Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Married a Monster from Outer Space

Tom Tryon

Similar to Body Snatchers in theme but not as well done. Some of the behavior by the supposed humans was as alien as anything the monsters could dream up.

Pretty cheesy...low budget with minimal production values. A quaint artifact today.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Coup de Grace

Volker Schlondorff

Set in 1919 this deals with the conflict between an emotionally repressed Prussian officer and the woman who has loved him since childhood. He is fighting the spread of bolshevism...she is a sympathizer.

This was nicely shot and staged but I found the characters unlikable and didn't really care about their fate.


The Exterminating Angel

Luis Bunuel

The Spanish master's wildly surreal piece on the ineptitude of the privileged class. A group of rich "friends" gather for a meal after the opera and find they can't leave afterward. Their manners and personal hygiene deteriorate until they are reduced to savagery.

Wickedly satirical...subject to various interpretations and analyses...and just lots of fun to watch. The most successful of the European surreal works.


Raging Bull

Robert di Niro

The tortured life of Jake Lamotta exposed for all to see. Martin Scorcese's masterpiece, di Niro's oscar...voted the best film of the 80's and, I think, the best movie revolving around sports ever made.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Banishment


This is the follow-up film from the director of The Return. Really fine work. Slow, patient, superbly composed and lit, excellent use of landscapes. World class film.

Again he leaves a number of things unstated and unresolved. This director treats his audience as intelligent adults and presents characters and a story that have profound resonance.

Adapted from a story by William Saroyan.


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Castle

Michael Haneke

This was a pretty straightforward adaptation of the Kafka novel. Because of the consistent tone of absurdity in every scene I found it hard to get involved in any of this and after an hour or so found my attention wandering, never to return. It was one of his weaker books and didn't translate to film well. MH should have imposed more of his own imagination on the story but may have been reluctant to when adapting such an iconic writer.


Saturday, May 22, 2010


Jan Svankmeyer

Typically over-the-top craziness from the Czech master animator. This one didn't work for me since it was focused on anti-religious bullshit... a topic I'm sick to death of and one about which it isn't possible to add anything new.



Very nice piece on the astonishing range of critters who make the sea their home. Some of the footage was breathtaking.

Worth it.


Friday, May 14, 2010

The White Dove

Czech Frantisek Vlacil

This is my second time seeing this forgotten gem from 1960. If possible I appreciated it even more. This man's sense of composition was as good or better than anyone in the world in 1960 and far surpasses almost everyone active today. If baffles me how he...and this masterpiece...have been forgotten.

On of the great works of world cinema.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Catherine Deneuve d/Jacques Demy

The marvelous French confection from 1964 in which all dialogue was sung and the theme was the different natures of love. Outstanding music by Michel Legrand. Stunning use of color, fashion and set design.

Dazzling, of the great...and of world cinema.


Sleeping and Waking


Nice little film taken from a play. The premise is a slightly futuristic scenario: how would a man adapt to having his entire head transplanted to another body? The idea seems preposterous now but so did many medical advances of the 20th century.

This was well-written and nicely acted. The screenplay was intelligent and plausible...focusing mainly on the interpersonal relationships of the transplantee.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Caterina in the Big City


Here we follow a teen naif who moves to Rome with her family, encounters rabid political cliques in her high school and, I guess, learns life lessons.

This film was fatally marred by the father's character who was irritating in the extreme...loud, pathologically overbearing, narcissistic...about as big a jerk as has ever appeared on the screen. I couldn't bear watching him make an utter ass of himself and had to turn it off.

There might have been something there with the daughter's character and the clumsy commentary on contemporary Italian society but she was buried in an avalanche of his idiocy.


Sunday, May 9, 2010



This was a particularly stupid attempt at a vampire film. In fact this whole genre needs to be put away for a while...maybe forever. It's an asinine concept based on psycho-sexual fears that has now been milked way past the point where an adult can watch something like this without cringing.

We don't need more bloodsuckers...we already have capitalists.


Saturday, May 8, 2010



Painful story of a woman and her teenaged daughter who struggle with and against each other trying to come to grips with the aftermath of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia.

Well-acted by the two leads. A good window into a culture which is stretched between eastern and western values and traditions.


Friday, May 7, 2010

The Last Picture Show

Cloris Leachman. Timothy Bottoms w/d Peter Bogdonovitch

Extremely well done film. His first big hit and easily his best. This won the best picture award and deserved it.

Notable for the stellar acting by all hands. This time I was particularly taken by Ellen Burstyn whose portrayal of the jaded 40 year old was spot on...knowing, slutty, bored, likable...a complex, fully realized character.

One of Hollywood's great films.


Still Life


This falls into the group of recent Chinese films I call modern grunge. Very slow pacing, gritty locations, scuzzy characters. This could be a reaction to the last generation of directors like Zhang Yimou who emphasized prettiness and traditional stories.

This was filmed around the 3 Gorges dam project and dealt with the severe dislocation experienced by the locals whose homes and way of life was being destroyed. Many of the exterior locations were beautiful. There was one startling episode which slid into metaphysical significance.

The film gradually began to work on me and by the end I felt I had seen something worthwhile and satisfying.


A Canterbury Tale


This was done during WWII and came across as an act of homeland worship/reverence more than a story as such. Bucking up the home front so to speak.

The actual story was unusually stupid attempt at a mystery...and I found the American character a bit too hayseed/indiana to stomach. And the ending sequence at the cathedral was as reverential as anything Hollywood has done around religion...with heavenly choirs, liturgical music, etc.

But the film was well shot. I felt I should give it some slack because of the times. Today it stands as an historical curiousity more than an accomplished film.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Goya's Ghosts

Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard, Natalie Portman d/ Milos Foreman

Beautifully done film about the social/political turmoil that roiled Spain in the late 1700's. Filled with luscious images including, but not limited to, many paintings by Goya.

Everything about this production was first-rate and marks a real return to form for this director.


Monday, May 3, 2010

District Court # 10


Very interesting piece on the workings of French justice. Based on the Napoleonic Code, they don't use an adversarial system of questioning. Instead the judge is an active participant in the search for truth and justice.

One of the cases showed the judge slipping from her stance of detached consideration and ruling against a guy because he annoyed her...a nice human touch...although not for him.

It would be neat to see films like this from cultures all over the world to learn how crimes/disputes were resolved.