Infant Ruiz, nothing like his later stuff (though Tango of the Widower was filmed before this and released over 50 years later). Low-key and post-synched, he claimed Shadows and the French New Wave as influences. Mustached Tito and Hotgirl Amanda are siblings, get into drunken shenanigans with some other guys and tempers flare. Mubi calls it “a nearly plotless glimpse at… Santiago’s semi-criminal underworld.” There’s plenty of drinking, at least.
Ruiz was still a Chilean upstart director, 5 years away from Pinochet and exile. Adapted from a play by Alejandro Sieveking (The Club) based on a celebrated Cuban novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (who cowrote Vanishing Point). Both Amanda and Tito appeared in Miguel Littín films after this. Some actors were in Widower and/or Wandering Soap Opera, a couple others would pop up 40+ years later in Pablo Larraín’s No. This won an award at Locarno, shared with Alain Tanner and a couple others.
Ian Christie in Rouge:
An important theme is the everyday violence and moral cynicism typical of an alienated urban class who are neither proletarian nor part of Chile’s Europeanised bourgeoisie. The film’s temporal ambiguity, seeking to represent the suspended tempo of Chilean life, looks forward to Ruiz’s later more stylised and cerebral projects.
First movie of 2023, if anyone is keeping track, and off to a shaky start. This was on the Sight & Sound list, and of course I’ve always been curious about the movie where a boy befriends a hawk. But I also know about animals in movies, and assumed the hawk has to die in the end, which it does. At least, per imdb trivia, it’s the favorite film of both Krzysztof Kieslowski and Karl Pilkington.
British adults are authority-obsessed obstructionists, and Billy is a smart, resourceful kid who gets into kestrels, then steals a chick and raises it. He steals something in every scene, so the adults have reason to be suspicious of him. Billy gets brief fame at school, the others impressed by his pet hawk, until his older brother kills the bird. If the movie is about anything, it’s that institutions fail us and birds are beautiful. I hope England sinks into the sea (but slowly enough for the birds to relocate). The kid kept acting, was in an All Quiet on the Western Front remake with Donald Pleasence and Ian Holm.
Getting to this movie due to its placement in the latest Sight & Sound lists. Made in between L’Avventura and L’Eclisse, this time Monica Vitti isn’t the protagonist but a third-party temptation. Main couple is Marcello Mastroianni (a few years after White Nights and Big Deal) and Jeanne Moreau (the year before Jules & Jim). Ennui at a party, ends with him on top of her in a golf course sand trap, neither still in love with the other. Won Berlin’s golden bear vs. Godard, Kurosawa – and vs. Bernhard Wicki, who acts in this as the couple’s dying friend. Richard Brody’s Criterion article is very good.
Okay, I messed up… I had a couple of Frankenstein movies, one by Corman, so I thought I’d hold a weekend SHOCKtober triple-feature along with his William Shatner Esperanto demon movie. But I was thinking of Incubus (not by Corman), while Intruder is a social issues drama with Shatner as a rabble-rousing outsider trying to convince a Southern town to reject racial integration in schools.
Filmed in Missouri… where’d Corman find all these extras?
When Shatner arrives, he’s very pleasant to the locals, except for frequent, casual use of the n-word. Frank Maxwell (of the more seasonally appropriate The Haunted Palace) is the Only Good White Man, breaking up mobs with peaceful logic, while Shatner runs around making out with Frank’s teenage daughter and sleeping with the salesman’s wife next door. Accusations, setbacks, bombing and murder. I guess it all seems realistic until the townsfolk discover their sense of decency. Most interesting to me was that Shatner claims to represent “The Patrick Henry Society” since I’m staying in Patrick’s old neighborhood.
Embracing neighbor / church-burning:
A nice shock for Trek fans if this ever played on TV in the late 60’s:
Salesman next door was Leo Gordon of Riot in Cell Block 11, his wife from The Boston Strangler, the teenage daughter was in The Crawling Hand, and the rich guy who supports our intruder is from It’s Alive. Written by a Twilight Zone regular who also worked on Corman’s great Masque of the Red Death.
Cool opening as everyone in town passes out, and all the women wake up pregnant. But – oh no, it’s British – so we cannot say the word “pregnant,” it wouldn’t be proper. The men are understandably upset since nobody in Britain has had sex in years, but life must go on, all the babies are born heavy with strange eyes, growing fast and blonde, and the grown-ups make the best of it.
Alan (Michael Gwynn, a priest in Scars of Dracula) visits town to see what’s up, checks in with his friends George Sanders (All About Eve narrator, Voyage to Italy husband) and Barbara Shelley (Quatermass and the Pit) and their new alien son David. The kids are psychic, resistant to authority, and tend to make adults who threaten them commit suicide. As an unexpected tie-in to our Hellraiser-themed month, their intelligence is tested using a complex puzzle box. The angry drunks at the bar think mob violence is the solution, but it’s not – it’s sending George Sanders to the schoolhouse with a bomb, trying to guard his thoughts from psychic intrusion until it goes off. In the Defining Movies book, Chris Fujiwara praises the ending, the crumbling wall superimposed over Sanders’ eyes “shows the process of thought – the gradual erosion of the man’s concentration.”
The author’s Day of the Triffids was filmed the year before with Howard Keel, and more recently with Eddie Izzard, while this was remade a few times, the latest coming out just a few months ago (and now I need to check out the John Carpenter version). Rilla is mainly known for this – looks like he made some naughty indies in the 1970’s.
Sanders, matching the curtains:
Semi-sequel to Yojimbo, which I don’t remember being this comical. Sure it’s all life-or-death situations, but Sanjuro gets swept accidentally into this group of young dudes trying to expose corruption, and he keeps pointing out their grave errors, calling them idiots and saving their asses just in time. Mifune hangs back playing cool for an hour before he finally gets to go haywire on some dudes, killing about twenty.
Tatsuya Nakadai (lead guy in Harakiri the same year) is the Sanjuro-equivalent of the opposition, the mutineers’ muscle who has a final blood-spraying showdown with our guy. His traitorous boss is Masao Shimizu, who appeared in every major Japanese film for decades but always twelfth-billed. Too many of the young samurai to keep track of, and their kidnapped righteous boss barely appears in the movie, but his wife (Takako Irie, a WWII-era Kurosawa star) and daughter (Reiko Dan, who slept her way to success in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs) get good roles.
Cooler than a “based on a true story” title card is opening your movie with a guy telling the camera that this is his true story from 1947. Turns out it’s an extremely pleasurable prison break movie. Claude is accused by his wife of premeditated attempted murder, is looking at serious time, thrown into a cell with four guys, and they let him in on their scheme to escape. They haven’t even started yet, and it begins with a long take of real-time concrete floor destruction, wow. High ingenuity in their escape, and with more attentive guards than usual. Claude has to convince the others he’s not a threat after his woman withdraws the charge, but he’s a rat bastard and turns them in – they get taken down by 100 guards on escape night.
Final film by Becker, who died before its premiere. Engineer Jean Keraudy played himself. Geo was in the original Inglorious Bastards, The Reverend had a small role in La Vérité, Manu played the Monocled Nazi in The Night Porter, and dirty rat Claude is the star of Lola.
In the mood for another 1960’s Czech movie after Loves of a Blonde. Chytilová pre-Daisies doing the hybrid-doc thing before it was invented. The mom having an affair with a light-haired guy isn’t terribly enlightening – I came for the dance segments. Good photography overall, but one particular shot, the camera upside-down then rotating rightside in sync with the dancer’s flip, takes your breath away.
Opens with a catchy pop song about turning into a hooligan. At least half the movie is the party scene (dudes chasing after blondes) and her at the musician’s house with his parents, waiting for him to come home (blonde chasing after dude). Forman must’ve stayed in touch – the blonde cameos in Amadeus.
One love of a blonde, a dodgy musician:
Dave Kehr called it “certainly one of the most sweetly seductive films ever made, an ironic quality in a film whose main theme is the cruelty of seduction and its costly aftermath.”
Harsh party scene, soldiers have a bottle of wine delivered to the wrong table of girls: