Albert Finney is a would-be comedian and general smartass, places an ad in the paper announcing himself as a private eye and immediately gets in over his head. It’s a good premise, because at no point is Finney an actual detective – when he finds a gun at a crime scene, he keeps playing with it and shows it off to everyone he sees.

Albert:

Finney’s brother William (Frank Finlay, one of Lester’s Musketeers) is the type of serious businessman who also knows how to dispose of a dead body, and the brother’s girl who used to be Finney’s girl is his Charlie Bubbles costar Billie Whitelaw. Clues lead to an occult bookstore lead to a heroin trade. There’s a hot library girl, some racism, and some unusually good dialogue.

Billie:

Oops, we discussed this one but I never wrote anything down about it. Australian period lit adaptation with some lively bits. I completely cannot recognize the Judy Davis of Barton Fink and Naked Lunch (which I just rewatched) in this Judy Davis… both Judys are very good, they just might as well be different people. We very much recognized Sam Neill as her suitor in the latter half, but it’s the odd movie about a woman who chooses to stay unmarried so she can have a career. Along the way we get one of the most well-staged pillow fights since Zero for Conduct.

After a tinted windowboxed flashback over classic pop music, Alice is grown up and is Ellen Burstyn, has son Tommy and real asshole husband (Billy Green Bush of Critters), who dies in a car crash in under 15 minutes. Alice wants to be a decent mom but her only skill is bar singer, and she tends to attract abusive dudes like young cowboy Harvey Keitel, so they ditch another town and she’s a waitress in Tucson when lovely Kris Kristofferson shows up – it’s a coincidence that I watched both of his 1974 movies the same month. Tommy hangs out with bad influence Jodie Foster, his mom has to deal with sardonic coworker Diane Ladd, and they both have to decide whether Kris can be trusted.

Ellen and Diane:

Harvey and his scorpion:

Not as revelatory as After Hours, but pretty great. A TV series based on this movie ran for nine seasons, I had no idea! Burstyn won the oscar, Ladd lost to Ingrid Bergman’s worst performance, and Chronicle of the Years of Fire beat it at Cannes.

Locarno 2015 included a Peckinpah retrospective, so I’m closing out LNKarno by catching up with one of his most acclaimed films. Warren Oates plays a southern-border scumbag offered $10k to find A.G. by the middlemen who’ve heard that the dad of the girl Garcia knocked up is paying a million. Oates takes his ex who knows the late A.G.’s whereabouts (Isela Vega of Sam Fuller’s Deadly Trackers and a hundred Mexican films) on a road trip, and it turns out everyone along the way is a bigger scumbag than he is.

good times:

bad times:

They start by fighting off would-be-rapist Kris Kristofferson, then when they locate A.G.’s grave, the guys tailing them kill the girl and take the head. Oates liked that girl quite a lot (so did I), goes on to kill those guys, the next couple of murderous guys, the guys who hired him, and finally the boss man himself. It’s a Western with fast cars and big sunglasses, and I am into it.

Criterion had a bunch of these movies, and I needed something to watch in weekday installments during a horrid week.

Jackie is tired of training with his mocking grandpa.

So he joins a gang and dresses like an idiot servant and a pretty girl to hustle suckers into fighting him.

But eventually he’ll have to content with the evil wizard who killed his dad (and grandpa).

Is he up to the task? Totally, yes.

Grandpa was James Tien of the Bruce Lee movies. Baddie Yen Shi-Kwan was in the first two Once Upon a Time in China movies. The year after starring in Drunken Master, this was 25-year-old Jackie Chan’s directorial debut.

It [was] Cannes Month… but after Bacurau I got distracted and thought I might watch the Miguel Gomes epic Arabian Nights… but first, since I’ve seen the other two features in my Pasolini “Trilogy of Life” boxed set, I guess I’ll watch his Arabian Nights. It turns out both the Pasolini and the Gomes played Cannes, so Cannes Month continues!

Zumurrud is a slave allowed to choose her own master – she chooses poor boy Nureddin, gives him the money to buy her and rent a house, but the boy immediately disobeys her and they spend the rest of the movie having adventures trying to reunite.

N, realizing he got lucky:

Z, king of the realm:

Some of those adventures: an older couple bring home a teenage boy and girl, for a bet, and watch as each kid fucks the other while they sleep. A Christian kidnaps Z and has her whipped, but she escapes and comes upon a city that makes her king, then she orders her tormentors crucified. N is kidnapped and fucked by nuns, is later told a story about Chaplin guy Ninetto Davoli who’s supposed to marry a lovely girl but falls for Crazy Budur who kidnap-marries him. A prince finds a girl locked up by a demon underneath the town and loses his shoes fucking her. A girl turns herself to fire, a prince shoots a statue, N encounters a lion in the desert, and so on.

It’s easily the best of the three, despite greenscreen effects as poor as the dubbing and losing a star for killing a pigeon onscreen. Or maybe my expectations had been lowered enough, and I knew what to expect, focusing on the authentic ancient settings and landscapes as much as the silly-ass sex comedy.

Cool sights, unrelated to the plot:

The Devil is Franco Citti, who was in all three movies along with Chaplin Guy – and they were in a fourth Pasolini-written anthology sex comedy at the same time: Bawdy Tales, directed by Canterbury/Decameron assistant director Sergio Citti. Nureddin is Franco Merli, his career launched by this movie, then ruined the next year by starring in Salo. Zumurrud is Ines Pellegrini, who also went on to Salo, but worked through the 70’s, mostly last-billed. And Crazy Budur is Claudia Rocchi, later of Yor, the Hunter from the Future.

After amazing opening title artwork, we open with a festive animal-slaughter montage, why? So far so familiar – golden-haired beauty Julie (Zdena Studenková, also of a Sleeping Beauty movie) loves her merchant father, whose entire fortune is in a wagon train that gets violently lost when it strays too close to a cursed castle. Julie’s sisters are actually nice to her until the family’s fortune turns, then they become horrible. Dad is imprisoned in the castle when he searches for the lost shipment, and when released for a day to say goodbye to his family, he’s mid-conversation when Julie grabs a horse and rides off to take her father’s place.

It’s halfway through the movie before we see the beast’s face – he’s a BIRDBEAST! – and fifteen minutes to the end before Julie sees it. The castle and its furnishings are alive in a shady and sinister way, overall more of a horror movie than any other adaptation I’ve seen, always whispering to Beast that he should kill Julie. There’s also no Gaston equivalent, nobody from town looking for Julie, and after she visits home and everyone’s a pain in the ass to her, she runs back to her Beast, who transforms out of love, to a really nice piano theme by Petr Hapka (whose music was in Ferat Vampire and The Grandmaster!)

The sisters: Jana Brejchová was in Return of the Prodigal Son and Baron Prasil and I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen, and Zuzana Kocúriková was in, uh oh, an Alain Robbe-Grillet film. Dad was in Murder Czech Style. Vlastimil Harapes is under the bird-beast makeup, had a smallish role in Marketa Lazarová.

Local crime boss Bob Hoskins gets back into town, and quickly has to figure out what’s going on when some of his top men start getting killed right when Bob was gonna go legit by signing with real estate developer Eddie Constantine and profit off the 1988 olympics. Turns out some of his guys took a side deal from the IRA, stole from them, and now his whole organization is under attack.

Eddie, Helen, Bob:

Bob’s in his first starring role, Helen Mirren is his unamused sister, their curlhaired partner Jeff is Derek Thompson (just off the rock musical Breaking Glass) and Paul Freeman (villain of next year’s Raiders of the Lost Ark) is Bob’s buddy who gets stabbed to death by none other than Pierce Brosnan (twelve years before his performance in The Lawnmower Man landed him the James Bond role). Bob won’t accept defeat, takes on the IRA at a demolition derby, and it almost looks like his plan’s gonna work. Decent 1980’s movie, does not live up to expectations of being an early Criterion release that I’ve been wanting to watch since it came out… in fact, the DVD release was late 1998, which is closer to the release of the original film than it is to the month I finally watched it.

Very promising, opening titles over an auto assembly line, “with the participation of Bert Haanstra,” the factory work bringing to mind his great short Glas. Alas, Tati fell out with Haanstra (and his funders, and somehow Lasse Hallström), and this ended up a fitfully amusing, semi-improvised road-trip film that incidentally features Mr. Hulot as an auto designer helping transport his creation to a trade show.

The joke is that delays and misfortune make them miss the show completely – they get a flat tire, the truck’s clutch goes out, etc. But it’s hard to feel sorry for them (not that the movie asks us to) when they also run out of gas, get arrested for speeding through a border crossing, cause a ten-car rube goldberg car crash, and don’t seem to know what day the show starts – this is all professional incompetence. Anyway they’re a likable crew except for the grating American PR rep Maria.

Besides Hulot’s presence, you can catch glimpses of the style of the guy who made Playtime only a few years earlier, and can also catch his influence on Roy Andersson. Some cute bits: after the second garage stop Tati makes a rock music video out of traffic lines and road marking patterns. Montage of people’s windshield wipers matching their personalities, some good sight gags in the police station, Maria’s constant stylish wardrobe changes. But there’s also this disastrous bit:

Learned from Jonathan Rosenbaum’s article that Haanstra shot the nose-picking montage, and at least some of it is unstaged.

Jonathan Romney for Criterion:

Tati certainly appears less in control than in the vast coordinated ballet of Playtime. For the most part, the jokes in Trafic drum up a sense of languid, almost apathetic chaos, without there always being conventional payoffs to give the comic business a sense of purpose. Notwithstanding the painstakingly synchronized pileup scene, the film is characterized by slow-burn gags that create an overall comic atmosphere rather than work toward a clearly defined goal … Without a doubt, Trafic contains a hovering tone of despair that makes it a somewhat melancholic pendant to Playtime.