Tuesday, June 30, 2015



Ever wonder what it would be like having your town taken over by armed fanatic jihadists? Me neither. But here through the magic of cinema we get to watch the reality of tyranny, hypocrisy, arbitrary power exercised upon a stone age poor people by muslims with AK-47s. It isn't pretty.

Film was very well done, apparently shot on location. We get enough characterization to feel for these peoples' fate. Cinematography was world class, suffusing the film with beauty - incongruous considering the barbarity of the behavior on screen.

Tyranny is the same everywhere. Watching this reminded me of the aphorism by Blaise Pascal - there will always be good men who do good things, and bad men who do bad things. But to get good men to do bad things you need religion.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Cafe de Flore


Had another look at this film; the only thing I would add to what I said three years ago is that the editing really is special. Many times there were cuts that flickered by with no explanation or context, they jumped around in time and place so it took a while to figure out who was who and what was happening in the various stories. But the several stories were so compelling the film easily held my attention.

This film assumed an intelligent, sophisticated audience - always a treat for a cinefile like me.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Venus in Fur

France   d/ Roman Polanski

Two-hander about the creation of a play based on the works of a prominent sado-masochist.

Polanski plays with us during this film. The tone and substance kept shifting slightly all the way through until by the end the entire play had been reversed...even to the sex of the players.

Film was a lovely exercise in intellectual gamesmanship. I found it consistently intriguing/amusing. Much credit goes to the two extremely skilled players - Matthieu Almaric and Emmanuelle Segner.


Friday, June 26, 2015


England   Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman

Right proper British comedy...suitable for children of all ages. A talking bear shows up in London, hooks up with an eccentric, loving family and has a host of madcap adventures. Somewhat formulaic but well enough done to overcome.

Apparently based on a much-loved children's book, the film maintained a rapid pace, featured many clever sight gags, touched the heartstrings a bit and ended up a satisfying piece of general entertainment. Nice job.


Maps to the Stars

Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska   D/ David Cronenberg

DC returns to form here with a twisted, ugly tale of life in present-day hollywood. We follow an aging star who is losing her mojo, a child actor afflicted with arrogance and psychotic visions which stem from his deeply troubled childhood. This all leads to scenes of horrific violence, ugly sex, madness, broken relationships, death.

This seemed like a more polished version of Videodrome...with perhaps a dab more cynicism...as if that were possible. I'd say DC doesn't like the hollywood scene...a lot. Of course no one does but no one's made the point with this much bile before. Horrible people leading shallow, competitive, meaningless lives...all for the entertainment of of the public.

I could struggle to say nice things about the quality of the acting...but, really...that would be like praising the clean, pressed uniforms of the guards at Auschwitz.


Thursday, June 25, 2015


Japan    d/ H. Kore-eda

Unusual film set in medieval times. A young samurai is charged by his father on his deathbed with avenging his death. He goes to Edo but discovers he has a love for teaching, not violence. We watch as people in his scruffy new neighborhood gradually help him make the transition from warrior to scholar.

Technically the film was first rate. Careful, well thought-out framing, lighting gave the film an uncommon richness. The tone was quite unusual for a samurai film - gentle, lyrical, pensive. Another outstanding effort by Japan's best contemporary filmmaker.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Marketa Lazarova

Czech   d/ Franticek Vlacil

Said to be his masterpiece...but I dunno. Sharp B/W photography and careful framing don't overcome the grubbiness, the filth, the sourness of the portrayal of Czech medieval society.

The film seems to embody the aphorism that life in primitive cultures is nasty, brutish and short. Ugly, pig-headed violence is constantly on screen...which made me wonder where all these people came from if their world was completely without tenderness.

Vlacil may have been making a point that escaped me. For me watching this was just an unpleasant ordeal.


Black Butterflies

South Africa

Fictional take on the life and times of a prominent SA female poet. She has serious daddy problems - her father is portrayed as insensitive, controlling, dismissive...even downright cruel at times. We watch as she flails around trying to establish a loving relationship with a man but her inability to stand up to dad and move beyond his influence/approval cripples her.

Well done film with good use of SA locations, solid acting but no fun to watch.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Twenty Four Eyes

Japan Hideko Takamine

There's really nothing I can add to the other reviews I've done on this film in recent years: I think it's a great classic which illuminates the every day struggles faced by the common folk in tumultuous times.

HT was luminous. This time I sat quietly weeping during the entire film.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Fellowship of the Ring

Peter Jackson

I read this trilogy twice...once in 1965, once in 1975. When I saw this at the theater I was thrilled that Jackson had done such a good job translating it to the screen. What he accomplished was as good as I had seen in my imagination while I was reading it.

I should have left it there. Watching it now all I could see was the silliness of the story...how calculated it was. And I got sick of following characters around who were terrified all the time...grossly over-matched by forces much more powerful than they were. But, of course, they always triumph against crippling odds.

A fairy tale I should have treasured in memory.


Monday, June 15, 2015


Van Heflin, Ed Begley   w/ Rod Serling

Originally written as a one-hour drama which appeared on live TV in 1955. Here he expanded it to 90 minutes with a different cast.

Sharply drawn portrait of the world of big business. Similar to Executive Suite. The callous inhumanity of the capitalist belief system was front and center and it stank. Edward Sloane played the monstrous CEO as a cold-eyed shark...lashing out at the weak in the pool. Dog eat dog, profits uber alles, the race goes to the most ruthless, etc.

If anyone needs a reminder of the true nature of the beast...look here. Well done.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

More Than Honey

documentary   Germany

Outstanding doc on the nature of bees, their habits, role in the chain of life and their fate as human activity disrupts the order of things.

There have been many pieces written on bees in recent years because of CCD. This is the best I've seen. They go all over the world to examine the current status of bee populations and where they're headed.  Things don't look good for our striped friends...if trends continue they won't look good for us soon either.

Oh, when will they ever learn...


Thursday, June 11, 2015


documentary   d/ Joe Berlinger

Thorough examination of the terror reign of Whitey Bulger and his subsequent prosecution.

Oddly enough, even though Bulger was a violent, borderline psychotic thug he fares better in this film than the FBI and the DOJ who come across as thoroughly corrupt and completely without shame and for whom there is no accountability.

The rot is wide and deep. Where does it end? Stay tuned...film at 11...


Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Alicia Silverstone   d/ Amy Heckerling.

Clever, fast-paced loose adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma....set in a high school in Beverly Hills. This may be the best of the HS films - great, snappy dialogue, big heart, winning cast with a happily ever after ending.

What's not to like?


Monday, June 8, 2015

A Woman's Sorrows

Japan   Mikio Naruse

Typically focused domestic melodrama. We follow a woman who cannot marry the man she loves, marries another and finds herself used as a house slave by her in-laws. She gets caught up in the complicated machinations of their lives, receives no respect for what she says or does. Finally she leaves.

Startling outcome for a film made in 1937. Despite the time there was no sign of the militarism that dominated Japan in those years. Film was tight, engaging...a notch down from similar films by Ozu.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Double Life of Veronique

France/Poland   Irene Jacob d/  Krzysztof Kieslowski

A stunning film. Rich in thought, beautiful visuals, music, abstract yet grounded - a perfect example of cinematic poetry.

K assumes his audience is as intelligent/perceptive as he is. The editing style was abrupt at times, at others he would linger over a scene, an image, to let us absorb it fully before moving on. The interconnections between characters and events were intricately woven into the fabric of the film; the viewer always had something to ponder. I found my mind fully engaged throughout.

Ms Jacob excelled. She brought a sense of slight puzzlement to many scenes, consistent with her sense she was connected, subliminally to another woman somewhere, somehow.

The film was about identity, self, connections, fate, determinism, life. Truly brilliant. A work by a master filmmaker at the height of his talents.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

F For Fake

documentary(?)   d/Orson Welles

Typically brilliant, imaginative take on the Elmyr d'Hory/Clifford Irving story which was current and hot at the time this was done. I'm sure the affair seemed important at the time but it reeks of irrelevance from today's perspective.

Still, the truly impressive editing makes the film a must watch for fans. He skips all around the story conveying the sense he's having a great time tweaking us. It went on too long, largely because the story itself wasn't interesting enough to carry an hour and a half film. At an hour it would have been a masterpiece.

Great fun...one of the last projects he was able to complete before his death.


Friday, June 5, 2015


France   w/d Celine Schiamma

Nice film. Very nice. We follow a 16 yo black girl around the remote suburbs of Paris as she tries to figure it out. She has no prospects, home is problematic.  She joins a gang of girls like her and finds strength through their shared experiences.

The director has a wonderful touch, sensibility. She did Tomboy, Water Lillies...sweetnatured, insightful films set in adolescence. There's a softness to the way she tells her story I find appealing.

A gem.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Throne of Blood

Japan   d/ A. Kurosawa

The master's brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare's MacBeth. He used the general scenario, ignored the words...instead brought in the traditions and forms of Noh Theater. This was a melding of European and Japanese cultural memes; a perfect illustration of cross-fertilization.

Because Noh acting is based on types, not individual characters it was impossible to empathize or identify with anyone here: characters were in the unholy grip of human nature with all the stupidity that brings. They play out their parts in the cosmic drama. Twas ever thus.

Staging, framing, camera were superb. He was at the height of his powers when this was made. In my opinion this is the best Shakespeare-based film I've ever seen (and there have been many). The final scenes, where the usurper finds his fate were stunning, unforgettable.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Day the World Exploded


Surprisingly well done film from 1961. While the effects were poor the use of imaginative lighting patterns, camera movement and solid acting made this quite watchable - even to a jaded film buff like me.

I have a fondness for this type of junk which I acquired in childhood and I suppose will never fade. I recognize that these are stupid but when I was 8, staring up at a 60 foot screen in the old Leroy they pulled me into a world much neater than the decaying industrial mess that was Pawtucket in those days.


Monday, June 1, 2015



Clever, fun take on the zombie genre. Most of the story takes place in the basement of a rural church which houses the local radio station. The morning DJ, Mazzy, is a wonderful character...perfect radio voice, cowboy hat, bottle of scotch and a desire to get the news out to his new community. But the news is bad, And confusing. Apocalyptic. Just another day in the salt mines.

This is what you can do with a low budget, a vivid imagination and skilled players. This film held me all the way, even though much seemed like genre cliches. It was different enough, unpredictable enough to hold me for 90 minutes. Nice job.