Sunday, February 16, 2020

letterboxd backup (13)

Der Zigeunerbaron, Karl Hartl, 1935

As a musical, this doesn't work all that well, there's only a small number of songs, and most are cut short or otherwise compromised. But Hartl still manages to provide an engaging romantic comedy adventure extravaganza, because of beautifully constructed sets, a fluent visual style and especially because of Wohlbrück, who dominates the film with the kind of hyper-virile, playful masculinity that (at least western) cinema seems to have lost access to about half a century ago. His bouncy, forceful, but also dance-like gait alone is a marvel. Unfortunately, the two female leads can't quite keep up with him.

Domino, Brian de Palma, 2019

have to see this again, i guess i might find more in it when i make a conscious effort to tolerate the eurotrash production design, but in any case now i do hope even more that de palma gets to make predator. he clearly isn't finished yet but he also clearly needs better producers.

on second sight:

It grows on me, although it still takes effort to accept the general lack of glamour. Strange (especially given the fact that this probably is a producer's cut) that the only coherent and thought through strand is the one about Carice van Houten's grief. The scene in front of the windmill is beautiful.

Carolina Blues, Leigh Jason, 1944

Wartime backstage musical without much plot beyond let's keep up the show whatever the cost. Kay Kyser is annoying and a lot of the material both on and especially off stage is bland, but the Harold Nicholas number is an absolute marvel that wouldn't have felt out of place in STORMY WEATHER, and Ann Miller has one nice, short dance scene.

Les quatre cents coups, Francois Truffaut, 1959

Watching it immediately after LES MISTONS brought its strength into focus: Everything that feels flimsy to the point of insufferable in the earlier film - the stylization of memory and self-image, the impulses of cinephilia - turns into something touching and rich because of Leaud's unwillingness to give up his secrets and Truffaut's decision to accept just that.

The Beach Bum, Harmony Korine, 2019

Down in the southernmost corner of Florida, in Key West, where America breaks away into the warm ocean, where continental attitude and selfassurance bleed into the southern sea, Moondog lives. The caribbean connection is key in the latest film of America's greatest ethnographic filmmaker, it mellows and liquifies the images, it infuses them with colours that bleed around the edges of the frame, but at the same time, paradoxically, it provides a grounding, an anchor, not in a set of rules, but in a general fit of people and surroundings. Only here, in the Keys, Moondog's aesthetic approach to life feels natural, frictionless.

The true bizarro freak-outs only start when the guy heads north, towards the mainland, the highrises, the institutions, the millionaires (and their others), the tourists (and the sharks). To be sure, even in Florida proper things do not really harden up, the claims the world has on Moondog stay vague, but still, sometimes he has to make a conscious effort to break away, from capital, and also from morality (this is what some people on the left seem to be irritated by: in THE BEACH BUM, leaving behind capitalism also means leaving behind the moral universe).

Only in Key West Moondog can write, here his white cat companion patiently waits for him to return from his journey and also from a narrative that finally releases him completely undigested after having thrown everything at him capitalist melodrama has to offer.


Snoop Dogg is smooth like alien royalty, but the biggest sensation is soft-spoken, desperately happy Martin Lawrence.

Aladdin, Bruno Corbucci, 1986

The drunk Bud Spencer scene is great. Aside from that everyone and everything is so laid back and pleasant that I wish there were at least some good ideas, too.

Tirez sur le pianiste, Francois Truffaut, 1960

On family ties and the necessary, but necessarily false attempts to escape them.

Okasu!, Yasuharu Hasebe, 1976

The summary on here has nothing to do with the movie. No one in it enjoys being raped. Still, as a film with nothing but rape on its mind it closes of discourse from the start, which only in one or two scenes leads to somewhat interesting glimpses of the radically antisocial.

Our Last Day, Cheang Pou Soi, 1999

Another shot on video film by Cheang Pou Soi, and this one feels completely different than THE HOUSE OF NO MAN, probably at least partly because he wrote the script himself. It's similarly bare bones low budget and shares with it some of its weirder quirks like the mostly ill-fitted english language pop tunes on the soundtrack (once again, there's a country western song thrown in...), but it is also much more alive and personal. The first part plays out a bit like a more existentialist and darker version of 90s Hongkong romance films of the fate keeping them apart kind, while the second half, completely set around a closet in the female lead's appartment, grows into a dense, claustrophobic psycho-horror melodrama. Visually, it's all over the place, but there's a lot of manic, desperate energy and Grace Lam is an interesting actress.

The Sparrow, Youssef Chahine, 1972

A layered thriller channeling the experience of being sidestepped by history: the battlefield is always one postcard away and the war is over and lost before anyone in the film realizes it. The dense, a bit overpopulated (at least for someone not that well versed in egyptian political history) plot flows along smoothly, but also breathless; only once in a while someone rests for a moment in order to take a look into the mirror - that is, always only at himself. Everyone's a narcissist, in one way or the other.
Once in a while, love and desire come crushing in, like a physical force. Seif El Dine as Raouf is marvellous, one of the most sensuous male leads I've seen in a while, especially in the beginning, in the village, his shirt clenched in sweat, his feeverish, eager glances towards the veiled women. While doing the laundry, one of them is seen with bare legs, and thereby momentarily destabilzes the filmic gaze.
Back in the city, sex stops being a source of primal negativity and becomes a social possibility. Raouf, then, turns out to be a romantic.


The film ends with all the different political and erotic motifs dissolving into a nationalist fervour that is, however, synonymous with defeat.

Ich war zuhause, aber, Angela Schanelec, 2019

For Schanelec, the realization that there's no natural oneness of experience is not a big, scandalous discovery (as it is in so many bad art films), but just a matter of fact starting point for her own explorations. This might be the reason she finds beauty in everything, even in a teachers' lounge.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

Of course it's a shame that hollywood has to turn everything into tentpole grandiosity these days, even the few smaller scale films that managed to get away. But if you have to go big, this is the way to go. Constantly inventive, and constantly more inventive than showy, for example in the Halle Berry fight scene: the dogs are used for tactics first, for visual carnage second.
The colours are, once again, the most beautiful thing since the death of analog cinema. The gradually expanding colour dramaturgy during the final big set piece in the Continental is what cinema was invented for.

Schattenboxer, Michael Fengler, 1977

Shoots for the kind of streetsmart, downbeat authenticity that seldom works in german cinema outside of Lemke. And neither does it here. It looks stylish enough and the music is effective, too, but everything feels terribly wooden and cringy as soon as someone, anyone opens his mouth.
I love Marquard Bohm, but he clearly only goes through the motions, here. Zacher is better, but can't save the film.
(For a much more interesting and successfull film roughly in the same vein see Dieter Meier's JETZT UND ALLES. Or, of course, Lemke, whose films are, however, almost always first and foremost comedies.)

Aladdin, Guy Richie, 2019

Thanks to the lively production design and the mostly good casting this is a bit better than one would expect a Guy Richie ALADDIN to be. However, it's still completely unfunny, basically styleless and every time it departs from the 1992 version (especially when it comes to Jasmin's character) its lack of insight becomes obvious. Whoever prefers this to Burton's thoughtful DUMBO must have a sensorium completely different from mine.

The Flame and the Arrow, Jacques Tourneur, 1950

Tourneur and Lancaster might not be a natural fit, but like it is said in the film: "We're civilized and the art of civilization is doing natural things in an unnatural way." In THE FLAME AND THE ARROW, the director and his star meet in their affinity with poetic studio artifice. Appropriately, the true place of civilization in the film isn't the castle, but the rebel's save haven - a magic studio forest in the midst of antique ruins.
Another inversion: Mayo's abduction plays out like a metaphorical rape scene; however, once she is captured and chained, her relationship with Lancaster plays out like a BDSM romance, with her having the upper hand most of the time.
The film's most graceful moment: Lancaster's short dance with the baby bear.

Robin and the 7 Hoods, Gordon Douglas, 1964

The main storyline is a bit dull, and there aren't quite enough diversions from it, but most of the songs are good, the Sammy Davis Jr. solo especially is downright spectacular: a trigger-happy man-child, parading on the bar counter, like something out of

a Bob Clampett cartoon. Douglas has quite a lot of fun with the awkward-dinner-table-conversation-followed-by-seduction setup repeated several times over the course of the film.

King of Kings, Nicholas Ray, 1961

Ray goes all in, and he kind of beats you down. While I was rather bored over long stretches of this, in the last half hour, I was positively transfixed. And well, Jesus really made it, he was resurrected after all.

Some of the split diopter shots are really weird.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Richard Lester, 1966

Really wasn't expecting to like this as much as I did. As a conscious throwback to earlier forms of comedy (going all the way back, in the end, to Mack Sennett) this could easily have felt rather academic, but the energy flow never stops and the direction is flexible enough to sustain interest even after the fifth identity mixup featuring some grumpy old fool chasing another grumpy old fool wearing a blonde wig.

Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death, Bing Lin, 1975

Except for the strange prolog, this is a rather straighforward low budget martial arts film with a decent lead who's underwhelming only when compared to the original. Towards the end, when he fights his way, floor by floor, through a pagoda by way of combating a series of rather flamboyant opponents, a low-key surreal feel creeps in.

The Black Shield of Falworth, Rudolf Mate, 1954

Tony Curtis is athletic enough, but he still looks a bit ridiculous in all of his different costumes and armours here, and the film, unfortunately, doesn't quite know what to do with this ridiculousness. Medieval sex farce would've been the way to go (ok, when I had a say in it, this would be the way to go for almost every film set even slightly in the past...), some of the scenes with Curtis, Leigh, (a wasted) Barbara Rush and this other guy in the castle's garden are a all too virtuous delight. Everything else never moves beyond dull competence.

Samson and Delilah, Cecil B. DeMille, 1949

The woman with the golden hair and golden armour throwing golden spears on a lion's skin... isn't even the true fetish object of the scene, because up there on the wall sits her sister eating fruit, already undressing Victor Mature with here gaze. (A film about toxic femininity, as someone put it after the film; about the female gaze, too, and about a woman mobilizing the forces of the peacock.)

Soon after, Mature rejects the spear because he wants to fight the lion with his bare hands.

Christianity's and america's id unleashed, roaming freely through magnificent studio artifice (the apotheosis of the composite shot)... Lamarr's glamour is met, point for point, by hunky Mature's elegance (the way he handles objects is amazing throughout the film), and both are allowed to bloom because of the strict objectivity of De Mille's Mise en scene.

Seing this almost back to back with KING OF KINGS validated, once again, my preference for the old when it comes to both testaments and hollywood.

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