Wednesday, August 31, 2011



A story told in two times in a young man's in his early 20's...the other 8 years later. In the first he is wrapped up with a the second they have parted but he is writing a novel based on their time together and the lessons he learned therefrom.

Told in drastic jumbled-up sequence...other than his beard it was hard keeping them straight. But eventually I got it sorted out and it turned out to be the usual sad tale of regrets, things learned too late...of all the thoughts to trouble men, the saddest are "it might have been."

Too many sex scenes in both times. Still, the universality of the message made it ring true in the end.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011



A pre-pubescent girl would rather be a boy. She moves into a new neighborhood, tells her playmates her name is Michael...and complications ensue.

Quiet, focused little drama. Slight for a feature but the individual scenes worked...the kids seemed very realistic and the story played out without unnecessary melodrama. Solid unpretentious film. Good lead.


Good Morning, Night


The sad, sad story of the kidnapping and eventual murder of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in the late 70's. The focus of the film is the only female captor as she evolves in her feelings about the rightness of the course they have embarked upon.

Constant use of tight close-ups worked in this case to heighten in the audience the sense of claustrophobic captivity. Moro was presented as a sympathetic character...his captors as rigid idealists, outraged at the depredations of capitalism but with no clear idea of what to substitute.

Powerful political film with emotional impact.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Choose Me

Keith Carradine, Genevieve Bujold, Lesley Ann Warren w/d Alan Rudolph

Delightful comedy/parody of the mating game from 1984. This also skewered film noir, detective dramas, films from the 50's, talk radio, sex/love advice, etc. Complex plot, beautifully acted scenes, great look and mise-en-scene.

This film tickled me in 1984 and it still does. Loved the final scene which referenced The Graduate. His most successful film.


Sunday, August 28, 2011



Here we follow a self-centered, morose, inarticulate pawnbroker around as he conducts his grubby little affairs and lives his grubby little life. A hooker/girlfriend dumps a baby on him which provides some semblance of a plot...but not much.

This guy seemed to be detached from the people around him...he attempted a pathetic connection near the end but it was too late. And I didn't care. He was so unsympathetic I couldn't wait to move on to something more staring at the wall.

The whole film was muddy because of the locations used. Not pleasant or enlightening. Just sort of there. Like this guy.


Project Nim


The sad, sad story of Nim Chimpsky, the chimp raised as a child in the hope of teaching him sign language. This highlights human arrogance...really the name of science. All the teachers and carers seem to have had kindly motives and genuinely loved Nim but the psychologist, whose experiment this was, came across as cold, insensitive and hungry for glory...regardless of the cost to anyone or anything.

Hubris and ambition run wild. Shame...


Friday, August 26, 2011



Another deliberately weird film from Greece (See Dogtooth) that had even less point or purpose. There was a story in here but it was slight...the film was gussied up with stupidly embarrassing scenes like two young women walking eccentrically down a paved walkway, arch sex scenes, the two women trying to kiss...

The title comes from the David Attenborough nature videos they were sporadically watching.

This was a failed attempt at an art film. Not even close.




First rate kidnapping drama. A prominent industrialist is taken...most of the attention is on the effects on his family, friends, business, the police. When he is freed the focus shifts to him and the type of person he is...making this an intelligent psychological study.

This film raced by...should hold the interest of even the most jaded moviegoer.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Four Minutes


Well done but sad film about a young woman prisoner, wrongfully jailed, incest victim, who nevertheless plays the piano well enough for an elderly staffer to take her under her wing. She continues to suffer injustice for most of the film but our attention is directed to a contest at the end.

Conventional structure, both lead actors were strong, predictable arc...felt a bit manipulative but not enough to trouble me. Solid work.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Mexico documentary

Here we follow a ramshackle family circus as they ply the backwaters of Mexico, struggling to find audiences and hold the whole thing together. The film wisely focuses on the internal dynamics which threaten to tear the circus apart...siblings who have left to live a "settled" life, and a wife who is fed up with an itinerant lifestyle where someone else controls the finances.

Sad, intelligent and well done.


Monday, August 22, 2011

The City Dark


Interesting if slight film about light pollution...its effects on our perception of our place in the scheme of things, its effects on wildlife, etc. I thought they had a 30 minute film here but it was well done enough that I was never tempted to turn it off.


Sunday, August 21, 2011



Well done film on the divisions that split a town in rural New York State when an Irish company came looking to install wind turbines on some failing farms.

My initial reaction was anger at those opposed...after all, who's opposed to an energy source that does away with carbon emissions?...but after listening to all the information presented here I was swayed. This movement appears to be a play by companies like Goldman, Sachs to take advantage of government subsidies and scoot...modern-day carpetbaggers...leaving a mess behind for the poor duped townsfolk to clean up.

Greed is good...not.


Jane's Journey


The life and times of Jane Goodall...who started by watching chimps and in the 80's switched to trying to awake the chumps fouling this nest we call earth. Extremely well done doc with beautiful images, use of color, music and a truly inspirational subject. She emerges as a secular saint and like all saints features a tragic estranged son who scorned her world, her values and dove headlong into the swamp of commercial exploitation.

She stands, like Nelson Mandela, above the mass of humanity, exhorting others to do a little better before it's too late. Of course we all know she won't change the direction of the great engine racing us toward disaster but it makes us feel a bit better about ourselves to know that such a person exists.

First rate work.


Saturday, August 20, 2011



The titular character is a downs her twenties but child-like in awareness and perception. Her mother is killed in a terrorist bombing and Anita is thrown into the city dependent on the kindness of strangers...wandering Buenos Ares with no idea where to go or what to do. She finds a mixed bag but eventually re-unites with kin.

This was a feel-good project. We see the story from her POV...even though she suffers some privation and humiliation her needs are mostly met by those she encounters, thus affirming the essential goodness of humanity.

Solid film even if a bit after-schoolish.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Forbidden Art


Solid doc about Igor Savitsky...who founded a museum for avant-garde art in the desert waste of Uzbekistan in the 1930's, when such an act risked execution. Because of his courage and dedication many striking paintings were saved and now take their place in the story of modern art.

Traditional, respectful doc which tells the story well using talking heads, archival footage, old movies...both Soviet and home...and Ken Burns-like slow pans over the art itself.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011



By now I've grown accustomed to the slow Romanian "dramas" which focus far too much attention on the quotidian, eventually coming to a point of interest and/or explanation which just barely makes the preceding worth it. This one goes Police, Adjective one's an hour longer which makes the build-up even more excruciatingly boring.

Here we follow a deeply repressed, passive-aggressive loser around as he plots to kill people who have annoyed him in his life. Almost no dialogue. What there is is pointless and boring and seems to have no bearing on the murders this guy commits.

No one seems to know how to deal with this character...even though his behavior is way off in several scenes no one calls the police. When he does turn himself in the scenes in the police station do act as a commentary on the hopeless inefficiency of the bureaucracy but everyone we see has the same deadened affect. Is this the way people in Romania behave? Have they become this brain-dead as a people?

This film was a struggle to get through and although I found watching it an unpleasant experience I doubt if I'll forget it. Faint praise that.


Double Hour


Nifty mystery/thriller. Complex mixing of real vs. dream states which forced me to continually re-evaluate what I was seeing on screen. Afterward four of us had to talk for twenty minutes to sort it all out in our minds. That plus a very fine performance by the lead actress in a difficult, subtle role put this one firmly in the plus column.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Sleeping Beauty

France d/ Catherine Breillat

Another unusual interpretation of a classic children's story. Like her others this featured some wonderful locations, costumes and set design. It also had the same choppy feel to some of the editing.

As an exploration of adolescent sexuality it worked. As a was a little off. Overall the film was worth watching. Maybe she should seek out a new collaborator to help her bring a flow to these adaptations.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Woman With Five Elephants

documentary Germany

A Ukrainian woman came to Germany in 1943 fleeing the re-imposition of Stalinism in Kiev and stayed on...working as a scholar, teacher and translator of major novels by Dostoevsky...the five elephants of the title. At this point she is quite old, feeble, bent, but seems to have her marbles.

It was unclear to me why this person was chosen for a doc. Her story was moving but unexceptional...representative rather than compelling. I also had the nagging thought that we were told only a portion of the real story...she was canny about revealing only what she chose.

It did serve as a poignant reminder that all that suffering (Babi Yar, et al) will soon be forgotten, swept up in the dustbin of history. So it goes.


The Man Nobody Knew


Life of William Colby, former head of the CIA...done by his son. Heavily sanitized. Almost hagiographic. It was astonishing to me that this guy was ably to muster so many high-level, totally unreconstructed cold warriors to defend Colby, the Phoenix program, the Vietnam War, the CIA, secrecy in government, etc.

On screen were such champions of US and world freedom and democracy as Donald Rumsfeld, Madame Nhu, Henry Kissinger.

An outrageous and unforgivable whitewash at this date. I don't care if Colby was his father. Truth is truth, lies are lies, torture and murder are bad things and it's time Colby junior came to grips with that. The CIA is a foul excrescence that has done immeasurable harm to this country's moral fiber and standing in the world since its founding and should be torn into tiny little pieces and scattered to the four winds.




Truly oddball film. A father in rural Quebec shelters his 12 year old daughter from...well, everything. He won't let her go to school...keeps her stuck in their remote house 24/7. She finds a stash of dead bodies frozen in the snow nearby and they become her only companions.

Troubling undertones throughout this film although nothing overt ever surfaces. Mom may be in prison. We're given no explanation for this guy's behavior...and no resolution when it's over.

The film falls into the enigmatic area of indie films...meant to be provocative and, in this case, succeeding. Reminiscent of last year's Dogtooth. I got hooked early and couldn't turn it off before I saw how it resolved.


Saturday, August 13, 2011


England w/d Paddy Considine Peter Mullen, Eddie Marsan

Hard-to-watch film about two lost souls coming together in mutual support after being battered by life in England's lower reaches. The opening scene featured one of the leads kicking his dog to death in a drunken rage. Much violence...actual and verbal...throughout.

Although it was very well acted and ended on a positive note this one was an ordeal to get through. If you witnessed any of these scenes in real life it would be traumatic and would haunt you for years.

I had trouble understanding the muttered language and would have liked English subtitles. This was more a film to admire than to like.


Summer Palace


In many ways this was an impressive production...intense personal narrative set against the grand sweeping events which rocked Chinese society from 1988 to 2004. Our focus is a highly volatile young woman who goes away to university in Beijing, falls madly in love with a caddish guy, gets caught up in the Tiananmen Square craziness...and she then bounces between various men searching fruitlessly for peace of mind.

Many (too many) sex scenes. Dogme 95 aesthetic...including maddening camera swoopiness which never stopped...for 2 1/4 hours.

There was much to admire here and I wanted to love its bravery in confronting such a transformative period head-on...but its flaws were also great and it ended up being a mixed experience.


Friday, August 12, 2011

The Suspended Step Of the Stork

Greece d/ Theo Angelopoulos

This film from 1991 contained his strengths...brilliant camera work/framing, locations, mise-en-scene...and weaknesses..slow story, unengaging characters, overall air of depressing ennui. I find watching his films an exercise in patience...always rewarded by some stunning set piece. Here it was a wedding which took place across a river...emphasizing the theme that national borders separate people from what matters.

Again a beautiful soundtrack by Elain Kalaindru. This guy is unmatched by anyone on the world cinema scene. I'm willing to forgive his faults because the bright spots in his films soar beyond anyone else's.


Thursday, August 11, 2011


documentary d/Steve James

Another excellent piece from the guy who did Hoop Dreams. This time he chronicles the work of a citizens group in Chicago who are trying to stem the endless flow of murders among black and hispanic young men. Several interrupters and their clients are fully fleshed out...the extraordinary difficulty of their task made real.

Of course the problem isn't the people presented's the structure of a society based on selfishness, greed and exclusion. These folks never had a chance...the ruling class sees them as disposable and couldn't care less if they suffer along the way to an early death.

Moving and upsetting film. Divide and's worked for the ruling class for centuries. Might be time to come together and re-order things.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Samaritan Girl

Korea Kim Ki-Duk

Even for this guy this was a pretty weird script. There are several stories here but none of them succeeded in drawing me in. I give him credit for trying different ideas but not all of them will work. This one didn't.


Monday, August 8, 2011

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

England Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan

Tight, suspenseful kidnapping drama. Three-hander with only a few locations. The director succeeds in keeping us on the edge of our seats every step of the way. Twists completely surprised me. I couldn't predict the final resolution until the last second.

Great suspense, well acted, good script...everything you hope for in an indie thriller.


The Names of Love


The French seem to love these. A young woman, very pretty, crazy, and promiscuous (cf Betty Blue) hooks up with a normal man...he falls in love with her...and then his troubles begin. This one had a strong political/sociological sub-text but it was presented in such a farcical way it didn't work.

In fact none of this spite of the strenuous effort by all involved. The premise and tone were idiotically exaggerated. Like All in the Family they tried to present inflammatory issues like racism in a comedic context to make them look silly. Maybe this worked for a French audience. I just found it annoying and felt the lead actress was degrading herself.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Miss Minoes


The best children's movie I've seen in years. An accident turns a cat into a young woman (sort of) and in that guise she is taken in by and helps a failing reporter.

Very silly. Catnip for ten year old girls. Excellent cat wrangling and use of CGI. This one cleanses the palate after so many negative films. Real fun.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Crime After Crime


The sad story of Debbie Peagler, a battered black woman, forced into prostitution by her boyfriend, who had a hand in arranging a beating for him which resulted in his murder. She just wanted to be left alone. She ended up serving 26 years in prison.

This follows the six year effort to secure her release. The film stands as a blistering indictment of the Ca. DA, the prison system, the courts...the entire American "justice" system. It was a complicated story, well told...many emotional moments...some heroes...many villains.

This film looked directly into the face of white hypocrisy and didn't blink. Good for them.


Friday, August 5, 2011

My Reincarnation


Unfortunately this was the Tibetan thing...lama, dalai lama and all that. The filmmaker's father escaped to Italy in 1959 and surfed the Western interest in his superstitions into a lifetime of travel and celebrity. This whilst he ignored his family and son...whose film this is.

I find this adoption of another culture's ignorance deeply depressing...nonsense doesn't become profound by being exotic. The sight of these glowing European faces entranced by the drivel these people peddle leads me to despair for the future of humanity.



Russia d/ Nikita Mikalkov

re-make of the American classic...12 Angry Men. Adapted for Russian culture and prejudices.

A strange project...although the core underlying themes are universal. But the mannerisms of the players here were over-egged and annoying. Plus the hero/saint was a pale imitation of Henry Fonda. Direction and camera movement were up to snuff but I found the constant comparisons going on in my mind very distracting.

Maybe if I hadn't just seen the original six months ago...


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cobra Verde

Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski

Very elaborate telling of the misadventures of a Brazilian slave trader in Africa. Many scenes with hundreds of costumed extras, battle scenes, immense old forts. Strong compositions, use of color.

KK was restrained a bit and tried to create a character separate from himself...mostly succeeded. This was their last collaboration and while it lacked the emotional power of Aguirre or Fitzcarraldo it held together as a story and a grand spectacle.



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Dog Tulip


Animated doc on a middle-aged man and the troubled Alsatian he adopted. The dog behaved very badly but it was immediately clear that this guy didn't know how to deal properly with a dog so I became impatient with his endless whining.

I had heard the drawings were beautiful...and they were at times...but this solipsistic idjit got on my nerves so badly I had to make a conscious effort to notice.

He notes at the beginning that Brits don't like each other so they turn to dogs. This was the closest the film came to truth.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Adam's Apples

Denmark Mads Mikkelson

Really oddball movie. Sort of a black comedy with lots of violence played for laughs.

MM plays a demented preacher who takes in convicts and blandly approves of everything they do no matter how outrageous. We follow a skinhead whose assigned rehab "goal" is to bake an apple pie from the apples growing on a tree outside the church.

Nothing here was funny or amusing but it held me all the way as I wondered where the hell he was going with this material.