Tuesday, July 28, 2020

last week in letterboxd

The Shiinomi School, Hiroshi Shimizu, 1955

Cinema can, in fact, ease the pain.

Stranger By Night, Gregory Dark, 1994

Gregory Dark simulating a 80s/90s hollywood run-of-the-mill programmer on a budget and doing a pretty good job at it. Normally he isn't a very smooth storyteller, but here, everything flows along nicely, at least before the somewhat rushed third act. Funny that this could very well be another of his softcore efforts, all the setups are right there, it's just that everyone decides to keep the clothes on for a change (at least most of the time). Good eye for location and at times almost Argento'esque use of music.

Pokkuveyil, Govindan Aravindan, 1982

The hypnotic score keeps rippling through my mind like the waves over the surface of the sea. Landscape is in cahoots with music and I'm not sure they always mean well. Anyway, resistance is completely impossible. A song, or a basketball game, or a woman's sobbing might break the spell for a few precious minutes, but soon after, we are back with the slow descent into insanity. The political furor leads nowhere, the father dies, the girl vanishes, nature takes back the basketball court. If anything remains, after the music stops it may be a mother's face.

Little Fish, Strange Pond, Gregory Dark, 2009

Starts with two not exactly sympathetic guys drifting through LA, reminiscing about the changing mediascape of their days (oh, the golden, silver and bronze ages of porn!) while barely registering the social decay around them. Their banter is not half as witty as Dark unfortunately seems to thinks it is. With a better cast - Modine is adequate, but Bloom is a non-entity throughout - the hangout movie part might still somehow have worked out. The completely unsurprising "dark turn" later on is an utter trainwreck, though - nothing to safe here.

All in all it's a terrible film, but terrible in a rather unique way, and if this really turns out to be G.D.'s swan song, he leaves on an unpleasant, jarring note not completely unfitting his strange career: his first shot at something similar to auteur filmmaking, he completely blew it and well, goodbye.

A Visage to Remember, Heinosuke Gosho, 1948

Open windows, open hearts. A house on the cliff, not at all a secure hiding place, but a stage for a theater of desire, doubled in a theater of light, wind and water constantly illuminating the the walls and floors. Exposed not really to the elements but rather to the forces of cinema itself. The walls between exterior and interior keep crumbling down, with unruly, ecstatic superimposition almost like in a Ferrara film, the screen taken over, again and again, by waves and close-ups of faces lost in affect. A constant longing for the sea, a piano triggering memories and memories triggering piano music, a staircase of pure expressivity...

I always liked Gosho, but this is something else, a post-war sturm und drang eruption equal only to Kinoshita's ONNA, but at the same time all gentle and forgiving. Hearts are beating, clocks are ticking, feelings get crushed, this is the way of the world, and still, some of us might love again.

Sylvie, Klaus Lemke, 1973

Still Lemke's finest hour. The Youtube transfer makes Sylvie's eyes shoot out green rays and turns her into the alien queen she always deserved to be.

In Search of… the Perfect ‘10’, Gregory Dark, 1986

After two masterpieces back to back an almost welcome reminder that sometimes films are just the worst.

The Moon Has Risen, Kinuyo Tanaka, 1953

Kinuyo Tanaka filming an Ozu script, even borrowing Chishu Ryu and staying rather close to most of his formal and emotional parameters throughout. Still, it's her film through and through - somehow the familiar surface makes her slight, tender interventions register all the stronger, especially the focus on Mie Kitahara, her gestures, her unruly gaze. The shomingeki equilibrium slightly decentered by a young woman's subjectivity.

Also, like in LOVE LETTERS, there's again a beautiful scene set in a public park. The green space inside of the city strips away the outer barriers between us, thereby rendering visible the inner ones.

Night of the Living Babes, Gregory Dark, 1987

Not quite as depressing as PERFECT 10, thanks mainly to somewhat committed performances by Bauer and Louie Bonanno. The combination of Dark's anti-humor and vhs-flatness nevertheless makes me want to move to a galaxy I don't have to share with films like this.

Girl Crazy, William A. Seiter, 1932

Another unassuming, laid back Seiter comedy. More a constellation of gags than a fully formed feature, and (mostly) all the better for it, as the screen is constantly filled with characters called Jimmy, Patsy, Danny, Tessie, Molly and Mary and everyone's clearly heaving a good time. Highlights include a musical number (Berkeley, I guess) illuminated by swirling spotlights rapidly escalating into full-blown surrealism; Mitzi Green's needy imitation scene that seems to go on forever until she's fobbed of with a helpless "You're sweet"; a scene with Wheeler and Woolsey as mock indians that makes fun of Wheeler and Woolsey instead of indians; Lita Chevret's dress; and a wonderful Mack-Sennett-style finale involving hypnotism. The romance side plot is just as annoying and tacked-on as in some of the MGM Marx Brothers films, but here it takes up less of the running time. My first Wheeler and Woolsey and certainly not my last.

Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig, 2017

Can't distance myself from this, just as the film can't, or won't differentiate between its confessional impulses and the pressures of narrative structure.

The Eternal Breasts, Kinuyo Tanaka, 1955

A life derailed, and thereby gradually becoming pure expression... a wonderful shapeshifter of a film, it takes only a single line in a newspaper article to turn a full-blown family melodrama into an intimate love story, that almost plays out like a particularly dark screwball comedy.

The Wandering Princess, Kinuyo Tanaka, 1960

It feels a bit strange that a film from 1960 about events which happened just 15-20 years earlier feels like a stuffy costume drama, but this might just be the price Tanaka had to pay in order to tackle a quite opelny revisionist project like this at all.

Starts promising, when the Manchurian prince Ryuko is supposed to marry turns out to be a sensitive, bespectacled dreamer instead of the rough barbarian her family expected. The scenes of the both of them making house in colonized China are quite nice. There's also a welcome touch of studio surrealism: Ryuko painting a picture of a particularly kitschy sunset - doubled in the background by the "original", an equally kitschy matte painting.

The rest (ie everything after "history happens") is well-meant and competent, but dull.

Lovers Are Wet, Tatsumi Kumashiro, 1973

Sex as a theater of love, hate and death.

A strip of celluloid film dragged over several meters of concrete: you might be able to superficially clean it, but something will stick.

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