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by Sean Axmaker

Contributor

Blu-ray/DVD: Roger Corman’s ‘Death Race 2050’

Death Race 2050 (2016) – After Paul W.S. Anderson’s humorless Death Race, his 2008 remake/reworking of the Roger Corman-produced cult movie Death Race 2000 (1975), there’s something oddly satisfying in getting a genuine remake produced by Corman himself in the impudent spirit of the original.

Death Race 2050 is a modern B movie, produced directly for the home video market (Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) on a minimal budget, and director / co-writer G.J. Echternkamp has no illusions of what he’s making. In the best Corman tradition, he delivers the grunge action movie goods and a little more. It’s not necessarily a “good” movie—it’s ragged and choppy and scattershot, with broad, cartoonish gags and easy jabs over pointed satire—but it’s also fun, unpretentious, cheeky, energetic, gleefully trashy, and filled with junky spectacle.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 13

“Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” The same goes for visual compositions. In this Front Page, the right shots take the place of the almost right shots—and the result is galvanizing. When the lens takes in a two-shot of opposing journalists instead of a wide shot of the entire company, or when a star reporter who’s “going New York” spits out his new address to his colleagues, then writes it on the wall in one unbroken move—instead of delivering his speech in a flat profile—it’s not just great “filmed theater,” it’s also a real live movie.” Criterion’s latest double-feature redeems the entire notion of remakes, while restoring luster to the never-really-seen original. Michael Sragow reports on how Milestone’s The Front Page is finally seen anew thanks to the recent discovery of the director’s preferred American release cut; while Farran Smith Nehme reminds us that His Girl Friday has never needed such building-up, regardless of how Hawks came by the idea of the gender flip. (“Remarriage plots are the most grown-up variation [in the screwball comedy toolkit], because these are the movies that say two people can be perfectly suited and still louse it up. Matching (or, if you will, marrying) this device to The Front Page, so famous for its bite and cynicism, resulted in the most bracingly adult screwball comedy (and romance) of them all. Hawks and Lederer found a fresh spin on the remarriage comedy, making the question not how the wandering spouse will find her way home but how she’ll get back to work.”)

“I suggested earlier that one has to cut through layers of superimposed cultural meaning to get down to what The Witch is. And this interlude in which I’ve described Eggers’ fastidious focus on craft might make it sound like I’m about to assert that The Witch is a tightly controlled aesthetic exercise rather than an ideological statement—a painting rather than a thesis paper. But I don’t think Eggers is a “formalist,” if we’re defining formalism as privileging the aesthetic over the thematic. He uses craft as a conduit for empathy. It’s telling that Eggers praises Bergman’s technique in the same breath as he praises Bergman’s compassion—and Sven Nyqvist’s. To call a cinematographer “compassionate” is to assert that the camera’s gaze can be loving, dignifying; it is to assert that the act of photographing people, and portraying them honestly and generously, carries moral weight.” For Lauren Wilford, once the inevitably over-simplified political and feminist readings of The Witch have faded away, the movie can be taken for what it is: a debut promising a great, idiosyncratic career.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 6

“Pagnol’s roots as a novelist and a playwright show in his intricate understanding of networks, of crosscurrents that whisk the characters away from seemingly nearby finish lines. He has an astonishing grasp of destiny, not as a sentimentally celestial branch of predetermination, but as a series of prisms fashioned by the push and pull between emotion and human-contrived social structures.” A restoration of Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles Trilogy (for he is clearly the prime author, if only the director of the final installment) has Chuck Bowen marveling at the novelistic richness of the films; while Jeremy Carr is astonished by the lifelike, quotidian detail. (“[These] films take their time, making sure to supplant in the drama properly ample space for joking digressions and an informal laze-away-the-day realism. César’s boisterously high emotions are capricious, sometimes in the span of the same outburst, but that variability mirrors the gracefully juxtaposed outrage of the series in general; characters will get angry and breathlessly passionate, but the film itself—grounded, cautious, unflappable—refuses a wholly agitated tone.”

“He is the exile director: a Latin American who made most of his movies in English, French, or Portuguese—and whose aesthetic inhabits an absolute alien territory. His films are drifting, fantastical, introspective, melancholy, erudite, raucous—sometimes telling no story at all, sometimes telling too many. He made so many films, and they so consistently refuse to obey whatever formal rules we’ve come to expect from cinema, that they tend to develop into a blurry whole in your mind.” Adam Thirwell on Raúl Ruiz, of course, flush from a retrospective so partial it doesn’t even feature the movie it was named after, discussing how Ruiz’s narrative tangents and love of tableau vivant open cinema up to stories and visions unapproachable by more conventional means.

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Parallax View’s Best of 2016

Welcome 2017 with one last look back at the best releases of 2016, as seen by the Parallax View contributors and friends and a few special invitations.

Sean Axmaker

1. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
2. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
3. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
4. Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie)
5. Sully (Clint Eastwood)
6. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)
7. Neruda (Pablo Larrain)
8. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)
9. American Honey (Andrea Arnold)
10. Our Little Sister (Kore-eda Hirokazu)
Could have made the list on another day: Arrival, Don’t Think Twice, Hail, Caesar!, Jackie, La La Land, The Lobster, Love & Friendship, Moonlight, The Neon Demon, The Witch

Pure moviegoing joys of the year: Sing Street (John Carney), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi)

Performance of the year: Isabelle Huppert in Elle

Worst film of the year (in a year when I managed to skip most of what everyone else has branded as terrible): Nocturnal Animals

Also a list at Village Voice, plus lists of Best Restorations / Revivals of 2016 and Best Blu-ray/DVD Releases of 2016

Sheila Benson

1. Moonlight
2. Paterson
3. Toni Erdmann
4. Manchester by the Sea
5. I, Daniel Blake
6. Elle
7. Loving
8. The Handmaiden
9. A Bigger Splash
10. Aferim!
Also a list at Village Voice

David Coursen

It includes only films screened in D.C in 2016. Numbers 5-7 were shown only once; the others had more extended runs.
1. Manchester by the Sea
2. Mountains May Depart
3. No Home Movie
4. Moonlight
5. The President
6. Sieranevada
7. Behemoth
8. Little Men
9. Remember
10. Sully
Honorable Mention: Mustang, Certain Women, The Handmaiden

No D.C. venue saw fit to screen the monumental Out 1: Noli me Tangere, so it’s not included. But even in the diminished format of a Netflix streaming and with all the ludicrous writhing and moaning, it’s such a grand and heroically ambitious muddle that I likely would have made it a rather incongruous neighbor of Moonlight.

John Hartl

Moonlight
Manchester by the Sea
Indignation
13th
Captain Fantastic
The Lobster
Hell or High Water
A Man Called Ove
The Innocents
La La Land
A second 10: Florence Foster Jenkins, A War, Love & Friendship, Family Fang, Take Me to the River, Arrival, Weiner, Southside With You, Snowden, Sparrows.

Robert Horton
(originally published in Seattle Weekly)

1. Aquarius
2. Our Little Sister
3. The Fits
4. Cemetery of Splendor
5. Things to Come
6. Everybody Wants Some!!
7. Sully
8. Paterson
9. Green Room
10. Aferim!
Runner-ups: My Golden Days, The Lobster, American Honey, Les Cowboys, Certain Women, Disorder, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, The Love Witch, Love & Friendship.

Richard T. Jameson

I have some key 2016 releases to catch up on, so this alphabetical listing simply celebrates ten films I liked a lot.
American Honey
Aquarius
Arrival
Cemetery of Splendor
Elle
Green Room
Hell or High Water
Manchester by the Sea
Paterson
Sully
Things to Come

Oh … that’s eleven.  OK, so it’s eleven.

Jay Kuehner
(originally published on IndieWire)

1. Toni Erdmann
2. Cemetery of Splendor
3. Aquarius
4. Kate Plays Christine
5. Neon Bull
6. Happy Hour
7. Right Now, Wrong Then
8. Homeland: Iraq Year Zero
9. Certain Women
10. Moonlight

Moira Macdonald
(originally published in The Seattle Times)

In alphabetical order:
Arrival
Fences
The Handmaiden
Hell or High Water
The Innocents
La La Land
Loving
Maggie’s Plan
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Other movies I loved, any of which might have made the first list on a different day, were L’Attesa, Certain Women, Christine, Dark Horse, Don’t Think Twice, Finding Dory, Little Men, Love & Friendship, Our Little Sister, Southside With You, Tower.

Andrew Wright
(originally published in Salt Lake City Weekly)

1. Paths of the Soul
2. The Fits
3. Shin Godzilla
4. Elle
5. Hell or High Water
6. Green Room
7. The Witch
8. Tower
9. Manchester by the Sea
10. Arrival
Also a list at Seattle Screen Scene and links to reviews of select films here

Filmmakers

Megan Griffiths (director, Eden, Lucky Them, The Night Stalker)
(originally published in The Talkhouse)

1. Moonlight
2. American Honey
3. Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell
4. Uncle Kent 2
5. Free in Deed
6. 13th
7. Captain Fantastic
8. Manchester by the Sea
9. Lamb
10. The Lobster

John Jeffcoat (director, Bingo: The Movie, Outsourced, Big in Japan)

This is one bizarre list. It shows I have kids and I didn’t get out much in 2016! And that TV continues to stay strong (sorry I cheated with the TV shows).
Captain Fantastic
Deadpool
Storks (biggest surprise, I may have been drinking)
Doctor Strange
Cameraperson
Minimalism
Rogue One
Goliath
Silicon Valley
Stranger Things (my favorite)

Jennifer Roth (executive producer: The Wrestler, Black Swan, Laggies, Blood Father)

Alphabetical order because I kind of liked them all equally.
Certain Women
Gimme Danger
Green Room
Hell or High-water
I, Daniel Blake
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Paterson
Sing Street
Weiner

Lynn Shelton (director, Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister, Laggies)

There were many films that I didn’t get a chance to see this past year so this list comes from a limited survey. That being said, I feel very strongly about every one of them.
Moonlight
13th
The Lobster
Victoria
Arrival
American Honey
Moana
Kubo and the Two Strings
Hell or High Water
Atlanta *
*this is not a movie, it is a TV show on FX, but it is so anti-television in its cadence and cinematography and writing that I felt a very strong urge to include it in this list.

Rick Stevenson (director, Magic in the Water, Expiration Date, The Millennials)

La La Land
Captain Fantastic
Moonlight
Hell or High Water
Fences
Hidden Figures
Manchester by the Sea
Love & Friendship
The Lobster
Silence

Programmers

Beth Barrett (Interim Artistic Director, SIFF)
(originally published on IndieWire)

In no order, here are 10 works that really affected me in 2016:
Tower
La La Land
Stranger Things
Captain Fantastic
Moonlight
Tickled
Kedi
Midnight Special
Arrival
The Handmaiden
Every year I resolve to see more, champion more unknowns, and challenge myself more. Going into 2017, I resolve to make sure that the stories of the world keep getting seen.

Courtney Sheehan (Executive Director, Northwest Film Forum)
(originally published on Seattle Screen Scene)

1. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan)
2. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
3. Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi)
4. A Rendering*
5. Los Sures (Diego Echeverria)
6. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sangsoo)
7. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)
8. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman)
9. Crumbs (Miguel Llansó)
10. Tower (Keith Maitland)
Not yet released: Lily Lane, Ma, Rat Film, The ChallengeKino OtokThe Black PinMy Own Private WarStarless Dreams
Recalling 2015’s best unreleased films, all of which subsequently played Seattle in 2016 except for The EventAbove and BelowCemetery of SplendorMen Go to BattleUncle Kent 2, My Golden Days, A War, The Event
*The only short on this list, by LIMITS, or Seattle-based choreographer/dancer Corrie Befort and sound artist/musician Jason E. Anderson. Video shot and edited by Adam Diller.

More Seattle lists:

Mike Ward has been polling Seattle film critics for the Seattle Film Awards for a few years. The winners for 2016 will be announced in early January. UPDATE: Winners announced January 5.

Seattle Screen Scene invited film critics for their own compilation.

Polls / Lists

Village Voice
Time Out London
Slant
Sight and Sound / BFI
Roger Ebert.com
Indiewire
Film Comment

Other lists

2016 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry
Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1926
A Year of Loss (David Hudson remembers those we lost in 2016)

Best Blu-ray & DVD releases of 2016

We’ve been hearing people pronounce the death of DVD and Blu-ray for years now. You’d never know it from the astonishing wealth of Blu-ray debuts, restored movies, and lovingly-produced special editions in 2016. The sales numbers are way down from a decade ago, of course, thanks in large part to the demise of the video store, which drove sales of new movies to fill the new release rental racks. The studios still handle their own new releases on disc but many of them have licensed out their back catalog to smaller labels—some new, some longtime players—who have continued to nurture the market for classics, cult films, collectibles, and other films from our recent and distant past. Criterion, Kino Lorber, Shout! Factory / Scream Factory, Twilight Time, Arrow, Olive, Blue Underground, Flicker Alley, Raro, MVD, Cinelicious, and others have continued to reach those of us who value quality and deliver releases that, if anything, continue to improve. We prefer to own rather than rely on compromised quality of streaming video and the vagaries of licensing and contracts when it comes to movies.

2016 has been as good a year as any I’ve covered in my years as a home video columnist and paring my list of top releases down to 10 was no easy task. In fact, I supplemented it with over two dozen bonus picks and honorable mentions. My approach is a mix of historical importance, aesthetic judgment, quality of presentation, and difficulty of effort. It is an unquantifiable formula influenced by my own subjective values but you’ll see some themes emerge. I favor films that have never been available in the U.S. before, significant restorations, discoveries, and rarities. But I also value a beautiful transfer, well-produced supplements, insightful interviews and essays, and intelligently-curated archival extras. You’ll see all these in the picks below.

Out1Box1 – Out 1 (Kino Lorber / Carlotta, Blu-ray+DVD) – This was my cinematic Holy Grail for years, Jacques Rivette’s legendary 12-hour-plus epic of rival theater companies, an obsessive panhandler, a mercenary street thief, an obscure conspiracy, the post-1968 culture of Paris, puzzles, mysteries, creative improvisation, and the theater of life. The history is too complicated to go into here (check out my review at Parallax View) but apart from periodic special screenings it was impossible to see until a digital restoration in 2015 followed by a limited American release in theaters, streaming access, and finally an amazing Blu-ray+DVD box set featuring both the complete version (Noli me tangere, 1971 / 1989) and the shorter Out 1: Spectre (1974), designed for a theatrical release after French TV balked at his original vision. It was shot on 16mm on the streets with a minimal crew and in a collaborative spirit, incorporating improvisations and accidents and morphing along the way. The disc release embraces the texture of its making and also includes the new documentary “The Mysteries of Paris: Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 Revisited” and an accompanying 120 page bilingual booklet. There were more lavish sets and more beautiful restorations on 2016 home video, but nothing as unique and committed as this cinematic event, which made its American home video debut over 40 years after its first showing. Full review here.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, December 30

The new issue of Lola has finished rolling out, with Laura Mulvey on Lola Montès (“In one remarkable scene at the centre of Lola Montès, Ophüls plainly lays out the film’s key theme, while his mise en scène and the characters’ choreography present, equally explicitly, a formal statement on cinema and on CinemaScope”), Yusef Sayed on Tony Conrad (“Across the … years, Conrad would continue to jam signals, change the tonic, boost the contrast wherever his own practices directed him—with a view to renegotiating the terms on which the individual, media and society might intersect.”), Susan Felleman on the artistic nods (to painters and sculptors, natch) in David Lynch (“Twin Peaks’ Venuses are part of a dreamscape…. Thus, these are images that can float free of material culture; if they can be said to ground their respective scenes at all, finally they ground them in fantasy.”), and Girish Shambu on the A to Z of James Gray (“E for Emotion:  A word that crops up frequently in interviews with Gray—and one that clearly carries an enormous personal weight for him”).

“Curled over a table in an upscale Mexico City restaurant recently, the 55-year-old director gets a little irritated when I laud the film’s imaginative prescience. ‘This thing was not imagination,’ he says, jabbing his index finger into the tablecloth. By Cuarón’s estimation, anyone surprised at the accuracy of his movie’s predictions was either uninformed or willfully ignorant about the way the world already was by 2006. ‘People were talking about those things, just not in the mainstream!’ he says.” As Children of Men reaches the decade mark—and the world apparently decides to celebrate by rushing to live up to its vision—Abraham Riesman looks back at its making with Alfonso Cuarón, who insists the film wasn’t prescient, but rather utterly contemporary.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, December 23

The new issue of cléo arrives, with a focus on firsts. The theme is treated variously by the contributors, from Erin Delaney’s appreciation of the assault on heteronormality in the Wachowski’s Bound, particularly in contrast with other lesbian-themed noirs of the period (“While Basic Instinct is preoccupied by the fear that sexual performance may indeed be just a performance, Bound ultimately finds a profound power in Violet’s ability to deceive men both socially and sexually”); Clara Miranda Scherffig’s placing of Heaven Knows What (based on the writings of its first-time actor Arielle Holmes) in the tradition of The Panic in Needle Park and Christiane F. (“In casting actual drug users and soliciting their input, the Safdies were able create a narrative that conveys the attractions of drug use and street life—since getting sober, Holmes has spoken about missing “the adventure” of living on the street[iv]—without romanticizing addiction and homelessness”); a look at the one-take Uruguayan horror film La Casa Muda and its American remake Silent House by Nadya Sarah Domingo (“As Laura’s terror and confusion intensifies, the camera seldom breaks from her perspective, and the viewer sees the events of the night through her experience as a survivor of abuse and other unforgivably violent acts. The single take here is intimate and uncomfortably so.”); and a roundtable on women’s sports movies (“I think the thing that is really striking about movies that feature women in sports is that the women are always “not like other girls.” […] [I love these] movies, but I hate how our heroine is defined by the fact that she hates traditionally “feminine” things.”).

“Weber doesn’t lavish a lot of close-ups on Pavlova, preferring instead to show the dancer-star in longer shots. This may have had to do with Pavlova’s age (she was in her 30s and not remotely girlish, at least here), but it also comes across as a shrewd directorial choice that serves both the story and the star.” Speaking of feminism and firsts, Manohla Dargis catches up with the restoration of 1916’s The Dumb Girl of Portici, and the other groundbreaking works of its director Lois Weber.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, December 16

“Chronicling the inception, rise, and demise of Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship in the director’s home country, Pablo Larraín’s Chile Trilogy announced the emergence of a major auteur. In contrast to his countryman Patricio Guzmán’s mournful, poetic approach to the same territory, Larraín — who hails from a wealthy right-wing family once associated with the Pinochet regime — treats his country’s tragic history with an acidulous irony that turns his character studies into unnerving allegories of predation and submission.” For TIFF, James Quandt introduces Larrain’s Tony Manero, Post Mortem, and No, all vicious in their satire and despairing in their humanism, though each marked by a distinct visual style essential to their meaning.

“Huston’s is always an art of characterization. Plot for him is never more than the anecdotal circumstance that allows individuals to become fully visible. This applies as much to his first movie, 1941’s The Maltese Falcon, as to his last, 1987’s The Dead. Whatever their literary origins, movies as different as The Night of the Iguana, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Kremlin Letter, Fat City, and Wise Blood are driven not by the suspense of their stories but by the palpable presence of the people caught up, often stumblingly, in those stories. Huston said once that his notion of what directing was about came from observing his father, the actor Walter Huston, developing a role in rehearsals. The visual power of his films comes in general not from effects of architecture or landscape—master though he was of such effects—but from the way he watches humans making their way, or failing to make their way, through those surroundings.” For Geoffrey O’Brien, that’s no less true of Huston’s heist classic The Asphalt Jungle—however much the robbery got remade in later picture, it’s the characters that keep us in suspense.

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Orson Welles on 'Chimes at Midnight,' on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion

Great Restorations, Revelations, and Debuts of 2016

It’s been a fine year for film history rediscovered—and rendered newly accessible.

We live in a culture with unprecedented access to movies—through DVD and Blu-ray, streaming subscription services, and SVOD. And it’s not just new and recent films and TV programming; classic Hollywood films, international movies, documentaries, experimental film, and even hundreds of silents, many of them in restored and remastered editions, are available through physical purchase or streaming rental. The inevitable trade-off is the loss of a lively repertory culture of theatrical film revivals.

The good news is that revivals and restorations can still be big-screen events—just look at the attention that Dekalog and Chimes at Midnight and One-Eyed Jacks received when they returned to the big screen—and dedicated home-video distributors continue to make these newly restored editions accessible on disc and various streaming services for anyone out of reach of a cinematheque or a dedicated film festival.

Now here’s my list of the archival events of 2016—the debuts and rediscoveries of classic films and cinema landmarks, the restorations of great films, and the revivals of previously unavailable or inaccessible movies. I confess to my biases up front: This selection focuses on restorations available to American audiences in 2016 regardless of where they live (thus King of Jazz, which only played a few cities, is not in contention), favors films previously inaccessible to audiences, and reflects my own subjective historical and aesthetic inclinations. Your mileage may vary. If you bristle at the idea of the “best,” think of this of a survey of the breadth of restorations and rediscoveries that film lovers now have a chance to see, regardless of where they live, as long as they have a web connection and a Blu-ray player.

CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT

1. Chimes at Midnight (Janus Films theatrical, Criterion Blu-ray and DVD)

The film that Orson Welles proclaimed his favorite (“If I wanted to get into Heaven on the basis of one movie, that’s the one I would offer up”) suffered a fitful American release 1965, decades of legal limbo that effectively kept it off screens and home video, and a legacy of battle-scarred prints with murky soundtracks for those few special event screenings. After years of negotiating the tangled rights and gathering materials, the film was restored in 2015 and, on New Year’s Day 2016, given its first official American theatrical showings since the 1960s. It is magnificent and nothing short of a revelation. Chimes at Midnight is one of Welles’ unqualified masterpieces, his greatest film according to many critics, and a personal project that took decades to finally bring to the screen, and for many Americans this was the first opportunity to see it. The restoration produced by Spain’s Filmoteca Española was created from the original negative, and the American release given additional digital restoration. For those not fortunate enough to have a theatrical screening handy, Criterion gave the restoration a worthy special edition on Blu-ray and DVD.

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#Noirvember Blu-ray: The rural noir of ‘On Dangerous Ground’ and ‘Road House’

ondangerousgroundOn Dangerous Ground (Warner Archive, Blu-ray) (1952), directed by Nicholas Ray from a script he developed with A.I. Bezzerides and producer John Houseman, opens on the urgent yet fractured dramatic score by Bernard Herrmann, a theme that rushes forward anxiously, pauses with quieter instruments, then jumps again as we watch the nocturnal city streets in the rain through the windshield of a moving car. This is the view of the city as seen by Jim Wilson (Robert Ryan), as an obsessive, tightly-wound police detective who works the night shift on the urban streets of an unnamed city filled with grifters, hookers, and petty crooks. He’s as dedicated as they come—he studies mug shots over his meal before the start of shift—but he has no family, no girl, no hobbies, as a quick survey of his Spartan apartment shows, and his single-minded focus on the job has twisted the compassion out of him. When his anger boils over into violence once too often, he’s sent out of town to help with a murder case in the rural countryside.

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#Noirvember Blu-ray: The urban noir of ‘I Wake Up Screaming’ and ‘Cry of the City’

iwakeupscreamI Wake Up Screaming (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray) is not just one of the great movie titles of classic cinema, it is one of the films that established the distinctive style and attitude of film noir, from the blast of a headline shouting BEAUTIFUL MODEL FOUND MURDERED to the third degree given to swaggering sports promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature) under the glare of a blinding lamp in a rather suspicious room of worn brick and cast-off furnishings, more of a cell than an official interrogation room. Mature is lit up in the center of the screen while hard shadows assault the walls and slashes of light and looming silhouettes give the cordon of cops wrapped around him a look more like intimidating mob hoods than New York’s finest. On the other side of the dungeon door is the public side of the detective’s room where Jill Lynn (Betty Grable), the victim’s sister, is treated more gently, but she’s just as trapped. When the camera swings around we see a cage around her. The picture opens with a punch and the backstory is quickly filled in with jabs of flashbacks, jumping back and forth between the smart mouthed dandy of a promotor and the demure young woman as they lay out the events leading up to the murder of ambitious Carole Landis, the hash slinger promoted to celebrity success by Mature like a noir Pygmalion.

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#Noirvember Blu-ray: The docu-noir of ‘Boomerang’ and ‘The House on 92nd Street’

house92The House on 92nd Street (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray), a 1945 World War II espionage thriller based on a real life FBI case, launched what would become the semi-documentary strain of film noir. It opens with the authoritative narration of Reed Hadley (uncredited but omnipresent in the genre) insisting on that this is an accurate dramatic treatment of a true story shot on locations where it occurred and slips into procedural about a German-American scientist (William Eythe) who is recruited by the Nazis for their bomb project and goes undercover for the FBI to find the mole giving A-bomb research to Germany. It’s produced by Louis de Rochemont (producer of the March of Time newsreel series) and directed by Henry Hathaway with a rather flat style, which isn’t helped by the blandness of Eythe or the archness of Lloyd Nolan as the lead agent. It’s an interesting film for all of its detail and location shooting and use of real FBI agents in minor roles and it launched the docu-noir style that was picked up and developed in films like T-Men (1947),  The Naked City (1948), and Hathaway’s own Call Northside 777 (1948). Signe Hasso, Gene Lockhart, and Leo G. Carroll co-star.

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Blu-ray: ‘Private Property’ rediscovered and restored

privatepropertyPrivate Property (Cinelicious, Blu-ray+DVD) – Put this 1960 film in the “Lost and Found” category. The directorial debut by Leslie Stevens, a playwright and screenwriter and protégé of Orson Welles, it’s a neat little sexually-charged psychological thriller set in the sunny California culture of affluence and trophy wives and drifting hitchhikers crossing the stratified social borders.

Corey Allen and Warren Oates are Duke and Boots, the George and Lenny of angry drifters, and Kate Manx is the beautiful trophy wife that Duke spots on the Pacific Coast Highway in a white Corvette. They coerce a travelling salesman to follow that car and trail her to her Hollywood Hills home, taking up residence in a vacant home next door. They ogle her through the second floor window as Anne sunbathes and skinny dips, and then they insinuate themselves into her home. A student of the Method school, Allen plays Duke as an angry young con man who has perfected the sensitive soul act, while Manx, who was Stevens’ wife at the time, is a limited actress who Stevens directs to an effective performance. Oates is the revelation, walking that tightrope between loyalty and suspicion, slowly figuring out Duke’s games but slow to act until practically pushed into action.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, November 18, plus Seattle Screens

“And do not, please do not, get him started on the people who approach him after the show with a Sling Blade DVD to sign. You just watched him perform his heart out for you and you are going to present him with a Sling Blade DVD? ‘Sure, I’ll sign your Sling Blade DVD,’ he says now. ‘And you can go home and fuck missionary like a metronome and never have an original creative idea in your life.’” Taffy Brodesser-Akner spends four days on tour with Billy Bob Thornton’s band, and with acidic comic precision captures the pretension and solipsism of the frustrated actor and swears-he’s-never-doing-that-again director, while making clear how under that remains a unique, untamable talent—and right under that, the survivor of horrible abuse trying to make a life for himself that works. Via Longform.

“Though Dreams received some appreciative reviews, many critics knocked it for what they saw as overt didacticism and stasis. They found the main character (played as a child by Toshihiko Nakano and Mitsunori Isaki and as an adult by Akira Terao), to be frustratingly passive, and the director’s themes—his fears about humanity and nature—to be mired in simplistic moralizing. Such criticisms, however, fail to appreciate the layers of meaning in Dreams, not to mention its stylistic strangeness. The film’s surfaces may be gentle; the experience of watching it is anything but.” Bilge Ebiri considers the autobiographical elements and experiments in stylization that make Dreams—not surprisingly—arguably Kurosawa’s most personal film.

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Seattle Screens: Italy! Morocco! Wiseman!

The 8th Cinema Italian Style series plays through the week at SIFF Cinema Uptown. It opens on Thursday, November 10 with Paolo Virzi’s Like Crazy with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and ends a week later on Thursday, November 17 with closing night feature Opposites Attract, a romantic comedy directed by Max Croci, who is scheduled to attend the screening and the closing night party. Among the 15 features and documentaries are Anna (For Your Love), which earned Valeria Golina the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival, the romantic comedy Solo, written and directed by actress Laura Morante, the award-winning documentary Libera Nos about the continued practice of exorcism on the Italian Catholic Church, and a new restoration of Ettore Scola’s A Special Day (1977) starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. It continues for a week. Series and individual ticket available. Complete schedule and tickets here.

The 6th Seattle Shorts Film Festival opens on Friday, November 11 at SIFF Film Center with a feature film: Before I Disappear is Shawn Christensen’s feature-length adaptation of his 2012 Oscar-winning short film Curfew. The rest of the festival, which plays through the weekend at SIFF Film Center, presents 49 short films and music videos, including numerous Seattle premieres and works by local Seattle and Pacific Northwest filmmakers, and two panel discussions. Complete schedule and other information at the festival website here.

The Seattle Sephardic Network presents The Midnight Orchestra (2015) from Morocco, a drama about the son of a Jewish musician returning home to Morocco to bury his father. One show only on Wednesday, November 16 at The Majestic Bay in Ballard.
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