Happy New Year 2018
Here we are
again, the last day of the year. Another year went by and that one went super
fast. It feels like yesterday I was sitting here writing a New Year post.
case, Happy New Year to all readers of this blog. May 2018 bring happiness and
joy to all.
So, what happened
in that split second that was 2017?
project is continuing more or less as planned. I went from movie no. 368 on the
List to no. 422. That makes 54 movies, exactly the same as last year. This has
brought me from 1959 to 1963.
say that I am overjoyed with the List in the sixties, though. My apprehension
at all the experimental and obscure films I saw on the horizon was not
unfounded. It seems more the rule than not when my reviews take a negative
slant, especially when you add the massive amount of French new wave films of
which only a few have struck a chord with me. There are highlights of course,
and I live and breathe for those, but all that junk taking up space on the List
has also encouraged be to introduce a new feature on my blog: two to three
movies each year that should have been on the List. It turns out that these
years are not actually as terrible as they look on the List, that there are
several movies out there that ought to be there instead of some of that dross I
am committed to watch.
I get some
help from Bea at Flickers in Time to pick my off-list movies (thank you for
that, Bea!) and while I may still be missing some truly wonderful movies, at
least I get to pick up some obvious mistakes of the editors. Adding the
off-List movies to my count makes it almost respectable too.
movie side I also keep discovering new 1001 blogs, which I add to my blog roll.
It is great to see there are still people who take on this project and I love
reading what other people have to say about the movies I have watched.
On my book
blog things are happening in a far more sedate pace. 2017 saw me adding 6 books
to my list, which certainly does not sound like much, but is actually better
than my stated goal of 5 books per year. It becomes a little better when I add that
two of the books completed were 1000 pages bricks, Gargantua and Pantagruel,
which I hated and Don Quixote, which I loved. I am in full swing with the next
one and expect to review it in January. Maybe my count sounds better if I add that
those 6 books cover a 50 year period. Yeah, now I feel I can hold my head high…
have found very few book blogs doing this project. If anybody knows of such
sites, do let me know and I will add them to my blog roll.
wish everybody a great 2018. May you all enjoy the movies you watch and the books
you read and all the things that matter a lot more than movies and books.
List is made up of entries provided by a group of editors. I do not know what
the exact procedure is, but I am fairly certain that the editor who writes
about a movie has had a big say in including it on the List. One of these
editors has a weird affinity for trash and I believe he is responsible for
including some of the worst movies on the List. He must also be an influential
editor for despite the obvious lack of anything resembling quality these movies
survive from edition to edition, even the big culling a few years back that
replaced some fifty movies from the List. The perverse thing is that this
editor consistently writes enthusiastically about these movies, hyping them far
above what a normal movie can meet, much less the garbage he is writing about.
I have come to mistrust this editor on principle.
A case in particular
is movies by Jack Smith. Already here among the 63 movies I have reviewed his “Blonde
Cobra” and that was not a happy occasion. This time it is “Flaming Creatures”
and it is not better. If this is the glorious peak of experimental cinema then there
is really no need to spend any more time with that.
another case of a movie I just did not get. It can be roughly divided into
1. Women or drags or both are putting
on lipstick, posing next to dicks. (yup, in your face!)
2. An orgy with a group of men and women
screwing and masturbating. More dicks and breasts.
It does not
really make any sense. The most noteworthy about these scenes is the abysmally
poor production value. It looks like something out of the silent era that has
not been preserved well. Sometimes you cannot see what is happening and thank
you for that. Other times the acting is so amateurish it looks more like home
In its day
it caused a lot of scandal, obviously because of the amount of flaunting
nudity, and maybe that is why this movie has earned a place on the List. Had I
watched it at a venue back then I would have been angry, true, but not because
of the sex. This piece of garbage is simply so crappy and pointless that
charging money for it should be considered theft.
is worse: “Blonde Cobra” or “Flaming Creatures”? Well, “Flaming Creatures” is
15 minutes longer, so there is your answer.
List of Jack Smith movies and grant the space to worthier movies. Actually,
take a hard look at movies presented by this particular editor and I believe most
of it could go.
a favor and skip this movie.
Off-List: High and Low
I am a big
fan of Kurosawa movies and so as one of the off-list movies for 1963 I have
chosen Kurosawa’s “High and Low”. When I reviewed the 1962 movie “Sanjuro” I
made the statement that there is always a place on the List for Kurosawa films.
That is a statement I stand by, but in the case of “High and Low” I have a
weaker case. To put it straight, “High and Low” is in my opinion not up to the
very high standard I have come to expect from Kurosawa and in a better year I
would not have added this one to the List. 63 however is turning out to be a
miserable year for the List and this movie is better than at least half I have
watched so far.
Low” is a departure from the period dramas featuring samurai that made Kurosawa
famous. Instead it is a contemporary crime thriller, emulating similar American
ones. In fact it is based on a novel by Ed McBain and transplanted to Japan.
executive Mr. Gondo (Tohiro Mifune) is about to embark on the gamble of his professional
life. A group of managers is about to coup the current president of National
Shoes and in return Gondo will do a counter coup, ousting the rebels and
putting himself in charge of the company. To that effect he has mobilized the
staggering sum of 50 million yen, his entire fortune, which just need to be
paid in Osaka. At this point Gondo receives a fateful phone call. A kidnapper
has taken his son and demands 30 million yen to return him. Even though it soon
turns out the kidnapper got the wrong boy, he actually got his play-mate, the
driver’s boy, Gondo is still facing the dilemma of losing a boy or his company.
The police get
involved, headed by Chief Detective Tokura (Tatsuya Nakadai), and a hunt starts
for the kidnappers. Gondo decides to pay up and once the boy is back the police
is let loose to track down the culprit.
Low” refers to the two sides of the story. First half of the movie is focused
on the wealthy Gondo in his villa on top of the hill, whereas the second part
takes place down in the town below among the bottom of society. This also means
that the first half is about the dilemma of Gondo, the decision and the consequences
of that decision, whereas the second half is a manhunt.
It is interesting
to see Tokyo anno 1963 and it is interesting to see something else than samurai
from Kurosawa. The idea of the movie is interesting and there is a lot of potential
in the story. Ironically, considering Kurosawa is here much closer to western
themes, there are cultural barriers (I suppose) in place here, which detracts
from my viewing experience.
appears staged and wooden, something I did not expect from Kurosawa. It looks
amateurish, though I suspect it is simply Japanese culture. This is unfortunate
because it detracts from the realism.
the pacing is off. Every scene is about 20% too long, at least, and the whole
movie drags. This is particularly so in the beginning, we never seem to get out
of Gondo’s living room, but even the climactic ending is far too long and as a
thriller this is disastrous.
this is just being Japanese and how much this is a failing of the movie I do not
know. In fact it could simply be me having very high expectations. This is not
a bad movie by any right, there is a lot that works here, but to me, this is just
not Kurosawa at his best. He took the western genre and improved on it. His
attempt to do the same for the thriller was not as magnificent.
Lys i mørket
something very intense about Bergman’s movies in general. Characters are
fighting internal battles with themselves, with their Gods or demons or, well
whatever else that troubles them. When you get that inner struggle his movies
are great. When you don’t, well, then you are in for a hard time. That is why
Bergman is hit or miss.
particularly true for Winter Light (odd English title for what translates as
“participants in the communion”) as there is little else in this movie than
those internal battles.
understand the worries the characters in “Winter Light” have on an intellectual
level, but they also feel alien enough that I have to strain to comprehend
them. That makes “Winter Light” a difficult movie.
“ Winter Light” is the priest Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand). He is the
gloomy and serious looking priest of two small congregations in the Swedish
outback. Behind the façade however, Tomas is a troubled man. He feels left by
God and is rather bitter about it. For a priest that is pretty bad and Tomas
does take it badly.
wife died four years earlier he has struggled to find a meaning with his
existence and he has found none. God is not helping him at all and God’s
silence is making Tomas bitter. In fact his internal struggle dominates
everything he says or does. He seems blind to the people who seek his help, and
instead of assistance or understanding he lashes out in bitterness. His eye is
turned inward instead of outward. In the movie this is exemplified by Jonas
Persson (Max von Sydow in an uncharacteristic minor role), who is terribly
afraid that the Chinese will nuke Sweden, and by Märta Lundberg (Ingrid
Thulin), who genuinely cares for him and wants a bit of attention in return.
In the case
of Jonas, Tomas should have been listening and supporting Jonas. Instead he is
telling him that life is pointless and without hope, based on his own misery.
Jonas subsequently shoots himself, thank you for nothing. For Märta Tomas has
no room in his life. Märta’s attention is unwanted and oppressive to him. If
his mind is 100% filled with himself, how can she demand a piece of his
attention and care as well? How can she demand that he should receive and
return her love?
egomanic Tomas is not very sympathetic and it is frustrating to see that the
meaning he is looking for, the divine element is right before him, yet his egomaniac
obsession prevents him from recognizing it. I felt like screaming at him, but
it would have been to no avail. No amount of imploring could have opened his
mind. He was too far gone in his self-pity.
end Tomas has a conversation with Algot Frövik (Allan Edwall), a sexton, which
I suspect is key to the movie. Algot says that Jesus greatest suffering was
that he though God had left him, there on the cross. This, I suppose, would
compare Tomas suffering to that of Jesus’ and in Christianity it just does not
get bigger than that. Exactly what effect that has on Tomas is not clear to me.
He simply proceeds to give service to an empty church. It makes the story feel
unresolved, but I am probably missing something as usual.
stone churches, grave priests and empty churches are very familiar to me.
Except for the snow this could have been in Denmark. I was surprised to note
that this was already the case in 1963. It could easily have played out in 2017
and I guess that makes the story relevant today. It just does not feel that
relevant to me, but that has more to do with me not being religious. The
neurotic worries of religious people are always difficult for me to grasp. For
somebody more religiously connected I can imagine this movie will resonate
Still, I do
like the idea of cutting this deep, to the bare bones in a story. It gives
movies a focus rather than distractions and Bergman was a master of that exercise.
I do not recall watching a movie as naked as this one, though. The black and
white photography helps a lot, but this is really all about communicating
internal turmoil, which in turn means acting and direction.
This is a
movie I admire more than I enjoyed. I did not connect sufficiently with the
subject matter and it feels unresolved, but I would still recommend it. It is
very much Bergman.
is bigger in Texas. That includes the assholes.
one of the big movies of 1963. It was nominated for seven Oscars and won three,
including Best Actress (Patricia Neal), Best Supporting Actor (Melvyn Douglas)
and Best Cinematography. It also has a reputation that walks well ahead of it
and it was one of the movies I was looking forward to, going into 1963.
It is a
movie that in many ways delivers. It is exactly the A-movie you would expect. Acting,
photography, direction and gravity are all of a very high standard. Add to that
a beautiful score by Elmer Bernstein and the best black and white
cinematography imaginable and it all starts to sound very promising.
Why is it
then that this felt like a difficult movie to watch?
That is a
personal question of course. Another person might have an entirely different
experience. To me the answer is two things. First, this is essentially a
portrait of a jerk, a Texas size asshole, in the shape of Paul Newman as Hud
Bannon, the son of old rancher Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas). Hud does not care
shit about anything or anyone but himself and his own gratification. He picks
fight, drinks too much, sleeps with other men’s wives and treats everybody and
everything in an underhand and selfish manner. He is a nihilist and an egoist
and he is charming as hell. He is the central character of the movie and it is
bloody difficult to have any sympathy for him or to root for him in any way.
this is not a happy movie. On the contrary, it is a movie with a slow-moving doom
that creeps in from the horizon and tramples everything underfoot. You can see
it coming right from the start and you just know this will not end well. It is
depressive as hell. Beautiful, important, intelligent and depressive. In many
ways it reminded me of “The Grapes of Wrath” with that nostalgic pang of an era
son Hud and his grandson, through a now dead second son, Lonnie (Brandon deWilde), lives on a ranch with house
keeper Alma (Patricia Neal) and a few hands. One day a cow falls sick and dies
and the veterinarian soon has the entire herd in quarantine under suspicion of
foot-and-mouth disease. That is a serious illness, even today. I remember
outbreaks in Denmark where loads of cattle got killed on the slightest
suspicion of mund-og-klov-syge, as it is called in Danish. It is no joke (my sister’s
husbond is a cattle farmer) and for the Bannons it is complete disaster. Their
entire life is based on ranching and without cattle there is nothing left.
Homer is of the old school and he is watching his entire life’s achievement getting
flushed down the toilet. Hud wants to sell the herd before it gets quarantined to
get the money and then lease the land to oil drilling. Essentially he shits on
all the honor and principles of Homer, which is perfectly in his character. Lonnie
admires his granddad, but he also thinks uncle Hud is pretty cool. For him this
is a life deciding moment: Does he want the life of the principled and
honorable, but doomed grandfather or the cool, rebellious, but ultimately empty
life of his uncle?
The doom of
the ranch may be the backdrop, but the real drama is the rift between Homer and
Hud, each representing opposing worldviews, with Lonnie as the observer in the
middle. It is a mean and bitter conflict, all the more so because it is family.
It actually hurts to watch, and I suppose that is a quality of the movie.
This may be
a western, but it is a modern one. Modern not just in the time it takes place
in, but also for the realism. These are not gun slinging cowboys robbing the
bank, or a lonesome cowboy on the frontier. No, these are just ordinary people
trying to make a living in dusty, dry Texas. In that sense it is a movie that points
forward to the realism of the seventies and as such feels well ahead of its
is not sitting down for a good time, this is not Sunday afternoon watching, but
it a rewarding movie with gravity that will make you want to kick Paul Newman
and taste the dust of West Texas. It is not my favorite movie, but it is a
quality movie and worth watching, definitely.
Jeg elskede dig igår
the best cards imaginable, Godard can still mess up a movie.
The Book always
promises me heaven when presenting Godard movies, but I have learned the hard
way to mistrust it. In the case of “Le Mepris” (Contempt) the factual elements
are so promising though, that I dared a little hope. Could it finally be that
Godard would give me a movie to make me understand his fame and why movie
critics wet themselves over his movies?
Godard gives us Brigitte Bardot as his lead actress. That counts for a lot, if
for no other reason but the massive sex appeal surrounding her. For those unfamiliar
with Bardot, she was the hottest girl of the period. Even in my childhood, in
the eighties, when Bardot had turned into a strange cat woman, people talked
about her with awe and in the “Le Mepris” we see why. Godard miss no opportunity
to show her off to her best advantage, with or without cloth.
We also get
a movie, ostensibly, about making movies, with Fritz Lang as himself and lots
of references to other, famous movies. There are plenty of shots and talk about
the movie making process and even some jokes about the pretentiousness of
making art movies. This should be good.
beautiful, music is great. Actually better than just great. What could go
incredible as it sounds it all comes to nothing.
all there is no plot and hardly a narrative. Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) is a French
writer who has moved to Italy with his pretty wife Camille Javal (Bardot), a
typist, to write screenplays. He is meeting with an American producer, Jeremy Prokosch
(Jack Palance), who wants him to rewrite a script for his new movie, a movie on
the Odyssey, directed by Fritz Lang as himself. Jeremy is an arrogant womanizer
and Paul casually throws Camille into his arms. Camille is hurt by this and for
the major part of the movie they have an ongoing slow-burn argument going on about
argument is largely pointless, based on (deliberate) misunderstanding and
selfishness, throwing in some clichés about men not understanding women and vice
versa. Finally, they go to Capri where the discussion continues and ends with
Camille walking out on Paul together with Jeremy.
It is dull,
pointless and stupid. I lost interest after 10 minutes and it never picked up.
Yes, Bardot has a pretty butt and yes, it is nice to see Fritz Lang, but,
really, what is the point? Watching people have silly arguments over whether
they love each other is neither profound nor interesting, it is not even
dramatic, just immensely juvenile.
also wading around in stereotypes. Jeremy Prokosch is maybe the worst as an
arrogant, self-indulgent American producer, the image a European would have of
a such. He is totally disconnected from his surroundings if it wasn’t for his
translator Francesca (Giorgia Moll), yet he acts as the man in charge. Paul has
to be the quintessential screenwriter, always wearing a hat and with ambitions
of something else and Lang has to be the auteur with disdain for his script and
his producer. It makes me wonder If I have been watching a satire, ironizing
over the world of moviemaking, but if so, it is a wry and dull satire and
certainly not a fun one.
I was told, would be shocking. I could not wait for that jolt to shake me out
of my stupor, but alas, it was entirely as pointless as the rest of the movie.
As such, Godard
managed to take all those promising elements and flush them down the toilet,
giving us something as pretentious and empty as what he seems to be criticizing.
Pretty girls and luscious colors can never save such a mess. Godard, je n’ai
que du mépris pour toi.
It is time
for yet another Fellini movie, this time “8½” from 1963.
I have been
lackluster at best when it comes to Fellini’s movies, so it may not say much,
but I think “8½” is the best of his movies so far. Or maybe I have just gotten
used to these Italian movies and lowered my tolerance threshold.
“8½” is a
strange movie. One of those that are impossible to describe, you just have to
see it. It sounds like a comedy: A director is trying to make a movie, but it
is all a big mess. Actors and particularly actresses crowd around him asking
him what their parts are, a monstrous spaceship set is being built on a beach,
producers, critics and journalists are all jabbering for a attention and in the
middle of all this both the mistress and the wife of the director shows up on
set. Meanwhile the director has no idea what movie he is going to make, instead
he is simply stalling.
familiar, as if at least parts have been used in other comedies, and it sounds
hilariously funny, but in “8½” the angle is different, sort of. It is undeniable
that there is a bitter humor to this, but Fellini tries to play it a lot
deeper. His director, Guido, (Marcello Mastroianni) wants to make a movie about
himself (with a spaceship!) and it seems as if Fellini wanted to make a movie
about himself, making a movie about himself. Yet, Guido is more lost than we
must hope Fellini ever was. He is constantly searching and in doubt. He seeks
out women and cannot let them go again, something to do with his childhood
supposedly, and that is both causing him endless trouble, but also make him
look sad. Except that most of these women are phenomenally beautiful: Claudia
Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo, Barbara Steele just to mention some of
them. To me he reminds me of a child who ate too many cookies and got a bad
clearly stranded in his life, groping for meaning and answers. In his mind his
dreams play out as surrealist movies, but they rarely provide any answers. The
opening sequence with a man trapped in a car in a giant traffic jam only to
finally break out and fly away, seems symptomatic for Guido. He is trapped in
his life and in his role as a successful director.
So we have
this odd combination of a setting that is clearly, outrageously so, comedic,
and a story that is a lot more profound and even sad. It is both somewhat
confusing and rewarding as if Fellini is using comedy to tell a serious story,
or is making fun of his own problems.
revealing too much I think it is safe to say that the situation spirals out of
control and when Guido finally finds release he has all the characters dance in
a chain resembling the divine comedy, a fatalistic surrender to life as it is,
accepting it instead of fighting it. Supposedly the right morale to draw from
The mix of
normality and surreal dream sequences is inspired. They work very well to give
us glimpses of Guido’s thoughts and they are all hilarious to watch, especially
the harem scene. Ironically Guido’s reality is catching up with his dreams and
is getting even more surreal than what his mind can concoct. I have more trouble
with all the Italian craziness, of everybody shouting and throwing up their
arms, but that is what you are in for, watching Italian movies.
writes that “8½” is now considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.
I doubt I would go that far. Let me stick to “one of the greatest Fellini films
of all time”.