Weekly roundup, slightly late since I was outta town. Positive aspect: Bad movies seen yesterday included.
(Alex de Iglesia, Spain 2000)
The best film I´ve seen by Iglesias so far, if only because this time he manages to supress his sadistic streak. Carmen Maura (who has a ball with the trashy material) for reasons that are clearly of a scripted nature winds up in a house where she discovers millions of pesetas in a dead man´s apartment - and must try to get out with it while all neighbours keep an eye on her because they know she´s found the loot. After all the dead guy hadn´t left the house for a decade or so to keep the neighbours from getting his treasure. The rest is an affable mixture of Hitchcock and dumb humour ("I can feel the force", cries the young guy in the Darth Vader mask, ejaculating while watching Maura undress) of very little consequence (the allegorical posturing about immigration/integration is strained), but of considerable entertainment value.
Noli me tangere
(Jacues Rivette, France 1971/90)
The restored version of Rivette´s epic. Applying normal methods of analysis feel rather outmoded, since at 13 hours this isn´t s much a movie but an experience, built around four narrative strands interseting precisely once (it´s amazing how you can single out the moment as the film´s centre even though it´s not possible for you to grasp that aspect at this point): Two theatre groups improvising on Aischylos, a thief (Juliette Berto) and a deaf-mute (Jean-Pierre Leaud) trying to figure out a conspiracy based on Balzac. Extensive use of real time with results that are appropriately enlightening and grating at the same time: after half an hour you´re subjected to 30 mins of a nervewracking dance-theatre-self-expression improvisation by Michael Lonsdale´s group which is followed by a dissection/reount/analysis courtesy of the participiants - at which point you realize why you had to endure the gullible antics. Most of the film works the same way, always being slightly ahead of the viewer: You´re kept busy interconnecting, establishing themes that have already evaporated/been exposed at illusory by the time you´ve singled them out. In a way this warrants Rosenbaum´s comparison with Pynchon (and especially "Gravity´s Rainbow", an equally cerebral, oft-hilarious, oft-exhausting work whose point is that you can expand on its ideas - and even more so, their decay), although Rivette in an interview following the film shruggingly admits that the corresponding conspiracy thread was invented for the sole purpose that the actors "had a mutual topic to talk about". (I forgot to mention: the whole affair is improvised). Leaud probably giving his most magnificent turn here because he´s free to riff on his unpredictable choices: after harassing cafe vistors for money with his harmonica (if they don´t pay up to him he terrorizes them with shrill sounds, producing some side-splitting moments), 4 1/2 hours into the movie he picks up the phone, calls his mom - and talks. Everything seems possible, then pointless, which are two sides of the same coin. Should be seen by everybody once in the lifetime since there´s no other concept that comes as close to being an real "arthouse movie" (i.e. brimming with ideas that propose a new kind of "entertainment").
Keetje Tippel (Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands 1973)
It´s amazing how seamless Verhoeven´s work is: This one, a 19th-century-"epic", despite suffering from budgetary constraints, strangely enough suceeds thanks to his shamelss body politics. Even though its story (the Nobel Prize-nominated memoir of a Dutch girl coming from the country, living through poverty, prostitution and proud defiance against the background of socialist upheavals who are given giggly short shrift by the lack of financing) is compromised, Verhoeven´s aroused treatment of her humiliations and hopes projects a sense of uncontrollable, sexually liberating resistance. Ultimately, Keetje Tippel
seems more about the 1960s than the 1880s, and Verhoeven with his mixture of gleeful amorality and disgusted protest seems just the man for it, undercutting every point he makes with appropriate complexity. The style is in energetic romp mode, though not quite as overwhelming as in the preceding Turkish Fruits
, with clever slam-bang editing and reliable DP work by Jan de Bont (who hated the job because his wife, the appealing Monique van der Veen, has a reasonably Vehoevenish amount of sex scenes). Rutger Hauer cast against type with interesting results. Close to great, mainly because it doesn´t even try to get there.
Cézanne: Conversation With Joaquim Gasquet
(Jean-Marie Straub/Danielle Huillet, France 1990)
More essentialism from cinema´s most user-unfriendly couple: this one based on fictive dialogues critic Gasquet imagined to have with Cezanne. (The German version adding flavoursome hoot factor with the two makers providing funny French accent in their line readings.) The result is a concise 60-min essay on the nature of images, though you might want to get used to the ascetic approach: you won´t get much more than a couple of photos, Cézanne paintings and shots of the artiste
quarter where the painter lived - which these days begins to desintegrate in the postindustrialist rubble. A surpsingly modern (cf. Kiarostami´s Taste of Cherry
, Hou´s Goodby South, Goodbye
) conception in a film full of classical ideas. I only wish someone could explain to me why they used a whole ten-minute excerpt from Renoir´s Madame Bovary
, given the usual mode here is utmost restraint. It´s a georgeous excerpt, anyway.
Dr. Goldfoot and His Bikini Machine
(Norman Taurog, 1965)
If they hadn´t chosen the sloppy, but reliable Taurog, this camp cult item (one word: fembots) might have amounted to inspired madness instead of amusing silliness. (The opening shot, a completely pointless and equally breathtaking POV-Shot from a car spinning out of control and crashing, gives an idea). Still plenty of fun with Vincent Price hamming it up as a mad scientist, lotsa gratutious female flesh, weird 60s incoherence and color schemes (great claymation credits plus Supremes song) and dialogue for the ages ("Hello." "Oh, hello. I am a mad scientist´s female assistant."), but - alas - also much Flubber
-like juvenile humour courtesy of Beach Party favourites Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman. They even managed to use the showdown of The Pit and the Pendulum
for this one, just adding new shots of Price. Watch it sober at your own risk.
(John MacKay, GUK/Germany 2001)
Obviously, the title Sex and the Country
had already been copyrighted. Nevertheless, understanding that this has all the depth, wit and artistry of a bad television episode while pandering hypocritically to an "educated" audience, I left after 22 minutes of enduring incredibly bad acting by Andie MacDowell trusting that this was the end of the first of many similarly unwatchable episodes and they had just forgotten the closing credits.
(Dominique Deruddere, Belgium/Netherlands/France 2000)
Equally bad, if possibly an irrelevant tad more watchable, this Belgish arthouse crowd-pleaser for a crowd that I hope has yet to be inveneted mixes sentimentality and cynicism in an inept Eurotrash-rehash of The King of Comedy
, basing its appeal on all the things it supposedly critizes. Ugly.
(Peter Jaysen, USA 2001)
William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in a 70-min-discussion about their lives, Star Trek
, yadda, yadda, yadda. Tough, but rich: Since it´s shot with all the grace of a robotic TV special (imagine my disappointment when I found out on imdb that this actually had a director, not being the anonymous product of the copyright-owner-entity www.wiliamshatner.com), you´re left to marvel at two guys seem to inhabit a world somewhere near infinity and beyond. While you question "Is this real? Is this fiction?" and - the more appropriate titlte - mind melt sets in, you may as well notice that this one makes Kiarostami´s recent Ten
Record of the third week of July: "New Bottles Old Medicine...plus" by Medicinehead (reissued).