Blu-ray: ‘The Wind and the Lion’

19 July, 2014 (17:17) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

John Milius occupies a curious place in the culture of American filmmakers of the seventies. In the age of new, young, maverick voices, he’s the rugged American individualist with conservative politics and iconoclastic heroes. He’s fascinated with military culture and imperialist adventure, caught up in the tension between American isolation and intervention, in debt to the romantic ideals of honor and duty idealized in John Ford’s cavalry films, and celebratory of the glory of battle, whether in war, on a surfboard challenging waves, or swinging a sword in the age of barbarism. In an era of secular liberalism, he’s the wildman conservative of mythical heroes and combat veterans, but he’s also more than that, as David Thomson notes in his Biographical Dictionary of Film: “He is an anarchist, he is articulate, and he has an unshakable faith in human grandeur….”

The Wind and the Lion (1972), the sophomore feature of the film school-trained screenwriter turned director, takes on a romantic tale of rebellion and response, honorable ancient codes and modern military might, and the first stirrings of the United States of America, the modern, maverick young country in a political culture dominated by the history-seeped empires of old Europe, as a world power. And it does so in a cagily budget-minded take on the sweeping military epics and colonial adventures of the 1950s and 1960s, a sensibility appropriated in the opening seconds of the film as Jerry Goldsmith’s grandly dramatic score plays under the credits etched into the handsome parchment of a yesteryear Hollywood frame.

Continue reading at Turner Classic Movies

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Blu-ray: ‘The Man From Laramie’

19 July, 2014 (12:15) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

James Stewart roughed up his all-American nice guy image in five westerns he made with director Anthony Mann, the best of the seven films they made together in the 1950s, most of them for Universal Studios. The Man From Laramie (1955), their final collaboration, was made for Columbia and it was the first film that Mann shot in the still novel CinemaScope anamorphic widescreen format, which debuted just a couple of years earlier. It was a natural for Mann’s kind of western filmmaking, where the landscape and environment is a defining part of the drama and an integral element of the film’s tone and sensibility. For The Man From Laramie, Mann shot in the high plains and the ribbons of ridges of New Mexico, stretched far across the widescreen canvas. It’s lovely but forbidding, a mix of inviting green and forbidding desert and rock, and it is far from any other settlement, right in the heart of Indian country.

Into this beautiful but isolated land rides Will Lockhart (Stewart) and the wagon train of his freight company. He also has personal business in the territory and it has something to do with the charred remains of a wagon train they pass along the way. Stewart eases up on the neurotic edge he brought to earlier Mann films Winchester 73 and The Naked Spur and is even quite charming when he first arrives in town and meets Barbara (Cathy Downs) with his wagonloads of freight. When she offers him tea, he smiles at the thought of so civilized a break from the trail and watches her bustle about with an appreciation for the feminine presence in his life, no matter how fleeting. But he’s a hard, driven man as the dark expression that passes over his face at the massacre graveyard communicates.

Continue reading at Turner Classic Movies

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 18

18 July, 2014 (10:28) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Sean Axmaker

Jean-Pierre Léaud in ‘Out 1 ‘

The new (and newly re-designed) Senses of Cinema offers plenty to explore, including Stuart Bender on how Gravity’s sound design convincingly fakes reality and, sticking with Cuarón, Ben Ogrodnik trying to free Children of Men’s narrative use of the camera from overly politicized critical readings; Marc Saint-Cyr describing the humanist sympathy for the underclass that unites two A. K.’s generally considered incompatibly maximalist (Kurosawa) and minimalist (Kaurismäki); Daniel Fairfax praising Jean-Pierre Léaud’s crucial, daringly raw performance in Rivette’s Out 1 (with Léaud’s own anecdotes from the film as given at a 2013 screening); a clutch of articles of Švankmajer (on Faust, Jabberwocky, Conspirators of Pleasure, and Little Otik); and Sam Littman doing the honors of placing Kelly Reichardt in the journal’s folio of Great Directors. (Jumping the gun? I don’t think so, but even if you do, c’mon, her seat’s been saved since the last frames of Old Joy, at least.)

“Saint Paul will suffer martyrdom in the middle of the bustle of a suburb of a large city, modern to the breaking-point, with its suspension bridges, its skyscrapers, its immense and crushing crowd, which passes without stopping in front of the spectacle of death…. But in this world of steel and cement, the word ‘God’ resounds (or starts to resound).” Pasolini’s unfilmed scenario St. Paul, which would have updated the saint’s journeys to the modern world while maintaining the textual fidelity of his St. Matthew, were recently published in English by Verso. Mubi offers an excerpt, and one from Alain Badiou’s forward to the volume, which explains how the atheistic, political Pasolini found religious stories valuable for providing a “poetic and historical paradigm of the possibility of scathing confrontation.”

RWF

Riffing off a fine photo of Rainer Fassbinder, his shirt emblazoned with his favorite football franchise, Ian Penman fills in the history swirling behind The Marriage of Maria Braun’s climactic radio broadcast of a World Cup match; associations that might be lost to those sketchy on European history or indifferent to soccer. No judgment, my fellow Americans. Via David Hudson.

Surveying the current crop of genre filmmakers such as The Purge’s James DeMonaco and Cold in July’s Jim Mickle, Clark Collis finds John Carpenter consistently cited as a primary influence. Carpenter’s response to the kind words is precisely the wry one you’d expect:  “I love it…. But I just wish they would send me money. It doesn’t have to be much—just a couple bucks.” Via Movie City News.

The movie distributor’s eternal goal of getting butts in seats has changed dramatically in the last few years—as in, does it matter whether the seats are in a theater or at home? Radius-TWC, a division of the Weinstein Company, has been experimenting with nearly day-and-date Video on Demand to some success, as Calum Marsh reports, getting some independent directors to chime in pro (Joe Swanberg) or con (Alex Ross Perry). And Bilge Ebiri notes the company’s about to take its biggest gamble yet, releasing Snowpiercer to VOD even as it expands to theaters across the nation. So those who love bemoaning change, start preparing your nostalgic reveries over the loss of the theatrical window.

The late, great jazz bassist Charlie Haden didn’t leave behind a filmography of note; but, as Glenn Kenny remembers, it does offer the curious sight of Haden playing drums in the background of a scene from Quine’s evangelical Synanon. Check the comments for a lovely remembrance of the musician from Kent Jones.

Walter Hill

“…I always felt that genre film-making was going to be my home, but I also understood that you couldn’t go on making them the way they used to do—there’s no challenge. If you were just gonna go at it the way the old guys did, then you were going to run up against the fact that they did it better than you ever could—not surprising, since they had invented the genres themselves. My generation found you had to use the old genres in new ways, pull them inside out.” Walter Hill, talking with John Patterson, reflects on what he learned from the old masters while humbly deflecting his right (earned absolutely) to claim his title as a current one.

“The full death toll for Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been officially published at 230,000. But in actual fact there were over half a million dead. And even now there are still 2,700 patients at the Atomic Bomb Hospital waiting to die from the after-effects of the radiation after 45 years of agony. In other words, the atomic bomb is still killing Japanese.” David Hudson also spots and passes on a pair of wonderful historic interviews. First, Kino Obscura posts excerpts from a 1990 conversation between Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa, the concerns of his then-filming Rhapsody in August heavy on the director’s mind.

“Each studio seemed to pick up a coloration, or style, of its own, and was known for it. Warners was supposed to be hard-driving, speedy. They played softball at Paramount and had refrigerators in the writers’ buildings. Metro was the top, the Bank of England—the posh English writers, Joe Pasternak’s talented Hungarians, the Broadway playwrights in New York City.” While at The Paris Review Aram Saroyan prints for the first time the 1989 interview he conducted by mail with novelist and screenwriter Daniel Fuchs, which Fuchs withheld over copyright concerns.

?????

“CHESTBLONDELL as DONDIE” David Cairns presents a terrific gallery of frames from Warner Brothers credits caught mid-wipe, the two actors frozen into Janus-headed beasts.

If you live in a 90-year-old house in Vancouver, think about ripping up your floorboards. One homeowner did so for a renovation and found a marvelous cache of silent movie posters, used during construction as cheap flooring material. Via Adam Cook.

Video: Vadim Rizov offers video of Richard Linklater recalling a screening of Out of the Blue, after which Denis Hopper took the audience along to a racetrack to witness him surrounding himself with sticks of dynamite and setting them off. It’s the sort of tale that sounds apocryphal—ok, maybe not so much with Hopper involved. But no need to wonder, since the video goes on to footage of the event itself.

Elaine Stritch in ‘September’

Obituary

Elaine Stritch made her name on Broadway and she continued performing on stage well into her 80s, but she also appeared on the big screen and the small screen. On TV she starred in the 1960 series My Sister Eileen and the seventies British sitcom Two’s Company but is surely most familiar to modern audiences for her recurring role on 30 Rock. On the big screen she co-starred in the 1957 A Farewell to Arms and the 1987 senior citizen gala Cocoon: The Return and was featured Woody Allen’s September (1987) and Small Time Crooks (2000). Arguably her best film role was playing herself in the documentary Elaine Stritch: Just Shoot Me, currently available to stream on Netflix. She passed away this week at the age of 89. More from Charles Isherwood at The New York Times.

Tom Rolf, the Swedish-born film editor who worked with Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, New York, New York), John Frankenheimer (The French Connection II, Black Sunday), Paul Schrader (Blue Collar, Hardcore), Ridley Scott (Black Rain) and Michael Mann (Heat) and earned an Academy Award for editing The Right Stuff (1983), died at the at 83. He edited over 40 features in his career. In addition to his Oscar, he won the ACE Eddie award (given by fellow profession film editors) for WarGames (1983) and received nominations for The Right Stuff and Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer. Carolyn Giardina at The Hollywood Reporter.

Seattle Screens

Framing Pictures is back at Northwest Film Forum on Sunday, July 20. Robert Horton, Richard T. Jameson, and Bruce Reid will be discussing (among other topics) the concept of the guilty pleasure, Richard Linklater’s long-gestating Boyhood, and Eric Rohmer’s long-arriving A Summer’s Tale. The talk begins at 5:30 pm, it’s free, and you are encouraged to join the discussion.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: ‘The Purge: Anarchy’

18 July, 2014 (08:42) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Zoe Soul and Carmen Ejogo

We can pick away at the merits of last year’s thriller The Purge (my big problem was that the characters had to do stupid things to keep the plot moving), but the movie definitely had a wild idea. For one night every year, the U.S. government sanctions lawlessness, allowing citizens to purge their baser instincts and thereby creating peace the remaining 364 days of the calendar.

That film was set mostly inside a single well-barricaded home. The sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, lets the concept out in the streets and goes crazy with it. It’s a big improvement on the original. The same writer-director, James DeMonaco, is at the helm, but it’s as though the looser format allowed for more inventiveness.

Continue reading at The Herald

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: Wish I Was Here

18 July, 2014 (08:39) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Pierce Gagnon, Joey King and Zach Braff

In the long-lived sitcom Scrubs, Zach Braff proved his comic timing and a willingness to be silly. And like so many actors who succeed with comedy, it seems Braff cannot stop wanting to be serious. He wrote and directed the 2004 indie hit Garden State, which captured a moment for millennial viewers. In that one, the funny stuff was funny, and the serious stuff played like someone wanting to be taken seriously.

Braff’s return to directing is Wish I Was Here, and again, comedy is not enough. In this one he stars as Aidan Bloom, an L.A. actor (that is, he auditions for parts he doesn’t get) whose life is frittering away.

Continue reading at The Herald

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: ‘As Is It in Heaven’

17 July, 2014 (07:15) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

‘As It Is in Heaven’

The new spiritual leader of a small religious sect in the American South has received the word. That is, the Word. And the Word is that the group must become purified to be sufficiently prepared for the final days, which—according to their own in-house prophet—will arrive about a month hence. Along with their usual rounds of preaching and praying, this will mean intense fasting. That sacrifice will get them back up to speed for the deliverance to come.

This setup provides not only the countdown structure of As It Is in Heaven but also its style. This low-budget indie is itself purified, stripped bare, and ornament-free.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Film Review: ‘A Summer’s Tale’

17 July, 2014 (07:13) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Amanda Langlet and Melvil Poupaud

The movie of the summer in 1996 should have been A Summer’s Tale, a wise and bittersweet romance by then-septuagenarian filmmaker (and French New Wave co-founder) Eric Rohmer. But it didn’t get a chance to be. While the film did enjoy a regular release in Europe and was seen at festivals, for some reason it never actually opened in the U.S. for a regular run. This absurd oversight is finally rectified, as the movie is enjoying a proper arthouse go-round at last.

A Summer’s Tale, or Conte d’été, was the third film in Rohmer’s four-seasons cycle. (Somewhat confusingly, Rohmer’s 1986 Le rayon vert was titled Summer for the English-language market.) This one’s about a would-be musician named Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud) who travels to the Brittany seaside for a summer break before his grown-up duties beckon.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Review: ‘Le Secret’

16 July, 2014 (10:50) | by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews | By: Richard T. Jameson

[Originally published in Movietone News 46, December 1975]

Le Secret bears a 1974 copyright and yet it seems much more dated than that. The films of Costa-Gavras notwithstanding, political paranoia thrillers feel so endemically American that this rather nondescript French movie comes across mostly as a by-the-numbers emulation of the U.S. model—just as contemporary French films noirs recall not such honorable homegrown predecessors as Carné–Prévert and Clouzot but rather the classic American noirs of the Forties and Fifties. This guy, Jean-Louis Trintignant, throttles a guard and escapes from this semi-medieval dungeon somewhere in the French night—a half-hour’s drive from Paris, as he and we learn. “They” had been slipping him the old Chinese water torture there, he tells a handily available ladyfriend of short-term acquaintance, because he accidentally learned a secret “they” can’t afford to have anyone know; and now “they,” of course, will be looking for him. OK. By means not narratively disclosed, Trintignant quits Paris and turns up in some woodsy terrain where he hopes to go to ground in a certain shed. Said shed having burned down—or so he is told by a jovial Philippe Noiret he encounters on a hillside—he accepts the shelter of Noiret’s own bucolic retreat for the night, and several ensuing days. The problem posed to Noiret and wife Marlène Jobert, as well as to the audience: is he a paranoiac or just someone who damn well is being persecuted? In either case, which way do they jump next?

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Videophiled: Scarlett Johansson gets ‘Under the Skin’

15 July, 2014 (18:08) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Science Fiction | By: Sean Axmaker

UnderSkinUnder the Skin (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, Cable VOD) isn’t a film that wants to make things easy for the viewer. The experience is not unlike that which I suppose its unnamed protagonist, an alien reborn in the body of a human host (Scarlett Johansson), goes through as it (she?) settles in to its new body and the emotions and impulses surging through it that collide with its mission. That mission has something to do with driving around Scotland and picking up men that it appears to devour in a pool of lightless liquid. That’s my best guess—there’s no exposition or explanation to clue you in to what it all means—but it’s all quite strange and beautiful and weird.

This is the first feature from Jonathan Glazer since Birth (a film that had its share of critics but has grown to almost cult stature in some circles since its 2004 release) in part because he did not want to compromise his vision. The film opens on abstracted sounds, like a human voice learning its sonic possibilities, and enigmatic imagery, and Glazer expects us to create our own meaning from the clues we take in along the odyssey. The defining color is black, the inky night of her nocturnal hunts and the deep, bottomless dark of her alien retreat. The characters seems to float untethered in these scenes, as if they’ve slipped into another reality.

Glazer is less interested in the what and the why than in the texture of the experience, the intensity of the imagery, the sense of adaptation and alienation as this alien starts to connect with her victims. Johansson delivers a performance like she’s never given, slipping between a focused, unreadable blankness and the easy charm of a young Scottish woman chatting up the men she picks up in her van, a part she keeps perfecting as she gets a feel for the culture of Glasgow at night. (Some of the scenes were shot with a hidden camera as civilians were picked up by Johansson in character, like a reality show in the Twilight Zone, and Johansson is not only game for the stunt, she’s quite adept at it.) This is a film of sensations best experienced in an immersive environment; watch this on the biggest screen you are able to, with the lights out and distractions kept to a minimum, to best fall under its spell.

On Blu-ray and DVD, with “The Making of Under the Skin,” a 42-minute collection of brief featurettes covering various aspects of production. The production is as unconventional as the film story and direction and these featurettes share some of the process. The Blu-ray also includes an UltraViolet digital copy. Also available on Cable On Demand.

More new releases on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and VOD at Cinephiled

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Barry Jenkins: Long Story Short

15 July, 2014 (08:45) | by Sean Axmaker, Interviews | By: Sean Axmaker

‘Tall Enough’

Barry Jenkins currently calls San Francisco home but he was born and raised in Florida and attended the filmmaking program at Florida State University, where he made his first films. Inspired by his friend and collaborator James Claxton, the director of photography on most of his films, he moved to San Francisco after graduation. That’s where he made his first feature, Medicine for Melancholy, about a two young African Americans in San Francisco who wake up together after a one-night hook-up and spend the next twenty-four hours getting to know each other as they compare notes being a minority in the city and the effects of gentrification. The film picked up three Independent Spirit Award nominations, including Best First Feature and Someone to Watch For, and landed a distributor. Jenkins has been busy developing follow-up features in the years since, including one with Focus Features, but to date nothing has made it to production stage. In the meantime, he’s continued to make short films.

“I like making things and every now and then an opportunity presents itself,” he explains. “The majority of these films, and I guess it’s how it always is with a filmmaker, is someone saying ‘Hey, I got a little bit of money, do you want to make something?’ and me going, ‘Sure, I’ll make something.’ I’m never going to turn down an opportunity to make something.”

Continue reading at Keyframe

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Blu-ray: ‘Sleep My Love’

14 July, 2014 (22:46) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Douglas Sirk, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

A romantic thriller in the Gaslight vein, Sleep, My Love (1948) is a shadowy melodrama with an atmosphere of Gothic thriller by way of high society film noir, and it grabs your attention immediately with a kicker of an opening: a train speeding through the night, Claudette Colbert waking up in a sleeping car with a scream, a panicked run through the passenger cars. Where is she, how did she get on a night train to Washing D.C., what is happening? Colbert is New York heiress Alison Courtland and, back in their Big Apple mansion, Don Ameche is her husband Richard, a man with a plan under his sensitive show of concern. As he patiently explains the police, this isn’t the first incident where she’s been disoriented or confused. And as the police prod him for details, he reluctantly reveals a gunshot wound on his left arm. Yes, he admits, she shot him, but she wasn’t in her right mind.

Richard seems too good to be true as the concerned, protective husband trying to cover for his wife’s mental slips, in part thanks to Ameche’s overly-earnest performance and theatrically soft-spoken response to every crisis. And he is, as we discover early in the drama. The train trip and public breakdown is part of an elaborate scheme, a piece of theater stage managed by the sinister-looking Charles Vernay (Orson Welles veteran George Coulouris). He’s a co-conspirator, pulling strings while Richard plays the nurturing husband, and he even endures the unwanted presence of Richard’s sexy mistress Daphne (Hazel Brooks), who lounges about Charles’s photography studio between romantic assignations.

Continuing the Gaslight comparison, with Colbert in the Bergman role of the heiress being driven crazy and Ameche as the husband playing the mind-games, Robert Cummings would be her Joseph Cotten, in this case incarnated as handsome bachelor Bruce Elcott.

Continue reading at Turner Classic Movies

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Review: ‘Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter’

14 July, 2014 (11:34) | by Ken Eisler, Film Reviews, Horror | By: Movietone News contributor

[Originally published in Movietone News 46, December 1975]

Brian Clemens did some of the funniest, spiffiest episodes of the delightful British TV series The Avengers. In this first feature film, an intermittently serious, Hammer-produced exploration of horror flick conventions, he tracks and pans through the woods, around carefully lit and furnished interiors, like an old pro. Mise-wise, it’s all really more than satisfactory; but whaddaya do when it’s sendup time and you look around and you got no ineffable Lady Peel (Diana Rigg), no stylish John Steed (Patrick MacNee)—just this chesty, übermenschy blond leading man (Horst Janson) and this chesty brunette love interest (Caroline Munro), neither of them exactly lighter-than-air in the comedy department? Well, you win a few and you lose a few, is what you do. You put your Aryan master swordsman on top of a hill and have him attacked by a small mob of angry, lumpen townspeople; have him kill everybody in no time flat, doing lots of fancy foot- and swordwork; have him grin and flash gay Douglas Fairbanks looks at Miss Munro, stationed at the bottom of the hill, laughing maniacally, during the carnage. Throw her a wink. It’s a lead balloon. But then, eclectic British technician that you are, you decide to stage another action scene, in the middle of a horror movie, as an irreverent homage not to the horror genre itself, but to Westerns. And for some reason, it works.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

Blu-ray: ‘The Nutty Professor’ 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition

12 July, 2014 (17:18) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Whether you believe Jerry Lewis is a comic genius, a braying clown, a shrewd show-biz pro who carefully cultivated a popular stage and screen persona, a hopeless egotist with a cringing need for attention, or simply a comic with a gift for manic physical humor that clicked with audiences in the fifties and sixties, most people agree that The Nutty Professor was his greatest film as a director and his most interesting variation on the child-man figure he had transformed into Hollywood gold.

Lewis’ fourth film as a director is a reworking of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde brought into the modern world by way of Lewis’ cartoonish take on the institutions and social cultures of contemporary life. His Jekyll is nebbish college professor and chemist Julius Kelp, the child-man of his previous films grown up from boy to adult, no more capable of the social world but clearly educated and perhaps even brilliant. His adenoidal juvenile voice has tempered into something oddly lived in and the spasmodic, childlike body has slowed and slumped into a walking shrug, acknowledging his inability to take on the world on its own terms. Julius is smitten with Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens), a curvaceous co-ed who sits up front of every chemistry class and looks up wide-eyed at every lecture. It’s not clear if she likes him, respects him, or just feels bad for him, but there is something about this harmless social grotesque that makes her care for his plight. Attraction is another matter, however, so Kelp goes on a self-improvement kick at Vic Tanney’s gym (one of many glaring product placements in the film; Lewis was a pioneer in this aspect of production, a dubious achievement to be sure). When that fails to produce measurable results, he falls back on his specialty: better living through chemistry.

Where Stevenson’s good doctor is a humanitarian and moralist who unleashes the suppressed id within as an experiment and gets addicted to the rush, Kelp’s experiment is a bit more self-centered and pointedly directed. He concocts a formula specifically to transform him into his imagined ideal of what women want: the confident, popular, aggressive ladies’ man that the shy, stammering, socially awkward Julius can never be.

Continue reading at Turner Classic Movies

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

DVD: ‘The People vs. Paul Crump’

12 July, 2014 (13:16) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Paul Crump, an African American Chicago man convicted of murdering a security guard during the robbery of a meatpacking plant and sentenced to death in 1953, had faced 14 stays of execution when William Friedkin, a young television producer, took on his story. The People vs. Paul Crump became his directorial debut, a documentary that eschews any pretense of balance and instead makes Crump’s case directly to the viewers. This is documentary as advocacy, championing a cause with passionate and persuasive filmmaking, and the filmmaking is indeed provocative and compelling. The first shot of the film, an evocative shot of Crump leaning against the prison bars of his cell while another inmate blows a harmonica, comes right out of a social drama of injustice, immediately putting our sympathies with Crump.

It starts conventionally enough, with newspaper reporter John Justin Smith narrating in hardboiled newsman mode as he outlines Crump’s case with a mix of historical fact and personal connection. Smith introduces us the man behind the story in an interview that plays out like an old movie, with Smith hammering questions at Crump like a tough but committed investigative reporter grilling an indicted politician, skeptical but moved by the testimony and the compromised evidence against him. Crump comes off calm and measured in his responses and his confessions of other crimes and failings give the ring to truth to his account of events. Then Friedkin jumps from the static new newsreel interview style to a stylized recreation of the crime with actors playing out the robbery on the actual locations. Friedkin shoots it with a mobile handheld camera, a cinema verité style by way of a B-movie crime thriller or hard-hitting exploitation exposé.

Continue reading at Turner Classic Movies

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 11

11 July, 2014 (09:32) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

‘The Big Racket’

After a sensible warning against film critics drawing too many real-world implications they barely understand from movies that maybe have politics less on the brains than they’d like, Nick Pinkerton proceeds to a fine analysis of 1970s Italian politics based on Anthology Film Archives series The Italian Connection: Poliziotteschi and Other Italo-Crime Films of the 1960s and 70s.

“What makes Landis the artist tolerable is the sense that on some level Landis the moralist sees what he has done and will not let himself off the hook, even if the world (and Landis the survivalist) have managed to do just that.” Steve Johnson may be straining a bit to read Burke & Hare as a confessional from its director, then again, as he points out, there’s always been a slippery relation between genre and personal expression in Landis’s films, and if any director has some confessing to do he’s the one.

English highlights from the new issue of the bilingual journal desistfilm include Claudia Siefen tracing Kore-Eda’s humanistic lens back to his documentaries, patiently observed encounters with schoolchildren and sufferers of AIDS and amnesia; Adrian Martin, as part of a dossier on diary films, praising the ground broken by David Holzman’s Diary and the delicate absence of the filmmaker in Naomi Kawase’s Like Air/Embracing; and Craig Baldwin, interviewed by Mónica Delgado, talking about the many ways outsider perspectives get homogenized. (“Not only the commercial world, but also the academy, and the Art world itself, try to “recuperate” and co-opt many of these alternative gestures, and so it is difficult to stay out of the vortex that draws Difference and Otherness into the black hole of their illusion.”) Via David Hudson.

Read more »

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Stumbleupon Email