Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's Time for Quickies!!

Withnail & I (1987)*****


The Star Wars of quirky dark British comedies. You must see this movie several times to appreciate the subtleties, not to mention the molasses-thick accents of some of the characters. But once you get it, there are quotes here that you can use for the rest of your life. So let your whole sink go rotten, open the finest wines available to humanity, and watch Richard E. Grant, a trained actor, shamelessly chew the scenery. I predict you will savor every bite.

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Mademoiselle (2001)***


Fans of French contemporary dramas will enjoy this light and bittersweet romance. The always watchable Sandrine Bonnaire does a fine job as a big pharma sales rep who, for a few brief hours, ignores her responsibilities and gets a taste of a wholly different type of life. First time director Loiret tells his simple story in a restrained and effective manner, and never lets technical or narrative flourishes get in the way.

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Les Salades de L'amour (1957)***


This compilation of assorted scraps and odds and ends will appeal mainly to Truffaut completists. The short feature "Les Mistons" leads off the disc, and it is a charming B&W short about a group of teenage boys who secretly spy on a pair of lovers in a small French village. The film is either Truffaut's first or second film - depending on how one counts such things- and at 35 minutes is about as long as it really needs to be. The rest of the disc contains an interview with the director, which is rather interesting, and an interview with 2 of Truffaut's collaborators, which is unfortunately quite dull and rambling. In all, this presentation will be most valuable to those who have a scholarly interest in Truffaut's work.

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Queue




Mojave Phone Booth (2006)****


John Putch's student-style indie film was made on a budget less than what an average family spends yearly at Costco. It is the story of a small group of Las Vegas residents who regularly convene at an isolated phone booth in the desert and discuss their personal problems with an anonymous amateur therapist who patiently listens to their issues and offers helpful suggestions. Out of this strong concept, a fascinating set of storylines evolve and by the end of the film the viewer has gained an unusually voyeuristic and three-dimensional view into the lives of these characters. Putch makes good use of distant, oasis-like shots of the Vegas skyline and lesser known off-strip locales to create an almost dreamlike setting for this emotionally surreal film.

IMDB
Queue

It's Time for Quickies!!

Withnail & I (1987)*****


The Star Wars of quirky dark British comedies. You must see this movie several times to appreciate the subtleties, not to mention the molasses-thick accents of some of the characters. But once you get it, there are quotes here that you can use for the rest of your life. So let your whole sink go rotten, open the finest wines available to humanity, and watch Richard E. Grant, a trained actor, shamelessly chew the scenery. I predict you will savor every bite.

IMDB
Queue



Mademoiselle (2001)***


Fans of French contemporary dramas will enjoy this light and bittersweet romance. The always watchable Sandrine Bonnaire does a fine job as a big pharma sales rep who, for a few brief hours, ignores her responsibilities and gets a taste of a wholly different type of life. First time director Loiret tells his simple story in a restrained and effective manner, and never lets technical or narrative flourishes get in the way.

IMDB
Queue




Les Salades de L'amour (1957)***


This compilation of assorted scraps and odds and ends will appeal mainly to Truffaut completists. The short feature "Les Mistons" leads off the disc, and it is a charming B&W short about a group of teenage boys who secretly spy on a pair of lovers in a small French village. The film is either Truffaut's first or second film - depending on how one counts such things- and at 35 minutes is about as long as it really needs to be. The rest of the disc contains an interview with the director, which is rather interesting, and an interview with 2 of Truffaut's collaborators, which is unfortunately quite dull and rambling. In all, this presentation will be most valuable to those who have a scholarly interest in Truffaut's work.

IMDB
Queue




Mojave Phone Booth (2006)****


John Putch's student-style indie film was made on a budget less than what an average family spends yearly at Costco. It is the story of a small group of Las Vegas residents who regularly convene at an isolated phone booth in the desert and discuss their personal problems with an anonymous amateur therapist who patiently listens to their issues and offers helpful suggestions. Out of this strong concept, a fascinating set of storylines evolve and by the end of the film the viewer has gained an unusually voyeuristic and three-dimensional view into the lives of these characters. Putch makes good use of distant, oasis-like shots of the Vegas skyline and lesser known off-strip locales to create an almost dreamlike setting for this emotionally surreal film.

IMDB
Queue

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Les Biches (1968)**


Throughout his long and successful career, Claude Chabrol has mixed a few stinkers in with his generally impressive body of work. Les Biches, made in 1968 and one of his first films, was a most inauspicious beginning. Clumsy and cloying, the film is the story of two very different women who meet one day on the banks of the Seine; a meeting that sparks a chain of unhealthy events.


Wealthy and worldly Frederique (Stephane Audran) finds herself strangely attracted to a free-spirited starving street artist called Why (Jaqueline Sassard) and the two of them begin a whirlwind friendship and possible romance (Chabrol is not really clear on this) and before long, Why finds herself firmly ensconced in Frederique’s chateau near St. Tropez. Being winter, the town is virtually deserted save for a couple of freeloaders (Henri Attal and Dominique Zardi) who are also staying with Frederique.


We know that Attal and Zardi are gay because all they do is make sarcastic comments about other people’s clothing, which I suppose was all gay men were allowed to do in 60s cinema. A square-jawed architect (Jean-Louis Trintignant, looking a bit lost) attends one of Frederique’s poker parties and at first seems quite taken with Why, but Frederique, used to getting her way, decides that she wants him too, and quite a mess follows.


The film is a hard to take seriously, partially through no fault of its own. The disc is dubbed in English, and despite several minutes of fiddling with the menus, the original French does not appear as an option. While the dubbing is reasonably well done from a lip-sync standpoint, the resulting dead soundtrack gives the whole enterprise the feel of bad 70s porn, without the cheap prurient thrills. Equally distracting is the aggressive footstep Foley, which makes everyone sound as though they are wearing tap shoes. At one point, the sound goes out all together for a couple of minutes, but this glitch is actually a bit of a relief.


However, mucked-up sound does not excuse all of the films weaknesses, and the story runs out of steam long before the closing credits. The movie ends with a designed big dramatic payoff, but you may find yourself quite numb by the time it finally rolls around. Les Biches will be of interest only to the most fervent Chabrol fans. On the other hand, if you have yet to familiarize yourself with this important French director then please, don’t start here.

More Info

Add to Queue

Les Biches (1968)**


Throughout his long and successful career, Claude Chabrol has mixed a few stinkers in with his generally impressive body of work. Les Biches, made in 1968 and one of his first films, was a most inauspicious beginning. Clumsy and cloying, the film is the story of two very different women who meet one day on the banks of the Seine; a meeting that sparks a chain of unhealthy events.


Wealthy and worldly Frederique (Stephane Audran) finds herself strangely attracted to a free-spirited starving street artist called Why (Jaqueline Sassard) and the two of them begin a whirlwind friendship and possible romance (Chabrol is not really clear on this) and before long, Why finds herself firmly ensconced in Frederique’s chateau near St. Tropez. Being winter, the town is virtually deserted save for a couple of freeloaders (Henri Attal and Dominique Zardi) who are also staying with Frederique.


We know that Attal and Zardi are gay because all they do is make sarcastic comments about other people’s clothing, which I suppose was all gay men were allowed to do in 60s cinema. A square-jawed architect (Jean-Louis Trintignant, looking a bit lost) attends one of Frederique’s poker parties and at first seems quite taken with Why, but Frederique, used to getting her way, decides that she wants him too, and quite a mess follows.


The film is a hard to take seriously, partially through no fault of its own. The disc is dubbed in English, and despite several minutes of fiddling with the menus, the original French does not appear as an option. While the dubbing is reasonably well done from a lip-sync standpoint, the resulting dead soundtrack gives the whole enterprise the feel of bad 70s porn, without the cheap prurient thrills. Equally distracting is the aggressive footstep Foley, which makes everyone sound as though they are wearing tap shoes. At one point, the sound goes out all together for a couple of minutes, but this glitch is actually a bit of a relief.


However, mucked-up sound does not excuse all of the films weaknesses, and the story runs out of steam long before the closing credits. The movie ends with a designed big dramatic payoff, but you may find yourself quite numb by the time it finally rolls around. Les Biches will be of interest only to the most fervent Chabrol fans. On the other hand, if you have yet to familiarize yourself with this important French director then please, don’t start here.

More Info

Add to Queue

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Headless Woman (2008)****


Way back in the 20th Century, the Headless Woman was a staple of traveling carnival freak shows, right along side the Bearded Lady and the Snake Boy. Lucretia Martel uses this metaphor to profoundly disturbing effect in her latest film The Headless Woman. A middle-class dentist (Maria Onetto), who has recently dyed her hair blond, is driving down a country road after attending a cosmetics party. While fumbling for her ringing cell phone, her car suddenly suffers a violent jolt and her heart races into her throat.


The visual evidence indicates she has struck a dog…but Onetto’s reaction indicates that there is more afoot, and it’s our first clue that our perceptions are being slyly manipulated. In the accident’s aftermath, Onetto appears to be stricken with a sort of post-traumatic amnesia, and spends the next few days drifting through the normal routine of her life, a routine that’s familiar to everyone but her. The film begins to drift as well, down a number of thematic tributaries and all of them tantalizingly open to interpretation. Martel presents the sexes in a sharp polarity of traditional roles – women are obsessed with physical appearance and men talk only of hunting and fishing – the only exception being Onetto’s sexually aggressive lesbian cousin, recovering from hepatitis and locked away like a family embarrassment.


Onetto’s husband, who is first seen placing a dead deer in the kitchen sink, seems to be much more concerned about her car than any potential injury, while her domestic help manage to keep the confused Onetto on track with appointments and other obligations. It eventually becomes clear that Martel’s metaphorical canvas has expanded to include not only class and gender struggle, but specific allusions to the tortured political history of her native Argentina as well. Martel hints that Onetto’s disorientation may stem from a mixture of guilt and denial, and the surprising resolution of her affliction reinforces the idea that, for Argentina’s elite, justice is a malleable concept.


Onetto does a fine job in her role, and her withdrawal from reality is both convincing and mysterious, yet leaves lots of room for her fellow actors. Although she is in nearly every scene, she seems to partially dematerialize before our eyes. While Headless Woman features none of the witty observations of her earlier films, here Lucretia Martel has created a deeper work that is involving and rewarding. It’s also uncomfortable and, at times, downright confounding.

More Info

Add to Queue

The Headless Woman (2008)****


Way back in the 20th Century, the Headless Woman was a staple of traveling carnival freak shows, right along side the Bearded Lady and the Snake Boy. Lucretia Martel uses this metaphor to profoundly disturbing effect in her latest film The Headless Woman. A middle-class dentist (Maria Onetto), who has recently dyed her hair blond, is driving down a country road after attending a cosmetics party. While fumbling for her ringing cell phone, her car suddenly suffers a violent jolt and her heart races into her throat.


The visual evidence indicates she has struck a dog…but Onetto’s reaction indicates that there is more afoot, and it’s our first clue that our perceptions are being slyly manipulated. In the accident’s aftermath, Onetto appears to be stricken with a sort of post-traumatic amnesia, and spends the next few days drifting through the normal routine of her life, a routine that’s familiar to everyone but her. The film begins to drift as well, down a number of thematic tributaries and all of them tantalizingly open to interpretation. Martel presents the sexes in a sharp polarity of traditional roles – women are obsessed with physical appearance and men talk only of hunting and fishing – the only exception being Onetto’s sexually aggressive lesbian cousin, recovering from hepatitis and locked away like a family embarrassment.


Onetto’s husband, who is first seen placing a dead deer in the kitchen sink, seems to be much more concerned about her car than any potential injury, while her domestic help manage to keep the confused Onetto on track with appointments and other obligations. It eventually becomes clear that Martel’s metaphorical canvas has expanded to include not only class and gender struggle, but specific allusions to the tortured political history of her native Argentina as well. Martel hints that Onetto’s disorientation may stem from a mixture of guilt and denial, and the surprising resolution of her affliction reinforces the idea that, for Argentina’s elite, justice is a malleable concept.


Onetto does a fine job in her role, and her withdrawal from reality is both convincing and mysterious, yet leaves lots of room for her fellow actors. Although she is in nearly every scene, she seems to partially dematerialize before our eyes. While Headless Woman features none of the witty observations of her earlier films, here Lucretia Martel has created a deeper work that is involving and rewarding. It’s also uncomfortable and, at times, downright confounding.

More Info

Add to Queue

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bunchy's Scrapbook: Comic Book Fail Edition


The Atom was unimpressive at best. Here he is almost eaten by a houseplant.





Jerry Lewis had his own comic. Must have sold like hotcakes in France.




Hawkman was just weird.


He and The Flash teamed up a lot. Probably because they were both frickin’ useless.





Charlton Comics were the epitome of second rate. None of their superheroes ever made it big. Thunder Bunny? C’mon…





Stan Lee created some great villians. Paste-Pot Pete was not one of them.




Romance Comics were really creepy...






Who read these things?

Bunchy's Scrapbook: Comic Book Fail Edition


The Atom was unimpressive at best. Here he is almost eaten by a houseplant.





Jerry Lewis had his own comic. Must have sold like hotcakes in France.




Hawkman was just weird.


He and The Flash teamed up a lot. Probably because they were both frickin’ useless.





Charlton Comics were the epitome of second rate. None of their superheroes ever made it big. Thunder Bunny? C’mon…





Stan Lee created some great villians. Paste-Pot Pete was not one of them.




Romance Comics were really creepy...






Who read these things?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emergency Kisses (1989)*****


Emergency Kisses is a French film. It is French French McFrenchy French. And if you like this type of film, and dieu sait this reviewer does, it’s pretty darn wonderful. Directed by Philippe Garrel, co-written by Philippe Garrel, and all about Philippe Garrel, the film features many relatives and friends of Philippe Garrel portraying friends and relatives of Philippe Garrel. Philippe Garrel’s father, Maurice Garrel, plays Philippe Garrel’s father, and his 5 year-old son Louis portrays his 5 year old son Louis. His former lover and mother to Louis, Brigette Sy, plays his lover and mother to Louis, here named Jeanne.


Anyway, with the introductions dispensed, we can now concentrate on the movie. Filmmaker Mathieu (Philippe Garrel, did I mention he is playing himself?) finds his domestic bliss imperiled when he decides to cast a famous actress (Anemone) as his wife in an upcoming film he is directing, despite the objections of his real wife Jeanne, who also happens to act in local theatre.


Like a complex display of fragile dominoes, this decision causes Mathieu’s life to slowly tumble down, leaving him alone and adrift with only his divorced dad to turn to for advice. Dad has had his own issues with philandering over the years, and is hardly a fountain of helpful council. The film chronicles Philippe’s efforts to rejoin with Jeanne and little Louis, but those efforts usually only compound the pain of loneliness and betrayal that haunts the estranged couple.


Shot in a murky black-and-white, Emergency Kisses has the look of early European cinema-verite, yet Garrel works in a tightly choreographed style; his long takes create a sense of inviting openness and make us feel like participants rather than voyeurs. There is more programmatic background music than is typical for this type of film, and the plaintive saxophone score serves as an effectively moody counterpoint.


Jeanne may give Garrel a second chance in love, but the high cost of her shattered trust is captured by a brilliant bit of physical acting in the film’s finale. Jeanne realizes that the world abounds with temptations, often in the least expected places, and traditional notions of romantic love may not be able to withstand the challenges of modern life. Did I mention the film is French?

Production Details

Add to Queue

Emergency Kisses (1989)*****


Emergency Kisses is a French film. It is French French McFrenchy French. And if you like this type of film, and dieu sait this reviewer does, it’s pretty darn wonderful. Directed by Philippe Garrel, co-written by Philippe Garrel, and all about Philippe Garrel, the film features many relatives and friends of Philippe Garrel portraying friends and relatives of Philippe Garrel. Philippe Garrel’s father, Maurice Garrel, plays Philippe Garrel’s father, and his 5 year-old son Louis portrays his 5 year old son Louis. His former lover and mother to Louis, Brigette Sy, plays his lover and mother to Louis, here named Jeanne.


Anyway, with the introductions dispensed, we can now concentrate on the movie. Filmmaker Mathieu (Philippe Garrel, did I mention he is playing himself?) finds his domestic bliss imperiled when he decides to cast a famous actress (Anemone) as his wife in an upcoming film he is directing, despite the objections of his real wife Jeanne, who also happens to act in local theatre.


Like a complex display of fragile dominoes, this decision causes Mathieu’s life to slowly tumble down, leaving him alone and adrift with only his divorced dad to turn to for advice. Dad has had his own issues with philandering over the years, and is hardly a fountain of helpful council. The film chronicles Philippe’s efforts to rejoin with Jeanne and little Louis, but those efforts usually only compound the pain of loneliness and betrayal that haunts the estranged couple.


Shot in a murky black-and-white, Emergency Kisses has the look of early European cinema-verite, yet Garrel works in a tightly choreographed style; his long takes create a sense of inviting openness and make us feel like participants rather than voyeurs. There is more programmatic background music than is typical for this type of film, and the plaintive saxophone score serves as an effectively moody counterpoint.


Jeanne may give Garrel a second chance in love, but the high cost of her shattered trust is captured by a brilliant bit of physical acting in the film’s finale. Jeanne realizes that the world abounds with temptations, often in the least expected places, and traditional notions of romantic love may not be able to withstand the challenges of modern life. Did I mention the film is French?

Production Details

Add to Queue

80 Years at the Races

Most Marx Brothers aficionados agree that 1937’s A Day at the Races was the last truly great film featuring the zany siblings. Produced by ...