Tuesday, February 24, 2015



Another peek at this modern masterpiece.

The film is presented as an allegory...an allusion to the physical and psychological boxes into which girls are put which limit their life options and stunt their personal growth. It benefits from beautiful cine, striking locations (what/where is that place?), relaxed pacing which conveys to us the feeling the girls/prisoners experience.

Everything is carefully done in this world...very girly, measured...from their eating patterns to their style of play.

The ending is enigmatic...as indeed is the whole film...allowing each viewer to choose his/her own interpretation. The last time I saw it I rated it a 7. Now, considering how much it stuck in my mind over the years I'm bumping it to


Monday, February 23, 2015

Trouble in Paradise

w/d  Ernst Lubitsch

Delightful film from the pre-code era of 1931. Two ultra-sophisticated thieves cruise haunts of the wealthy and steal their stuff.

Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall easily carried the film. The entire scenario was most unlikely but we couldn't help root for these charming rascals. Hitchcock tried a similar feat with To Catch a Thief and, to my eye, failed miserably.

A genuine classic.


Friday, February 20, 2015


Scarlett Johansson   w/d  Luc Besson

Here they took an urban myth - that people only use 10% of their brains - and went wild with the what if idea...

This was pretty silly but undeniably compelling. We watch this woman brutalized by a cartoonish criminal Taiwanese syndicate...they inject her with an experimental drug...she then gradually becomes superwoman. Film was fast-paced and fun to watch as her powers gradually increased.

Great junk. The best Besson has done in many years and a fine performance by Scarjo.


Thursday, February 19, 2015


Jake Gyllenhall

Had a chance to see this again and couldn't pass. I wanted to see what made it work.

It started slowly...with murky visuals and ambiguous scenes which didn't become meaningful till later. But once the intrigue kicked in the suspense began to build and from then on it raced forward keeping us guessing until the stunning (and funny) climax.

Nice job.

7 (still)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oscar Nominated Shorts - Animated

A weak program this year. The opening short from Norway was charming and witty and portended a good show. But to my eye that was the high point. Several of the others were OK...like The Dam Keeper but when I see these I'm looking for innovation both in graphics and storyline and none of these dazzled me.

The people making and choosing these films are thinking 'children.' We need to move past that premise. Any themes done in an adult film could be done in anime with more imaginative visuals.

It was interesting to me that there were no entries from the Far East...where the best anime is being done today.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

The White Dove

Czechoslovakia   Frantisek Vlacil

Had another go at this masterpiece. It excels in composition, lighting framing, pace, imagery, symbolism, art in many forms...all wrapped around a simple, touching story of a lost bird, an injured boy, an artist, a young girl.

Lean, lovely, thought-provoking, moving, a splendid visual display...scene after scene. This film began a renaissance in Eastern European cinema that brought a host of wonderful films and directors to the world stage...most prominently Milos Foreman.

One of the greats...sui generis.


The Place Promised in our Early Days

anime   Japan

2004 film by Makoto Shinkai. Once again it features breathtaking visuals...in particular his backgrounds are as good as anyone working in anime today.

The story here though fell short. Told in jumbled-up time lines it was very hard to follow and once parsed it turned out it wasn't worth the effort. Alternate reality can be tricky. Too often, as here, it comes across as tricky little gimmicks which really make little sense.

He does focus on a love relationship...here between two best friends and a girl. But where he went with it was asinine. This one looks like a step on the way to his maturation as a filmmaker...epitomized by 5 Centimeters Per Second.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Force Majeure


Another spot-on, excruciating Nordic film which centers on a crumbling relationship.

A well-off couple come to a pricey French ski resort. While enjoying an al fresco brunch an avalanche is triggered which seemingly threatens all those on the deck. The husband runs, abandoning his wife and children. This incident drives the rest of the film.

The director holds scenes...even (especially) unpleasant ones...which forces us to stare unblinkingly at this marriage coming apart. We want to look away but we can't. Film is honest and penetrating and examines the roles/expectations of both sexes in the modern day.

It is multi-dimensional, emotionally involving, with several surprises along the way. Very fine work.


Friday, February 13, 2015


anime   Germany

Fine film from 1994. A cat, new to the neighborhood, discovers that cats have been viciously murdered there for a long time. He sets out to find the perp in what amounts to a cross-species Sherlock Holmes story.

This worked because the plot was intriguing, the characters were sharply drawn and the anthropomorphism minimized by having them actually behave as cats would. Film included fairly explicit sex and violence which kept it out of the reach of most children.

Another step in the evolution of anime into a legitimate form. Nice work.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ringing Bell

anime   Japan

Lovely adaptation of a Japanese folk tale. A lamb has his mother killed by a wolf, vows revenge, pleads with the wolf to teach him how to kill, learns through persistence to be a ruthless killer...a warrior ram.

Nicely drawn, marred by the annoying child's voice used by the English dubber and by the overacting so common in Eastern films. Still, this 1978 film was well worth a watch.


Wolf Creek


Three young people - two girls and a guy - set out from Broome on a cross country drive. Along the way they visit a crater site, run into a psycho killer and then their troubles began.

I didn't know this was a slice and dicer when I picked it up...once I found out that was enough for me. I've enough of those images in my head from a lifetime of watching movies.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Top of the Lake

Elisabeth Moss, Peter Mullen   w/d  Jane Campion

Seven part series which focused on the disappearance of a 12 yo pregnant girl and in telling the story the ugly side of a remote, scenic community is revealed.

Fine acting by all hands. Convoluted story which took some time to develop but ended up satisfying...with some caveats. Holly Hunter's role as a new age seer was pretty bad...underwritten, which may have been a plus since when she did talk what she said was idiotic pablum.

EM played a physically and emotionally vulnerable police detective. She easily carried the lead. Peter Mullen was his usual dominating presence as possible bad guy/monster...but you couldn't be sure...

Film held me in thrall to the very end, in spite of its faults.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Mr Turner

England   Timothy Spall   d/ Mike Leigh

Sumptuous treatment of the life, time and personality of JMW Turner - the barber's son who became one of England's greatest painters in the 19th century.

Spall embodied the role, affecting a hunched-over waddle, relying mainly on grunts and weird throat noises for communicating whilst still projecting a sensitive, enigmatic character. Some of the landscape shots were breathtaking...in particular the Dover cliffs and an early steam engine train laboring up a hill.

Nothing very imaginative here but my interest never flagged in spite of the long running time. Another cap feather for Leigh, Britain's finest filmmaker.


A Brief Vacation

Italy   V. de Sica

An oppressed, lower class, housewife/factory worker from Calabria living in Milan supports her awful family, contracts TB, is sent by the State doctor to a health resort in the mountains where she receives relief from her disease and nightmarish in-laws until...she gets better and has to return.

Very depressing film which stands as a sharp indictment of the industrial economy, the destruction of traditional communities and the plight of people trapped in the modern urban jungle.


Blind Beast

Japan   d/ Y. Masumura

This film took the basic idea of John Fowles The Collector, altered it some, ramped it up a couple of notches and produced an excruciating exercise in audience tolerance.

A young model is kidnapped by an insane blind sculptor and his mom...he locks her in his remote warehouse/studio and forces her to act as his muse/model/plaything. This psycho was continually pawing his captive...all in the name of art of course. It was abuse without whips, gore...psychological abuse which degraded her and those of us watching.

Masumura often pushed envelopes to make a point; in this one he pushed too far for my taste. High quality filming, sets, acting...but really...


Friday, February 6, 2015


Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan

Powerhouse film from 1949. A young woman, naive and fresh to the big city, yearns to meet a rich man who will provide for her and with whom she can live happily ever after. Film falls into the be-careful-what-you-wish-for category.

Ryan was an intense threatening presence...this may have been his finest role. His disgust and cynicism (modeled after Howard Hughes), the notion that he could buy anything or anybody he wanted warped his life view. He was the monster the anti-capitalists have been warning about since Marx.

Nice supporting role by James Mason as a good-guy doctor who tries to free BBG from her fate. The plot resolution was too pat but by that time I was so thoroughly absorbed in the characters that I didn't care.

A classic.


Vincent and Theo

Robert Altman

Very fine biopic focusing on the intense, fraught relationship between the great painter and his long-suffering brother and patron.

Film is visually ravishing, realistic in setting and tone. Vincent is presented as difficult, tormented yet capable of great love and devotion. Tim Roth excels...with his blackened teeth and flickering eyes. Paul Rhys is Theo...who suffers from his own torment as a syphilitic in love with a beautiful young woman.

Altman succeeds in bringing both these men to life, places them in a believable social context and helps us understand where this astonishing work came from.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015



Beautifully composed and lit drama about warring religious groups in what appears to be the Japan of very long ago - before its consolidation into a nation. The rituals enacted were animist in tone.

It's hard for me to evaluate the accuracy of the society shown here, but the sets, costumes deer wrangling, pace and look were first rate. I found it so stylized (accurate?) that it was off-putting...more like watching a Noh play than real people wrestling with their various notions of gods.

Still it was interesting and lovely.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

First of the Few

England   Leslie Howard

Well done patriotic effort from 1942 that traces the evolution of the Spitfire airplane which at that time was a main factor saving the English from a German invasion. Even ignoring the jingoism inherent in a film with this topic made at that time it stands up very well to modern scrutiny.

Howard produced, directed and starred...it was his last film before his untimely death a year later...ironically in a plane crash. The film was an obvious precursor to H. Miyazaki's final film The Wind Rises. Both films show the toll taken on visionary developers working in the early years of aviation.


The Tale of the Fox

anime   Russia/France

Wonderful full length stop-motion feature from 1930 by L. Starevich. He adapted a European folk tale which cleverly celebrated the legendary cunning of the fox.

This film is rightly considered one of the great classics of animation and pre-dates Disney's first feature by eight years. Fun for adults and children.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Traveling Actors

Japan   Mikio Naruse

Very charming film which, typically, illustrates the unspoken rules that govern behavior in Japanese society. Naruse is above all a humanist and sees his films as opening the veil on what the little people say, think and do.

A crisis erupts when the prop horsehead needed for the play the traveling company are staging gets damaged. We watch the complex emotional interactions within and without the company as they all try to deal with this. The poverty of this class is also shown...not as a point but simply the reality of these peoples' lives.

The final scenes gave me a good laugh.



Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan, James Mason

Compelling drama from Max Ophuls. A sweet naive young woman dreams of marrying a rich man. By chance she meets one, he marries her and then her troubles began.

Simple little morality tale is elevated by the performances and outstanding direction. Film was tight and taut...easily held my attention. The final resolution was too pat but it didn't matter. This is seen as one of hollywood's great classics, deservedly so.