Watched several films this weekend, mostly on DVD/VHS, short comments as follows:
(Ken Loach, 1996) --Not my favorite Loach film, but still pretty good, the film exposes the horrors of CIA-supported Contra atrocites (and we speak of being anti-terrorist) and extols the virtues of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua through the personage of a European outsider, a Glasgow busdriver named George, who is played by Robert Carlyle. George meets Carla, a dancer who came to England to raise funds for the Sandinista cause, but stayed behind due to the traumas of her past. George falls in love with her, and because of her nightmares and suicide attempts, resolves that they must return to Nicaragua together to find her ex-boyfriend, Antonio, who has gone missing. Extremely polemical at times, especially the character played by Scott Glen, Carla's Song
works best in it's Glasgow scenes, even if I could barely understand what the Scotish characters were saying when they spoke to each other, and in the scenes in Nicaragua where George interacts with the people he meets along his journey, captured in documentary-like scenes that have the air of improvisation.
The House on the River
(Fritz Lang, 1950) --A B-movie of the best kind, well directed, atmospheric, thriller about an effette sociopath who exploits his own murder for profit, while laying the guilt on his upstanding brother, who helped cover up his crime. Reflects Lang's continual fascination with the procedures of the American legal system (in a lengthy inquest sequence), as well as continuing his masterful use of shadows and sound.
(Peter Jackson, 1992) --Oh baby, I've wanted to see this film since I saw Re-Animator
and Stuart Gordon said that his record for the most stage blood used in a film was bested by this one. While, I thought Re-Animator
was a superior film, Dead Alive
is gross, disgusting, cartoonish, vulgar, a little bit scary, and often really, really funny ("I kick ass for the LORD!!!") I liked how Jackson lampooned middle-class life, with the hero vainly trying to keep some sense of bourgeoise, familial normalcy (the scene in the park with the demonic baby was hilarious). And Jackson out-Hitchcocked Hitchcock with a domineering monsterous mother, who actually becomes a monster.
Fudoh: The New Generation
(Takashi Miike, 1996)--I've always wanted to see a film by the current, and prolific bad-boy of Japanese genre cinema, Takashi Miike. Fudoh
is based on a manga comic about Riki, an 18 year old son of a yakuza crime boss, who is out to avenge his brother's death, who was killed, to make amends with a rival yakuza clan, by his own father and the leadership of the Nioh clan. Riki is a criminal overlord, running his empire from the confines of his high school. One by one, Riki has his minions eliminate the leaders of the Nioh clan, with a combination of second-grade assassins and a duo of Japanese schoolgirl killers, one of whom has some amazing muscular control with a blow-gun, someone has been working on those Kegel muscles (oh, did I mention that she is also a fully, functioning hermaphrodite who has sex with the substitute female English teacher, who not only manages to wear the tightest possible leather clothing, but is actually a yakuza assassin and the former lover of Riki's brother). He also runs the Nakamasu Entertainment district, with it's massage palors and strip clubs. Riki, also manages to recruit a 20 year old delinquent, who must be the Japanese equivalent of Andre the Giant. When Riki begins to take on the rival Yasha clan and their leader Nohma, it leads to more strife, and Riki's father must kill his own son, again. He does this by recruiting his other son, Gondo, a Korean special forces operative whose really particular about his Kimchee. And then the battle begins. Bloody, violent and stylishly directed, I look forward to seeing more of Miike's work.
(Roger Mitchell, 2002)--A hell of a lot better than that horrible trailer. Well directed, with a good screenplay and some great acting; one of the few films of recent vintage that I know that deal with ethical responsibility and moral culpability. Still, I couldn't decide of the ending was a bit of irony, using the tools of capitalism against itself, or an ideological cop-out (or both), as the corrupt edifice is left intact and Affleck is allowed to maintain his bourgeoise life-style. Still, a pretty good thriller.
(Coralie Trinh Thi and Virginie Despentes, 2001)--A hardcore, pornographic French Thelma & Louise
that embraces nilhilism, feminist rage, and female sexual desire. The two girls, a porn star from the beur
and a white, middle-class, porn-loving prostitute, steal, kill, and fuck their way across France with no real goal in sight, all the while high on drugs or booze. Grungy, raw, brutal, dingy, angry, disgusting, vulgar, unerotic, the list goes on, but this is not to damn the film, it's actually compelling to watch, if never easy (and the two directors will never win any awards from their technique). At times, the film even get's self-reflexive, the two vamp for the camera as they dance in their underwear, or as Nadine strikes poses from Besson's La Femme Nikita
in the bathroom, or when the two comment on how their quips during their murders suck.
(Brian De Palma, 1981)-- My favorite film of the weekend, De Palma's reworking of Blow-Up
captures his themes of how media technology and capture and reconstruct reality. My favorite scene among many, is when Travolta is on the bridge with his Nagra and microphone recording sounds, and how the camera expands it's scope as the the film cuts rythmically to every repeated sound; the sequence is virtually replayed again, from a different perspective later in the film, as Travolta's character reconstructs the events of that night from his audio-tapes. Also, I liked the hommage/competition with Carpenter's Halloween
for the movie within the movie.