Thursday, May 7, 2020

plato's cave one hundred and nine (being a film journal)

Gus Van Sant My Own Private Idaho 1991
Van Sant's third feature with beautiful music by Bill Stafford on steel guitar, which gives a Sons of the Pioneers mixed with Ry Cooder vibe. Stunning photography by John J. Campbell and Eric Alan Edwards, one doesn't see landscape too often in film like this. The Criterion special feature with Todd Haynes gets into the nitty-gritty of the making of the film, and Van Sant's virtuosic use of time lapse photography. Against all odds the Shakespearean elements of the film work in seamlessly, perhaps something this viewer needed a couple few rewatches to realize. I could see viewers not responding to this element of the film, or the film in general, but it is made in such a humble way, it deserves a chance. Having lived in Portland a few years gave the urban elements of the film quite a striking quality, it really is a unique city.  I remember whilst in my car (delivering food) and patiently waiting for an elderly man on a walker to cross the street, someone behind me started blaring their horn. A punk kid out of My Own Private Idaho whom was also just crossing started yelling at me and aggressively throwing his middle finger in my direction. I was so broke living there, I couldn't afford to fix my driver side window, so couldn't roll it down to tell the guy it wasn't me blaring. One hell of a city I tell you. Nothing quite like it!

Terrence Malick Badlands 1973
Features the short piece Musica Poetica by Carl Orff, also used in Ratcatcher and covered by Hans Zimmer in True Romance. The soundtrack also contains some Erik Satie, and original music by George Tipton. Very Malickian use of music, like Wes Anderson's signature use of music. One of those films to watch every 2 to 3 years perhaps?

Peter Bogdanovich Saint Jack 1979
Really moving buddy film between Ben Gazzara and Denholm Elliott. Both actors give such transcendent performances which leave one speechless. Something so tragic about Elliot's subtle gestures and movements through the frame, the man was just one of the truly great actors. Contemplating what makes a buddy film and how would Saint Jack fit in the history so strongly- the answer seems to be a fixation on non-erotic intimacy that perhaps approaches uncomfortability, but leaves you with the strong resonance of the approach. Opening panning shot by Robby Müller will blow one's mind, works well with Antonioni's closing shot from The Passenger I just watched. Great film!

Maurice Pialat Loulou 1980
Was really wanting to rewatch Pialat's work, after previously loving Loulou, Van Gogh, Police and a few others, so was excited to see the Criterion Channel putting them up for streaming. The energy and visual aesthetic of this film is so striking and a great combination of humbleness which one does not always see in French cinema, and aggressiveness. Pialat seems very unique to this viewer in the history of French cinema which I have a love/hate relationship with.

Jacques Demy Lola 1961
Embarrassed I had not seen this great film. Wanted to see badly after watching Demy's Model Shop with Anouk Aimée's Lola / Cécile character. Not sure how much it has to do with the print source (due to the negative being lost), but the high contrast of this film is quite striking and adds a level of mystery and gravity to the film. Lovely. Great use of Erik Satie when the sailor and young Cecile jump out of the amusement ride in slow-motion, subtle and avant'garde. Also good accidental double feature with Loulou!

Greta Gerwig Little Women 2019

Otto Preminger Anatomy of a Murder 1959
James Steward, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O'Connell, Duke Ellington, John Qualen, George C. Scott, and Murray Hamilton! Perfect film.

Tommy Lee Wallace Halloween III: Season of the Witch 1982
Great music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, especially solid in the opening credit sequence. Tom Atkins so good in this too, actually a pretty solid film.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa Pulse 2001
Intense film, the first half was a bit more successful. Some shots one surely wouldn't forget easily. This viewer needs to spend more time with Kilyoshi Kurosawa's work.

Sean S. Cunningham Friday the 13th 1980
Very slow moving film. Boring or an art film? Certainly intriguing.

Tobe Hooper Poltergeist 1982
Story by Steven Spielberg. Heavy handed esp with the music, not my scene. Saw this film a lot when I was a pre-teen, probably on cable, never left the kind of impression The Exorcist did.

Richard Donner The Omen 1976
My wife and I watching many classic horror films these days from a large list we are both working on. Concentrating not only on films we have seen many times, but also some perhaps only once and not clear in the memory, and many we have missed and filling in holes. There are always many holes in the boat and one must plug them to avoid drowning. Many of the films on the list I always assumed were bad but giving them a chance as often times these turn out to be the most rewarding. As a kid I believe I liked The Omen, but as a young upstart film student I assumed it was a commercial piece of nonsense and forced myself rewatched and really loved it. This time again I agree, a damn film, with a memorable performance by David Warner. Perhaps a once every 10 years kind of film. Lee Remick and Gregory Peck so so good too! Also Richard Donner is one of those often times great directors one might not consider as such. Born in NYC, started with many television shows and then went on to do The Omen, Superman, Superman II (with Richard Lester), Inside Moves, and Lethal Women. Personally not a Goonies enthusiast.

Takashi Shimizu Ju-On: The Grudge 2002
Another classic Japanese horror film from the early 2000s. Very much worth seeing and quite shocking much of the time. As with these other Japanese horror films from the time period, the use of technology to horrify can be quite ghastly. In Ju-On: The Grudge the black atmospheric silhouette captured on surveillance which slowly engulfs the screen with only its eyes visible is bloody horrific. The purposely obscure narrative structure of the film is problematic, and perhaps lessens the quality of the film.

The Mandalorian episides 5-8 2019
Not a bad show, coming from a non Star Wars enthusiast. Defiantly worth watching.

Hideo Nakata Dark Water 2002
Going through the classic 2000s J-horror. Water, rain, children, surveillance, technology, urban spaces, blurred faces, creepy silhouettes, ghosts, water towers... all themes in these strange films. Dark Water a very good one in this lot of horrific works. Remake has Jennifer Connelly which makes it worth watching.

Jamil Dehlavi Born of Fire 1987
Stunning visually with equally bizarre music and sound design. Very abstract, although a little slow and perhaps slightly pretentious. Worth watching, would like to see a second time soon.

David Mamet House of Games 1987
Two films from 1987. Second time seeing this, very much enjoy Joe Mantegna in it.

John Carpenter Prince of Darkness 1987
Very similar feeling to They Live, musically and visually, and especially the use of video technology to foretell dread (the creepy dream projected to the participants from the future). Part of Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy which includes The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness. Still a couple of Carpenter films I need to see, such a solid artist.

Robert Altman The Long Goodbye 1973
Key film from the 1970s, and best soundtrack in which John Williams delves into the strange world of Raymond Queneau's Exercices de style and reworks the same song from elevator music style to sleazebag piano bar music. I use to watch the hell out of this on VHS, and it was so nice to see the Arrow Academy blu ray of this projected big and loud. The sound design for this film just out of this world and must have shocked audiences at the time, so rich with details.

Walter Hill The Driver 1978
The actor Joseph Walsh who plays "glasses" looks just like Robert Fripp. Bruce Dern a total sob in this film, O'Neal is smooth smooth, and Adjani her usual weird lovely self. Music by Michael Small (Klute, Marathon Man, The Parallax View, and Night Moves), gets into some Miles Davis electric toward the end.

Kenji Mizoguchi Ugetsu 1954
Two Japanese ghost films this evening, starting by going back to the classics. One of the most beautifully photographed film, especially love the ghostly scene out on the foggy water. Very Thomas Köneresque cyclical bell sounds when the spirits become prominent in the film, unforgettable sound design!

Hideo Nakata Ringu 1998
Arrow blu ray, great quality. Both this and Ugetsu really have some of the most stunning music and sound design, dark, textural, beautiful and overwhelming with proportions of ephemerality.

John Carpenter The Thing 1982
Arrow blu ray, best version I have seen. Perfect film. The colors in this blu I admit to never having experienced with this film I have probably watched 20+ times. Perfect soundtrack, everything perfect, best horror film for me. Confused about soundtrack, I read that Carpenter needed to put in some filler music so recorded some that shows up here and there throughout the film, but that main bass line in the intro and recurring throughout just sounds so much like him. The combo of Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter works so well, two masters in the Extreme.

David Cronenberg The Brood 1979
From the classic early period of Cronenberg, which (for this viewer) would include Crimes of the Future, Shivers, Rabid, and Scanners. Videodrome gets him going into another aesthetic. Really disturbing film, maybe the most extreme from this period, one has to take a deep breath before watching. Often one can obsess over films showing off Los Angeles and New York, but in these films Cronenberg really delves into this Canadian urban and suburban weirdness, probably one of the things that struck me so much as a young man when watching his work.

Joseph Losey Secret Ceremony 1968
Was always a Losey enthusiast, but had never seen this one. Very strange film with a great atmosphere. Not the kind of film this particular viewer would watch over and over, like Mr. Klein, but surely a damn good film. Heavy topics and the trio of actors (Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow, and Bob Mitchum) showing off some serious actorshippe.

Alfonso Cuarón Children of Men 2006
Great film to watch over and over. Hard to comprehend many of those long shots, even after 10+ viewings they are still a mystery.

Hal Hartley Fay Grim 2006
A little difficult to understand where this film positions itself between humor and genre film.

Hal Hartley Ned Rifle 2014

Paul Sharits Bad Burns 1982
Paul Sharits Dots 1 & 2 1965
Paul Sharits Wrist Trick 1965
Bad Burns especially beautiful, with a brief glimpse of a face under a hypnotic fog of light and color abstractions.

Richard Stanley Color Out of Space 2019
Nice contemporary translation of the H.P. Lovecraft story. Wonderful color palette and Colin Stetson's soundtrack so good. Also the film is quite frightening.....

Stuart Gordon From Beyond 1986
More Lovecraft. Librarian looking woman turned seductress.

Gary Sherman Vice Squad 1982

Maurice Pialat Van Gogh 1991
Great art biopic that transcends the genre in a similar way that Edvard Munch by Peter Watkins does, or Séraphine by Martin Provost. Slow film that is actually quite complicated and hard to follow at times, good combination.

Ken Russell Women in Love 1969
Unforgettable nude wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed. Utterly perfect film.

Peter Bogdanovich Paper Moon 1973
Once every couple three of years type of film. One can learn some good grifting techniques from Ryan and Tatum O'Neal. Shot by the great Hungarian cinematographer László Kovács!

Otto Preminger Bunny Lake is Missing 1965
Got a file of this about 10 years ago and watch it every couple of years. Such a great film. Favorite part is Laurence Olivier's line compliment her on her junket and let her go. Classic 1960s photography by Denys N. Coop. Keir Dullea is one creepy character in this role.

Anthony Mann Man of the West 1958
Mann western with Gary Cooper and Lee J. Cobb with an even louder voice than he normally has. Solid film.

Ingmar Bergman Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen) 1968
Second time watching this film, an abstract horror film by the master. In my recent horror fascination, this film came up and it is certainly not for the faint of heart. Horror rendered Fåröian by the masters Bergman and Nykvist.  Lovely title in Swedish - Vargtimmen. In the Peter Cowie book Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography Cowie mentions Bergman's interest in Bela Lagosi as Dracula and birds ("I'm terribly afraid of birds" admits Bergman) which are suburb interests to begin a horror film. The stills above found by randomly moving around on the time line.

John Cassavetes The Killing of a Chinese Bookie 1976
Previously studied in depth here.

Alfred Hitchcock Rebecca 194
Great Hitchcock film with the lovely Joan Fontaine.

John Cassavetes A Woman Under the Influence 1974
Reading in the Ray Carney book Cassavetes on Cassavetes, Cassavetes talks about how he used family members as actors to save money as they had no budget except money invested by himself and Peter Falk. Katherine Cassavetes (JC's mother) plays Falk's mother and does a really suburb job here. The fireplace breakdown scene with Gena Rowlands is probably the most extreme bit of actorshippe imaginable. From her eyes to her movements and her words, the scene is just full of otherworldly magic and so effortlessly captured on film by Michael Ferris, Frederick Elmes, and Caleb Deschanel, David B. Nowell, Gary Graver, and the rest of the crew. One of those tough films one can watch over and over.

John Dahl Red Rock West 1993
Top shelf 1990s film with Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, and  J.T. Walsh. Solid.

Richard Linklater Dazed and Confused 1993
Saw this around 1997 and remember it being more stoner oriented, and was disappointing with the jock heaviness of it, even Parker Posey. My memories of high school are kids so stoned out and stumbling around the halls in torn jeans, it is a little hard to relate to these squares and future business leaders of America.  Luckily we have a good loser character played by Matthew McConaughey in a pretty damn good performance. Also solid music in this film.

Michael Winner Death Wish II 1982
Michael Winner Death Wish 3 1985
Really heavy atmospheric sound in these films that sometimes turns musical, by Jimmy Page. Not great films but if one finds themselves interested at some point in their lives in screen violence and revenge films, or in urban decay, these are worth watching.

Alan Clarke Scum 1979
Perfect film. Indicator blu ray very special. Plan on watching this many times over the years.

Paul Schrader Hardcore 1979
I would say this is a once a year film for me, but in reality it is more like a twice a year film. Something so magical about its very plain beginning which feels like a made for tv or Hallmark film, which all of a sudden turns into a pretty disturbing and quite vile atmosphere.  The atmosphere takes a sharp turn basically when Peter Boyle shows up. After seeing it so many times, it is surely my most loved Schrader directed film, with First Reformed in a close second, although I am definitely aware that it is not a well liked film by the cinephile world, and even Schrader and the dp Michael Chapman seem to dislike it. Hard to understand, one name that justifies all the attention I am giving it is the magician Jack Nitzsche. The Indicator blu ray looks outstanding, the best I have seen this film.

Ang Lee Sense and Sensibility 1995
Very good Ang Lee film.

Howard Hawks Only Angels Have Wings 1939
Use to have the DVD and practically wore it out watching so often. Wonderful film, perfect photography by Joseph Walker; dark, foggy and full of grain. So rewarding after not having seen in so many years, like seeing an old close friend after a long silence.

Sam Peckinpah Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia 1974
Had watched this film many many years ago and remember loving it and hating it at the same time. This second time, nearly 20 years later it just resonates so strongly. Much because of the performance from the great Warren Oates, one hell of a leading man. Dark, gritty, and grainy photography by Álex Phillips Jr. that is lush and at the same time greasy. Great combo.

J. Lee Thompson Death Wish 4: The Crackdown 1987

Larry Fessenden Wendigo 2001
Really dark and gritty photography by Terry Stacey, Fassenden's films look a little like if Evil Dead obsessed Brakhage shot low budget horror films. Great editing, espcially noticeable in the surgery sequence.

Don Siegel Coogan's Bluff 1968
Classic Clint Eastwood film. Minor appearance by Seymour Cassel. Wonderful use of The Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park, and Inwood.

J. Lee Thompson Murphy's Law 1986