Friday, April 30, 2010



Filmed by Louis Malle in 1976, this showed the diversity, squalor, religious practices, commerce, neighborhoods, inequalities and life of all kinds in this teeming city. Mostly shown without voiceover the images largely spoke for themselves.

At this point the film is a time capsule. Interesting stuff.


A Prophet


This film has won wide acclaim overseas but to me it was just another prison picture plagued by hand-held cameras in constant motion...often an inch or so from someone's harshly lit face. No one here was sympathetic or likable. The protagonist did his best to survive which meant he had to become as mean and cruel and murderous as the men around him.

The setting was ugly, ditto the people. I learned nothing new. It was very long...I guess so we wouldn't miss any horrifying, stomach-turning event in this guy's life. I endured this film hoping for some benefit which so far has missed me.


Thursday, April 29, 2010


Conrad Rooks

Lush treatment of the Herman Hesse novel from 1952. A young man sets out on a spiritual quest seeking the meaning of life. He passes through love, material success, status recognition and still finds something lacking. He finally realizes that living each day in the moment, eschewing desire, craving nothing, performing a task as simple as ferrying people across a river is as meaningful as life gets.

The cine by Sven Nykvist was beautiful...the music used splendid...actors handsome and skilled. A fine production all around.


Forbidden Games

France Brigitte Fossey d/ Rene Clement

The great film classic from 1952. Two children struggle to come to terms with the idea of death. Their story was buried in a sometimes farcical treatment of rural ignorance. The film highlighted the meaninglessness and shallowness of religious ritual.

Hers was one of the great child performances of all time. Only 5 when this was shot she was as unforgettable as Victoire Thivisol in Ponette 50 years later. The final scene of her running through the indifferent crowd crying for her mother was as piercing as anything ever put on the screen.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010



This film follows the lives of three folks who rely on wheel chairs to get around. Not anyone's idea of a swell time.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Brothers Grimm

Terry Gilliam

This film had all the strengths, and, unfortunately, all the weaknesses of a TG effort. Striking, imaginative visuals, camera work and set design. And asinine, over-the-top characters and situations.

I would have loved this when I was 11. But now...I dunno. I hate to badmouth this guy...after all, he did come up with Brazil...but that was 25 years ago and since then there have been far too many works like this one. Maybe he should have stopped. If he had he'd have been seen as one of cinema's great directors. Every film he makes like this one diminishes his name.


Friday, April 23, 2010

The Isle


Nifty little oddball piece done as a black comedy. A mysterious woman runs and services a bunch of floating fishing shacks in a scenic lake. A suicidal former policeman comes to stay and the film traces their tangled, Klingon-like courtship.

Some fairly gruesome scenes, some broadly-played comic stuff, some pretty explicit sex for an Asian film. Several scenes depicted actual cruelty to animals...a no-no in modern films.

For whatever reason this one tickled me the first time I saw it and this time too. One of a kind.


A Single Man

Colin Firth, Julianne Moore

Nice looking film taken from a story by Christopher Isherwood. I wish I hadn't seen Chris and Don last fall about Isherwood and his boy-toy. This film was uncomfortably close to that story...with a little death thrown in.

The film came across to me as an hour and a half infomercial for the glories of being a gay male. Lots of soft lighting, affection, etc. Like a film from the mid 50's was for the straight set. It didn't work emotionally for me at all. Good use of color...modern editing was nice but it still left me cold.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bunny Lake is Missing

Keir Dullea, Carol Lynley d/Otto Preminger

For an hour or so this was a helluva mystery story. OP led us around beautifully...kept us wondering what was really going on here. Nice support from Lawrence Olivier. Really terrible character/performance by Noel Coward.

Unfortunately the resolution of the mystery least by today's standards. It wasn't credible or well staged at all. Went on much too long. It's length made it seem more and more unlikely.

Too bad. It was quite engrossing for a while.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Benny's Video

w/d Michael Haneke

This was an early effort by the master of the uncomfortable. This guy has made a career out of making audiences squirm...skillfully, of course.

Benny is a modern teen, cold, affect-less. He watches violent videos, murders a girl his age...apparently just to watch her die...and we watch the way his parents deal with this nightmare.

This is as hateful a portrayal of our contemporary media-focused lifestyle ever put on film. The film itself is laced with crude video footage which puts us in the same position as charming Benny.

This film help put him on the international map for better or worse. Powerful. Abandon all hope ye who have entered here...


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Paths of Glory

Kirk Douglas d/ Stanley Kubrick

SK's first great film. Set in WWI this focuses on the duplicity of the officer class in the French army. With his signature tracking shots through the muddy trenches, stunning staging of the battle scene and unforgettable execution tableaux he announced his arrival on the world cinema scene with a splash. This film began a series of triumphs which added enormously to the language of film.

Topped by the scene in the cafe where his future wife sings a little German folk song and reduces everyone to tears at the inhumanity of war.

Arguably the greatest anti-war film ever made.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Marina of the Zabbaleen


The Zabbaleen are the people who re-cycle the trash and garbage of Cairo. They live in the middle of incredible squalor, dream of green places, practice their idiot religion, give their toddlers tattoos, get horrible diseases and, I'm sure, die young.

Marina was maybe 7...a pretty child with big brown eyes...but her prospects were extremely grim.

So it goes...


Da Boids

Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedron d/ Hitchcock

The one and only. Slow development of characters, incremental introduction of the menace of the birds climaxing in all-out attacks and wall-to-wall birds everywhere you look. Most of the acting was over-egged and the effects definitely dated but this still worked for me. It's one of my guilty pleasures and favorite Hitchcock films.

Gripping and fun.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The End of the Line


The plight of the world's fisheries. It ain't good. We're catchin more'n they're makin. Pretty soon we'll eat the oceans clean. Imagine that.

I see no chance whatsoever that we will even make an effort to fix this until it's too late. Witness the Canadian cod experience.

Algae, sir? Or perhaps the fried seaweed?

This film was a bit too overproduced and glitzy to my taste. I thought the story itself was strong enough without all the pretty pictures.


Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

Kris Kristofferson, James Coburn, Bob Dylan d/ Sam Peckinpah

From 1973. This was one of the last big-budget films depicting Hollywood's curious version of the world of the American West. Quasi-mythic men struck heroic poses, faced death without fear or regret, drank ever-present whiskey for breakfast, had sex with eager harems whose job was to titillate the audience and mourn the inevitable fallen.

Highly stylized, beautifully photographed, very violent. This was as well done as many but from my perspective it strained much too hard to achieve an artificial sensibility. SP lacked the truly operatic sensibility that made Sergio Leone's films so memorable.

Dylan can't act at all. He provided the music...which included the wonderful "knockin on heaven's door." However all the other songs used were him screeching pretty good lyrics that were written out of his vocal range.

Some consider this a classic...not a foolish opinion...but to me it mostly seemed like the end of the line.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Barefoot to Timbuktu


Nice telling of the life, travels, visions and failures of the Swiss artist Ernst Aebi. Most of the film focuses on his effort to transform a village 200 miles from Timbuktu in Mali.

Solid, interesting with a nice story arc. Good stuff.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Aguirre: The Wrath of God

Klaus Kinski w/d Werner Herzog

One of his early fiction films and the first of the jungle nightmare productions. Kinski is riveting and completely dominates. His depiction of madness...the type that can at any moment break out into so completely convincing we wonder if he is acting.

The sequence at the end with KK standing crookedly on the raft which is floating lazily in the muddy water, surrounded by the dead, including his daughter who lies propped with an arrow sticking out of her chest, tormented by 40 or 50 small monkeys who scamper about trying to avoid the water and the madman is one of the greatest closing images in world film history.



Wednesday, April 14, 2010



Nifty mix of real with CGI...maybe the most imaginative I've seen. The story, by Neil Gaiman, centers around a young girl's rebellion against her mother and subsequent guilt when mom gets sick. Most of the action takes place in a dream.

Visually spectacular, thematically interesting...a little shrill along the way, but not to a major fault. Overall a mostly successful effort at using the traditional quest themes in fresh way.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bright Star

d/ Jane Campion

The troubled courtship of John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Nice looking film with some lovely compositions/landscapes but this seemed too much a chick flick for my taste.

Well done but somebody else's thing.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Dial M for Murder

Ray Milland, Grace Kelly d/hitchcock

This was an adaptation of a hit play. The set-up was clever and quick but the whole enterprise had a distinctly playish air about it...very artificial.

Give the master credit for camera work though. Even though most of the film was in one set it never felt stage-bound or restricted in any way.

And where did Grace get that accent? I thought she grew up in Philadelphia.

Minor league Hitch.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Investigator


A stolid, inarticulate assistant pathologist gets involved in a murder-for-hire scheme and comes out of his carapace just enough to conduct an investigation into what the hell it was all about. And slowly the film evolved into a crime thriller. Sort of. Hungarian.

The very odd tone set by the main character was off-putting at first but the story gradually came to the fore and held me to the end...which actually was a lot of fun. I do wonder about these Hungarians though. Very odd bunch.


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Battle of Algiers

w/d Gilles Pontecorvo

From 1965. This film set a very high standard for what an historical quasi-documentary can achieve. Startling, you-are-there camera work made you feel the grit, the reality, the poverty, the purpose of the Algerians fighting against their French oppressors.

One of the great films of world cinema which hasn't dated at all...indeed seems ever more relevant as the US takes over the role of international oppressor.


The Bride Wore Black

Jeanne Moreau w/d Francois Truffaut

From 1968 this was a highly structured revenge thriller which served as a showcase for the wonderful Moreau. She is in every scene...mostly without affect...and easily held my attention. Her screen presence towers above contemporary stars.

While the lighting and cine marked this as a 60's piece it succeeded in engaging me. Once I learned what was going on I wanted to see how it developed and resolved. It ended up being a little too pat...but,'s only a movie...and a fun one at that.

This belongs in the first rank of FT films.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Weeping Meadow

w/d Theo Angelopolous

An absolutely brilliant film. No one in the world has a better mastery of form, composition or camera movement than TA. He composes tableaux and slowly moves his camera around to highlight or enrich the ideas he's trying to express.

Here he takes on the turmoil that was Greece from 1919 to 1949. Scene after scene of expensively staged and beautifully lit/photographed locations illustrate the human cost of the Nazi invasion, the depredations of natural forces and the pain and suffering endured by the people.

His only deficit here was in the development of his characters...who were not presented as complete individuals but served as representatives, symbols of the common man.

Slow, patient, stunning. A worthy addition to the master's oeuvre.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Naked Island

Japan 1960

This was a great film. One of the world's treasures. No dialogue. A family struggle to survive living on an island in the inland sea. They have to carry all the water they use for irrigation from the mainland by boat and carry it up the steep paths to the terraces where their crops grow. It's both a demanding physical reality and a poignant metaphor for life's struggle.

Brilliantly composed and shot. Moving, profound. A masterpiece.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Made in Heaven

Timothy Hutton, Kelly McGillis d/ Alan Rudolf

A couple meets in heaven (don't ask), she gets sent down to earth, he follows, vowing he will find her in 30 years. For a pure fantasy with a predetermined resolution this film had a lot of sad, sour moments. In fact most of it was negative until the final, completely improbable ending.

Interesting depiction of heaven though...fresh and kind of fun concept. I had trouble with KM...didn't think she had the requisite intangibles to compel someone to search for her...even subliminally...for a lifetime.

Very interesting structure which succeeded in creating interest in what was, at heart, a preposterous story line. Fun diversion for 2 hours.



w/d Catherine Breillant France

Soft-core from the heyday of this form in the early 70's. This was beautifully photographed and all the players were slender and lovely but the dialogue and story generally were so asinine that there's no mystery about why this type of film died. Once you get accustomed to the nudity there's no there there.

Curiousity value only.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Blind Date

w/d Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson

This must have seemed like a good idea sitting around the kitchen table. An estranged married couple try to deal with their problems by placing personals ads and meeting each other as they play out the roles they have chosen.

In practice though it came across as sterile, actor's vanity project. I couldn't fault the players...both are too skilled...the concept just didn't work for me. Using the same location every time hurt...made it seem like an acting exercise.


Get Carter

Michael Caine

Fast-paced, violent thriller from Britain's early 70's flowering. This was extremely well done in all aspects...except for the music and lighting style it could've been made yesterday.

Solid film.