Sunday, June 27, 2010

Repulsion (1965)

Dir: Roman Polanski
Criterion Blu-ray

I had seen this film when I was much younger and it did leave an uneasy impression on me. I happily picked up the Criterion Blu-ray release for it and finally got around to watching it and when it was over I thought my head would explode. This is one of the best horror films ever constructed. As I watched it I had a since of deja vu, like it was a half remembered nightmare. The film stars Catherine Deneuve as a young woman working in a beauty salon and living with her older sister. She is unlike any protagonist (save maybe Carnival of Souls 1962) that you would find. She seems to live in a daze, is completely afraid of men, and is both vulnerable and tough. Polanski is a master of keeping you on your toes, keeping a sense of dread that lingers long after the film ends and also makes the viewer as paranoid as Ms. Deneuve's Carole . He also uses some bizarre dream imagery to scare the bejeezus out of you. This is a truly unque film that let's the viewer draw their own conclusions about the world this character inhabits. Deneuve is perfect as Carole, the cinematography is exactly what's needed to tell the story properly, and I don't know about Polanski as a person, but he can direct the crap out of a horror film. Criterion's Blu-ray release is packed with making of extras and looks stunning. A must have.


Youth in Revolt (2009)

Dir: Miguel Arteta
Sony Blu-ray

Here's a film where Michael Cera gets to play a typical Cera role (which frankly I don't mind) and also gets to stretch by being the bad boy alternate persona. He stars as Nick Twisp, a geeky boy that knows a lot of pretentious factoids but is unsuccessful with the ladies. He then meets his dream girl, Sheeni, who happens to know even more about the things that Nick is into and is obsessed with the French. So Nick invents the alternate version of himself named Francois and starts doing dangerous things to when her over. Things go wrong, of course, hilarity ensues. It's not much different, plot wise, from a million other teen comedies where nerds try to get laid. The difference here is in the details which border on being too precious but can mostly be overlooked or forgiven as the film provides enough entertainment and cameos to get you to the end. The real crime is the absolute waste of Zach Galifianakis who deserved much better.


Cry of the Owl (2009)

Dir: Jamie Thraves
Paramount DVD

This is based on the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name and stars Paddy Considine and Julia Stiles. It follows Considine as an awkward man that is in the midst of a divorce and trying to transition into a new job far from the city he was living in. While in this new rural setting, he spots Ms. Stiles through her kitchen window and starts watching, only because she looks "so happy". She catches him peeking one night and the two become friends and quickly into more than that prompting her to dump her boyfriend. As the story unfolds we realize pretty quickly that everyone in this story has a mental problem of some sort and maybe Considine isn't really the problem at all. When the film started I had an unsure feeling about it, there was something about Considine's performance that seemed off (and I generally love this guy's performances), but he does settle into the role and I realized that the style of the film matched the content fairly well. By the end I had bought into it and was quite affected by the end result. It's not a perfect film but surely an interesting one that I would be glad to revisit.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Avatar (2009)

Dir: James Cameron
Fox Blu-ray

If you haven't already seen this or don't know what it's about, then you care even less than I do so don't worry about it. It was exactly what everyone says it is no matter who said it and what it was. It's a big science fiction movie with lots of colors. The only insight I had was that I felt like it was inadvertently about our societies addiction to video games and how we're so unimpressed with our selves we're using avatars of our own everyday to escape reality, or it's about the environment, your call.


Pirate Radio (2009)

Dir: Richard Curtis
Universal Blu-ray

This should have been way better than it was. It's set in the sixties in England, follows DJ's at a pirate radio station playing some of the best music ever made, and stars a handful of likable actors (Chris O'Dowd, Nick Frost, Rhys Darby, Phillip Seymour Hoffman). But to my dismay, the film is a disconnected arrangement of scenes that go nowhere, full of characters that are more caricatures, and feels oddly mean spirited in it's attempts at humor. The "drama" of the story comes from a fuddy duddy (Kenneth Branagh) who can't stand that rock and roll music (much fist shaking) so takes it upon himself to shut down rock radio forever! But these rebels outsmart him at every turn, well not really, they just stay on the air and then are all rewarded with women, seriously. And by the way, not based on anything remotely historically accurate, just a weird ass fantasy. Please to avoid at all costs.


The Internecine Project (1974)

Dir: Ken Hughes
Scorpion DVD

A forgotten thriller Starring James Coburn as an agent that must erase some loose ends from his past and comes up with a convoluted plot to take care of them in one night. The first act is a bore and filled with so much machismo that I thought it was a comedy, but when we finally get to the heart of the story it becomes pretty gripping. The convoluted plot in question is certainly the only reason the film got made and if you have any interest in seeing it I wouldn't want to spoil it. Hughes (director of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang !) doesn't seem concerned with keeping his audiences attention and relies too heavily on the script, probably the reason the film isn't more well known. Worth a watch but don't be in a hurry.


Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis (2006)

Dir: Mary Jordan
Arts Alliance DVD

Puppies and personal problems have detained me from pontificating about moving pictures, but now I will attempt to get back on track and thank you for your patience. This is a fascinating documentary about a man, Jack Smith, that should be considered an important part of the counter culture in New York in the early sixties. Through his own self destructive nature he has been able to barely hold on as a foot note in this important era of avante garde artists that changed the landscape of the art world forever. If he is remembered for anything now, it is his experimental film Flaming Creatures. A sort of fever dream of sexual taboos mixed with Hollywood melodrama. Writer and fellow filmmaker Jonas Mikas took it upon himself to champion the film and made sure it was seen in as many places as possible. This made Smith angry and claimed his film was stolen from him but Mikas, and others, claim that he never saw any money from it’s exhibition. Smith’s next film, Normal Love (1963) was never actually completed so that it could not be stolen. Smith would show the film but would edit it live and change the music so that no definitive piece existed. In itself this is a fascinating concept but takes on different meaning when you take into consideration why it was shown this way. A few years later Andy Warhol would latch onto some of Smith’s ideas and use them to propel himself into art super stardom. This didn't help Smith's perception of the world and he seemed to fall further from accessibility as an artist which is, on one hand, a shame but on the other makes him far more interesting than his peers. It's certainly not an uplifting story but definitely one worth knowing. The film is made with a no apologies approach that Smith is a genius that was treated poorly by those around him, but even a little research would suggest that that is only half the story. That doesn't take away from the fact that Smith's films and his photography are pretty incredible works of art.