Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Guy Maddin

Archangel (1990)
Rating: 8.8

Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997)
Rating: 2.5

[I]Twilight of the Ice Nymphs[/I] most resembles a made for television sci-fi melodrama you would likely see on late night "Skinemax." Maddin satirizes the most unappealing aesthetic style/genre in existence; one that in fact is so amusingly lame that no parody of it could ever be half as funny or entertaining. Aesthetics and parody aside this is Maddin's least interesting film narratively as well, but I suppose it would fit in nicely with the schlock The Sci-fi Channel is showing these days.

Careful (1992)
Rating: 8.4

Fancy, Fancy Being Rich (2002)
Rating: 8.6

Sombra dolorosa (2004)
Rating: 8.1

A Trip to the Orphanage (2004)
Rating: 7.1

My Dad Is 100 Years Old (2005)
Rating: 6.5

Nude Caboose (2006)
Rating: 5.8

Sparklehorse - "It's a Wonderful Life" music video

Rating: 7.0

ZooKeeper Workbook
Rating: 7.7

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mister Lonely (Harmony Korine, 2007)

Mister Lonely (Harmony Korine, 2007)
Rating: 5.9

Harmony Korine's latest film about a Michael Jackson impersonator joinging a commune of other celebrity impersonators and trying to discover himself, is somewhat of a departure from his past work, showing both progression and missteps. It is also his most autobiographical picture. Returning from an 8 year hiatus, Korine litters his new film with fragments of his midlife crisis. After a very strong opening and the always exciting screen presence of Werner Herzog, the film begins to stagger with it's insistence on indiscreet voice over and dialogue along with a few audaciously cheesy scenes including a nun falling from an airplane, and surviving the fall after praying to the lord. Despite these mistakes which Harmony claims to love, the film is filled with many memorable and even gorgeous images. The soundtrack consisting of everything from original score by Spaceman and the Sun City Girls, to A Silver Mt. Zion, Spank Rock, and some old blues and folk music is one of the strongest assets. Michael's character played by Diego Luna, laments at not being able to relate to the rest of the world, seeing things differently, and wanting to be someone other than himself. He and his fellow impersonators including Marylin Monroe, played by Samantha Morton, live in a sort of dream-like reality. To parallel this rebellion, the commune raises witless sheep without the freedom of choice or nonconformity. The main goal of the commune is to build a theater and draw audiences to "share the beauty of the world" with others, although only a few lonely souls show up to watch them perform. I think this is another reflection of Korine's struggle to make his mark with his own art. Originally I felt that the more conventional narrative structure of the film was what hindered it the most, however after thinking about it a little more I think Korine is capable of successfully making a conventional narrative. Unfortunately Mister Lonely is much more overt about letting you known what it wants you to feel, as opposed to his first two features which allow for much greater personal reflection through mostly just imagery.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ladri di biciclette (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) aka Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
Rating: 10

(2nd viewing)

I'm a huge fan of Italian realism and of this pivotal film in the history of cinema. The story is very simple as it focuses on the plight of one man in need of his bicycle to work and provide for his family. Emotionally we connect and sympathize with the protagonist and the adorable relationship he has with his son Bruno, but just as importantly if not more so the film covers the broader social problems of the impoverished lower class. When Antonio and his wife sell their sheets to the pawn shop in order to buy back his bike which he had previously pawned off, we see a reveal of a man climbing a seemingly endless storage shelf full of identical bundles of sheets signifying that the Ricci family is merely an individual representation of many similar stories. Later in the film Antonio follows a poor old man into a church that is providing free meals and grooming to the poor. Initially we feel disdain towards the man because he is associated with the thief, but this scene arouses pathos. When the thief is finally confronted, we see the slums he is living in as the community comes to his aid for protection after Antonio accuses him of stealing. After Antonio becomes tries to steal a bike himself, we can begin to sympathize with the original thief or at least understand his desperation. The touching scene with the boy and his father eating an expensive lunch next to a rich family is also one of the finer moments of the film. I also admire De Sica's choice to end the film with such uncertainty.

Work of Stan Brakhage

Desistfilm (1954)
Rating: 8.7

Brakhage combines his love of French surrealism with his affinity for Italian neorealism as he captures the paranoia and claustrophobia of the beatnik generation. Accompanied by an avant-garde musical composition, Brakhage approaches his subjects with a voyeuristic and shakily wandering camera as they drink and smoke, among various other eccentric activities such as using a mandolin as a machine gun, building a book tower, and becoming tangled in a spool of thread. At times the film resembled a surreal recreation of Reefer Madness.

Wedlock House: An Intercourse (1959)
Rating: 8.2

This is an entirely silent piece that explores a newlywed couple and their interactions seen through alternating flashes of darkness and light and shots resembling polarized pornography. Brakhage plays with the absence and presence of darkness and light as our eyes are sporadically drawn to the glimpses brightness. Real objects become abstracted by the sparse and selective lighting as we try to make sense of it all.

Dog Star Man (1961-1964)
Rating: 9.6

The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes (1971)
Rating: 7.4

Named after the literal definition of "autopsy," this film cuts together actual autopsy footage shot by Brakhage himself. For thirty minutes we are confronted with death and it's physical grotesqueness face to face and in silence. The lifeless bodies of anonymous men and women are ripped open, torn apart, and moved about like lumpy masses. Gradually the film becomes more intensely graphic to the point where it became very hard for me to continue watching, but left me with many questions. Are men meant to pry into the secrets of the internal body? should the body be considered a sacred object or is it just a temporary vessel? Who were these people, and is the autopsy and our viewing of this a form of trespassing?

Cat's Cradle (1959)
Rating: 7.2

Window Water Baby Moving (1962)
Rating: 8.7

Mothlight (1963)
Rating: 9.7

Eye Myth (1967)
Rating: 7.8

video here

The Wold Shadow (1972)
Rating: 6.4

The Garden of Earthly Delights (1981)
Rating: 8.3

The Stars Are Beautiful (1974)
Rating: 4.4

Rating: 7.5

I...Dreaming (1988)
Rating: 7.5

The Dante Quartet (1987)
Rating: 9.3

Night Music (1986)
Rating: 7.1

Rage Net (1988)
Rating: 8.1

Glaze of Cathexis (1990)
Rating: 7.4

Delicacies of Molton Horror Synapse (1991)
Rating: 8.7

Untitled (For Marilyn) (1992)
Rating: 8.6

Black Ice (1994)
Rating: 8.9

Study in Color and Black and White (1993)
Rating: 5.2

Rating: 9.2

Crack Glass Eulogy (1992)
Rating: 6.6

The Dark Tower
Rating: 8.3

Commingled Containers (1997)
Rating: 6.1

video here

Lovesong (2001)
Rating: 7.5

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Rating: 8.6

(2nd viewing)

The technical merits far outweigh the impact of the narrative for me. I've heard some critics complain that Welles' trick shots and stylization hinder the emotional weight and I tend to agree, however it is the former which has given Citizen Kane the reputation it has today.

Work of Kenneth Anger

Fireworks (1947)
Rating: 9.5

(2nd viewing)

A fantastically surreal depiction of a dream Anger had where he is violently beaten and raped by a group of sailors. Fireworks explores the plight of the outsider using stylized ballet-like movements and homoerotic imagery. What's most impressive is that Anger made his debut avante-garde psychoanalysis of his own fears and sexuality at the age of 17.

Puce Moment (1949)
Rating: 8.3

A Colorfully photographed look at a diva from the silent film era going about her afternoon routine. The look of the film and the music by Jonathan Halper make it seem very 60s, but the folk rock soundtrack was added decades later. It is interesting to see Anger's perception and fascination with this glamorous lifestyle of the era presented in color as it is not often associated with the 20s. I myself always find the 20s to seem like a distant fantasy dimension, and I think Puce Moment makes this world seem more real and tangible.

Rabbit's Moon (1950)
Rating: 7.9

Anger's knowledge and fascination with different characters and folklore from around the world surfaces here as he combines a Japanese fairytale and Commedia dell'Art. Pierrot, a French mime stock character is taunted by Harlequin, the servant character from the Italian Commedia dell'Arte when he projects an image of Columbine, also a French stock character. On top of this, the film is juxtaposed with a soundtrack consisting of various doo-wop hits. Although many people dislike the re-edited 7 minute version with a more realistic looking moon, and a different soundtrack with A Raincoat's "It Came in the Night," I think I like it just as much as the original.

Eaux d'artifice (1953)
Rating: 10

This is one of the most gorgeous films I've seen. Anger's film begins with his always opulent title cards and then we are taken to the beautiful water gardens of Tivoli, Italy. Anger shot on black and white film using only sunlight and red filters and then printed the film on color stock to create a blue hue. Shooting required elaborate planning to get the lighting just right to give the flowing water a 3-D quality. We see a woman periodically between the montage of stone faced fountains jets, and streams of dancing water droplets, but she is always at a distance, dwarfed by the landscape. When we first see her she is slowly descending a staircase, but her pace is hastened and by the end she is running until her plumes and period costuming transforms into a fountain. The classical score is equally beautiful serving as the perfect companion.

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)
Rating: 8.7

What begins as a fairly restrained theatrical and perhaps opera influenced piece set to "A Slavonic Mass" by Leos Janácek ends in a visually stimulating sensory experience that looks like some sort of a surreal hallucinogenic acid trip employing frantic editing and double exposures. The characters in the pleasure dome, partaking in decadent rituals and debauchery are apparently historical figures, biblical characters, and mythical creatures symbolizing everything from satanism and paganism to Catholicism.

Scorpio Rising (1964)
Rating: 9.4

Anger refers to custom bike building as American mechanical folk art. He captures the vanity, sexuality, passion, leisure, stress (use of meth, carrying firearms) of a group of bikers in Brooklyn, New York. The footage is semi documentary as Anger simply captures the daily routines of these men while splicing in other imagery symbolizing sex and death among other themes. After accidentally receiving a religious film that was meant to be delivered to a Sunday school, Anger decided to incorporate this footage as a parallel and a means of satire. The soundtrack includes some great songs from the 60s including "Wind Me Up" which has duel meanings. The motorcycle race, Anger filmed, fittingly resulted in the death of a man after crashing right in front of the camera.

Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965)
Rating: 3.9

A tacky, pastelle, and erotic fetishization of custom cars and the men that love them.

Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)
Rating: 6.5

This feels like an extension of Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, only less interesting and not offering much different other than the incorporation of Vietnam war sympathies. Like Pleasure Dome, invokes an LSD experience with many superimpositions and satanic rituals. The film features a soundtrack by Mick Jagger which is actually more dull and repetitive than interesting. The film features footage of a Rolling Stones concert, as well as Bobby Beausoleil who was associated with the Manson Family murders, and a special appearance by Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satanism.

Lucifer Rising (1972)
Rating: 8.5

Anger mentions how mysteries are what makes life exciting and worth living, and I think this shows in some of his work, especially in Lucifer Rising which at times is very cryptic and personal.

Don't Smoke That Cigarette (2000)
Rating: 6.1

The Man We Want to Hang (2002)
Rating: 5.0

This is just a straightforward look at the artwork of Alister Crowley, but it is also an insight into a major influence of Anger's past works.

Mouse Heaven (2004)
Rating: 3.2

Pretty cheesy collage of Mickey Mouse collectible toys. Love the music though.

Anger Sees Red (2004)
Rating: 1.0

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie, 2007)

Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie, 2007)
Rating: 5.8

A somewhat unique premise, but pretty predictable formula. The performances are the films greatest asset, and provide much of the laughs. Ryan Gosling and Paul Schneider are especially great. Schneider's reaction shots throughout are probably my favorite part.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kárhozat (Béla Tarr, 1988) aka Damnation

Damnation (Béla Tarr, 1988)
Rating: 8.3

This film is beautifully photographed, and a has a incredible soundscape that combined with the desolate environment, creates an truly dismal atmosphere. Tonally this film is a triumph. The problem I had with it is often too wordy and philosophical for it's own good. Tarr himself admits that the premise is intentionally simple and banal, but the film still delivers some memorable imagery such as Karrer crawling on all fours and barking at a stray dog in the rain, the emotionless sex scene where the camera wanders away from the two lovers around the room until we see their reflections in the mirror only to continue panning away from them, and the repetition of the creaking mining carts passing by.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Akahige (Akira Kurosawa, 1965) aka Red Beard

Red Beard (Akira Kurosawa, 1965)
Rating: 9.7

Gummo (Harmony Korine, 1997)

Gummo (Harmony Korine, 1997)
Rating: 9.5

Watched this again for the first time in probably over 7 years, and it was even better than I remembered it being. The cinema of Harmony Korine is best described as fragmented so here are some of my favorite scenes:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My Blueberry Nights (Kar Wai Wong, 2007)

My Blueberry Nights (Kar Wai Wong, 2007)
Rating: 6.1

Auteur Kar Wai Wong explores the same themes of loneliness, nostalgia, and interactions with strangers in his first English language which is very much a "Kar Wai Wong film"; incidentally, just not a very good one. Familiar stylistic choices such as the voice over narration, odd framings, similar lighting, and slow motion are prevalent, but probably the biggest hindrance besides the all too apparent absence of former cinematographer Christopher Doyle. My Blueberry Nights basically comes across as an Americanized mashup of his former films. Mostly the style seems dated to me, particularly with the voice over and excessive use of ramping shots. Norah Jone's debut performance as an actress doesn't offer any help either.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Topio stin omichli (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1988) aka Landscape in the Mist

Landscape in the Mist (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1988)
Rating: 8.7

Some great shots in this, such as the helicopter carrying a giant stone hand, and the final shot of the film, but the overly poetic dialogue got tiresome at times.

Seppuku (Masaki Kobayashi, 1962) aka Harakiri

Harakiri (Masaki Kobayashi, 1962)
Rating: 9.5

I thought this film shared a lot of characteristics with Rashômon and discovered afterwards that it was also written by Shinobu Hashimoto who did many of Kurosawa's films. Kobayashi and Hashimoto once again challenge organized authority and end the film on a bleak note. I was told this almost anti samurai picture is Kobayashi's best film, however I still prefer The Human Condition Trilogy and Samurai Rebellion, as I found this one to be a lot more telegraphed as I felt I knew what was going to happen all along. Still it is a fantastic film.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Leatherheads (George Clooney, 2008)

Leatherheads (George Clooney, 2008)
Rating: 2.3

Dull, unfunny, and not half as fun and witty as the old Hollywood films Clooney attempts to homage.