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From what I've watched there a lot of story about White Australians to encourage viewers to accept some bitter moments of the real plights of confined refugees. There's a lot about an Australian woman who feels snubbed by her sister and has been scorned by her guru. Meanwhile, there are bits about refugees whose appeal for asylum have not been considered for four years and a brutal beating by guards. OK, Cate Blanchett singing "Let's Get Away From It All" with an Australian accent is a number, but we don't need to have fun. Think instead of the first year of "The Wire."

My spoiler, I'm quitting after the first two episodes. Very sorry if I'm missing better dead-on representation of migrant incarceration.

Du mich auch

Worth rescuing
Even for a Cinematheque showing, there was a scant audience, but this is a quite pleasant hipster comedy. It needs more notice. Declarations of love are what what the two living-together musicians are trying to elicit from one another, an ongoing struggle especially when it starts with the guy's misogyny, walking out, and an attempt at infidelity. They still have to work together, and the story spins them to complicity. The settings in Berlin are seedy, but less sordid than in Taxi zum Klo of 1980, the action less bang and crash than in Helsinki-Naples of 1987, anti-bourgeois, but nicer than Fassbinder. Inventive, sometimes elaborate scenes, elegant camera work by C. F. Koschnick, in other words, a quite skilled job. And who would not wish these young people good luck?

Gentlemen Broncos

Experimental Films
I can't rate this movie. I have a way of seeing how it works, and I'm not good at it. What I see is that it is experimental cinema. And then I place it along films like those of the Kuchar brothers, George and Mike, alongside "Hold Me While I'm Naked," or alongside John Waters's movies with Divine. The rather wonderful thing about "Gentlemen Broncos" is that it has no irony, no camp, no outrage. If there is an adolescent boy, he goes to bed in his pajamas. His mother designs clothess md tries out outfits, but for Utah housewives. For "Scorpio Rising" there's a flying deer. The dour youth is serious, and if you were a teacher, you'd want him in class. Would you dare suggesting "adult":movies?

Eleanor's Catch

"Eleanor's Catch" has 16 minutes to sketch a serious story of working people and those who may not have respectable work. Eleanor is played by Cleo Madison, with a solid visage and bearing that sets her apart from ethereal maidens and vamps played by better known stars. Edward Hearn, playing her boyfriend is similarly solid. Eleanor is tempted to show a bit of flash and wear good clothes. Her alternate move to civic responsibility does lack narration. There is also not time to say much about her sister's move to prostitution. Flash, as character and as way of life, in any case is defeated. Zola in miniature.

Bittere Ernte

Grievous Harvest
Some reflections on how badly this film has been served, stemming from my surprise I had never heard of it, when I was looking for the work of Agnieszka Holland. The DVD from CCC Filmkunst, 1984, bears only the English title "Angry Harvest," and no indication that it should be originally "Bittere Ernte," a Harvest not "angry," but "grievous," "spoilt" too like the apples dumped out so that sack can be used for a darker purpose. Or I suppose one could think of Julia Ward Howe's Divinity "trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored," but it never has come to that. The perpetrators of great wrong sit comfortable. We know that the Holocaust cannot be represented in art forms. With the perpetrators too we would destroy the screen. That's why it's odd that Roger Ebert, listed among Critics of this film and usually so generous in his sympathy, should have condemned the movie for not showing enough devastation. The film does something else with Arendt's insight into "the banality of evil." After Sunday mass occupying German soldiers chat with local girls. Property can be acquired in a way that is "perfectly legal" once one knows it was expropriated from a Jew "who probably won't be back to claim it." And thus to Leo Wolny, who is such a nice man and will bring you potatoes if you are out and soothe your fever. This is something different from what the box calls "a compelling story of love and desire." It is about a man and his peers who are "bitterböse," "fiercely evil."

L'uomo, l'orgoglio, la vendetta

A better version
The reviews here can be modified by the Blu-ray version of 26 May 2015 by Blue Underground in the USA with the title "Man, Pride and Vengeance" that matches the original "L'uomo, l'orgoglio, la vendetta." The movie is clearly and credited as based on Prosper Mérimée's "Carmen." The second half of the movie is realized in the style of Italian Westerns, but to attach it to a Django would be to raise the actor, Franco Nero, above the plot.

The box for the DVD does almost claim too much in saying that the film was "lensed" by Vittorio Storaro. He was the camera operator, and Camillo Bazzoni, brother of the director, was the cinematographer. There are lively travelling shots of running and horseback, lucid fight scenes, and desolate landscapes.

A problem it seems to me is dewy teen-aged Tina Aumont as Carmen. The character is a woman who could have a Klaus Kinski type as a husband. Who could have played her? Sophia Loren? But her agent wouldn't have let her. Aumont's mother, Maria Montez? Vanessa Redgrave.

Opening Night

Over the Top
Over the top works of art can't be objectively judged. You ever crave it or you are sated. But if you want it, there's "Opening Night." If you start with a character holding a cigarette in her mouth, trying to take a drink from a flask, and hoisting shopping bags, and the actress has a mouth like Lauren Bacall, you are already at the edge of the roof. The movie that invited the characters to "fasten their seat belts" was already a calmer affair. Another comparison is "The Clouds of Sils Maria," where Juliette Binoche also plays an actress who likes to take a drink, may fly to extremes, but also controls it in the interests of a script or a public event. For Gena Rowlands in "Opening Night" there's no escape from a camera very close up, her character crashing. The ending, however, is like a satyr play at the end of an afternoon of tragedy.

Imbarco a mezzanotte

Getting darker
The Italian title, Imbarco a mezzanotte / Shipping Out at Midnight, suggests a plot moving increasingly into the noir. Right at the beginning one learns that the character called the Stranger is unwanted in a town he has been shoved into off a boat and that he is expected to get back out of quick and pay for the privilege. Early on, we learn he has a good gun that he wants to sell. "On the Prowl" says the English title, and we might imagine a character shady from the start. But there is a noble error in casting, having Paul Muni as the actor--Pasteur, Jaurez, beacon of progressive aspiration. He limps, he shambles, bad things may happen, but we have no way of supposing this character is bad. As the film shambles toward a conclusion, yes (spoiler if you like) there is the dangerous involvement of a child. It could be like Hemingway's stories of a somewhat older Nick Adams faced with criminals. But for Muni's Stranger it is out of character.

Meanwhile, this is a brilliantly filmed take on Italian Neorealism in a town still ruined from wartime bombing.

Dark Blood

Scenes are well made, the desert looks great, characters peer at the horizon well in the tradition of westerns, there are set designer extravaganzas. The story doesn't suffer from missing scenes; that speeds it up. What the story does suffer from is a disconnect of its elements. Buffy and Harry are a splendidly unlikeable squabbling city couple, actors to boot, stranded in the desert, which sets them up for a story in which they are humbled in the presence of some grounding element (the way Katharine Hepburn succumbs to Humphrey Bogart). That should be the solitary personage designated simply, condescendingly "Boy." But the couple doesn't let go into Boy's world. They fail to see that Boy's life and his environment have been damaged irreparably by nuclear testing; they fail to be grateful for Boy's kindness. In other words, they fail to see what a complex and powerful character River Phoenix is playing. If the viewer does, Buffy and Harry should, or they are hopelessly, tragically disconnected. Boy, look out for the culture these people come from, who aren't being shown much of your culture.


Robert Young vs. Waters and Wilson
This would be OK as a wartime musical, praying that ships get back to the harbours of Home. But Robert Young's character in infuriating. The gags, the pratfalls aren't funny, or they require the mindset of the Three Stooges. This is supposed to be an investigative reporter? Classy Jeanette MacDonald is supposed to fall for this goofball? But what saves the movie, as other have noted, is Ethel Waters. Sure, she's dressed as a maid until she gets to do a stage number. And Dooley Wilson, who watches that number, is dressed as an "A-rab." And of course there's nobody else they can pair up with. But they steal the show, and inspire even MacDonald to move her hips for a moment. Not Robert Young's character, still out of it.

Rope of Sand

Telling the story
I rate this movie pretty highly and then I wonder, were Hollywood movies in the late 40s generally this good, in which case I'll have to see a lot more. "Rope of Sand" is so well made--the story clicks along, every shot is perfectly placed and serves the story, both day and night scenes in a desert are grandly photographed. The interiors are more elaborate than one might imagine, but Edith Head's costumes for Ms. Calvet guarantee that her character is irresistibly sexy. The cast has been gathered from across Europe and beyond--OK, some of them more difficult to follow than others--the supremely skilled actor, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre doing his elegant lowlife, Marais and Miranda singing in a nightclub. And of course young Burt Lancaster, both beautiful and doing the turns of his character. Credit then too to Paul Henreid, holding his own in a fight scene with Lancaster. And there's even a willingness to define South Africa by its racism, from the opening scene of a Black man being chased by converging trucks in the desert. I won't underline an inference about political economy.


A Good Story
This is a provisional comment on "Mold/Küf," since I'm not much of an expert on the Turkish arts, and I cannot explain the title. But a word about the notion that the film is slow, even at just 94 minutes. Compare Ceylan's "Once upon a Time in Anatolia" at 150 minutes. Aydin's film has a very good story, as if from classic Russian fiction–a friend suggests Gorky–and the film narrates the story the best way. The protagonist is fixed on an indeterminate quest, in which he is like characters in the works of Orhan Pamuk, for whom the fundamental Turkish way of being is melancholy. He is a square-shouldered aging man. He does not easily leave a room, so a cut cannot come too early. If he is being interrogated for the umpteenth time by a new police inspector, there's no reason for the camera to swing around while he explains his life he feels is fate, while there is a slight change in the camera angle when he falls into an internal monologue. At the beginning of the movie he does break into a trot, and elsewhere he acts forcefully. More often there is stasis, and that's the nub of the story.

Die Verrufenen

What kind of sympathy?
I've seen this movie in a print from Blackhawk Films as "Slums of Berlin" with English inter-titles. These titles certainly don't help to create sympathy, with repeated use of the word "clod" for more than one character, reinforced with a claim to a dictionary definition in which a Clod is earth and without soul. The movie claims to be realistic, authentic extras. If they are "verrufen," they are either 'in disrepute' or 'notorious'--pity them or hold your nose. Lots of shots of smeared children. But the protagonist, with a craggy face of handsome style, comes into good clothing since he was always the right sort, and the more delicate women recognize that. He's on his way to the proprietary class, while the lower orders "revert to type." There is by now and one might hope back then a bad attitude towards its subject. Yet that gives this film some historical interest. One does find a predecessor of Brecht's Mr. Peacham of "The Threepenny Opera," who runs a workshop that pays its day labourers in gin, and the protagonist fixes a machine more plausibly than he might for Fritz Lang. Camera placement is even more static because of too frequent inter-titles.

Notre paradis

Find a Motive
A kind of soap or soap-and-splash opera, with well played moments (like at the beginning Jean-Christophe Bouvet flamboyantly enjoying his vinyl record). Maybe engaged by moments of soft porn, the movie doesn't step back to consider its characters, let alone have them think themselves about what they are doing. Since it involves murder, there's a problem. The title may want to suggest that the central characters are Rimbaud and Verlaine, but the artificial paradise here is a pill at bedtime. The younger, Angelo, is there to be dressed or undressed, and gives no indication he knows or doesn't care what his partner is up to. Stéphane Rideau (the elder Vassili), with a hint of gut, can't be an éphèbe anymore, but he seems to know his business as a prostitute and what roles he can now play, so it is very hard to know why he isn't able to deal with older clients. The child, young Vassili (a genetic conundrum the name), does have a better sense of the plights he is in than anyone else.

Behold the Lamb

Nigel O'Neill's character isn't an accountant any longer, tough looking Aoife Duffin is less of a "young tearaway" than a mother whose child is being raised in a foster home. At the heart of the story her birthday gift is better appreciated by the adult males than by the child; if O'Neill's Eddie is a mule for drugs he's using the most unlikely means possible for conveying it. Initially there's fumbling for pills, disposing of a dead dog, falling into chill water. It's what you can expect in this movie. "Take care of yourself," one character tells another as they separate probably for good. Good luck. There's sympathy for natural things--birds, a lamb; there's countryside in damp snow; a sanctified overview, if you like, in the title. But the characters scarcely realize how befuddled their grip on things is. Should I feel sorry about that?


It's fiction
To comment on a film about a special sort of politics easily seems like taking a stand on and even within that politics. And I can see that in the United States in 1969 people could get nervous, because it's hard to know how people in an audience will take things (when The Godfather came out in 1972 I saw it in a huge urban theatre with a couple of youth gangs getting in and out of their seats and patrolling the aisles). In the case of Ice, the cast is very good, but very few of them are credited (none of the strong and articulate women), and one may suspect they were afraid of a credit (like an actor worried about playing a character who is gay). But as I see it, this movie is not agitprop, though it contains what you could snip out if you want a word to live by. But make sure it's enough.

Instead, the film runs an hypothesis about its very special sort of politics, and shows what you would have to be to do it, if you want a conceptually total revolution. It is fiction about people who think their acts will be the revolution. The cause supported is a fictional uprising in Mexico: the movement has set fire to oil depots in Port Arthur, Texas, not a real event as far as brief research can tell. With African-Americans with a real and militant cause these revolutionaries have only loose contact, with opposition to the war in Vietnam about which Kramer made a movie it has only an AWOL soldier who is of interest because he could furnish "information." The movie is accurately narrated in fragments: when asked what her vision of the future is a character can only say she knows what she is doing right now. Right now is herding apartment dwellers to see an agitprop movie; right now is shooting a gun.

I can see people are put off by the fragmentation. When I saw this movie in a cinematheque there weren't many in the audience to start with and very few at the end. Yet this may be the best story around about theory-driven violent (revolutionary) action, better than movies about the Baader-Meinhof gang or the Brigata Rossa. In 1970 near Washington Square earnest people did kill themselves while making a bomb.

Jimmy della collina

No Exit
A young man can work in the town factory, an oil refinery, and have a salary, as his girlfriend, father, and brother do. Or? But what Or is there? To imagine blowing the factory up? He could be a charmer. A prostitute tells him he looks good (and Nicola Adamo does). Or--there's crime, which for him doesn't work out. Incarceration is a kind of factory; partial liberation is to a labor camp. But Jimmy's lack of an Or is set deeper. He can't relate to other people, he can't account for himself. The Or would be sheer release, which he may conceive of as escaping. I don't know thenovel by Massimo Carlotto, but I'd like to know where it ends. I also don't have enough philosophy to describe Jimmy's alienation. The stronglife-hardened woman played by Valentina Carneletti could offer him an alternative path. Or religion, of which there is rather much. More than once, Jimmy runs the wrong way down the stairs.

OK, not a big movie like "Gomorra" (but more inward about crime). Bare, but also not self-indulgent like "Io sono amore."

In the Electric Mist

It works
I've just seen the 117 minute version, and it works. People seeing this on DVD should check that they have this longer version. The complaint is that the movie is incoherent, but in fact as well as crime movies do; all layers are brought pretty well together. The mousetrap snaps. Meanwhile, beyond a noir of earlier days, there is an attempt to deal with crimes both old and fresh, and a dramatization of a detective's inner debate through his projection of a Confederate Army general. And some of his troops--there is froth in details, as there is with the manner and antics of "Baby Feet" (John Goodman) and even his automobile. Froth in excess is that a detective, even if he is played by Tommy Lee Jones, should smash the faces of persons he is interrogating. For planted evidence, see the last scenes. There is what movie rating calls "language," all for the better.

Kolme viisasta miestä

The Kaurismaki Christmas Album
I can imagine it's disturbing to you fans of Kaurismaki bleakness that he should be making a Christmas movie, but after all Bob Dylan and Kiki and Herb have played on the same bandstand. Still, be warned, his characters here are respectable, and not three alcoholics as a plot summary may suggest. They have reasons for being out on the town on Christmas Eve, when it seems absolutely everybody in Helsinki is somewhere watching or singing hymns and carols. You may sigh with relief there's none of that in the karaoke bar they bribe to stay open, and lean back to relish well acted improvisations as the guys gradually spill out complex dilemmas in the face of seasonal expectations.

Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura

Don't be seen to fidget
I've given this film a respectful score, if only because it is like being privileged to visit a grande dame in her home, where everything is correct and so boring you want to tell it point by point to your friends, who you hope are aware that you are not boring yourself. And I'd like to suppose the film is similarly ironic about its bland characters (a lover in the Cape Verde Islands who writes out for his young woman their physical geography, as my encyclopedia would call it). Its argument may be about the boring eternity of the upper bourgeoisie even in our world where the same fine things are now paid for in euros. But the film may fall into its own trap, as with the titles that let a conductor go seat by seat in a first-class train car checking tickets while credits very slowly appear. Viewer, your attention might stray to what may be outside the windows, but notice the lady with the pearl necklace, for she will be the perfect audience for this touching story. The best hope for irony might be a poem or two of Pessoa's, even if recited by a distinguished actor in evening dress.

Le feu follet

How a movie tells a story
It's a little hard to vote points for this movie. Malle's "Ascenseur pour l'échafaud" of five years earlier has more drive and Miles Davis to play against the Satie here. But restraint and negation are harder to do, and "Le Feu Follet" succeeds with such perfection, with austerity played against the life of a city. The central character seems real, the moments observed of people in Paris seem real, as is not the case with Marcello and Rome in "La dolce vita" of three years previous, about another crisis of confidence and failed explanations. Malle, admittedly, does allow in a great deal of flamboyant "bourgeois" extravagance, but that's because he confronting and not parroting Drieu la Rochelle. Every shot of Malle's and his cinematographer, Ghislain Croquet, tells something by the way it looks (the camera is saying "he notices," "he's breaking decorum," "that person is self-assured," "she's soignée, and so?", "he's not homosexual," and so on, doing the work of a narrator). And there's the tour de force of a scene at the Café de Flore. "The Fire Within," by the way, is an odd English title for a character who says himself he can't get ignited. "Will of the wisp," "swamp fire" is what flares sporadically as "feu follet."


Violence from within
Josef Fares and his cinematographer Aril Wretblad make the interesting choice of showing what might be a crime thriller through hand-held closeups of the protagonists. There's shooting, but you don't really see it, people die, but you only learn of it through implication. There's no procedural hunting down of the uncivil louts who have started it all. Instead, there's a session with a psychiatrist at the moment the hero Leo's grief turns to hatred and he begins intending revenge. Leonard Terfelt pretty well sustains the attention to a face that could elsewhere do comedy and even here has to let people think "things are fine." The thought of revenge triggers a vaguely middle-eastern turn to the music, which isn't necessary. One could instead reference legendary Scandinavian revenge stories. But here's a story told without big guys swinging axes.

Continental, un film sans fusil

"Continental--un film sans fusil" has a character who's a night clerk in a exurban highway motor-hotel. "Do you get bored", she's asked. "I like it quiet." And similarly in this film of hotel rooms, houses, kitchens, teeth, dances, buses, things are tidy, it's "nice," even when there's a risk of being a bit wild. The police have nothing to report, don't call. What do you do when a baby is being goo-gooed and it starts to cry? When a bed is thumping in the next room? Everybody's getting older, and at the end of the subdivisions, where the bus line ends, there are woods.

The story, the widescreen framing by Sara Mishara, the dialogue maintain the aesthetic of reduction. Is this a Canadian aesthetic? Look up a painting from English Canada by Alex Colville called "Pacific," where there *is* a gun on a table, and also a ruler.

I can't by the way see the "sibling connections" someone else claims. There's one couple together, another that phones, a third that may get together again, some who may need life insurance, and people who go out to practice the Continental.

This is a perfect movie for what it is.

Amore e rabbia

History isn't dated
Comments have complained that this portmanteau film is dated. It would be better to say it registers a crucial political, cultural, and cinematic moment. Marco Bellocchio's short film works best to my thinking. His "Discutiamo, discutiamo" (Let's Talk; We're Talking; or maybe Talk and Talk, if you're inclined to be bored) is a dramatic imitation by students of the university movements of the late 1960s, and includes real differences of opinion (it starts with a lecture on Croce's aesthetics; later there's an attempt to set a Croce paperback on fire), and opinions worth remembering once existed. "La lotta continua" (class struggle), authoritarian schooling in ruling class values, the small percentage of youths of poor families in university--sure, that's so passé.

And for Bertolucci there's Julian Beck as Artaud; for Pasolini, dialectic around the pleasure of Ninetto Davoli. Even Godard's go-gauche, lordly treating every opinion as a quotation, letting all the wind out of what might be concern--or Amore. (See better Bellocchio's "La Cina è vicina" for a fashionable leftism.) The Rabbia or righteous wrath of the title is mostly also left to viewers back then or now, and maybe it didn't get rooted.

Straight Shooting

Frames and choices
It's been objected that Straight Shooting uses static camera positions, but especially in the long shots fine action and scenery are captured, like lines of horsemen coming down a hillside. In the story characters make interesting choices: a cowboy aids a farmer, a bandit gets the band of a chum of his to come fight against the bad guys who want possession of the whole territory and especially its water. The Bess played by Mollie Malone (a more solid presence than some other actresses) gets her gun ready as does another woman. And Bess too makes some interesting choices. If I can judge by the hat, a Mexican guy steals a jar of jam, but he's helped save the farm, one of the ways Ford and Hively avoid the sexism and racism of D. W. Griffith's Battle of Elderbush Gulch of a few years previous. That said, the Prague print I saw has gaps following out threads of the story. There's a pretty good shootout with the two guys using long rifles--this is the older west, though already the myth had been around quite a while.

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