Archive for October, 2013

Season of the Witch

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2013 by dcairns

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A Halloween double feature — over at Apocalypse Now, Scout Tafoya continues our Cannes ’68 Comeback Special with a look at Kaneto Shindo’s KURONEKO, the spookiest of all entries at the Cannes That Never Was.

And at The Notebook, this fortnight’s Forgotten delves into some more very strange goings-on in the Land of the Rising Sun. You want monsters? We got monsters! (And cat ghost vampire women too!)

In the US, you can buy KURONEKO thusly:  Kuroneko (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

In the UK, so: KURONEKO (Masters of Cinema) (BLU-RAY)

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Fashion

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by dcairns

Isn’t that GREAT? And quite advanced for 1969 — UV lighting and all that.

From THE ADVENTURERS, directed under protest by Lewis Gilbert, who wanted to do OLIVER! instead. Even late in his career, Carol Reed was a better director, but Gilbert would have brought passion to it, so who knows?

I’m posting the only three good bits of this awful film so you don’t have to sit through it.

Nobody except Charlie Bluhdorn at Paramount wanted to make this. His head of production Robert Evans thought it was a terrible, old-fashioned idea. Gilbert said it was “a bullshit story.” If he could have rattled through it in ninety minutes it might have passed, but it’s, I think, approximately one hundred and eighty-seven hours long.

Here is Charles Aznavour’s sex dungeon, which might have made the whole film worthwhile were it not four hundred and eighty-seven hours long. I posted some stills from this before but it’s worth seeing it in motion, which I was unable to arrange previously due to technical troubles.

Delia Boccardo has wild sex with Bekim Fehmiu, some statues and a zoom lens. This is quite bold, and nearly brilliant — filled with contempt for the material, Gilbert tries to bring it to life with desperate measures, and the result is very possibly the most interesting scene he ever made. The statue cutaways, though cheesy, WORK, I think — it’s like porno Minnelli, or sexed-up Eisenstein. And then he starts giving Delia a good seeing-to with the zoom lens and it becomes just silly. But still better than the rest of the film, and probably better than most of Paramount’s output that year.

The film is edited by Anne V. Coates (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE ELEPHANT MAN, OUT OF SIGHT) and the cutting is intense and has real SNAP. I just wish she’d forgotten to include all the bits in between these clips.

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Autumn Smiles of a Winter Light Darkly

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2013 by dcairns

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Ran WILD STRAWBERRIES for students. As one might expect, following the plot synopsis I gave them, not as many attended this screening as had shown up for CRISS CROSS. This is a shame, as it’s a cracking film. I hadn’t actually watched it all since I was about eighteen or something, and was relieved to find it as interesting as I remembered it. Also, huge parts of it I hadn’t remembered at all, and I enjoyed those too. Afterwards, one student agreed with me that Bergman can be pretty funny.

(As I recall, I recorded the film off of BBC2’s Film Club on a Sunday night, and sat down to watch it Monday lunchtime with a plate of fish and chips. And something that happened during the dream sequence five minutes in caused me to fling my knife and fork across the room in shock, startling the spaniel.)

They just showed the film in Lyon, too, where I learned that the French call it LES FRAISES SAUVAGES. SAVAGE STRAWBERRIES. Sounds like the kind of film George Clooney might have made early on, just so he could look adorably rueful about it now.

Of course, it’s not that, and nor is it a gloomy art film (Woody Allen, in his praise of I.B,, seems to WANT him to be a gloomy Swede, and doesn’t even notice the comedy in THE SEVENTH SEAL, which is at least 50% laffs) — it’s more like an anthology genre mash-up, beginning with an expressionist horror movie dream, then becoming a road movie, with diversions into teenage romcom and Kafkaesque noir (another dream). There’s even a song. And a car crash. If only it involved the Mercedes of a comedy gay man, Jerry Bruckheimer could remake this.

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The fragmentary, tone-hopping picaresque approach allows the film to segue into flash-forwards to Bergman films he hasn’t even made yet. The protagonist (my man Victor Sjostrom) picks up a bickering married couple locked in a horrible sadomasochistic codependent purgatory. In one dream, a blackboard displays a message in an incomprehensible gibberish language, undoubtedly the same one invented for THE SILENCE.

Another student remarked that the film felt very modern compared to Hollywood films of the same era — which is true. Partly this is because it rejects genre (though as I just said, it sort of drives through a number of them); partly it’s because Bergman wasn’t subject to the same stringent censorship, which meant he could get into the habit of approaching things with a greater frankness (there’s no sex as such in the film, really, but he creates the feeling that if there were, it wouldn’t be coy); and technically, the film does some striking things which seem quite new. In particular, there’s plenty of subtle camera movement during the driving scenes, pushing in on the leads or sliding from one to the other, which of course means it’s done in a studio with rear projection background. But it’s so skillfully done it didn’t make me think of Hitchcock, but of the car scene in CHILDREN OF MEN, which reintroduced the same kind of dramatically-effective artifice.

Strange seeing Max Von Sydow turn up as a garage mechanic, but then it was strange seeing him at the next table in a restaurant in Lyon, sitting with Pierre Richard and other elder statesmen of European cinema. My friend Lenick was able to overhear and translate: “They’re complaining about how things are different now, you can’t have a glass of wine and go for a drive anymore.” And then Dominique Sanda showed up and introduced herself to Max: “My name is Dominique Sanda, I starred in a film with you once.” True, she’s been away from France and may not be as well-remembered as she should be — the modest retrospective at Lyon hopefully has done something to right that — and also, maybe Max has erased STEPPENWOLF from his mind.

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Somehow Victor’s closeup makes me think of Garbo in QUEEN CHRISTINA.

Anyway, this is basically A Christmas Carol, isn’t it? A mean old man has some dreams about the past, present and future and changes his way of behaving with others. Arguably one reason it seems more sophisticated than that is we never really see Victor Sjostrom being mean, we mainly learn about his emotional coldness via his son. He seems a fairly sweet old stick, and it’s hard to work out why his daughter-in-law is so mean to him. This removes the caricature element of Dickens and replaces it with Bergman’s more nuanced sense of sliding sympathies. It’s a proper grown-up film, so I was pleased that the kids today can still “dig” it, as I believe the expression is nowadays.