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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 25, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 25, 2020

#1

Post by sol » June 21st, 2020, 12:00 pm

Which Films Did You See Last Week?

Please share with us which films you saw last week. It would be great if you could include some comments on each film. It would be awesome if you could also take some time to comment on everyone else's viewings. Unfortunately, it has reached the point where it is no longer viable for me as host to comment on everyone else's viewings every week (especially since some people like to use the weekly thread to log their viewings and nothing else). I am always keen to promote movie discussion though, so if you comment on my own viewings, I will comment on yours at my earliest convenience.

Please also note that this is intended as a movie discussion thread, not a large image posting thread. Having too many large images makes this thread difficult to navigate through. If you wish to include more than five images in a reply, please use spoiler tags - [spoiler][/spoiler] - to hide extra images.

This is what I saw:

★★★★ = loved it /// ★★★ = liked it a lot; ~7/10 /// ★★ = has interesting elements; ~6/10 /// ★ = did very little for me; ~5/10 and lower

Angel Face (1953). Needing extra money, an ambulance driver cautiously accepts a side job as chauffeur for a young woman who he suspects of attempted murder in this curious noir offering from Otto Preminger. While the set-up is familiar, the movie frequently avoids noir clichés, even becoming a courtroom drama for a brief stint, while giving more dimension to Jean Simmons than the average femme fatale. She is opportunistic and manipulative but also has quite a down-to-earth and human side that unexpectedly comes out in the film's second half; her final scene is particularly powerful. Robert Mitchum is less dynamic cast opposite her, but has some fine moments too, never allowing himself to completely fall for her angel face given everything he suspects about her, but still drawn to the promise of further funds and career opportunities. (first viewing, VHS) ★★★

Guns of the Trees (1961). Declared unfinished in the very first frame, this directional debut from Jonas Mekas plays out as more of a series of dreams and nightmares than a traditional narrative, and the unfinished nature feels on-point. What little plot can be made out circles around a suicidal woman whose pessimistic views are contrasted against an interracial couple expecting their first child and their polar opposite wonderment at what the world will bring. The main idea here seems to be that most of us just carry on when life seems meaningless and pointless, and thus while all the randomness is sometimes irksome, it also suits the project well. Sound and music is creatively used throughout too, whether it be a horror-like theme before an insurance salesman makes a pitch, or the mere sound of only a dog barking or a baby crying as police quell protesters. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Lord of the Flies (1963). Marooned on a deserted island without adults, a group of schoolboys establish a series of rules and try to maintain a sense of society until fear and desperation gets the better of them in this adaptation of William Golding's classic novel. The film begins well with writer-director Peter Brook delivering all of the initial exposition through still photographs with the live action only beginning when the kids climb ashore. After this point, things move slowly as we wait for the boys to gradually turn savage, while the amateur performances result in very few enticing characters. There is lots to like about the film once the savagery starts though and the stark black and white photography makes everything so eerie, with firelight dances and possible beasts lurking in the shadows; the kids' paranoia and the utter uncertainty in the air can really be felt. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

The Sadist (1963). Opening with voiceover narration that talks about the "twisted pleasure" that sadists achieve from inflicting pain on others, this thriller sets itself up to disappoint from the get-go. While perhaps shocking in 1963, nothing that the titular sadist does here seems all that outlandish in the current age of torture porn. Most notably, he seldom hurts his hostages and when killings occur, they are very quick, never quite conveying the sense of pleasure that he supposedly takes from watching others suffer. As the villain of the piece, a squinting Arch Hall Jr. is also so over-the-top that he seems more silly than fearsome. There is still a fair bit of effective psychological torture here, the guns pointed directly at the camera are great, and some elongated, near-silent chase sequences rack up a fair amount of suspense, but this does not date especially well. (first viewing, online) ★★

For a Few Dollars More (1965). Returning (perhaps) as the same gunslinger from A Fistful of Dollars, Clint Eastwood turns his sights here to bounty hunting and forms an uneasy alliance with a rival bounty hunter. Clint once again has some nifty shootouts, most notably a diversion bit in an armchair, however, it is Lee Van Cleef who dominates the screen here as the other bounty hunter, oozing charisma and often slyly smiling in suggestive ways. He is a pretty interesting counterpoint character, yet a very sudden ulterior motive revelation near the end feels extremely tacked-on. Clocking in at over two hours, the film is also too leisurely paced to ever match the intensity of A Fistful of Dollars. Between some cleverly used rapid fire edits, Ennio Morricone's whistling music and Van Cleef's performance, this is a difficult film to dismiss though. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★

I was going to finally watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly also this month, but now I think I should pass on that. :pinch:

The Protector (1985). For a film that Jackie Chan hated making, The Protector offers surprisingly decent entertainment as it focuses on a New York cop returning to his native Hong Kong to investigate a drug kingpin suspected of kidnapping. The gritty style of Exterminator director James Glickenhaus is quite far removed from Chan's aesthetics, but the combination works well with a brutal bar fight early on that transforms into a boat chase. The latter Hong Kong scenes (particularly a seedy massage parlor) also simmer with tension and the climax involves buzz saw! The basic plot though is a messy. The kidnapping motives remain murky and unclear and the film momentarily becomes more focused on the intricacies of the drug smuggling process than rescuing the girl. Then again, how the drugs are smuggled is far less clichéd than the rescue stuff. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★

Armour of God (1986). After an exciting opening scene in which Jackie Chan steals a tribal artefact - and has to fight his way to safety - the pacing of this action-adventure film slows down and only recovers in the final half-hour. There is admittedly a nifty motorcycle/car chase somewhere in the middle, but with a formulaic montage set to sentimental music and many dialogue-heavy scenes, this never flows particularly well. The plot is a little on the nonsensical side too, with some baddies who are too frugal to pay Chan to steal artefacts for them, so instead they kidnap an ex-girlfriend to motivate him, or something like that. There is some strange ethnic ritual stuff going on too, which comes off as mocking and in poor taste. Chan does get some great action bits towards the end, especially when fire and dynamite come into play, but this is mostly unimpressive. (first viewing, DVD) ★

Tai-Chi Master (1993). Sometimes known as Twin Warriors, this martial arts movie focuses on two kung fu trained childhood friends who go their separate ways as adults before fate brings them together on opposing sides. While all the feelings of betrayal between the pair come across well, it is the film's integration of tai-chi teachings into the various fights that works best here with some excellent wire-work and a breathtaking trampoline climax. Michelle Yeoh feels under-used; she has an amazing stilts fight sequence and generally holds her own well in battle, but the focus here is always the two former friends. That said, Jet Li is surprisingly excellent as the friend who masters tai-chi, bringing a fair bit of comedy to the role during a memory loss stretch; he is certainly more dynamic and charismatic than in his better-known Fist of Legend. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Fist of Legend (1994). Learning of his kung fu master's death under suspicious circumstances, a Chinese national returns to home to pay his respects and conduct his own investigation in this remake of Fist of Fury. The choreography is nifty throughout, especially during a blindfold fight scene; in the lead role though, Jet Li does not have one iota of Bruce Lee's charisma and the plot is so bare-bones that it lags in between the fights. As Li contends with strong prejudices due to his girlfriend being Japanese, the film almost does something different. The girlfriend is bland throughout though with all energy put into the kung fu battles. The fights are entertaining while they last, but filmed as a straight drama (compared to mid-90s Jackie Chan or Stephen Chow), the film does not even have fun comedy to fall back on when the action is less pronounced. (first viewing, online) ★

Little Red Flowers (2006). Enrolled in a kindergarten boarding school in Communist China, a young boy has trouble meeting the expectations of his disciplinarian teachers and becomes convinced that his strictest teacher is a monster in this drama set shortly after the 1949 revolution. While the allegory is blatant with the protagonist symbolic of all of China adjusting to Communism, the film plunges deeply inside the mind of its protagonist, who - at the film's most intriguing - convinces his classmates that the teacher is indeed a monster. The film is named after a rewards system put in place by the teachers for following rules that vary from acceptable to absurd (going to the toilet at the same time as each other) and the overall film is very critical of how the system encourages kids to yearn for rewards for being regimented rather than expressing themselves. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Blancanieves (2012). Filmed in the style of a silent movie a la Dr Plonk and The Artist, this re-imagination of the story of Snow White is less gimmicky than it might sound. At no point does the project pretend to be a movie from the 1920s; the rapid fire editing and general camerawork (a shot that floats up to the ceiling looking downwards; flapping bird point-of-view shots) is much more advanced than what was commonplace back then. Rather, the silent mode here exists to further the tale, which is particularly alluring in its first half as we are placed in the shoes of a young girl forced to move into a mysterious mansion with her daunting stepmother; everything is extra nightmarish with a focus on the visuals over the audio. The second half of the film (following her grown-up) is less enticing, but the film concludes on a surefire memorable note. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

The Mermaid (2016). Their habitat destroyed by marine developers, a group of mermaids disguise one of their own as human and task her with seducing and killing a greedy CEO in this big budget comedy from Stephen Chow. Her continuous failed attempts to kill him - while only poisoning and injuring herself - are hilarious, and bring to mind the snakes-on-face scene in Kung Fu Hustle. The romance that soon develops is a lot less interesting though; same goes for the environmental issues that the film touches on but never deeply explores. There are, however, lots of funny bits and pieces along the way, including easily amused police sketch artists and Show Lo having to pretend that his tentacles are not his own. The shipwreck where the mermaids live is a wonder to behold too, with the creatures zanily bouncing off various contraptions put in place. (first viewing, online) ★★

Certain Women (2016). Three unrelated tales of unfulfilled American women are spliced together in this brooding drama from Kelly Reichardt. While some of the issues resonate (women feeling that they have been discriminated against due to their gender), the three tales vary significantly in effectiveness. The film plays its strongest hand a little too early with the best segment coming first as lawyer Laura Dern's interactions with one particular client become increasingly dysfunctional. The second tale is the weakest with Michelle Williams trying to con an elderly man while receiving no appreciation from her teenage daughter. The third segment is stronger, with a nicely unspoken bond developing between Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone. It is really only the first segment that stands out though with both Dern and co-star Jared Harris in fine form. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

20th Century Women (2016). Worried that she is losing touch with her teenage son, a single mother turns to two much younger women to help raise the lad in this comedy-drama set during the 1970s. The film is accompanied by on/off voice-over narration from multiple characters that describe events to later transpire, and while this sometimes has a distancing effect, it mostly works well for highlighting just how hard it is to prepare someone for a future unknown. The film also examines some intriguing nature/nurture ideas, questioning whether male role models are really necessary to raise a man and whether having more female role models will make a young man more compassionate/open-minded. Whatever the case, the film is very well acted throughout, especially from Lucas Jade Zumann, who looks a lot like a younger Timothée Chalamet. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

REVISIONS

A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Viewed for a second time with Yojimbo fresh in mind, this western remake of the samurai classic stands up pretty well. While Kurosawa's atmospheric black and white visuals are hard not to miss, the remake does of course boast great music and excellent reaction shot editing. The plot of both films are quite similar, but the protagonist of each is written and acted very differently; Toshiro Mifune in some ways has the more fascinating character with his frequent smirking and the fact that he seems to manipulating the two factions simply for the fun of it. While much more laconic and emotionless, Clint Eastwood's simple and unabashed greed motivation here works well too; yes, "there's money to be made" in the town, but after everything that he endures, was it really worth it for merely a fistful of dollars? (second viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★★

The Artist (2011). Full of in-jokes (the very first title card that we see is "I won’t talk!"), this contemporary silent film from Michel Hazanavicius stands up well to revision. Certain aspects have been better done elsewhere, whether it be the silent-to-sound transition in films such as Singin' in the Rain and Sunset Blvd. or the paralleling of one star's rise to another's fall a la A Star is Born. Still, this is a unique film of its own, with several striking touches, from an angular dream sequence in which he starts hearing things, to a shot that rotates in a table reflection, to jokey title cards (an ambiguous BANG!). The film looks exquisite too, with divine shots of Jean Dujardin framed against paintings and cinema screens, and the overall film is both a great testament to the magic of the movies and the way that magic has evolved over time. (second viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★★

OtherShow
Catch Us If You Can (1965). Working as a stunt driver on a series of meat commercials, the lead singer of a British boy band causes a stir when he runs away with the lead actress in this comedy that attempts to do for The Dave Clarke Five what A Hard's Day Night did for The Beatles. The songs are catchy, but none of the band members are good actors or charismatic individuals. The film also concentrates so heavily on the bonding between the singer and the girl that we never get really know the other band members, and in their scattered scenes together, their interactions pale against The Beatles. Perhaps most problematic though is that the film never captures Richard Lester's sense of fun. Catch Us If You Can is melancholic overall, and while the consumerism angle leads to some decent satire, it comes at the expense of characterisation. (first viewing, DVD) ★

Crippled Masters (1979). Quite likely inspired by the success of Cheh Chang's innovative Crippled Avengers, released a year earlier, this action film likewise involves cripples who discover that they can make an effective fighting team and exact vengeance together. While this benefits from the casting of two actual kung fu masters with genuine physical handicaps, this also feels more exploitative than Avengers. Whereas the focus of the Cheh Chang film is the budding camaraderie between the cripples, here we instead get lots of scenes of them being humiliated, beaten (while unable to properly defend themselves) and publicly shamed before they team up. The main bad guy here is also a lot less intriguing. The spirited choreography keeps things chugging along though and some of the stuff that the handicapped characters can do is indeed masterful. (first viewing, online) ★★

King of Beggars (1992). Ordered to become a beggar as punishment for cheating in a martial arts tournament, an arrogant young man finds a new purpose in life when taken in by other beggars looking for a leader in this Stephen Chow comedy. The film is very slow to warm up with over a third of the film elapsing before he is demoted to beggar status and while there is some nifty sleeping/yawning kung fu in the mix, it is all confined to the final half-hour. Chow is good as ever though, and Ng Man-Tat - who was so funny opposite Chow in Fight Back to School - is delightful throughout, playing the star's father this time who believes that his son can do no wrong. The film also gets a few decent jokes out the illiteracy of the two main characters, but it is hard not to wish that the kung fu and uniting of beggars angles were more prominent throughout. (first viewing, online) ★★

Flirting Scholar (1993). Believing that none of his wives truly love him, a famous poet (and part-time painter) pretends to be a servant to get close to a maid who he believes could be his one true love in this comedy starring Stephen Chow and Gong Li. The film boasts some excellent wire-work with a breathtaking bit early on as Chow somersaults through the air while painting; there is a great special effects fight towards the end too as Chow battles the matriarch, played by 60s action star Cheng Pei-Pei. The bulk of the film is uneven though. Many gags feel in poor taste, playing on Chow being revolted by the way women look, while Gong Li given little to do outside of being pretty. There are certainly some fun moments as Chow tries to keep his identity a secret - even as a friend begins to pretend to be him to get laid - but this is middle-of-the-road stuff for him. (first viewing, online) ★★

King of Comedy (1999). Not to be confused with Martin Scorsese classic, this Hong Kong comedy stars Stephen Chow as a film extra who teaches acting classes in between desperate attempts to land a big role. Chow is very amusing, especially early on as he contorts his face every which way and almost destroys a film set through his clumsiness. As the movie progresses though, it becomes shapeless and episodic. There are a couple of subplots involving a hapless young man plus a potential love interest who he trains, a table tennis side job, a millionaire wasting his money and then a police sting climax that feels both random and tonally inconsistent. Chow's energy never dissipates throughout, Jackie Chan has a really fun cameo and the acting lessons are engaging, but it is all so chaotic without ever being as zany as Chow's special effects laden films soon to come. (first viewing, online) ★★
Former IMDb message boards user // iCM | IMDb | Letterboxd | My top 750 films // Long live the new flesh!
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Perception de Ambiguity
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#2

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » June 21st, 2020, 12:00 pm

>We can think of the microcosm as man, and the macrocosm as the universe, but "as above, so below" might also be expressed "as inside, so outside". There is a teaching from a sonic law that shows the world outside to be an echo or reflection of the world inside. Conflicts are seen as outward manifestations of inner imperfections.
The interrelationship of inner and outer worlds, and our ability to control one with the other is the very definition of magic. This is the power conferred upon the initiate through an understanding of the anthropocosm.<
(Magical Egypt: "The Temple in Man")


Das Kreative Universum (Rüdiger Sünner, 2010) 6+/10

The Pyramid (A Positive Mystical Experience) (Gary Kent, 1976) 5+/10

37-73 (Richard Myers, 1974) 6+/10
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十四顆蘋果 / 14 Apples (趙德胤/Midi Z, 2018) 6-/10

All You Can Eat Bouddha / All You Can Eat Buddha (Ian Lagarde, 2017) 7/10

Seeking the Monkey King (Ken Jacobs, 2011) 6/10

The Masked Monkeys (Anja Dornieden & Juan David González Monroy AKA OJOBOCA, 2016) 8+/10

Redoubt (Matthew Barney, 2019) 6+/10

Tommaso (Abel Ferrara, 2019) 7-/10

Sweet Movie (Душан Макавејев/Dušan Makavejev, 1974) 7-/10

True Grit (the Coens, 2010) (2nd viewing) 8-/10

The Right Side of My Brain (Richard Kern, 1985) (2nd viewing) 7+/10


shorts

Speech/Acts: A Dialectical Comedy (Jacob Winston Achitoff, 2020) 7-/10

Das Schöpfwerk (Jürgen Reble, 2013) 5+/10

The Unusual Book (Norm Bruns, 1980) 2+/10

Grow Old Along with Me (Coni Beeson, 1974) 6/10

Motýli tady nezijí / Butterflies Do Not Live Here (Miro Bernát, 1958) 2+/10

Sam Remembers Papa Kong (Alexander Kluge, 2007) (2 viewings) 4/10

X Is Y (Richard Kern, 1990) (2nd viewing) 5+/10


music videos

Kontra K: Sonne (Shaho Casado, 2020) (7 viewings) 7/10
"macht der Block mich krank dann guck' ich hoch in die Sonne"

The Scotts: The Scotts (Fortnite Astronomical Event) (2020) ==


other

Christmas with Rifftrax: Santa's Village of Madness (2012) 5+/10

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1491 - Bill Burr (2020) 6-/10

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1073 - Steven Pinker (2018) 7/10

Eva Braun Home Movies - Reel 1 (Eva Braun, 1939-1945) +=
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Eva Braun Home Movies - Reel 2 (Eva Braun, 1939-1945) +=
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series

Magical Egypt - Ep4 - "The Temple in Man" (2001) 7/10
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intelligence of the heartShow
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Magical Egypt - Ep5 - "Navigating the Afterlife" (2001) 6/10

Work in Progress - S01E02 - "176, 172, 171" (2019) 5/10

Seinfeld - S04E09 - "The Opera" (umpteenth viewing) (1992) 6/10


didn't finish

バースデー・ワンダーランド / Birthday Wonderland / The Wonderland (原恵一/Keiichi Hara, 2019) [41 min]

Human Highway (Neil Young as Bernard Shakey & Dean Stockwell, 1982) [36 min]

Himalaya - l'enfance d'un chef / Himalaya (Eric Valli & Michel Debats, 1999) [32 min]

The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002) [31 min]

तुम्बाड / Tumbbad (Rahi Anil Barve, 2018) [18 min]

ヲ乃ガワ / Wonogawa (Hiroki Yamaguchi, 2014) [16 min]


notable online media

top:
Lyrebird: The Best Songbird Ever!
[YT channel "DAVID LYNCH THEATER"]
rest:
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DAVID? PART 1
[Joe Rogan Experience clips (Aztecs, Bad Eating Habits, I Take Responsibility)]
Autofocusing reading glasses of the future | Nitish Padmanaban
Why Did Ozu Cut To A Vase?
THE MOST SAVAGE PHILOSOPHER OF ALL TIME


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Onderhond
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#3

Post by Onderhond » June 21st, 2020, 12:23 pm

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A pretty mediocre week. Had a lot of catching up to do still, which usually results in some decent to poor films from famous directors. Some pleasant surprises too though, most notably Mulcahy's Razorback and Wakamatsu's Violent Virgin. And Wonogawa of course, although it always pains me to see films like that still seem to escape me from time to time.


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01. 4.0* - Wonogawa by Hiroki Yamaguchi (2014)
Yamaguchi's Wonogawa feels like the Hellevator sequel I never knew I needed. A low-budget, ultra creative mix of dystopian sci-fi and light fantasy elements that comes with its own unique lore. While a film like this is tough to make on a shoestring budget, Yamaguchi gives it his all and ends up with a pretty nifty and satisfying film.

02. 3.5* - Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping by Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone (2016)
A hilarious mockumentary that suits The Lonely Island crew perfectly. It helps to be familiar with their particular brand of comedy, on the other hand this is without a doubt one of the best introductions into their work. Popstar is slick, dense and committed to a level you rarely see in comedy films. The film works on three levels. First of all, it is a pretty straightforward but effective parody of the pop documentary genre (think Justin Bieber's). Then there's the comedy of the songs themselves, which features some very nice stabs at the randomness and shallowness of pop music. But what really sets this apart is the fact that the songs are actual, bona fide, catchy pop songs. That's different from acts like "Weird Al" Yankovic or Flight of the Conchords, who get a bit doubty when the comedy element is stripped away. Taccone, Schaffer and Samberg are great, the supporting cast is ace too and many of the cameos are priceless, not in the least because many of them are not afraid to make fools of themselves. The only thing that keeps me from giving is a higher mark is that the second half doesn't feel quite as sharp, but that's just a minor glitch in an otherwise great film.

03. 3.5* - Right Here Right Now [So Was Von Da] by Jakob Lass (2018)
It feels like director Lass tried to make his own Trainspotting here. A group of kids organizes an illegal rave in some soon-to-be-demolished venue. There's a lot of partying, a fair amount of substance abuse, a touch of criminal activity and an underlying romance to keep something of a plot going. The problem with Right Here Right Now is that it isn't quite as cool as it aims to be. Lass does his best to play with structure, throws some slightly edgier dance and rock on the soundtrack, goes wild with the cinematography and is generous with the editing, resulting in lots of jump cuts. But the soundtrack feels a little tame, there isn't enough visual creativity and the characters are quite dull too. There are moments when everything comes together wonderfully and the film really shines in these moments, but it's not constant enough to turn this into a real masterpiece. It's a fine attempt though, I had a lot of fun with this one.

04. 3.5* - Razorback by Russell Mulcahy (1984)
This was pretty bonkers. Not quite as mad or gory as early Peter Jackson, but it's never that far off either. Razorback is a juicy, over-the-top horror comedy that doesn't go for explicit laughs, but is filled to the brim with outrageous characters, ridiculous situations and one giant boar (the razorback). But it's not just cheese, the cinematography is pretty great for an 80s film, the score is very atmospheric and the effects look pretty nice still, though it's clear that the budget was quite limited. The monster is never full on screen and the finale looks a bit too cut up, but overall the quality is surprisingly high. Also props for the crazy Australian hillbillies, who give the film some extra spice. This was a pretty nice mix of comedy and horror in other words. I'm suprised I'd never heard about this film before, it really deserves to be a bigger cult hit than it currently is. If you want a fun little horror and haven't seen this one yet, this comes well recommended.

05. 3.5* - Violent Virgin [Gewalt! Gewalt: Shojo Geba-Geba] by Koji Wakamatsu (1969)
One of Wakamatsu's better films. 1969 was a good year for him. Not only did he direct a ton of films, many of them ending up becoming stand-outs in his oeuvre. Violent Virgin contains all the typical Wakamatsu traits and combines them into a surreal trip that bewilders, disgusts and intrigues in equal amounts. Like many of his films, Violent Virgin is not an easy watch. It's a sort of prelude to the American rape/revenge films of the 70s (think I Spit On Your Grave or The Last House on the Left) that would give the horror genre a serious boost, only Wakamatsu's films are more skillfully and artfully executed. Lush, high contrast black and white cinematography, perverse games, amoral behavior, rape, murder, it's all here. There isn't much in the way of plot, then again it's a pretty short film so there's really no time for it to get boring. Probably not the easiest introduction to Wakamatsu's work, but definitely one of the better films I've seen from him.

06. 3.0* - Eisenstein in Guanajuato by Peter Greenaway (2015)
Not your typical biography, then again Greenaway isn't your typical director either. A pretty quirky look at Eisenstein's passage in Mexico, focusing on his sexual awakening more so than on his work as a filmmaker. That may put people off, especially big Eisenstein fans, but I found it quite refreshing. Greenaway also pays homage to Eisenstein's visual style, with many unique cuts and lots of visual trickery. It's a shame though he doesn't keep it up for the entire film. Still, there is plenty to admire here. Split screens, sharp editing, cool camera work and fun fades add a lot of extra flavor to the film. Eisenstein is portrayed as a very colorful character and Greenaway has a lot of fun with him. Not sure how historically correct it all is, but at least it makes for a better film. There's not quite enough here for a 90-minute feature and the second half doesn't feel quite as fresh, but this was surprisingly fun and creative.

07. 3.0* - Accidental Kidnapper [Yûkai Rhapsody] by Hideo Sakaki (2010)
A pleasant and respectable little comedy. The title pretty much gives away what you can expect from this one. Date is a man on the edge of desperation, but after some failed suicide attempts he bumps into a little boy who is trying to run away from home. The boy tells him his family is rich, so Date figures this might put his life back on the rails. While this all sounds rather violent, Date is a kind soul and quickly develops a strong bond with the kid. There are some Kikujiro-like moments and whatever violence there is, is mostly played for laughs. The film is a tad too long maybe, but at least the ending isn't quite as cheesy as I expected it to be. Takahashi and Hayashi have good chemistry and Hayashi in particular does a great job. Kid actors are always a liability, but he is clearly one of the stars of the film. Shô Aikawa is also great to have around, but that is no surprise. While Accidental Kidnapper isn't the greatest Japanese comedy ever, it's a fun little diversion and solid filler than is sure to put a smile on your face.

08. 3.0* - Becky by Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion (2020)
An interesting idea, that stumbles a little in its execution. The setup is fine though, with a freshly blended family being overrun by hardened criminals on their very first vacation together. It doesn't take long before bodies start hitting the ground and it's up to Becky, the 14-year-old daughter, to save her new family from ruin. That means much of the weight rests on Lulu Wilson's shoulders, sadly she can't quite deliver. At no point in the film did I believe she was actually besting a couple of cruel killers, the traps she builds also give Becky too much of a Home Alone vibe. It comes off a bit childish, which clearly wasn't what the directors were going for. Because believe it or not, the film is actually quite gory. When people die, the camera isn't shy, even eager to register all the bloody bits. As a horror film, this was quite a success, but the meager drama, lacking characters and a couple of horrid twists take a lot away from the edginess Murnion and Milott were chasing. Not bad, but should've been better.

09. 3.0* - Dog Star by Takahisa Zeze (2002)
A pretty decent drama by Zeze, though not as edgy as you might expect it to be. I also don't think Zeze's style is particularly well-suited for these more subdued dramas, but the film itself has its moments. It's a little uneven in places, nothing everything works as well as intended, but fans of the genre should be able to get something out of it. Etsushi Toyokawa and Ryo Ishibashi make a fun duo here, Haruka Igawa's part felt less confident. The story, about a dog turned human who ends up with his former owner is a tad cheesy though, the soundtrack borders on the verge of kitsch and the runtime is a bit long for a film of this caliber. Luckily Zeze knows to balance this with some solid drama, the kind that is quite typical for those early millennial Japanese films. Important events are almost shown like static manga panels, focusing more on the aftermath than on certain faithful events. It's a bit dry, but it helps to contrast the sappier bits elsewhere. Overall a pretty solid film in other words, but not a real highlight.

10. 3.0* - The Laughing Frog [Warau Kaeru] by Hideyuki Hirayama (2002)
Not a bad film, but a little too subdued. A man decides to go back to his wife, after embezzling some money and disappearing from the face of the Earth for a while. She moved on with her life and isn't happy to see him return, but she still feels responsible for her husband and offers him shelter for the time being. But things quickly become awkward, especially when her new boyfriend comes over to visit. A nosy detective makes things more tense and a meddling family further complicates matters. It's a solid setup for an entertaining farce, but the presentation is rather stoic and the film never truly comes to life. Performances are good though and The Laughing Frog is never dull of boring, it just would've been better if Hirayama had opted for a more lively approach. Visually it's a bit grim, the soundtrack is not exactly memorable and the pacing just a tad slow for this type of film. It's decent filler, but nothing too special.

11. 3.0* - Who's Camus Anyway [Kamyu Nante Shiranai] by Mitsuo Yanagimachi (2005)
Films about films, not my favorite niche. Who's Camus Anyway fits the genre rather well, with lots of name-dropping, an eagerness to underline the frantic nature of film productions and characters who like to put themselves in the spotlight. This isn't the most original of films, but Yanagimachi does a decent job regardless. A lot of classic references here, mostly to the big names of the 50s and 60s. If you like yourself some Godard, Visconti, Truffaut or you love to cite the lengths of famous tracking shots to your film buddies, then you might be the target audience of the film. It's not really what I'm looking for in good cinema though. Luckily there is some solid drama running underneath all the film stuff. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but a fine cast and some poignant scenes (especially near the end of film) keep the intrigue alive. It's enough to make this a pretty decent watch, but it's hardly a highlight in the Japanese drama genre.

12. 3.0* - Outcast by Nick Powell (2014)
A simple action adventure about a couple of wayward crusaders making amends in the Far East for their past crimes. It's a pretty cheap excuse to make a China-Hollywood cross-over with some (semi-)famous actors, but at least the result is watchable, depending on what you expect from a film. Powell makes good use of the beautiful setting and the film contains a couple of decent action scenes, that's pretty much the appeal of Outcast. The plot is very basic, the drama in between is forgettable and the additional elements (like a spineless romance and some failed comedy) really don't help to make the film any better. The cinematography is solid, the fight choreography passable (but not really noteworthy), the pacing acceptable and the runtime nice and short. If you like a bit of action, Outcast has enough to keep you entertained, as long as you don't expect anything too exceptional. Decent filler, nothing more, nothing less.

13. 2.5* - When I Look Upon the Stars [Tian Xuan Di Lian] by Dante Lam (1999)
Dante Lam is a fine action director, romance and drama on the other hand aren't really his thing. Lam made When I Look Upon the Stars when he just started out, at a time when he was still searching for a niche he felt at home in. While he does his best to make things work, the romance never takes off. Chan and Ku aren't the best actors for the job, Qi and Lee are better equipped to handle this type of work, but have trouble connecting with their partners. The cheesy soundtrack and rather pedestrian cinematography don't really add to the atmosphere either. It's all just a little too functional to be truly effective. That said, it's not the worst film either. The characters are quite interesting and there are a few scenes where things move in the right direction, it's just that it never materializes into something bigger. This is passable filler, just don't go in expecting a typical Lam action flick, as you're bound to end up sorely disappointed.

14. 2.5* - Charge! Hakata Street Gangs [Totsugeki! Hakata Gurentai] by Gakuryu Ishii (1978)
Early Gakuryu/Sogo Ishii film. It feels a bit like a late 60s Wakamatsu feature, only sporting the first signs of the lively punk aesthetic that would come to define Ishii's work. It's nowhere near as impressive or effective as in his later films though, so this is mostly for those interested in Ishii's roots, or for people who think regular Ishii is a bit much. Two homeless punks get themselves into trouble when they get a hold of a gun and get mixed up in criminal affairs. It doesn't take long before both the police and a local crime syndicate are on their tail, all they can do is run and hope they'll survive their ordeal. It's a pretty barren plot, then again plot has rarely been Ishii's main concern. The camera work and editing are energetic, though they're nothing compared to later Japanese (cyber)punk films. The actors are mediocre and the soundtrack isn't quite as demanding yet. Ishii's style clearly had some ways to go, but fans will no doubt appreciate the first, tentative steps to what would be the prelude to the comeback of Japanese cinema.

15. 2.5* - Bayside Shakedown 2 [Odoru Daisosasen the Movie 2: Rainbow Bridge wo Fuusa Seyo!] by Katsuyuki Motohiro (2003)
Popular TV franchise that successfully expanded into feature film territory. The films are still very much made-for-TV quality though, with a rather obscure cast, few cinematic aspirations and a plot that feels like a stretched out TV episode. A fairly typical problem with this type of production. The plot/set-up is quite predictable for a police series. When people start dying in the Bayside area, the SAT steps in and goes over the heads of the local police force. They won't have any of it, and a spirited detective takes it upon himself to solve the case. I've seen this play out countless times before, this film adds little to it. There is some intrigue that works and even though the film is quite long, it never really starts to drag. The problem is that there are hardly any real highlights either. The film just meanders from start to finish, offering the bare minimum amount of entertainment to stay engaged, but nothing more. Decent filler in other words.

16. 2.0* - Collateral Beauty by David Frankel (2016)
An interesting idea, ruined by a director who's going straight for shameless sentimentality. That shouldn't be too big of a surprise considering Frankel's history, but usually he sticks to filming pretty basic genre films that don't aspire to be anything more than big budget filler. Collateral Beauty is a little different. The premise at least was pretty interesting. Three friends/colleagues are trying to save a man who slipped into a depression after his daughter died. They do that by hiring a trio of actors to play love, death and time, the three abstract concepts that form the cornerstone of his take on life. But bringing him back to the real world turns out to be more difficult than expected. Performances are decent, though Smith, Knightley, Peña and Winslet all struggle to make a real impression. Frankel's heavy-handed and garish direction doesn't make it any easier for them. The drama never really hits home and the execution of the premise lacks creativity and vision. Somewhat disappointing.

17. 2.0* - Touch and Go [Yi Chu Ji Fa] by Ringo Lam (1991)
A rather basic action film from Ringo Lam. Like most of his films, it's a tad grittier than its contemporaries, but also lacking the joy and creativity that makes Hong Kong action so much fun to watch. With a headliner like Sammo Hung, this film should've been way more entertaining than it turned out to be. There is too much focus on the drama, especially for a film where the performances are poor and the plot is derivative. Touch and Go is a run-of-the-mill action flick, what's the point on spending so much time on characters that never come to life anyway. A lighter tone and a couple more action scenes would've gone a long way to make this better. It's not the first time that I felt this way about one of Lam's films, so people who are fan of his work are almost guaranteed to get something out of it. The few action scenes that are present are pretty solid, sporting some impressive practical stunt work, but it just wasn't enough to save the film for me.

18. 1.5* - Open Season by Roger Allers, Jill Culton, Anthony Stacchi (2006)
Another drab US animation, though Sony does a slightly better job than their DreamWorks competitors. While the difference is overall small and Open Season is just as annoying as most other films in the genre, the slightly more abstract visuals gives the film a bit more character. That at least is something. It's still very loud and obnoxious though. Almost every character seems to be suffering from ADD. Even though these films are short in general, they still manage to tire me out really quickly. It also doesn't help that the jokes are tiresome and most of the action feels copied from other, better films. I'm sure Open Season is okay for its target audience, the fact that it spawned several sequels indicates it was at least a financial success. I just wish they'd go for a different type of comedy, slow things down a little (as they do a couple of times, to good effect) and deliver a film that aspires to do more than rile up kids at a birthday party.

19. 1.5* - Da 5 Bloods by Spike Lee (2020)
Spike Lee must've had a clear vision when he started this project, but I dearly hope it wasn't anything close to this devastating mess. Da 5 Bloods feels like a film that wanted to say a lot of important things, but ultimately it comes off as a very bad pastiche. Not once does Lee find the right tone for his film. With four black veterans returning to Vietnam to honor their fallen friend, the film has a perfect setup to revisit the Vietnam War and tell it from a black perspective. Throw in some gold hunting plot for a little adventure and suspense, and you have all the ingredients for a great film. Why then did it feel like a bad comedy, something that holds the middle between a bad Apocalypse Now rip-off and a subpar jungle-set JCVD action flick. Performances are poor, the action scenes are drab, the dramatic moments are laughable and the political inserts are completely overshadowed by the incompetence surrounding them. The entire film is such a big mess that it is actually quite amusing to watch (at least to see where it is going), but in the end if feels like Lee overreached tremendously and couldn't stop himself from falling flat on his face. This wasn't any good.

20. 1.5* - Artemis Fowl by Kenneth Branagh (2020)
A pretty expensive flop from Disney (and Branagh). They must've figured that the IP was enough to draw crowds to the cinema, but then a worldwide pandemic happened. And well, at least it kept people from overspending on this lackluster disaster. This is not how you do compelling fantasy. The film is aimed at a younger audience, though many of its popular references (David Bowie, Foreigner) seem to be reserved for the parents accompanying their kids. Regardless of the film's target audience though, Shaw gives a cringeworthy performance, the fantasy designs are lazy and the plot is messy. I'm sure this film was meant the first part of a franchise, but the way things are going I wouldn't expect any sequels anytime soon. Artemis Fowl turned out to be a pretty expensive flop, with few redeeming elements and no clear path forward. Let's just hope Disney pulls the plug, so we don't need to sit through any follow-ups.

21. 1.5* - The Dragon Tamers [Nu Zi Tai Quan Qun Ying Hui] by John Woo (1975)
John Woo took a rather hesitant start to his career, but that is not uncommon for a Hong Kong director. The Dragon Tamers is a basic martial arts film that features one of two decent fight scenes, but fails on pretty much every other level. Woo's signature is also completely absent, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. The plot is nothing special. A righteous martial art students vows to stop a criminal organization from taking over the martial schools in Korea, but before he can make a real difference he needs to be humbled first. If you've seen a couple of these oldskool martial arts flick, you've probably seen this plot a thousand times before. The actors are mediocre and the fight choreographies are tame, especially when you compare them to Shaw Bros films from that time. The drama is very poor and the first half doesn't nearly have enough fight scenes to overcome that. Luckily the ending is quite action-packed, but it's not good enough to save this film.

22. 1.5* - Kaleidoscope [Mangekyô] by Naomi Kawase (1999)
Early Kawase documentary that feels empty and inconsequential. Kawase follows one photographer and two models on a photo shoot. As a director she also participates in the documentary, steering the conversations and critically questioning her subjects, but it never results in something meaningful. Afterwards, it's hard to distill any kind of tangible topics or themes. The photographer appears to be overthinking his job, the models on the other hand feel lost and uncertain of what is expected of them. But these are very pedestrian problems and observations, nothing I felt should warrant an 80-minute documentary. I'm sure this sounded way more interesting when Kawase thought up the idea, people who are interested in everyday slices of life might get something out of it, but it didn't do very little for me. The awkward and and stilted conversations held a smidgen of appeal, beyond that it's completely forgettable.

23. 1.0* - Flushed Away by David Bowers, Sam Fell (2006)
A terribly disappointing Aardman production. Their stop-motion work is usually pretty charming, but when they go full CG little of that charm remains. Flushed Away feels way more like a basic Dreamworks films. There's a lot of noise, a lot of failed gags and 80 minutes later it's done, having left no impression at all. The animation isn't all that great either, which is a bummer because technical excellence is usually the only thing to look forward to with these films. The characters are pretty dumb, the comedy is so predictable that it has no chance of becoming funny and the voice actors do a pretty poor job all. At least the film is short and moves about at a pretty brisk pace, otherwise it would've been true hell to sit through. It is quite devastating to see how poor these American CG animations are across the board, they all look alike, and they're all pretty much horrible. It's a shame they keep on making so much money.

24. 1.0* - The Generation Gap [Pan Ni] by Cheh Chang (1973)
Chang's worst film so far, which is quite a thing to say after having seen nearly 50 of his films. Chang is best known for his martial arts work, but from time to time he tried something different. Understandable, but it never really amounted to anything. Chang goes full-on drama/romance here, with disastrous results. Casting a martial arts icon in a dramatic role is always a risk, but it's David Chiang's love interest who really messes things up. Not only is Agnes Chan a pretty bad actress, she's also a terrible singer. And this films features quite a few English pop songs covered by Chan. To call it grating is actually an understatement. The plot about a forbidden (or at least frowned upon) love isn't very interesting either, especially not without any good performances to support it. The titular generation gap is never properly explored and the few action scenes that are here only underline the complete incompetence of this film. For completists only.

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peeptoad
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#4

Post by peeptoad » June 21st, 2020, 12:36 pm

Hi sol. Still really busy with work so I only saw 6 films... this might be the new normal. :yucky:

yours-
The Sadist (1963) 8+/9
For a Few Dollars More (1965) 8
A Fistful of Dollars (1964) 8

Sadist we discussed enough I think esp since you didn't like it nearly as much as I did. I like Leone's trilogy more than you, sounds like, at least the first two installments. Either For a Few Dollars More or The Good the Bad and the Ugly is my favorite; I'd have to rewatch them to be sure. The middle film was my least favorite. That one might be more like a strong 7 in comparison to the others.

mine-
Jigsaw (1968) 7
Twisted Nerve (1968) 7
Explosion (1969) 4
Trauma (1962) 6
Fata/Morgana (1966) 7
If.... (1968) 8

Nothing fantastic nothing terrible (though Explosion got close at times). Fata/Morgana I liked for its weirdness; I wasn't really a fan of what felt to me like a Godard vibe, but it had interesting points. If.... was the best overall at a mild 8. Bennett was decent in Twisted Nerve as well...


@Onderhond-
Razorback is indeed a cool film. I agree on the photography and visual style; I think that's what stood out most to me on this one. The shot of the boar silhouetted against the Outback sky was excellent, for example.

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sol
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#5

Post by sol » June 21st, 2020, 1:15 pm

peeptoad wrote:
June 21st, 2020, 12:36 pm
yours-
The Sadist (1963) 8+/9
For a Few Dollars More (1965) 8
A Fistful of Dollars (1964) 8

Sadist we discussed enough I think esp since you didn't like it nearly as much as I did. I like Leone's trilogy more than you, sounds like, at least the first two installments. Either For a Few Dollars More or The Good the Bad and the Ugly is my favorite; I'd have to rewatch them to be sure. The middle film was my least favorite. That one might be more like a strong 7 in comparison to the others.

mine-
Twisted Nerve (1968) 7
If.... (1968) 8

If.... was the best overall at a mild 8. Bennett was decent in Twisted Nerve as well...
Interesting to hear that For a Few Dollars More is your least favourite of Leone's trilogy. Maybe there is hope for me yet. tehe I actually really liked A Fistful of Dollars and was surprised by how well it stood up to revision with Yojimbo in recent memory. I mean, the plots are similar, but Leone totally does his own thing by rewriting the main character and making him more money-grubbing than a smirking manipulator.

What has me in a bind is the fact that For a Few Dollars More is meant to be better than A Fistful of Dollars, and yet I found it weaker in every regard other than the acting department - and that was solely due to Lee Van Cleef. I know that Van Cleef is in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, so maybe that should make me more excited for it, but it is three hours long and I have a nagging suspicion that it will a Seven Samurai type disappointment.

I have, however, not totally ruled out seeing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly this month. There are still 9 days left in the month, and it is a challenge double, which is appealing - but my disappointment with For a Few Dollars More and how it handles its character development (oh, let's add in a twist in the final 10 minutes) does not give me particularly high hopes. Let's see if anybody else can convince me to still give TGTB&TU a go this week...

The Sadist yeah, I don't know. Maybe if I actually found Arch Hall menacing or sadistic. :rolleyes: Blame the Hostel films for ruining motion picture sadism for me. :P

Yours:

Agreed thoroughly about Hywel Bennett in Twisted Nerve. Great performance by Billie Whitelaw too with all of the twisted dynamics between them that shift and evolve as the film plods along. Lovely horror score by Bernard Herrmann as always too.

"A man can change the whole world with a bullet in the right place" was my IMDb signature for a brief stretch way back in the day. Haven't seen If.... recently, but I have watched it a couple of times over the years; it underwhelmed me somewhat upon revision; the movie's agenda is so sprawling and all-over-the-place, but lots to like about the intimate portrait of a school system where the older students abuse the power afforded to them.
Former IMDb message boards user // iCM | IMDb | Letterboxd | My top 750 films // Long live the new flesh!
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Onderhond
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#6

Post by Onderhond » June 21st, 2020, 3:03 pm

peeptoad wrote:
June 21st, 2020, 12:36 pm
@Onderhond-
Razorback is indeed a cool film. I agree on the photography and visual style; I think that's what stood out most to me on this one. The shot of the boar silhouetted against the Outback sky was excellent, for example.
Yeah, it was a really nice surprise. Didn't expect much from the film, but it was very cool. Also changed my perception of Australian people :P

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prodigalgodson
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#7

Post by prodigalgodson » June 22nd, 2020, 1:58 am

Well, I've watched my latest video a few times with various people, which I'll promote for the couple people who might be interested:

https://vimeo.com/429783628

And then:

Mur 19 (Mark Rappaport, 1967) 6/10

Rappaport's raw, scattershot debut short. Feels like the first step of a filmmaker with a lot of potential.

Mekong Hotel (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2012) 9/10

A Weerasethakulian pseudo-horror flick set among the real horror of floods on the Mekong river. There are the familiar long takes, the familiar themes of place, national identity, and the specter of history, even some familiar faces from his earlier work. There's also a lovely guitar soundtrack playing parallel to the diagetic sound throughout. It's a lot to take in and tough to follow; I look forward to revisiting and piecing together more of its associations and allusions. But though it's a challenging take on a troubling world, it's most remarkable for its warm human core, reinforced by the soothing, immersive aesthetic. Joe was one of the first modern arthouse directors I got into; watching this made me realize how much of an impact he's had on the development of my sensibilities.

Homo Sapiens (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2016) 10/10

Aspirational.

The Circle Closes (Mark Rappaport, 2015) 7/10

My favorite of these late-period video essays, the only one to my mind with flashes of that 90s Rappaport insight. He synopsizes and gives a little analysis on four films in which inanimate objects, and in one case an animal, open, close, and drive the story, recurring as catalysts and commentary throughout (the Earrings of Madame de..., the prized Winchester '73, the jumprope in Viridiana, and the titular donkey of Au hasard Balthazar). He contrasts these with other notable recurring objects in films (the sled in Kane, broken china in The Birds, a teapot in All That Heaven Allows, the necklace in Vertigo) which are defined only by their symbolic significance to a character or the solution they provide to a mystery. A cool look at unusual cinematic journeys that should appeal to any film fan, but beware of spoilers.

Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz, 2013) 5/10

“Your so-called post-truth is dangerous. It’s a return to the dark ages.”

The "end of history" is our paradigmatic post-postmodern worldview that serves as the justification for this update to the Raskolnikov myth. In addition to arguing for the continued cross-cultural relevance of Dostoevsky's themes, there's a particular focus on the wrongly convicted man and his family, functioning as a critique of the justice system and the Filipino socioeconomic situation at large. Diaz depicts a society rendered anemic by its lack of historical catharsis and its reliance on western capital, where the choice is to stay and live in poverty or to work abroad and abandon your family to moral malnourishment. It's disturbing throughout, and ends up at a nihilistic extreme far removed from its inspiration, maybe as a comment on the toxic devolution of society, but in a way that seems unlikely and vaguely exploitative. The film's comprised of thoughtfully composed long takes, often on slow dollies, but despite the consideration put in, few of them really popped for me. Something about them feels a bit rigid and stilted; I guess Diaz's sense of poetry doesn't quite align with mine, despite a visual homage to Tarkovsky near the end. Instead of working to the film's atmospheric or formal advantage, the length of shots often serves to over-telegraph their meanings. It's actually my first film from the director; my overall impression is of a relevant, substantial piece of filmmaking that's not to my sensibilities.

Mozart in Love (Mark Rappaport, 1975) 6/10

“Could I have foreseen how fragile my own happiness was, I would not have been so generous with my pity.”

An iconoclastic take on Mozart's relationship with three sisters in the mold of more groundbreaking musician biopics like The Death of Maria Malibran and Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach. I enjoyed the sequence shots of extended performance, though the tendency for the operatic soundtrack to cut out to reveal the actors' (mostly horrible) live singing voices is hella annoying (whether it's a random flourish, a commentary the gap between the world of art and the world of people who produce and inspire it, or whatever, it doesn't work). Other quirks range from inspired to half-assed, but Rappaport's self-financed style has a scrappy charm. It would probably resonate more if I was a bigger Mozart fan or knew the translation of the librettos performed, and it feels unfair to judge a movie based around musical performance on the basis of a video stream with laptop speakers.

Psychohydrography (Peter Bo Rappmund, 2010) 4/10

Seems meant to be enjoyed as a purely sensory experience, and I'd have to be a lot higher to enjoy this degree of digital manipulation of too often bland shots. I do dig the soundtrack and the more abstract final sequence though.

John Garfield (Mark Rappaport, 2002) 6/10

Nice little sketch of a cool actor.

Rikyu (Teshigahara Hiroshi, 1989) 9/10

"Is the tea ceremony interesting?"
"It makes me see things in a new way."
“No matter how much tea you drink your eyes won’t change.”

Teshigahara uses the relationship between a 16th-century tea master and an arrogant self-made warlord to explore the role of the artist in the world, the intersection of art with politics, and the value and relativity of honor. As with other great cinematic portraits of artists, it's hard not to read some degree of meta autobiographical allusions into it -- especially since the portrayal of the evaporating order and grace of a bygone era is so reflected in the filmmaker's disciplined but evocative late-period classical style. The camera flows through the varied geography of minimal and ornate sets, at one point twisting through a room's roofing architecture before settling on a war tribunal bellow, at another warping a home's spacial structure by filming from beyond where a wall is shown to be in subsequent shots. The significance of scenes often isn't apparent until they're long over, and as much as I love this elliptical conveyance of meaning (how true it is to life), it makes me wish I'd seen a version with less lazily translated subtitles. Watching this rip, it was hard for me to keep up with all the ins and outs of intrigues (my weak memory for names can't have helped), but the broad strokes and certainly the thematic substance are easy enough to follow. I can't wait for the opportunity to see a better quality transfer too, I can imagine seeing this on film would be an incredible experience.

I, Dalio (Mark Rappaport, 2015) 7/10

“I was no longer The Jew, with quotes around it; no one cared about that anymore. Now, I was simply the Frenchman. The rules of the game suddenly changed; it was that easy. It just depended on where you were and who was defining you.”

A modestly talent actor gets caught in the maelstrom of history, leaving behind a varied oeuvre that speaks primarily to the relative values of the societies that formed it, as well as to the shifting identity of the individual over time. I knew the face, but not the name or the story, nor did I connect the Renoir character actor to the ever-recurring Hollywood waiter. Another highlight of Rappaport's recent video essays.

The Double Life of Paul Henreid (Mark Rappaport, 2017) 5/10

Interesting to see an example of how sharply HUAC bisected someone's career, but I've always found Henreid to be a bit of a nonentity as an actor, and indeed neither his story nor character justifies this video's length. The parentheticals at least contribute to a richer understanding of the central topic, unlike other digressions in Rappaport's recent essays.

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joachimt
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#8

Post by joachimt » June 22nd, 2020, 8:26 am

Night on Earth (1991, 2 official lists, 4239 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Ambavi Suramis tsikhitsa AKA The Legend of Suram Fortress (1985, 2 official lists, 306 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Chaudhvin Ka Chand AKA Full Moon (1960, 2 official lists, 119 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Hollow Triumph (1948, 2 official lists, 388 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Plex.
Milou en mai AKA May Fools (1990, 1 official list, 247 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Motýli tady nezijí (1958, 1 official list, 18 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's an official short.
Fogo (2012, 1 official list, 41 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Hardcore (1979, 2 official lists, 726 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Mama (2013, 1 official list, 5262 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Prime.
Mystery Train (1989, 2 official lists, 3260 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Rancho Notorious (1952, 3 official lists, 729 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Plex.
Surat untuk bidadari (1994, 2 official lists, 11 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's on the Unesco-list.
The Making of the Mahatma AKA Apprenticeship of a Mahatma (1996, 1 official list, 9 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
The Maltese Cross Movement (1967, 1 official list, 27 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's an official short.
Mohabbatein (2000, 1 official list, 435 checks) 4/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Prime.
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Lonewolf2003
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#9

Post by Lonewolf2003 » June 22nd, 2020, 3:21 pm

Jue di tao wang [Skiptrace] (2016, Renny Harlin) : 5.8 - It's mostly a travel commercial for Mongolia and China, the plot makes no-sense, the middle part drags. But Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville form an enjoyable odd couple and it has some amusing fights and stunts. Makes me wish this was made a few decades ago, when both were at their peak.

My Dinner with Andre (1981, Louis Malle): 8.0 - It's tremendous achievement to make a film that’s basically one long conversation captivating. Of course not all topics are evenly interesting, but the social interaction between the two is constantly engaging. The most interesting part of the conversation was about how people perfectly play and look as the role the have, which seem even more relevant in these day of social media.

Kansas City Confidential (1952, Phil Karlson): rewatch 7.2 > 7.8 - It was only halfway this very solid noir I realized I had seen it before.

Animal Crackers (1930, Victor Heerman): 5.5 -Most of my problems with the Marx brothers are present in this. Harpo and Chico are annoying instead of funny, and downright creepy with all their harassments. Groucho's puns, tho most of them clever and funny, have no relations to the context of the scene and are delivered entirely to the public instead of an interaction with the cast.

Tromeo and Juliet (1996, Lloyd Kaufman): 4.2

Shao Lin men [Hand of Death/Countdown to Kung Fu] (1976, John Woo): 6.5 - This early John Woo film stars Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung (who was also in charge of the action choreography) in supporting roles. It's clear Woo is still trying to find his form in this, but already his talents are evident; this one of the all-round better directed martial arts movies. It's enjoyable, but alas also very forgettable (honestly now only 3 days after seeing it I already need screenshots to remember what it was about), thanks for a large part to its bland hero. People interested in the evolution of its director and in lesser extent Jackie Chan should definitively seek this out, others can do worse also.

Hao xia [Last Hurrah for Chivalry] (1979, John Woo) : 7.0 - In this one Woo is coming even more into himself. With a plot that is about an unlikely friendship that forms between a righteous swordsmen and hired killer and dealing with themes as friendship, loyalty and honor this is a clear template for his later famous heroic bloodshed movies. On the other side this also is grounded in the epic wuxia movies tradition of Woo's filmmentor, Cheh Chang; making this a transitional work in Woo's oeuvre. Meanwhile there are even some spaghetti Western influences. The action is good and the two protagonist make an enjoyable kick-ass duo.

Ying xiong wu lei [Heroes Shed No Tears] (1986, John Woo): 7.8 - After being re-edited and partly re-shot, Woo disowned this movie. Those alternations unfortunate did take the emotional layers, which make a Woo movie more than most other action movies, out of the movie. Still there is enough to enjoy, cause this feature almost nonstop action, and that action is shot incredibly well. Made years before but only released after the succes of A Better Tomorrow, it shows Woo already knew how to film action like few others can. All this wall-to-wall action of course means the plot is paper thin. Starring a brotherhood of eccentric fighters with lots of self-sacrifice, Woo's familiar themes are also present. Eddy Ko is tremendously cool, plus it features the coolest toughest kid since Lone Wolf's cub. This movie is infamous for using live rounds during some scenes to save time setting the stunts up every take.

Frightmare (1983, Norman Thaddeus Vane): 6.5 - A horror film society steals the body of a recently deceased star and become victims of vengeful plot from beyond the grave. It's mostly thanks to Ferdy Mayne, who's great as the old-school horror icon, that this movie works. Cause the rest is very mediocre and not that thrilling.

She diao ying xiong chuan [The Brave Archer] (1977, Cheh Chang): 5.5 - The many colorful characters is a big draw of this movie. But with everyone being family, mentor, student, enemy or friend of everyone else the plot of this is overly complicated. The fights while enjoyable are not great enough to make up for the mess the plotting is. Despite having two dozens characters, most of them brave, there is not one archer. I probably will have to watch the sequels in the trilogy to get the title and the solutions of the many unresolved subplots. But this wasn't engaging enough to seek those out soon.

Milou en mai [May Fools] (1990, Louis Malle): 8.0 - Nobody make family movies like the French do. This reminded me of Assayas' L'heure d'été. While being lighthearted there is enough depth to all characters. Of course, this being a French movie, it is set against the backdrop of the May 68 revolts, which supplies the movie with a political background to satire.

Xue fu rong [The Vengeful Beauty] (1978, Meng Hua Ho): 6.2 - An okay entry in the genre with a female protagonist, that moves at a good enough pace with plenty of action. The action is decent, but doesn't stand out in the genre. Ping Chen is good in the lead, kicking ass in the fights and selling the emotional scenes well too. And as the next movie also shows there were few actors who could play villains as well as Lieh Lo.

Hong Wending san po bai lian jiao [ Clan of the White Lotus] (1980, Lieh Lo) (rewatch): 8.0 > 7.8 - Great choreographed action scenes (no wonder since the action was shot by Chia-Liang Liu), Gordon Lui (one of my favorite martial arts stars) and above all Lieh Lo as the titular White Lotus (aka Pai Mei) make this a formidable martial arts movie. Fighting with the ease of taking an evening stroll in the park and his constant sarcastic taunts make White Lotus one of the best villains in the genre. The movie isn’t without its flaws; the plot is very standard and repetitive, but that doesn't spoil the fun too much. With a bit of good will one can read a comment in a hero that has to change his masculine fighting skill based on strength into a feminine one based on gracefulness.

The Laundromat (2019,Steven Soderbergh): 5.0 - Soderbergh tries to do a Big Short for the off-shore banking industry in this movie based on the Panama Papers, but fails. The humor feels forced to make the heavy content easily digestible, but never really is funny. The different plotlines make it very episodic and fail to really capture the real human costs of this scandal, especially since the most important one starring Meryl Streep is just abandoned. Above all I didn't feel like I have a very better understanding of the workings or tax-evasions and off-shore banking after watching this. Oldman accent is outrageous. It does move at good enough pace and never is boring.

Wan ren zan [Killer Constable/Lightning Kung Fu] (1980, Chih-Hung Kuei): 7.5 - This was a pleasant surprise, I expected another standard Shaw bros picture, but I got a very atypical one. The plot is simple: Robbers stole lots of gold from the royal treasury, so the titular Killer Constable is put on the job to hunt those robbers down. Being a man worth his nickname, he's the type of official who strikes first and asks questions later if they are still alive, somebody who doesn't flinch killing people even without their guilt being proven. What's interesting is, that from the start the movie questions his morals. Contrary to most kung fu movies which are very black and white in their portrayal of the honest good and the immoral bad guys this movie deals in moral grey scale. Which become even more apparent when we later meet one of the robbers and meanwhile the Killer Constable is also more human than first impressions made him seem. It's not only in content but also in form the movie differs from the norm. There are lot of noticeable experiments with camera positions and zooms. I'm not familiar with director Chih-Hung Kuei, apparently he was better known for his horror movies, which doesn’t surprise me since this in large parts looks more like a horror movie than a martial arts movie with many shots in darkness combined with bright colors, almost surreal-like. Which fits the somber gritty content. Some of the night scenes seemed to be actually filmed at night. The action is of the bloodier variety, with many severed off limbs. With a heavy reliance on sword and other weapons, the fights are short and are reminiscent of Japanese chanbara movies. The different big fight sequences are all set in different beautiful original settings, some shot on location, which keep the action scenes diverse and memorable.

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#10

Post by Lonewolf2003 » June 22nd, 2020, 3:39 pm

Selective reaction to others.

@sol: you def should watch the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, not having seen that is even more outrageous as not having seen Seven Samurai! ;) . It's clearly the best of the trilogy and For a Few Dollars More the least.
How did you feel about Danny Aiello in the Protector? To me he was the biggest weak point.
Glad to see someone else who likes The Artist!

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#11

Post by OldAle1 » June 22nd, 2020, 8:30 pm

Whew. Finally caught up - again. It's been hard for me to write up shit regularly because the time I feel most at ease to write has been compromised by construction near my building for the past two months, but this has finally mostly ceased in the past few days, and I'm going to try to get to writing more regularly. Not that it matters or anything, I just want to keep doing this and hate posting multiple weeks at a time. So hopefully I can get back in the proper rhythm again.

This Film ROCKED
This Film SUCKED

Bai she zhuan / Madame White Snake (Feng Yueh, 1962)

Dai Lin again, as the spirit of the White Snake, who comes to earth to take human form, falling in love with the man who saved her in another life, only to suffer for trying to help him. This has some interesting elements involving the attitudes towards magic of the priests vs the people - who are happy to get the miraculous healing treatments that Bai Suzhen, the disguised White Snake, creates. Can't say I got all of it but the film as a whole is a nice mix of romantic tragedy, fantasy, music, and even some martial arts - there's a particularly cool scene where our heroine takes on a bunch of warriors in the celestial world where she's gone to get a plant that will revive her husband.

The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997) (re-watch)

2nd viewing. Usually I can remember quite well if I saw something in the cinema or not; this is an occasion where I can't. Really not sure at all, I'm thinking probably "no", though I'm fairly sure I saw it when it was relatively new. Anyway I have very mixed feelings about Besson, and really didn't like this film initially, but I had the feeling it would improve, because the kind of crazy throw-everything-at-the-board-and-see-if-it-sticks story that I remembered this having is something that appeals more to me now than it used to. Well, on the one hand, I was right in thinking I might like it more - I definitely did, though I'm still far from loving it; but it's not nearly as nutty as I remembered it being either, and that was a little disappointing. I think the first half of the film - the beginning which seems to come out of "Indiana Jones"-type territory and the rest of the story that happens on earth works a lot better; once the locale shifts elsewhere and we get into more action-heavy stuff it bogs down and isn't as much fun. But the color, Ian Holm in one of his better roles (RIP), Gary Oldman hamming it up, and some other bits are enough to at least warrant a modest "yes" from me now. Probably won't go back to Léon any time soon though...

Wutei jiemei / Two Stage Sisters (Jin Xie, 1964)

More tragedy and melodrama in the form of a story of a peasant girl who is taken in by a kindly travelling opera company leader, and raised alongside his own daughter as they move about the countryside in the 1930s. Eventually after their father's death they end up in Shanghai and become huge successes, but attitudes money and revolutionary politics eventually divide them. This is one of those films that - after it's start in poverty and ignorance (Chunhua, the country girl, can't read or write initially) becomes lighter and more "fun", before diverging into darker territory again in the last act. There's definitely more than a little bit of propaganda here, as one sister goes along the (eventually) approved Party path while the other slides into decadence and Western values, but it doesn't really hit you over the head with it apart from one song at the end of the film (which isn't even in the version I watched - it's a separate extra; apparently there was controversy over it's inclusion). Despite some issues with the politics - and little things like the fact that we see almost no aging in a film that takes place over 15 years or so - it's pretty moving and powerful in the end.


4 FILMS FROM SPIKE LEE 4 JUNETEENTH

Get on the Bus (1996)
He Got Game (1997)
Bamboozled (2000)
She Hate Me (2004)

The lazy man's way of saying Black Lives Matter, I guess. Spike is one of those directors I nearly always like, even when he's not at his best, and these four films are a good representation of what that means. They are, like nearly all of his films since Malcolm X, overlong or on the verge of it; overstuffed with ideas and themes that either should have been developed more, or left out; wall-to-wall filled with music - much like his most famous New York peers Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen, Spike doesn't like quiet time very much, but he's more guilty of underlining scenes with unnecessary tunes than the other two; focused on racism and the particular problems of being black in America today. And there are plenty of differences between them as well of course; Spike may keep exploring many of the same themes but he rarely does it the same way.

Get on the Bus is about the Million Man March; it's the first of his features that Spike didn't write the screenplay for, and while he can usually be pungent in his social criticism, and isn't necessarily known for his subtlety, he's also rarely as obvious and schematic as he is here. This bus trip from L.A. to D.C. seems to contain characters representing every kind of African-American (it's interesting that there are no native-born Africans on board though), and the arguments between gay and straight, rich and poor, socially conscious and just-along-for-the-ride are only interesting up to a point; much of the time these guys seem much more like mouthpieces than real men, with the exception of Ossie Davis, who is playing the Wise Old Man but still seems to be a real guy at all times. Still it's energetic and the usual color-drenched cinematography that I expect and cherish from Lee is strongly in evidence.

He Got Game is definitely the most focused of this quartet, in large part because it's just about one relationship, a troubled father-son relationship like many that recur in Lee's work (and that surely come from his own life with his jazz composer and drug-addict father Bill Lee). Denzel Washington is the would-be basketball player spending a good chunk of his life behind bars for killing his wife, the mother of son Ray Allen (a real, Hall of Fame pro basketball player), allowed a "work release" of sorts to try to encourage his estranged son to pick "Big U" as the school he's going to attend in the fall. There is some extraneous stuff here - the little side story of the hooker (Milla Jovovich in the first real performance I've ever seen her give) isn't really necessary, and some of the bits with Washington's handlers (Jim Brown and Joseph Lyle Taylor) are tiresome, but overall this has a good vibe and an authentic feeling in the central relationship, and of course the director is well known for his sports fanaticism and certainly knows how to shoot basketball and to get us to care about athletics as a way out for young black kids from places like Coney Island. Solid work overall.

Bamboozled was easily the best of this group for me, though it's certainly attracted it's share of negative criticism. This was Spike's first film shot on digital so right away there's a huge difference between it and everything before it; Lee's films are typically drenched in color and full of wild lighting contrasts, and I find his work consistently beautiful to look at even when it doesn't succeed in other areas. This on the other hand is ugly, cheap, primitive digital but... it works, because it's a satire about TV, still a relatively cheap and ugly medium when this was made, and certainly in many ways it's a commentary on the cheapness and vulgarity of American culture - and of course, in the ways in which it reflects African-American culture. And given that it's about a black TV writer (Damon Wayans, almost making up for all the lowbrow crap he's done in his career with this one single performance) who hits on the idea of doing a variety show starring black actors in blackface, set in a watermelon patch, and reprising old racist vaudeville routines, I'm sure Spike probably had to cut a lot of corners and make this as cheaply as he could, if he wanted to make it at all. It's really quite corrosive in it's thesis that after all this time, white people still just want to see shucking and jiving, but probably the most politically incorrect element is that he shows it all being propagated by a very conscious and self-aware and highly educated black man - and that much of the audience for this racist garbage is black as well. Spike may believe (justifiably) that racism and stereotypes endure primarily because of white supremacy, but he doesn't let black people off the hook either. Like most of his films from the 90s on this is messy and feels by turns too long and thin - as usual he's got a lot of ideas, too many for one normal length movie really, and in trying to shoehorn a lot of things in he ends up with a work that often seems unfocused and over-stuffed. The relationships Wayans has with his parents in particular seems like it needed more development - or like it should have been cut altogether. But in the end it does work overall and parts of it are very funny, and the best parts both funny and enraging at the same time. I think this is also the first movie I've really liked Jada Pinkett-Smith in, though her role could have also been a little better developed.

She Hate Me also got significant negative comments when new - and was quite a flop - and as with Bamboozled I think some of it is unjustified or at least arguable. The problem here is the central plot of the film - recently fired pharma company exec Anthony Mackie is convinced by his ex-girlfriend Kerry Washington - who is now in a relationship with another woman - to become a sperm donor, but really also a male prostitute, for wealthy lesbians who want children. While I think Spike was trying in some respects to turn the tables on the subject of objectification - making Mackie only interesting to these women as a baby factory - it really doesn't work for a number of reasons, including most notably that Spike seems to think lesbians come in two flavors only: totally hot femme straight-looking babes, and über-butch, mostly overweight bull dykes. Uh, no. That's the most offensive part of the film as I see it - though again I do think he's trying to make some constructive comments on objectification and the male vs the female gaze. The other problem the film has is that, like so many Lee films, it bites off more than it can chew, also trying to be a commentary on whistle-blowing and in particular the way black men (several references to the Watergate security guard Frank Willis) always seem to be the first to take the fall, and on executive power as it works for white men (Woody Harrelson, CEO of Mackie's company), white women (Ellen Barkin, Mackie's boss) and black men (Mackie). Too much going on, not enough of it worked out well. Another terrific cast though - we also have John Turturro as a mobster, Monica Bellucci as his daughter, Jim Brown as Mackie's diabetic, ailing father, Lonette McKee, Biran Dennehy, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Ossie Davis in one of his last performances. Lots of good things here, lots of not so good; overall I'm going to have to say this is the worst Lee film I've seen at this point (of 21) though I have a bad feeling that some of the many films he's made since are going to give it a run for the money.


Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

I saw Carax's first three features - Boy Meets Girl, Mauvais sang, and Les amants du Pont-Neuf when they came out or shortly after, in the cinema back in the mid-80s to early 90s; saw the second and third of them twice, and was absolutely floored by them. I don't think I had a favorite directors list then or anything, but I certainly agreed with Rosenbaum that he was the most exciting of the young French filmmakers that were gaining recognition at the time - the other two big names being Luc Besson and Jean-Jacques Beineix, with Jeunet/Caro coming along slightly later, and Claire Denis also a contemporary but not really known in the US until the late 90s. But Carax kind of got lost in the shuffle after the big-budget failure of Les amants and has only managed to make two features and one part of a three-director film in the almost 30 years since. By the time Pola X came out I was living in Vermont and it never showed there, and I never caught up to it on video; it's reviews were pretty bad though, and there were lots of other films I regretted seeing more intensely. Holy Motors though looked awesome so it was a bummer that it, too, failed to get any kind of significant release.

And damn I do wish I could have seen it with an audience. While I have many different kinds of favorite films, and there are many disparate elements that can make a great film for me, this one succeeds in a way that only a few of my very favorites do: it seems "new" while at the same time being obviously indebted to and homaging many older films, directors, actors, forms; it is complex and challenging and will bear much thinking about, and re-watching; and it's wildly entertaining. I can't remember the earlier films well enough at this point to make comparisons with them, but I do certainly remember the unique star, and Carax's obvious stand-in for himself Denis Lavant, who is absolutely brilliant here with one of the greatest physical performances I've ever seen; and I remember the love of Paris, Paris as a character, a city-symphony or maybe city-chamber-piece, a city of dream and nightmare and above all romance (even if overt romance is much more muted, at much greater a remove here). The story... is it a story? stories? .. the vignettes, let's say, of Lavant as many different characters, all linked by the huge white limo his chauffeur (Edith Scob, 75 at the time and half a head taller than the diminutive Lavant) drives him around in. All characters at some significant point in their lives - does Lavant's Oscar inhabit their bodies? become them? kill them? die in them? it's never entirely clear - obviously in the larger sense he is going from role to role, playing parts, acting in a movie, but why, what it "means" isn't really articulated until near the end, and even then it's fairly vague (the title certainly gives us a hint). Maybe not vague enough; I think the song that plays at the end in particular is a little too grounded in a narrative we might think we've watched, and it didn't need to be there.

Like Spike Lee's Bamboozled which I saw the day before, this is the work of an experienced director with great visual style turning to digital for the first time, and while Carax' camera seems to be significantly higher-grade than Lee's was 12 years earlier, it's still very much a digital film, with an awful lot of the green-yellow tinting that I've become accustomed to (and often dislike), particularly in night-time scenes; colors muted in general (though Lavant's rust-maroon jacket in the "merde" character stands out), a shallow-ish depth of field. But it also allows for a freedom in the handheld scenes (of which there are many), and many quite long shots, that would have been challenging on the kind of budget he probably had for this in 35mm. And given that one of the subjects in the film is in fact the end of old eras - of film, of the pre-digital era, of an old department store that's now going to be luxury condos, even of the sanctity of the cemetery (several gravestones amusingly titled in variations of "check our website" in different languages), it seems entirely appropriate that he's moving forward in the new medium at the same time.

This is certainly, as with his previous films and maybe even moreso, an ode to cinema and the 20th century; some have pointed out a direct reference to a late, obscure Renoir film, Le testament du Docteur Cordelier, which I haven't seen and which is a loose adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; I would also suggest that Lavant's performance(s) are reminiscent of that greatest of silent tragi-clown-monsters, Lon Chaney Sr, and there's also more than a bit of Buster Keaton in there in my eyes. And as it goes on, in some of the later stages, I also felt a kinship here with another film about people who aren't really people, looking down on and interacting with the people of a great city - the Berlin of Wim Wenders' angel-picture whose English title Wings of Desire seems to come from something of the same poetic place as Carax's title.

Much more that could be said and perhaps will be when I watch this again. Easily the best film I've seen so far this month and potentially one of the greatest I've seen period.


TV: Finished off season 2 of Cheers. What am I gonna do when it leaves Netflix next week?

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#12

Post by prodigalgodson » June 23rd, 2020, 3:44 am

Everyone else's:

sol
Angel Face 9 - one of my favorite noirs, I remember it feeling shockingly fresh and modern and I loved the ending; made me a big fan of both Simmons and Preminger
Guns of the Trees - sounds up my alley, I keep meaning to watch more Mekas
For a Few Dollars More 6 - yeah, not bad but my least favorite of trilogy by far; I know a fair number of people think it's the best, but I don't really see it
Blancanieves - fans of this seem to be pretty ardent, I'm kind of curious to see it
A Fistful of Dollars 9 - haha, pretty rewatchable eh
The Artist 7 - thought it was well-done and sweet but nothing to write home about

pda
True Grit 6 - remember it being less than the sum of its parts, some great imagery and performances though
The Opera - one of the nuttier episodes as I recall, had an additional surreal quality when I first saw it during the worst fever of my life
Why Did Ozu Cut to a Vase - liked this a lot
That Terrence McKenna quote sounds very Sufiesque.

hond
Violent Virgin 9 - nice, one of my favorite Wakamatsus too, and a great one to see with an audience; this is the one where they're trying to crucify a girl in the desert and there's a hilarious theme song having to do with...tentacles, if I remember right?
Eisenstein in Guanajuato - kinda curious to see this, if only because you never hear about post-90s Greenaway

toad
If... 7 - saw it recently and liked it too, but not as much as I probably would have as a teenager

jt
Night on Earth 8 - one of my first Jarmusches, had a great time watching with some family friends
Hollow Triumph 7 - nice ironic noir
Mystery Train 6 - yeah, not bad but probably my least favorite Jarmusch
Rancho Notorious 9 - one of my favorite Langs

wolf
My Dinner with Andre 8 - yeah, pretty awesome stuff
Kansas City Confidential 7 - one of the earlier noirs I saw, solid and enjoyed watching with my grandma but I too don't remember much

Ale
Holy Motors 7 - didn't like it as much as I felt I should, but cool stuff; Lavant's a legend
Couldn't get into Cheers but I find Frasier fairly watchable.

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#13

Post by cinewest » June 23rd, 2020, 8:26 am

@ OldAle1,

Holy Motors is probably my favorite film of the decade, at least that's where I have it on my end of decade list at the moment. In one sense it is a cinematic theatrical showcase for Denis Levant, while at the same time a homage to movies, Carax's own included. It works on so many levels at once that I look back on it in amazement: Every "job" a reflection of the variety of the roles that are played in the movies, and that we also play in our lives, every skit, a brilliant, unique take on cinematic stories and visual art forms that we are familiar with, but at the same time full of contemporary, surreal twists and commentaries, or juxtapositions that border on genius.

A tour de force performance piece by Denis Levant, more than anything, i saw the "film characters" as symbolic of the different "parts we play" (metaphorically) in the course of our own lives, even, sometimes, during the course of each and every day.

Enjoyed reading your ruminations on it. Have seen it at least 3 times (the first in a theater when it first came out, and the last at a film club where I introduced it). So many wildly imaginative scenes... his newest is the film I'm most looking forward to this year, and I hope I get a chance to see it in a theater.

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#14

Post by sol » June 23rd, 2020, 10:16 am

Lonewolf2003 wrote:
June 22nd, 2020, 3:39 pm
@sol: you def should watch the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, not having seen that is even more outrageous as not having seen Seven Samurai! ;) . It's clearly the best of the trilogy and For a Few Dollars More the least.
How did you feel about Danny Aiello in the Protector? To me he was the biggest weak point.
Glad to see someone else who likes The Artist!
Well, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly isn't in the TSP Top 100, so it is probably not quite as big a blind spot, but it certainly is a film that I have been putting off for ages - mostly because I wanted to watch it with A Fistful of Dollars fresher in my mind. And good to know that you didn't find For a Few Dollars More to be all that great. From everything that I heard over the years, I had come to expect the second film to be a vast improvement on the first (and the third a vast improvement on both) but my hopes were dashed when For a Few Dollars More turned out to be far less accomplished than the first to my mind. There is still time left this month, so okay, maybe I'll put TGTB&TU back on my schedule, but after the underwhelming Seven Samurai I feel super-cautious now about checking out acclaimed films that I expect to not love.

I thought Danny Aiello was fine (not great) in The Protector. Just went back and re-read your take on the film, which is generally quite similar to mine. Yes, Aiello and Chan do not have particularly amazing chemistry between them, but with the director of The Exterminator at the helm, I was never expecting a buddy-buddy cop comedy and I liked most of the grime and grit. Biggest weakness for me was the antagonist. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention, but I still don't get why they kidnapped the daughter (other than for the story to have a catalyst) and I found the coincidence of the HK-born Chan being coincidentally assigned to security detail for her, allowing a trip back to HK, a little hard to swallow.

And huh, I thought that The Artist was pretty universally loved? In the circles that I travelled in on the IMDb message boards, it was generally considered to be one of the strongest recent Best Picture winners. Maybe not as solid as Hugo, but I'm still happy it won.

Yours:

My Dinner at Andre was yeah, pretty captivating at the time.

Kansas City Confidential didn't do a lot for me overall. I enjoyed the first half when they were all plotting things in masks, identity unknown a la Reservoir Dogs, but the second half of the film fell flat for me. Oh, and I have done that before with noirs since a lot of them have similar plots and similar titles. Very easy to forget whether I have seen a second-rate film noir or not without looking it up.

Animal Crackers was okay for me. I didn't feel like it had a lot in the way of plot, at least not compared to the likes of Duck Soup, but even as a rather random assortment of gags, I did laugh here and there. But yes on Harpo: I generally find him more annoying than funny too.

I have never been very big into John Woo and Last Hurrah for Chivalry did nothing to change my mind. Some really awful comic relief too.

Tromeo & Juliet though I quite liked. Excellent nightmare sequences at least and some pretty memorable sets (the glass cage in the darkened room).

prodigalgodson wrote:
June 23rd, 2020, 3:44 am
Everyone else's:

sol
Angel Face 9 - one of my favorite noirs, I remember it feeling shockingly fresh and modern and I loved the ending; made me a big fan of both Simmons and Preminger
Guns of the Trees - sounds up my alley, I keep meaning to watch more Mekas
For a Few Dollars More 6 - yeah, not bad but my least favorite of trilogy by far; I know a fair number of people think it's the best, but I don't really see it
Blancanieves - fans of this seem to be pretty ardent, I'm kind of curious to see it
A Fistful of Dollars 9 - haha, pretty rewatchable eh
The Artist 7 - thought it was well-done and sweet but nothing to write home about
Oh, yeah - I had to go back and rewind the ending of Angel Face and watch it a second time. It was so shocking and unexpected yet also thematically perfect. What a memorable way to end a film.

Guns of the Trees is actually the first Mekas that I have seen. Intrigued about more obviously now, though no idea what else is on MUBI.

Very interesting to see your rating differences between For a Few Dollars More and A Fistful of Dollars. Maybe I should then give the third film a try? I mean, the first film is yes, excellent and very rewatchable. There was a point when I even thought to myself "this is better than Yojimbo". I was just sooo let down by the second film that it is hard not to approach TGTB&TU without caution.

I was expecting Blancanieves to be pretty gimmicky, but it isn't. The silent film format of the movie has clearly been selected to further the nightmarish visuals rather than to evoke nostalgia. The second half of the project is less interesting, but all the stuff with her as a child in a big house reminded me a lot of the first stretch of Amer in the best possible way.

The Artist is interesting as the story does indeed feel a little short and sweet (to paraphrase you), but I just loved the whole way the film handled the silent/sound dynamics. The nightmare sequence is particularly great along these lines. There are also some exquisite shots on the down-on-his-luck Dujardin framed against towering posters of himself in the background, like his former glory weighing heavy on his shoulders and taunting him even.

Yours:

Very cool that you took my recommendation of I, Dalio on board - and liked it too. ;) I also wasn't aware of much of the story either beforehand.

I had no problems with the subtitles on Rikyu - but that's because I purchased it on DVD when in Hong Kong in 2008. :) Very solid film as usual for Teshigahara, though of course it lacks the strong black and white visuals of his 60s output. I have it on about the same level as Summer Soldiers in my mind, which is another great late career Teshigahara film with some exceptionally good performances.
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OldAle1
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#15

Post by OldAle1 » June 23rd, 2020, 1:41 pm

cinewest wrote:
June 23rd, 2020, 8:26 am
@ OldAle1,

Holy Motors is probably my favorite film of the decade, at least that's where I have it on my end of decade list at the moment. In one sense it is a cinematic theatrical showcase for Denis Levant, while at the same time a homage to movies, Carax's own included. It works on so many levels at once that I look back on it in amazement: Every "job" a reflection of the variety of the roles that are played in the movies, and that we also play in our lives, every skit, a brilliant, unique take on cinematic stories and visual art forms that we are familiar with, but at the same time full of contemporary, surreal twists and commentaries, or juxtapositions that border on genius.

A tour de force performance piece by Denis Levant, more than anything, i saw the "film characters" as symbolic of the different "parts we play" (metaphorically) in the course of our own lives, even, sometimes, during the course of each and every day.

Enjoyed reading your ruminations on it. Have seen it at least 3 times (the first in a theater when it first came out, and the last at a film club where I introduced it). So many wildly imaginative scenes... his newest is the film I'm most looking forward to this year, and I hope I get a chance to see it in a theater.
Well, I knew it was one of your favorites, so glad to see your thoughts again. I wanted to get through a few of the more highly-regarded films of the decade that I hadn't yet seen for the 2010s poll and this was top of the list and most-wanted so I'm really glad it didn't disappoint. It's not going to be #1 for me (I think you know what is, still) but it will rank highly. As I said, I do think in the latter part of the film - say, the last third - the poetics of the film and the lightly surreal non-narrative qualities are broken up just a bit by a dose of literalism that wasn't needed IMO - but this is a very, very minor complaint, as opposed to the long and turgid stretch of dialogue near the end of the Wenders film I referenced, which hurts that work much more. In any case I was pretty floored and it will certainly be in my top 25, perhaps top 10, for the decade list. And more than any film I've seen in half a year it cries out for a second viewing, and soon.

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#16

Post by cinewest » June 24th, 2020, 2:30 am

OldAle1 wrote:
June 23rd, 2020, 1:41 pm
cinewest wrote:
June 23rd, 2020, 8:26 am
@ OldAle1,

Holy Motors is probably my favorite film of the decade, at least that's where I have it on my end of decade list at the moment. In one sense it is a cinematic theatrical showcase for Denis Levant, while at the same time a homage to movies, Carax's own included. It works on so many levels at once that I look back on it in amazement: Every "job" a reflection of the variety of the roles that are played in the movies, and that we also play in our lives, every skit, a brilliant, unique take on cinematic stories and visual art forms that we are familiar with, but at the same time full of contemporary, surreal twists and commentaries, or juxtapositions that border on genius.

A tour de force performance piece by Denis Levant, more than anything, i saw the "film characters" as symbolic of the different "parts we play" (metaphorically) in the course of our own lives, even, sometimes, during the course of each and every day.

Enjoyed reading your ruminations on it. Have seen it at least 3 times (the first in a theater when it first came out, and the last at a film club where I introduced it). So many wildly imaginative scenes... his newest is the film I'm most looking forward to this year, and I hope I get a chance to see it in a theater.
Well, I knew it was one of your favorites, so glad to see your thoughts again. I wanted to get through a few of the more highly-regarded films of the decade that I hadn't yet seen for the 2010s poll and this was top of the list and most-wanted so I'm really glad it didn't disappoint. It's not going to be #1 for me (I think you know what is, still) but it will rank highly. As I said, I do think in the latter part of the film - say, the last third - the poetics of the film and the lightly surreal non-narrative qualities are broken up just a bit by a dose of literalism that wasn't needed IMO - but this is a very, very minor complaint, as opposed to the long and turgid stretch of dialogue near the end of the Wenders film I referenced, which hurts that work much more. In any case I was pretty floored and it will certainly be in my top 25, perhaps top 10, for the decade list. And more than any film I've seen in half a year it cries out for a second viewing, and soon.
We don't always agree about films, but occasionally we really strike an amazing chord, as with the Piavoli, and Dead Man, etc.

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