Friday, March 13, 2020

letterboxd backup (25)

Eye Candy, Katharina Kraft, 2019

Fascinating scene, fascinating protagonist... Really a shame this is so dull.

Searching Eva, Pia Hellenthal, 2019

A lot of the more stylized shots (like the one that looks like a rip-off of the opening of MILLENIUM MAMBO) do not work particularly well, but as an attempt of "writing" (instead of catching) an elusive life it's extremely fascinating.

Fleischwochen, Joachim Iseni, 2019

On the incongruity of body and world. A small masterpiece.

Madame, Stephane Riethauser, 2019

Some of the home movies are fascinating. Otherwise, a bit slick.

DDR - Ohne Titel, Peter Braatz, 1991

Searching for the sound of a country that just lost its dominant beat. Pointed observations and freestyle landscape jamming organically flowing into each other. (Among many other things: a cure for formalism.)

Una Primavera, Valentina Primavera, 2018

Notions of masculinity handed down straight from Mussolini closing in from all sides. What`s left are gestures of helplessness, and maybe a small shimmer of hope in the shape of a lively niece who is only casually impressed by the motorbike of her suitor. A strong film because Primavera isn`t interested in preconcieved notions and stays on the inside the whole time.

Last Christmas, Paul Feig, 2019

I thought for quite a while that this might be Feig`s best film: the same eye for relaxed, freewheeling acting as always (who would`ve thought after TERMINATOR GENISYS and CRAZY RICH ASIANS that Clarke and Golding are both natural romcom actors? I sure didn`t, and then there`s Michelle Yeoh, too), but much more control and a better script.

Unfortunately Feig seems to trust his better instincts less and less toward the end. The big revelation at the center of the script, which should (and could) have elevated the film toward pure cinematic romanticism, is treated like an awkward afterthought, and then hidden beneath all kinds of secondary resolutions. (Clarke`s encounter with Golding not only saves her life, but heals, by way of a rather clumsy wokeness overreach, everyone around her... thereby exchanging cinematic fantasy for social fantasy.)

Wuthering Heights, Luis Bunuel, 1954

The direction feels a bit more detached than in other mexican Bunuel films, but this suits the systematical madness of the material quite well; an irresistible drive toward the gothic, but experienced from a certain distance. Jorge Mistral is an excellent Heathcliff.

Frozen, Buck and Lee, 2013

In its best moments, FROZEN feels like a the romantic dream of a depressed barbie doll. It`s not without imagination and not even without a few moments of elegance usually completely absent in modern Disney films - most of these are centered around Elsa, who is a truly fascinating presence, at least in theory.

Still, this never had any sort of grip on me. I think this has less to do with the tired action-adventure plot and the terribly bland songs than with the visuals; as with most cgi animation, it seems like there`s an incongruity between the dynamic and the static elements of the image. The dynamic parts are too alive, everything flows too smoothly, thereby draining all energy from the static parts; and when they try to make everything move it just looks messy. To me, the world of FROZEN feels as lifeless as the backdrops in terrible 90s computer games like Myst.

Robinson Crusoe, Luis Bunuel, 1954

The necessary tragedy of instrumental reason.

La donna scimmia, Marco Ferreri, 1964

Back to ape films, finally. This is a strange and conflicted one, though. Basically it's a marriage drama disguised as a satirical comedy - or the other way around, it's never quite possible to get a grip on it, as both modes of address are constantly undermining each other. The setup is too ridiculous to be taken at anything other than crude allegory, but at the same time the psychological stakes and the slow pace undercut the farcical aspects.

In the end (and like most of the Ferreri films I've seen), it's more interesting in theory than in realization. Every single scene is played out painfully long, and Tognazzi is so dominant an actor that Girardot's quite nuanced performance never stands a chance. That might be the point, though.

Still, much better than almost all studio comedies I`ve seen in the last few years.

A Simple Favor, Paul Feig, 2018

Feig seems to have no sense for suspense whatsoever, so he settles for an ungainly farcical tone and ill-adviced shots at self-reflexivity (the whole vlogger storyline is terrible), both made bearable by the generally very good cast. I was mostly on board until the extremely annoying last 10 minutes. On the other hand, this is a very bad time to lose an audience.

Boyz n the Hood, John Singleton, 1991

Very good acting and all the iconic moments I remembered from watching this as a teenager are still there, but it's also much clumsier than in my memory. Basically all attempts at turning casual observation into moralist storytelling, or, even worse, political commentary, fall flat.

Monkeys, Go Home!, Andrew V. McLaglen, 1967

A repressed, permanently grinning bachelor drives into a small town and, with the help of four monkeys and Maurice Chevalier, destroys the local economy through wage dumping. In other words, a Disney movie.

In the end, what's really bad about this is that the monkeys are locked away in a room for most of the film.

Die Mauer, Jürgen Böttcher, 1991

Lots of interesting stuff, but clearly not the most engaging film one could have made at this particular space and time. Boettcher's detached style doesn't reap as many rewards as one may think, maybe because in the end the wall just isn't that cinematic an object. The best scenes treat it as a social space of a short-lived, somewhat awkward historical moment, a space for brief encounters between different social groups, before they returned to their respective quarters (where they've mostly stayed since).

Mossane, Safi Faye, 1996

Beautifully filmed with some striking images and an eye for female sensuality, but next to Faye's much more open-ended documentaries FAD'JAL and KADDU BEYKAT its straightforward approach is a bit disappointing.

Bride of the Gorilla, Kurt Siodmak, 1951

Uneasy mix of film noir and almost gorillaless gorilla movie. I love it.

Deadlier Than the Male, Ralph Thomas, 1967

Much more joyfull than expected, like a Bond film made up only of the smaller, more inventive scenes in between the cynical mayhem. Johnson is dull, but that gives the women more chance to shine. All the scenes with Sommer and Koscina are beautiful. The tender close-up of the peaceful, satisfied face of one of their victims immediately before they throw him off a balcony really took me by surprise. A pleasant film to die in.

Feuer und Eis, Willy Bogner, 1986

A surrealist game camouflaged as popular cinema: I see, I ski. I knew this would be a film for me as soon as I heard Emil Steinberger's warm swiss accent dubbed over images of Central Park. Loved every demented second of it.

Duel, Steven Spielberg, 1971

The radio interview in the beginning gets more ridiculous with every viewing. Makes one wonder whose paranoia we're dealing with, here. Still, as soon as the monster arrives, everything clicks.

Commando, Mark L. Lester, 1985

Arnie´s gaze.

Der Kurier des Zaren, Richard Eichberg, 1936

Walbrook elevates every film he's in and even besides that this has a sense of spectacle and movement largely absent in most other 30s German adventure films I've seen.

Mafioso, Alberto Lattuada, 1962

Lots of moving parts and still everything falling into place: must be a smoothly running machine. Take care that your thumb isn't cut off, though.

Just because you're allowed to touch real woman instead of those made of sand doesn't mean you've escaped.

Le professionnel, Georges Lautner, 1981

Well cast, good location work, a tight script, a pleasant sense of bodily roughness... but just a bit too much macho bullshit to get me engaged.

Peking Opera Blues, Tsui Hark, 1986
Life as a series of stage tricks, but this doesn't mean that love and death aren't real. Favorite moment this time around: the slow motion when it starts to snow.

Still waiting for a print that really does this film justice, though. Probably hopeless.

Boiling Point, Takeshi Kitano, 1990

I wouldn't be surprised if Kitano made this just for the baseball scenes - a perfect outlet for low-key absurdities. The one on the beach is especially beautiful. Otherwise it's a bit one-note, but I guess that's what deadbeat proletarian life on the outskirts of Tokyo might feel like. Develops a darker streak once Beat himself takes over.

Oeil pour oeil, Andre Cayatte, 1957

Two men battle it out in the desert, with a dead woman hovering over them the whole time. - Awesome minimalist-existentialist genre cinema driven by a perfectly articulated sense of moral obligation.

The Mechanic, Michael Winner, 1972

Surprisingly baroque. Even more surprising that it works smoothly from beginning to end. I wouldn`t have thought that Winner could pull off a scene like the one with the prostitute playacting a clingy girlfriend so well.

The Exterminator, James Glickenhaus, 1980

Heal it.

White Pongo, Sam Newfield, 1945

In William Nigh`s THE APE, a black killer gorilla collects spinal fluid, to make wheelchair-bound Maris Wrixon walk again. He succeeds but dies. In WHITE PONGO, Wrixon is stuck in the jungle, stalked by several men and a white gorilla that, in the final act, manages to abduct her. Then, a black gorilla shows up, fights the white gorilla, and saves Wrixon once again. What`s more, all gorillas aren`t gorillas, but played by the same man, Ray Corrigan, in different suits. In THE APE, the gorilla even diegetically isn`t a gorilla. It`s supposed to be Boris Karloff in a suit, but of course, Karloff never wears the costume, except for the scene in which he is exposed. In WHITE PONGO, Corrigan can`t play both gorillas when they`re in the same frame. Here, one of the gorillas (according to Ingo Strecker: the white one) had to be operated by a double. Which leads to the question whether all of those gorillas aren`t doubles to begin with. That`s the lesson the gorilla films introduce to cinema: It`s no longer just about the interconnection of actor and character, but about the three-way interaction of actor, character, and suit.


While the film never quite manages to connect the gorilla stuff and the human interactions in any meaningful way, Newfield directs with the same laid-back ease I enjoyed in some of his westerns. He really seems to have felt at home directing this kind of shoestring budget quickies.

My Sommer of Love, Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004

I can easily imagine a great film about Emily Blunt luring Natalie Press into a satanic lesbian sex cult, especially when set against the warm, lush colours of the Yorkshire countryside. This, however, is just dull.

The White Gorilla, Harry L. Fraser, 1945

More gorilla madness with Ray Corrigan. This starts with a few people stuck in a jungle hut. Then Corrigan arrives in human form and tells a convoluted story, revealed in flashbacks, featuring two gorillas, one of them white ("the outcast of the jungle"; at least partly the same design as in WHITE PONGO) and the various exploits of a "tiger boy". The tiger boy part is snatched completely from a lively, if casually racist jungle adventure serial of the silent era, while the gorilla part consists of new footage. Of course, the gorilla themselves aren`t real, but suits filled with humans - in this case, Corrigan himself! So we see Corrigan "observing" alternatingly a fast-moving tale about silent-age hero types batteling lions and decidedly slow-moving footage of himself wearing different kinds of monkey suits.

Film lies 24 times a second.

Eva, la venere selvaggia, Roberto Mauri, 1968

This has Brad Harris in top shape, men in (very bad) ape suits, a mostly naked jungle goddess interacting with cute animals and lots of footage of an expedition walking through a very italian looking jungle accompanied by hypnotic, repetitive electronic music. In other words: EVA should`ve been much more than a 2,5 star movie, but unfortunately the director is some Roberto Mauri instead of Joe D`Amato.

Frozen II, Buck and Lee, 2019

Might even be a bit stronger visually, and the songs at least aren`t worse than in the first one, but this time around I really couldn`t find anything to relate to at all. The once again way too hectic action-adventure plot isn`t anchored in the characters, but is presented as a "political" debt (ie an accumulation of postcolonialist tropes strategically deprived of all specificity). It`s not about melting your inner ice palace, but about soldiering through some magical forrest, because this is what you have to do this week.

In the end: no need for outrage, just not my kind of film. The snowman really is extremely annoying this time, though.

Fight Club, David Fincher, 1999

I was a bit afraid of taking this on again, but once I made it past the strenuous opening montage, I was mostly on board, maybe even a bit more than back then, because the dark glow of Cronenweth`s images looks even more gorgeous when compared to today`s drab digital aesthetics. Also, unlike other 90s pomo epics such as NATURAL BORN KILLERS and MAGNOLIA (maybe my two worst repertory experiences of the last 12 months), this has a sense of both rhythm and humour.

Dr. Renault´s Secret, Harry Lachman, 1942

Deeply affecting horror film with J. Carrol Naish as one of the saddest monsters of film history, a creature virtually crippled by displacement and a deep sense of shame. There`s also Mazurki`s character, a distorted mirror image of Naish: he is also humiliated, but avoids becoming a monster (in outward appearance) by way of externalizing the violence he experiences.

Between this and the hilarious IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD, post-impressionistic painter turned b-movie auteur Lachman clearly is a subject for further research.

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