Sunday, September 25, 2011



CGI fest. Story taken from a Japanese legend similar to Robin Hood. So over-the-top with the effects that for five minutes or so I wasn't sure this wasn't an animated film. eg in a swordfight characters leap hundreds of feet over opposing armies...

Still...many scenes of overwhelming beauty kept me was like a well-drawn disney cartoon feature with extreme violence.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Future

amerindie w/d Miranda July, Hamish Linklater

Another quirky, off-kilter reflection on relationships, time (!?), trees, friendship, dance...etc. She creates a surreal atmosphere and has the courage to underplay everything...even at the risk of losing her audience. Her pacing and tone are unique.

I found myself laughing sometimes, sad others...genuinely hurt at the eventual resolution...a fine achievement when presenting a film and characters so far removed from real life.

I really liked this one...wouldn't recommend it to may be because I see so many movies...but it worked for me.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Le Havre

France d/ Aki Kurismaki

Uncharacteristically sweet, straightforward story from the Finnish master of odd. Rather like last year's Welcome...a French national in a seaport town risks arrest by sheltering an illegal immigrant and helping him on to England.

The protagonist is a shoeshine man...handsome, formal and polite to everyone. The film's charm comes from the working class neighborhood in which the story takes place. Everyone is kindly, gentle and supportive of his rescue.

Told in a stiff formal a film from the 30's. This one was a winner.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Fairy


Very silly movie. Several good laughs...a few annoying things. I mostly sat there wondering what they were going to come up with next. A bit like watching a Mack Sennett comedy. In color. With sound.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Overture


Sumptuously beautiful film about a master musician who plays a xylophone-like instrument. We follow his development from childhood, his struggles, his triumphs.

Standard biopic structure...almost to a fault...but played sweetly enough to stay this side of the line. Very high level of musicianship, dramatic staging, handsome players, beautiful locations all contribute to making this a success.



France Sylvie Testud

Subtle, intelligent treatment of a place where some believe miracles happen. Ailing folk of all kinds...some believers, others more cynical...go there to be cured of what ails them. They go for physical cures but the place and its staff trade more in psychic healing.

Heavy emphasis on the ritual behavior and its effect on the pilgrims which, since it was part of my childhood, I found familiar and comforting. The story focuses on a young woman with MS. She experiences a remission but the film leaves open the question whether this is temporary.

The story is underplayed nicely. They even manage to weave in a love interest...also obliquely played. Strangely satisfying.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our Disappeared


A close-up, personal look at the atrocities committed by the military junta during the 70's. Lefties of all stripe were hunted down, incarcerated, tortured in heinous ways, stripped of their children and eventually thrown alive out of helicopters into the sea. No one was ever called to account for this stuff. Actively supported by the US.

Whatever the force is that compels people to dominate their fellows leads them to abandon all concepts of decency and humanity. Good thing that can never happen the land of the free, the home of the brave.

Their look back...our look forward.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Point Blank


Extremely tense, fast-paced thriller that races by so fast you really have no time to think about the convoluted plotline. It starts with a chase and maintains that tone all the way through.

Great fun to watch in spite of all the violence. Strong characters, all the right buttons old-fashioned, honest-to-god, pulse-raising kick.

Nice job.


Ne Change Rien

Portugal Documentary

Fascinating, beautifully shot piece on the work of French singer Jeanne Balibar. We see her performing and both French and English. Shot in stark, heavily shadowed B/W which gave an artistic look to the film.

She seemed to have infinite patience in rehearsals...we watch her being interrupted every few seconds by the director of a farcical musical...she never reacts...just tries to follow his instructions.

The film gives us a strong sense of how hard this woman works to create a finished performance...which to the eventual audience seems effortless and smooth. The film is a valued addition to our understanding of the creative process.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

9/11 Explosive evidence: Experts Speak Out


New film by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Rough cut which should be trimmed for general release but still a clear and impossible to refute compilation of facts destroying the official conspiracy theory. The qualifications of the people interviewed are irrefutable, the evidence conclusive that the OCT is a lie but it will be decades before the American people wake up and by then it will be too one will care.

This should be shown in high schools all over the country...but it won't be...dommage...


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sound of Noise


Scandinavian humor. Preposterous premise, outrageously executed in straightforward linear if it were possible. Gave me several laugh-out-loud moments and a continuous feeling of delight that they had the nerve to do this project.

For fans of this type of work this was a winner.




Ironic title. A spoiled, bratty young female political candidate and an immature ignorant male fisherman are marooned on a deserted island (...a 3-hour tour...). Sparks fly but not in the same direction as Lina Wertmuller's classic. This was also a biting satire but went in unexpected directions. Several really ugly scenes...mostly involving rape provided an unsettling tone.

By the end I was on board with the film but question some of the decisions made. The shifting tone worked against the film's main goal. Easy to remember though...


Thursday, September 15, 2011


documentary Germany

The trials, travails and triumphs of a piano technician/tuner working for Steinway in Austria. He must satisfy the extremely demanding, finicky needs of the world's most renowned pianists.

This guy seemed likable and was obviously dedicated to his work but a half hour was enough for me and I wonder how much universal interest there is in such an arcane topic?

Interesting...but not for 1 1/2 hours.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Human Resources Manager


A worker in a Jerusalem bakery dies in an attack and the HR manager is tapped to bring her body home to Russia. It turns out to be a picaresque journey with humor, bureaucratic obstructionism, pathos, annoying characters, physical problems...just about every monkey wrench you can think of. After a while I came to expect the unexpected.

Often annoying I eventually fell into the sway of the film and ended up enjoying it...especially the perfectly cast HR guy with his sad sack face, endless patience and air of resigned acceptance of the foibles of those around him.

Offbeat and fun.


Monday, September 12, 2011

The King of Devil's Island

Norway Stellan Skarsgard

Powerful drama set at an island prison for boys in the early 1900's. The set-up was pretty standard...tough new guy, cruel prison staff...but the story (based on true events) took several twists and turns and became something other than what I expected.

All aspects of the film were top draw. Nice work.


Seven Days in May

Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas d/ John Frankenheimer

Fast-paced thriller about a possible military takeover of the US government. Great cast, direction, editing...this thing raced along until it was stopped cold by the predictable speech by the president that democracy...etc, etc.

Of course now that we're in a state of perpetual war there's no need for a coup...that already happened in December 2000.

Excellent classic.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Andy Serkis

CGI, button-pushing movie. Slow to get going, once it kicked in the action was irresistible. The manipulation was crude and's easy to see why it has been so popular with teens. More a comic book than literature like Boule's seminal novel.

That said...the action sequences were extremely impressive display of just what they're capable of doing these days. The only limit now is in the imagination of the filmmaker.

Satisfying junk.


Thursday, September 8, 2011



Extremely unpleasant, ugly film about some scruffy twenty-somethings in LA who are doing a very bad job of it. They smoke, cheat, drink, have unlimited amounts of one works...two of the men are fixated on Road Warrior and spend the film sporadically building similar cars and toys.

How did they ever get money for this project? This came across as a wet dream for a 14 year old. Not helped at all by the off-center framing and constant jittery camera work. Or the jumbled-up time.

Proof that anyone can make a film. Also proof than not everyone should.




A well-dressed but poor grandmother, raising her grandson alone, learns of his involvement in a terrible crime and this film follows her as she enrolls in a poetry class, carries on her part-time job as a nurse/housemaid, tries to deal with incipient Alzheimer's and the emotional repercussions of this crime.

Very powerful film easily carried by the lead actress. She managed to convey fragility and strength, confusion and understanding, deference and resolve in a tour de force performance. I don't know what else she has done but this was the performance of a lifetime.

The only quibble I had was the composition and staging of the climactic poem. It didn't have the force it should have had based on the stellar two-hour build-up and reading it as a voiceover while cutting among various scenes was distracting and diluted all that had gone before.

Still, this was a marvelous film and well deserves the international praise it has received.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011



This was a rarity...a Japanese comedy. Subtle and based largely on the violation of social norms, it started slowly, letting us learn the characters, and then began piling up absurdities until the climactic scene had me laughing out loud.

Excellent cast...the scruffy con man who sets it all in motion...the hangdog husband who can't say no...and best of all the young wife whose wide-eyed look of stupefied amazement when things got really silly tickled me every time.

Underplayed to perfection...great fun.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Queen of Hearts


Truly idiotic sex farce. I suppose there are some who would enjoy watching something like this but I can't imagine why. Sub-moronic.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Screaming Man


Set during the civil war. An aging pool attendant gets his son drafted into the army to protect his job and suffers guilt for his betrayal.

The lead spent most of the film mute and staring at the ground...I understand he was wracked with guilt but this isn't really a performance. At some point you have to express something. The film was nicely shot, supporting characters were strong, social customs were interesting...overall it was well worth the watching.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

If a Tree Falls


The sad, ultimately pathetic story of the ELF...the Earth Liberation Front. Horrified by the scorched-earth policies of the timber companies operating in the northwest they tried protesting, were met by police violence so they responded by torching several facilities and eventually got caught. They were powerless individuals and were completely unprepared for the full weight of the ruling class coming down on their heads.

Never threaten the money flow to the economic elite. They will use anything to squash you like a bug. Like these people. I don't know what it will take to stop predatory capitalism but I do know it will take more than burning down a few buildings.

Straightforward piece...competently done.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Peep TV Show


Post punk take on the deterioration of modern culture after 9/11/01. We follow a skinny young man in a shiny coat as he surreptitiously films people living ordinary lives and posts them on a website. Highlights the distancing facing the young, skewers reality TV, focuses on the pointlessness and ennui felt by the young.

Irritating at first it gradually became clear that the film had something meaningful to say...just said it in an irritating way.

Worth it.




An American geographer working in Armenia/Karabakh hooks up with a local woman who travels with him, translates, becomes his lover. He is a constricted jerk...she is more forthcoming and open but like all of us carries some baggage. The question we care about these people?

The film starts off very badly with several minutes of light effects a la 2001 overlaid with pretentious voiceover. It reverts to this mode sporadically throughout. It baffles me what they thought this added to the mix. I found it pointlessly irritating.

Splendid scenery and a nice introduction to a part of the world that gets little exposure in the west. As a film...a mixed bag.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

North By Northwest

Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint d/ A. Hitchcock

Hitch in a goofy mode. An ordinary man (ordinary? Cary Grant?) gets caught up in some cold war shenanigans and has a high adventure. Scenes at the UN, an Indiana wheat field and Mount Rushmore are the spicing on this cake.

Great fun, great look, silly story, fifties lighting and character actors. Entertainment in the best sense.