship dictated, straight jacket, Postman of 1981 is the movie with outstanding performances, that let us feel every throb of passion and excitement, overflow in doomed love story, of two lost souls, Frank and Cora, that are brought together by sinister faith, their carnal desires and bad luck. They plan and go through the murder fueled by greed and sexual desire. The murder plot is almost silly but it's dictated by the level of their intelligence.
There's something about the irony of two people who are caught by passion to begin with, and then transcend it, but can't elude the karma of their passion. That is very attractive to viewer who understands and feels their despair. They escalate each other's thoughts all the time,neither of them is capable of doing that audacious as murder, or even conceiving of their lives as anything but what they are, without each other. They're equal partners in their crime, their adultery and their murder and their love for each other.
This movie shows all this and it shows it vividly, the way 1946 version never could. That's why, Rafelson film is the ultimate embodiment of James Cain novel. Cain never wrote about very intelligent criminals. He wrote about desperate outcasts. Frank and Cora are those in the truest sense, and only Nicholson and Lange, could make you not only see, but feel their emotion, hopes, dreams, and their ultimate loss.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Times They Are a-Changin'
Beautiful story of poetic soul trapped in time before his time, an antiquated, band-lead world of the early 1960's music scene. Rich in Coen symbolism, Inside Llewyn Davis portrays an every talented man, unadjusted to society that doesn't appreciate his obsolete poetry, soon to become world wide trend for the next decade and a half. Nothing he tries seems to work and all his endeavors turn to dust.
But Llewyn fights on, led through stormy seas of his life by destiny that he desperately tries to hold on to, loosing a grip on it whenever he looses the cat, his mystery companion.He gets a beating from his bad luck, in the alley behind the Gaslight Cafe, posing as his "friend", after the performance where he takes a pity on himself singing "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" from depth of his troubled mind. Every person he meets is another piece in the jigsaw of his redemption waiting to happen. As the cycle of his downfall makes a full circle, he is back where we found him, but something has changed. Slim silhouette with a slightly husky voice, takes the stage and opens a new era in popular music, making "never new", and "never old music", the voice of a generation. Llewyn says "Au revoir" to shadowy ugly figure of his bad luck, that speeds away from him, in a yellow cab. The Times They Are a-Changin' and his destiny has led him out of the tempest of life, that had kicked him around.
Certainly one of the best films in the Coen canon, Inside Llewyn Davis will always let you find a new layer on it. It will make you laugh it will give you hope, and the music is beautiful and moving, with unsurpassed performance of "Please Mr. Kennedy" shining through. Worth of repeated viewings.
One-Trick Pony (1980)
Purely by chance I came across this little film, and seeing Simon's only previous role in Annie Hall, didn't have an idea what to expect. It turned out to be inspiring look into the world of music industry, which is condensed into a few sketches of life of former folk/rock star underlined by a low key but very consistent and steady acting and musical performance by Paul Simon and his great band of true rock legends (Eric Gale on lead guitar, Richard Tee on piano, Tony Levin on bass, and Steve Gadd on drums). His dilemmas are visible, both on musical and the great stage of life. He tries to pick up his family life where he left it off, a decade ago, while staring into the abyss of new musical trends threatening his very existence. But the quality is never out of fashion and that is visible throughout the film, in Simon's performance and his refusal to subordinate his art to mass tastes on FM radio, not showing any respect or awe towards those who can remake or brake his career. Hi is doing his thing, as in reality and that's why he remained himself on the scene. Not great but rather good film, you won't regret seeing every now and than, having in mind that 50% of the cast are non professional actors. The soundtrack is even better and makes it all more multi-layered than it already is. As Simon sang in one of his greatest songs: "Everything looks worse in black and white"
La piscine (1969)
Pool of conscience
This fine French crime drama, is not appreciated as it should be. The cast may be the reason, but there is no one, that comes to mind of contemporary French actors, at the time, that could have added something more to this. The centerpiece of this tale, of moral and emotional decadence is the swimming pool by beautiful villa, somewhere near Saint-Tropez and it radiates summer passion, it's turquoise waters filled with guilty conscience, calling for trouble between three old friends and lovers. Burden each of them carries, would lead to crime even without "sweet Jane" stirring it up to boiling point. Her presence is so light and she almost appears as a mirage, in between scenes of old passions, lust and grudges not forgotten.
The film is everything but slow paced and boring. There is no surplus scene, and I can't imagine how it could be done differently. Of course such films in general are not for audiences of ready-made movies, but for those who will savor Jacques Deray's fine direction, and beautiful cinematography of Jean-Jacques Tarbès. They did a fine job in submerging a willing viewer into exquisite beauty of Romy Schneider, Alen Delon's cool in portrayal of insecure, troubled man that finds his life utterly pointless, Maurice Ronet's subtle acting performance of a successful composer who is afraid of his success, and Jane Birkin's girlish naiveté, ruffle the pool of love and hate. Interraction between Schneider, Delon and Ronet adds another level to it, and the story glides well with every scene serving the story of superficial, emotionless people trapped in their small worlds, in witch they are suffocating. Beautiful film, worth every minute of your time, and not just in cold winter months.
Tony Arzenta (Big Guns) (1973)
Crafty action thriller with NO Hollywood ending
Alain Delon is great as usual in the genre that fits him like a glove. Tony Arzenta, a Euro-crime action thriller is directed in style and in a manner of a true craftsmen. This is the first Duccio Tessari film I had a chance to watch, and I was mostly drawn to it by knowing what Delon plays best and that is Le Samourai type character, a professional in his emotionless job. In this one he is attached and detached and drives the story to the conclusion that wouldn't stand a New York minute in Hollywood factory of dreams. That's why I love him and Franco/Italian crime films. Highly recommended to all the fans of this genre. You'll enjoy it, no doubt.
I went into this film not really knowing what to expect. The story looked like a 60's matinée love story of adultery and betrayal, but it seemed to me that there was something more, that lurked under the surface. Armed with Roger Ebert's favorable review, I decided to give it a go, and something which doesn't happen too often to a seasoned film buff, happened here, as I floated into the world of Petulia. I was more than pleasantly surprised with originality and distinctive, yet peculiar flavor of this film. Richard Lester, best known for his work with the Beatles, used his senses and the feel of the times, to create a near masterpiece that blended simple love story with torment, escapism and ridicule of the society, love, hate and aggression, misunderstanding and care, all wrapped up in San Francisco of 1967.
The use of counterculture, Janis Joplin appearance, Grateful Dead and their communal entourage, against the backdrop of uniformed man and women, in military and nun's outfits, all underlined the deeply divided American society of the Vietnam era, which was worlds apart from one another, same as Petulia and Archy, two lovers that were destined to lose. Richard Chamberlain is perfect in the role of psychotic husband and this is his most layered role that I know. Look at him in this film and you'll never see Dr Kildare again. Film of so many meanings and profound styles. As Richard Lester told the producer Raymond Wagner after the screening of the finished film: "Ray, no one may ever see this movie or understand this movie, but at lest our blood is on every frame of the film, and we did the very best we knew how". Worth keeping.
Voice Over (1983)
"Blow-Out" on drugs
This film may be a good one, but it doesn't seem so. It looks more like an effort by a "would be" filmmaker, that wanted, as the accompanying booklet says, to write and make a proper film. Shot in 16mm with bare bone sets and bare bone acting, this film depicts the world of a late night radio show host that tantalizes general public with his 19th century romance novel told in narration over the air waves, night after night, and his tedious job gets a following from young disenchanted people,two of which he meets, and for his efforts gets a beating from. No real point was made of anything in this movie, especially the "relationship" lead character has with his female tormentor, affectionately called "The Bitch". This film is not misogynistic as it was labeled back when it was released, it's more of a pointless study in loneliness and detachment, done with amateurish effort to be Goddard-incomprehensible. Another one of BFI flip-side releases of obscure British films, that were lost for a reason. Christopher Monger's later career proves these words. Interesting to look at as a curio peace, but hardly more than once. It's like a nightmarish version of De Palma's "Blow-Out", shot and released around the same time, done by a student with 8mm camera. Doesn't stand out in any way. Avoid.
Lacombe Lucien (1974)
Innocence & Guilt
One of the top 3 films of Louis Malle, Lacombe Lucien, named in bureaucratic fashion is a film of many layers. Perfectly cast and done with precision and minuscule eye for the period detail, this picture is like all of Malle's best work, an aesthetic picture novel. Malle did his best in casting Pierre Blaise as a main character, showing with an emotionless face the deepness of the void in his soul. Sadistic and cruel, murdering small animals and decapitating chicken with ease, Lucien is a text book example of the deviant character without any moral scruples, left out of his mother's emotional care and show of love. He wanders in a moral wasteland of his life and ends up just where he is supposed to be, a French Gestapo unit, Lucien joins not only in a wrong place, but at the wrongest of times to be serving the German Nazi regime (June 1944). It's a motley crew full of shady characters, racists, bigots, one of which is even black and politest of them all, former actresses in insignificant films, and a dog, all of them some sort of has-beens trying to do harm to the world they're also left out of.
Lucien knows no love, no compassion, no human emotion, and it shows perfectly on his face, not until he meats a Jewish girl, called France (of all names),the daughter of Albert the tailor who survives the madness of the war doing his job for everybody even the collaborationist that is out to get him. He is aware of his guilt and willingly pays for it. Lucien finds out about love, but in the process he also learns about human emotions and even manages in one brief moment to separate right from wrong. Too little to late, as it shows, but the point Malle wanted to make in this movie is right on the spot. Humanity is a strange beast. Fantastic.
Much Ado About Nothing
Having read about this movie I decided to give it a go, even though the plot didn't seem to exist in any way that could keep you interested for 30 minutes, let alone 195. I like distinctive and different films, sprinkled with surrealism, as much as I like popular classic cinema, but there has to be something that drives the story, and keeps a viewer follow it through. If the story hangs on a thin line, there has to be something other truly mesmerizing (photography, set design, etc.),that pushes a movie to another level. A series of self indulgent drama class exercises, that drag on for more than three hours, testing the patience of best-intentioned and most willing viewer to it's outer limits, is what happens in Celine and Julie. This is a sort of a movie, that has so little to offer, that your mind keeps wondering to all other places but the screen. Two leading actresses play with each other, and it drags on and on, in most parts looking like a student film of an overly ambitious but less talented student. The trick is, they keep student films to under one hour in duration, and it should have been done with this one, it might have improved it's quality. Story of mysterious house in which strange things happen is marred by silly pastiches of unexplained and often absurd actions two leading ladies undertake, in an effort to solve the mystery that has a self serving purpose, same as the movie which is trying too hard to be incomprehensible, in order to be different. And it succeeds. Whatever frenzied gallery of scenes that have no meaning for the general audience, is shown to you, and the least you understand the intentions and ideas of so called "auteur", more it will be considered by many outside of their intellectual capacity, thus, probably representing something really extraordinary.
Borrowing heavily from Sedmikrásky (1966), Vera Chytilova's pearl of the Czech new wave and world cinema, Jacques Rivette, couldn't emulate it's freshness, playfulness and cinematography, simply because he didn't have the ability, and because he lost any direction he could have had, when he passed the magic mark of about 76 minutes, after which, these fountains of ideas turn to stone. Difference is coherent uniqueness, difference is Kubrick, Teshighara, Clouzot, Truffaut, Kaurismäki. Surrealist is Bunuel, Cocteau, Ferreri... Distinctive is Polanski, Allen, Melville, Hitchcock, Welles. This one is not. No plot, no cinematography, no ideas and several pretty scenes is all there is. Nothing to justify three hours of your life. Avoid.
Not bad at all
The Charge of the light brigade (version '68), is a movie that has a bad reputation because of it's historical truth. One of the greatest, if not the single greatest military blunder in British military history, a fruitless and suicidal "charge" into the South Valley of the Balaclava battlefield with frontal assault of light cavalry on Russian artillery which decimated the Light Brigade during their "charge", is portrayed in all it's "glory". Childish and irresponsible behavior of the upper classes, who were playing war with lives of their man, constant bickering among them, envy and egos galore, set the stage for a typical 19th century conflict. And this truth can't be helped. It could have been made into a silly caricature of history, but it wasn't and many people consider that a failure.
The acting is great, and the cast is "cream of the crop" of British actors of those days. Tony Richardson with his "heavy hand" didn't harm the pace or the narrative, and this dissection of British society in 1850's is done well. I haven't seen the 1936 version, but I recommend this one warmly, to anyone who likes history, famous battles, and classic cinema.
Visiting Hours (1982)
Unjustifiably low rated
Visiting Hours is the film I saw, more than once in movie theater. Having opportunity to get it on DVD I didn't know what to expect. Very few films from my childhood "at the movies" stood the test of time, but the ones that made an impact then, are forever implanted in my film taste. Same thing happened with this film. It is untypical - typical horror film, that looks like traditional 80's slashers but different in all the key points. I never looked at any of Michael Ironside's roles without seeing the deranged psychopath he portrayed in this one.
It's qualities for me, are shortcomings for the majority of horror picture fans. It doesn't have new body spraying buckets of blood every two and a half seconds. It doesn't have freaks with masks and buzzin' chain saws, severed heads and body parts flying around. It has a story of deeply disturbed character, and his rampage through the world around him that he hates deeply and profoundly. Not just the women. He hates them all, and with passion. It has character actors, not bunch of nobodies that are only there to supply bodies for the count. They are not in their best dramatic roles, and the movie could have been better, but it's not half bad either, and it surely doesn't deserve such low rating.
This movie has something in it that's still there all these years. It aged well and you can't say that for many of them. It's different in it's usualness and that is the catch. Look for it, even if you don't like horrors. It won't give you nightmares, it will make an impression.
Le serpent (1973)
Intelligent and well made spy film
I had no doubt that this effort from prolific French director Henry Verneuil ("Le Clan Des Siciliens","Mélodie En Sous-Sol",and terrific "I... comme Icare)", will be better than your usual cold war spy thriller. This is a sort of movie that mature film fan expects to see, no James Bond nonsense, no Russians that only speak broken English, no Russians with M16 rifles and ridiculous plots. This movie rings true, even 60's and 70's strongmen such as Yul Brynner is very good and very plausible as Soviet KGB colonel Alexei Vlassov, and the supporting cast of greats: Henry Fonda, Dirk Bogarde and Philippe Noiret, wee the web of high echelon government espionage, that keeps viewer guessing to the end. French title "Le Serpent" is much better than unfortunate English one ("Night flight from Moscow),that has nothing to do with plot whatsoever. Le Serpent or the serpent is a snake in the grass that strikes whenever it feels threatened. It's poison is deadly and quick, but ultimately it has to shed skin and reveal it's trail. Look for this great film if you're a fan of intelligent spy films. Satisfaction is guaranteed.
Things to Come (1936)
A foundation of the genre to come
"Things to come" along with "Metropolis" is the must have for any Sci-Fi buff, representing the foundation of this genre, that is to flourish in 50's and 70's, with ideas and effects that originated in these two films, which set the marker in Science Fiction to this day. "Things to come" is a product of it's age, and can't be judged nor compared to later productions in acting, narrative or filming. However it is one of the most futuristic movies of all times, since it predicted many events of the near and far future, such as World War II and the way it will be fought, that only German military in those days was prepared for, globalization in the shape of scientific community called Wings Over the World that is imposing it's rule to indigent and retrograde nations that are "not in sync" with world order (like John Cabal said to The Boss, "we don't approve of sovereign and independent countries"), technical achievements of the future (LCD screens and architecture, which for the truth of the matter came earlier than 2036, but still..), use of helicopters which in 1936 were only experimental aircraft, and general opinion that the scientific progress is in reverse equation to human happiness.
H.G. Wells was dreamer and a prophet of Jules Verne size, and his dreams are put to the screen many times, but very few of them carry the look and the feel of "Things to come", if you love Science Fiction this is an alphabet movie. I also recommend seeing the colorized version, beautifully put together under supervision of famous effects man, Ray Harryhausen.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Unrealistic Hollywood style cartoon
I have a deep admiration for David Lean as the director who pushed the boundaries of film making far beyond, and set the marker not only in technical aspects of the craft, but often in atmosphere and feel of the film. His movies are beautiful to watch and that's why sometimes we can't see how bad the cake tastes from all the icing and decorations. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is like that, sticky sweet but ultimately nauseating. Every time a movie parts from reality we observe a genre, and the intention of film maker, along with symbolism it's trying to project. War movies in particular have to be true to the bone (unless they're parodies) because they represent the bestiality of mankind, and duality of man. This film tried to portray those essential elements but fell into Hollywood blender and came out silly and unrealistic.
First and foremost, anybody who even remotely knows anything about Japanese tradition, military culture social and military codes and character of Japanese man, can only laugh at pitiful Colonel Saito who is not only without any remorselessness, but looks like a powerless teacher on the first day in a new school, being played like a flute by honorable Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness),who not only survives days, locked in a tin box in tropical heat and humidity, but wins every concession for his troops he can think of, making the poor Colonel Saito cry at the end of one of his parades of will?!? Japanese soldiers and camp commanders were "very well known" for their compassion, sensitivity and sensibility which was expressed many times during the war, especially in Wake Island massacre, Manila massacre and Bataan Death March, so even the hint of Colonel Nicholson's behavior would result in quick decapitation. William Holden with his tanned biceps glowing in the sun is a true picture of starved Japanese prisoner, and his escape, along with return through the jungle in 50's style loafers (observe the scene where he and his band of sturdy man are being washed by Burmese women prior to attacking the bridge), is down right preposterous. Building a bridge as a monument to his ego is possible way of expression for "open only in a case of war" type of character Col. Nicholson apparently is, but convincing other prisoners to join in that venture simply on "let's show 'em" premise, in those times and circumstances is not likely to happen. To complete the three-ring circus, Japanese soldiers show solidarity and play along, so at the end you're not sure what did you just see. The battle of wills, winner makes history film, anti-war film, or simply a Hollywood action movie/spectacle without any plausibility or logic? Judge for yourself. Oh, and 5 stars are only for cinematography and Holden's loafers.
I recently discovered East German Sci-Fi, which didn't produce large numbers but a few very interesting films of that genre. One of these is Eolomea, rather good and in many ways cerebral film which requires all of viewer's attention. Story is carefully constructed and the sets aren't any worse then US films of that period such as "Silent Running,(not counting the "2001 Space Odyssey", of course, which is impressive even by today's standards). No, the sets and the effects are very decent, giving the budget and conditions of the production and if you compare it to big budget US flops such as "Marooned" it's on another level. Beautiful Dutch actress Cox Habbema is a real treat to watch, leading the international cast in which Ivan Andonov (a Bulgarian actor/director) and Vsevolod Sanayev, stand out. This is a first of three DEFA Sci-Fi Collection films, released by First Run Features, I had a chance to watch and it's pretty good.
Maybe Kresoja's best effort
"Oktoberfest" is a third feature directed by late Dragan Kresoja, former assistant director to Goran Marković and second unit director on many Serbian films that were among the most significant in Yugoslav cinema. Moving in the same direction as Paul Schrader, Kresoja's interest in peculiar individuals conflicting against the society are visible in two of his films that predate "Oktoberfest", critically acclaimed "Jos ovaj put" (1983) and "Kraj rata" (1984),but "Oktoberfest", was a turning point in his career and his approach to the subject.
Luka Banjanin (Svetislav Goncic), is an unemployed graduate living with his parents in Banovo Brdo, part of capital Belgrade, hanging out with few devoted friends, that are also going nowhere in a society that discarded young intellectuals, playing saxophone and dreaming of Oktoberfest, the annual beer festival in Munich. Being prone to be in a wrong place at a wrong time, Luka gets into trouble more than a few times, with the police, drug dealers, he has misfortune to know, and even a leader of the motorcycle gang, son of a police detective that is somehow always on Luka's trail, and on one of those occasions, just by being acquainted to wrong people, he gets caught on the border, coming back from school trip, with drugs that weren't even his. His passport was held indefinitely by the police and his dreams of Oktoberfest, that represents an escape from the reality are even more vivid, as his chances of leaving the country again, are getting thinner. These dreams are fueled by wild stories of beauty, colors, rides and beer, constantly told by his friend Bane (Zoran Cvijanovic)who was there before. Besides being stuck in with his employment and possibility of travel, he's also stuck with a relationship with a long time girlfriend Svetlana, who he doesn't care for any more, carrying the burden of lost love along with everything that has befallen upon him, and dreaming about half real/half fictitious girl that appears in his life like a mirage. His trials and tribulations are the centerpiece of carousel, on which different people have their hopes and despairs, love and hate, breakups and marriages, until it spins wildly at the end of the film, making you feel like you're flying through the dream and present.
In my opinion this may be the best movie Kresoja made in his career. Artistic and funny, sad and true, "Oktoberfest" aged well, and is always worth checking out.
"Quintet" is definitely not a film most people would find amusing or even interesting for that matter. There is no scene, dialog, acting or plot development that would light a spark. The icy world is one thing, but muddled plot is something you really can't bear. The characters are not only three-dimensional, they're not even one-dimensional, there is no emotion and there is no sense in anything that goes on. There is a world encased in ice, where nobody is doing any meaningful work, except playing Quintet, and the rules to the game are never even hinted. The homes are not heated, even though there is electricity, but who and what produces it? There is wood, but there are no animals, except dogs, so where do clothes come from, or shoes for that matter, since, apparently there is no industry, and everybody is dressed as in 16th century Europe, which is in odd contrast to not so futuristic pavilion backdrop. The entire movie seams to be stuck inside Altman's imagination, and he never bothered to share his ideas or his vision with audience. Desolation or hopelessness have nothing to do with lack of appeal to this movie, the world of George Lucas's "THX1138" is no brighter place and characters are no more fun, but the story has it's path. In Quintet, there is no obvious or even hinted path, and in my opinion it doesn't even provoke thinking about the idea behind it all, as, for example, similar film, John Boorman's "Zardoz". It's not even done in Altman's unique style, so it doesn't appeal to his fans,either, and I'm one of them. All in all, Robert Altman had a dream, and he woke up without telling anybody what it meant, not even to him.
"Tattoo" drew my attention purely by chance. I was reading up on some movies with similar plot involving psychotic love and abduction, and "Tattoo" just happened to be among them. I didn't know what to expect, but I was willing to check it out. Kind of a nice surprise, really, this movie is no deep character study, it's not terrifying, nor violent or brutal, it's just pretty good. Bruce Dern is a very good choice when it comes to roles of deeply disturbed characters, and he can do a good job showing all the layers that mentally unstable can be coated with. The anger, sympathy, obsession and violence are all within him, and Maude Adams is just along for the ride.
Two of them are fully compatible on screen and the movie is done by the numbers, the plot steadily flows and the story unfolds to the end, which I didn't think was right, at first, I expected something else, but the mixture of emotions within Maude Adams, should have produced the combination of love and hate that ended the movie. Worth seeing.