Saturday, July 31, 2010



Low budget indie that didn't look it. After the town falls asleep competing forces work to control good, one evil. Who will prevail in the struggle for the soul of a little blonde girl? Do you really have to ask? But getting there was imaginative and exciting.

This film could serve as classroom material in film school as an example of getting the most bang for your limited bucks. All threads were neatly tied up at the end...the world was saved...we can sleep in peace.


Friday, July 30, 2010

La Moustache


This one was a puzzler...made deliberately complex and enigmatic...with no apparent resolution to all the mysteries the script provides. Nice looking film, sympathetic players, good use of locations all hid from the audience the fact that this is a movie about nothing more than puzzling the audience.

Of course, it's always possible to ascribe meaning to anything and I could probably write 10,000 words interpreting the film but I don't think it deserves that level of attention or analysis. Sometimes it's best to just say there's no there there and move on. Like now.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice

Japan Yasujiro Ozu

From 1951, this is the story of a discontented wife of an arranged marriage who sees her husband as boring and ignorant, leaves to take on a lover but returns home recognizing the value in her husband's steadfastness and reliability.

This used all the characteristic touches that make his work so recognizable but the sarcasm, anger and discontent were harsher than in his later films.

A solid effort.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Please Give

Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt w/d Nicole Holofcener

Here we follow some very ordinary people as they do ordinary things, make some of the usual mistakes people make and end up pretty much where they were at the beginning. The end.


The White Ribbon

Germany d/Michael Haneke

Provocative, disturbing story which centered on the swirling undercurrents in German provincial life just prior to WW1. The children of the village here did some really nasty things to adults or to each other and no one wanted to face it. The adults also carried grudges. The film demolishes the notion that country, small-town life was pleasant and bucolic.

Haneke eschews his trademark shock technique here and creates a conventional story which resonates deeply in the viewer's mind long after it is over. This could be his best film yet.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Last Images of the Shipwreck


Odd, lightly surrealistic film by the maker of Man Facing Southeast. This had an artificial-seeming premise with deliberately oddball characters and several scenes which stretched plausibility but the whole thing never really came together.


Saturday, July 24, 2010


Germany w/d Ivan Fila

A young Czech girl witnesses the brutal death of her parents, becomes mute and is raised by foster parents. She is sold at 21 to a German ex-soldier with some issues and his own troubled past. This is their story.

In spite of the painful emotions this film generated I thought it was extremely well directed/edited and well worth the discomfort. Exquisite framing, camera movement, lighting. Strong performances by both leads. The resolution was a bit unsatisfying but not enough to detract from the excellence of the entire production.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Good Hair


Comedian Chris Rock takes us on a tour of the world of black women's hair. Some of this material is horrifying (relaxers), some is interesting (weaves), some is pretty funny and it all ends up at a bizarre competition in Atlanta where "star" hairdressers stage little shows and style hair on stage in front of an audience.

This was amusing and informative but there was an underlying aura of sadness at the self-loathing that forms the basis of this industry.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Joke

Czech 1968

A young man writes a post card to his girlfriend containing some sarcasm about communism and is sent to ten years of hard labor. Angry, bitter film made during the height of the Prague Spring and squashed immediately when that window closed.

The sentiments here were heartfelt but the film was primitive and poorly done. Abrupt, unsatisfying ending.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Toy Story 2


This continues the adventures of a bunch of toys who do all sorts of amusing things when humans aren't around. The look was startling when the first one came out but seems ho-hum now.

Good children's fare.


The September Issue


Slick, fast-paced window on the world of Vogue, Anna Wintour and high fashion. This whole topic has always baffled and amused me in a disdainful way. It seems somehow wrong that so much effort and energy is spent on what is really so superficial. It's often been noted that you can put the finest clothes on a fool and he, or she is still a fool.

Nothing particularly new here.



Christopher Nolan

Loud, complex...even bewildering mind-fuck about industrial spies who sneak into peoples' dreams to steal their thoughts or, in this case, implant memories.

Far too much shooting/violence which wasn't at all necessary to the story. Some great visuals. Clumsy use of cue music. Strong characters...well acted.

This was an attempt to do a summer blockbuster which contained all the usual elements but with some added intelligence. It mostly succeeded.


Stonewall Uprising


Solid piece on the night in the Village that changed life for gays in this country...perhaps for good.


Friday, July 16, 2010



Fascinating piece on a typeface. Who knew? Turns out that such a thing has planetary sociological significance and can be seen as emblematic of the time.

Clean, unadorned, sans-serif, readable. What's not to like?

Lots and lots of shots all over the world showing the ubiquity of H.

But the urge to decorate, to improve, to do something just a little bit different is so human, so irresistible. It won't reign forever. Nothing lasts. Or does it...?


Wednesday, July 14, 2010



Very interesting piece on a Spaniard who ended up in London during WW2 and spent four years feeding false information to the German high command...ending up with their swallowing the false D-Day scenario that ensured its success.

Imaginative use of historical footage/music/interviews. Just when I thought there was nothing new in the doc format this comes along and re-writes the form.

Good Stuff...mostly for WW2 buffs.


Andromeda Strain

Robert Wise

Adaptation of a novel by Michael Crichton. From 1971. The first hour was largely exposition...educating the audience on biowarfare and the facility that is the set. I'll bet this was pretty futuristic when released but that was forty years ago and most of this "high tech" is retro now. They even used dial phones.

The story was formulaic with the obligatory grousing by the characters and artificial tension. Lots of whiz-bang cuts. For all its faults it did hold me easily and came to a satisfying resolution.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010


w/d Jim Finn

Oddball amerindie. A mockumentary about an imaginary space mission by the soviets in the early 70's to land cosmonauts on various moons in the outer solar system. Stock footage, weird sound effects, re-enactments and general silliness made it fun to watch. Mercifully short.


An Image


Interesting half hour piece on a Playboy photoshoot in Germany. The film showed all the work that went into the process of producing "glamour." And of course totally de-glamourized it.


Sunday, July 11, 2010


France w/d Jean Vigo

This film, from 1937, has been called one of the greatest films ever made. Not to me. I found it puerile, clumsy and stupid. Not ready for the world stage. The characters acted like those in a cartoon drawn by a child.

It took me three tries to finish it over a period of four years. It wasn't worth it.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired


Nicely done piece for the general viewer on this guy's life and body of work. His films were shown by clips but no discussion. It would have helped show his significance if a film historian had been interviewed. Still, his has been an extraordinary life and this doc was a good introduction.


Thursday, July 8, 2010


Neil Jordan

Another trip to the selkie legends of the western British Isles. This time a fisherman pulls a woman from his nets and sets the story in motion.

I found this to be a charming entertainment...not without its flaws...many formula touches like a precocious child, ominous bad guy, incoherent dialogue, happy ending. But the two leads were pretty, the premise was fun...the whole thing raced right along with nary a skip. It was a nice way to spend two hours inside on a steamy hot day.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The House is Black


Very crude film from 1962 by a prominent Persian poet. Shots of the residents of a leper colony in various stages of physical deterioration...all in close-up. It's easy to see why this disease struck such terror in people in the ancient world. The effects are truly hideous.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The End of Summer

Japan J. Ozu

Typical film...his penultimate...this time in color. The focus is on internal family dynamics and features many of his stock players. This guy's body of work is a national, a world treasure...period.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Making a Killing


Crude, TV-level screed against the psychiatric particular it's unholy alliance with big pharma.

This was almost certainly produced by the scientologists although the only ID on the disc was for a bland citizens committee. I guess Hubbard had a bad experience with a shrink at some point so they've made it one of their key missions ever since to demonize them.

That said...if only part of what was on this film is true the profession has a lot to answer for. The real culprit here is pharma who have completely corrupted the practice of medicine in the US.

You know...maybe greed isn't so good...


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mid August Lunch


Pleasant little film about a much put upon bachelor dealing with his mother and several other older women. Played short of farce...more French than Italian in tone.

Well done except for the overly busy camera work. They successfully conjured up a place where we'd all like to live. At least for a while.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Silent Light

Carlos Reygadas

A story of infidelity and remorse set in a mennonite community in Chihuahua Mexico. Exotic, to say the least. Done in a slow, measured way similar to Tarr or Angelopolous. Outstanding landscape shots.

The film opens with a 7 minute shot of the dawn over the neatly trimmed settlement...the sun gradually becoming visible while farm animals stir and call. The actors were stolid, slow-talking and very believable. Some scenes were held a little too long.

This was a major work of world cinema and represents a big step up in my eyes from this guy's previous work.



Mike Figgis

The four-screen experiment which still works amazingly well. Largely improvised by the excellent cast, this was confusing at times but it was surprisingly easy to follow the story line even though particular points may have been missed. Some of the visual/camera effects were dazzling.

This tickled me then and it still does.


The Road

Viggo Mortenson

Adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalypse yarn. This type of novel was very popular when I was young because of the freshness of the idea...and also because it's so compelling. But at this point you really have to come up with something fresh to say and he didn't. Neither does this film.

Very dark...the palette is stripped of color, many scenes were shot in almost total darkness which eases the burden of the production designer. As bleak as it gets without adding any insight. So the question is...what was this project about?


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Layer Cake

Daniel Craig, Colm Meany

Another British gangster flick. Slickly done, well paced and acted but did we really need another one of these? They have all taken on a dreaded sameness...a sure sign of a genre that needs to be put to rest for a while.