Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Hold Me While I'm Naked (1966)


 
Hold Me While I'm Naked
I am done with 1965 and quickly on to the first movie of 1966. And 1966 starts with an experimental movie, hurrah.

These short movies in the sixties have generally been disappointing and “Hold Me While I’m Naked” is unfortunately not the exception.

As usual I have no clue what is actually happening. That is not entirely true, what happens in the scenes are quite recognizable and I do have some vague ideas as to the meaning of some of the scenes, but the bigger picture is lost on me.

There is something about a guy who is making a film. The girl he is filming has to be filmed naked. She does not like that she always has to undress and quits. There are people kissing. The film maker walks in a park enjoying himself? More kissing. A woman in a bathtub is kissing while her wet dress fails to hide her oversize breasts. Then our film guy is in a shower of his own, woken to attention by his mother yelling from outside that he needs to get out of the shower and come to eat his dinner.

Yeahhh…

Soooo… this is a guy who lives at home and dreams of shooting pictures of women with large breasts? A new Russ Meyer? This is about as far as I got in my analysis.

I suppose there is a certain erotic value in having the girl kiss in the shower and her breast bouncing out, but somehow it comes across more like very bad taste than something exciting. I feel repulsed, not aroused and that of course may be the whole idea.

Something tells me that I should find this little movie interesting, that it should tickle my curiosity or open my eyes to a new point of view. You might not get that impression reading this blog, but I do like film art and would actively seek out exhibitions of that sort. I am just not that interested in this movie. It is not as amateurish as some of the stuff I have been served from the List, but it seems almost as pointless.

I just checked out the movie on Wikipedia and it says it is about sexual frustration and aloneness. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Anyway, 1966 is on and while it is a fairly small year on the list, there are a few very interesting titles coming up so I will rush on to the next movie.

 

Monday, 12 November 2018

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)



Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
I do not think I ever watched a Russ Meyer movie in its entirety before. Usually I fall asleep or simply get too bored to finish, so this was a first. Ironic when you think about it, Russ Meyer’s movies being all about speed, sex and violence (as the title aptly indicates), but somehow it never really works for me.

The reason “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” is on the list is as a representative of the Russ Meyer catalogue, but also of the exploitation genre that lived a grassroot life in the sixties and seventies and influenced Tarantino and his ilk in the nineties and onwards. It is not a great movie by any standard, but it does catch the exploitation vibe neatly enough.

Varla (Tura Satana), Rosie (Haji) and Billie (Lori Williams) are three go-go dancers driving sports cars in the desert. It is never clear exactly why, but for the hell of it. Out there they have an encounter with Tommy and Linda (Ray Barlow and Susan Bernard), whom they first race and then proceed to kill Tommy and abduct Linda. I believe Tommy accused Varla of cheating.

Later they learn that a small fortune is hidden on a lonely ranch and they decide to go there. This is where things get a little more complicated. The old man in his wheelchair on the farm is an angry pig and he likes a pair of tits when he sees some. Of his two sons one is decent enough and the other is a lot of muscle and little else. This end up in a sort of everybody against everybody else, with Varla killing off most of them.

The signature feature of a Russ Meyer movie is the emphasis on big breasted and strong women. At first (and probably second) glance this hints at a sexual affinity for dominating women and at that point we are very far into the lurid zone. A movie for male gratification. It is probably not entirely wrong that Russ Meyer got off on top-heavy, dominating women, but I believe there is more to it than that. Considering this is the opening of the sexual revolution of the sixties, this is also a movie of women experiencing freedom. Freedom to do whatever they want, to be as sexual as they want and freedom to take what they want. Yes, it is an exploitation movie and yes, we get sex and violence, but it is also very liberating.

Speaking of sex, I think somebody going in to this movie expecting it to be soft-porn will end up disappointed. Except for some very deep cleavages we actually see very little skin. There are no free-flying breasts or dicks here and sex is only hinted at with some petting and kissing. It is actually surprisingly demure. The violence is more explicit but again with surprisingly little gore. What the movie does is that is talks and hints at sex and violence and is undoubtably about both, but it actually shows very little. Curious.

The acting here is not amazing. The girls are mostly posing, and the dialogue is both over the top and artificial. It makes me wonder where Meyer found these girls and who came up with the script (probably Meyer himself). The filming is better with some interesting angles and some nice shots, especially when the girls are racing.

Story wise it does not make a lot of sense either. There are so many plot holes I do not know where to begin. Lets just start by going around in the desert in a bikini. Those girls have some serious sunburns coming their way.

When I got to the extra material (easily the best part of the DVD) I learned that the actual format of the movie was 4:3 and not the widescreen I had been watching it in. That had made the girls even bigger than they really were and frankly not just a bit comical.

This is a hard movie to recommend. I do actually find exploitation movies entertaining and I love Shaft and that sort of Blaxploitation movies, but the Russ Meyer variant of exploitation just never really does it for me. Still I suppose it is one of those movies you have to have seen. Just to say you have done it.

 

Monday, 5 November 2018

Pierrot Goes Wild (Pierrot le Feu) (1965)



Manden i månen
Yet another Godard movie. Do I really need to go through this again or should I just stop here?

Well, I suppose I should write some sort of review here, but, man, I feel I am on repeat.

Godard and I are not good friends. I have yet to find a Godard movie I even remotely liked and as expected this one is par for the course. The only good thing I have to say about it is that I liked the colors.

So, what is it about? I do not really know. Well, there is supposed to be a base story, something about that Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is running away from his marriage with an old flame, Marianne (Anna Karina). There are some dead bodies and they steal some cars, burn a lot of money for a reason I cannot work out. They end up on a beach where Ferdinand read books and write a diary while Marianne is getting bored. They leave the beach and Ferdinand gets caught and interrogated by some gangsters. Marianne’s brother is actually her lover and have some scheme going of fooling Ferdinand. Ferdinand shoots Marianne and blows his own head off with an insane amount of dynamite, resulting in a pathetic small explosion.

See, this summary, although it is not making a terrible amount of sense, sounds almost interesting. If this was really what I had been watching I might even have liked it, but Godard in his usual style manage to kill it altogether. Drowned out in poetry, surrealism, idle dialogue and lack of causality in general the “story” is an empty hull for Godard’s artsy masturbation.

I am sure there are plenty of people who can read a lot on meaning into everything happening and gets off on that and usually it is a game I even enjoy playing or if not, then laugh at the craziness. Hey, I even found some amusement in “Last Year at Marienbad”, but here, when Godard is let loose, it is so incredibly uninteresting. I do not care what sort of relationship Ferdinand and Marianne is having. I do not care what they are really running away from and why there are so many dead people and I absolutely have no interest in Ferdinand’s diary.

I mentioned I liked the colors. Come to think of it, there is a second thing I liked. Ferdinand blowing his head off after having killed Marianne. Then at least the movie must have come to an end and I am released from this ennui.

Stop complaining that I am giving away the ending, that my review is one big spoiler. If you like or will like this movie it is because you see something else in this movie than the apparent story and so my synopsis will ruin nothing for you as I was completely unable to get below the surface layer.

I am not done with Godard. The List editors’ infatuation with this guy makes me seriously question their judgement and I just do not know why they insist on wasting my time with this junk. I get why we need one or two as exponents of the French New Wave and I could live with that, but it feels like we have to watch every single one of his movies. Why?

Not recommended.

BTW, the Book calls it a master piece…

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Repulsion (1965)



Chok
Roman Polanski’s first movie on the List, yay!

While most of the directors on the List so far are gone by now, Roman Polanski is still around, well, in Europe at least, and for me that marks the beginning of the current era. Which of course is a lot of bull because Polanski has been around so long that his career spans a whole series of eras. Yet, it still feels special to me.

I tend to like Roman Polanski’s movies and being presented with one I had never seen nor even heard of made me very excited. I was looking forward to this movie like a child for Christmas. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

That was not apparent from the opening of the movie, though. Pretty Catherine Deneuve as Carol Ledoux walks around the streets of London, goes to work in a beauty parlor and sits around at home with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux). Pretty boring. Slowly, though, we start to feel something is wrong. Carol is suited by a guy called Colin (John Fraser) who is hitting quite hard on her, but Carol pushes him off. In fact, she seems to be repulsed by men in general, especially Helen’s boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry). That is actually understandable, all the men in the movie are dicks, or at least acts like it. So, at this point I do understand why she abhors these guys.

Then Helen and Michael leave for a holiday in Italy and things start to go downhill fast for Carol. Her weirdness becomes more than just a quirk. At times she is catatonic, then she hallucinates, walls are cracking, there is an imagined man raping her in her bed and arms from the walls are grapping for her. She isolates herself in her apartment, which becomes a metaphor for her mental prison as are the rotting rabbit and the vegetables in the kitchen. By the time her boyfriend and the landlord show up she has gone completely bananas.

This works beautifully. Carols decent into madness is very convincing. We get a view in on her hallucinations and they are frightening. There are very effective jump scares (hey, I was jumping in my seat, but I am also an easy victim) and Carol’s nightmare gets as rotten and revolting as the dead rabbit in the kitchen. It is a simple story, but it is done extremely effectively.

Catherine Deneuve is miles away from the happy girl in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and is every bit the insane girl. She is sweet and innocent in the beginning, catatonic with a completely empty look and wild berserker at times. Her eyes scream fear or vacancy and she seems to have become a model for a girl-doll-turned-lunatic-murderess. I am sure this will influence my impression of Deneuve in the movies to come.

The cinematography is also outstanding. It is black and white, yes, but it actually works to the advantage here. Madness apparently requires these black and white tones. The London Carol walks around in is so natural and realistic and completely offsets the mad visions in the apartment, where the special effects department has been busy.

There is in fact very little negative I can say about this movie. Do we need to know more about Carol and her background, why she is ill? Not really. It is impressionistic. We learn a lot about her just from looking at her and listening to her. An actual explanation would just be in the way. Is it too sensational, a pretty girl turned crazy? Maybe, but does that matter? Is it not because she is a pretty little thing that it seems even more powerful. The men never see her fragile mind, they only see a pretty face and sexy legs and so her isolation is complete.

I can only recommend “Repulsion”. It may be the best movie in 1965 for me. Certainly the most effective. Go watch it! Now!

  

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Chimes at Midnight (Campanadas a Medianoche) (1965)


Falstaff

I am on a roll with odd film experiences. Seriously, the mid-sixties are awash with them. “Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)” is no exception.

It is a period piece in a medieval setting around some English king and his son and as such should be quite watchable, but as this story is based on a Shakespeare play or two, the actors are all speaking in that particular Shakespearian, declamatory and antiquated manner. Add to that that the sound was absolutely horrible, and the DVD came without subtitles and I have not clue what anybody was saying. It was like watching a silent movie without title cards. I tried to read up on the plot summary as the movie progressed, but it is not the same thing at all and large chunks of the movie is just incomprehensible to me.

This is of course a failure on my side and I have no doubt that there are plenty of people out there who gets a lot more out of this movie than I did. For one I have never been into the whole Shakespeare thing and secondly a native speaker would likely have less trouble than me catching the gist of what the characters were saying.

In any case the story is more or less this: King Henry IV of England (John Gielgud) has supposedly usurped the throne of England from the true heir, triggering an uprising from the followers of that heir. Meanwhile his son, Prince Hal (Keith Baxter) is having a splendid time hanging out in bars with the corpulent and useless knight Falstaff (Orson Welles). There is a big battle between the rebels and the loyalists in which Hal defeats the leader of the uprising in single combat. Later on, at the deathbed of the King Henry IV, Hal and the king makes friend and when the king soon after dies, Hal takes the throne as Henry V. Suddenly Hal is too good for Falstaff who feels betrayed and dies.

That was about as much as I got out of it. Obviously the material of this movie is in the details, in the dialogue and the banter of Welles’ Falstaff, but as mentioned, this was largely wasted on me, so I cannot say if it was fun or deep or hit the right Shakespearian heights. This could be absolutely brilliant, and I would not know. 

Orson Welles is very corpulent and seems to be the joke of the movie. He does seem to have an inflated opinion on himself and held in disrepute by everybody else. As such he was likely very entertaining. For me he was just a fat guy rambling around in oversize armor.

Speaking of armor, the battle at the center of the movie is quite spectacular. It is a bloody mess involving a lot of knights in heavy armor and soldiers of all sorts milling around and as it does not require any dialogue I was able to fully appreciate it. Too bad that men killing each other does not hold the same allure to me as it used to.

Besides being partially the reason to me losing out on the dialogue, the sound is an annoyance all on its own. Technically it is very poorly done and some of the voices are so annoying that I felt physical pain listening to it. Just terrible.

I do not feel I am able to judge this movie. There seems to be a consensus appreciation of this movie and I am barred from that club on a mostly technical basis. I will therefore leave it to others to say if this is a good or a bad movie. Let me just say that these were two very long hours of my life.

  

Thursday, 25 October 2018

The Man Who had his Hair Cut Short (De Man die Zijin Haar Kort Liet Knippen) (1965)


The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short

“The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short” (De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen) is a weird experience. I know, these weird experiences seem to be piling up, that is the sixties in movies. But, yeah, this is pretty strange.

It actually does not start out that way. This Belgian movie starts out with Govert Miereveld (Senne Rouffaer) going through his morning rituals in order to prepare for a big day: graduation day for the girls at his school and his appointment as the new headmaster of the school. It is very naturalistic except for one detail, we are listening in to Goverts thoughts and they are… disturbing. Turns out this married man with children is having a secret crush on one of the school girls (yuck!) and this is driving him, literally, mad.

At the school ceremony all Govert can think of is that this is the last time he will see Fran (Beata Tyszkiewicz) and he is desperate to tell her, but he does not manage. Instead he watches her sing.

Change of scene. Govert Miereveld is now picked up by Professor Mato (Hector Camerlynck) and his assistant to drive out to an obduction of a decayed corpse at a cemetery. It is pretty gross and Govert does not feel too well. They stay overnight in a local hotel where Miereveld has an encounter with Fran who is now a famous singer. Late at night he seeks her out in her room and they have a very weird dialogue ending with her asking him to kill her. He shoots her and is devastated at what he has done.

Change of scene. It seems to be ten years later and Miereveld is an inmate at… not sure, a prison or a mental institute. He sees a newsreel of Fran singing and, realizing it is a recent film, he learns that apparently he did not kill her and he is mightily relieved.

At face value this makes very little sense. Especially that dialogue in the hotel room seems more like Govert putting his own words in her mouth and the fact that he fell asleep in a chair just before could indicate that he is dreaming it all. Somehow the corpse the examined earlier is supposed to be her father and the gun is the same that shot him. Seriously I did not understand half of that conversation. 

I tried to look up a summary of the movie but all I could find was very brief and indicated that Govert Miereveld is getting deeper and deeper into a psychosis that makes him create his own reality and as we see his version of reality we have no idea what is true and what is not. Normally we are helped by some obscurity but the naturalistic filming convinces us that what we see is reality. Only the sounds take on an ominous hollow texture when his touch on reality is slipping. That and his prolific sweating.

There is of course a deeper story than a man going nuts, I am just not smart enough to unravel it. It could be as simple as an obsession gone wrong, but it could also be him judging and failing himself, needing an outside agent to condemn him. Or it could simply be: teacher, leave them school girls alone. 

As much as this was a weird movie it was also strangely fascinating. I liked the crisp pictures and the acting that both made this very real and the soundscape is just right to throw us off balance. It could be a movie I would want to watch again in an attempt to understand it better, but mental illness always scares me, so I may take a rain check on that. Still, for that obscure, unique experience I think I would dare to recommend this movie.

The title is about as obscure as the rest of the movie. No idea what it is supposed to mean.