The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013, Cattet & Forzani)

Amazing giallo tribute that outdoes any of the originals except maybe the peak Argentos. Apparently this is what this Belgian filmmaking duo makes – loving, intensely stylized fever-dream giallos – which makes me sorry I skipped their Amer a few years ago. Full-color widescreen lunacy with trippy credits, great but too-infrequent music, extreme close-ups, bondage, nudity and lots of knife murders.

Danish Klaus Tange returns home from a trip to find his wife missing. They live in a Lords of Salem apartment building full of odd neighbors and evil unopened rooms and hidden passageways above and behind everything, in which first a tenant named Laura and now Klaus’s wife have disappeared. Mysterious bearded guy lives in there and seems to know what’s going on, and Klaus has an Italian police detective on his side. Also there’s a grey-haired old woman who tells a story of when her husband disappeared into the walls, and she might in fact be Laura and/or the murderer, and I believe Klaus gets killed, but none of this seemed important at the time, even less so afterwards.

N. Murray in Dissolve:

The problem is that Cattet and Forzani have done this before—and with more focus. Strange Color gets at the voyeurism of giallo, and how investigating a mystery gives people license to peer into other people’s homes and lives. But the movie as a whole doesn’t say anything about male sexual desire and female sexual power that Amer didn’t already say.

J. Anderson in Cinema Scope:

One reason Forzani and Cattet’s films are so alluring and unnerving is how well they tap into giallo’s fundamental core of irrationality. They invest a new elegance and a renewed vigour into the “science of plotless shock and dismemberment.” O’Brien intended that phrase to serve as faint praise for Bava and his successor Argento, but it’s also suggestive of the careful manner in which The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears induces ever more advanced stages of dread and derangement on the viewer’s part.

A Hard Day’s Night (1964, Richard Lester)

Handheld b/w, a low-budget shoot but always terrific-looking in sharp focus. Not Lester’s first feature – why do you never hear about It’s Trad, Dad or Mouse on the Moon? DP Gilbert Taylor shot Dr. Strangelove the same year, Repulsion the following.

It has more of a story than most concert movies but much less of a story than most non-concert movies. The premise is that the guys catch a train to the city, have to rehearse and then film a TV appearance, but they keep wanting to run off and play and insult people.

As Paul’s clean grandfather, Wilfrid Brambell, known for playing comic character Albert Steptoe. As the two guys responsible for getting the boys through their day, Norman Rossington (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) and TV writer/actor John Junkin. Uptight sweater-wearing TV director Victor Spinetti would return in Help! the following year.

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944, Preston Sturges)

A perfect comedy. Unfortunately Sturges was double-nominated for writing this and Hail The Conquering Hero, splitting his own vote and some damned Woodrow Wilson bio-pic got the oscar. Been too long since I saw The Great McGinty so I didn’t realize Governor McGinty (in the framing-device phone-call) and the other guy in his office were from that movie, just thought the name was being reused.

Betty and Eddie had played together in musical The Fleet’s In two years earlier, and she’d play the title role in sharpshootin’ musical Annie Get Your Gun, which we should probably watch. Trudy’s 14-year-old little sister is wonderfully played by 18-year-old Diana Lynn, later in Track of the Cat.

I was gonna write up a plot summary, but… THE SPOTS!

About Time (2013, Richard Curtis)

Not really a romance movie, turns out it’s a father/son bonding flick with some incidental women: perfect girlfriend/wife Rachel McAdams (Passion), and troubled sister Lydia Wilson (kidnapped princess in the first episode of Black Mirror). Father (Bill Nighy, natch) and son Tim (Domhnall “son of Brendan” Gleeson) have the boys-only inherited ability to revisit previous moments in their lives, change things then return. Movie starts out having Tim use his power to impress girls, but later to teach us that life should be enjoyed and fully experienced the first time through. Non-time-travelers: Tim’s mum (Lindsay Duncan of Traffik) and first crush (Margot Robbie, Leo’s second wife in Wolf of Wall Street), and I can’t remember if they explained whether Tim’s weird uncle Richard Cordery could time-travel. Nighy has Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” play during his funeral, so now I’ve gotta find a new Nick Cave song to request for mine. “Push The Sky Away” sounds too obviously like funeral music with that organ, and “Babe I’m On Fire” goes too far the other way, so maybe “People Ain’t No Good”? I guess “The Weeping Song” would work, or “Let The Bells Ring”. I’ll have to listen to those two again, and maybe “No More Shall We Part” before deciding for sure, but for now I’m leaning “People Ain’t No Good”.

Viola (2012, Matias Piñeiro)

Delicate drama mostly shot in shallow-focus close-ups – so delicate that it has pretty much flown right out of my head. I remember some actors rehearsing Shakespeare, a girl with a pirate video delivery service, chance meetings and a dream sequence. And I remember really, really liking it. Katy did not.

Quintin has a great Cinema Scope article about the Argentinean writer/director:

The films take Shakesperean promiscuity to the limit: in the end any actor can play any character—including sex changes—as if all the bodies, the names, and all of Shakespeare’s and Piñeiro’s characters are impossible to distinguish. In Viola, María Villar plays a character named Viola who—in principle—has nothing to do with theatre. But then she meets a girl who is acting in a production of Twelfth Night who asks Viola to be her replacement. In the second act of Twelfth Night, Viola disguises herself as a man called Cesario, but in the play within the film he is called Bassanio, a character from The Merchant of Venice. Any multi-talented member of this magic sect can act, write, or even play music, as is clearly shown at the end of Viola. These endless confusions and exchanges continue on and on in the film. Piñeiro has declared that he doesn’t want to make the kind of film where characters’ paths intersect due to the cleverness of the script, but rather one that allows people to live as they want or as they can. But, in that way, all of these individualists living like monads, trying to succeed in love and art, end up mixing into a symbolic orgy, where film and theatre, men and women, music and literature, work and leisure, dating and talking, are molded into a single entity.

Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam)

Great to see this again, although maybe I should’ve sprung for the high-def version to see if it looks much better than my old letterboxed DVD. Katy agreed that the movie seems long, and opted not to teach it in her dystopian fiction course.

I’ve seen people call Brazil the centerpiece of Gilliam’s dream trilogy – Time Bandits being the dreams of youth, Brazil of adulthood, and Baron Munchhausen an old man telling dream-stories to children. It’s a lovely thought, but then what is the rest of Gilliam’s career full of dreams and visions?

Don’t think I knew who Jim Broadbent was the last time I watched this. He plays Sam’s mom’s plastic surgeon: “Snip snip, slice slice, can you believe it?” Jack Purvis of Time Bandits is rival doctor “the acid man”. Sam’s mom’s friend getting acid treatments (“my complication had a little complication”) is Barbara Hicks of Britannia Hospital, and her daughter is Kathryn Pogson, recently of The Arbor. Mrs. Buttle (I’d forgotten how good she is) was Sheila Reid (Felicia’s Journey, Lady Rawlinson in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End). I haven’t recognized Kim Griest in anything else but I see she was in Manhunter and CHUD. Mr. Helpmann (‘ere I am, JH) was in some Ken Russell films and Mountains of the Moon. Sam’s useless first boss was Ian Holm and his decisive, always-walking boss in Information Retrieval was Ian Richardson (later Mr. Book in Dark City).

Autumn Sonata (1978, Ingmar Bergman)

Final theatrical film of the two Bergmans (since Fanny & Alexander was shot for television), and each Bergman got an oscar nomination (as did two unrelated songwriters named Bergman that year), but were no match for Hal Ashby’s Coming Home. Began shooting three days after I was born. First Bergman film I’ve seen shot in color, except for Saraband which I barely remember.

Opens with Liv Ullmann’s pastor husband narrating to us about her. Later Ingrid will speak aloud as in a play. There are flashbacks (either remembered or imagined) and a nightmare scene, all more theatrical and artificial than the other Bergmans I’ve been watching. It makes sense to watch this right after The Silence, which is also about two family members revealing their hatred for each other over the course of a night and day. However, I’d heard The Silence was one of Bergman’s top masterpieces, and I liked this one better – thought the conflict had a better and more explicable build-up.

So Ingrid plays the famed concert pianist mother of Liv, who has a more modest life in the country with her husband. Unbeknown to Ingrid, Liv is also housing her disabled younger sister Helena (Lena Nyman of I Am Curious), whose presence shakes Ingrid, reminding her of her failures as a mother, which Liv reminds her more and more about until Ingrid is driven from the house for what seems like the final time, riding home on a train alongside Winter Light‘s Gunnar Bjornstrand. It’s all very intense and poisonous and makes you wonder about Ingmar’s obsession with family members’ simmering hatred for each other. Looks absolutely splendid, though.

Watched some of the extras – played through the commentary but didn’t have the stamina for the full 3.5-hour making-of, right after watching the similar full-length doc about Winter Light.

A Foreign Affair (1948, Billy Wilder)

Silly setup becomes more serious as it goes along. Jean Arthur (post-semi-retirement, in her second-to-last film role) is a buttoned-up U.S. Representative (from Iowa) visiting wrecked post-war Berlin to assess the morale (and morals) of the occupying troops. John Lund (of High Society) is a shady Iowan captain with a sharpie-drawn mustache who is playing the black market, drinking at nightclubs and covering for his girlfriend Marlene Dietrich. So soon after WWII, we know even the cynical Wilder won’t let Dietrich off the hook after Jean is shown films of her cavorting with Hitler himself. So Jean enlists Lund in her undercover operation to discover which American troop is covering for Dietrich. He’s now attempting to protect himself and his girl from the no-nonsense Arthur, so he pretends to fall in love with her as a distraction.

Dietrich sings “The Ruins of Berlin” (I know the Dex Romweber version), and man are the ruins impressive. There’s hardly a non-bombed-out building seen in the opening aerial shots and the scattered location shots from the ground. The contemporary NY Times review calls Lund “disarmingly shameless.” For some guy I’ve never heard of playing against two of my favorite actresses, he comes off surprisingly well.

Bright Lights says Wilder pitched the film’s concept as propaganda to the U.S. military in Germany, describing “an entertainment film with Rita Hayworth or Ingrid Bergman… with Gary Cooper if you wish… and with a love story — only with a very special love story, cleverly devised to sell us a few ideological items.” The military found the finished film unsuitable to be shown in Germany, believing that a movie which stars a morally compromised U.S. soldier sleeping with an eroticized nazi mightn’t be in their best interest.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1990, Volker Schlondorff)

A real stinker of a bland-looking generic 1980′s movie, starring Natasha Richardson (Mary Shelley in Gothic) as a “handmaid” in the future whose job is to get pregnant for rich barren women (Faye Dunaway, two years before Arizona Dream) by their husbands (Robert Duvall, between Colors and Newsies). But of course she falls for house servant Aidan Quinn (who’d play evil twins the following year in an Isabella Rossellini movie) and gets involved with a troublemaking friend (Elizabeth McGovern, the mom of Downton Abbey). So it’s surprising that with all this star power around, the only good scene was with a doctor played by Rawhead Rex star David Dukes.