Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Make Way for Tomorrow

Leo McCarey

I had heard that this was one of the great classics from the 30's (1937) but I found it to be badly dated...more like capra-corn than a film which could be taken seriously. Too bad.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On

documentary Japan

Here we got to follow a possibly psychotic guy around as he confronts various men from his military past during WW2 and forces them to admit to participating in or authorizing atrocities. It was painful to watch on all levels.

A hug just wasn't going to fix this guy.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

La Commune (Paris 1871)

Peter Watkins

This was an extraordinary project. He used 200 modern-day Parisians, an old warehouse, TV technology, with reporters...and staged a reenactment of the populist revolt against the old order in France which took place after the disastrous Franco-Prussian war. It is 6 hours long.

Incredible you-are-there effect. Characters/actors were using dialogue/arguments they had devised after being given a scenario. The use of TV as a medium worked extremely well...both for the communards and the ruling class.

This film built upon his previous reenactments and pushed the envelope much further. A great film that has as much relevance today as it did when made...1999.




Very slick neo-noir about a true-life case which took place in Hamilton in 1946. Nice camera work and lighting effects all the way through. The story was left unresolved but large hints were dropped which lead the viewer to a sad conclusion about the guilt/innocence of Evelyn Dick...the woman at the center of the story.


Friday, June 25, 2010


Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson

Absurd, over-the-top parody of male models and the fashion scene in general. Very funny, fast-paced, lotsa good lines. This raced on by...smacked a world which deserved it and was a load of fun to watch.

Good job.


Thursday, June 24, 2010



Film noir dialogue/sensibility set in an American high school. Even though this was one extended joke it managed to be amusing for nearly two hours. Done absolutely deadpan. Great lead, femme fatale. Excellent writing with many memorable lines.

Lotsa fun for a rainy afternoon.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Autumn Spring


Sweet little comedy about a 76 year old man, a retired actor, who engages in cons for amusement with a friend. Lotsa comical complications ensue.

This hinged on the likability of the lead and this guy was perfect...avuncular, harmless. Pleasant, amusing Eastern European gem.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blissfully Yours


Really odd film...in two acts. For the first 45 minutes we're in a clinic where a mute man is being examined and treated for a skin disease. His companions also try to get him work papers...illegally.

Then credits run. Then we follow these same people on a picnic beside a stream where they eat and have explicit sex. Turns out the guy was an illegal refugee from Burma.

If there was a thought or point to all this I missed it. The tone was quiet and flowing...the sound of the stream was pleasant...but I wouldn't want to watch another movie by this filmmaker.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

After the Rain


This film was written by Kurosawa and completed after his death. Very beautiful from the first shot to the last. Wonderfully acted and paced. The story had a quality of stillness, eternal rightness that evoked medieval Japan with its set ways and structured decency.

A ronin accompanied by his wife is traveling looking for a posting when one becomes available. He applies and the story unfolds.

Exquisite visually and thematically. A must-see for fans of Japanese culture/film.


Saturday, June 19, 2010


Britain d/ Ken Loach

A young boy is abused by everyone in his life and takes refuge in raising/training a kestrel. This was a pretty dystopian view of the working class in northern England. The lead was well-played and the pacing raced the story right along but overall it was painful to watch.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Withnail and I

Britain Richard E Grant

Two aspiring thespians live in comical squalor, spend a weekend at uncle's farm and one of them leaves the 60's. This was an ode to a time when everything changed, old rules were thrown out, possibilities seemed without limit and then reality stepped in.

This film signaled the end of of idealism. Done with a light, knowing touch. Lotsa fun.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Box

Cameron Diaz, Frank Langella

This was taken from a story by Richard Matheson. It may have been a good story...the premise is pretty engaging...but this film was a mess. They dragged in every crackpot agency/alien force they could think of but by the end it still wasn't clear what the hell was supposed to be going on here or why I should care.


Monday, June 14, 2010

The Titfield Thunderbolt


This was an Ealing comedy from the early 50's and one of their weaker ones. The story was silly, the characters one-dimensional. Some people have fond memories of Brit films from this period but I'm not one of them. I thought this was asinine and not worth the time.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Man from London

w/d Bela Tarr

This is his best film. Adapted from a novel by Georges Simenon it works as a perfect melding of story and technique. Tarr's slow camera movements here give the story time to develop in the mind of the audience. The pacing feels right. The high-contrast B/W is perfect for this setting.

It helps that he had an actual story to work from instead of the pointless meandering his other films display. It's by no means realistic...the whole thing is rigorously stylized but it's that style that sets it apart from whatever others are doing.

I'm glad I persevered with this guy. If this had been the first of his I'd seen I'd have thought him a cinema genius.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

All My Good Countrymen

Czech 1968

Episodic film that traces the developments in a small village from 1948 through the 60's. Forced collectives and tyranny gradually eat the heart out of the people.

Some of this was played as farce or eastern European humor which seems to be the same thing. Many beautiful landscape shots. We don't spend enough time with each individual to get to know them well enough but the overall effect of the Moscow-controlled politics was clear...and sadly destructive.

This film was finished just before the 1968 invasion by Russia and was squashed for decades.


Friday, June 11, 2010

The Navigator

d/ Vincent Ward

Ward's one-of-a-kind opus from 1988. A group of villagers in 1348 are faced with the on-coming plague so dispatch some to place a cross atop the highest church in christendom to mollify the gods. They end up in a modern-day city.

Nice B/W photography. Intelligent script. Very satisfying resolution of the story. Strong characters. Difficult to make out the accents. Imaginative imagery/editing. Good treatment of the mystical/unknowable aspects of the story.

Overall a success. It was a tricky story to pull off and make credible but he succeeded.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Regular Lovers

Phillippe Garrel

We follow a group of twenty somethings as they move from the insane idealism displayed in May 1968 to the sad realities of real life thereafter.

Excellent high-contrast cine gave the film an edgy look. Sort of mumble-core effect throughout...which worked nicely. MUCH too long...at three hours this should have been trimmed by an hour at least. Still...I liked the characters and enjoyed watching their gradual disillusionment.


Cinema Paradiso


A marvelous celebration of friendship, love and the wonder of the movies. Included one of the most sublime endings in all of film.

Molto bene!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Satantango part 2

Bela Tarr

This was really terrible. Long, unpleasant, irritating scenes which may have had a point but I really didn't care what it might have been. We got to watch a retarded girl torture a cat ( not faked - for real) for 20 minutes after which she killed it with rat poison then carried it around until she killed herself.

The "tango" was a drunken, slobbering mess in a grubby cafe which went on and on and on. He had one character shout out an account of a meeting over and over to the point where I hoped someone would shoot him.

This guy is seen as a master filmmaker but this one was awful.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Secret in their Eyes

Argentina Ricardo Darin

Murder/mystery/policier. Some of this was formulaic and annoying, especially a secondary character but the eventual resolution worked.

I didn't like the romantic sub-plot which seemed too stiff and undeveloped.

This won the oscar for BFF but it really was unexceptional and may not have deserved it.


Satantango part 1

Bela Tarr

Two and a half hours of the slowest movie ever made. Long, slow, pointless shots that may or may not have any significance. eternal rain. extremely grubby characters and locations.

It started out with a five minute shot of a herd of cows slowly emerging into a muddy barnyard, some of them trying to hump others...all of them meandering aimlessly...a perfect harbinger for what was to come.

This gives the term "art film" a bad name.

n/r yet

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Twenty-Four Eyes

Japan 1954

A great classic film set in a time...1928 - 1948...of major societal turmoil. We follow the story of a young teacher sent to a rural village on an island in the Inland Sea as she forms a lifelong bond with her 12 students and suffers with them as they undergo life's blows.

Cine here was spectacular...the film was overtly manipulative, wringing maximum emotional reaction from the audience. Excellent use of music.

Justly regarded as one of the greatest films ever to emerge from Japan.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Everything is Illuminated

Frodo Baggins

An American Jew travels to the Crimea to research the story of his ancestors...finds quirky, funny locals who help him and eventually finds what he came to see. The tone of the film shifted half way through...which worked nicely. I loved the staging of the final revelations in a sea of sunflowers.

Frodo was almost comatose here which must have been decided by the director...too bad. His character's open-mouthed stare added nothing to the film's dynamic.

Beautiful landscapes throughout.


The Girlfriend Experience

Sasha Gray w/d Steven Soderberg

Nice little film about the life and dealings of a high class call girl in contemporary NYC. She provides companionship, affection, intelligent conversation and sex...for hire and juggles a serious relationship of her own. It's a hell of a way to make a living which has to come with an emotional price...bits of which are dealt with here.

Good work.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Crude Awakening


Peak oil. So now what happens?

Nicely done but there doesn't seem to be any hope for us at this point. This will emerge as the story of our time...just too late to matter.


The Limits of Control

w/d Jim Jarmusch

His latest exercise in minimalist filmmaking...this time with what looked like a big budget. Very slick and professional looking. Deliberately opaque story-telling...we never do find out what is going on here.

Without any substantive context this ended up as surface material...possibly satisfying to the European intellectuals who funded it but unengaging and pointless to the rest of us.

Still...it actually did hold my interest to the very end...why I can't say.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Serious Man

Coen brothers

Oddball little film. Essentially a modern-day treatment of the Job story...a decent man has one catastrophe after another smite him which causes him to wonder at god's purpose.

Heavy emphasis on jewishness which unfortunately tended to move the themes away from universality and I thought limited its appeal. Some humor was sprinkled here and there which did serve to lighten it a bit.

But I found myself wondering why this was made and what we were supposed to get out of it.

Not one of their better efforts.


The Heretics


Interesting piece on a magazine founded by a group of women artists in NYC in the 70's. They saw themselves as the second wave of feminism and claimed great influence over the culture. Perhaps so but to me the shift in women's place in our society was widespread, seismic and these folks really were riding the wave.

Once again this doc was marred by the use of extreme close-ups when interviewing people. I'm baffled at what modern filmmakers think they are doing with this technique. I find it very off-putting and wish they'd stop.