Maybe the grungiest, most lo-fi, handheld Oshima movie I’ve seen, with some apparently documentary segments. Also maybe more sexual violence than usual. Some nice closeups on hands, like in other thief movies. Whole movie looks dubbed, with some cool troubadour songs (not as funky as the ones in Izo).
Longhaired anarchist book thief Hilltop Birdman (Tadanori Yokoo, a minor role in Mishima) is nabbed by employee Umeko (Rie Yokoyama of Wakamatsu’s Ecstacy of the Angels), to the delightful indifference of her boss, who tries to give the thief more free books. But it’s the late 1960’s and if anyone’s gonna embrace the revolution in the air, it’s Oshima. The movie goes off on tangents about sex and psychology, turns from black-and-white to color, plays with poetry and literature and theater, and makes cool images and tries to freak out the normies. “I do feel something like rage toward nothing in particular.”
It’s all crying out for some explanatory blu-ray features – for instance, it’s been a minute since I watched Death By Hanging, so I didn’t realize that movie’s primary male cast appears in a roundtable discussion as themselves – but I tend to love Oshima films even when I’m confused by them.
Another film with a dense, confused audience-surrogate character: pilot Rex (Leon Greene, a Holmes in The Seven Percent Solution), who meets his old buddy Christopher Lee (same year as Dracula Has Risen From The Grave), then goes searching for their missing friend Simon. They find that he has joined a posh group of satanists (Britain was too polite for all this – the satanists reel in horror when their leader kills a goat), and try to rescue him through frequent use of crosses. Rex falls for satanist Tanith (Nike Arrighi: Day for Night, The Perfume of the Lady in Black) so they attempt to rescue her too, pursued by the Victor Garber-looking cult leader Mocata (Charles Gray, another Holmes in The Seven Percent Solution). Satanic possession and kidnapping follow, then evil is defeated in a very Christian ending.
Lee uses the interrotron on Simon:
Giant spider terrifies little girl:
Memorial screening for Jerry Lewis. I’d never seen this, didn’t realize it’s semi-plotless, casting a mute Jerry as one of many bellboys at a luxury hotel and throwing him into situations. Apparently hastily written and shot in the Miami hotel where he was performing at the time. And it shows… half the jokes are lazy or awful, though it’s short and overall pleasant enough.
Also featuring Jerry as himself, Milton Berle as himself, both of them as lookalike bellboys, and Lewis’s future cowriter Bill Richmond as a fake Stan Laurel. It’s a strange movie. I feel bad having so little to say about it, but maybe you had to have suffered through the studio comedies of the 1940’s and 1950’s to appreciate its innovations.
Catching up… I watched this three weeks ago, and the only note I took says:
Unfun intellectual/political word games
Obviously it’s a complicated (if unfun) movie, so a one-line review will not do. This is where my lack of biographical knowledge on Godard (and lack of interest in 1960’s politics) holds me back, because this feels like an escalation of ideas about consumerism and radicalism and societal ills from 2 or 3 Things and Weekend… but it also feels like a parody, its characters deluded comic-book Mao radicals. This doesn’t seem right, since the ideals of our main characters seem similar to Godard’s own, in his later, more boring works.
Feels like we spend forever in the primary-color apartment with young commies Jean-Pierre Leaud, Juliet Berto (her first year in film) and Anne Wiazemsky (star of Au Hasard Balthazar the year before). But there’s also an assassination attempt, a guy exiled from the group, suicide, some fun self-reflexivity, and an endless train conversation with a philosophy professor. Literature references abound, apparently, and name-dropping of Katy’s favorite theorists.
Played Venice the year Belle de Jour won, tying China is Near for a jury prize.
Anna Karina (between Vivre Sa Vie and Alphaville) tells her classmate Sami Frey (Thérèse Desqueyroux, a couple William Klein movies) that her employer keeps cash in the house. She starts dating Sami’s friend Claude Brasseur (the younger Brasseur in Eyes Without a Face), who hears about the money, and the three plan (barely) a heist. Thanks to Arthur’s big mouth, some armed criminal relative finds out and intercepts them, then Anna and Sami escape following a deadly shootout. But the movie’s not about what it’s about, it’s about how it’s about it.
Another rewatch from 2003, a pre-blog year when I watched a ton of movies that I now barely remember. My belly is a table.
“Why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?”
Brilliant visual display of espionage, duplicity, politics and memory (real and false), with at least five perfect performances, but the one who towers above them all is Angela Lansbury as a power-hungry politician’s-wife.
A group of Americans is captured with help from their traitor translator Henry Silva, then Laurence Harvey (Darling, Room at the Top) is brainwashed by the Enemy and sent back to the States, but his fellow soldier Frank Sinatra starts to remember their capture and realize something is amiss. Meanwhile Sinatra falls for Vivian Leigh, Harvey kills his girlfriend (Leslie Parrish of Li’l Abner), and Harvey is being controlled by his evil mother to put his weak-willed stepfather in power, but he turns on them at the last minute.
Sinatra and his girl:
Harvey and his mother:
A movie featuring a wannabe-president supported by a foreign power who puts ketchup on his steaks. I originally planned to double-feature this with A Face in the Crowd, but maybe The Dead Zone would be more appropriate. Frankenheimer made this the same year as Birdman of Alcatraz, a couple years before the similarly paranoid Seconds.
I can’t tell exactly what it’s supposed to be, perhaps a symbolic arthouse parody/critique of nuclear family life?
Sometimes it seems like psychodrama, sometimes comedy… sometimes we get effectively haunting phantom visuals and sometimes the kid is sitting on a toilet wiping his ass with bible pages.
Lighting can be complex, or scenes can be lit with a single spotlight with inky blackness all around. The actors often look distraught, and the kid spends half the movie crying (and 15 minutes playing with an aerosol can). Their movements can be theatrical, like they’re hitting the marks of a dance routine (in fact, one scene is presented as a stage performance). Camera has some unique methods of moving and reframing to change a scene without cutting, and the kid acknowledges the camera in at least one scene, waving it forward as the family lurches haltingly through a field.
The movie is fully silent, but in accordance with the Director’s Intent (presumably), I played John Zorn’s The Mysteries album followed by the last 20 minutes of Filmworks XXV.
The kid would grow up to be a painter, worked on Genealogies of a Crime, and his dad was an actor, appearing in Truffaut films around this time.
It’s an offbeat movie featuring some cross-dressing guys (some are gay, some transsexual, some I dunno), and also it’s a movie about the making of an offbeat movie, and also a semi-doc about the men/women participating in the movie, with oblique references to current politics (riot police on TV). Scenes are repeated, there are flashes of avant-garde weirdness (and harsh blasts of annoying music, just to let you know it’s the late 1960’s). Then they get high and just dance and fuck around for ages.
Fake-bearded director of the film-in-the-film is named Guevara:
There’s an Oedipus story in here somewhere… I think young Eddie killed his mom, and after taking over the Bar Genet from his boss/rival Leda, Eddie later turns out to be sleeping with his own dad, then pokes his own eyes out. But the bulk of the movie is this free mix of Godard formal weirdness, Oshima rebel 1960’s flavor, goofs and retakes, title cards and poses, and plenty more tricks which seemed to indicate that the central plot wasn’t so important.
Memorial screening for writer/director Toshio Matsumoto, who died in mid-April, and made plenty more excitingly weird-looking movies. Pîtâ (Eddie) was later in Ran (and, unfortunately, Guinea Pig 4). The dad (and owner of the club?), Yoshio Tsuchiya, had smallish roles in Kurosawa movies, and the murdered mom, Emiko Azuma, had been in Insect Woman, later Suzuki’s Kageroza. Not the first drama I’ve seen to include out-of-character actor interviews in the middle of the movie. Kubrick stole the bit where they play action scenes in fast-motion with organ music for A Clockwork Orange.
A year after Lover Come Back, Delbert Mann and Doris Day returned with another mediocre comedy featuring high-powered executives, mistaken identity, psychiatry, and lots of running around making vague sexual references. This time it’s Cary Grant instead of Tony Randall, which you’d think would be a step up, but Tony was my favorite part of the last movie. Cary’s a business owner who tries to make hot, unemployed Doris his mistress, but things don’t work out and they end up getting married.
Gig Young (Katharine Hepburn’s boss in Desk Set) is the CFO whose psychiatrist thinks he’s gay for Grant, Audrey Meadows (Alice in The Honeymooners) is Doris’s protective roommate, and John Astin (Gomez in The Addams Family series) is a horny sap Doris uses to make Cary jealous at the end. Also featuring Darrin from Bewitched, and the New York Yankees. Years before watching this, I used one of its automat scenes in my acclaimed “Light Up Gold” music video.