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December 31, 2007

My Best of 2007


Having spent the first three months of this past year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, my perception of the best films of the year is a little skewed. As it stands, there are still some films from 2006 I still haven't gotten around to seeing, like Borat and Dreamgirls. Even seeing Thai movies in Thailand turned out to be less productive for a while as the only new Thai films playing were the first two parts of the trilogy of King Naresuan.

I did end my last free day of the year visiting Denver's newest movie theater. This is no chain theater cast off but an actual, newly constructed multiplex. The seats are actually comfortable. The food must be good because people were making a point of having actual cooked meals with their films. The theater that I saw Michael Clayton in had several love seats with ottomans. Even the regular seats have lots of leg room. This may well be the one theater in this town worth getting out of the house for. If all goes well, maybe I'll see the best of 2008 there.

Looking back at 2007 . . .

The Best New Film seen in a Theater: Exiled. Just like an overly praised film that many are naming as the best film of the year, Exiled takes place during a previous decade, tweaks the western genre, is about stolen loot, loyalty and idiosyncratic codes of honor. Johnny To's film was much more stylish, funny, thrilling and ultimately more profound in showing the characters lose everything for the flimsiest of reasons.

Best Old Film seen for the first time in a Theater: Death of a Cyclist. I had read about this film and understand why it has the reputation it has. The film was shown as part of the salute to Janus Films and is not available on DVD.

Best Film seen in 2007 that should be better known in 2008: Alone. One of the best horror movies about Siamese, excuse me, conjoined twins, was made in the country formerly known as Siam. Alone has appeared in the U.S. at a few film festivals, and an English language remake is already in the works.

Best Thai Film that may never be known outside of Thailand: The Sperm. I'm not alone on this one - Curtis of Wise Kwai's Film Journal and CelineJulie of Limitless Cinema agree. Unfortunately The Sperm was such a colossal box office failure in Thailand that it hasn't even received festival showings. Between the original title of Asujaak, the fact that it's a comedy about sex, and features an actress named Pimpaporn, you would think the folks at Strand Releasing would be all over this film like sugar on a donut. I will give them credit for releasing the Thai film Thai people can't see, Syndrome and a Century. In the meantime, to get an idea of how subversive Taweewat Wantha is, see his previous film, SARS Wars, which is easily available on DVD.

Best Classic newly released on DVD: Ace in the Hole. Unlike Kirk Douglas's character, I've developed a taste for Mexican food living in the northeast corner of the Southwest. Some have called this film prescient, except that nowadays, the notion of a journalist with any kind of conscious seems quaint.

Best Soundtrack that came with a movie (tie): Across the Universe and Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten. I use to be a big Bob Dylan fan and saw him in concert months before the "accident". I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now . . .

Best Costume Design: Black Snake Moan. 'nuff said.

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Happy New Year to everyone who's come to visit!

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:31 AM | Comments (2)

December 30, 2007

Coffee Break

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Suzanne's Career (Eric Rohmer - 1963)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:34 AM

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

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Crooks Anonymous (Ken Annakin - 1962)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:47 AM | Comments (1)

December 24, 2007

I'll Be Seeing You

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William Dieterle - 1944
MGM Region 1 DVD

Unlike too many films that take place during the holiday season, I'll Be Seeing You may be a bit more emotionally honest in depicting the most melancholy time of the year. It is for that reason that in spite of taking place during Christmas and New Year's that this film has never been dusted off as a holiday perennial. What gives I'll Be Seeing You a degree of contemporary resonance is how disconnected many of the characters are from each other.

The story is contrived, with shell shocked Joseph Cotton meeting furloughed prisoner Ginger Rogers on a train. Cotton follows Rogers to the small town of Pine Hill, where the weather is cool but snow is absent. Rogers is staying with Aunt Spring Byington, Uncle Tom Tully and voluptuous niece Shirley Temple. While Cotton gradually reveals his vulnerability, Rogers does her best to hide her criminal status due to accidental manslaughter.

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The film is worth seeing for one scene that encapsulates the difference between being in war and how it is presented. Cotton and Rogers go to the movies where a war film is playing. Cotton is shown being uncomfortable watching the film, reminded as he is of his current traumas. We only see the poster of the film which suggests that it was of the kind made to encourage enlistment. Outside the theater, a couple of young boys are playing "war" with toy guns, pretending to die on the sidewalk. Cotton is reticent about discussing his war experience, and what little is revealed is of war experienced on a tiny, personal scale rather as part of a grand canvas. As such, Joseph Cotton's role anticipates the slew of post-World War II films about veterans who experienced emotional or physical problems.

While George Cukor began the film, and was fired again by producer David Selznick, I'll Be Seeing You has more in common with Dieterle's other films, especially in some of the darker moments. One of the visual high points is during the New Year's celebration with Rogers and Cotton virtually entwined in confetti. The scene provides a literal visual metaphor for two lost souls who are bound together.

Another view of I'll Be Seeing You is offered at Beyond the Valley of the Cinephiles.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 01:29 AM

December 23, 2007

Coffee Break

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Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck in Reindeer Games (John Frankenheimer - 2000)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:00 AM

December 22, 2007

Mountain of the Cannibal God

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La Montagna del dio Cannibale
Sergio Martino - 1978
Blue Underground Region 1 DVD

I guess one of my resolutions for 2008 should be to stop watching DVDs on my laptop lest they get stuck as this one did. Not to let anything go to waste, I did a few screen shots. While others discussed the nominations of the Hollywood Foreign Press gang, I watched this film starring former Golden Globe winner Ursula Andress, showing the world what was only hinted at fifteen years previously in Dr, No. Speaking of golden globes . . .

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 05:13 AM | Comments (5)

December 20, 2007

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten

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Julien Temple - 2007
IFC Films 35mm Film

In case you didn't see it, Andrew Grant, also known as Filmbrain, mentions me in an interview at Focus Films new website. I was reading Andrew's postings regularly before I embarked on the creation of my own blog.

Wednesday was my last free day. I will be working every day until the 30th, doing my part to help those who actually celebrate Christmas. A DVD I saw last week is still stuck inside my laptop. I'll be posting about that particular film in a couple of days. I took my DVD player that had been in storage for about a year while I traveled, only to find that it no longer functions properly. I have a new DVD player on its way that I hope will arrive in time for me to whittle down the small pile of films I got from the Denver Public Library. In order to see a film from beginning to end, I had to get out of the house. I ended up going to the Starz Theater in part because I figured I should take advantage of my discount now that I am a member of the Denver Film Society. Also, a film about Joe Strummer seemed more compelling than the half dozen films named on various ten best lists.

What Julien Temple has made is not so much a documentary but more of a collage of footage of Strummer alternating with news footage and clips from other films. Somewhat similarly to what he did with Johnny Rotten in The Filth and the Fury, Temple tries to fit in Strummer within the context of British culture. In the earlier film, Temple makes the lead singer of The Sex Pistols out to be the contemporary version of Shakespeare's Richard III. Temple is less specific regarding Strummer so that the musician may be viewed as a reflection of the zeitgeist of his times.

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This interest in British culture is a theme Temple (seen above) has also explored in his theatrical features as well. Absolute Beginners may take its title and plot from Colin MacInnes' novel, but visually suggests that this is Temple's remake of Expresso Bongo, in particular the similar Soho sets. Pandaemonium explored art and celebrity in the lives of Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth. For Temple, there are certain threads in British Culture that are repeated, with certain rock stars as part of that continuum. Is this theme forced? Certainly, with clips from the animated Orwell Animal Farm, the Michael Anderson version of I984 and Lindsey Anderson's If used to hammer a few points. None of this makes The Future is Unwritten any less interesting.

More questionable is having various people in Strummer's life gather round campfires to reminisce. It sort of makes sense in a convoluted way as the musician once named himself Woody after folk singer/activist Woody Guthrie. What is more wrongheaded was the decision to not display the names of many of these people, so that instead of listening to what anyone is actually saying, you're trying to figure out if that's Jim Jarmusch under that hat.

Better is the music itself, including the story behind The Clash's biggest hit. "Rock the Casbah". One could argue that the future WAS written, as indicated by the song Strummer wrote with his previous band, The 101ers, "Keys to Your Heart". Also included are excerpts from the radio show Strummer hosted which showed his musical interests and influences. Considering the state of the airwaves lately, we could really use "Radio Clash".

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:38 AM | Comments (2)

December 18, 2007

The Powell-Pressburger Blog-a-thon: The Waiting Game

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Michael Powell - 1975
St. Martin's Press

The Waiting Game is a novel about Ireland, published in 1975, but taking place in 1952. What is revealed through this novel is how certain themes from Powell's films are repeated. Because of the details and descriptions, Powell proved that even if he could not make films anymore, at the very least he could write in such a way that one could easily visualize the novel as an imagined movie.

Like several of Powell's films, his novel takes place in one of the more remote areas of the English speaking world. The main character, Diarmuid O'Connell, a Canadian of Irish descent who takes the job as gamekeeper at the estate near a small village. The village, where everyone knows everyone else, is a destination for hunters, and as such, relies on tourism. A murder taking place the previous year of an American hunter and his sons remains unsolved. The insularity of the community is challenged by the economic dependence on strangers whom they eye with suspicion.

Powell's story is about people who are haunted by their past. Similarly, though perhaps unconsciously, The Waiting Game seems to be haunted by John Ford. The most obvious reference is when several of the characters see what is referred to as a John Ford western at the local movie theater. No title is mentioned but based on when the novel takes place, I am assuming it would be Rio Grande. The hunter's two sons are named Jack and Ford. There is also reference to someone named Aloysius Ford, Aloysius being one of the director's claimed middle names. It was also in 1952 that John Ford made his film about Ireland, The Quiet Man. The description of a fight between O'Connell and another man could easily remind readers of the fisticuffs between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen. And Powell, who had an eye for redheaded women, may well have had Maureen O'Hara envisioned in his creation of Sue, the woman with the "big, handsome figure". That Sue is caught between O'Connell and a local man echoes the romantic triangles of such films as Gone to Earth and I Know Where I'm Going.

As Powell never completed his autobiography, there is nothing to put The Waiting Game in any context that does not require some speculation. The very brief description of the author mentions that Powell was preparing to film The Tempest. At the time the book was published, Powell was known chiefly for The Red Shoes and Thief of Bagdad. My own introduction to Powell was through Wllliam K. Everson. Powell's last feature, Age of Consent was barely released in the United States in 1969. What is certain is that if Michael Powell was unable to make any of the films that he imagined, he did the next best thing by writing a vivid, cinematic novel.

Others taking aim at "The Archers" can be found at Beyond the Valley of the Cinephiles.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 10:04 PM

December 16, 2007

Coffee Break

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Susan Scott (center) in Velluto Nero (Brunello Rondi - 1976)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 06:02 AM

December 15, 2007


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Gordon Douglas - 1967
Paramount Region 1 DVD

It's the 100th birthday of Gordon Douglas, and the director who started his career working for Hal Roach may be getting the last laugh. While Andrew Sarris consigned Douglas to the "Miscellany" section of his book , The American Cinema, Douglas' craftmanship and efficiency would be an improvement over much of what passes for mainstream filmmaking today. Douglas' filmography is remarkable if only for some of the entertainers he directed, not simply movie stars, but multi-talents Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and five films (including three in a row) with Frank Sinatra. Douglas also helmed Rio Conchos, the debut film football star, Jim Brown, in 1964. Brown returned the favor by having Douglas direct Slaughter's Big Rip-Off when Brown became a star of blaxploitation films. Douglas most beloved film involved the direction of giant radioactive ants in Them!.

Of the three films directed by Douglas in the productive year of 1967, Chuka is eclipsed by the better remembered In Like Flint and Tony Rome. In placing the film with other Douglas films Sarris has cited such as Young at Heart and Come Fill the Cup, Chuka is of more thematic interest and consistency. Even more so than Douglas' more serious films, the characters of Chuka simultaneously face both inner demons and an insurmountable outside threat.

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While the main narrative is told as a flashback, Rod Taylor as the title character is first seen riding his horse in the snow. Nature is one of the uncontrollable forces in Chuka, be it snow, sand storms, fire, or the constant wind. Most of the film takes place in a remote fort commanded by John Mills, a last ditch assignment for all of the soldiers. A wagon train with two women finds that the temporary stop has been extended out of concern for an imminent Indian attack. It is revealed early on that the Indian attack has been motivated out of starvation. Chuka's sharing of some meat with a band of Indians encountered in the snow in the beginning of the film temporarily gives him some measure of protection.

As a western, Chuka was part of a general trend of films that challenged some of the genre conventions. While neither as epic as Cheyenne Autumn nor stylized as Welcome to Hard Times, Chuka was one of the films to take steps towards more graphic violence, and less obscure sexuality. The greater drama in the film is not the threat of the Indian attack, but of the characters in the fort revealing their particular truths, their strengths and weaknesses. What also makes Chuka something of a departure in the genre is the deliberately ambiguous ending - someone is buried at the fort, but the identity of the person or persons is never revealed.

The film is helped by the strong casting of Taylor, with John Mills and Ernest Borgnine as the fort commander and his loyal Sergeant respectively. Chuka also provided Douglas the opportunity to work again with James Whitmore and Louis Hayward. Curiously, Luciana Paluzzi and Mills would work together again in the proto-giallo, A Black Veil for Lisa. Chuka came and went at a time when Bonnie and Clyde was the major film of that summer. Gordon Douglas may not have had the ambitions of Arthur Penn, but there is enough visual artistry to remind one that Douglas could display his talent within the right opportunities.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:18 AM | Comments (3)

December 11, 2007

Eleonora Rossi Drago: 1925 -2007

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I was ten or eleven years old when I saw the poster for the Italian costume film, Sword of the Conqueror. I never saw the film. But for some reason, the name of Eleonora Rossi Drago made some kind of impression on me. The poster shows a muscular, toga clad Jack Palance with a buxom woman, her own more delicate, but ragged garment ready to be undone. Palance has one hand holding up his sword, the other is wrapped around Ms. Rossi Drago. The text reads, "For one woman he sent a million warriors into battle! For one woman he sent an empire toppling! For one woman he ravaged an age!"

When you're Eleonora Rossi Drago, guys take extreme measures. For those unfamiliar with her, Violent Summer is a good introduction, where she charms Jean-Louis Trintignant. She was also one of the girlfriends in Antonioni's Le Amiche.

Ciao, bella!

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:58 AM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2007

The Horror of John Brahm

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The Undying Monster
John Brahm - 1942

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The Lodger
John Brahm - 1944

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Hangover Square
John Brahm - 1945
20th Century-Fox Region 1 DVD

Seeing all three of John Brahm's horror films back to back was cause for me to look at his complete filmography more closely. I realized that including many of his television episodes, I have seen more work by Brahm than I thought. Considering that Brahm worked on several anthology series that specialized in suspense and horror, a complete study of Brahm should cover his contributions for the small screen. It is worth noting that Brahm's highest professional honor was a Directors Guild nomination for the Twilight Zone story, "Time Enough to Last". Without giving away the plot to the two people who haven't seen it, this is the episode with Burgess Meredith as the bookworm, whose obsession with reading is both his salvation and curse. It is another one of Brahm's television episodes that truly scared an impressionable ten year old.

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In the early Sixties, I wouldn't know who John Brahm was, but the name Boris Karloff meant something. The anthology series, Thriller managed to push the boundaries of horror on television. I was too young to see most of the the series, but it was enough to know that it existed, and to read about it in "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine. One fateful night, I was staying at my cousin's house where the rules regarding television watching were a bit more relaxed. The episode, "A Wig for Miss Devore" was about an actress who wore the cursed wig of a historical figure she was portraying in a movie. Whenever the actress, Sheila Devore, removed the wig, always off the set, she became a frightening killer. The killings were all filmed from the point of view of Miss Devore. It wasn't until the end of the episode that the audience sees how hideous the actress was once the wig came off. I have remembered this episode of Thriller for forty-five years (!), but only now made the connection with the director.

The Fox horror films are linked stylistically and thematically. The fog machines work overtime to disguise the limited sets. There is a traveling shot near the beginning of The Undying Monster which I recognize as being shot on a set for a John Ford film, with only minor alterations. All three films use point of view shots of the killer, a device Brahm continued to use in his television work. The Undying Monster and Hangover Square both are about men who are unaware of their dual natures. As all three films take place at the beginning of the Twentieth Century in England, Scotland Yard comes to the rescue. The choice of actresses may have been mandated by Darryl F. Zanuck, but we have three dark haired 20th Century foxes - Heather Angel, Merle Oberon and Linda Darnell, the latter two demonstrating the importance of clean underwear. More seriously, the films demonstrate why a better availability of Brahm's films is needed.

Clearly Alfred Hitchock had no problem with Brahm's remake of The Lodger as Brahm directed episodes for Hitchcock's television series. It seems possible that Hitchcock was spellbound by Hangover Square, the camera traveling past the musicians and diving into a close up of Laird Cregar's hands at the piano, or more tellingly, the tight shot of duplicitous Linda Darnell embraced by Cregar while the music of Bernard Herrmann swells with romantic longing.

The Lodger has several shots of Cregar lunging towards the camera. There seemed to be a desire on the part of Brahm to make as close to a 3-D film as possible with objects and people coming straight towards the audience, and to play with the illusion of depth as much as possible. It would be interesting to compare Brahm's work in the Forties with his one foray into 3-D filmmaking, The Mad Magician, starring Vincent Price.

Even under the collective heading of "Fox Horror Classics", this DVD set has aided in the re-evaluation of John Brahm. The comparatively larger budgets may have made a difference as well, as the films compare favorably to the Val Lewton produced films and the Universal horror films made during those same years. While John Brahm made fewer films, and fewer personal films, than some of his contemporaries, he showed that when the opportunity arose even with work for hire on television, that he had not lost his flair for horror that served him and his audience so well in the Forties.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:39 AM | Comments (4)

December 09, 2007

Coffee Break

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Peter Whitehead in Dead End Drive-In (Brian Trenchard-Smith - 1986)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:08 AM

December 07, 2007

301, 302

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Park Chul-soo - 1995
Koch Lorber Region 1 DVD

With so many close-ups of fish, meat and vegetables, 301, 302 almost becomes food porno. That may be intentional as part of the story is about a woman who substitutes food for sex. Although Park Chul-soo's film eventually goes into the territory explored in such films as Dumplings and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Park minimizes the explicit horror to just a couple of brief shots. It would be interesting to know how much of an influence Hitchcock may have been on Park as some of the shots made me think of Psycho - the frequent overhead shots of the characters, telling the story visually through the details of close-ups of objects and the faces of the characters. The use of food also recalls Hitchcock's television version of Roald Dahl's Lamb for the Slaughter and to a certain extent, Frenzy.

The film is about two women, neighbors in the "New Hope" apartment building. Song-hee is recently divorced and lives in an apartment dominated by a gourmet kitchen. She seems as addicted to the act of cooking as she is to enjoying a variety of dishes. Yun-hee's apartment is more spartan, marked by her wall full of books, enough to make Song-hee remark that that it resembles a library. The women are opposites with the outgoing Song-hee having an appetite for food and sex, while the introverted Yun-hee is a professional writer, with articles about food and sex, while rejecting both from her life. Flashbacks show the sexual abuse of Yun-hee, the step-daughter of a butcher, which explain the linking of sex and food in her life.

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The story is slight. What Park does is lay on details. There are close-ups of food being prepared, calamari boiled, dumplings folded, and one very phallic looking cucumber chopped into smaller slices. Some of the close-ups of mouths while eating may be too much, and may have been so on a theater screen. There are extreme close-ups of Hwang Shin-hye - her mouth, her glasses, her eyes. Shots of her being bathed by Pang Eun-jin appear influenced by some of the more abstract compositions of Janet Leigh's face in Psycho. While Hwang is the cerebral character, with most of the shots of her face and head, Park's shots of Pang emphasize her more physical sense of being - her breasts, her legs, her hands. Even the apartments are contrasted by the use of color. While Yun-hee's apartment is almost all white, Song-hee's is marked by the colorful plates, and a wall that is the color of wine, or perhaps blood.

Whatever the more serious intentions Park may have had for 301, 302 give way to the fetishistic treatment of surfaces. The film is about alienation, about two people so disconnected from the world that their respective apartments are all the world they need. Park may be making a parable about contemporary Korean women but he is more interested in piling on bits of visual information. What is most memorable about 301, 302 are the yellow plates, blue cups, fish scales, sliced meat, steel doors, silverware, and dotted panties.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:02 AM | Comments (2)

December 04, 2007

Beowulf (2007)

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Robert Zemeckis - 2007
Paramount Pictures 35mm Film

Even though the films always fall short of the promise of the technology, I still like to see 3-D films. Part of the motivation is just to get an idea of the current state of the art of creating the illusion of depth, and of things ready to burst from the screen. This fascination includes taking advantage of a revival double feature of Creature from the Black Lagoon and They Came from Outer Space, as well as seeing the original House of Wax. There is discussion of a possible re-release of Hondo in 3-D, the way the film was originally intended. I even went to see Spacehunter: Adventure in the Forbidden Zone back when there was an attempt to bring back 3-D films in the early Eighties.

While probably not as over-powering as seeing it on an IMAX screen, I did make a point of seeing this newest film version of Beowulf digitally projected. Some of the intended effect was lost as the teenagers operating the Regal Theater in downtown Denver did not think it important to pull back the curtains for the complete wide screen. As could be expected, there were the usual flying objects, coins and arrows, coming towards the audience. But as good as the technology is, nothing made me duck in my seat as had happened when I saw Andre De Toth's House of Wax.

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More disconcerting was what was done with the actors. I'm sure Ray Winstone wishes at times that he had Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's body in real life. Anthony Hopkins appears to have had his head transplanted on Brendan Gleeson's more portly frame. The usually attractive Robin Wright Penn looks more like Glenn Close. If Angelina Jolie comes off best in Beowulf, it is because she is her own best special effect. C. Jerry Kutner has an observant piece on women in the films of Robert Zemeckis in Bright Lights After Dark. Not only is Jolie seen in the flesh less than Winstone and Hopkins, but the CGI rendering of her body, eliminating nipples and genitalia, make her resemble a Barbie doll. Considering the frequent humiliations that occur to women in past Zemeckis films, a sexless Angelina Jolie is not surprising from a filmmaker who doesn't seem to like women who stray from the boundaries of strict domestication.

For those interested in filmed versions of the myth, the 2005 version, with the then lesser known Gerard Butler, is worth seeing. According to a person more familiar with the epic poem, this film is actually closer to the original epic. Zemeckis' version of Beowulf is closer to a Classics Illustrated comic than an actual classic. It may also be worth noting that one of the co-writers of the screenplay is Roger Avery. Some may recall that the film Avery co-wrote, Pulp Fiction competed with Zemeckis' Forrest Gump thirteen years ago for Academy Awards. With its story of the lure of gold and power, the epic of Beowulf could almost be seen as a parable about Hollywood.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:40 AM | Comments (4)

December 02, 2007

Iranian Cinema - Two Views

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Haji Agha: Cinema Actor (Avenes Ohanian - 1932)

Iran: A Cimemagraphic Revolution/Iran: Une Revolution Cinematographique
Nader T. Homayoun - 2006
Red Envelope Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Iranian Cinema: A Political History
Hamid Reza Sadr - 2006
I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.

It was my Zionist mother who first encouraged me to look at films from Iran. The film in question was Gabbeh which was screened in Jerusalem. I've been keeping up with most of the major releases since then and have also made efforts to see past films currently available on DVD. It may be no surprise that my favorite Iranian filmmaker is Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

While Iranian films from the 90s on are relatively easy to see, on DVD if not in theaters, the earlier films are much rarer. Sadr's book and Homayoun's film do not give a complete picture of the history of Iranian Cinema, but to a limited extent they do compliment each other in providing a basic overview of the films and conditions under which those films were made. Sadr provides most of the substance regarding film and political history which in turn make Homayoun's excerpts from the various films more meaningful.

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Anxiety (Samuel Khachikian - 1962)

Especially interesting in the clips chosen by Homayoun are excerpts from films made between 1969 and 1974. Made at the same time the first major wave of film school graduates were making their first films in the U.S., there is the sense that many of the films of Iran's "New Wave" are part of a treasure trove in need of rediscovery. Parallel to Western cinema is the commonality of taking the camera to the streets, and making films that in some way challenge the status quo.

In addition to Makhmalbaf, Homayoun also has interviews with Jafar Pahahi and Bahman Ghobadi, as well as some of the older Iranian filmmakers. What emerges is the sense that making films in Iran is a continuous struggle, and virtually a revolutionary act, no matter who is in charge of the government.

Sadr also conveys the frustration that is shared by some of the filmmakers regarding the difficulty they have had making films, as well as the imbalances between the Shah's dictatorship and an Islamic theocracy. While I assume that the Persian names are all correct, Sadr would have benefitted from a proof reader who would have caught the errors regarding "Nancy Sawkaw", "Warington Hodlin" and "Richard Penia" (Nancy Savoca, Warrington Hudlin, and Richard Pena).

If neither the film nor the book is perfect, my own feeling is that they provide a basis for a deeper understanding of Iranian film as it is currently made, and a glimpse into Iran before the revolution.

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Under the Skin of the Night (Feridun Goleh - 1974)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:31 AM

December 01, 2007

Coffee Break

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Saro Urzi in Seduced and Abandoned (Pietro Germi - 1964)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:23 AM