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December 31, 2017

Coffee Break

Lily James and Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver (Edgar Wright - 2017)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 10:57 AM

December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Melvil Poupard in Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan - 2012)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 12:32 PM

December 24, 2017

Coffee Break

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Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas - 2016)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 10:19 AM

December 19, 2017

52 Films


I didn't sign the pledge. I just watched movies. Mostly DVD and streaming films from Netflix, end of year screeners intended for award consideration, and a couple films in theaters, as well a couple in my collection. After a while, I had to remember to update the list. And I stopped counting after I hit the magic number. This was around September. I have seen a few more films by female filmmakers since then. These are the films I counted in the chronology of when they were viewed.

1. Always Shine (Sophia Takal - 2016)
2. The Love Witch (Anna Biller - 2016)
3. Black Women in Medicine (Crystal Emery - 2016)
4. The Gold Diggers (Sally Potter - 1983)
5. Puppylove (Delphine Lehericey - 2013)
6. Nuit #1 (Anne Emond - 2011)
7. Hooligan Sparrow (Wang Nanfu - 2016)
8. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson - 2016)
9. Mujer Lobo (Tamae Garateguy - 2013)
10. Dearest Sister (Mattie Do - 2016)
11. Blood Punch (Madellaine Paxson - 2013)
12. Hannah Arendt (Margarethe von Trotta - 2012)
13. 13th (Ava DuVernay - 2016)
14. Zero Motivation (Talya Lavie - 2014)
15. After Sex (Brigitte Rouan - 1997)
16, Portrait of a Garden (Rosie Stapel - 2015)
17. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska - 2015)
18, Some Girl(s) (Daisy von Scherler Mayer - 2013)
19. Adore (Anne Fontaine - 2013)
20. The To Do List (Maggie Carey - 2013)
21. Breaking the Girls (Jamie Babbit - 2013)
22. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade - 2016)
23. The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse - 2015)
24. Sunlight, Jr. (Laurie Collyer - 2013)
25. A Case of You (Kat Coiro - 2013)
26. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Love - 2016)
27. What Happened, Miss Simone (Liz Garbus - 2015)
28. Wadjda (Haifaa al-Mansour - 2012)
29. Say aah . . . (Axelle Ropert - 2013)
30. A French Gigolo (Josiane Balasko - 2008)
31. The Wolfpack (Crystal Moselle - 2015)
32. Sunshine Superman (Marah Strauch - 2015)
33. The Second Mother (Anna Muylaert - 2015)
34. Empire of Silver (Christina Yao - 2009)
35. What's in the Darkness (Wang Yuchin - 2016)
36. Being Good (Mipo O - 2015)
37. Elvis & Nixon (Liza Johnson - 2016)
38. Father of My Children (Mia Hansen-Love - 2009)
39. A Beautiful Now (Daniela Amalia - 2016)
40. Never Fear (Ida Lupino - 1949)
41. The Leveling (Hope Dickson Leach - 2016)
42. The Unlikely Girl (Wei Ling Chang - 2012)
43. If You Don't, I Will (Sophie Fillieres - 2014)
44. Sophie and the Rising Sun (Maggie Greenwald - 2016)
45. Janis: Little Girl Blue (Amy J. Berg - 2015)
46. Pure (Lisa Langseth - 2010)
47. LOL (Lisa Azuelos - 2008)
48. A Place on Earth (Fabienne Godet - 2013)
49. On My Way (Emmanuelle Bercot - 2013)
50. Mundane History (Anocha Suwichakornpong - 2009)
51. By the Time it Gets Dark (Anocha Suwichakornpong - 2016)
52. Sex in the Comics (Joelle Oosterlinck - 2012)

Simply having a large number of French films made a difference. France seems to be one of the few countries where female directors have actual careers rather that battling for years to make another movie. As far as some of the titles go, if you send me a screener, even one that has no chance of making the best of year lists, much less any kind of award, I'll watch it eventually.

I'm not going to call myself a feminist because I'm not sure what that's suppose to mean when a guy calls himself that. But I did put my money where my mouth is by supporting a crowdfunding campaign of one the filmmakers here. Mattie Do's video was so funny, talking about her need to buy fake blood for her second horror movie, that I contributed $100.00. That was in 2013. What none of us imagined at that time was that the film, Dearest Sister would play at several film festivals, be part of the programming of the online movie channel Shudder, or most amazingly, be the first film ever from Laos to compete for the Foreign Language Film Oscar. This was also the second film that I ever helped in the crowdfunding stage. I contributed a modest $10.00 to help produce a movie so strange in description that also turned out quite well. That was A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Bragging? Maybe. Participating in crowdfunding just seems like a good idea to show some concrete support, especially for newer filmmakers.

I also want to mention, for those unfamiliar, that Shudder has a section listing all of their available features and shorts directed by women. And sometimes you have to remind people, especially fanboys, that the template for many horror movies was established in a novel by a British teenage girl in the early 19th Century.

I'm illustrating this post with a poster from a film directed by Ida Lupino, who for a while was the only working female director in Hollywood. I got to see the Museum of Modern Art's 35mm print of Never Fear at a modestly attended screening. This was in conjunction with a book tour by Therese Gresham and Julie Grossman, the authors of the book, Ida Lupino, Director - Her Art and Resilience in Times of Transition. Get the book - it covers Lupino's work both in film and television.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:36 AM

December 17, 2017

Coffee Break

Your Name (Makoto Shinkai - 2016)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 09:53 AM

December 12, 2017


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Maigret Sets a Trap / Maigret Tend un Piege
Jean Delannoy - 1958

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Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case / Maigret et l'affaire Saint-Fiacre
Jean Delannoy - 1959
Kino Classics BD Region A

One way of making a blu-ray a "keeper" is by having Nathan Gelgud do the cover art. Kudos to Kino for going above and beyond the lame photoshop efforts of some companies that think just issuing a film on home video is enough.

As for the films themselves? Historical curiosity is what attracted me in the first place. I revisited a vaguely remembered passage of Andrew Sarris' The American Cinema, where he paraphrases Francois Truffaut's declaration that the worst film be Jean Renoir is better than the best film by Jean Delannoy. I can't really argue that point as the only other Delannoy films I've seen were costume epics, both with Gina Lollobrigida, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Imperial Venus. Coincidentally, Renoir also made a Maigret film, La Nuit de Carrefour which Jean-Luc Godard declared as "the only great French detective movie - in fact, the greatest of all adventure movies." The films could well be considered representative of the "tradition of quality" that Truffaut, Godard and the others criticized, and notably were released at the same time French cinema was about to undergo a major shift.

Jean Gabin, re-established as a star in France after a slump following World War II, played Georges Simenon's famed detective twice for Delannoy, and a third time, to lesser effect in 1963 for Gilles Grainger. The first of these films is the best, featuring early performances by Annie Girardot and Lino Ventura. A killer has attacked four women in the Marais district of Paris, with Maigret leading the police investigation. The entire film appears to have been filmed in studio sets, with long, dark alleys. How this works in Delannoy's favor is with his frequent use of tracking shots through streets or within the police station. The scenes of murder are depicted with screams and shadows. There is one very brief moment when a gigolo's girlfriend pops her head through a doorway, topless, with a few seconds of footage that probably was never seen by U.S. viewers back in 1958. One of the other highlights here is the performance by Olivier Hussenot as a mousy detective who can't stop sneezing.

Delannoy took Maigret on location with the second film. A countess, the widow of a small town's land owner, receives a letter stating that she will die on Ash Wednesday. Maigret, who knew the woman as a youth, returns to Saint Fiacre after almost forty years, in hopes of preventing a murder. Something is amiss when the chateau is revealed to be almost empty of furniture, with the outlines on walls where paintings once hung. The mystery is solved in an almost leisurely fashion in the course of two days. Visually, the film is less stylish, though there is a nice use of close-ups of hands of Gabin and Valentine Tessier, as the countess. One nice scene is of Maigret gaining the confidence of an alter boy with tales of his own youth in the same church.

Delannoy could well be deserving of a re-examination. Among the writers, Delannoy filmed screenplays by Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre. Even though he made films during the Nazi occupation of France, Delannoy was also a member of the Resistance. Forced to redo a film starring the the Jewish Erich von Stroheim, the film was recast with fellow Resistance member Pierre Renoir, Jean Renoir's Maigret. In 1953, in his book on French cinema, Georges Sadoul described Delannoy as "an honest craftsman, capable of good work and worthy of his international reputation." Sometimes, that's more than enough.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:54 AM

December 10, 2017

Coffee Break

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Ulrich Thomsen and Stine Stengade in Fear Me Not (Kristian Levring - 2008)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 10:24 AM

December 05, 2017

Death Laid an Egg

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La morte ha fatto l'uovo
Giulio Questi - 1968
Cult Epics BD Regions ABC / Region 0 DVD two-disc set

Sure, there's a shot of black leather gloves, and a woman's throat is cut, but to describe Death Laid an Egg as giallo seems to be missing the point, or at least misleading the viewer. The genre elements are only a small part of the visual and political shenanigans concocted by Questi in collaboration with co-writer and editor Franco Arcalli. That there is something that passes as a plot almost seems like a way to conveniently end the film.

Where Death Laid an Egg really shines is as a work of pop art on celluloid. Quests begins with a series of off-kilter shots of people who may or may not be connected, in various hotel rooms, with one primping his luxurious hair, another man encasing his head in clear plastic, while we hear, but do not see, the conversation between another man and a woman, perhaps a prostitute. The company where Jean-Louis Trintignant works has a giant egg statue in the lobby, while his office is decorated with a large poster of a chicken skeleton. There's a graph chart with two oversized jagged lines, blue and red, that looks more like a artist's parody of a real graph chart. Only seen up close was some kind of chandelier with glass drops that resembled vials of blood. On the road, Questi focuses on the directional arrow on the highway, and an unexplained car on fire.

I would have suspected that Franco Arcalli brought in the more political aspects of the film, but further research indicates that this might not be the case. English language writing on Questi is scant, based primarily on the two films he is known for by English language viewers. Arcalli would later collaborate significantly with Bernardo Bertolucci as a writer. Trintignant is the business face of a chicken farm owned by wife Gina Lollobrigida. Living with them is a young niece played by Ewa Aulin. The farm has become fully automated, much to the displeasure of the former workers. The farm, as such, is a large structure with row after row of caged chickens. The centerpiece of the farm is a huge, centrifugal machine that seems to somehow do everything from distributing the feed to completely plucking the chickens. Touched are thoughts that have become more widely discussed in the almost fifty years since the film was made, especially discussions of bioengineering the chickens for commercial purposes.

The film also features one of the handful of film scores by Bruno Maderna. One of the supplements on the blu-ray is the soundtrack album. That Maderna did the music score instead of someone more traditionally melodious like Riz Ortolani would be one way Questi would undermine genre expectations. Just as the violence is more suggested than seen, so the potentially erotic moments seem deliberately flat. After seeing Death Laid an Egg, you might not look at an egg yolk in quite the same way.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:58 AM

December 03, 2017

Coffee Break

Jean-Pierre Leaud in The Pornographer (Bertrand Bonello - 2001)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 10:18 AM