Sunday 30 December 2018

Happy New Year 2019

Happy New Year 2019
It is the end of the year and time, again, to look back on the year that has passed.

First, I would like to thank those of you who read my blogs. I know you are not many, but quality easily makes up for quantity and I am grateful for you being there and love your comments. A very happy New Year to all of you!

This has been an eventful year. I moved with my family from Israel, where I have been living for the past 6 years, back to Denmark where I now live in Copenhagen. That was a major transition and kept me busy for a large part of the year. I have also been travelling quite a bit including a visit to The States in the Easter break, Korea, China and many other places. Accordingly, I did not do as many movies this year as I did in previous years.

The movie count ticks in at just 55 movies, the lowest for a year so far. Of these 46 are List movies and 9 are off-List movies. Last year I started a practice where I choose three movies each year to review beyond the List. The idea was that these should be my suggestions for the List, but over time this have changed to simply movies I am curious to watch. I have to admit that the quality of those movies has be varying and not all of them deserves one of those hallowed slots. Lately I made the further addition that one of them should be Danish, but I am considering dropping this requirement. The selection of Danish movies is generally not interesting enough. I think going forward that I will check if there in a given year is one deserving attention, otherwise I will pick internationally.

Of the List movies I went from 1963 to 1966, which is probably not that impressive. There have been great movies (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Repulsion, A Hard Day’s Night) and utter crap (Vinyl, Mediteranee, Pierrot le Fou) and a lot in between. I maintain that the List content of the sixties is not as interesting as the fifties or forties, but there are enough pleasant surprises and quality content to keep me going.

On the book side I have done far better than expected. I have read and reviewed eight books, which is way ahead of the five books I aim at. The books span a century from The Trial of Persilles and Sigismunda from 1616 to Moll Flanders of 1722. Compared to previous years the books I read this year have been consistently good and interesting, which goes a long way to explain how I got this far. Also books are good to bring along for long flights…

If I should pick one for general recommendation it would be The Conquest of New Spain. Besides being a singularly unique and captivating story, it is also based on true events eye-witnessed by the author. I learned a lot reading that book and I was thoroughly entertained.

It is also telling that none of my 2018 reads will end on my crap list.

2019 looks to be more of the same, except that I have no plans to move anywhere this year so hopefully I will get to review a lot more movies and continue to read great books.

If anybody has suggestions for 1967 or 68 off-list entries do let me know, I am all ears.

Happy New Year to all of you and may 2019 bring joy and prosperity and lots of great movies.

Monday 24 December 2018

Come Drink with Me (Da Zui Xia) (1966)

Da Xui Zia
Hong Kong movies is a by-name for a certain sub-set of movies with a focus on oriental martial arts. They have become synonymous with over the top fighting sequences, simplistic plots and poor dubbing and are often ridiculed.

I myself is of two minds on this genre. On one hand they are fun to watch and quite exotic, while one the other they often go in ridiculous directions and the cultural rooting of these movies is often so far from western that I often get confused.

“Come Drink with Me”, I am to understand, is the mother of all Hong Kong films and certainly one of most acclaimed. I understand why. I found it thoroughly entertaining and of surprisingly high production value and better than most martial arts movies I have watched. By watching the Mandarin language version I also avoided the usual dubbing issues.

A group of bandits led by a white face “Jade Faced Tiger” (Chan Hung-lit) attacks a group of travelers to take hostage the son of a local ruler. The purpose is to exchange him for a ruler of their own, currently imprisoned. Clearly these are highly skilled swordsmen. Their plan, however, starts to become unhinged when Golden Swallow (Cheng Pei-pei) enters the fray. She is a super skilled swords master and the sister of the hostage.

While the movie seems to be leading up to an epic clash between the Tiger and the Swallow, two other characters intervene. These are Drunk Cat (Yueh Hua), a Kung Fu master of truly awesome skill disguised as a foolish drunkard and Liao Kung (Yeung Chi-hing), Drunk Cat’s old mentor and also Kung Fu master and an ally of the bandits.

This sounds simple enough and it probably is deep down, but there is an attempt at cooking up a real story here that goes a bit beyond awesome Kung Fu and while some of it was lost on me, it does make the movie interesting. I was reminded in several places of the Chinese intricacies of “The Outlaws of the March” and “The Three Kingdoms”, previously reviewed on my book blog, both in terms of plot themes and the way the characters are presented. Golden Swallow is almost certainly modelled on a female fighter with two blades in “The Outlaws of the March” and the martial arts master disguised as a drunken fool seems to be a common theme in Chinese tradition.

Yet there is no way around it, “Come Drink with Me” is mostly about awesome martial arts. Blindingly fast swords play, acrobatic jumping and battle as ballet. In fact, Cheng Pei-pei was a ballet dancer who was asked to apply the ballet grace, control and rhythm to her fight sequences and it works amazingly well. Battles in this sort of movie tend to get boring and repetitive, but “Come Drink with Me” balances the over the top fighting with a grace and speed that keeps it interesting. Sometimes the age becomes apparent when it becomes silly, but mostly it stays on the good side of the tipping point. It helps of course when you consider these Kung Fu masters as oriental super heroes of awesome powers. It is sort of the same suspense of disbelief that required watching Superman. As long as opponents are matched well, it works.

In the final analysis this was a pleasant surprise, being a lot better that I expected. I had to double check the date to ensure that this was not a more recent remake, the production value was not what I expected from Hong Kong, 1966, but far better. Definitely recommended.

Also, this is December 24th and I would like to wish everybody a Merry Christmas. May you have an enjoyable holiday.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Min søsters børn (1966)

Off-List: Min søsters børn
As mentioned in an earlier post I am allowing myself to add three movies each year and one of these has to be a Danish movie. This particular last rule I initiated for 1965 and already now I am starting to regret it. Danish movies vary greatly in quality and my pick for 1966 is… not impressive.

There is in Denmark a long tradition for family comedies. The kind of movies you grow up with as a child and that the entire family enjoy going to the cinema to watch. I am certain this is not just a Danish phenomenon, but for many years these movies carried the torch in Danish cinema. It was a tradition that took off for real in the sixties and my pick for 1966 “Min søsters børn” (loosely translates into “My Sisters Children”, but I am not at all certain this movie has an English title) belonged to that wave. It started a series of four installment and was much later (2001-2013) remade with another six episodes. I think it is fair to say that it would be hard to find a Dane regardless of age who would not be familiar with this series.

So, cultural significance, check.

The plot is fairly simple. Erik Lund (Axel Strøbye) is a bachelor academician in children psychology about to defend his doctorate for which he has to pay a visit in Copenhagen. This coincides with his sister and her husband going abroad on a vacation alone, leaving house and children to uncle Erik. He can stay there an take care of house and children while he is in town anyway.

Very soon it becomes clear that Erik is all theory and has no actual experience in raising children. The children are running corners on him and he has his hands full. Or this is how I remember this series. As the movie progresses Erik finds himself repeatedly in situations that his neighbor (Karl Stegger) construe as a crime of some sort prompting him to call the police. And every time the children are saving his butt by providing the information that makes the police drop the charges. The shenanigans of the children are actually very subdued and reduced to annoying voices and capturing a girl for their uncle.

And therein lies the trouble. This first movie is just way too passive, too sweet and not funny. The setups that are supposed to generate the laughter barely makes me smile and the children never really challenges their uncle or the viewer. It is just uncle Erik challenging himself. For a comedy that is just too thin or maybe the jaded viewer in 2018 expects a lot more.

But, I can live with that. My son liked the movie, to my great surprise, so there is that. The real problem here is the morale of the story.

Erik is exponent of modern children psychology and with a few modifications his ideas are actually how you would look at this topic today. The movie, however, decides to make fool of these ideas as high-brow nonsense and instead advocate old-school discipline including corporal punishment. Only when Uncle raise his voice, curse the children and threaten to slap their butts has he “learned how to raise children” and the children happily agree.


Suddenly 1966 is a looong time ago.

I would not add this movie to the List, not even a Danish version of the list, but the modern installments are actually watchable, and we have enjoyed some of them in the past. It is telling that my wife, who is a bit of a fan, walked out on this one halfway through.

Cultural significance, yes. Recommendation, no

Sunday 16 December 2018

Daisies (Sedmikrasky) (1966)

The sixties do seem to be the decade of experimentation. Here is another experimental movie, this time a Czech one, and so I get the usual, difficult task of working out what I have just been watching.

This time I was reasonably happy with the beginning of the movie. It did not make much sense, but there was something fun and happy about it that had to make me happy as well. Unfortunately, this did not last. The happiness wears off and is replaced by annoyance. Annoyance because these girls not only appear stupid but also completely nihilistic and this is…fun?

Over the course of the movie the two girls (Blond and Red, because I have no idea what they are called) go out of their way to annoy people. They sabotage a Charleston show in a restaurant. They go on dates with older men, make scenes in the restaurant and then dump them on trains. For the grand finale they crash a dinner party before the guests arrive and trash it all, food, plates, decoration, all is lost so these girls can have some fun.

This seems to be the purpose for the two girls. In a movie with no actual plot and no storyline, Red and Blond have no other agenda than doing what they feel like in the moment and they do that with a childlike glee. It does not matter if it is cutting up the bed or terrorizing other people. It seems to all be for kicks.

Obviously, when we are talking art or experimental movies, there are deeper stories than the apparent one. Here I am at a loss. I simply do not know what that deeper story is. I can guess, though, and somethings are not too difficult. At one point the girls are cutting sausages up while they are talking with one of the ditched men on the phone. It is not difficult to guess that they are symbolically cutting up his genitalia. With a smile of course.

Another potential meaning is political, this being shortly before the “spring in Prague”. Exactly how to read that though I do not know. Ruining everything pleasurable was a habit of the communist party, so maybe there is a clue there. Acting with silly abandon could be reflect a poorly led country. Maybe.

Or maybe we are just supposed to be convinced that acting as if there are no consequences or pricetag is very annoying and offers no long-term reward, even when done by two sweet girls.

There is a lot of nice filming with vibrant colors and fast montages. There is some interesting editing and color filter choices and the soundscape is inventive too.

Ultimately however, it does not change the end result: general annoyance. Silly girls ruining things for other people has a very short shelf life.

If you intend to watch this you can stick to the first 10 minutes. That is enough to get the picture. Beyond that I would not recommend this movie.


Wednesday 12 December 2018

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Il Buono, il Bruto, il Cattivo) (1966)

Den gode, den onde og den grusomme
There is an exclusive group of movies on the List that stand out as my personal favorites and these I have been anticipating for years now. One of those movies is “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and now it is time.

Seriously, I have been looking forward to revisiting this movie for a long time as I have held off watching it since I started on the List. Before that I watched it frequently but taking a break does wonders for anticipation.

So, there are no surprises here, this is exactly the movie I know and love with one exception: watching all these movies chronologically has provided context and a better appreciation of what Sergio Leone did with “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”. This is not just one helluva Western, it is a piece of art.

“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is one of the most iconic Westerns ever made. It is the western that give the look, the feel and pace and the sound of what a Western is supposed to be. And then it is not even American, but shot in Spain by Italians. A similar claim can be made of Kurusawa’s “Seven Samurai”, but at least that was a transplanted Western. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is the real deal.

Sergio Leone takes his time. He loves panoramic shots, ultra-closeups of eyes, sweat tickling down stubble and flies buzzing around unwashed faces. Leone frames his shots like Ozu, he composes paintings, so scenes work as tableaux. Slow pace, fast violence, pathos and disarming humor, Leone is the maestro orchestrating the opera.

Clint Eastwood takes up his already established quiet man-without-a-name persona and makes it iconic. Dirty Harry exists because of “Blondie”. Eli Wallach, in his later years a sweet, soft spoken, old man, is this crazy Hispanic banditos with wild eyes and a foul mouth. Nasty, but strangely likable. And Lee Van Cleef, Angel Eyes, amoral, cunning, vicious and striking. Three characters larger than their roles, or is it simply Leones orchestration that makes them so? He makes them the stuff of legends and not just for their shooting skills. They are, objectively, terrible people, but Leone makes them a lot more than that.

And then there is Ennio Morricone. His name speaks for itself, but was there only one movie for which he should be remembered it would be this one. Of course, Morricone did a vast number of scores and great ones too, but even my eight-year-old son knows the “AIAIAaa – da-dah-da” theme and that is not even the best part of the score. To me this is the sound of a Western and yet it is completely different from classic Western scoring up to this point, with the exception of Leones earlier films.  Take the scene where Tuco realizes he has found the cemetery; the music is so much part of that scene I could not imagine it without.

It is a simple story of a treasure hunt and shifting alliances between bandits, but it is also a story that moves in a world of madness, where thousands of people die meaningless death and normality is suspended. In this world our three characters make more sense than anything around them and looking for some gold seem fair enough.

I love this movie. I love everything about it. I love it more now than ever before.  

When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.

Just watch it, again.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

Off-List: The Fortune Cookie
When I was looking for extra movies to add to the List for 1966 I stumbled over “The Fortune Cookie”. I had never heard of this movie, but it was a comedy, something the List is short on. It also features Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, a classic duo that usually ensures a watchable movie. But most importantly it was directed, written and produced by the great Billy Wilder. Seriously, any movie by Billy Wilder is worth looking up.

How could this not be a great pick?

To my great disappointment this is not a remarkable movie. There are good reasons this is not on the List and why I never heard of this movie. It is not terrible or anything, it is just not very good, and most importantly for a comedy, it is not that funny.

Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) is a cameraman for CBS at an American Football game when a football player, Luther “Boom-Boom” Jackson accidentally runs him over. Harry is not really injured, but his brother-in-law, William “Whiplash Willie” Gingrich (Walter Matthau) insists that he needs to pretend to be badly injured so they can get a monster indemnity.

That is really what the movie is about. William is running the scam that Harry is a wreck. The insurance company sends out a detective to prove it is a scam and Harry’s ex-wife shows up to get a slice of the cake. In the middle Harry Hinkle is unhappy about the whole thing and makes friends with Boom-Boom who takes care of him.

Running this scam is supposed to be funny. Crooks biting off a large piece of cake than they can swallow and petty insurance people trying to uncover the scam. It is just is not that funny. Instead the joke very quickly becomes tired and it is as if Billy Wilder did not really know where he wanted to go with this. This is most clearly demonstrated by the fizzle of a climax, that was truly disappointing.

I had high expectations for the “Fortune Cookie”, but already after 10-15 minutes I started looking at the clock and that is never a good sign. It was as if the heart was not in it, the way it is in most of Billy Wilder’s movies. Lemmon and Matthau are okay, but they do not have that much to work with and it becomes very cliché.

On the photography side I could not help feeling that I had just stepped ten years back in time, that this was not 1966 but 1956. Watching this back to back with “Blow-up” just emphasizes that feeling.

These three slots I have granted myself each year are supposed to be reserved for movies that deserve to be on the List, but sometimes you just have to take the chance and see where it lands and this one unfortunately does not deserve to land on the List.

Too bad.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Blow-Up (1966)

With ”Blow-up” I definitely feel I have opened a new year. In fact, it feels as I have skipped an entire decade. The look and feel of “Blow-up” is of modernity and of a contemporary London (for 1966).

If I had not been watching the trilogy by Michelangelo Antonioni I would probably have been lost in this movie, but knowing those three I am well prepared and “Blow-up” is in many ways a natural continuation with some of the same themes.

On the face of it nothing much is happening, or too much if you change viewpoint. Thomas (David Hemmings) is a successful photographer. In his fashionable studio he photographs fashion models that look very expensive. He is arrogant toward the girls, drive a fancy, open car and drink conspicuous amounts of alcohol. Beside his professional work he is also an art photographer who goes to odd places to get the right photo. On such an outing he takes pictures of a couple making out in a park. The girl (Vanessa Redgrave) is upset about it and follows him home to get the pictures. Thomas swaps films so she gets the wrong one and he develops the pictures. In these he finds a murderer and a corpse and when he later goes the park he indeed finds a stiff exactly where he expected it. Now Thomas seems to get confused and do not know exactly what to do. He ends up at a concert and a dope party and when he returns to the park the corpse is gone.

So, is this a crime story? Not at all. I am convinced this is another story about the emptiness of life or the life as lived by the characters. Thomas does whatever he feels like. He is impulsive and follows these impulses in every way possible. If he feels like buying an old propeller, he does that. Girls he takes or leaves with no consequence. Two girls who show up to get their picture taken is a good example of that. Thomas treats them with scorn and simply uses them for his own enjoyment.

Then he comes face to face with something bigger. Life and death, a murderer and what to do about it. It makes him confused and insignificant. All the freedom he has becomes a prison. Suddenly he sees bars on the windows, crowds are claustrophobic and the dope party with its apathy becomes a symbol of the useless life he lives. The girl from the park becomes a symbol of a sort, though I have not entirely figured out what. The end, on the other hand, with the mimes playing invisible tennis and himself alone on a giant lawn only to disappear seems clear enough. All the things in life we pretend are important are of no importance at all and Thomas, with no personal relations, could just as well not exist at all.

It is a bit depressive as usual with Antonioni, but it is staggeringly beautifully done. The photography with its picture quality alone is simply amazing. Then we have the portrait of fashionable London, the young and hip London in 1966 which is iconic. The photographic rape in the opening sequence where Thomas is practically sitting on the model is a very strong scene and set the pace for the move and the music, oh Lord, the music. Most of it is Herbie Hancock and if you do not know who that is then come here and get slapped. As a cherry on top of that soundtrack we get a concert with The Yardbirds, which means Jimmy Page.

A lot has been made of the amount of skin visible in this movie, but it is used very much in line with the story and is actually more discreet than it would seem. At least I was never troubled by it. I think the photographic rape we start out with is a lot more disturbing.

“Blow-up” is the full package. A deep story, beautiful pictures, wonderful music and a time capsule of London 1966. It is a gorgeous movie and I am so glad I saw it. It is one of those movies I well definitely take out again sometime and try to dig a bit deeper or simply enjoy it for the piece of art it is.

Definitely recommended.

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.


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)

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)


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.