April 30, 2007

Brief Impressions: Tekkon Kinkreet (Arias, 2006)

Abandons the stream of consciousness visual delirium of Mind Game in favor of a more traditional, controlled style (in the service of a more linear narrative), which results in a more refined, surprisingly strong emotional resonance. Of course, the animation is still stunningly dense and pulsating with life. As visually complex a work of animation as I have seen, wrapped around a beautifully simple and touching mythical tale. IMDb listing.

April 28, 2007

Black Book (Verhoeven, 2006)

Much praise has been lavished upon Paul Verhoeven’s extraordinarily entertaining WWII thriller, his first film in six years (since the reviled Hollow Man), and his first Dutch language film in twenty-three years, and for the most part this acclaim is well deserved. However, contrary to what Verhoeven’s decision to leave Hollywood might suggest, Black Book is far from a rejection of that high gloss approach to filmmaking. Instead, it represents a return to form for the director in much the same way that The Departed was considered a return to form for Martin Scorsese. To watch Black Book is to experience a director in complete control of his craft.

The film explores moral ambiguity during (and more interestingly after) wartime through the eyes of Rachel Stein (played with sensual vulnerability by Carice van Houten), a Jewish woman who joins the Dutch resistance, and manages to be a finely crafted and intelligent work. For the duration of its nearly 2 ½ hour runtime, it clicks on all cylinders and honestly feels about half as long as it is. This is primarily due to Verhoeven’s expert ability to manipulate audience expectation. The film is a thrilling collection of revelations, and it keeps one guessing until the end.

And yet, despite (or perhaps because of) the sheer entertainment value, a feeling of weightlessness pervades the film. Verhoeven’s ultimate concerns pertain to the films surface, to creating and sustaining a mood of uncertainty, to advancing the plot. As a result, the film lacks a certain depth. Character and subtext are not satisfyingly explored. Rather, Verhoeven seems content to flirt with complex moral issues, leaving them at the surface for us to contemplate abstractly, apart from the film itself.

Nevertheless, the lack of depth, while regrettable, doesn’t hurt the film as much as it should. Perhaps this is because Black Book is a damned entertaining film and about as smart a piece of pure entertainment as one could hope for.

April 27, 2007

The Trailer Compendium: Vol. 3

Although the American perception of animation is predominantly one-dimensional, it is an art form of staggering possibility, as evidenced by these two ambitious, challenging works. If you can find either of these films in any form, check them out. Ralph Bakshi's subversive Coonskin in particular merits a second look. Enjoy!

Coonskin (1975):

Felidae (1994):

Come Drink With Tarantino?

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Quentin Tarantino's next film could be a remake of The Shaw Brothers production Come Drink With Me, directed by the great King Hu. The news was dropped in an announcement by the Weinstein Co. regarding their plans to invest heavily in producing and acquiring Asian cinema. I haven't yet seen Hu's film, but it is considered an early masterpiece of the martial arts genre. It concerns a young woman who is sent to free an imprisoned official who happens to be her brother. Of course, any news pertaining to Tarantino's upcoming films should be taken with a grain of salt, knowing his penchant for announcing every single idea that comes into his head as a possible project. If this film does come to pass though, it would seem a logical next step for Tarantino, whose past couple of films have been veiled remakes in a sense.

April 26, 2007

Brief Impressions: The Faces Of "Wanda"

A forgotten masterpiece and a historically significant motion picture. Barbara Loden's lone filmmaking venture (she wrote, directed and starred) is a quietly devastating exploration of female alienation and a watershed moment in Women's Cinema. One of the most impressive debut films I have ever seen. IMDb listing.

April 25, 2007

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (Sargent, 1974)

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a tense, muscular thriller concerning four men who hijack a New York City subway train. The emphasis here is on realism, not sensationalism. Director Sargent makes fantastic use of his urban surroundings, creating a world that feels immensely genuine in every respect, and consequently all the more gripping. The dialogue is appropriately (and I might add wonderfully) profane. Peter Stone’s script pulsates with masculine, blue-collar vitality. The performances, especially from Matthau and his MTA cohorts have a lived-in, naturalistic authenticity about them. And Sargent’s appropriation of documentary aesthetics is truly inspired. DP Owen Roizman’s camera never calls attention to itself. Instead, Roizman documents the proceedings with an appropriate lack of stylization. But the film is so wonderfully authentic and immersed in the gritty milieu of the Big Apple that it would fascinate even without the titular hijacking. Beneath Sargent’s superior thriller lies an intriguing study of the inner workings of a metropolitan transit system, very much akin to a police procedural. The attention to detail is meticulous, especially in the film’s opening third. The current trend toward documentary aesthetics in narrative cinema, particularly action cinema (e.g. the cinema of Paul Greengrass), owes much to this film.

April 24, 2007

The Omega Man (Sagal, 1971)

I enjoyed this film quite a bit, though I must admit a certain inclination towards 70’s science fiction cinema. Nevertheless, The Omega Man must surely be considered one of the decade’s better genre films. This isn’t contemplative sci-fi on the order of Silent Running. Rather, this is a film that seeks above all else to entertain, and succeeds admirably. Of course, there are issues (political, racial, social) contained beneath the narrative, but wisely, that is where they stay.

Director Boris Sagal provides some compelling visuals and never gets in the way of his "last man on earth" story. He keeps the proceedings moving at a brisk, engaging pace, and allows Heston to carry the film. Heston seems to thrive in the sci-fi genre and he turns in a charismatic performance here, infusing the film with a surprising but welcome sardonic humor. There is a thought-provoking, subversive quality to Heston’s hero, which I find immensely intriguing. At times, he seems as pathological as the film’s villains. Ultimately though, The Omega Man doesn’t seem to benefit a great deal from in-depth analysis. Rather it is simply, and refreshingly, a solid piece of intelligent genre entertainment.

April 23, 2007

Nightmare City (Lenzi, 1980)

In an interview on the DVD, director Umberto Lenzi discusses his film in relation to the AIDS epidemic and refers to it as realistic with some fantastical elements. This misplaced seriousness, also evident in the film itself, is perhaps the primary reason why Nightmare City fails. It manages none of the wit, charm, or low-budget ingenuity one always hopes to find in exploitation/cult cinema. As a result, the colorless, expository screenplay and stilted acting are impossible to overlook. Aside from the opening minutes, and a tense scene involving a helicopter rescue attempt, there is little else to recommend. Lenzi has crafted a horror film without scares that feels repetitive within the first ten minutes. Amongst Italian horror films this is certainly a lesser work. Nevertheless, it is mildly entertaining, moves quickly, and elicits quite a few laughs, though I doubt they were intended.

*Special mention must be made of the inconsistent gore effects. There are a few appropriately gruesome scenes, but by and large, this film contains some of the most laughably awful effects I have ever seen.

April 20, 2007

The Trailer Compendium: Vol. 2

In memory of Jean-Pierre Cassel (1932-2007), who passed away on April 19, at the age of 74. One of his lesser known films, a Belgian surrealist horror, also featuring Orson Welles.

Malpertuis (1971):

April 19, 2007

The Hired Hand (Fonda, 1971)

Fonda’s anti-western (also his directorial debut) is an absolute revelation. This is a work of singular vision deserving of mention alongside the very best westerns. Fonda displays a keen sense behind the camera, as he simultaneously deconstructs the genre and expands its vocabulary. Frank Mazzola’s editing deserves a great deal of credit as well. The use of montage is truly inspired. The beauty here lies in the insistence upon quiet moments and subtle nuances of character. An uncommonly graceful and positively hypnotizing film. IMDb listing.

April 18, 2007

Saura Retrospective At The Lincoln Center

Yesterday, the Film Society of the Lincoln Center in NYC kicked off their retrospective of Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura. Of all his films, I must mention Cría Cuervos, which still lingers strongly in my memory one year after seeing it. It manages to be both a powerful allegory for Franco Spain, and one of the best films about children I have ever seen. If you are in NYC, I urge you to attend at least one film at this retrospective. Saura's work deserves to be rediscovered. The retrospective runs from April 17 to May 3.

Commitment and Grace: The Films of Carlos Saura - Program Overview

April 17, 2007

Tideland (Gilliam, 2005)

The critical response to Terry Gilliam’s Tideland has been, to put it nicely, unfavorable. The film was almost universally disparaged upon its premiere at the 05’ Toronto Film Festival, and as a result, received only a brief theatrical run. After viewing Tideland, I feel terribly sorry for Gilliam, because he has crafted a very good, very fascinating film, and perhaps the most personal film of his career.

Stylistically, the film is pure Gilliam. It is beautiful to look at. Though the film is all Dutch angles, warped perspectives, and Steadicam shots, the hyper-stylization is suited to the material. It feels organic, not overindulgent. We are viewing a grotesque world through the eyes of a child whose only defense is to “skew” reality. The visual style is essential to both the film’s meaning and its effectiveness.

Unfortunately, it is the film’s visuals that have caused it to be grossly misunderstood. Gilliam’s Tideland takes place in a perverse universe. The subject matter is extremely dark. As a result, the images we are presented with are seemingly distasteful. People are so put off by what they are seeing that they forget, or more likely refuse to examine the film in a deeper way. This is understandable (this is an ugly film, and to find beauty in such ostensibly reprehensible images is a scary proposition), but unfortunate. Yet, if you take the time to examine the ugliness in the context of the film’s deeper narrative, you will discover a film more heartbreaking than offensive.

This is a film about the resilience of a child’s mind. It is about the ability, lost in adulthood, to transform the incredible pain and sorrow we experience in life, into something approaching beauty. It is about subverting the horrors of life in order to survive. This “substance” infuses the images with meaning beyond their repulsiveness. This is an extremely hopeful film.

Tideland is a film to be discovered. It needs time. Time to find an appreciative audience, and time to truly sink in. It is frequently unpleasant, and always challenging. It is a work that is obviously close to Gilliam’s heart, and I urge everyone to watch it with an open mind. I imagine that the critical opinion will be drastically revised in the future, but only time will tell.

*I would be remiss not to mention Jodelle Ferland. Eleven years old when Tideland was filmed, she is brilliant as Jeliza-Rose, imbuing the character with a sadness that never tumbles into sentimentality. Ferland is mature beyond her years, and anchors the film. It is the best child performance I have seen in years, far better than Abigail Breslin’s this year.

**The DVD of Tideland, released by THINKFilm, is a travesty. The film has been cropped from its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 to 1.85:1, against Gilliam's wishes. As a result, the compositions feel very crowded. For a film as visual as Tideland, this is truly sad. No corrected version has been announced as yet.

Takeshi Kitano's Kantoku: Banzai! - Trailer

The full trailer for Takeshi Kitano's next film, Kantoku: Banzai! is online, and words can't do justice to the absurdity on display. The film looks to be in the same vein as Takeshis', the director's previous film, in which he took a humorous look at his persona. The thing I love about Kitano is his willingness to experiment and with this new film it seems he is doing just that.

Trailer at Official Website.

April 16, 2007

Tekkon Kinkreet At The MOMA!

A couple of years ago, I caught a film called Mind Game at the New York Asian Film Festival. To this day, it remains unlike any anime I have ever seen. The film has a kinetic quality that is spellbinding, blending 2-d and 3-d animation, live action, and a brilliant use of color to create an amazing mishmash of insanity. There is nothing like it. Well, at least until next week. Beginning April 25, the New York Museum of Modern Art will be premiering Studio 4°C's follow up effort, Tekkon Kinkreet. If it's anything like Mind Game (and from the looks of it, it is), I can assure you it will be an amazing experience. Even if you don't typically watch anime, you should certainly consider it.

Trailer in Quicktime.
Official Website [in Japanese]
IMDb Listing

MOMA schedule:

Tekkon Kinkreet.
2006. Japan. Directed by Michael Arias. Screenplay by Anthony Weintraub, based on Taiyo Matsumoto's manga. Music by Plaid (Andy Turner and Ed Handley). Produced by Studio 4°C. North American premiere. 111 min.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 8:30 p.m.,
Theater 1, T1
Thursday, April 26, 2007, 8:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2
Friday, April 27, 2007, 8:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2
Saturday, April 28, 2007, 2:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2
Sunday, April 29, 2007, 2:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2
Monday, April 30, 2007, 8:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2

Virus (Fukasaku, 1980)

1983. The earth is a cold, dead place. A massive ghost town populated by slowly rotting corpses. Silence is the only sound. Nothing moves. The haunting opening scenes of Virus, Kinji Fukasaku’s post-apocalyptic epic, promise a powerful experience. Unfortunately, that promise is not completely fulfilled. The film ultimately collapses under the weight of its lofty ambition, and remains a film more intriguing than it is good.

Taking place all around the world, from the White House, to the plains of Kazakhstan, the film shows of the death of humanity by way of a human engineered super-virus. With a diverse cast that includes George Kennedy, Ken Ogata, and Sonny Chiba, and a runtime of 155 minutes, the film strives for grandiosity. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive Japanese production ever, with a budget estimated at $16,000,000.

Expectedly, this very grandiosity, so prevalent in American disaster films, is what keeps Virus from living up to its potential. The compellingly quiet opening scenes should have set the tone for the film, but instead, almost everything is overdone. A script that frequently lapses into caricature hampers the film. There are a few moments where instead of genuine pathos we are given sentimentality taken to absurd levels. The script also gives rise to some horribly melodramatic acting, with performances by Glenn Ford, Henry Silva, and Tsunehiko Watase, bordering on parody.

It is a testament to Fukasaku’s skills as a filmmaker, that the film remains interesting despite its weaknesses. I appreciated the seriousness with which the films events were handled. There is surprisingly little levity, which lends a sense of reality. Fukasaku also ably rises above the script and performances to infuse the film with a sense of despair that borders on fatalism at times. I get the sense that Fukasaku was going for something very dark but was prevented from fulfilling his true vision by the commercial necessities of such an expensive film. In my view, the mood of the film, the somber atmosphere, is its most interesting aspect. It sets Virus apart from other films of this ilk.

*Virus was cut drastically (by about 50 minutes) for U.S. distribution. However, the DVD released by BCI Eclipse (available as part of the Sonny Chiba Action Pack) contains the original Japanese version in a very nice anamorphic transfer.

Brief Impressions: Virus (Fukasaku, 1980)

Collapses under its own ambition. Sparsely populated by interesting scenes and ideas, but they are undermined by some horribly melodramatic acting and a script that descends into caricature too many times. I get the feeling that Fukasaku's intentions for the film were far darker. The film has a fatalistic undercurrent that makes it more compelling than most big budget disaster films. Full review here.

April 14, 2007

The Science Of Sleep (Gondry, 2006)

Whimsical, touching and truly imaginative. Gondry has crafted a film that feels genuinely sincere. Performances are good all around, but I have to make special mention of Alain Chabat's outlandishly funny supporting turn. Don't listen to anyone who calls this an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind clone. IMDb listing.

Requiem (Schmid, 2006)

An exhausting, powerful film, Hans-Christian Schmid’s Requiem is simultaneously elegant in its simplicity, and challenging in its complexity. It is a deeply humanist, multi-layered work. Though based on the true story of a German girl who died while undergoing an exorcism, it is certainly not a horror film in the traditional sense. One could easily perceive Requiem as a film about miscommunication, or confusion, or even more so, about how we respond to something we cannot ever hope to understand. However, at its most fundamental level, Requiem is about a young woman coming of age, and struggling to find herself.

That young woman’s name is Michaela Klingler (Sandra Hüller, in a tour de force, naturalistic performance that earned her the Silver Bear at the 2006 Berlinale), a plain looking girl, from a religious, middle class family. We learn almost immediately, that Michaela is suffering from an illness that doctors have failed to properly treat or diagnose. They call it epilepsy, but clearly, its more serious. Due to her illness, she is only now beginning college, at the age of 21, and though she may seem old, she has not yet experienced the world, has not yet had the chance to develop.

It is Michaela’s subsequent development, while in her first semester at college, which provides the substance for the film’s captivatingly economic narrative. We watch as she proceeds to discover herself. She makes friends and falls in love. But her period of personal fulfillment is brief. We witness her life slowly and painfully descend into confusion, then frustration, and finally madness. The pills she takes for her illness suddenly lose their effectiveness. She begins hearing and seeing terrible things, and in a beautifully composed scene, she finds she is unable to touch the rosary her mother gave her, no matter how hard she tries. She finds herself faced with an impossible dilemma. Is her illness of the body or the soul?

The film’s documentary aesthetic is quite unique and effective in communicating the story visually. The prominent use of hand held cameras and lingering shots creates a sense of realism, which permeates the film. The editing is similarly treated. The film moves along efficiently, but never feels rushed. Each shot is held for the perfect amount of time. The first time you watch the film the events seem spontaneous and real. Within any given scene, characters’ actions seem to begin and end naturally. Certain moments are wonderfully Bressonian.

Requiem succeeds above all due to the things that director Schmid refuses to do. He refuses to take sides in the religion vs. science debate. Instead, he cannily demonstrates that on its own, neither religion nor science can provide Michaela with peace. He refuses to present one dimensional characters. No one is without redeeming qualities. We understand why characters who would be perceived as "bad", in a lesser film, act the way they do. Finally, and most importantly, he refuses to exploit his subject. He grounds his story in the real world, hence the appropriateness of the documentary aesthetic. We never once see the demons Michaela sees, or hear the terrible things she hears. Instead, we are presented with something far more frightening and emotionally affecting, the existential dread of a young woman screaming at blank walls.

Without demons to distract us, we are allowed to focus on the true heart of the story. By virtue of the source material, Requiem will always be shrouded by the supernatural. However, do not forget that its story is a human one, it is the story of a young girls bleak, yet ultimately hopeful quest for, if not an explanation, peace.

April 13, 2007

Grindhouse Fever

Although it didn't demolish the box-office, Grindhouse seems to be having a positive effect on the home video market. Starting July 3, BCI Entertainment will release a series of double feature DVD's devoted to grindhouse flicks. For fans of this type of cinema, myself included, this is great news! The first two double features are: The Teacher & Pick-up, and Black Candles & Evil Eye. The official press release is up over at Bloody-Disgusting.com.

The Trailer Compendium: Vol. 1

Reading about film is great, but sometimes you've just gotta see something about a film to really pique your interest. After all, film is a visual medium. With that in mind, I thought I would introduce an ongoing column I call The Trailer Compendium. Here, with a modicum of words, I'll present movie trailers. Sometimes I'll focus on a particular theme or genre, and sometimes I won't. The important thing is that all the films are deserving of a first look. I've already said too much, so without further ado... Spaghetti Westerns! Enjoy!

Keoma (1976):

A Bullet For The General (1966):

April 12, 2007

Brief Impressions: Requiem (Schmid, 2006)

An exhausting, powerful film. At once relentlessly bleak and deeply humanist. Aesthetically, I detect the influence of Bresson and the Dardennes brothers. Full review here.

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

Author Kurt Vonnegut passed away last night in his Mannhattan home, at the age of 84. There is a very nice obit over at the New York Times. I have always admired Vonnegut from a distance. His novel Slaughterhouse-Five has been on my list of books to read, for quite a while. Over the years, I have read a lot about his work, but unfortunately I haven't yet gotten around to reading any of it. However, I've been fortunate enough to have seen George Roy Hill's film Slaughterhouse-Five, which is certainly one of the very best literary adaptations to grace the screen. It is lamentable that a film as good as this, adapted from a novel considered to be unadaptable, should be so forgotten. Of the film, Vonnegut himself said:
"I love George Roy Hill and Universal Pictures, who made a flawless translation of my novel Slaughterhouse-Five to the silver screen.
I drool and cackle every time I watch that film, because it is so harmonious with what I felt when I wrote the book." (Wikipedia)
The film won the Prix du Jury at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. In honor of Kurt Vonnegut, I suggest you seek out Slaughterhouse-Five and prepare yourself for a structurally complex, densely imaginative experience. The film is available on DVD, and in very nice 16:9 widescreen transfer. Now I've gotta go dust off my copy of the novel.

"The Hit" Is Coming

Image Entertainment announced yesterday their acquisition of Bernardo Bertolucci's Best Picture winning The Last Emperor, Nicolas Roeg's Insignificance, Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and Stephen Frears' The Hit. Image has a distribution deal with the great Criterion Collection, so we can probably expect that some of these titles, most likely The Last Emperor, will get the sparkling Criterion treatment. Of the four films however, I'd like to take this opportunity to single out the one I am looking forward to the most...

is Frears' overlooked 1984 gem of a crime film. The plot concerns two hitmen sent to Spain to retrieve and escort a gangster back to Paris, where he awaits a traitors death. I've only seen The Hit once before, a couple of years ago (on the atrocious, and now out-of-print, panned-and-scanned DVD from Artisan Entertainment), but I remember it being an incredible cocktail of violence, comedy and existentialism, and certain scenes have stuck with me. It's is like Waiting for Godot with guns. John Hurt, Terrence Stamp, and Tim Roth, as the three leads, all give great performances. And if that cast isn't reason enough to see the film, the Spanish countryside is captured beautifully by cinematographer Mike Molloy. Hopefully, Image will see fit to release the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, so that we can finally view this film as was intended. Keep this film in mind, and when the DVD comes out, give it a spin.

April 11, 2007

The Other Side Of The Wind, Finally

It's been 35 years, but it looks as if Orson Welles' final, unfinished film, The Other Side of the Wind is going to be completed, and by director Peter Bogdanovich. Welles completed the majority of principal photography on the film, but was never able to finish editing it due to problems with financing. Welles supposedly left editing notes for the film, which Bogdanovich will presumably follow as closely as possible. Here is an interesting article detailing Bogdanovich's thoughts on the film, which coincidentally, he acted in. Let's all hope that this actually comes to pass. The prospect of a new Welles film already has me salivating.

A Pair of Literary Adaptations from Herzog and Roeg

Wow, talk about exciting news. Two of my favorite filmmakers, Werner Herzog and the under appreciated Nicolas Roeg, have new features coming up.

Herzog's film is based on Carlo Ginzburg's book, The Cheese and the Worms. The project already has a website, where you can download a synopsis and the complete screenplay. No release date is set.

Roeg's film is based on the Fay Weldon novel Puffball. The plot summary on IMDb sounds intruiging:

"Powerful supernatural forces are unleashed when a young architect (Kelly Reilly) becomes pregnant after moving to an isolated and mysterious valley to build a house. And when the neighbouring farmers take against the unborn child, it's her very survival that is threatened."

Even more exciting is the fact that the project reteams Roeg with Donald Sutherland. The two previously worked together on Don't Look Now (1973), one of the best films of the 1970's, and a personal favorite. Puffball looks to have its premiere in May at the Cannes Film Festival.

Grindhouse: A Sort Of Review

Grindhouse came and went this weekend, with an opening take of just $11.6 million, to which I answer "what did you expect?" Anyone with half a brain could predict that a 191 minute, r-rated tribute to exploitation films wasn't going to open big on Easter weekend. A panicked Harvey Weinstein is already talking about splitting up the two films that make up Grindhouse, Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, in order to make more money. I caught the film on opening day, and I don't really feel like saying to much about it anymore, but I will say this:

Planet Terror

Grindhouse isn't perfect, but it is the most fun I have had in a movie theater in a long, long time. I don't consider it a film as much as I consider it an experience that is made up of two films and a couple of fake trailers. It is as unique a filmic experience as we are likely to get in this day and age. Trust me when I say that if you put yourself in a "retro" mindset (specifically 1970's) and go with the intention of having fun, you won't be disappointed. If you weren't born in the 1970's (like me), then just watch a couple of films from the decade, or youtube a handful of 70's film clips, music videos, tv shows, etc... just to put yourself in that frame of mind.

I urge you to go out and see it as soon as you can, because if and when Harvey Weinstein decides to split Grindhouse in two, he will essentially be destroying the experience that Rodriguez and Tarantino have created. On their own, I'm sure Planet Terror and Death Proof will play just fine, but that is beside the point. These films communicate with each other and enrich each other. They were meant to play together.

Kurt Russell in Death Proof

Oh, and here are my quick takes on the films and fake trailers that comprise Grindhouse:

Planet Terror
suffers a bit from what I call "From Dusk Till Dawn Syndrome" meaning the action gets a bit repetitive, but it is still an incredibly fun time.

Death Proof
is the better of the two films in just about every aspect. It requires a bit more patience, some of the dialogue is too self-conscious and unrealistic, and it isn't nearly as action packed as the previous film. On the other hand, Death Proof isn't the homage/spoof of grindhouse flicks that Planet Terror is, but rather, an attempt to expand the cinematic language of exploitation cinema. Oh, and what little action there is, is incredible!

As for the fake trailers, here is how I would rank them:
1) Eli Roth's Thanksgiving - I want to see this as a full length film!
2) Edgar Wright's Don't
) Rob Zombie's Werewolf Women of the SS
Rodriguez's Machete

Name This Film - #1

year of release - 1972.

To kick off my weekly "Name This Film" post, here's a little seen film that I just recently watched. In keeping with one of my cinematic predilections, the film is a visual feast, if nothing else. A little hint: Arguably the most influential psychedelic rock band provided the score.

Some Essential Cinema

Here are 10 films, plucked from my vast list of favorites, just to give you a sense of my particular cinematic taste. I could have easily picked 10 different films, but these films just happened to pop into my head. I have always favored cinema that strives to communicate with images, and these films are all profound visual experiences. If you haven't seen any of these before, I urge you to check them out:

Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
RAN (A. Kurosawa, 1985)
Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, 1971)
The Passenger (Antonioni, 1975)
Spirit of the Beehive (Erice, 1973)
Fellini Satyricon (Fellini, 1969)
Days Of Heaven (Malick, 1978)
Hiroshima Mon Amour (Resnais, 1959)
Videodrome (Cronenberg, 1983)
Performance (Cammel/Roeg, 1970)

April 10, 2007

What is Cinema?

This might seem to be a rather imposing question with which to start off my blog, but one that I feel is entirely appropriate and deceptively simple. Maybe I should have re-titled the post "What is Cinema to me?" because that is really the question I am answering. But anyways... To me, Cinema is my life. I have been immersed in it for as long as I can remember. My exposure to the world of film started, probably like a great many children in America, with Disney films. However, by the time I was in my early teens, I was begging my father to let me see films like A Clockwork Orange and Apocalypse Now.

One of my fondest memories from my early teen years is visiting the local video store every weekend, scouring the aisles for interesting films. It is there that I first discovered the pleasures of genre filmmaking. One weekend I would do westerns, the next, sci-fi, and the next, WWII films. Before I really got interested in film, I would go to movies purely for entertainment and escapism. I enjoyed the spectacle of it. As I grew older, I began to appreciate the artistry and technical aspects of film. I began to think about a film on a level deeper than plot as I watched. I would think to myself, "How did the filmmakers achieve that shot?" or attempt to determine the film's subtext, if there was one. Suddenly, before I knew it, I was collecting film. I would go out to the nearest Suncoast, or Price Club, and buy up VHS’s of films that I had already seen and loved, or had read about and was interested in. I was lucky to have supportive parents, who would pretty much buy me the films I wanted. After a couple of years, I had a pretty respectable VHS collection for a middle schooler.

Then, the DVD revolution hit, and you know the rest. Suddenly, I had access to more films than I knew what to do with. Today, my DVD collection hovers around 2,500 and counting. (I really need to pick a weekend to catalogue my entire collection on DVD Aficionado) All of this is my very roundabout way of saying that I live for film.

To return to the initial question… Cinema is a medium of such diversity and scope, which is one of the reasons I find it so sad to see so many people out there who confine cinema to the prisons of their own narrow taste. Now, I’m not criticizing a person's right to love or hate whatever they want, but I am talking about people closing themselves off to cinematic avenues they have never really experienced.

For what is cinema if not adventure. From the days of the Lumiere Brothers, cinema was perceived as a grand adventure, a mysterious medium that could take people to places that they had never been before. With "Direct Cinema" I hope to achieve something similar. I hope to examine Cinema on as grand a scale as I possibly can. From the mainstream to the fringes, from art house to grindhouse, from blockbusters to sleepers, and even bombs, I hope to open people’s eyes to films that they have never seen. I hope to convince people to see those films that they had previously closed themselves off to for whatever reason. Cinema has so much to offer, and I hope that in offering up my own cinematic adventures, I can unlock celluloid realms that for many never existed before.