2011-10-26

Cannibal Holocaust - Redux

One, if not, the most controversial movie of all-time depicting some of the most disturbing scenes ever filmed in a fictional film, Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust will be discussed here. I should mention that it was a challenge for me to enter in this infamous movie, because of the violence and the reputation of the film itself. I am not too inclined about exploitation films and I entirely disagree when a filmmaker uses animals and hurts them voluntarily (turtle scene, the pig scene). They are gratuitous and they don't bring anything interesting to the story or the “propos” of the whole thing.


Deodato's challenge was to make a fictional movie about a documentary that feels like the real making-of of a documentary. He succeeds in this aspect; the movie feels like if it was shot by two different teams. One in New York and the other one in Amazonian forest. Instead of presenting the shocking images all in one continuous chronological order, Deodato slowly brings us with the journey of the Professor Monroe to find the tapes of the documentary. The professor Monroe is one of the most important character in the movie, he represents science and also morale. He is the only character the viewer can actually identifies himself with. He has a lot of common sense but he also wants to understand the native tribes he encounters in his trip; a representation of our curiosity and interest in viewing the film. Prof. Monroe will oppose himself with force against the broadcasting of the disturbing images of the final journey of the journalist team. This is a great dilemma between what is presentable and politically correct and what the world should know. It is also a strong critique on the mass media presenting more and more shocking and disturbing images to attract the morbid interest of the viewers.

This team of reporters thirsty for celebrity and money will do anything to get the images they want to show to the public of the civilized world. It represents this buzz of journalists that will kill themselves or others just to get the scoop or the most blood of some news or documentary. Cannibal Holocaust is a metaphor on journalists and on how they feed themselves on human misery and sensationalism.

The final image of the film when the camera moves from Professor Monroe to some buildings in the city represents one of the many metaphors of the movie: who is more civilized? the cannibals living in the "stone age" or the "civilized" living in stone buildings in "societies"? Well, the answer of the film states that in every "world" there are evil and good. The buildings and technical advances do not mean that we are better humans than the one still living in the jungle or the "stone age". The technology and the suits of the modern man doesn’t get him so distant from the jungle and the brutality of the human nature. Interesting films provoke the viewer to think and elaborate theories and ways to understand the story, the imagery, and the symbolism of a film. In Deodato’s film one can find all those things, besides being gory and gruesome Cannibal Holocaust has many qualities but sadly it is remembered as a minus opus because of the blood, guts, and flesh displayed.

Even with all the thinking that Cannibal Holocaust initiated for me, it was not a film I particularly loved, but its message is clear and maybe the methods are extreme, it still denounces abuses within it. I also believed that this is not a film for the faint of heart but in some way it's like a mandatory film to watch and to aware how the “civilized” society is hypocrite and how the mass medias are willing to do anything to attract wider audiences.

2011-10-25

Announcement: Seven days of Nouvelle Vague

Starting on December 1st until the 7th, I will be presenting nine of the most important figures of the French New Wave. Alongside you'll have tops of their films and a review of a famous film or a more obscure offering. The schedule goes like that:

1. Agnès Varda & Jacques DemySince this is a Seven days event I wanted to catch up with the most important figures of the wave. That's why, like in their time, I united Varda with Demy, only to have a big start for this event and also because I don't like to split lovers apart. 
Let's make it clear: Agnès Varda is Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy is Jacques Demy


2. Eric Rohmer
One of the most subtle, interesting, and romantic of the the Nouvelle Vague, Rohmer stands as one of the most accomplished "auteurs" amongst his peers. A director I have seen more than the half of all his films and that I like more and more with the passage of time.


3. Jean-Luc Godard

Does the man needs an introduction? You'll see when you'll read about him and his films in my presentation. An intriguying character and one of the most frustrating to follow.


4. François Truffaut
Truffaut died too young and he was the first director of the French New Wave I really connected with. His bittersweer approach, Antoine Doinel, and his life will be discussed in my presentation of him.


5. Claude ChabrolA director whom I' ve never seen any film ever. It will be very interesting to discover my first with this event.

6. Alain Resnais & Robert Bresson "The Outsiders"

Even if both of them never been a part of the Nouvelle Vague, their influence and their movies made prior and during the time of the French New Wave made them "the outsiders" of it. As the many figures that gravitated around the Nouvelle Vague I must not forgot to list Louis Malle, Jean-Pierre Melville, Henri-Georges Clouzot, and many others.

7. Jacques Rivette

Idem to Chabrol, I am ashamed to say that I haven't seen one film of the great Jacques Rivette. A great opportunity for me to discover this legendary master.

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I will accept links to reviews or articles about the Nouvelle Vague and also about each and every "auteur". Feel free to contribute! I'm not displaying which film I will be reviewing for every director on the list to keep the surprise and also because I want you to send any reviews you want and not just about the films I will or won't review!

Send your contributions at michael dot parent at hotmail dot com

I hope to read your submissions and your comments!

2011-10-22

Top films of Howard Hawks by LMdC


1. Hatari! (1962)
2. Rio Bravo (1959)
3. To Have and Have Not (1944)
4. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
5. Scarface (1932)
6. His Girl Friday (1940)
7. The Big Sleep (1946)
8. Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
9. Monkey Business (1952)
10. El Dorado (1967)
11. Land of the Pharaohs (1955)
12. Red River (1948)
13. Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964)

I still need to see: Fig Leaves (1926) Fazil (1928) A Girl In Every Port (1928) The Dawn Patrol (1930) The Criminal Code (1931) The Crowd Roars (1932) Tiger Shark (1932) Today We Live (1933) Twentieth Century (1934) Barbary Coast (1935) Ceiling Zero (1935) Come and Get It (1936) The Road to Glory (1936) Sergeant York (1941) Ball of Fire (1941) Air Force (1943) A Song Is Born (1948) I Was A Male War Bride (1949) The Thing From Another World (1951) The Big Sky (1952) O. Henry’s Full House (1952) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Red Line 7000 (1965) Rio Lobo (1970)

2011-10-21

To Have and Have Not

To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944)


Of the many great directors, Howard Hawks is one of the most respected alongside John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. His career has been punctuated of highs and lows. His highs are so great that his films are undying classics. Navigating between the genres, the Westerns (Red River, Rio Bravo, El Dorado, Rio Lobo), the screwball comedy (His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby), Film Noir (The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not), Historical melodrama (The Land of the Pharaohs), Adventure (Hatari!) he always did what he wanted to do. Never a technical director, he is a storyteller and a great dialogue writer. His line, “You know how to whistle Steve? Just put your lips together and blow!” said by Lauren Bacall in To Have and to Have Not might be the sexiest line ever said on film. There’s also the presence of Bacall but we’ll get back on that later. Hawks is considered by many as the greatest director of all time; the French New Wave praised his films even Hatari!, that is underrated by lots of critics, François Truffaut saw the work of Hawks and compared the story of the film to the making of an actual movie. Nowadays, a guy named Quentin Tarantino is obsessed by Hawks and he gives a test to all his potential girlfriends: to watch Rio Bravo. If the girl doesn’t like the film she’s not girlfriend material! As of today’s standards it’s difficult to make a comparison of The Grey Fox with an actual director. First, Hawks was an artist and his films were made with big budgets, always over schedule. He was the highest paid director of his time because his films made good money. He had artistic freedom and he was also the producer of his films. It is almost impossible to think that something like this would be possible in a world where the few directors that are making interesting films in major studios have so much difficulties keeping their director’s cut. Well, just call me a nostalgic or a stubborn classic movie lover I will gladly wear those labels if it is to watch Howard Hawks pictures all day!

To Have and Have Not represents everything about Classic Cinema that we cherish; a beautiful leading actress, a great legend, subtext dialogues, laughs, and an intrigue. Or like another guy used to say; a girl and a gun, Jean-Luc Godard you’ve recognized him here.

The beautiful leading lady is Lauren Bacall, Marie or nicknamed Slim like Hawks’ wife at the time. An almost skinny lady with a deep voice and sexy facial expressions. At only nineteen years old, her screen test was the famous line aforementioned in this review. When Hawks saw her he decided to make her part bigger and use the love story between Bacall and Humphrey Bogart(they met on the set of To Have and Have Not) to add more scenes involving both of them. The chemistry of the two actors is passionate and makes the viewer almost like a voyeur that stares at one of the greatest love stories of Hollywood. The pairing of those two lovers has never been equalled and on screen it is reflected so blissfully that you feel jealous of Bogie.

In 1944, Bogart’s legend was made and his presence in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca could have made him an unforgettable star. To Have and Have Not changed his life because he met Bacall the woman he’ll marry and stay with until his death. Also because he achieves a level of performance that I think is the greatest of his entire career. Way much better than The African Queen that got him his only Oscar. His scenes with Walter Brennan are pure Hawksian Cinema, the two professionals united together and working as a team to attain their goal, the constant jokes about each other, the tradition of the Hawksian camaraderie where the two characters think they protect the other, the trade of money, bottles, cigarettes, matches, etc. They are all symbols of friendship in Hawks’ universe. Someone might notice that Slim(Bacall) and Steve(Bogart) trade many bottles, matches, and cigarettes. This is because in Hawks’ world, the leading female should be one of the boys and not just the hero’s love interest. She jokes with them and she is involved in the story.
To Have and to Have Not is not just a director’s film, this is an ensemble film with great performances, a great script by William Faulkner based on Ernest Hemingway's novel, the whole directed by Howard Hawks. On Hemingway's story, the author bet to Hawks that he couldn't be able to adapt his novel on the silver screen. Hawks, took almost the entire story out to make his own adaptation of Hemingway into a script and luckily it makes one great film. This is the sign of a director in full control of his story and narratives.As a classic film enthusiast I am more than ecstatic towards To Have and Have Not, it is one of the greatest films of the 1940’s.  A must see.

2011-10-20

The Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
Frankly, my dear readers I don’t give a damn about politics and I don’t naturally go to the films that matter about this subject. It was more a mandatory exercise than an actual act of lovemaking towards this renowned film. Even if it was crafted during the great years of the French New Wave and that it influenced Steven Soderbergh on his Che, I had to try three times to actually watch the entire thing. Enough about me and let's discuss the film now.

The chronicle that is the reconstitution of the events that leaded to the independence of Algeria is a solid example of a scientifically and historically documented work of fiction. Almost shot like a documentary and loaning the narratives of the genre, The Battle of Algiers witnesses the revolution of a country that had enough for over 130 years of French wardship. The objective point of view of the narration delivers a strong untainted message that this was a war, or should I say a guerrilla, that marked the world of the 1960’s in its politics and Cinema. The movements of protests of May 68 in France and in many places in the world were influenced by the techniques shown in The Battle of Algiers. A nation that has been occupied for more than a century that could get his freedom was more than inspiring to the young revolutionaries. Many cinephiles of the time recall that these people used to bring paper and pen to the presentations of The Battle of Algiers taking notes on how to start a revolution. The realism of the actions displayed and the natural acting of those non professional actors was a big factor that made this film so unique and powerful.

On a historical value, Pontecorvo directed a very rich depiction of events that occurred less than a decade before the film was shot. It has two historical ways to analyze this complexity. First, the subject is still hot and the memory of the witness and participants of these events is still fresh and uncompromised by the time and the nostalgia or the retreat. It is almost as if Pontecorvo got in the street and shot images while the events actually occurred. A lot like Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center made shortly after the sad events of September 9/11. In the case of The Battle of Algiers, it was clear that the side of the revolutionaries was the side of the heroes and that the Independence of Algeria was the ultimate ending to the film.

Nevertheless, this case of documenting a fresh event like this doesn’t let the test of time and the step back we normally would take to analyze and fully understand the effects of the events displayed. In both cases of The Battle of Algiers and World Trade Center, what counts is the demonstration of how the events occurred in a certain gaze. A great case of Historical study and step back would be the dual films of Clint Eastwood; Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima displaying the two opponents, the two sides, and how they were involved in History.
Meanwhile, The Battle of Algiers has a strong historical value even if it’s a fictional film displaying events in an Algerian “partisanery”. Take the time to discover the wonderful Blu-Ray treatment of the film by Criterion Collection, it is worth the look.

2011-10-19

Top films of Jean Renoir by LMdC

1. La règle du jeu (1939)
2. La grande illusion (1937)
3. The River (1951)
4. Le crime de Monsieur Lange (1936)
5. Une partie de campagne (1936)
6. Boudu sauvé des eaux (1932)
7. French Cancan (1955)
8. Toni (1935)

I still need to see : Whirlpool of Fate (1925) Nana (1926) Charleston parade (1927) The Little Match Girl (1928) La chienne (1931) La nuit du Carrefour (1932) Madame Bovary (1934) Les bas fonds (1936) La bête humaine (1938) La Marseillaise (1938) Swamp Water (1941) This Land Is Mine (1943) Diary of A Chambermaid (1945) The Southerner (1945) The Woman on the Beach (1947) The Golden Coach (1952) Paris Does Strange Things (1956) Picnic on the Grass (1959) The Testament of Dr. Cordelier (1959) The Elusive Corporal (1962) The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir (1969)

2011-10-18

Une partie de campagne

Une partie de campagne (Jean Renoir, 1936)
Like Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, Jean Renoir’s Cinema always hold a special place in my cinephile heart. His artistic vision from his father’s heritage is one thing. But Renoir’s storytelling is the greatest facet of his talent. Combining those elements and you have the favourite director of Welles and Bogdanovich. Even if you have just seen La règle du jeu or La grand illusion, you still have discovered two of the greatest masterpieces of all time. One of my personal favourite from Renoir is The River, shot in India and depicting an English family living in this “foreign’ country where tradition and exotism reigns. I always tend to admire a great director’s less famous work than his undisputed masterpieces. A great director can be observed when his lesser known work is still valuable and of high quality.

Jean Renoir’s Une partie de campagne is an unachieved masterpiece to be. With amazing imagery of romantic sensibility and many comedy elements this forty minute film feels like a fresh romantic comedy with a classic French tone. Adapted from Guy de Maupassant’s novel, Une partie de campagne depicts the innocence of young lovers, the essence of mature women, the egotism of men and their favourite sport, and the clash between urban and country life. The naive beginnings of the story slowly fells into the social study of Parisians coming to the country for a day and enjoying the simple pleasures of the rural people. While the men of the country enjoy the sophistication of the ladies of the city. The treatment of the story feels a lot like a tale about a secret love of two people distant from each other. The idyllic scenery and the amazing photography helps the viewer to appreciate the wonderful Sunday afternoon portrayed by Renoir. The brightness of the visual approach and the dramatic metaphor that the rain brought is more than a simple beautiful effect. This is the work of an artist and a storyteller in full mastery of the media.

We are lucky as cinephiles that Jean Renoir could have directed many films during his life. His career is dotted of wonderful films of cinematic bliss. Every self-respected film lover should discover Renoir’s oeuvre. It’s like a melomane who haven’t heard of The Beatles or if an Art lover doesn’t know Van Gogh, it is a shame! Renoir’s are a film reference that will never go out of style.

2011-10-17

Coming soon! Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

 I'm not used to present DVD releases on Le Mot du Cinephiliaque. However, since the wonderful folks at RHI Entertainment approached me for the first release of the Laurel & Hardy boxset in North America all packed in a collector's package with plenty of amazing exclusive interviews and discussions on the impact of these legendary duet.

Stan Laurel got into show business with Fred Karno’s vaudeville company as Charlie Chaplin’s understudy. He used to do imitations of Chaplin. On the other side, Oliver Hardy began singing at eight years old and his early career brought him into comedy. Laurel & Hardy met when they were working for comedy producer Hal Roach in the 1920’s. The famous duo was united for the first time on the silver screen in 1926 for the movie 45 minutes from Hollywood. Then, it only took them five years to get their first feature length starring roles in the success Pardon Us. From this point they starred in many successful production until the 1940’s. The Second World War was difficult for many silent films comedians that got into talkies and even being renowned and with a new contract with the 20th Century Fox, they had to struggle to get the full freedom of creation in these harder times.


Sadly, they retired from filmmaking in 1950. Behind them are numerous shorts and feature lengths worthy of thousands of laughs. Their contribution to Cinema was recognized by the Academy Awards in 1960 when Stan Laurel (Oliver Hardy died in 1957) received a special Oscar “for his creative pioneering in the field of Cinema comedy”. While working for Roach’s company, and like many other comedians of their time (Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to name a few), they were writing and directing almost all of the films they made together embodying the geniuses they represented.

The films of Laurel & Hardy needed to receive this crowning treatment to recognize their contribution to the comedy genre.
I can't say how thrilled I am about this release and I hope your are all too. This is the chance to discover the films of the funniest comedians ever, since Chaplin and Keaton.



Press release: 

TIMELESS SOUND-ERA FILMS FROM THE LEGENDARY HAL ROACH LIBRARY DEBUT IN ONE EXTRAORDINARY DVD SET
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE U.S.

LAUREL & HARDY:
THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION


Digitally Remastered And Digitally Restored, Loaded With Over Two Hours Of Special Features, The Spectacular 10-Disc Set Arrives October 25
From RHI Entertainment And Vivendi Entertainment

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA – Celebrating the genius of the most beloved comedy team of all time, LAUREL & HARDY: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION debuts in a stunning 10-disc set on October 25, 2011 from RHI Entertainment and Vivendi Entertainment.  With a comedic style that defined an era and created a legacy that is still celebrated today, 58 of Stan Laurel an Oliver Hardy’s talking shorts and feature films, produced under legendary movie mogul, Hal Roach, from 1929 through 1940, are now available for the first time in the U.S. all together in one magnificent collection.



 Transferred in high definition for the first time and digitally enhanced for home viewing in the finest quality available to date, the set contains favorites that have been enjoyed for generations including Helpmates, Hog Wild, Another Fine Mess, Sons of the Desert, Way Out West, and the Academy Award® winning* film The Music Box.



LAUREL & HARDY: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION comes housed in collectible, book-style packaging with an extensive, detailed film guide.  The set also boasts over two hours of special features including exclusive, never-before-seen interviews with comedy legends Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis, Tim Conway and more, who discuss the enduring impact and influence of Laurel and Hardy. 



Additional features include commentaries by Laurel and Hardy aficionados, along with a virtual location map that allows viewers to take an interactive tour of the iconic places in and around Los Angeles where Laurel and Hardy filmed.  Available for the suggested retail price of $99.98, LAUREL & HARDY: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION showcases some of the most cherished and hilarious films in cinema history and is a must-have for comedy fans and collectors everywhere.


BASICS

Price:                           $99.98

Street Date:                 October 25, 2011

Order Date:                 September 20, 2011

Catalog Number:         RH3021

Language:                   English

Running time:              1941 minutes 

Rating:                         NR

2011-10-14

Top films of P.T. Anderson by LMdC


Of the many young directors that made films in the last 15 years, Anderson is one of the few that has the talent and the mastery to make entertaining masterpieces. He is the perfect blend of the heritage of Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman as long as Erich von Stroheim and Orson Welles. There Will Be Blood stands as one of the greatest films of all time as it is now in my Top 10. His use of camera movement reminds of the greatest films of Jean Renoir and Max Ophüls. His next film, The Master will be in theatres in 2013, until then let’s take a look at his already rich filmography.
1. There Will Be Blood (2007)
2. Boogie Nights (1997)
3. Magnolia (1999)
4. Punch Drunk Love (2002)

I still need to see Hard Eight aka Sydney (1996)

2011-10-13

New releases or Classics?

As I was drifting through the films I watched this year, definitely a lot less than the year before, I was surprised to notice that I’ve only seen four films released in 2011! Of these four films one is more than worth noticing. Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. The fact that I haven’t seen a lot of new releases is not that astonishing, the total number of films I’ll have seen in 2011 is probably a hundred less than in 2010. My ever growing appetite for Classic films is always significant year after year. Plus, my journey through They Shoot Pictures Don’t They’s 1000 Greatest Films is getting intoxicating. This list is dotted of classic and obscure films that are a delight for the cinephile that I am.


On another cinephile topic, there are those cult films that every time you discover one you unearth ten others! It’s the same thing when you become interested in a more obscure filmmaker like Ken Russell or Masaki Kobayashi!

Those are some reasons, or one might say excuses, that I use to justify my lack of 2011 releases viewings.

On the other hand, I’m in a place in my life where I want to save money to buy some nice little home with my wife. It may also explain why I didn’t spend that much money on film tickets this year. Take note that I was invited as a “critic” to the premiere of The Tree of Life... If you want me to review more new releases please feel free to give me complimentary entrances and Premiere tickets!

Anyhow, I think it reflects my true passion for Cinema and a part of my formation as a Historian, Classic films and History. This is probably why I prefer “older” films and in spite of more recent pictures.

It was supposed to be some kind of post about the greatest films of 2011 so far. Since, I’ve seen only four, yes four! I will try to catch at least some of the most well received.

Drive
Moneyball
Super 8
Cowboys vs. Aliens.
Melancholia
Uncle Boomee
Certified Copy
Rango
Meek’s Cutoff
A Dangerous Method
The Thing
Hugo
The Ides of March
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Rubber
Troll Hunter
Horrible Bosses
Crazy Stupid Love
Midnight In Paris
Source Code

I might be too positive and unable to attain this objective but at least I hope I’ll be able to catch half of these before the end of the year and produce a decent Top 10 of 2011...
Also, feel free to recommend any films of this year I forgot to mention in this concise list!

2011-10-12

Update of my Fall 2011.. so far


 Earlier I announced the program of my Fall 2011, well, here is my update of it all and the links to the reviews of the lists watched.



Of the 41 films planned I've seen 7. So 34 to go!

1. Madame de… (Max Ophüls, 1954)
2. Battle of Algier (Gillo Pontecorvo, 196-)
3. Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1927)
4. Husbands (John Casavetes, 1972)
5. The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)
6. Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1953)
7. The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)
8. Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959)
9. The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 19--)
10. Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)
11. Le Corbeau (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 19--)
12. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2000)
13. Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2001)
14. Ali : Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 19--)
15. Les yeux sans visage (Georges Franju, 195-)
16. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (Peter Greenaway, 1989)
17. Land of the Pharaohs (Howard Hawks, 1956)
18. Colossus of Rhodes (Sergio Leone, 196-)
19. Cleopatra (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 196-)
20. Cleopatra (Cecil B. DeMille, 192-)
21. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1975)
22. Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975)
23. Black Moon (Louis Malle, 1975)
24. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
25. Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 195-)
26. They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray, 1948)
27. The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray, 196-)
28. L’année dernière à Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1958)
29. The Devils (Ken Russell, 197-)
30. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
31. Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971) Watched August 15
32. Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 19--)
33. I Walked with A Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 19--)
34. Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 19--)
35. The Haunting (Robert Wise, 19--)
36. Doctor Phibes Rises Again (Robert Fuest, 19--)
37. The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 19--)
38. Scream (Wes Craven, 1994)
39. A Christmas Story (Bob Clark, 1983)
40. 3 Godfathers (John Ford, 1948)
41. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Paul Schrader, 1983)

2011-10-11

Johnny Guitar

Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)


Defined as a cult classic, and often cited as one of the greatest films of one of the most recognized auteurs in the minds of the greats of the French New Wave, read here Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar stands as a superb and innovative Western. The directors you can look for when you are listing the best Western genre filmmakers are of course John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Anthony Mann. Often forgotten, is Nicholas Ray with his Freudian approach to the genre and a redefining “mise en scène”. The “classic” Western used to be a very macho thing and the women’s roles often were characterized by their simplicity and their somewhat absence. However, here in Johnny Guitar the presence of Joan Crawford as Vienna is central and essential.



The context in which the film was created was McCarthyism in the United States and the subtext of Johnny Guitar is all about how the mass perceives the outsiders and how those outsiders are excluded. The script, written by Ben Maddow but credited to Philipp Yordan, was the work of a man (Maddow) blacklisted at the time because of leftist involvement. As the true auteur, Ray was also an outcast all his life, with auto-destructive manners and strong rumours of his bisexuality, Johnny Guitar reads like one of the most personal films ever made. It involves the struggle of everyone between good and evil and how the characters cannot be all black or all white. They are portrayed as humans and nobody’s a hero or a complete antagonist devoid of feelings. The inner struggles of its creators are reflected in a controlled yet magnificent creation that is Johnny Guitar.

Despite its flaws, and yes it has some, I would like to cite my colleague Kevyn Knox that himself quoted François Truffaut “we don’t like those films even with their flaws, we like them for those flaws”. I would like to add to this the fact that as critics we always like to praise perfect films with great directing, amazing acting, superb editing etc. But as a cinephile I tend to prefer the lesser or not the masterpiece films of a director. In example, my favourite Howard Hawks picture is Hatari!. I know that this is far from being his Rio Bravo, His Girl Friday, or Bringing Up Baby, but I will prefer a great film to a flawless picture. This is why Johnny Guitar is often categorized as overrated by its detractors for its many flaws and lesser contribution to the seventh Art. However, since it’s my review and my rating I will mete Johnny Guitar a 5 star rating.

2011-10-07

Kiss Me Deadly

Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)


Mike Hammer is a tough guy, a self-centered hard ass who’s only listening to himself and working for his own benefit only. In the vein of the great portrayals of Humphrey Bogart and Robert Ryan, the character of Hammer is greater than nature. The Film Noir elements that surrounds him seem out of place and the mystery shouldn’t be unravelled contrary to the classic film approach.

Kiss Me Deadly is the metaphor of the nuclear menace that should have been stopped before the Cold War. Hammer’s quest is unhealthy and even if the bodies are pilling around him and even the many direct warnings didn’t stop him from doing the unthinkable. He works like the mind of a mad scientist who wants to destroy the world for his own fame. The story of Kiss Me Deadly could have been completely out of synch and overly stupid but the effective and capable mise en scène of Robert Aldrich goes a long way.

Robert Aldrich’s debut film is a one of a kind Film Noir with superb visuals, a strong script, and solid performances. The inventive camera angles give the appropriate twist to the story’s twisted plot. German expressionism has always been an influence on Film Noirs but the technique used in Kiss Me Deadly is above anything seen before. Furthermore, it’s interesting to notice that Aldrich’s film became such an appraised classic that the critics of the French New Wave censed as one of the great American films of its time and that directors like Quentin Tarantino reused some elements in his earlier films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction most notably.
One of the most important pattern in the Film Noir is the culture of the mystery. We need the tension from the journey to find the mystery. Just think of Chinatown or The Third Man without a final twist. In this case, the mystery is complete because the audience not only wants to discover the “something big and valuable” Mike Hammer is looking for but we want to know the motivations of the unsympathetic anti-hero that Hammer represents. His methods are unconventional and the viewer wants to find what motivates him to use them.
This cult film amongst cinephiles is a sure shot; I mean which film lover doesn’t like Film Noir? Plus, Aldrich’s oeuvre as underrated as it is should be revisited by many because it deserves better praise than it actually received. At least, Kiss Me Deadly received a great treatment by recently being released by the great folks of the Criterion Collection.

2011-10-06

Top films of Max Ophüls by LMdC




Even if I haven’t seen most of Max Ophüls brilliant filmography, I’ve decided to start a Top list of his films. The few films watched from his oeuvre deserved the exposure I’m giving them.

His lovely romantic films influenced from Stanley Kubrick (Ophüls was Stanley’s favourite director when he directed Paths of Glory) to Wes Anderson who lists Madame de... as his favourite film of the Criterion Collection. Since the last few years the great people of Criterion released brilliant copies of Ophüls’ brightest efforts.

Anyway, this is my personal appreciation of the films of this great director.

1. Lola Montès (1955)
2. Madame de... (1953)
3. La ronde (1950)
4. Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948)

Ophüls’ films I still need to see are: Liebelei (1932) La Signora di Tutti (1934) Le roman de Werther (1938) Sans lendemain (1939) De Mayerling à Sarajevo (1940) The Exile (1947) Caught (1949) The Reckless Moment (1949) Le plaisir (1951)

2011-10-05

400th Post on Le Mot du Cinephiliaque

Wow! It’s been more than two years since I started to ramble about movies on this modest but passion driven blog. At first, with only some reviews of theatrical releases I struggled to write in French and English at the same time. Later, I choose to only express my thoughts in the tongue of Shakespeare, which isn’t my mother tongue by the way. I know sometimes that my “propos” isn’t as clear as I wanted it to be or that some reviews may need to be rewritten or revised, but the soul is there and I think that I could maintain and elevate my writing with the years to come. This little hobby has become a passion and maybe an obsession.

In the beginnings, the comments were few and I had to fight through the jungle that is movie blogging to find my own niche and recurring readers.

But now, with other classic films/repertoire/foreign films enthusiasts I think I found many great bloggers to share my thoughts and comment on their own lairs.

As to this date I’ve decided to impose myself a number of goals to attain before the end of the year 2011. Here they are:
*Obtain my 50th follower.
*Post my 500th post
*Watch 150 films (total for 2011) I’ve never seen
*Improve my writing skills and my ability with HTML
*Post a comment on a new blog everyday

All of these goals will help me maintain the quality and the quantity of LMdC as a whole. Moreover, it will help me to be a perfect candidate for the Online Film Critics Society.

I’d like to thank everyone who comments and participate in this great adventure that is movie blogging with me and our community of bloggers!

See you next post!

2011-10-04

Madame de

Madame de (Max Ophüls, 1953)


Max Ophüls is the kind of director that could induce the greatest dose of romance without even being over the top. His film, Madame de sure demonstrates this in his remarkable mastery of perfect framing and camera movement. On every aspect Ophüls’ picture is the work of a genius, the story, the technical skills, the score, and the performances form a complete ensemble.

This is a magnificent demonstration of a well balanced masterpiece, everything has been concocted and shaped like a great work of art. The elliptic story, an Ophüls trademark, the multileveled dialogues and the subtle and graceful performances by Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica, and Charles Boyer complete the period drama that is Madame de. It is indeed appropriate to evoke the fact that this film is a piece of Art and not just another movie. The last two films of Max Ophüls; Madame de and Lola Montès are blissful demonstrations of perfection in the seventh Art. Medialfilm, a well respected institution that rates films since almost fifty years in the province of Québec placed it amongst the masterpieces of Cinema. Of the thousands of thousands films ever rated, only about 150 received this ultimate distinction.

Set in the late 19th Century, this drama tells the hypocrisy of the bourgeois milieu in French aristocracy. Even if many think that this period is not interesting, the film sure makes it enjoyable and amazing. Ophüls’ approach and his uncanny storytelling couldn’t be more well suited to illustrate the mystery around the countess Louise, aka Madame de, and her motivations. The story plays with the viewer so much that at some point we even get mixed up into the many lies that surrounds the lives of our three protagonists. Without being completely endearing the viewer is transposed in the story as if he were an omnipresent mute character that follows quietly the action. This involvement is represented by the sumptuous movements of the camera that captivates the audience into the plot.

Overall, Madame de is a strong cinematic achievement amongst the highly regarded career of Max Ophüls. The Switzerland born cineaste has made movies in America but offered the best of his oeuvre while in France during the 1950’s. It is hard to designate what is his greatest film but Madame de stands as easily in his Top 3. A masterpiece of good taste.

2011-10-03

Land of The Pharaohs

Land of The Pharaohs (Howard Hawks, 1955)

One of the many films listed as Martin Scorsese's guilty pleasures, and one of the lesser films of the great Howard Hawks, Land of The Pharaohs is an epic film set in Ancient Egypt. First, I must admit that I love Hawks' latest films from Hatari! to El Dorado. His color films have this lavishtone and feeling. Second, I'm a sucker for epic movies of the 1950's. For example,  I loved Byron Haskins' The Naked Jungle. Even though if those films are considered as lesser works I just can't help it! I love those films!

Despite the many anachronisms, believe me I have a formation in History I will spare you the details, Land of The Pharaohs is a historical epic film. The grand spectacle depicting characters bigger and bolder than any other life is everything about decadence, gold, and opportunists. The overwhelming visual sets of epic proportions, the thousands of extras, the whole extravaganza of it all is the Hawksian facet of the too much. His following film was one of his greatest masterpieces, Rio Bravo, also a colored film but deeper and multilayered. Land of The Pharaohs was the only Cinemascope picture made by Hawks, and even if it feels like it is an experimentation in style, the film has these Hawksian dialogues and many sexual subtexts. It's also interesting to notice that he made a film set in Ancient Egypt times, a time where the women were well considered compared to many other times in History. It is a well known fact that Hawks was a man who loved women that stood up and could enter within the men's preoccupations. Princess Nellifer is the extension of this concept pushed on the other extreme.

Nonetheless, Land of The Pharaohs has a classic story even if Hawks inserted his own vision in the whole thing. The "auteur"'s touch is very present and as the critics of the French New Wave remarked, the Hawks presence is subtle but well felt.

The decadence of Hawks' extravaganza is more than worth a look and even if some elements may seem quirky, well it is, or cheesy, it is too, the picture is a lot of fun. A pure cinematic enjoyment full of visual beauty, read Joan Collins here, and a superb mise en scène. Its detractors must see the picture as a great entertainment piece of the sevneth art instead of the overachievement of a great director. It ain't Howard Hawks' greatest film and it is not one of his masterpieces but a very enjoyable film set in Ancient Egypt.

2011-10-01

Husbands

Husbands (John Cassavetes, 1970)


It’s been a while since I wanted to catch a John Cassavetes film and I choose Husbands first because it was one of the few I could put my hand on and second because it was starring the late Peter Falk that I miss a lot. Beforehand, I knew that it was going to be some sort of improvised acting without specific storylines.

The plot is about the loss of a friend in a group of four men that were friends since childhood and now in their adulthood they are having troubles dealing with their lost and their common lives. The many scenes of this film are long and make those moments like true moments. It is shot almost like if Cassavetes wanted to document the lives of men who have difficulties to handle the passage from boyhood to manhood. However, this “passage” isn’t a metamorphosis, it is more like the gain of maturity and the case of letting things go. For example, the passions you have while you are a teenager slowly fade away and those nights drinking and hanging with your friends are part of that “passage” to maturity and the evolution as men and adults. The average man will always have to struggle between his responsibilities and his envy to go back to his days of lust. Husbands demonstrates how these men with responsibilities are struggling to pass over their best friend’s death by trying to rememorized their time with him when they were partying and “free”. It resumes an old saying that goes like that: “Life sucks! You’re gonna love it!”.

In some way, this is a sad movie that feels true and also nostalgic because it is the mourning of a lost friend that starts it all. Husbands, is a study of the modern day man alienated by his work and the world of today. Even if sometimes the portrayals are overly exaggerated it’s the magic of the moment that counts when you are watching a Cassavetes’ picture. Moreover, it is the wonderful acting that does it all. The photography is pretty subtle and there is a certain restraint in the technique, its purpose: let the acting talk and carry the film. This is why the presence of Falk, Cassavetes, and Ben Gazzara is the center of Husbands and the major reason why this is a highly regarded picture.

This is a raw film that feels true and down to earth. It’s like watching something without a filter. Far from being a perfect film or a life changing picture, Husbands defines how men can be weak and how they’ll always have to face live and death.
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