Sunday, July 13, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
In the past decade, Wayne Wang has become a successful big-time Hollywood director and deservedly so. But here he takes a break from the formulaic, mainstream star vehicles of recent history and returns to his roots with the type of picture he does best; a gentle, quiet story of Asian-American culture shock. This family drama of almost entry-level simplicity features Henry O as Mr. Shi, a former communist party functionary, now reduced to plodding pensioner, who makes the journey from China to Spokane, Washington to visit his beautiful and mysterious daughter Yilan (Faye Yu), who some years ago fled Beijing for a new life and a new husband in America.
The husband is long gone, and now Yilan, intensely focused on her work, lives a single life that is far from swingin’. Despite his daughter’s claims to the contrary, the traditionally-minded Shi finds it impossible to believe that an unmarried young woman can live a happy life. He spends much time early in the film furtively rifling through Yilan’s possessions searching for clues as to her true nature, and he feels entirely justified in this intrusion.
After all, in Shi’s mind, as the father he has an undeniable right to know every aspect of her life, regardless of the fact that she is pushing 40. This cultural and generational clash lies at the heart of the film, and it is quite interesting to watch the subtle, yet poignant emotional tug-of war between Shi and Yilan, as seemingly every day he finds a new way to assault her personal boundaries.
Ultimately, Shi’s insistence forces a confrontation that shows us how deception is deeply ingrained in this family’s history. While this synopsis makes the film sound melodramatic, Wang’s special talent for creating believable family dynamics gives the film a low key, naturalistic edge and allows us to focus on the internals of this deeply human story
Friday, June 13, 2014
One of the great things about Dish Network is the access to international television, particularly their package of French programming. Nestled amid TV5’s comedies and newsmagazines are some real cinematic gems. Yeah, you’ll sit through a few stinkers in the process of unearthing them, but the obscure finds make the effort worthwhile. One such film is Extérieur, nuit, a murky existentialist drama about three aimless, drifting lives in the unromantic Paris of 1980.
Written and directed by Jacques Bral, a low profile filmmaker with an impressive resume – he wrote and produced Street of No Return, Sam Fuller’s last feature in 1989 - Extérieur, nuit combines the thematics of Jules et Jim with the atmospherics of Taxi Driver. A successful studio musician named Leo (Gerard Lanvin) forsakes his comfortable career to return to the rough, smoky jazz clubs of la rive gauche, where gigs and paychecks are uncertain at best. Leo shows up, saxophone and luggage in tow, at the bohemian doorstep of Bony (the impossibly young and dashing Andre Dussollier), an old friend from the hippie days, who now spends most of his time staring into space in a forlorn effort to become a famous novelist.
For a while, the two pals engage in what 30ish bachelors do best - trading sarcastic comments while drinking to oblivion in Paris’ wealth of neighborhood bars. One cold, damp night, Leo staggers into a cab driven by a mysterious woman of glistening liquid eyes and smoldering sensuality (Christine Boisson), who has discovered inventive ways of making chauffeuring profitable. The seductive Cora lives much as an over-age street urchin and her free spirited contours bewitch Leo into tender feelings he neither wants nor understands. But eventually, his passions for Cora are shared by the bemused Bony, and the stage is set for a thorough testing of the concepts of free love and open relationships.
Shot largely at night, the film is a celebration – albeit a brooding, at times painful one – of the possibilities of young adulthood in a time of aggressive sexuality and changing ideas of romance. Cora and Leo enter into a tortured form of courtship, as each party alternately asserts notions of love and independence; confusing terms that had little meaning in a sophisticated world that no longer valued monogomy. When Leo raises the thought of marriage as a way out of their shared misery, both he and Cora bristle at the idea of suburbs and children, and a bright light glares on the preposterousness of their love.
The acting in Extérieur, nuit is consistently wonderful, featuring a cast that has gone on to long and successful careers in the industry. Lanvin, who has become ruggedly handsome in his middle years and now largely plays cops and gangsters, comes off here as a sort of cuddly Robert DeNiro; a young man rife with angst and alienation but ultimately warm and empathetic. Christine Boisson’s notorious first screen appearance was as an oversexed teenager masturbating to a photo of Paul Newman in the moderately kinky classic Emmanuelle, but here she’s all business, honing a sharp edge of sexual and emotional danger that allows the narrative to cut through the lost meanderings of the male protagonists. And there’s the great Andre Dussollier, as our eyes, ears and heart, who shows an early mastery of the subtle physical timing that made him an international star.
Extérieur, nuit has yet to be released in North America on DVD, but that will likely change as the film has undergone a re-discovery in recent years. In 2009, it was prominently featured at the Lyon Film Festival and in 2010 it was released for a theatrical run throughout France. And director Bral is back in the saddle again, currently filming a new drama called Le Noir (Te) Vous Va Si Bien in Paris.
Despite its dark and bittersweet tonality, Extérieur, nuit almost seems like innocent nostalgia today. Hidden within its coarse folds is a world of thoughtful pauses and reflective self-evaluation; a world where people didn’t spend every spare moment fiddling with cell phones and telling Facebook they’d suffered hang nail. It was a world where idle navel gazing over a glass of scotch, neat, was not only tolerated, but encouraged. And following one’s heart - no matter how wrong-headed or dreadful the result - was infinitely more important than following Twitter.
Sunday, June 1, 2014
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) ✭✭
Sport de filles (2011) ✭✭✭1/2
Mud (2012) ✭✭✭✭
The Commitments (1991) ✭✭✭✭1/2
Sir Alan Parker's joyous comedy about a fledgling soul band in Dublin has the right mix of humor and poignant realism. If you’ve ever flailed away with a crappy guitar in the garage, you’ll fully relate.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
If you enjoyed the somber yet amusing flavors of recent films like Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska, you’ll find Música Campesina cut from similar cloth. Its ending feels a bit removed from the real world - perhaps an evocation of a dream - yet it brings the film’s allegorical thesis full circle in a satisfying way. As Alejandro adjusts to his new world, and vice-versa, he learns an important lesson. None of life’s inevitable setbacks are ever wasted, especially on Country Western singers.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
TCM kicks off summer with a mix of the silly and the sublime. Bad sci-fi and a Rock Hudson - Doris Day festival stand along side such heavyweights as Night and Fog and Kieslowski's Colors trilogy. Truly something for everyone this month. My picks below. All times Eastern. Full schedule HERE
A typical day in the life of the Beatles.
BW-87 mins, Letterbox Format
This film looks at the British pop music scene in 1964, featuring performances by The Beatles, The Animals, and more.
C-70 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
|The DC5 are Having a Wild Weekend|
Advertising executives turn a model's romance with a stunt man into a publicity stunt.
Rocket scientists consider naming a space ship after Herman's Hermits.
C-86 mins, Letterbox Format
Herman's Hermits travel to England for a high-stakes greyhound race.
C-95 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
|Night and Fog. A tough watch but everyone should see it.|
Documentary cameras contrast the horrors of Auschwitz with the peaceful countryside surrounding it.
Dir: Alain Resnais
C-31 mins, CC,
A college professor uses the crises in three lives to illustrate his theories about human behavior.
C-127 mins, Letterbox Format
A swimming-pool salesman gets mixed up with beauty queens and bodybuilders when he falls in love.
C-97 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
Classic sci-fi epic about a mysterious monolith that seems to play a key role in human evolution.
C-149 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
The crew of a broken down space ship accidentally picks up a deadly alien life form.
C-116 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
|Destination Moon was quite the deal in its day.|
A crusading scientist defies the government to launch an expedition to the moon.
Three U.S. astronauts face a slow death when their rockets fail during a space voyage.
C-129 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
A space mission to Venus discovers a society of Amazons.
C-80 mins, Letterbox Format
|An early, silent version of Wizard of Oz|
In this silent film, a farm girl learns she is a princess and is swept away by a tornado to the land of Oz.
A streetcar conductor loses his true love during Brazil's carnival season.
A poet follows his dead wife into the underworld, only to fall in love with Death.
A group of zanies tries to save a pretty girl's sanitarium.
BW-109 mins, CC,
|Marilyn at her best in The Misfits|
A sensitive divorcee gets mixed up with modern cowboys roping mustangs in the desert.
BW-125 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
A man and woman carry their feud over the telephone line they share into their real lives.
C-102 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
An ad exec in disguise courts his pretty female competitor.
C-107 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
When he mistakenly thinks he's dying, a hypochondriac tries to choose his wife's next husband.
C-100 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
|Come September with fun in the Italian sun.|
A womanizing tycoon ends up chaperoning a group of American girls who have rented his Italian villa.
C-113 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
A sporting goods salesman who knows nothing about fishing must enter an angling contest.
C-120 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
Celebrities reveal the classic movies that influenced their lives in interviews with acclaimed film critic/interviewer Elvis Mitchell.
C-29 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
|Alan Bates and Charlotte Rampling in Georgy Girl|
A misfit fights for happiness in the world of swinging London.
BW-99 mins, CC,
A photographer discovers a murder in the background of a candid photo.
C-111 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
A woman struggles to find a way to live her life after the death of her husband and child.
A Polish immigrant wants to get even with his former wife.
|Jacob and Trintignant in Red|
An accident creates a relationship between a model and a retired judge who spies on his neighbors.
C-99 mins, Letterbox Format
An adulterous couple discovers that their children are sexually involved.
C-130 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
A San Francisco couple travels to France in search of Pablo Picasso.
C-94 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
The mob sets out to catch a child killer whose crimes are attracting too much police attention.
|Rock and Angie get friendly in Pretty Maids all in a Row|
A young man's first sexual explorations are threatened by a string of murders.
A bored rich man buys a new life from a secret organization.
BW-106 mins, Letterbox Format
A lonely widow turns to prostitution to make ends meet.
C-202 mins, Letterbox Format
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Friday, May 23, 2014
The main comp screenings have been completed. Here's a look at the top contenders for the Palme d'Or:
Winners announced tomorrow
Monday, May 19, 2014
The great cinematographer Gordon Willis has passed away at age 82. His images defined American filmmaking in the 1970s.
|The Godfather (1972)|
|All the President's Men (1976)|
|Annie Hall (1976)|
Radio interview with Willis from 2002