Tuesday, July 21, 2020

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

Václav Marhoul The Painted Bird 2019
I especially liked the sadistic scenes with Udo Kier, one where the violence begins after some frighteningly bizarre distorted cat sounds. Some quite lovely photography by the Czech photographer Vladimír Smutný, the above window image has a solid Josef Sudek quality about it. Overall not a great film but has moments.

John Carpenter The Fog 1980
Watched the Shout! blu ray which was certainly a more beautiful method of entry than I had previously experienced. Wonderful Carpenter film, certainly up there with The Thing, They Live, Escape From New York, and Halloween. Man I love Tom Atkins, he is great in Halloween III: Season of the Witch as well.

Robert Siodmak Criss Cross 1949
As stated by my friend Colin Sheffield, this film back in the day was a bit of an entryway drug into Film Noir. Something about it just pulled me in heavy back in 1997 or so after seeing it at the Castro Theatre in one of their Noir fests. Perhaps for Percy Helton's performance as the bartender, or the gritty photography by Franz Planer, or for capturing the now deceased Bunker Hill in such a beautiful way, or the attractive femme fatale Yvonne De Carlo? Could just be because I watched the hell out of it the next few years and really just had the film memorized. Always holds a special place in my heart, and having not seen the film in 10-15 years, the Masters of Cinema disc was really something special. Must see film, especially for those not sure if they should take the film noir journey, a journey I have not taken as far as some but am certainly more than an enthusiasts.

Mike Newell Donnie Brasco 1997
Great Al Pacino and Michael Madsen performances, music has something to be desired.

Howard Hawkes Rio Bravo 1959
Another viewing this week of one of those films I probably watched too often in my youth but had not seen in a while. Perfect Western!

George Armitage Miami Blues 1990
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alec Baldwin, and Fred Ward. Pretty good film with alcoholic and toothless degenerate cop Ward up against nihilistic Baldwin. Shot by the great and underrated Tak Fujimoto responsible for Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, Melvin and Howard, Something Wild, Gladiator, among many other notable films.

James Mangold Ford v Ferrari 2019
Mangold has made some great films like Heavy, The Wolverine, Logan, Cop Land, and 3:10 to Yuma. One of those directors you can count on to make a solid film.

Ridley Scott Black Rain 1989
Not a great film by the master but has its moments. Certainly worth it for a moment with Luis Guzmán.

Bruno Dumont L'Humanité 1999
Second time watching this. Criterion release is beautiful. Overwhelmingly moving opening and closing shots.

Michael Winterbottom The Trip 2010

Don Siegel Charley Varrick 1973
As a middle school kid, Siegel was one of my favorite directors before I really thought much about that sort of thing, mostly with many viewings of his Escape from Alcatraz and Dirty Harry. Over the years I have really come to appreciate his vision of rawness with films like The Lineup, Coogan’s Bluff, The Shootist, The Beguiled, and perhaps this film as the finest example of Siegel's extremeness of rawness. First quarter of the film spent on a white knuckle bank robbery and then transcends into an entirely different type of work which is totally unique to Siegel's vision of the world. Also watched the doc  Last of the Independents: Don Siegel and The Making of Charley Varrick included on the Indicator blu ray. Charley Varrick was initially titled Last of the Independents.

Joel Coen Blood Simple 1984
Another one of those just utterly powerful and unique films within an already perfect oeuvre. Shot by the great Barry Sonnenfeld, responsible for Misery, Raising Arizona, Three O'clock High, and Miller's Crossing. I was disappointed the Criterion Collection blu ray did not have the Kenneth Loring commentary, does anyone out there know a way of getting that?

Steve Kloves The Fabulous Baker Boys 1989
Beau and Jeff Bridges film.

George Marshall Destry Rides Again 1939
Word is this is one of those films used to get non-western film enthusiasts to convert. Plain to see why. I love the bartender's line as he serves drinks "I set 'em up and you drink 'em down, I set 'em up and you drink 'em down, I set 'em up and you drink 'em down".

John Mackenzie The Long Good Friday 1980
Wonderful Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren film. God it really moves, like a jack rabbit with its tail on fire.

Alan Clarke George’s Room 1967
Clarke collaboration with writer Alun Owen, from the BBC series Half Hour Story, the only one in color. Very good.

Alan Clarke The Hallelujah Handshake 1970
From the BBC1 series Play for Today. The story of a sleazebag that infiltrates two churches to wreak havoc. Good business.

Alan Clarke To Encourage the Others 1972
In this television film we see Philip Stone as a the solicitor Humphreys, famous for his role of Grady in The Shining and the dad in Clockwork Orange.

John Huston Fat City 1972
Fat city is slang for one is doing well, and in a good situation financially. Quite different from the transient lifestyle we see on the screen. Conrad L. Hall gave this film a really subtle look with a mostly unsaturated palette with occasional bits of color like Susan Tyrrell's yellow dress. Especially noticeable in the bar scenes, just so beautiful. When one goes to Stockton California where the film takes place, you can see where the inspiration for this light comes from, this area in California has a unique look and other worldly to a foreigner. Apparently Monte Hellman was potentially to direct this film.

Thinking of other boxing films I love :
The Set-Up
Rocky franchise
Million Dollar Baby
Raging Bull
Killer's Kiss
The Fighter
The Harder They Fall
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
The Boxer
The Quiet Man
When We Were Kings
Body and Soul
Requiem for a Heavyweight

Monte Hellman Two-Lane Blacktop 1971
Seeing Hellman's Cockfighter and Two-Lane Blacktop in 1997 after moving to San Francisco it became clear I had some major gaps in my film education. These films for many years, until Criterion released TLB, were these great unknown films that were a motivation to keep looking under rocks for more jewels to feed the hole. Back in those days if you said TLB was one of your favorite films you would hear some big time crickets, now everyone has seen this film and it has been accepted in the canon. See here a previous post on this film.

Orson Welles The Lady From Shanghai 1947
Indicator blu. My strongest memory of this film is Glenn Anders (as George Grisby) drinking beer in Sausalito.

Ben Wheatley Free Fire 2016
Many bullets. Favorite part of the film is probably Cillian Murphy's 1970s presence. So far the only Wheatley films I had seen were Kill List and a failed viewing of High-Rise. Dig the 70s Boston vibes.

Emir Kusturica Arizona Dream 1993
Wasn't crazy about this film except the Vincent Gallo interpretations of Cary Grant running from the plane in North by Northwest. If one could only go into a bar and see something like that!

Sidney Lumet Night Falls on Manhattan 1996
One of the few Lumet films I can't really get into. Has some good moments though, like Ian Holm, James Gandolfini, and Shiek Mahmud-Bey.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

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

Sidney Lumet The Offence 1973
One of the strangest and most original opening sequences; the camera moves in slow motion through a fragmented British police station, abstracted by a glowing enigma of light. Bits of action happen but presented in a way where the spectator realizes there are ellipses. Much of the film feels like it was shot by the great British experimental filmmaker Chris Welsby, with elements of the Red Riding novels by David Peace sprinkled in. Truly unique film. I love the British films by non-Brits throughout the 70s and 80s, like Jerzy Skolimowski Moonlighting plus The Shout, and Robert Altman's Images.

Robert Altman Nashville 1975
Endlessly rewatchable.

Alan Rudolph Afterglow 1997

Christian Duguay Screamers 1995
Science fiction film with Peter Wellers, popular with modern-day cinephiles.

John Cassavetes Shadows 1959
First film I saw by Cassavetes back in 1994, and with it I fell in love with his work. Such a powerful work which resonates very strongly in today's white racist oppressive world.

Neil Jordan Mona Lisa 1986
Watched twice, once with Neil Jordan and Bob Hoskins commentary. Love this film.

Neil Jordan Angel 1982
Neil Jordan double feature. Purposely somewhat incoherent film with Stephen Rea, where he is a saxophone player whom gets into some dirty business. Very interesting sound work in the film, highly artificial. Especially good when they do the live music sequences, also Bressonian footsteps echo throughout film.

Frank Perry Last Summer 1969
This film reminded me to much of Skolimowski's Deep End with the "when is she going to take her cloths off" nonsense.

Oliver Stone Born on the Fourth of July 1989
Born is an exception to this viewer's anti-Stone general way of thinking. The film spassed a rewatch, perhaps because it avoids Stone's usual flashy edits, camera work and processing of film, done in the style of the times but certain to alienate many viewers (Natural Born Killers!). It doesn't hurt to have Willem Defoe play such a crazed out role.

Frank Perry David and Lisa 1962
Keir Dullea (2001, Bunny Lake is Missing) and Janet Margolin romantically entwined institutionally (in the mental sense) with a setting not unlike One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Titicut Follies, Shutter Island, or Shock Corridor. Excellent writing by Eleanor Perry with Margolin's rhyming talk. Loved the film.

Hirokazu Kore-eda Maborosi 1995
Kore-eda's first feature film. Tragic, dark, romantic, silently emotional. A perfect example of the magic of a slow film.

George Roy Hill Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969
Conrad L. Hall's groundbreaking photography especially present in the famous bicycle sequence. Not a great western for this viewer, perhaps a bit slow at times, but it has a truly perfect ending (see image above).

Ken Loach Poor Cow 1967
Slowly going through the films of Ken Loach. His first feature Poor Cow is spectacular.

William A. Wellman The Ox-Bow Incident 1942
One of those truly perfect westerns, discussed elsewhere on this site regarding the opening and closing shots with trotting dog.

John McNaughton Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 1986
A 1980s film thankfully not in the tradition of John Hughes. Raw yet poetic at times, certainly a film one never forgets. As a young man I was of the mind that 80s films were sentimental Reagan era nonsense, but seeing works like this has shifted my view that actually those bad films are more the minority. Great film I will probably rewatch as I now have the blu ray in my library.

Neil Jordan The Crying Game 1992
Many times in the dark with this film, one of my favorite 90s films. Noticeable reference to Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question in Anne Dudley's score when Forest Whitaker's Jody is referenced.

Alexander Payne Sideways 2004
Endless rewatch film.

Tony Richardson A Taste of Honey 1961
From the the BFI boxset Woodfall: A Revolution in British Cinema. Absolutely breathtaking film with beautiful tactile grain jumping all over the screen.

Joel Coen Fargo 1996
Endless rewatch film.

Robert Altman McCabe & Mrs. Miller 1971
Going through my blu ray library lately, watching the wonderful Criterion Collection disc. Perfect film.

John Carpenter Vampires 1998
Filling in holes by my favorite directors. Went through these films by Mr. Carpenter the last few days: The Ward, In the Mouth of Madness, Village of the Damned, Body Bags, Ghosts of Mars, and Vampires. Of these; Vampires was the more successful film for me personally, yet not really a film I would rewatch. It was suggested to me that disliking these films by Carpenter means he is not a great director, an idea perhaps a tad offensive. Must one respect an entire filmography for a director to be a great one? Does the merits of an auteur depend on consistency? Who the hell cares?

David Cronenberg Shivers / They Came From Within 1975
Arrow blu ray with great special features in addition to this absolutely gorgeous transfer. Probably the Cronenberg film I have rewatched the most. This great film has an atmosphere not unlike J.G. Ballard's High-Rise, another work that moved this young man immensely.

Robert Mulligan The Man in the Moon 1991
From To Kill a Mockingbird director, starring Reese Witherspoon in her first role, Sam Waterston, Tess Harper, and Gail Strickland. Classic 90s cinema. When I see Waterston, I think of his unforgettable "moral structure" dialogue in Crimes and Misdemeanors, Tess Harper for her Breaking Bad presence.

6.23.2020 - 6.26.2020
Derek Cianfrance I Know This Much is True 2020
From The Place Beyond the Pines and Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, whom studied film with the two late greats Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon. Music by the utterly profound Harold Budd, every second of the music and sound design is just pure bliss. I love that it takes place around the period of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with George H. W. Bush and the like, not unlike The Big Lebowski. Definitely one of the best recent television shows, a medium that I had about given up on the last year or two. Always so impressed with how Mark Ruffalo had to reteach himself how to act after suffering from facial paralysis and hearing loss due to the brain tumor vestibular schwannoma.

John Carpenter Someone’s Watching Me! 1978
Made for tv film with Lauren Hutton and Adrienne Barbeau. Entertaining at times but a little too close to De Palma's Hitchock. Hutton's quirky behavior is grading.

John Carpenter Cigarette Burns 2005
Udo Kier hires Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) to hunt down an apocryphal snuff film. Very Giallo. Not a film I would rewatch but not completely without interest.

Hirokazu Kore-eda After Life 1998
Perhaps too wordy and concept oriented at times. Not as engaging as other Kore-eda films for me, but worth seeing. Definitely an alternative use of video technology to the modern Japanese Horror films like Ringu.

Nickolas Dylan Rossi Heaven Adores You 2014
Elliott Smith documentary. Very good. Wasn't crazy about seeing Portland footage when the story had shifted to Mr. Smith living in NYC, especially because I noticed repeat shots of certain streets and expressways, but the city really does photograph well.

Joseph Losey The Go-Between 1971
My wife and I are on a mission to see all Joseph Losey films, all Julie Christie films, and all Alan Bates films, The Go-Between worked in all three. Really wonderful film, as was the performance of the young Dominic Guard. The novel by L.P. Hartley apparently is a must read. The film is a rather pleasantly plain story with layers of complexity (as it is from a child's perspective) and subtleties. The great Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay, and photography by Gerry Fisher (Highlander, Mr. Klein, The Offence, The Romantic Englishwoman, Wise Blood, The Ninth Configuration [one strange film I wish I could get into], Running on Empty, and The Exorcist III). Scored by the Frenchman Michel Legrand. All signal a film of the utmost seriousness.

John Milius Conan the Barbarian 1982
Could not remember if I saw this as a kid, and wasn't sure when the film ended. Great ambiance but not really a film I would see again. Surprised by the amount of nudity. I must speak about this in my next confession.

Chinonye Chukwu Clemency 2019
This might be the first film since plague times I have really felt a strong connection with, such a powerful film. Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, and Wendell Pierce! Last shot reminiscent of Call Me By Your Name, with Woodard just beyond moving, not too many actors could pull something like that off.

Kenneth Lonergan You Can Count on Me 2000
One of those films my wife and I watch pretty often... at least this is our third times in the last 6 years or so. Perhaps Lonergan's best film in a filmography of all great works?

Michael Mann Manhunter 1986
Theatrical release on Scream Factory blu ray.  Fantastic interpretation of the Red Dragon novel by Mann.

Hirokazu Kore-eda Still Walking 2008
Really great Kore-eda film, that perhaps takes a couple few viewings to pick up some of the subtitles.

Nicholas Ray Johnny Guitar 1954
Watched the Olive Signature blu ray and feel like this was the first time seeing the film, having never seen a 35mm print. Lovely transfer of this perfect film.

6.28.2020 - 6.29.2020
Derek Cianfrance I Know This Much is True 2020
Second time seeing this in the week.

John Carpenter Christine 1983
Still going through the unseen Carpenter films. I love the above sequence at the drive in movie theater.

Graeme Clifford Gleaming the Cube 1989
Growing up a skateboarder, this film was key to a high school kid, as well as the early Powell films like The Search for Animal Chin, the bmx film Rad, the surf film North Shore, and many others. This film really has zero interest now besides the "action sequences" but brought back memories watching.

Atom Egoyan The Adjuster 1991
My wife and I had wanted to revisit Egoyan films, and were happy to see a bunch show up on the Criterion Channel. Don't think I had seen this one, not super crazy about it but always find Elias Koteas to be worth watching. Worth watching.

Clive Donner The Caretaker 1963
Strange as hell film; editing, photography (shot by Nicolas Roeg), acting, the whole lot. Harold Pinter stories always get one's head spinning.

Alan Clarke Shelter 1967
First disc in the BFI Alan Clarke box set Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC. Nice film, extreme desires occurring between a woman and man who apparently want to "get physical", but pretend to hate each other. These 25-30 minute shorts from the BBC Half Hour Story series, 1967-1968.

Alan Clarke The Gentleman Caller 1967

Alan Clarke Goodnight Albert 1968
From the writer of Scum Roy Minton, whom also penned The Gentleman Caller. Rather nice credit music on these early shorts by Jack Parnell.

Alan Clarke Stella 1968
These early Clarke films have some great photography. This film starts with the camera looking up at the characters from the floor, following Geraldine Moffart around, and from time to time obscured by objects such as beds.

Alan Clarke The Fifty-Seventh Saturday 1968
Perhaps the best of these Half Hour Story shorts. A young woman suffers depression and puts all her energy into an older married man.

Alan Clarke Thief 1968

Thomas Vinterberg The Hunt 2012
Arrow Academy blu ray with alt and deleted scenes, including alternate ending where Mads Mikkelsen's character is shot in the forest, rather than a miss. Such a great film, I would like to see a horror sequel where he takes revenge on all the folks that brought him misery. I love as an American getting all these British blu rays, where the translation is rendered arse instead of ass.... how lovely.

Ron Fricke Samsara 2011
Lovely 70mm photography.

Jonathan Demme Melvin and Howard 1980
Classic early 80s film from Demme with Jason Robards as Howard Hughes, Paul Le Mat as his buddy Melvin Dummar, Mary Steenburgen + Pamela Reed as Melvin's two lady friends, and Gloria Grahame as Melvin's mother-in-law. Really great low key film, with music by Bruce Langhorne.

Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz Messiah of Evil 1973
Great film, second time seeing this. So many powerful sequences, especially the Ralphs grocery store one with the stunning Anitra Ford.

Gloria Katz The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Suitors—Even 1966

Willard Huyck Down These Mean Streets

John Ford The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962
Perfect details make this film endlessly watchable and rewatchable. Contains the great line "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend", which is a quote one can perceive the world by. Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin are wonderful as Liberty Valance's sidekicks.

John Cassavetes Husbands 1970
Reunited with another old friend - the great Cassavetes film which could be an endurance test for some, or not much different than reading a fine Beckett novel for others, with a method of arriving at transcendence through repetition, grit, and a hint at nonsense.

William Lustig Vigilante 1983
Second time watching this the since the beginnings of plague times. For anyone who has only experienced Robert Forster as an older actor, this is a great film to see him young.

Rowdy Herrington Road House 1989
Watching Shout! blu ray. Great film, endlessly worth repeat viewings, an essential 80s film. Interview with Herrington situates this film as a modern western.

Christopher Guest Waiting For Guffman 1997

Joan Micklin Silver Between the Lines 1977
John Heard film from the director of Chilly Scenes of Winter. Also has Gwen "I never get enough" Welles from Nashville, Jeff Goldblum, and Joe Morton whom is very good as he always is.