Wednesday, March 5, 2008

February '08 Screening Log

On Light, or the Ingression of Forms - Clint Enns
Neat experimental film that (true to the genre) experiments with a hacked webcam. The way it directly incorporated sound was neat too, the whole experience reminded me of a particularly potent noise song (in the Merzbow vein).

Nelda - Piero Bargellini
Visually interesting in the sort of polarization paired with the regular image. Conceptually I'm at a total loss. I have to admit to not watching it really hard, but I can't decide if I'm interested enough to try again. I sort of have this problem a lot with experimental/avant-garde stuff-- I know that a lot of it *is* really just literally "experimental" but, sometimes I have a hard time seperating the exercies from the impenetrable conceptual stuff that is hard to get at without context.

Intestinal Fortitude - Colin Barton [rewatch]
Still visual post-modern awesomeness that is just total eyecandy.

Journey to the Unknown - Kerry Laitala
To my suprise, this short experimental work steals both Francois de Roubaix's audio cues and Delphine Seyrig's voice from Daughters of
Darkness and creates a somewhat neurotic "journey to the unknown." What's really interesting about the piece, however, is the way that Laitala
uses the "flicker" effect with CMYK colors, creating a sort of neon trance. (as a note, I think I may have watched this before but it's not in my records and I can't remember for sure.) The rhythm is sort of fucked up though.

Home Stories - Matthias Muller
Like Richard Prince's photographs (particularly the early ones, like "Untitled (four women looking in the same direction)"), rephotographed advertisements that reveal the "doppelganger" of the women on display, Muller's film explores the similarity of the depiction of women in cinema via a smattering of Hollywood films. It sounds sort of generic, but it's done earnestly (with Muller's homosexuality being an interesting context) and it's just sort of neat.

Sucker - Tony Oursler
Kind of shitty... sort of vaguely resembles a lot of no-wave/cinema of transgression filmmaking, but not even half as good? I don't know.

Light - Jordan Belson
Belson's films are, from a level of pure aesthetics, totally beautiful and moving. Just pure sensory enjoyment. I've been meaning to read Youngblood's Expanded Cinema too, to see how Belson is discussed in that context.

Sricnina - Piero Bargellini
I don't remember this AT ALL and I just watched it two days ago.

Eyetoon - Jerry Abrams [rewatch]
I really need to start taking notes on the non-narrative stuff I watch immediately after I watched it, because I know I had something new to say about this, but I totally don't remember now.

A Family Finds Entertainment - Ryan Trecartin
God I am so in love with this guy's work. I finally got non-YouTube copies of his stuff, so I can re-evaluate. But it's interesting, I read an article today by Peter Weibel about "Multiple Narration," and Trecartin's methods totallly synthesize, so freaking subtly, everything that's awesome about post-modernist incorporation and post-structuralist rhizomatic structures and the decentralized narrative and man. I am going to rewatch I-BE-AREA in order and then probably write an article on him for my site eventually.

The Nines - John August
I have no real complaints about this, other than the fact that the ending didn't really accomplish anything, and grounded any mystery created in the film in a sort of retarded metaphysical-Matrix-fantasy. Ryan Reynolds sure is nice to look at, and the narrative is constructed in a fun-nice-well-done manner.

God - John August
Sort of entertaining campy short that came on the DVD for The Nines. I mean, I guess it was kind of funny, but also sort of obvious. Almost John Water-ish, that is, if he had kept down the road he was heading via Serial Mom-Pecker-Cecil B. Demented.

Eating Out - Q. Allan Brocka
In all objectivity this movie was awful, but the lead gay-for-gurlz guy had a killer jawline and a dumb demeanor that turned me on more than a bit, and I realize that even us fags need rom-coms every once in a while (...)

Turistas - John Stockwell
I liked this better than Hostel, despite being marketed as a Hostel rip off. Underwater chase scene was neat and kind of intense. Josh Duhamel is kind of nice to look at. Not really annoying at all = for the best.

The Gift - Louise Hogarth
Documentary that despite being about a pretty fascinating subject (bugchasing) ended up being really boring and annoying, really only focusing on three things that were only tangential to ___. Kind of ended up not approaching a larger idea, and just presenting disparate elements that don't add up to anything infinite.

In a Year With 13 Moons - RW Fassbinder
This was really really good. I don't know how to talk about it other than it was really really good, and probably the most beautiful Fassbinder film that I've seen outside of Querelle... it's got a sort of bizarre abject tone that fits perfectly, and makes it's 2h10m runtime flyby.

Richard McBeef: The Motion Picture - (director unknown)
Gee, it sure does recontextualize things when a school shooting happens at one's own university... regardless, since I had read these I was curious as to how long it would be before they were made into short films. It was, to be honest, hilarious, and exactly what I wanted. Oh, the internet.

Sodom - Luther Prince
Experimental/avant-garde "recreation" of the events in the biblical sodom that's main selling point was the way it filled a void of inspiration that I needed for a video art piece I'm working on.

Las Soledades - Raoul Ruiz
I do not understand why I haven't watched more Ruiz films yet, as everything I've seen from him has been great. This sort of magickally connects fictional narrative, documentary, and some sort of divine poetry into a weird portrait that adds up to something intensely WORTHWHILE. It's also remarkably evident as inspiration/fraternity avec Peter Greenaway.

Rape of the Vampire - Jean Rollin
Still not my favorite Rollin, but interesting as a starting point. Expanding review (possibly) coming for Esotika soon.

Murder Psalm - Stan Brakhage
I think the problem that I have with declaring Brakhage "awesome" is that 90% of his films, to me at least, don't become interesting until I've read what he's written about them. To me that is problematic, as all of these films are presented solely as just *films*, so I, being the critical dude that I am, find fault in the fact that there is not enough present on the screen to apply a reading of the film (I would say 30% of the time, however, this is due to me not actively watching the film enough; I have a bias against soundless-films). But, once I read what this was about, I ended up liking it a bit more, especially as a work of art-as-catharsis.

Mouse Heaven - Kenneth Anger
So, I need to stop watching anything Anger's made post-Lucifer Rising, because it almost seems to me that he's pretty much like TOTALLY forgotten how to make awesome films? 12 minutes of Micky Mouse collectibles cheaply animated and shot on video. Wow sounds great! PSYCH.

Noema - Scott Stark
This is far more conceptually interesting than in practice: the idea of decentralizing SOV porn by rhythmically displaying the "in between" moments (and with copious amounts of repetition via Stein's "repetition is erotic" mantra) is pretty rad, but I can't help but think that this was pretty poorly and cheaply made. I could make something better in (no joke) less than ten minutes with a pirate copy of Adobe Premiere. Maybe I should.

Lick the Star - Sofia Coppola
This might be my favorite Coppola movie (not that she's a prime fave or anything), but that's more due to the fact that it's a story about a clique of mean 12 year olds who are really into Flowers in the Attic. That plot line is pretty unbeatable, and Coppola + semi-riot-gurl soundtrack = awesome, since she uses pop music to drive the narrative anyway.

Shiner - Christian Calson
While I can appreciate the fact that the director, as he says in an interview included on the DVD, wanted to make a gay movie that wasn't a tired and busted gay romantic comedy, and I appreciate the fact that parts of this were pretty hot, it was still pretty poorly made and plotted, and all of it's epiphanic moments that I have the feeling were supposed to be utterly revelatory ended up flat. I really have issues when, on a low budget movie, the filmmakers don't even bother to clean up microphone hiss and clicks and just shitty unnecessary background noise, considering that's something you can fix in Adobe Audition in literally like ten seconds.

Exte: Hair Extensions - Sion Sono
Sono film number 4 proves to me that he knows what he's doing. The concept of this flick itself is remarkably tricky, and could have fallen completely flat. It's a weird hybrid of satire/horror/and family drama (which, let's face it, so was Suicide Club), and it actually manages to balance everything evenly. The satire element, weighing down on the tired state of what 90% of cinema goers assume to be the current state of Asian horror, takes it's start on what is ostensibly haunted hair extensions. It's completely ridiculous, yet immediately calls to mind the tropes of the genre, such as the little girls with epically long hair. But, fortunately for the viewer, Sono never really wraps up this story line to a cohesive state, which in my opinion the direct openness is a perfect way of addressing the arbitrary nature of much of the current day Asian exploitation (exploitation in the actual sense of it's definition; not in Tarantino and Rodriguez' post-modern bastardization). As a family drama it hits on one of Sono's favorte themes, the alienation between child and parent, though this time he revisits the abuse aspects he first visited in 2005's brilliant Strange Circus. There's an almost uncomfortable sense of satire in this element too, though I won't go into it here for fear of rambling too long when I probably just need to write a full review of this eventually (ha, how many times have I said that in the last few weeks?)

Eugenie - Jess Franco [rewatch]
Watching this again via Blue Underground's new DVD (with the wonderful French soundtrack; a first for me) I was struck by how different the film seemed in my memory from the way it actually was. I'm guessing that the difference exists out of my full immersion into the Franco canon now as opposed to the brief tinkerings I had experienced upon the former viewing.

Urbania - Jon Shear
I think, in a sense, this movie accomplishes what the director of Shiner set out to do with his movie. Aside from the convoluted and unnecessary beginning (among other minor flaws), this ended up working surprisingly well and affectingly, without ending up veering into majorly heavy-handedness or sentimentality (which is almost breeched in a weird metaphysical scene). Plus, this featured the hottest awkward masturbation scene that I've ever seen, and was more often than not hilarious in a bizarre sort of "gay-power" way.

Black Christmas - Glen Morgan
All things considered (this being a remake of one of my favorite movies), I don't have much to complain about here. I certainly have nothing to overly praise, but like I mentioned before, I can watch bitchy, shallow, and catty girls in almost anything. It's ridiculous, but in terms of escapism I was totally down and more surprisingly, not offended. It works camp in a totally non-annoying way, which I realized is why it works.

I'm Not There - Todd Haynes
I still can't really wrap my head around this (and not being a huge Dylan fan or knowing anything about his life, I'm sure certain subtleties will forever elude me), but I'm pretty sure this might have been the second best film I've seen from 2007 (though I obviously just saw this). It handles narrative and concepts in an indirect, profound way that, as I had an Exploding Kinetoscope moment, I realized was totally "speaking to me." It seemed to sort of approach certain ideals that I've encountered and been fascinated by most often in Dennis Cooper novels, and this totally different outlet for what was ostensibly the same concept (I am always a fan of conflicting identities) was fascinating to me, and to be honest, I think shined light on a truth that I'm generally hesitant to accept. More than that, with this being, in terms of Haynes' oeuvre, most similar to the excellent gay-phantasy-omnibus Poison, it's delightfully and earnestly experimental for such a high profile film. And yeah, like everybody's been saying, Cate Blanchett is amazing, and was easily the highlight of the film for me (other than the conceptually musings of the Rimbaud-Dylan).

Cure - Kiyoshi Kurosawa [rewatch]
It's been a very, very long time since I've seen this (this was the first K. Kurosawa film that I ever saw, and it was at least five years ago that I first saw it) and seeing it again was pretty much like seeing it for the first time. My mind was honestly blown, and it was really just an astoundingly profound experience in terms of how *into* the movie I was. Everything is so studied, tense, and aesthetically *perfect* that it's almost a sensory overload. There's also the neat fact that the tempo of the film lulls you into a mental position that is akin to that of hypnosis, and the viewing experience becomes so bizarre (of course, in all reality this might have more to do with the fact that I was remarkably tired while watching it).

All Orientals Look the Same - Valerie Soe
One and a half minutes that is worthwhile in theory, but I'm not quite sure how well it works in practice.

Technology Transformation: Wonder Woman - Dana Birnbaum
I guess this is one of the first examples of the television appropriation in terms of gender ideology... it's nice and theoretical, but I've said it before and I'll say it again; would it kill these experimental filmmakers to pay attention to rhythm? It really drives me nuts when it's just totally ignored...

It's a Wonderful Lohan - Michael Mouris
Remarkably mean spirited quick 'n' dirty animation that pretty much just pans the Lohan family. I happen to love Lindsay Lohan and I legitimately think that she's a brillian actress, but I still thought this was sort of funny in an empty pop culture sort of way.

Chocolade Haas - Sander Plug
Chocolate bunnies melting. Three of them.

Djinn - Eliane Lima
Meditative, enigmatic, and encapsulating Robbe-Grillet's tone in a pretty great way. Reminded me a bit of Ruiz's Colloque de Chiens, but a lot darker. Really good stuff.
(watch it here)

January '08 Viewing Log

La Femme Qui se Poudre - Patrick Bokanowski [rewatch]
I've been mulling over how I'm going to write about this flick for a week now, and I'm still not convinced. I have a page of notes, but I can't decide on an entrance point. I think it's pure atmosphere and visual aesthetics that do this for me, but I know that there's something else there that keeps me coming back to it. I will (hopefully) be expanding my thoughts on this soon.

The Psychic - Lucio Fulci
Every once-in-a-while I get totally bummed out and sort of tired of watching movies but then I'll watch a totally balls-out example of European Genre Cinema and I'll immediately remember why movies are so awesome. I mean, this isn't a particularly potent example of super-awesomeness, but it was a pretty great flick. Aside from the swank visuals, awesome music, and pretty people that can always be expected in Euro-Cult, I particularly appreciated the subversion of the old "hallucination at the same time of the murder that reveals details" thing. I don't really have much to say other than this was really rad, and I've still yet to see a Lucio Fulci film that I didn't love.

Mary Janes Not a Virgin Anymore - Sarah Jacobson
This was mid-90s "indie" filmmaking that I found totally adorable and compulsively watchable, and even particularly hilarious ("Bite it like beef jerky!"). It's totally naive but it's honest in a sort of embarrassing sort of way, but not half as embarrassing as something retarded like Garden State. It's naive honesty is actually endearing, especially in the sense that characters actually end up making good decisions and learning things, all the while being awesome. Plus, the whole "working and hanging out at a movie theater with a bunch of kids in their mid-20s while you're in high school and having an adorable gay boss" is remarkably similar to my experience of working at a locally own video store while in high school. Of course, I didn't party in high school, but no matter. My purely subjective response is all I really need here.

Latter Days - C. Jay Cox
The adorable-gay-boss in the previous movie had me hankering for some more faggy-fun so I headed to the video store to find something satiate my need. This met it. For a gay film it's not particularly innovative or even special, but even I occasionally need a totally escapist romantic comedy that doesn't have totally irritating leads. I mean, watching stuff like this makes me realize the place in society for the million and one Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks rom-com's that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. I mean, film is great and awesome and intellectual and pretty much the best thing ever, but every so often it's nice to just sort of relax and watch a flick like the average passive viewer.

The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love - Maria Maggenti
More escapism via cute teen girls in love (hence the title), and a pretty neat soundtrack. I think early-to-mid-90s gay/indie flicks are my ultimate guilty pleasure. Of course, I don't really feel guilty about it. This was sort of totally unrealistic/artificial in the same way Hal Hartley films are, and there's the same sort of awkwardness and joie de vivre present.

Black Sun - Sue de Beer
The best thing about the internet is that it leads to me going to an artist's personal website, finding her email address, emailing her and asking if she would send me copies of her films, and then getting them in the mail two weeks later. Like, honestly, how else would this have happened? Drawing on texts from Dennis Cooper's Try and Period (one of my favorite books of all time), this is delightfully pretty to look at in it's artificiality, if not a bit "obviously exploring obvious art themes" for me. It was actually really great though, and I really enjoyed seeing a contemporary video art example of an artist who's still working with narrative. I actually plan on re-watching this (and the other two films she sent me) and writing a more in depth piece for Esotika, so if you're curious I guess wait for that.

North by Northwest - Alfred Hitchcock
Once in a blue moon I get really in the mood to watch a Hitchcock flick. I have no idea why, considering that I've not been really blown away by any of the Hitchcock flicks I've seen, and I never really have that great of a time while actually watching them. I mean, I guess in retrospect they're fairly enjoyable, but I just don't have the same reaction to Hitchcock as most film aficionados do- I can acknowledge that what he's done is definitely important and innovative and neat, but I can't acknowledge that they're enjoyable, because I don't immensely enjoy them or anything. Also, what the hell was up with Cary Grant in this flick? Blame might be due on the (once again) ancient VHS that I saw this from, but he just looked orange and frumpy and every woman in the movie immediately fell in love with him? I don't get it.

Moonland - Neil McGuire and William A. Connor
Interesting silent film that seems to draw it's inspiration from Little Nemo comics.

Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? - Shunji Iwai
The music is awful and makes everything on screen even more sentimental than it already would have been to being with, but it's still compulsively watchable. There are some weird moments of totally inappropriate humour, and the titular event as a metaphor is kind of thin, but it's still fun.

La Terza Madre - Dario Argento
Uhm, pretty awful. I like Argento a ton and all, and I mean, I guess this was fairly entertaining, but aside from all the cameos/cast there really wasn't anything that reveals this as an Argento flick; rather, it looks like a cheesy imitation Argento flick (and Daria Nicolodi as the fucking corny ass ghost mom? puh-lease). Udo Kier, as always, is a treat.

The Last Clean Shirt - Alfred Leslie
No idea how to talk about this. Interesting? I don't know if I was active enough in my viewing to actually say anything yet, might need to try again, but I'm not sure if there's enough of interest here to try again.

Din of Celestial Birds - E. Elias Merhige
Merhige is a director I can appreciate both in his experimental output and his narrative output (Suspect Zero is one of my favorite light popcorn thrillers). His processes of how he applies so much texture to the film itself is still admirably, even though this is a bit more "hippy" in opposition to the beautiful nihilism present in Begotten. The image/music compliment each other remarkably well, and as an aesthetic experience, is wonderful.

One Missed Call - Eric Valette
Easy, passive remake of an easy, passive original. I (sort of) elaborated over here.

I-Be Area - Ryan Trecartin (Out of order, on YouTube)
This shit is insane and is not only post-modernist, it's fucking hyper-post-modernist. Incredibly textured in terms of narrative, the fact that it exists as such a cohesive story no matter what order you read it in is sort of amazing (maybe a bit like Cortozar's Hopscotch?). There is so much energy... for an artist who is ostensibly a YouTube film maker, he's incredibly progressive. He embraces the digital medium for exactly what it is, uses it to do what it does best, and approaching gender and queer theory from such a wildly entertaining angle... man. It all adds up to greatness.

Crimes of the Black Cat - Sergio Pastore
Possibly the most generic gialli flick I've ever seen, it steals virtually all of it's plot elements from other gialli flicks (fashion models/blind detective/soundtrack composer/photographer/clue in photo/etc). But, even with rarely an original thought, it entertains to some degree that the material it incorporates from does.

Measures of Distance - Mona Hatoum
Really more of a "visual prose-poem" (via the "found" photos and text), but pretty remarkable none-the-less. Something like this is always in danger of veering into sentimentality, but it's so honest and urgent it steers clear of that and remains something living.

Cloverfield - Matt Reeves
Really, really, really great. Some un-structured thoughts are here. I think I'll probably see it again this weekend (for the third time) and write something more "full" about it.

I Know Who Killed Me - Chris Sivertson
Considering how universally this was panned, I thought it was delightfully watchable. Of course, I have a soft-spot for virtually any Lindsay Lohan movies, and in terms of being "balls-out," this one is her best. Honestly, it's a bit of a hybrid between gialli and the over-done serial killer theme, but the gialli edge makes it seem fresh compared to the smattering of other crap that's come out.

Venus in Furs - Jess Franco [rewatch]
Full review up here.

Lucifer Rising - Kenneth Anger [rewatch]
I think this film really works as a culmination of all of Anger's work, and I think it might be due to the fact that Bobby B.'s score was composed directly for the films. With the sort of "majesty" that Anger often seems attempting to convey (in terms of a powerful being), pops songs serve more to undermine than to elevate (but, of course, the pop songs work exactly for this reason in Scorpio Rising). It's also Anger's most visually stunning film, the level of pure visual spectacle rivals even Jodorowsky, but becomes better than that because there is such a studied, inherent rhythm, and there is a narrative strand as well. In it's depiction of mysticicism, the film remains mystical, and literally 'casts a spell' over the viewer.

Kustom Kar Kommandos - Kenneth Anger [rewatch]
My friend John summed it up best: Buff that car muscle boy!

Cat Soup - Tatsuo Sato
I had read the comic version of this and thought it was interesting enough so I decided to check out the anime [which, for the record, I'm predisposed to hating the medium, so I'm trying my hardest to surpass my bias]. There are some neat visuals in this, but the narrative arc departs even further away from any semblance of sense than the comic does. It's enjoyable, but with so much happening in 42 minutes, there's really hardly anything happening in 42 minutes.

Dream to Believe - Paul Lynch
Hell of enjoyable teen-girl drama. I always forget how totally awesome Keanu Reeves was before the late-90s, but this served to remind me. There are some parts in this that are so incredibly fucking random it's mindblowing. Totally mindblowing in the best way possible.


Oh Dem Watermelons - Robert Nelson
Review up here.

Dionysus in '69 - Brian DePalma & Richard Schechner
This was totally fascinating, but I think it's due far more to the play that DePalma and crew are "documenting" itself than anything the filmmakers have to do with it. I've always read about these "breaking the fourth wall" in your face sort of experiential plays, but only reading about these things doesn't compare to seeing them, so as a literal DOCUMENT, this is great. I also was forced to accept the fact that there is a high possibility that I would have been terribly uncomfortable had I actually been present at this.

Sean - Ralph Arlyck
Interesting short documentary that sort of exploits a five year old growing up on Haight-Ashbury who has good-intentioned hippie parents, a house that is a crash pad for speedfreaks and other assorted types, and who habitually smokes grass, while hating cops. It's pretty straightforward and just shows him playing barefoot on the street and talking on a couch. I guess there's a "30 years later" documentary that might be interesting to check out.

Everything Turns, Everything Resolves - Hans Richter
Interesting in the way that it establishes the performative space of a literal stage at the beginning, and then violates the rules of how we could view a staged performance by innovative camera movements/angles/effects and a dash of surrealism/dadaism. Spectacle.
Tenderness of the Wolves - Ulli Lommel
I can't really figure out why this seems to often be billed as a horror flick, outside of the fact that the incident itself is literally horrific. It's pretty much a Fassbinder flick that's not directed by Fassbinder, with the anti-heroes sidekick trying his hardest to be Alain Delon. It was fascinating, and Fassbinder himself even has a small role, but overall there wasn't anything remarkably memorable about it. Some of Harmann's last words were poetic in a Bataille/Dennis Cooper sort of way, and the poeticism was totally ignored.

The House is Black - Forugh Farrokhzad
At first I felt this was getting a bit too sentimental in it's depiction of victims, but after the first ten minutes it sort of changes it's tone, and once the staged scenes come into play totally naturally the documentary form that I'm generally bored by becomes totally exciting. Farrokhzad's presence as a poet is obvious, because she isn't really concerned with the physical, corporeal reality as much as she is with the emotional and political implications of the leper colony. Really beautiful in a subversive sort of way as well.

Stick It - Jessica Bendinger
This is totally awesome. My roommate and I watched this while eating a delicious fucking pizza and it was perfect. All of the characters are like totally empty and exist solely to deliver totally retarded one-liners, and it's totally a Bring it On set in the world of gymnastics. Like, oh my god this was so retardedly good. Wei Wei is one of the best characters EVER, and her confused expressions are something that I want to see in every film ever.

You Are Not Alone - Lasse Nielsen
It seems like this most often gets brought up as an example of pre-pubescent/early pubescent gay love, but I didn't really think that was what this was about; in other reviews the reviewers complain that there are subplots that take away from the immediacy of the two boy's relationship, but I think the relationship itself feels like an under-developed subplot, despite the rather abrupt, sort of elliptic ending. As a youth-in-rebellion flick I thought it had a sort of easy going naturalness that let the kids really be kids (in the sense that this "naturalness" provided an environment for the plot to unfold in, which was necessary because the plot is fairly thin).

Sombre - Philippe Grandrieux
Review up here.

Unrest - Jason Todd Ipson
This is flawed, but in terms of what I like about Horror as a genre, this hits the nail on the head so much harder than anything I've seen in theaters in the last couple of years. It's plot is convoluted but that doesn't matter, there's at least a modicum of suspense built up, totally vacuous characters that are attractive and end up dead, and a LEGEND! I'll probably check out the rest of the "8 FILMS TO DIE FOR" stuff, because they look like horror films that aren't trying to be exactly like HOSTEL or the hyper-stylized violent bullshit that has populated current "mainstream" genre cinema.

The Three Trials - Randy Grief
Note to contemporary movie directors: just because you're shooting on video DOESN'T MEAN that you need to use EVERY STUPID VIDEO EFFECT that whatever cheap editing program you're using has to offer. Video effects look so shitty, and if I see one more low-budget horror film that uses the god-damn inverse filter I will scream. It's like people who get Photoshop for the first time and fall in love with all the built in filters like LENS FLARE and use them, but eventually you realize that unless you're really good at using the filters it's a REALLY BAD IDEA TO USE THEM. Seriously people.

But, in regards to the film itself, it was obviously deeply indepted to the narrative structure of De Sade (in it's method of introducing the protagonist as innocent and naive, then having her catch an authority/priestly figure in a compromising position, and then getting punished herself), the S&M approach that's hyper-present in both The Story of O and The Image, as well as the entire notorious sequence from Borowczyk's The Beast, which is honestly cheaply re-enacted almost exactly.

On the plus side, maybe because it just steals from the above (which I like all of), the story itself kept me interested in continuing to watch, and the guy who played the sadist was hot. Um, I was sort of planning on reviewing this for Esotika, but I hate reviewing things that I didn't like because it's not really a challenge at all and almost always just deteriorates into a rant (see my review of Visions of Suffering, the ultimate goth-clubkid wankfest). You should not throw random seques of shitty music video techniques into your feature films, and body-piercing in a club is not automatically hardcore and creepy. Okay I'm done.

Society - Brian Yuzna
I didn't really think that this, as a whole, was all that brilliant; in fact I thought it was kind of tedious. BUT, one that that I did think was brilliant was the way that the first hour or so are just like a totally stereotypical 80s teen horror movie, with genre trope and all, and then in the last twenty minutes it just turns so god-damned balls out and amazing and disturbing and INSANE, so that made the overall experience worth it.

Makimono - Werner Nekes
Immediate response:
I wasn't sure how much I was going to like it, since the first ten minutes or so led me to believe it was just going to be a half hour of panning from a mountain top, but when it starts to self-destruct into a sort of flicker film near the end it because almost unbearably beautiful, and the tension allowed by the progression works perfectly. The visual aesthetics were also absolutely 100% on par with the kind of visuals I'm obsessed with right now, so I ended up really really loving this.

I would put this alongside Ernie Gehr's Serene Velocity as a film that is really just an utter pleasure to watch. Admittedly, the flicker kind of made my eyes feel weird afterwards, but I was just sort of filled with awe during the viewing. I may be forcing myself to learn how to talk about experimental film, but I still have no words for such an aesthetic experience.

Fire in my Belly - David Wojnarowicz
This is up on YouTube courtesy of one of the editors for Semiotext(e), who uploaded it for Self-Portrait Day: Christmas Presents on Dennis Cooper's blog. It seems a bit naive to me, but it's so pressingly urgent, and the archetypal catholic imagery combined with Diamanda Galas' brilliant music works so incredibly well.

Lost in New York - Jean Rollin
Review up here.

La Griffe d'Horus - Jean Rollin (segment)
This was only about 5 minutes out of the 22 minute pilot that Rollin shot, so I'm not sure how well I can comment on it, but I think the idea of Rollin doing the serial film (Harry Dickson) as camp would have worked out pretty well. Early 90s video is just SO UGLY though.

The Mist - Frank Darabont
Before I say anything, I need to clarify something: I don't like Stephen King, I don't like his books, and 90% of the time I don't like movies based on his work (exclusions include Cronenberg's Dead Zone and De Palma's Carrie, the latter for purely sentimental reasons). Also, post-Night of the Living Dead, it's very rare that I like a movie where a group of antagonistic people are confined into a closed location while crazy shit is happening out in the rest of the world (oddly enough, I love murder mysteries where there is a group of antagonistic people confined into a closed location because generally what's happening out in the rest of the world is almost totally inconsequential to what's happening inside the closed location). That said, there were honestly only two reasons I even bothered to see this. One: Thomas Jane is ridiculously hot. Two: I like seeing horror movies in theater, no matter if they suck or not (which explains why I've seen a lot of "blockbuster" horror flicks and little else in terms of current releases). But on to the actual film, the main problem that I had was that the whole conceptual context created for the film virtually ignored any of the interesting elements (being, of course, the crazy ass tentacle monsters [though the "bugs" were kind of really lame], and the random three second "Oh shit we accidentally opened a portal to another dimension!" scene, which could probably, if they bothered to follow through on that at all, have made for a far more entertaining movie) in favor of creating an annoyingly done-to-death tableau where--wait for it, wait for it--it's really HUMAN BEINGS who are the monsters! OH MY GOD look how we can take a stupid monster movie and make it RELEVANT! All of the retarded social commentary in this movie is remarkably annoying and single-note, while being as frustrating cliche as possible. Is it too much to ask for a contemporary horror movie that's not a) a remake, b) boring gore shit like Hostel, or c) trying to appear less marginalized by addressing some half-hearted "social commentary"? Apparently, the answer the my rhetorical question is yes.

Out of Sight - Stephen Soderbergh
I rented this on a whim after Jeremy over at Moon in the Gutter was praising it. It was a fun little flick, and I think it's interesting that Soderbergh manages to sort of indirectly pay homage to the crime thillers of the 60s and 70s in a non-obnoxious, legitimate sort of way, without pandering to preconceived notions of "retro" film outside of clever plotting. Also, it's yet another movie that I think validates Jennifer Lopez as an actress, despite the fact that a majority of her career (whether in the realm of pop music or pop film) tends to de-validate it. George Clooney was great (and, like everybody else in the world, I find him remarkably attractive and suave; much more than Cary Grant [more on him later...]), and while writing this, noticing that I just commented on the two main actors in the film (while normally I don't say anything about the acting), I feel the need to point out that "acting" works best for me when it doesn't seem like the actors are trying to act. It's not necessarily a naturalism (which I've also expressed discontent over before), rather, (not to beat a dead horse here) it's when the actors fit perfectly within the context of the film that I appreciate "acting."

No Country For Old Men - Coen Brothers
This was the first Coen Brothers movie that I've seen, and I can say that I enjoyed it. A lot actually. I had a lot of fun watching it. To take the defensive route; I do have to say that I don't think it was the best film of the year, I don't think it was really heralding any intensely prevalent or deep "message" or "meaning," and I really didn't think it was suspenseful at all. There was certainly a consistent atmosphere throughout the film that I appreciated, but I found it remarkably lacking in suspense, which is why I got really confused when I heard my roommate say that he was "glued to the edge of his seat" (or whatever, some similar adage) throughout the flick. I'm not sure what that means (that I didn't find it suspenseful). So to move on. I agree with a lot of what's been said about the flick both in this community and over in r00b's journal, so I won't rehash most of it, but to sum it up: I agree with Dan that it was definitely ideologically flawed (and that it was interesting in the way it sort of establishes TLJ as the "wizened old white dude in the West" and then subverts the expectations that are prone to go with that archetype), I agree with r00b that the pointless bird shooting was indeed pointless and a bit pandering, and I agree with Rosenbaum about the way the "badass" serial killer tends to get fetishized/exoticized, particularly in times of war (the night after we saw the movie, my roommate was talking to one of his friends about how "awesome" Chigurh was [I know I know he wasn't technically a serial killer etc]).

All Over Me - Alex Sichel [rewatch]
This movie remains so weird to me; the weird balance between the psychotic best friend and the burgeoning teen lesbian relationship seem really at odds with each other, almost like two different narratives are co-existing and overlapping to no greater purpose. It's still interesting, but I can't say I really enjoy the film as most of the characters are totally demonized to such an extent that yes, as viewers we sympathize with the protag. and hate them with her, but beyond that it just becomes frustrating.

Deeparture - Mircea Cantor
This is conceptually interesting, but in practice it's sort of boring as hell. And only four minutes, which doesn't seem like enough time to establish that "natural" enemies in an "unnatural" habitat are totally uninterested in each other. From as aesthetic point of view it's pretty interesting, in the sense that the images are potent in their sharpness, the plain white walls and gallery floor a stunning contrast to the "wild beasts," but as a piece of conceptual art, an aestheticized concept so to speak, it feels more like a pure biological experiment posing as fine art, but it's a sort of poorly constructed experiment as well.

Vertical Sliding - Jonas Dahlberg
Architectural structures remain constantly interesting to me, though I'm still not sure why. 40 minutes of elliptical (vertical) tracking shots in a maquette of an imagined building actually becomes hypnotic and interesting, and it's fun trying to spot whether what you're looking at has been seen already. I tracked down a few more of Dahlberg's films and they've sort of brought up a question. When the purpose of a film is a purely aesthetic, experiential, visual one, and the images that you're seeing is a ten minute loop, how do you decide on the final run time? It seems fairly arbitrary whether or not the film should be forty minutes or four hundred minutes; or why not just keep it twenty? (I can see the relevance of looping at least once). I mention the other films because it's actually another Dahlberg flick (that I haven't watched) that brought up the question in my mind; it was a ten minute loop but the video was two hours long. Is that necessary? Would anybody watch for the entire two hour duration in a gallery setting? Am I expected to watch the entire two hours in my home? Can I assume that I've "seen" the film if I only watch ten minutes, or do I need to watch the whole two hours? This is why it's hard for me to write about non-narrative film people.

The Collector - William Wyler
Another flick that is really interesting in it's set up and execution, but marred by pacing. Terence Stamp is great, but not very "disturbing," or even menacing. Too naive and childlike (which I know is ostensibly part of the point), but to be honest it sort of got old pretty quickly, and it took me several sittings to make it through the entire movie. I might have enjoyed it more if I had watched a remastered DVD instead of a shoddy old VHS tape, but to be honest I'm not in any hurry to find out.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

November Screening Log

The Hunger - Tony Scott
One of the best opening sequences that I've seen in a long time. The rest of the film is nice and oneiric, but something prohibits it from totally coming together. I gather that it was based on a novel and I think the problem was trying to actually incorporate too much plot. Atmosphere would have been all this needed for success. Still lovely nonetheless.

Trasferimento di Modulazione - Piero Bargellini
A lesser version of Dwoskin's Dirty. Interesting though, I'm looking forward to checking out more from this director.

Insatiable Mrs. Kirsch - Ken Russell
Structured in virtually the same way as Russ Meyer's Eve and the Handyman, this was a fun little romp (joke-and-punchline). Doesn't have as much of the spectacle as many of Russell's other films do (although, I guess it sort of does in a more microcosmic way). Clever, but not so clever that it becomes annoying.

The Yes Men - Dan Ollman & Sarah Price
Another really fun film to watch. I found it odd that these guys don't seem to be massively politically informed, gathering most of their information in the short weeks before their "performances," but they still manage to pull off irony in an affecting way. But why was Michael Moore in this film at all? He doesn't really add anything. The spectacle of the Yes Men's pranks is what makes this worth it, and our main men are utterly charismatic (though oddly enough, totally depersonalized) enough to pull it off and make it entertaining.

The Eight Column Affair - Sriram Raghavan
Short, very creative film from India that subverts the general chasing-after-love cliche and makes it far more visually intersting.

Born in Flames - Lizzie Borden
Oh my GOD this was awesome. Somebody mentioned this before and piqued my interest. This was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be: it's idealism is matched perfectly by it's aesthetics. It's urgent, potent, confused in the same way that people generally are, and holds an attitude of ferocity. Pretty great music too, this is the kind of activism that gets me excited: angry, sure of the goal but unsure of the means, active, and beautiful.

Spellbound - Alfred Hitchcock
Really not all that interesting outside of the door-within-a-door-within-a-door-within-a-door shot and the Dali-assisted dream sequence, and obviously very naive. It's not necessarily engrossing, but I never wanted to turn it off? I've never seen what all the fuss was about Hitchcock, and this didn't really help my opinion, but I enjoyed it nonetheless for it's utter mediocrity.

The Host - Joon-ho Bong
I feel it's a bit ideologically confused because I think it attempts to deal with so much; family relationships, US foreign policy, active response towards a disingenuous media, coping with grief, etc- that it doesn't really allow everything it approaches to fully develop. I mean, I can't expect it to fully expand upon everything it hints at, but the lack of attention towards certain elements make them seem less urgent and sort of subsidizes them often in favor of humor. I think it's actually the priority of the humor that often ignores the larger issues it establishes. But, I do think it's approach of the disparate family uniting in a time of crisis, and then ostensibly disbanding once the crisis has essentially been resolved is honest in a refreshing way. The ending was also sort of a let down for me, despite how beautiful the image of the shack alone in the snow on the river's edge. The protag., despite, efforts, never actually overcomes his part of "the fool" and ends up in virtually the same situation that he started in with only a modicum more of responsibility. The whole "he's lost his daughter so now he's putting effort into taking care of another child" card is a bit overplayed and that element doesn't really bring anything unique. But regardless of all that I did enjoy it and I appreciated the scope it attempted to handle, even if I feel it did, in the end, fail. But beyond that, as a monster movie it was rad.

A Christmas Story - Bob Clark [rewatch]
I think it's fairly worthless to comment on this since everybody (everybody who lives in the US at least) has seen this like four thousand times on TV around the holidays. But, I will comment that this is an over-watched X-Mas movie that I can still enjoy despite the fact that I've seen it four thousand times. It may not be Black Christmas, but I'm really glad Bob Clark made this and my family likes it so much.

Casino Royale - Martin Campbell
This may be a more "mature" Bond film, or whatever it is that critics are rallying behind to defend this, but I'll be honest here: I don't give a shit. However, despite not giving a shit that this is "mature," I thought this was really really awesome. As far as action entertainment goes, Bond flicks have always been a favorite, and this might be one of the best. BUT, I think the main reason behind this is that, well, THIS MOVIE HAD TO BE MADE FOR FAGS LIKE ME. How many times do we get to see Daniel Craig naked and/or shirtless? A LOT. How many times do we get to see Eva Green even approaching naked? NEVER. I mean, I don't know what the hell the director was thinking in that regards, but count me as a fan!

City of the Living Dead - Lucio Fulci [rewatch]
After being egged on to revisit this after I had claimed it one of Fulci's worst, I sat down with it again. I ended up liking it quite a bit; Fabio Frizzi's score is great, it's got some truly sublime moments, but over all I think the zombies fall totally flat for me. The priest ghost is enough, and the zombies only really give more excuses for gore, which is obviously what Fulci is (generally) known for, and I appreciate it because he's always really creative, but underneath all these amazing gore scenes Fulci generally hides a really good story--and it's the story that made me enjoy this as much as I did. I still don't think it's as good as The Beyond (which is probably my #1 Fulci at the moment), but I'm definitely glad that I gave it another chance.

The Insides - Igor Zimmermann
Some dude made something that would have been pretty neat as a sculpture and then decided that it needed to be animated with overly dramatic music.

The Velvet Vampire - Stephanie Rothman
This was a weird little flick. If I were writing one of those small capsule reviews that go into those big movie guides that say virtually nothing about the film I would say the following: "One part Jose Larraz, one part Jose Benazeraf, and one part Andy Milligan." What that means, of course, is that there were some pretty nice things going on. It takes an American setting in a Navajo desert, and is at times pretty beautiful. Until the completely ridiculous ending hits the atmosphere is great. But the one thing that upsets this film, the one thing that I'm generally totally impervious to, is the acting. It's fairly atrocious, and at times it totally ruins the film. The main complaint I have is the actress who plays Sherry; she is utterly vapid and ditzy throughout the entire film, especially at moments where at least some attempt at depth is necessary. Michael Blodgett (who plays Lance Rock in Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) is also pretty mediocre, which I think really helps to shine light on the fact that Meyer's editing really did save his movies from being overcome with bad acting, or that Meyer is really good at getting actors to do what he needs them to. The female "vampire" is pretty par for the course as far as the role goes, so nothing to complain about there. There were also some really interesting ideas that get totally overlooked in favor of unnecessary genre tropes, but still vaguely interesting overall.

Hotel Chevalier - Wes Anderson
Darjeeling Limited - Wes Anderson
I think really the only way to read these two films is together as a whole, since in the cinema they are presented as "Part I" and "Part II" of The Darjeeling Limited. If taken separately, Hotel Chevalier doesn't work very well on it's own, and is almost obnoxious, but as background information for Schwartzman's character in Darjeeling it actually adds a bit of dimension to the part. Darjeeling itself was pretty much par for the course for Anderson, as I had heard, but I was refreshed to find that it was actually a little bit different: I felt that a lot of the dialogue was a bit less artificial and quirky and therefore worked a little better. The film is still wholly artificial and quirky, which is obviously what brings some of it's charm, but I think it's a step forward for Anderson, despite the fact that it's a small step. It might be slightly problematic to read the film's almost utter lack of post-colonial thought, with the three brothers existed in an arena of "otherness," but it's never really exploitative, it's simply an environment for the family relations to play out in.

Eastern Promises - David Cronenberg
While it constantly risks veering into overt sentimentality, the most interesting thing about Cronenberg's latest feature is his narrative restraint. The ending is particularly potent as it stays clear of any sort of epiphany, other than, I suppose, Nikolai's revelation of his ties to Scotland Yard. He avoids being totally morally "good," in the sense that he allows his involvement to become three dimensional, instead of positing the character as an unlikely infilitrator, purveyor of all that is right. Anna (Naomi Watts' character), if anybody in the film, veers far too close to the sentimental signifier of the "morally right," but her insistence is believable due to her occuptation (a clever choice by whoever wrote the script). It's not a perfect film, but it's far better than Cronenberg's History of Violence, especially in terms of the direction. Cronenberg lets his visceral fascination fall fully to the background, only letting it come to the front in terms of narrative importance. The only real problem I have is an overarching one, not specifically related to this film in particular: will there ever be a movie made about Russia or Russians by Americans that examines something other than declining social relativity, or the evils of a crimeworld? In terms of a situation that I'm generally tired of, this film handles it well.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Mil Sexos Tiene La Noche - Jess Franco
The most wonderful Franco film I've seen in a long time, a definite new favorite. It seems like during his Golden Films period Franco reached an apex of combined techniques from experimental film and putting them to use in a narrative structure. There is an utterly brilliant sense of atmosphere throughout this, and what's strikingly unique is the intense sense of terror that is actually built up early in the film. The primary characters are more or less the same foursome from Sexual Story of O plus Lina Romay, and there is a definite continuation of themes played out in a more sublime context. The film also had totally brilliant, saturated colors, but I have the feeling that part of the saturation has to do with the age of the VHS tape that my DVDR transfer came from. I would love to see this in widescreen and restored. Couldn't understand the dialogue, but out of 93 minutes, I'd say there's only dialogue for ten. I was slightly disappointed with the ending (an ending more along the lines of La Comtesse Noire would have been perfect), but the rest of the film more than makes up for it.

Fuses - Carolee Schneeman
Full review up here.

Dr. Orloff's Monster - Jess Franco
Early Franco always fails to remind me, really, all that much of later Franco. It's still distinctively him, but it's so obvious that he hasn't let himself loose yet that it's like watching a different director. The story here is good, much more interesting (to me at least?) than the original Awful Dr. Orloff. There seems to be more emotion present here, even if it often gets cut short by genre tropes.

Deviation - Jose Larraz
Full review up here.

Rock Hudson's Home Movies - Mark Rappaport
Basically I'm very attracted to Rock Hudson, so watching an hour of clips from his movies is nice eye candy. However, there's a sort of, er, weirdness that arrives with the actor stand in super-imposed over Rock and occasionally commenting with a sense of enlightenment and occasionally reaching way too hard for something that's not there. If it had been any longer it could have been unbearable, and as it stands it still seems pretty amateur, but there's a kind of naive earnestness present that gives it an element of immediacy.

For My Crushed Right Eye - Toshio Matsumoto
Aesthetically, I'd say this is superior to Funeral Procession of Roses, which it seems to be ostensibly a "sketch" of, but it fails to deliver on the narrative element which makes FPoR so rewarding. Plus it doesn't star Peter which immediately makes it not as good. Very interesting; I need to get around to watching the rest of Matsumoto's experimental works, 'cause this was a fun trip.

Leo es Pardo - Ivan Zulueta [rewatch]
Full review up here.

The Shining - Stanley Kubrick
Upon my (probably) twelfth viewing, I've realize that I really don't like this film. There are elements of it that I do really still like (namely the tracking shots, the interiors, the furry blow job, and the use of editing when depicting the twins, of course above all SHELLY DUVALL), but as a flick, and a horror flick, it's pretty mediocre. This was the second time I've seen it in theater, and once again I was met with a barrage of audience laughter at what I previously assumed to be totally inappropriate moments, making me pretty damn angry (of course, does anybody besides me and a handful of other people actually take horror seriously any more? I hate how horror-comedy has bastardized my favorite genre). But, realizing that these were two entirely different groups of people laughing at virtually the exact same things allowed me to, pardon the pun, step outside of my box and maybe try to see what they're seeing. First of all I think the story is really disappointing; it seems pretty great at first but I've never thought that Stephen King could carry that great of a narrative, and the only stuff I like about films based on his works have been mainly the result of the directors handling the films (Cronenberg with The Dead Zone, DePalma with Carrie, and obviously Kubrick with The Shining). He's just too cliche. It's really damn formulaic, even without the knowledge of everything that happened in horror afterwards. The second thing is best expressed by a rhetorical question asked by my friend Mark after we walked out of the movie: "Explain Jack Nicholson to me." It's really his presence in the film that I think creates the comedic tension. His performance is funny, but it totally doesn't mesh with the atmosphere that Kubrick builds up in the film. He's just full of one-liners and funky eye-brow emotings. It's annoying. Like I mentioned before, I like my horror devoid of comedy, and this would accomplish this if it weren't for Jack. I mean, I'm not a huge fan of him in anything else either because I think he's one of the first cases of Hollywood non-acting, by which I mean a star gets accused of "great acting" when really they aren't doing anything successful but imitating what they think acting is instead of actually, you know, acting. Does that make sense? It's 3AM so who knows. But all in all I was sort of disappointed with myself for being blinded by a childhood response and, oddly enough, the critical response. The Shining is one of the films (along with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) that non-genre film fans love to herald to shows that "No! I like horror too!" (right, and I'm not racist because I have friends that are black etc...), and my sort of willingness to push horror into a less ghetto-ized arena has had me rooting for it as well. But I really don't like it all that much.

Snakewoman - Tina Lhotsky
I'm not quite sure what the point of this was; it revels in pop-culture and is "intentionally bad" in the same way the cinema of transgression and the Kuchar brothers were, but it brings none of the charm or perks of the aforementioned. It's weird, like total simulacrum, and totally empty, and totally watchable I guess.

Sin on the Beach - Jose Benazeraf
I was planning on doing a total review of this, but after finishing it I realized that I really didn't have anything to say. The SWV copy HAS to be totally chopped because there are some weird transitions that don't make any sense at all and scenes seem to be cut really really short. The atmosphere that's usually present in Benazeraf's films is mostly gone here, but it might be due to the terrible sound quality of my copy. I'd be interested in comparing the English language print to my copy of the French language version, but probably not any time soon.

Inland Empire - David Lynch [rewatch]
Full review up here.

Aquarium - Iván Zulueta
Kinkon - Iván Zulueta
Get Back - Iván Zulueta
Aquarium is the most developed all of these, and it's weird because the facial posturing that the protagonist puts on is remarkably similar to some of the classic Lung Leg expressions. BUT, the most interesting part of this to me was how Zulueta incorporates the entirety of Bride of Dracula into three minutes of the film, re-filming it, chopping it, speeding it up and slowing it down, and sort of actually doing something with it. Which, coincidentally, is also what happens in Kinkon, which is simply a sort of "chopped and screwed" version of the original King Kong. Get Back is ostensibly a music video with some sort of neat animation.

Eyetoon - Jerry Abrams
"Fuck for Peace." This had the kind of aesthetics that actually makes me like hippie-dom for a little bit. Visually great, very eye-catching and entertaining.

Living - Frans Zwartjes [rewatch]
Full review up here.

Dreamwood - James Broughton
My interest about this was piqued by Pimpadelic Wonderland's short write up that described it as a total trip, and it was, but in a not- obnoxious way. Just sort interesting progression and very low-rent images. Plus an amazing score. Also, I don't particularly enjoy Broughton's own sing-songy hippie voice over his films, so I was glad that this and the following were devoid of it.

The Bed - James Broughton
This is probably my favorite of Broughton's work, well, either this or the above. It is just sort of fun in the way it revels in total polymorphic love, unflinchingly, and not in a touchy PC sort of way. Everybody is naked!

Fall in the House of Usher - Jess Franco
After seeing this almost universally panned on the internet, I was expecting this to be one of those Franco films that have one or two really nice moments, but the majority of the runtime finds me suffering just for the sake of my devotion to Franco. Turns out it's actually quite good. The expressionistic lighting is amazing, and there is almost always a deep black present on the screen- the saturation is intense. Here's what I said in a comment to Bob Monell:

"I watched the US export version the other night (with French language/English subtitles) for the first time and was actually quite pleased with it. I was ready for it to be ultimately tedious after how much flack it's taken on internet forums and in reviews, but I found it both beautiful and moving, with both Antonio Mayans and Howard Vernon perfectly on the spot in their acting.

Also, despite the fact that the GRITOS EN LA NOCHE flashbacks tend to go on and on, I found it totally fascinating how Franco (or I guess the producer? could you clarify this) totally re-contextualized the footage into the film, sort of in the same way that in Alain Robbe-Grillet novels he would often take "poems" or shorter prose fragments found in his collaborative works (such as those with David Hamilton and Irina Ionesco) and reshape them into a larger narrative context. I think it's a great, easily recognizable example of Franco's intertextuality that lends support to the idea that Franco is intentionally reworking and subverting earlier themes (and films) instead of just running out of ideas. It was also totally beautiful to look at!"

Dirty Maria - Takahisa Zeze
Full review up here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Cinématon n° 0288 Jean-Pierre Bouyxou - Gerard Courant
Courant's Cinematons are portraits on film, that are never longer than about 3 minutes, and are silent. I'm not sure how much control over the content the subjects have, but in this case of Bouyxou it seems exactly how I would expect it to be; the entire Bouyxou persona on display for all to see. Sort of wonderful.

Cinématon n° 0434 Alain Fleischer - Gerard Courant
Simply strobe-lit Fleischer for three minutes; I don't know much about the man but once again seems very perfectly apt in terms of content versus subject. These are just sort of a joy to watch, and seem to cover most of my favorite counter culture French and Belgian people.

Go Ask Alice - John Korty
It's been about ten years (more?) since I've read this book, but the movie was pretty bad. There's absolutely no continuity and scenes just sort of occur one after another without being connected to the former. It was a made-for-TV movie, but I've seen some brilliant stuff that was made for TV. Also almost completely emotionally empty.

Godly Boyish - Cam Archer
I thought that Wild Tigers I Have Known was interesting and beautiful in a slightly creepy almost pedophilic way, but the ideas behind it made it work for me. This was even more conceptually interesting to me, touching on ideas that have, well, to be a bit melodramatic about it, haunted me for the last few years. It's not as beautiful as his feature, but the sound design is just as interesting, and overall worthwhile.

Marriage of Maria Braun - Rainer Werner Fassbinder
A pretty solid Fassbinder flick. I didn't love it as much of some of his works (particularly Querelle or Chinese Roulette) but it's better than others (like Merchant of Four Seasons, for instance). It's engaging throughout, and some of Fassbinder's subtleties and framings are pretty great. The ending is also deliciously ironic, though I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if my roommate hadn't built it up so much.

War Babies - Charles Lamont
Sort of hilarious and entertaining and made during a time when Political Correctness wasn't even a term yet. I think any viewings that read the film as vaguely paedophiliac are reaching a bit. It's just sort of innocent, pleasant, and a bit fun.

Devil Came From Akasava - Jess Franco
Soledad shines in this flick, which is better than the average Jess Franco "spy" flick but devoid of a lot of his more personal touches. I guess it's sort of a transition between the German/Janine Reynaud productions and the German Co-Productions most often marked by Vampyros Lesbos.

The Dead Man - Peggy Ahwesh & Keith Sanborn
Full review up here.

Paris Qui Dort - Rene Clair
Anarchic silent sci-fi that touches on themes that would be repeated in the cinema quite often down the line. I really liked the fact that while everybody is absent the group let chaos and decadence rule, and they eventually suffer boredom due to this. It's a cliche, but it's a bit ahead of its time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Silent Hill - Christophe Gans
For my money, this is a "cult film" waiting to happen, and it doesn't have any trappings of the "we're so obviously trying to make a cult film." It's virtually devoid of humor, which is partially why I like this so much. It took the premise of the Silent Hill video games and treated them seriously. Some of the CGI is a little iffy and it's not exactly terrifying, but it's fantastique enough to be totally enjoyable.

1408 - Mikael Håfström
I guess this was pretty bad, and I don't know whether to blame that on Stephen King or the director (I haven't read the short story it's based on and frankly don't have any interest in doing so). I just wanted to see a horror movie in the theaters and this was the only horror flick playing around me. My main problem is the totally unnecessary sentimentalism that gets thrown in and never sits right throughout the entire thing. I like hotels a lot, but any potential this had was wasted.

Delerium - Lamberto Bava
I will undoubtedly be declared a heretic for announcing this, but despite how much I'm aware that Mario Bava has done for genre cinema, I always enjoy Lamberto's trashy flicks almost 10000x more. This was sort of a trainwreck, but was compulsively watchable for being a late80s entry into the gialli canon. There is nothing unique except for Russ Meyer sized Italian tits and Dario Nicolodi as a blonde, but I'm sure if I had been watching it closer I could have picked up on the everpresent may-not-be-intentional psychosexual commentary that gialli is more than likely to make (there's an interesting role for a fag in this too).

RSVP - Pamela Love
Short film that was produced and edited by an internet friend-- it had beautiful production design, and for some reason reminded me a lot of the Brothers Quay. I sort of wish the narrative element would have been fleshed out though.

Emmanuelle's Revenge - Joe D'Amato
Lovely lovely "female empowering" sexploitation from D'Amato with a frequently shirtless, studly George Eastman. The secret room in Emanuelle's apartment is also lovely, and god damned do I love modern interior design of the time.

Hour of the Wolf - Ingmar Bergman
Full review up here

Kiss Me Monster - Jess Franco
As far as the Red Lips movies go, I think I preferred this one a lot more than Two Undercover Angels; it's a lot more free wheeling and fun, not getting all bogged down by something I don't really know how to describe. Franco at his "funnest"

Faceless - Jess Franco
This is late-80s Franco with somewhat of a budget and a great cast (Helmut Berger & Brigitte Lahaie!). As far as the story goes it's typical; a more or less retelling of the Les Yeux Sans Visage homage that began with Franco's first acclaimed film, The Awful Dr. Orlof. But what's interesting is the accessibility of this film in comparison to the rest of Snr. Jess' filmography; it plays like a very well made gore film. But what's more interesting to me are two things: A) Franco's beloved voyeurism moves into the late 80s via video cameras and TVs. There's a scene where Brigitte Lahaie is totally feeling Helmut Berger up while they watch his sister sexually humilate the Morpho-esque man servant that is totally, totally hot. and B) more than anything else, this film worked to put the "villains" in a far more empathetic position than the "good guys," represented by the private detective trying to track down a rich playgirl who is more or less the textbook definition of ridiculous machismo (which was also typified by the late 80s action blockbusters). There will be an expansion of this when I start work on my Franco "beginner's guide," since I think, from what I've seen so far, this is his most accessible film (albeit a not very personal one other than obvious themes that are far spread throughout his career).

Virgin Report - Jess Franco
Franco does mondo movies! A very random mix of scenes about current views on virginity and practices from the past, some done with ridiculous black face! It would be terribly boring if it weren't for the quick pace/short runtime and the amazing pumping soundtrack by Daniel White.

Puppet Master - David Schmoeller [rewatch]
I saw this movie very early on in my life (albeit in a slightly edited version on the Sci-Fi channel) and rewatching is a really sort of bizarre trip down the emotional hangups of my memory. That may sound a bit odd for a film that is ostensibly pretty bad, but there's just something so abjectly bizarre about the mood and music and sexuality of the film that makes it utterly watchable for me. There's a particular scene in the movie that has never, ever left my mind since seeing it and has totally affected my psyche and view of sexuality. Um, back to the actual film, it's something that exists in the real world the exact same way it exists in my head, which says something about the movie I guess.

Superbad - Greg Mottola
This was interesting to me because I'm not generally a fan of comedy films; in fact I normally avoid them. I saw this on a whim and wasn't disappointed. I think the main reason it works is because the film recognizes that at the end of the day, life isn't actually funny. Of course, that is only slightly built into the film, there is still plenty of ridiculous juvenilia that occasionally distracts from any sort of enjoyment.

Raspberry Reich - Bruce LaBruce [rewatch]
This remains my favorite LaBruce film for it's utterly over-the-top politics and portrayals of said politics; it's in-your-face sexuality is the only thing that really holds it together with it's PoMo Video-Art editing styles, but you can't say no to hot guys fucking. Also, it was very interesting to watch something that contained hardcore gay porn with somebody else (who I am not/wasn't currently fucking at the time), it made me keep my hands outta my pants at least.

Halloween - Rob Zombie
Was slightly interesting in it's completely objective/distanced display of casual violence (by a kid no less), but over all was neither remarkable nor a huge disappointment. Nothing that I could get worked up to write anything in depth on.