Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Whose God Is Their Belly

[Note: all of the frame grabs below (save one) have been taken from the 2002 DVD edition of PURPLE NOON and not the new Criterion Bluray that debuted on December 4th. The previous DVD version was essentially a rip of the 1996 VHS version which corresponded with the Martin Scorsese-led revival of NOON. The new restoration, as you can see from DVD Beaver's coverage, is a major improvement. At the bottom of the post, I've included an image comparison.]

Rene Clement's PURPLE NOON is a 1960 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's dark psychological crime novel, The Talented Mister Ripley. Most people are probably familiar with the 1999 version directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a pre-overexposure Jude Law.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brother To Him That Destroys

As a warm-up for tomorrow's Criterion Bluray release of PURPLE NOON (1960) - Rene Clement's vibrant adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mister Ripley - I thought I'd check out GERVAISE (1956), Clement's ultra-bleak adaptation of Emile Zola's novel, L'Assommoir. I'd seen Clement's FORBIDDEN GAMES ages ago and found it tedious but I loved NOON so I figured GERVAISE - which came out a few years ago on the Essential Art House Criterion sublabel - might serve as a Clement tie-breaker.

Monday, November 26, 2012

“What a rotten film, all we meet are crazy people.”

“A critic once asked why there was so much blood in Pierrot. That’s not blood, answered Godard, but red. Equally, his films are not stories photographed, but a record of actors playing parts. The focus of his films is the distance between camera and actors and between screen and audience.”
- David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (2004 Edition)

“This is not a Hollywood movie. In a Hollywood movie, after the movie is over, there’s nothing more. There is no relationship between the screen and the spectator. There’s just duration. If you don’t like it, you go to sleep, the way I do. But in other movies, you can’t forget about it. You have to talk about it afterward.”

- Jean-Luc Godard, Rolling Stone interview, June 14, 1969 (excerpted in the liner notes for Criterion's recent Bluray edition of WEEKEND)

* * *

As much as I hate to lead with a David Thomson quote1, I think the first bit sums up everything I dislike about the motion picture exercises of Jean-Luc Godard. The second quote speaks to everything I admire about Godard (in theory) and what keeps me coming back to his films, however infuriating I find them.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mod's Lonely Man

“If he had been a dog in a city, a policeman would have shot him and sent his head to a laboratory, to see if he had rabies.” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Slaughterhouse Five

The above quote occurs to me more often than I'd care to admit. There's a certain kind of character -- in movies and in real life -- that always calls it to mind: the guy who is outraged when he's given the due punishment for (or reaping the natural consequences of) his bullshit behavior. The kind of guy who cuts you off in traffic and then flips YOU off. Or, in the case of Jimmy (Phil Daniels), the type of bloke who runs roughshod over vacationing families on Brighton Beach, tosses bricks through windows, smashes cars, burglarizes pharmacies, etc. etc. and then gets all bent out of shape when he gets tossed out of his parents' house (or nabbed by the police). Jimmy and his ilk are often labeled "antiheroes" but -- as they slamdance their way back and forth across the line between anarchy and nihilism -- they’re perhaps closer to the spirit of Antichrist.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Extremely Benign

Aki Kaurismäki seems unable to make a film that isn’t described by critics as “deadpan.” Even the back of the DVD for Kaurismäki’s latest, Le Havre (out recently from the redoubtable Criterion Collection), can’t resist calling it a “charming, deadpan delight.” But I think that the D-word – which usually suggests a detached, unemotional humor (cf. the work of Kaurismaki’s friend and contemporary, Jim Jarmusch) – isn’t exactly apt in the case of Le Havre. Barely concealed under its poker face is a wistful utopian dream.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Depicting the Wanton

Eclipse’s latest set ingeniously collects ten films – five shorts and five features – by five directors at the forefront of the retroactively titled “Czech New Wave.” Pretty much every film presented here was eventually banned by the Soviet overlords who micromanaged the Czechoslovakian culture following the Warsaw Pact.

According to the set’s liner notes (by Michael Koresky), among the Soviet system’s artistic tenets were the decrees that “art should be easy to understand and that narratives of struggle and sacrifice should lead to uplifting endings.” By these standards, the best films in the set aren’t just unsanctioned art, they’re Molotov cocktails whipped at the monolithic establishment.

The set begins with the anthology film PEARLS OF THE DEEP (1966) which collects five films based on the work of Czech author Bohumil Hrabal.  Each of the short films represents an auteurist aperitif for one of the five features included in the rest of the set. For this reason, I’m going to approach the set by director, rather than by film.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Iron Boy!

... or (if you prefer): Young Sherlock Holmes!

That's a pre-tween Robert Downey Jr. appearing in TWO TONS OF TURQUOISE TO TAOS TONIGHT, the most confounding (and, therefore, most representative) offering on the amazing new Eclipse set UP ALL NIGHT WITH ROBERT DOWNEY SR

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"How do you explain midgets? Or sock monkeys?"

Many years ago, I made the mistake of telling a David Lynch acolyte that I'd seen TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME and hadn't cared much for it at all. He asked if I'd ever seen any of the TWIN PEAKS series and I had to admit that I hadn't. "Well that's just STUPID," he remarked and, I gotta admit, he was right. FIRE WALK WITH ME presumes your familiarity with TWIN PEAKS and delivers a whole lot more to a fan of the series. Eventually, I put the situation to rights, watching the complete run of the series and following it with FIRE WALK WITH ME. I'm still not a huge fan of the last section of FIRE (as fantastic as Sheryl Lee's performance is, the demystification of Laura Palmer is a bit unnecessary) but I can definitely appreciate it more having enjoyed the two-season run of the TV series.

The main point of this ambling prologue? For this year's White Elephant Blogathon, I was assigned S. DARKO, the 2007 straight-to-DVD sequel to Richard Kelly's 2001 cult favorite, DONNIE DARKO. I've never seen the latter, nor do I ever intend do. Even before destroying my life by watching S. DARKO, I had no intention of seeing DONNIE DARKO. It feels like a thing that has come and gone and I had to be there to really appreciate it. (It didn't help that, at the time of it's release, most of the DONNIE DARKO proselytizers I knew usually tended to be people I actively disliked.) For me to watch DONNIE DARKO now seems like plunging head first into the Harry Potter books/movies or trying to get into Pogs or Pokemon or something. What's the use? The cultural relevance of these things diminishes daily.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bull Spears

Plenty of animals were harmed during the making of Francesco Rosi's 1965 bullfighting docudrama, THE MOMENT OF TRUTH. Rosi's film is a blunt depiction of the sport and viewers are not spared the intrinsic buckets of taurine blood.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"You know how to sucker a guy in, don't you?"

The above still represents one of the more thrilling scenes I've witnessed in a long time. It's taken from ROUTINE PLEASURES, one of three components that make up Criterion/Eclipse's new Jean-Pierre Gorin set.