Terminal [2018)

Homage, or ripoff?

Pulp Fiction.

Vince (Dexter Fletcher).

A better actor than Travolta, perhaps.

But still…

The Usual Suspects.

Mike Myers stands in for Kevin Spacey.

But let’s talk about the upside.

This film started slow.

Boring.

Trite.

But it got better.

Indeed, it resurfaced and landed at mediocre.

Much better than I initially thought was possible.

Simon Pegg is a bit hamstrung here.

Shame, that.

Sin City.

The néo-noir is not very original.

But the color does it justice.

Better than hackneyed black and white.

Super-vivid black and white.

Here, more like Blade Runner (1982).

Margot Robbie is pretty good here.

And yet, the end is more ripoff.

Kill Bill.

Nurse.

Whistling.

Bernard Herrmann.

Standing in for Daryl Hannah.

I guess Margot Robbie is famous or something…

Harley Quinn.

Seems she is already typecast.

Self-parody.

Pigeonholed.

Quite a lot of QAnon here, what?

Q in a heart.

La Lapine Blanche (follow the white rabbit).

Lewis Carroll.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

Bob Dylan.

Adele.

Down the rabbit hole.

A trail of crumbs.

Clues.

Mystery.

Theatrical.

Hard Candy.

End.

Skyfall.

Modigliani.

NSA.

Marionettes.

I’m usually bewitched by the broads, but it’s the gents who rule here.

And not the ones you’d think.

The best part of this film is the acting of Max Irons and Dexter Fletcher.

Fletcher is pithy.

Splenetic.

Irons is naive.

Real.

Sure, there is a plot twist, but the lobotomy is in extremely poor taste.

And another ripoff.

Spectre.

Myers is good.

Robbie is good.

Pegg is good.

 

-PD

National Treasure [2004)

The funny thing about propaganda…

You don’t realize you’re under its sway…until you’re no longer under its sway 🙂

Ahh…

Like that great song by the Stones.

Just what ARE those lyrics???

But never mind.

Let’s back to the point.

JUST WHAT KIND of propaganda would this be?

It is with every bone of logic in my body that I soberly assess National Treasure to be Masonic propaganda.

Watch it.

Prove me wrong.

Especially from the beginning.

Near the top of the film.

This is OVER THE TOP endorsement of Freemasonry AND of the Knights Templar.

Ok.

So what?

It’s STILL a good film.

A REALLY ENJOYABLE FILM!

And we’re gonna get down to the nuts and bolts of it…

But I just want to point out another thing which had previously escaped me about this flick.

Nicolas Cage is effectively channeling Alex Jones throughout the entirety of this motion picture.

The accent.

The posture.

The wardrobe.

THE MANNERISMS!

I can’t believe I never caught this!!!

So there you have it.

The protagonist (not at all an “anti-hero” in the context of this film) is a “conspiracy theorist”.

But!  BUT!!!

The protagonist also emanates from a clear lineage in thrall to Freemasonry.

You think I’m kidding?

Watch this flick and observe the clear propagandistic tone* re: George Washington and the rest of America’s “founding fathers”.

“At least nine…”

Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

But I fucking love this movie.

Let me get to a very important component right off:  Diane Kruger.

Though she seriously sullied her career by appearing in what might be the worst film ever made (Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds), Kruger is a goddess of IQ herein.

And her chemistry with Cage is palpable.

Not least, Justin Bartha makes this whole thing quasi-believable.

On its own merits, National Treasure “works”.

Bartha is a lot like Ben Whishaw in the recent Bond films.

A computer geek cast in a very sympathetic light.

And Jon Turteltaub made a pretty fucking great film here.

A lot like a 007 flick!

Witness Cage as he shucks his janitor uniform for a tux.

Straight out of the opening from Goldfinger.

But Benjamin Franklin Gates [Nicolas Cage] is more a “workingman’s” Bond.

A nut job.

A reader.

A NERD!

Yes.

Although Gates tries to use his “Submariner” as collateral to get his $100 bill back, we don’t really believe it.

We don’t for a second believe that Gates wears a Rolex.

Cage yes, Gates no.

Which is one of the ways this film goes off the rails.

For all of Cage’s acting prowess, he comes off more as a “star” than a true nerd.

Unfortunately, that is damaging for the narrative of this picture.

But all-in-all, National Treasure is a film I want to return to time and again.

The story seduces.

For God and country.

The Freemasonry stuff is a little weird.

[ok, a LOT weird]

But it makes us face the facts re: George Washington, et al.

And brings up a tangential and potentially-timely question:

“Is President Trump a Mason?”

I must admit:  I have seen Trump make this hand gesture ABOUT A MILLION FUCKING TIMES!

trumpMason

So what?

In fact…there is AT LEAST another possibility.

Is Trump’s ostentatious display of “Freemason” hand signals a PRETENSE?

In other words, is Trump PRETENDING to be a Freemason??

It’s possible.

But who the fuck really cares???

If George Washington was a Freemason (and he was), then that kinda serves as a cornerstone of expectations (to say the least).

I’m not a Freemason.

I could care less.

Fuck ’em.

But there is an important caveat.

Q:

Was the secrecy of Freemason lodges an essential aspect of communications security leading to victory in the American Revolution?

And what about the French Revolution??

Again, these possibilities seduce.

Suffice it to say, National Treasure can be a strangely enthralling work if viewed through the lens of theory on propaganda films as well as through the kaleidoscopic peephole of current events.

Something certainly seems afoot in the USA.

I am even reluctant to utter its name.

Mostly because I know not what it is.

This new era of the republic.

Trump as President.

Hard-pressed on all sides.

The winner, fair and square.

Elected by the rules of the country.

The Electoral College.

Which rewards the residual “statehood” of lands which chose to join the USA.

At any rate, things seem far from settled.

Indeed, there is a war going on in the United States.

And it is mostly being waged in the realm of “the spectacle”.

President Trump has an OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of the mass media AGAINST HIM.

It is almost comical 🙂

I would liken it to rats having been driven from a burning ship.

Or termites running for cover during a house fire.

Something is off.

Clearly, the media “darling” (that repulsive shell of a human being, Hillary Clinton) did not ascend the throne.

And the owners of the corporate mass media continue to take her defeat VERY POORLY 🙂

Indeed, Trump is positively “mature” compared to the childish response of the U.S mass media.

Which begs the question:  WHAT ARE THEY SO AFRAID OF???

And further:  did an “outsider” REALLY win the White House 12 months ago?

Judging from media reaction, Trump must be a fucking Messiah.

And further judging from the bungling media info warfare, the psychological operations techniques being employed IN CONCERT by the U.S. mass media ARE HOPELESSLY DAFT 🙂

Every time Jim Acosta tries to rip Trump, it just adds fuel to the #MAGA fire.

Every time the White House press corps comes off as a Mormon Tabernacle Choir of homogeneity (anti-Trump in tenor), the “deplorables” who voted Trump in are proven right.

To be quite frank, I would hate to be on the other side.

The U.S. Democratic Party appears to be trying to reinvent the wheel…AND FAILING BADLY 🙂

But let us leave the chisel of disingenuous chiselers behind for the time being.

Merry Christmas.

May you know joy.

May the Lord Jesus Christ shine upon you today.

May that grace which surpasses all understanding soothe your heart and uplift your spirit.

May a twinkle of love float lightly into your life tonight.

And may it bloom into charity and generosity forevermore.

 

-PD

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [2005)

I was very apprehensive.

Because I loved the original so much.

1971.

Trying to remake one of the best films ever.

An unenviable task.

But Tim Burton was bringing it all back home.

1964.  Roald Dahl.

But let’s take a step further back.

Camp X.  Ontario.

“Established” December 6, 1941.

Yes.  You read that right.

The day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was established by the “real” James Bond:  a Canadian by the name of William Stephenson.

His codename?  Intrepid.

He oversaw British intelligence, MI6, for the entire Western hemisphere during WWII.

(!)

Roald Dahl, the author of the children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was one of the men trained at Camp X (today known as Intrepid Park).

So it should go without saying that we are not dealing with just any children’s author.

And herein lies the secret of Tim Burton’s success.

He reimagined.

I fully expected full-on ball-tripping excess in homage to Mel Stuart’s “wondrous boat ride” of 1971, but Burton managed to restrain himself.

Indeed, the psychedelia of this film (and weirdness in general) is evident throughout almost every part of the film…EXCEPT THERE.

And so I must hesitantly call 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a masterpiece.

Against all odds.

It’s only fitting that the lead child actor who plays Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) was born on Valentine’s Day.

Yes Virginia, perhaps some things are fated.

Highmore is fantastic in a role created by Peter Ostrum.

And though we miss Diana Sowle and her priceless rendition of “Cheer Up, Charlie”, Helena Bonham Carter is quite magnificent in her limited scenes as the cabbage-cutting Mrs. Bucket.

But Tim Burton updates our story considerably to make it more relatable to the Harry Potter generation (and the service-industry pipe dream known as the “third industrial revolution”…for the “adults” in the crowd).

Yes, we needs must only revisit Eliyahu Goldratt’s “business novel” The Goal to remember the shortsighted “local efficiencies” which factory robots can produce.

By the way:  there’s a father Bucket.  And he runs into a patch of robot trouble.

Updated.

But Tim Burton does not stop there.  Whereas the original film focused tentatively on child  spies (remember the purloined Everlasting Gobstopper?), the film under review seems to situate itself amidst the full-scale industrial espionage (and, in particular, intellectual property theft) which the United States attributes to China.

But let us pay our respects here.

David Kelly was fantastic as Grandpa Joe.  Truly a wonderful performance!  And we are sad to have lost his talents in 2012.

Reading from back to front:

-our Augustus Gloop is somewhat forgettable (save for his Lowera Bowie hair tint)

-AnnaSophia Robb is appropriately snotty as the overachieving brat Violet Beauregarde  [How did Tarantino not hire this girl for his next refried kung-fu film?!?]

-Julia Winter (who strangely has no Wikipedia page) is really special as the mouthy tart Veruca Salt

-and Jordan Fry plays Mike Teevee (though they might as well have gone with “Hacker” Mike Xbox or some such first-person shooter sobriquet).

And that leaves us with the big dog himself:  Johnny Depp.

Stepping into some very big shoes.

Gene Wilder.  Taken from us just months ago.  A truly magical being.

And so Depp and Burton needed a strategy.

And it appears it was something like, “Ok, let’s make him weirder.  Like, lots weirder.  Remember those sunglasses Keith Richards wore on Between the Buttons?  And the hair like Brian Jones.  Prim.  Proper.  Rocker.  Ok, ok…but we want the Salinger recluse thing with some Prince or Michael Jackson oddity.  Purple velvet.  Ok, yes…we’re getting somewhere.”

Most striking, however, is Depp’s accent.  Very Ned Flanders…but possessed by the thoughts of Salvador Dalí.

But the Burton touch shows through.  That macabre glee.

A little cannibalism joke here.  “Which half of your child would you prefer?”

Oddities.

Though tempered by quick-tongued childlike wonder, Depp is still a rather darker Wonka than Wilder’s fatherly archetype.

Yes, Depp could fit fairly well into Kraftwerk (especially germane had Augustus from Düsseldorf won the grand prize).

Johnny and his purple latex gloves.

Not a touchy-feely Wonka.

Doesn’t even bother to learn the kids names.  [there’s only five]

Totally off his rocker.

Makes Gene Wilder’s Wonka seem like Mister Rogers in comparison.

But this is mostly secondary to the success of this film.

Tim Burton evidently didn’t feel making a true family film was beneath him.

And so, perhaps with a bit of inspiration from Wes Anderson, he made an immensely touching picture here.

Charlie Bucket is the kid we need in the world.

The chosen one.

The needle in the haystack.

And it is Wonka’s quest to find such a unique child.

Charlie almost gives up the ticket (sells it) to help his desperately poor family, but one of his four bedridden grandparents must have read Hunter S. Thompson at some point.  And so Charlie is convinced to “buy the ticket, take the ride” so to speak.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Enter Deep Roy (Mohinder Purba) as ALL (and I mean all) of the Oompa-Loompas.

It is in the short (!) song sequences where Burton’s debt to David Lynch emerges.

Kind of like Danny Elfman’s debt to Tom Waits.

Comes and goes.

Burton, being the mischievous connoisseur of all things dark, manages to make Veruca’s exit an homage to Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren (albeit with squirrels).

Very inventive!

Sure, there’s some crap CGI in this film (not to be confused with the even more insidious Clinton Global Initiative), but it is generally restrained.

At a few points, it gets off the rails and threatens to damage an otherwise fine film.

But I tell you this…there are plot twists here which for someone who has merely seen the first film (like myself) truly baffle and surprise.

And they are touching.

So it is with no reservations that I call this a family film.

Sure, some of the jokes are a bit obtuse.

But the framing story (the Bucket family’s existence) is indescribably magical.

It is then, only fitting, that Christopher Lee be the one to welcome the prodigal oddball Depp.

Which is to say, this film has a sort of false ending…which is inexplicable…and genius.

It is at that moment where the film finds its soul.

Family.

Love.

Humility.

Sacrifice.

Happily, Burton gives us a fairy tale ending in which the young mind can work with the eccentric master…and the eccentric master can once again know what home is like.

Home.

Wow…

-PD

Reservoir Dogs [1992)

That annoying, whiny little prick is a genius.

That’s the retort.

I’m really batting below the Mendoza line regarding Tarantino.

And I’ll tell you why.

Because that annoying, whiny little prick is a goddamned genius.

As much as I want to judge him as a director based on his shrill, dorky acting, I can’t.

Because he’s made some brilliant films.

As much as I want to judge him because so many filmmakers have followed his example regarding ultraviolence (which he naturally ripped off from Kubrick’s treatment of Burgess), I can’t.

It’s not Tarantino’s fault that his example is attractive.

It isn’t much more than a girl and a gun.

[the famous Godard quote…all you need for a film]

Ah!  But it IS different.

There are no girls here.

There are no female characters in Reservoir Dogs.

Sure…there’s the waitress.

Does she even appear?

We certainly hear about her.

And then there’s a broad who gets shot in the head (bringing her 15, er, 7 seconds of fame to an end).

Yes, Reservoir Dogs is a good ol’ sausage party.

Why review this film now?

Why review anything but new releases?

Because it’s my website and I’ll do whatever the fuck I want with it.

[as the inestimable Lawrence Tierney might have said]

I’ll tell you the real reason.

Because the movies of 2016 are such shit as to make Tarantino circa ’92 look like Jean Cocteau in comparison.

And so we watch for entertainment.

We might want a story.

Dialog is nice.

But whatever’s in it (or not in it), we want it to be compelling (damn it!).

Reservoir Dogs is that.

It’s tense.

Like another “dogs” (Straw Dogs).

Why the colors?  Because van Gogh.

Should be capitalized.

Don’t use your Christian names.

I just gotta say, Harvey Keitel is really good here.

No.  He’s fucking great!

Guy has range!

Buscemi is the ball of nerves we’ve come to expect.  Times ten.

More important than specific actors, we learn the nature of acting.

We learn what lends stories credibility:  details.

And as (perhaps) an homage to Andy Warhol, we see the excellent Tim Roth actually rehearse his lines during the film.

Tarantino would employ the shooting (camera) from behind trick (Vivre sa vie) in Pulp Fiction, but here he finagles a brilliance (the Roth rehearsal) that only a truly agile mind could conjure.

And so, once again, I must apologize to Mr. Tarantino for having denigrated his films so much.  I had seen them, I just didn’t appreciate them.

We fall in love.  We fall out of love.  We fall back into love.

 

-PD

Pulp Fiction [1994)

I was wrong.

This film is a miracle.

Next thing you know I’ll be praising Schindler’s List.

But don’t get me wrong.

I’m being honest.

Pulp Fiction is a masterpiece.

I’ve taken a lot of potshots at Quentin Tarantino.

In reality (of course) I was only shooting at myself.

Because once something becomes too big and too popular…

it can be hard to relate to it.

[Like another masterpiece…The Big Lebowski]

Because I had a massive panic attack when I saw Pulp Fiction in the theater.

In 1994.

The needle.

No, the big one.

Adrenaline.

Shot to the heart.

I thought Tarantino gave America a bad name…gave cinema an empty way.

I was wrong.

I hope someday I will be testifying about my conviction in the veracity of the 9/11 commission report.

Snowball day in hell.

My Schindler’s List paean will have long been on this newsstand by then.

Which is to say, not bloody likely.

But there was something I always liked about Tarantino.

Less Miller, more Burroughs.

Hubert Selby meets Comic Book Guy.

Which is to say, me…basically.

Ok, not exactly…but close enough to be a band apart.

 

-PD

C’est arrivé près de chez vous [1992)

Writing is a healing exercise.

We try.

We do the best we can.

Sometimes we have to laugh at how bad things are.

Nietzsche would say we’ve lost something.

And he’s right.

But still we must laugh.

Because nobody knows the troubles we’ve seen.

Jesus wept.

Jesu swept.

We must laugh because the walls are closing in on us.

Our lives should have turned out so much better.

But let’s be optimistic.

Let us remember the good times.

Times when we sang.

Cinema…CINEMA!!!

Times when we shat and sang.

And shits yet to come.

Future shits.

It is not wrong to count life in such base terms.

When we venture out in the world, we only hope that a pretty girl smiles at us.

It’s like a bunch of flowers.

And so we must smile.

With all the bravery we have.

If you drink, drink.

If you smoke, smoke.

If you do nothing, do nothing.

Life is too very sad.  Doesn’t make.

So very sad.  Oui!

In Belgium, perhaps, they can laugh.

As in my heart song Aaltra.

Always a dark song.  Like Jeanne Dielman.

And here is Tarantino back through the French.

Au contraire!  This film predates all Quentin-directed features.

But not by much.

However, QT had the distribution advantage by a few months.

Seems Man Bites Dog (our film “in English”) beat Reservoir Dogs to market by way of film festivals.

In particular TIFF.

But really this is like a Belgian Pulp Fiction (and so much better than that hunk of shite which was still two years away).

As you might know.

Two directors I can’t stand:

Spielberg and Tarantino.

In that order.

Quentin has some redeeming qualities.

Spielberg very few (if any).

But you might want to know about the film I’m reviewing.

Ultraviolence meets Spinal Tap.

Yes, I know that’s not the full title.

But you probably know what I mean.

Kubrick of A Clockwork Orange meets mockumentary.

If someone had described this film (or any other) on such terms, I wouldn’t have watched it.

So I’m glad I didn’t encounter my own review.

Because C’est arrivé près de chez vous is brilliant.

The camaraderie chez Malou…

Rémy Belvaux supposedly committed suicide in 2006.

But it’s probably just as likely that Bill Gates had him whacked.

God damn it…

André Bonzel hasn’t died (according to English Wikipedia), but neither has he been born.

A precarious situation, that.

But Benoît Poelvoorde is gloriously alive!

Damn it!!!

Is it strip-tease or stripe-ties?

Une Femme est une femme.

We are learning the language.

French speakers English.

And English speakers French.

And Turkish.

And Romanian.

And Farsi.

Allors…

Tarantino has acknowledged his debt.

And so I too apologize to Mr. T.

It’s a sad life.  When you’re 39.

Rest in peace, dear Rémy.

 

-PD

Viskningar och rop [1972)

Cris et Chuchotements.

…et Chuchotements.

This horribly powerful film.

No light reading.

From the lips.

Fumbling big-hand thoughts.

Like Brice Parain said, inseparable from language.

We can see this fount at which Godard drank.

We can see the borrowing of von Trier.

We can see the fealty of Wes Anderson.

It is Cries and Whispers of Ingmar Bergman.

Tired, aging Bergman.

Clear as a bell.

Static shots which must be achieved through moving pictures.

Just stop moving for a moment.

And be quiet.

That microphone.

Just out of sight.

No B-movie swoop-downs.

But absolute perfection throughout.

And yet the message is dark.

No hope.

Cathartic, maybe.

Always fade to red.

And reemerge through the color spectrum.

Yellow to white light.

Four women.

Three sisters and a zaftig maid.

Someone’s crying Lord…

Come by here.  In a dream.  See their lips move.

We should love the coquette.  The redhead.  Liv Ullmann.

She should dominate us like a Renoir painting.

A madder rose cinema has known not.

But is she not a fake, Maria?

Is she not just a color palette towards which we gravitate?

What worth in the façade when the heart is empty?

It had been a long time since Summer with Monika, but Harriet Andersson was here.

And yet, it is Liv Ullmann who gets the plastic surgeon insults of the doctor (Erland Josephson).

But Harriet Andersson has enough grief with which to deal.

No no, I have gotten mixed up with all these actresses of Bergman.  And don’t even mention Ingrid!

We will come back to poor, sweet Harriet.

But we must first deal with the witch:  Ingrid Thulin.

What kind of misery makes such a witch?

A tissue of lies (reads the subtitles).

I believe Thierry Meyssan had to deal with such proclamations (though I read them in translation).

What kind of lies here, though…specifically?

Loveless marriage.

Probably even more empty than simply.

Loveless.

No creative punctuation.  No flirtatious commas or semicolons.

But simply poetry written like a telegraph dispatch.

Full stop.

Desperate.

Depression unto madness.  That is Ingrid Thulin here as Karin.

But then we must come back to our sickness.

A true physical ailment.

A patient.

Bedridden.

Patience.

It is Agnes.  Painful.  Wheezing.  Horrible.  Ghastly.

A high-water mark of art films.

Top that, motherfucker.

Jerry Lee to Chuck Berry.  Worse than an expletive.

But what brings this whole film together?  Who holds this house against her bosom?

It is none other than Kari Sylwan.

Yes, there are no important male characters within.

Georg Årlin chews his fish like someone in the diplomatic service should.

And expects “a little consensual rape in the evening” (to quote the Nick Cave of Grinderman).

But such petty existence boils the madness.

The glass.

Shards of light.

Smeared with lunacy.

Against all this is Kari Sylwan as Anna.

The maid.

The help.

Priceless.

Humanist.

A believer.  As the sick believed more than the priest.

No real important male characters here.

But Anders Ek is the voice of reason.  The voice of poetry.  For a moment.  Touching.

Don’t touch me.

Don’t touch me.

Such damage in the world.

And Anna bears it all.

The only true hero.

Meek.

Equally tormented.

But strong.

Annas make the world go round.  Deliver the medicine.  Keep the world from splitting open.  Make sure the trains are on time.  Hugs.

The history of cinema is littered with sad brilliance.

Strewn with fictional corpses.

Troubled directors trying to come to terms with their own fears of death.

And in the end, such creations loom large because they closest resemble the art of the ancient world and the itch of the Renaissance.

Storm on!  And write all night long!!

Someone has stolen my beard, but my mustache is plenty weird.

We shall live to see Nietzsche bitch-slap Hitler.

And Tarantino will again work at a video store.  Where he belongs.  A very able clerk.  Like me.

 

-PD

Les Enfants terribles [1950)

The past is hidden.

My friend.

You must find the magical words.

Which fit like teeth in combs.

A lock clicks with greasy precision.

A marvel of craftsmanship.

Two siblings in love.

A prolonged insult.

From the start it is as a homoerotic phantasm.

But that is the illusion of bent gender.

And genre.

What genre?

No, once again sui generis.

We would expect nothing less from Jean Cocteau.

The history of cinema.

Begins with luminaries.

Trying their hands.

Not yet taboo.

The world has not yet grown up.

Cynically, it could be said Cocteau had enjoyed the green hour a few too many evenings by 1950.

Crepuscule with absinthe.

But the truth is more beautiful.

Play the game…everybody play the game.

Just a Queen lyric haunting the childhood dreams of Paul and Lise.

It sounds like Liz, but looks better in the French.

Americans, take note!

You must love French cinema.

It is not for everyone.

John Milton.

Not for everyone.

Even Shaky William is acquired like marmite.

Or green olives.

Foie gras.

This train is the height of luxury.

Bound for glory.

Such concision of expression from Cocteau.

And such economy of means from director Jean-Pierre Melville.

Don’t worry about mispronouncing.

Here’s a French bloke who named himself after an American author (Herman).

Really!

It was the postwar influence on France.

The death of French cinema.

Slowly, as in a car crash.

Now they worship Tarantino.

Quel dommage!

Mais…what’s the damage?

It is Villon come full-circle.

The ladies of Paris.

And on through Baudelaire’s lady:  Paris.

Man becomes woman.

Voila!

It is a tricky story.

As when Lise is drenched in milk.

Not even for Technicolor Singin’ in the Rain.

Just for the texture.

Not color.

Renée Cosima.

Real name:  Boudin.

Like a sausage cased in a condom.

And Cosima Wagner.

Real name:  Liszt.

And Franz Liszt.

Real name:  Liszt Ferencz.

And Ferenc Fricsay.

Well, you get the point…

Renée with her beautiful, wide jaw.

And Nicole Stéphane trying to perfect her Greek profile.

A clothespin on the bridge of her nose.

[Which I call ghetto acupuncture.  Works great!]

And Édouard Dermit is not bad.

But the real star is Stéphane.

She.

Haggard from the world-weary beginning.

Funny and annoying.

Continuous repartee with Dermit.

All slang and no manners.

She is unlovably lovable until she does the expected.

She was no hero.

All along.

An antiheroine.

And it is anticlimax which we should feel.

When, like a cinder-smeared Gilda, she spits at the world one last time.

You can say they didn’t know.

Any better.

But their dream was more real than our reality.

 

-PD

Violet and Daisy [2011)

Damn…  Damn.  Much more arresting than a discussion of exploding genres.  When a film kicks you in the gut.

Filmmakers study the different reactions which can be elicited through the medium of cinema.

They study their own reactions.  They observe the reactions of those around them.

They build up an arsenal of techniques.

And if the filmmaker hits it just right the effect is devastating.

Director Geoffrey S. Fletcher did just that in this unlikely masterpiece.

From the outset it appears that we are in for a hackneyed Tarantino-aping ride, but it gets better.  Much, much better!

The genre is superviolence.  Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs were merely updates on the Kubrick treatment of A Clockwork Orange.

But the auteur Fletcher explodes the genre (to borrow a metaphor from James Monaco) and makes it do things previously unknown.

The superviolence genre can’t handle the intellect injected into its flippant form in Violet & Daisy (and thus a new genre is born).  The genre evolves.

Saoirse Ronan is magnificent as always, but she has great backup provided by her partner Alexis Bledel.  Yet, the real star of this miracle film is James Gandolfini.

There is no way of knowing what plot-twisting brilliance is afoot when you sit down to view this flick.

The surprise of this film (for me) also hinged on just how good Bledel was in the role of Violet.  Bledel and Ronan have unbelievable chemistry in this strange tightrope of a film.

I am stunned by how good this film was…

One last note:  Gandolfini’s performance here is so convincing that it seems impossible this was anything other than his last film.  What a masterful turn!

See this and be enlighteningly shocked.

-PD

激突!殺人拳 [1974)

[THE STREET FIGHTER (1974)]

Cinema lets us enter a new world.  When we get off that ferry with Bruce Lee and his uncle in The Big Boss, we are entering the world of Hong Kong fighting.  There’s something about that green suitcase which Uncle Lu totes along the gangplank which makes the whole thing believable.  That cheap green suitcase.  It is sad somehow.  A day’s change of clothes, perhaps.  There is something so humble about the mise-en-scène to indicate that we are not in Kansas anymore.

Our eyebrows raise as the opening credits roll on this excellent Sonny Chiba flick.  Japan!  The wah-wah guitar beckons us into a world which no longer exists–a place in history.  But we are fortunate that Sonny Chiba lives!  He is 76 years old. What an impression he makes in The Street Fighter!

It is not completely clear early in this film what is going on.  In fact, there are several times when the storytelling becomes a bit convoluted.  Don’t misunderstand:  this isn’t a complex film.  But somehow, the storytelling is very…different.

We remember Christian Slater at the beginning of True Romance when he unsuccessfully tried to pick up a girl at a bar…

Girl:  You want to take me to a kung fu movie?!?

Slater:  Three…kung fu movies.

Yes.  I’ve taken a couple of jabs at Tarantino on my site.  Perhaps I’ve been too harsh.  I mean, maybe Quentin has it all figured out.  No doubt the masters like Godard were initially impelled and instructed by the likes of B-movies, gangster films, pulp…from Nicholas Ray to Samuel Fuller.  Silly me…I thought QT grew up in Knoxville, but that isn’t quite right.  That said, his upbringing sounds about as shitty as I imagined…just transposed to various urban sprawl appendages of Los Angeles.

And so, from “one inch punch” to “oxygen coma punch” we dovetail into Chiba’s oeuvre.

Nothing about the beginning of this film foreshadows the touching moment late in the film when Ratnose (Chiba’s sidekick) finally gets his friend’s attention.  This subplot between Terry Tsurugi and Ratnose is really remarkable…almost a Clouseau/Cato dynamic early on, which proceeds into a harrowing/endearing funnel of climax.

Yeah, Slater was right:  Chiba is a rough customer.  He’s hard to like.  You have to stick with it.  Slowly, his unique morality comes to the surface.  Tsurugi is a damaged character, but the hardships he has experienced make him one of the toughest people on the planet.

Interestingly, Tsurugi’s rampages are in the context of big oil.  Though it was 1974, we feel a palpable thrill as he deals with the dealers.  It is still relevant.  Consider this recent story, for instance:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/03/20/wall-street-journal-reporter-david-birds-body-found-in-a-n-j-river/

Likewise, Chiba plays the role of an anti-mafia loner.  In other words, this guy’s not afraid of anyone.  Pretty powerful stuff!

Although Tsurugi doesn’t really have a way with women, his “beast” mode wins over the beauty Sarai (Yutaka Nakajima).  Chiba is all action–very few words.

And if you think Bruce Lee makes strange sounds in his fights, Chiba takes the cake…perpetually clearing his sinuses while trying to self-induce a heart attack (or so it sounds).  It is mondo bizarre!

Shigehiro Ozawa manages to make this a particularly artful film at times…especially the fight between Chiba and Masafumi Suzuki.  The focus on fists bears a striking resemblance to the famous “gun” shot from Hitchcock’s Spellbound.

The Street Fighter diverges from Bruce Lee movies in that Chiba gets his ass kicked pretty severely throughout this movie.  I suppose there is a proto-Rocky element here:  Chiba is the guy who can roll with the punches.

Another couple of nods to Lee occur at the beginning and then much later in the film.  Milton Ishibashi is made fun of by the prison guards who say something like “he must think he’s Bruce Lee.”  More importantly, we later learn that Chiba’s character is half Japanese (hi Jad Fair). His father had tried to combine “Chinese boxing” and karate.  This reminds us of Way of the Dragon…where the restaurant employees mock Lee’s “Chinese boxing” in sneering tones (until they see what it can do).

I won’t give away the bizarre ending, but suffice it to say that Junjo (Ishibashi) will be singing “Kumbaya” like Ned Gerblansky from here on out (if at all).  Who’s ready for some pie?

-PD