31 March 2008


Bugcrush - dir. Carter Smith - 2006 - USA

In preparation for seeing The Ruins this weekend (better known as the only hope for a decent horror film this half of the year), I visited Carter Smith's short film, Bugcrush, available through Strand's Boys Life 6 collection... and, yes, my anticipation is now high. Running just over a half hour, Bugcrush is thrice as moody as any horror film I've seen in a while, focusing on the unlikely crush of a young high school boy (Josh Caras) on a likely heterosexual bad boy (Donald Cumming). Things don't really move as you would expect them to and Smith drapes Bugcrush with a palpable sense of danger. Ultimately, it doesn't make a lick of sense, but by that point, it doesn't matter. As you probably know, films that stray from any sense of reality or proper dissection after establishing itself fantastically suit my fancy. I just hope The Ruins can restore my faith in the American horror. Sorry Carter Smith for laying such an unrealistic task on your shoulders. Also, keep an eye out for Billy Price, the subject of the documentary Billy the Kid, as one of the bad boy's friends.

29 March 2008

Oh, THAT's Why...

According to Premiere's Glenn Kelly, Chapter 27 is "the most godawful, irredeemable film yet to emerge in the 21st century." Wow! As a paid film critic, I'm sure he's had to watch all those films from the creators of Date Movie, so that's saying something. Like the quiet smirks I had when Southland Tales and Marie Antoinette were panned at Cannes, my complete and utter distaste for Jared Leto can now be shared widely. Another hilarious tid-bit, from Nathan Rabin of The Onion AV Club, "Perhaps the harshest criticism that can be directed at Chapter 27 is that it's awful even for a late-period Lindsay Lohan movie." Double yowza. Read more awful reviews at GreenCine Daily or Metacritic... better yet put on your favorite 30 Seconds to Mars album and revel in Jared Leto's awfulness.

26 March 2008

Zombie Richard Widmark

The actor passed away at the age of 93. Remember him with two of my favorites: The Night and the City and, especially, Pickup on South Street.

Quick Reference

Wristcutters: A Love Story - dir. Goran Dukic - 2007 - USA

Sure, it's an interesting premise, but does an interesting premise a good movie make? Of course not. I'm not going to stretch myself as far to call Wristcutters a bad film, as it's--at least--engaging throughout. In fact, now that I'm thinking clearly upon the film, there's not much more to do with it other than outright reject it or take its effective surrealism as something altogether shallow. In fact, Wristcutters is one of the few films you can adamantly hate or enthusiastically love, and I frankly wouldn't give two shits. It's not offensively "culty," despite an almost entire soundtrack from Tom Waits, and it's also not as arrogant as Donnie Darko to set off my offensives. It's fine, as much as I hate the idea of leaving that generic sentence to conclude this "synopsis."

Socket - dir. Sean Abley - 2007 - USA

Have fun, if you so desire, with Socket, a crude, superficial update of David Cronenberg's Videodrome. It's certainly unapologetically gay, casting the only "heterosexual" woman as a transgendered woman, but I hope you would know that shamelessly queer doesn't alone impress me. From the disc menu, I found reason to question the integrity of the film. Honestly, what purpose does a generic techno soundtrack serve a film, let alone a generic gay film? None, I would beg to say. Unfortunately, Socket plays with fascinating subjects, i.e. the paralyzing nothingness and heightened eroticism of a man recently struck by lightening. Unfortunately, the symbolism and metaphors are way, way too easy, crippling any legitimate comparison to Videodrome, as the lead character's (Derek Long) ultimate desire for power and, yes, electricity becomes all-too-apparent. Is it even worth someone's time for commending a shitty film for its ambitions when they ultimately lead to nothing worth speaking of? I'd like to say no, and thus, like to tell you to avoid Socket.

25 March 2008

La vie sur le terre

So, I turned 24 on Sunday, which coincided with the anniversary of the zombie-esque resurrection of the Christian god. And I partied in full Ramona Lutz style. If you don't get the reference, go rent Freeway. I share a birthday with the incomparable Amanda Plummer. Jealous? I thought so. Anyway, I made myself a musical playlist to celebrate my birthday in style. Here it is. You should always score your own life.

1. Goldfrapp - Eat Yourself
2. Yeasayer - Wait for the Summer
3. MGMT - Electric Feel
4. Cat Power - The Greatest
5. Portishead - The Rip
6. The Verve - Grey Skies
7. The Magnetic Fields - All My Little Words
8. Mojave 3 - Trying to Reach You
9. Til Tuesday - Voices Carry
10. Devo - Mongoloid
11. Sonic Youth - Shadow of a Doubt
12. Eighth Wonder - I'm Not Scared
13. Scratch Massive - Hung Over [fitting, no?]
14. The Human League - Human
15. Montag - Softness, I Forgot Your Name
16. The The - The Beat(en) Generation
17. PJ Harvey - Silence
18. Stacey Q - Two of Hearts
19. The Hidden Cameras - Why I Understand
20. Françoise Hardy - J'aurai voulu

22 March 2008

May Fools

God, I totally forgot that the line-up for this year's Cannes film festival will be announced in a mere month, and The Hollywood Reporter has a line-up of possible films to make their way into this year's festival. Among the possibilities are:

- Michael Winterbottom's Geneva with Colin Firth, Catherine Keener and Hope Davis
- Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona with Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Messina (the only Jew in the cast, likely playing the Allen role) and Patricia Clarkson (you might know the film better as the one where Cruz and Johansson have a steamy lesbian sex scene)
- Two films from Steven Soderbergh, The Argentine and Guerilla, the first with Franka Potente, Benicio del Toro, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Demián Bichir, the latter with all the above plus Jordi Mollà, Benjamin Bratt, Joaquím de Almeida, and Julia Ormond
- Bertrand Tavernier's In the Electric Mist with Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Kelly Macdonald, Peter Sarsgaard and Ned Beatty
- Anh Hung Tran's (The Vertical Ray of the Sun) I Come with the Rain with Josh Hartnett and Elias Koteas
- Fernando Meirelles' Blindness with Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Sandra Oh, Gael García Bernal and Danny Glover
- Wim Wenders' The Palermo Shooting with Milla Jovovich, Dennis Hopper, Sebastian Blomberg, Patti Smith and Lou Reed
- Arnaud Desplechin's Un conte de Noël with Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Chaira Mastroianni, Melvil Poupaud, Emmanuelle Devos and Hippolyte Girardot
- Bertrand Bonnello's De le guerre with Asia Argento, Mathieu Amalric, Guillaume Depardieu, Aurore Clément, Michel Piccoli, Elina Löwensohn and Laurent Lucas
- Barbet Schroeder's Inju with Benoît Magimel.

Sounds fucking good to me, whether these films make it into the festival or not. Oh, and via the same source, Wong Kar-wai may debut his Ashes of Time Redux, a new version of his martial arts epic. A new version? That doesn't sound like Wong! (I'm being sarcastic, see below). Anyway, I can't wait until May.

Once I wanted to be...

What can we expect for the US release of My Blueberry Nights? According to the Weinsteins, the US version will differ greatly from the version which screened at Cannes (which I have seen and was rather lukewarm toward). This seems to be a trend for Wong Kar-wai. He caused a minor scandal a few years back when the Cannes release of 2046 was delayed due to it "not being ready." As far as I know, the version most of the world has seen of 2046 is not the version which screened at Cannes (to decidedly mixed reviews). Please correct me if I'm wrong. Maybe Wong's problem is that he hasn't been able to successfully follow up his breathtaking In the Mood for Love and has been even more unsatisfied with his last two films than most of his fans have been. May I offer a suggestion? Less Natalie Portman, less Rachel Weisz, more Chan Marshall. Okay, so I'm bias. Normally I would oppose of those slimy Weinsteins fucking with the film, but if you saw the film I did, it could certainly use some improvement. If anyone has more information about the US release of My Blueberry Nights, don't hesitate to share. My Blueberry Nights begins its limited release on 4 April, and here's the US poster below, which is probably the lousiest out of all the international posters for the film, which you can see at this link.

My original review of My Blueberry Nights, the non-US cut, can be found at this link.

Short Cuts 22 March 2008

Here's an update of what I've been watching in the past few days.

The Witnesses [Les témoins] - dir. André Téchiné - 2007 - France

The Witnesses is uncharacteristically swiftly-paced for an André Téchiné film, particularly one that deals with what I'd like to call a love trapezoid during the course of an entire year in the early 80s. Like his previous Wild Reeds and Strayed, he treats The Witnesses like an epic war romance, crafting the AIDS crisis into une guerre, told from the point-of-view of an apathetic mother and wife (Emmanuelle Béart) whose husband (Sami Bouajila) is sleeping with a young boy (Johan Libéreau, of Cold Showers) who comes down with signs of what we now know as AIDS. Though successful in its own right, the film ultimately lacks the overall heartbreak of Wild Reeds and the simply stunning nature of Rendez-vous. Try not to pay attention to Béart's plastic surgery face and lips (or the fact that an American character who shows up near the end is clearly not from the United States).

Them [Ils] - dir. David Moreau, Xavier Palud - 2006 - France/Romania

Note to foreign directors who've made a successful horror film in their native country: don't come to America. Now, I'm not outright banning anyone from coming, but Hollywood has been recruiting foreign directors for their shitty remakes for the past few years (see The Hills Have Eyes, The Grudge 2, Hitman), and now we have the directors of Them to blame for The Eye. Them is actually pretty creepy (which is something I've heard The Eye certainly is not), but it feels more like a suspense demo reel than it does an actual film. It's tense and eerie, but empty and meaningless. Thankfully at seventy-seven minutes, it's hard not to at least applaud the directors for favoring old-fashioned terror over merciless gore.

It's My Party - dir. Randal Kleiser - 1996 - USA

It's been AIDS week at my house, first with The Witnesses and then It's My Party. It's My Party is pretty indisputably bad, but I can't bring myself to despise it. The film represents a specific era of time in which AIDS irrevocably changed the lives of everyone around it. In It's My Party, a brain tumor begins to eat away at Eric Roberts (whose casualness about dying gets grating after a while) after years of suffering from AIDS. Instead of dying in a hospital, he throws himself a "going-away" party with his close family and friends, including Lee Grant as his Greek mother, Marlee Matlin as his sister, Olivia Newton-John, Bronson Pinchot and Margaret Cho as his best friends, and George Seagal as his estranged father, among others. I can't really call It's My Party hokey because, in a way, it's authentic; its subject matter is too desperate to be easily dismissed even if it's constructed by lousy filmmaking. Just look at it as a brave aritfact.

Hannah Takes the Stairs - dir. Joe Swanberg - 2007 - USA

Grumblecore. Mumblecorpse. Those are two words that I couldn't resist using in reference to Joe Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs, the ultimate test of my patience in a long time. In yet another depiction of post-college life, Swanberg introduces Hannah (Greta Gerwig), an emotionally confused serial dater who blows through the hearts and lives of three men (Mark Duplass of The Puffy Chair, Andrew Bujalski of Mutual Appreciation and Kent Osborne) throughout the course of the film. With Hannah Takes the Stairs, Swanberg best identifies the dead-end nature of the so-called mumblecore movement, crafting a film that's barely distinguishable in maturity or even in terms of plot devices from his previous Kissing on the Mouth and LOL. I could go on, but I'm remaining tight-lipped on this one.

Céline and Julie Go Boating [Céline et Julie vont en bateau] - dir. Jacques Rivette - 1974 - France

Oh, joy. Add these ladies to my list of all-time favorites. It's easy to see how David Lynch might have gotten inspiration for, well, just about all of his films from Céline and Julie, but seldom has surrealism seemed as playful and enchanting as it has here. I would suggest you go out of your way to find this film if you haven't already seen it, and thanks to both Eric and Ed for their incessant Jacques Rivette masturbation sessions or I might have missed out. A fucking incomparable masterpiece.

19 March 2008

You see your gypsy

Transylvania – dir. Tony Gatlif – 2006 – France

When looking at cinema with the auteur theory at work, it’s always reassuring to find a director returning to the themes that seemed to previously obsess him. Many people have made such assessment to Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park in which the director revisits the ideas behind the films that got people interested in the first place, notably Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho. With Transylvania, Algerian-born Tony Gatlif does the same, returning to his love and obsession with gypsy culture. More so than his “documentary” Latcho Drom, Transylvania is more accurately a thematic sequel to Gadjo dilo (The Crazy Stranger), his 1997 film in which a Frenchman (Romain Duris) travels to Romania to find a singer who’s become his obsession. Obsession and gypsy culture, particularly music, fuel Transylvania, as three women (Asia Argento, Amira Casar and Alexandra Beaujard) trek to the titular city in search of Argento’s deported lover. Her lover, whom she just discovered is the father of her baby, is naturally a musician, a pianist of Romanian descent.

Transylvania closely aligns itself with The Crazy Stranger more than Latcho Drom or Vengo in their central motives. Whereas Latcho Drom and Vengo capture rhythm and beauty in the movement and music of a group of people, Transylvania and The Crazy Stranger represent a journey. For Gatlif, there appears to be something missing in the heart of the western European and something inherently desirable about this gypsy lifestyle. There’s a purity of life which is never spoken of but suggested through the pursuit and subsequent transformation of French Stéphane (Duris) and Italian Zingarina (Argento). As is expected of Gatlif, Transylvania is exquisitely composed, beautiful and lush, but there seems to be a patronizing quality about returning to the singular theme of western Europeans finding themselves in the east. Perhaps it wouldn’t seem as critical if Transylvania didn’t seem like an almost entire transposition of Argento into Duris’ role. I also wouldn’t suggest watching Transylvania directly after Catherine Breillat’s The Last Mistress, as there’s only so much one can take of Asia Argento mumbling her dialogue whilst writhing in pain. Funny that I have yet another Argento film, Boarding Gate, next on my list of films to see. I’m a masochist.

18 March 2008

Paramount Catalogue for Summer 08: UPDATED

Paramount announced a slew of catalogue titles for this summer, none of which you've likely ever heard of. Thankfully, there were a few you might know. On 1 July, Paramount will (finally) make available Patrice Leconte's internationally successful The Girl on the Bridge, with Vanessa Paradis and Daniel Auteuil. Also bowing on that day is John Sayles' Baby It's You, starring Rosanna Arquette and Vincent Spano. The other titles are as follows, but don't blame if you haven't heard of some of them. Almost an Angel with Elias Koteas and Paul Hogan (3 Jun), Blue City with Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and (yuck!) David Caruso (3 Jun), William Castle's The Busy Body with Sid Caeser among others (1 Jul), Desperate Characters with Shirley Maclaine (1 Jul), Hitler: The Last Ten Days with Alec Guiness as Hitler (3 Jun), Houdini with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh (3 Jun), Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again (3 Jun), Frank Pierson's King of the Gypsies with Sterling Hayden, Shelley Winters, (yuck) Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields, Annette O'Toole, Eric Roberts and Annie Potts (3 Jun), Mandingo with James Mason and Perry King (3 Jun), Carl Reiner's The One and Only with Henry Winkler (3 Jun), The Optimists with Peter Sellers (3 Jun), Papa's Delicate Condition with Jackie Gleason (1 Jul), Partners with Ryan O'Neal and John Hurt (1 Jul), The Possession of Joel Delaney with Perry King and Shirley Maclaine, Rhubarb with Ray Milland (1 Jul), Serial with Martin Mull and Tuesday Weld (1 Jul), The Skull with Peter Cushing (3 Jun), Some Kind of Hero with Richard Pryor and Margot Kidder (!), Student Bodies (3 Jun), Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (aka Monte Carlo or Bust) with Tony Curtis (3 Jun), Villa Rides with Yul Brynner, Robert Mitchum and Charles Bronson (awesome cast) (3 Jun), The Whoopee Boys (3 Jun), and ZPG with Oliver Reed and Gerladine Chaplin (3 Jun). Whew.

UPDATE: According to DVDDrive-in, these titles will be released by Legend Films, a division of Genius Products. I don't quite know what's going on. Also announced with these titles: Sidney Lumet's Daniel with Timothy Hutton, Mandy Patinkin, Ellen Barkin and Ed Asner (1 Jul).

Also, via Eric, Lionsgate will be releasing another actor-themed box, via Studio Canal; this time it's Catherine Deneuve. The set contains some minor Deneuve work: Jean Aurel's Manon 70, Jean-Paul Rappeneau's Le sauvage, André Téchiné's Hôtel des Amériques, Robin Davis's Le choc and Alain Corneau's Fort Saganne. I'm probably most excited about the Téchiné film, which would be the first of five collaborations between the director and star, preceding Scene of the Crime, My Favorite Season, Les voleurs and Changing Times. The set will be available on 10 June.

17 March 2008


I was right. AnimEigo will be releasing Shohei Imamura's The Ballad of Narayama as opposed to the older version. The Palme d'Or winner will be available 10 June.

16 March 2008

2 1/2 Months in, 19 Down

I was reviewing my MIA for 2008 list and made a few updates, seeing as 19 of the list have either been released already this year or have been officially announced. They are as follows, in no particular order:

The Lovers [Les amants] - dir. Louis Malle - Criterion - 13 May
I Live in Fear - dir. Akira Kurosawa - Criterion/Eclipse - 15 Jan
Le bonheur - dir. Agnès Varda - Criterion - 22 Jan
The Fire Within [Le feu follet] - dir. Louis Malle - Criterion - 13 May
Caravaggio - dir. Derek Jarman - Zeitgeist - 24 June

She's Gotta Have It - dir. Spike Lee - MGM - 15 Jan
The Angelic Conversation - dir. Derek Jarman - Zeitgeist - 24 June
Détective - dir. Jean-Luc Godard - Lionsgate - 5 Feb
Passion - dir. Jean-Luc Godard - Lionsgate - 5 Feb
The Kingdom Series 2 [Riget 2] - dir. Lars von Trier - Koch Lorber - 22 Jan

Lost Highway - dir. David Lynch - Universal - 25 Mar
Touch - dir. Paul Schrader - MGM - 12 Feb
When Night Is Falling - dir. Patricia Rozema - Wolfe Video - 5 Feb
Before the Rain - dir. Milcho Manchevski - Criterion - ? Jun
Fiorile - dir. Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani - Koch Lorber - 1 Apr

Blue - dir. Derek Jarman - Zeitgeist - 24 June
Oh, Woe Is Me [Hélas pour moi] - dir. Jean-Luc Godard - Lionsgate - 5 Feb
Wittgenstein - dir. Derek Jarman - Zeitgeist - 24 June
La chinoise - dir. Jean-Luc Godard - Koch Lorber - 13 May

I might also take this opportunity to correct an announcement I made earlier about Shohei Imamura's The Ballad of Narayama to be released by AnimEigo. In fact, I'm not clear as to whether AnimEigo will be releasing Imamura's version or the original from director Keisuke Kinoshita from 1958. Something leads me to believe that it may be the 1958 version, as I'm pretty sure Kino owns Imamura's, but I will let you know as soon as I find out.

15 March 2008

Who? Criterion?

Oh, yeah, The Criterion Collection is still releasing DVDs, in case you had forgotten. I nearly had with their ho-hum line-up so far this year (aside from the Malle). They've actually got five DVDs lined up for June: Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Yukio Mishima's Patriotism, Claude Sautet's Classe tous risques, Anthony Mann's The Furies with Barbara Stanwyck and Milcho Manchevski's Before the Rain, with Grégoire Colin, Katrin Cartlidge and Rade Serbedzija. No Eclipse set was announced for June or May.

Also, stop on by Filmbo's Chick Magnet to read more about some exclusive releases of a handful of Chris Marker films.

Vellini Satyricon

The Last Mistress [Une vieille maîtresse] – dir. Catherine Breillat – 2007 – France/Italy

By now, you probably know that the most shocking thing about Catherine Breillat’s latest is how un-shocking it actually is. I hate using the term “provocateuse” for Breillat, as I think she exists above such classification, but perhaps it’s the best way to describe her to those unfamiliar. The lack of bite in The Last Mistress (or, as it is more accurately translated, An Old Mistress) is not something I fault Breillat for, as it thus proves that her voice isn’t always raised to the point of screaming as one would normally contest. Instead, The Last Mistress is a polished adaptation of the Barbey d’Aurevilly’s novel in which a young bachelor (Fu’ad Ait Aattou) must chose between the love of his young virginal wife (Roxane Mesquida) and aging mistress (Asia Argento).

With the absence of feisty confrontation, The Last Mistress gave me the opportunity to look at Breillat beneath the surface. The film is surprisingly very tableau, composed with almost entirely flat, picturesque dimensions, infrequently interrupted by a close-up (usually of Ait Aattou). It’s in her visual scheme that we’re reminded of what Breillat’s really about: meta dissections of crippling male/female relations. As the Spanish mistress Vellini, Argento’s career obsession with playing women ripe with sexuality would have made her a perfect candidate for Breillat. I’m not saying she doesn’t live up this candidacy, but her performance is raw to the point where I could foresee the confusion of it being “bad.” She doesn’t appear as in tune with Breillat as Amira Casar in Anatomy of Hell or Mesquida and Anaïs Reboux in Fat Girl, and yet it’s in the roughness that Argento places on Vellini that distinguishes her from the otherwise sedated refine of the rest of the cast and ultimately gives The Last Mistress its haunting quality.

With The Last Mistress, Breillat yet again crafts a film of mesmerizing power. The film subsists somewhere on a different plane than the director’s other work, relying more on the perils the film’s central romance than abrasive stylization to stick with the audience. On a larger scale, the film may not resonate as long as Fat Girl has; the latter still haunts me to this day. Yet, it’s still just as surprising of a work as anything else Breillat has made. Additionally, The Last Mistress contains the best line of dialogue I’ve heard all year during an interaction between Argento and Amira Casar as an opera singer. “I despise everything feminine… except in young boys.”

Cautionary Tales

Ex Drummer – dir. Koen Mortier – 2007 – Belgium

Depictions of despicable people are rarely as enjoyable or as funny as they are in Ex Drummer, a black-as-night comedy about a famous Flemish author (Dries Van Hegen) asked by a trio of handicapped men to join their rock band. In the film’s terms, “handicapped” more accurately refers to a manner to condescend its characters further. The lead singer has a dramatic speech impediment, the bassist is gay and can’t bend one of his arms and the guitarist is slightly deaf. Reluctantly, patronizingly, Dries joins the band even though he can’t play drums, if only to acquire material to write his next novel. Ex Drummer is rude, violent and cynical, in all the best possible ways. When Ex Drummer comes to its exhausting climax, the tone struts across the line of decency, taking its own unmatchable insolence to shocking lows. In many ways, the film then becomes the angry version of François Ozon’s Swimming Pool, albeit with less manipulation on the director’s part than his lead character. In fact, I think the “we’re watching his novel unfold” might be the only successful read of the film as Dries’ misogyny, homophobia, classism and overall misanthropy becomes fully realized in his own work. Though it’s easy to take issue with the possible cop out of such interpretation, Ex Drummer only suffers slightly from the notion. Otherwise, it’s daring, bold and painfully funny (actually probably the most hysterical film I’ve seen in a long while). Even if the ending doesn’t suit your fancy, it’s hard to fault the film for actually going there. And don’t tell me you didn’t wish more films climaxed in the exact same way (try The Opposite of Sex, Cloverfield or the series finale of Friends, and you’ll understand where I’m coming from).

Southland Tales – dir. Richard Kelly – 2006 – USA/Germany/France

Oh boy. In so many ways, there was a poetic justice in Southland Tales. Someone threw a wad of cash director Richard Kelly’s way to pretty much make whatever-the-fuck-he-wanted after his first film, Donnie Darko, reached an unbelievable cult status. Southland Tales, running 160 minutes and set in a dystopian America, made it into Cannes with all the hope in the world. Then everyone saw it, and it quickly became the worst reviewed film to play since The Brown Bunny two years prior. I can’t say I didn’t want Kelly to fail. Donnie Darko was ambitious enough, but I could smell the shit percolating underneath. Kelly seemed to me like a douche bag who’d seen Brazil too many times (which isn’t a fault on its own) who, by accident, struck a chord among the obnoxious youth of America. Plus, I hardly throw respect in the direction of someone who lists one of the Star Wars films as their personal favorite. Southland Tales is a wowing disaster, the sort of disaster that achieves a level of “badness” that I could easily see why some dolts would rush to call it a masterpiece (hell, I’ve defended Troll 2 on the same grounds, so I don’t have much room to talk). However, the specific dolts rushing to its side are probably the same idiots that discuss Donnie Darko “intellectually.” Southland Tales, God bless it, is such a balls-out debacle that I almost feel sorry for Kelly’s unborn children after the trumping said balls have, deservedly, taken. For its first hour-and-a-half (the post-Cannes cut runs 144 minutes, if you were wondering), the film is shockingly raw, a filthy mess of potty-mouthed dialogue and tedious exposition. Then, with about an hour left, the film turns into a completely different bad movie, sort of Donnie Darko without direction and a lid to place upon it. At least Southland Tales actually becomes remotely watchable at this point even if it’s just to see how far it will actually go. Kelly himself has stated that he doesn’t really know how to direct actors, which was painfully clear in Drew Barrymore’s embarrassing role in Darko. But, here, he uses a slew of “actors” whose collective talent probably doesn’t even match a tenth of Helen Mirren’s, allowing the likes of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore and Seann William Scott to walk through Southland Tales zombie-like. None of the above is particularly condemnable (other than Cheri Oteri), but God knows if they actually know what they were doing in the film. The only inspired moments of casting come from the family of nuclear scientists (at least I think that’s what they were), played ferociously by Wallace Shawn, Beth Grant, Bai Ling (yes), and (double yes) Zelda Rubinstein! In all seriousness, you should probably see Southland Tales. It should serve as a cautionary tale, like the film Overnight about the fucking asshole who directed the unbearably bad The Boondock Saints, as to what happens when a self-important Hollywood upstart “jumps the shark.”

Most High – dir. Marty Sader – 2004 – USA

“Drugs are bad, mmkay?” That line, perfectly delivered from South Park’s lovable guidance counselor, was the only thing that entered my mind watching Most High, both a cautionary tale of crystal meth and the overblown ego of a wannabe filmmaker. Julius (writer/director Sader) lives a modest, happy lifestyle before the world falls onto his shoulders after he loses his job (due to his boss being jealous of how too-fucking-good he is) and his surrogate father passes. Enter Erica (co-writer/producer Laura Keys), Julius’ surrogate father’s blood daughter who looks more like a parody of Lara Flynn Boyle’s Donna Hayward in the season 2 premiere of Twin Peaks. She introduces Julius to the harsh world of crystal meth, on which Julius gets to bang two hot babes at one time and lose fifty pounds, all while living off the residuals of a bar that was left to him. The time stamp of Most High is a bathroom scale, which divides the film into three acts and lets the audience know what a method actor Sader is. Robert fuckin’ De Niro, my ass. Most High suffers from the usual problems of drug movies, in that it thinks it’s about more than just addiction and somehow makes the act of taking drugs seem rather appealing. I thought the same thing when Jennifer Connelly was taking that double-edged dildo in front of the group of black men in Requiem for a Dream. If drug addiction is this fun, sign me up! Go back to university theatre, Sader. I think films like Most High and Requiem for a Dream do a better job of scaring people off drug movies instead of drugs themselves. Hey, I'm in the market for reasonably priced eight-balls; any leads? [Note: upon looking for an image for the film, I found out the film is "based on a true story." Ha! Even worse. Oh, yeah, and Sader doesn't look as much like Vincent Gallo in the film as he does in that photo.]

14 March 2008

Um, ha ha

Sorry, Michael Haneke, but I’ve officially decided to resist the English-language Funny Games. I was reprehensive when I first heard that he planned the English version to be a shot-for-shot remake, but now that word is out that it wasn’t indeed a rumor, I simply wonder why. Funny Games isn’t the sort of film one looks forward to revisiting time and time again; in fact, I’ve only seen it three times because I felt particularly sadistic in forcing friends to watch it with me. Haneke himself said that Funny Games was always sort of a film about America more than it was about Austria, so the decision to remake it himself should have been a no-brainer.

With the prospect of a shot-for-shot remake, the only qualifying measure would have been to onslaught its unassuming audience into utter peril (as the Austrian version did to those who’ve already seen it). Promote the hell out of it, throw it onto three thousand screens and piss off the people you’re so adamantly pointing your finger at. However, such isn’t the case. In Saint Louis, Funny Games is opening on a single screen at the Landmark theatre… so what’s the fucking point? Most people who attend said theatre have probably at least heard of the original Funny Games, after The Piano Teacher and Caché did solid business in the arthouse community. So are fans of Saw really going to drive across town just to see this? The answer is no. This is particularly disheartening because media frenzy would have been the only acceptable reason why Haneke would take a film he made ten years ago and adapt it solely in the English language.

The one review I read of the film was probably the most condemning of Haneke’s motives. Michael Koresky of IndieWire states, "What's worse, the entire project suffers from the gall Haneke shows in not only remaking his own film for the 'edification' of a wider audience, but in trusting his own original vision so fundamentally and without question that he has chosen not to append or alter it in any significant way." There are plenty of other denunciations of Haneke’s motives which you can find through GreenCine from the poor film critics who have “professional obligations to endure it,” as J Hoberman states in his review, especially since the most astute of which would have already seen the original.

Where should one go from here? Haneke was on a streak of brilliance from Funny Games on, even if Time of the Wolf and Code Unknown weren’t as widely popular as Caché or The Piano Teacher. Should we let him have his so-called fun with the remake and hope he continues on to better things? I hope this is the case, as Haneke seems to be on the shit list of every single person who’s had to “endure” this film once again. I guess if we all gave Gus Van Sant another shot...

13 March 2008

Jeanne Moreau and other divas...

blaq out will be releasing Marguerite Duras' Nathalie Granger, from 1972 and starring Jeanne Moreau and Gérard Depardieu, in both single disc and double-disc editions on 27 May. Both editions run pretty steep (the single disc is $39.95, the deluxe edition is $69.98) for a film I doubt many people have heard of. For that matter, I doubt many people even know Duras directed films, as the most famous of her directing work, India Song, is only available in Japan.

New Yorker will release Manoel de Oliveira's Belle toujours, starring Bulle Ogier and Michel Piccoli, on 3 June.

In other news, it looks like Criterion will not be releasing Jean-Jacques Beiniex's Diva on DVD, but Lionsgate instead, under a collection entitled Meridian. Neither Eric at Filmbo's Chick Magnet nor I have any idea what this label is all about, except that they will also be releasing The Red Violin on 6 June. More info as I find out.

Where's Princess Coo-Coo When You Need Her?

Enchanted - dir. Kevin Lima - 2007 - USA

It seemed a bit too easy to give Disney accolades for having the ability to make fun of themselves with Enchanted. As we all know, outside of Pixar, Disney has been throwing its audience garbage for years, and it seemed about time for a little inspiration. With Enchanted, they presented us with something with a faint suggestion of idea: an animated fairy tale princess gets banished to "real life." However, as should have been expected, Enchanted is too proud of its own clever proposition to really work, outside of Amy Adams' inspired performance as Giselle, the hopeless romantic princess in search of her prince. The first issue that should be taken up with Enchanted is that it's too shallow to really work as a satire or even an advanced spoof. Giselle isn't so much another Disney princess as she is an emalgomation of princesses we've already met. She's Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and a bunch of other bitches all in one, and if it weren't for Adams, she'd probably be tedious to watch. She's got an entourage of cute animals at her side, most notably a smart-ass chipmunk who follows the prince (James Marsden) into the real world to save her. Had Disney actually been sophisticated with the production, they would have made fun of their own cheap marketing in throwing in this inexcusably cutesy "animal friend," the Jar-Jar Binks, Elmo bullshit we all know too well. When all of Enchanted's shallow ambition wears off, you come to a horrible realization that there's about an hour left of the film, all of which surrounds Giselle's relationship with a "wooden" single dad (Patrick Dempsey, though they could have cast anyone). All this adds up to a big disappointment and I haven't even gotten to the horrendousness that is Susan Sarandon. We all enjoy a good "give your Oscar back, Cuba Gooding Jr." joke, but why not apply that to Ms. Sarandon, who's made a post-Oscar career out of playing useless mothers in lousy films (Mr. Woodcock and In the Valley of Elah were her most recent duds)? Susan, go polish the Oscar and bitch about George W. Bush with your husband so I don't have to see you any more. Just thank God for Amy Adams.

10 March 2008

50 Years Young!

Sharon Stone is half-a-century today. How about that? My place. tonight. 9 pm. Stone/Eszterhas marathon. Bring your own ice pick and fashionable dead animal accessories.

09 March 2008

Plein de vide

Inside [À l’interieur] – dir. Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury – 2007 – France

I’ve certainly been wrong in my championing of certain horror films. By wrong of course, I mean “unpopular,” as I seemed considerably more enthusiastic about George Ratliff’s Joshua than just about everyone else. However, I like to think my passion for Inside will not be singular. Inside is, well, an absolutely uncompromising and jarring film; it’s a mood piece of violent proportions in which a pregnant young woman (Alysson Paradis, sister of Vanessa) becomes terrorized by a mysterious woman (Béatrice Dalle) in the night. The premise is simple, but I dare suggest that the execution is not. Inside is a mood piece under the guise of a horror film. Aided by Dalle’s horrifying performance, first-time directors Bustillo and Maury elevate Inside to something altogether stunning and bleak. Sure, it’s kind of a slasher film, and I don’t mean to suggest that there are underlying metaphors at work. It’s a reimagining of our understanding of terror under familiar pretenses. Whereas the greats of the genre tackled social consciousness, Inside represents a shift in the genre: unexplainable and unforgiving menace. While so many Hollywood horror films have emphasized the gloss and visual without substance, Inside mischievously penetrates these voids. In other words, the film addresses the expected, unintentional hollowness of the torture porn and inserts its own gaping crevasse of malice, meticulously-placed void that’s almost crippling. Watch at your own risk.

4 – dir. Ilya Khjanovsky – 2005 – Russia

The term “lost in translation” has always provided an easy understanding of the void I’ve felt between myself and the screen. I’ve used the term for Atonement, in which the film presented elements of written brilliance seemingly without heart. I’ve also used the term for My Blueberry Nights in which a quite literal language barrier between the director and his actors plague the overall work. With 4, there seems to be something less tangible lost in translation. I’ve often felt this from films of the east, cultures where customs and beliefs beyond my perception and attainable knowledge prevail. There was something missing in the interaction with 4, a piece of wisdom unshared by both parties. Narratively speaking, 4 follows three (yes, three) individuals—a prostitute, a piano tuner and a man working in the meat industry—during and after their chance meeting at a bar in the middle of the night. None of the three reveal literal truth in anything they share or say to each other, each making up extravagantly mundane alter egos for themselves only to have those personas shattered as they return to their personal lives. Much of the second half of the film is focused upon Marina (Marina Vovchenko) as she returns to a tiny village for a funeral. Once the three characters separate, 4 distances itself from easy interpretation, something I would normally drool over. However, as I said earlier, there’s something missing. Director Khjanovsky crafts some memorable, fucked-up scenes in the film, but still, I had no semblance of understanding as to where the film is going or why. Blame it on my occidental ignorance.

07 March 2008

May and beyond...

AnimEigo, a subdivision of Koch Vision, will be releasing Shohei Imamura's Palme d'Or winner The Ballad of Narayama on DVD on 10 June. First Run Features will be releasing Olivier Meyrou's documentary Beyond Hatred [Au delà de la haine] about a violent hate crime on 20 May. BBC will have The Buddha of Suburbia, a television mini-series starring Naveen Andrews, written by Hanif Kureishi (based on his own novel) and directed by Roger Michell, on 27 May. The writer and director previously worked together on the sublime The Mother and the ho-hum Venus. IFC will be releasing 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days for sale on 17 June, though you can order it on IFC On Demand right now (the film will also be available sometime in May exclusively from Netflix).

From the director of Dam Street (available in April through First Run) and Fish and Elephant, Yu Li's Lost in Beijing, starring Tony Leung, will be available from New Yorker on 13 May. John Waters' Serial Mom will be available in a new Collector's Edition from Focus Features on 6 May. Bette Gordon's Variety and Matthew Harrison's Rhythm Thief will be available from Kino on 20 May. Benoît Jacquot's The Untouchable [L'intouchable], with Isild Le Besco, will be available from Strand on 27 May. And, finally, most excitingly... A Xanadu Special Edition from Universal on 24 June. That's all I got...

03 March 2008

Jarman/Zeitgeist Update

It looks like Zeitgeist has pushed the release of the 3 Derek Jarman films back a month to 24 June. This would've pissed me off if they hadn't announced a Jarman box-set which will include the previously unannounced Angelic Conversation and Glitterbug. They may have also canceled the stand-alone disc of Blue, but Wittgenstein and Caravaggio (both more accessible than the others) will still be available separately. S'about time. And s'about time someone (coughCriterioncough) snatched up The Garden.

Um, stfu

Apparently someone in the American press wasn't too happy that Marion Cotillard won the Best Actress Oscar for La Vie en rose and have republished comments she made, out-of-context of course, about 9/11. Christ, leave the girl alone. I think America's xenophobia has really come out from under the woodwork after the four acting Oscars went to Europeans, as I've had to read and overhear some of the most inane comments like "she can't even speak English." Yeah, well, how did she act in A Good Year and Abel Ferrara's Mary then? I wouldn't blame Ms. Cotillard for running clear from American cinema and staying where I'm sure a lot of assholes would contest "where she belongs." Fuck.