At the time I saw this, both movies playing the Ross were oscar-nominated period pieces starring Michael Stuhlbarg. I liked him as the Russian spy, but as an archaeology professor distracted by his work, he didn’t have as much to do here… until the end, when he gives a hell of a monologue and we realize he wasn’t as distracted as he seemed. I wouldn’t have gone to see the lazy sunny movie where the bored vacationing rich kid falls for an older boy but it kept topping critic lists and I loved Guadagnino’s last fast-cutting high-energy vacation movie, so was wondering how he’d play it this time. While nothing much was happening on the seduction front, teen idol Timothée Chalamet dating and dodging local girls, I nerded out over the editing style, still with the attentive cutting but making room for some lovely long takes. Meanwhile, Chalamet finally gets his older boy (Armie Hammer) and runs off with him for a couple days, then returns home a mess… Stuhlbarg monologue, a long stare into the fireplace, and the beauty of the damned thing snuck up on me.

Evan has a dying mom, is also a bit of an impulsive fuckup, and during his immediate post-mom depression he acts self-destructively to the point of having to flee the country. Off in Italy he meets a couple of drunken brits, takes a job with chill farmer Angelo, and hooks up with gorgeous local Louise (Nadia Hilker), who turns out to be an ancient cat-squid-beast, as shown through some dodgy CG.

Evan then spends the rest of the movie trying to convince Louise not to be reborn as a new identity, which is something that happens every generation or so, forcing her to disappear and make new ID documents and will herself possessions (shades of Highlander), but to remain mortal and live a normal life with a tourist loser. Someone described it as Before Sunrise as a monster movie, which is about right, and I enjoyed it even though it seems like I have nothing nice to say.

Evan is Lou Pucci, who looks like my neighbor Jared, but is actually the doomed nerd of Evil Dead Remake and bazooka kid of Southland Tales. The Moorhead/Benson duo also contributed a segment to V/H/S/3 and have made two other features which seem to be horror movies but aren’t, really. Count me in.

Sam wanders his Italian island town with his slingshot, dealing with a sight-correcting eyepatch, getting family history stories from his elders. Meanwhile, the Lampedusa coast guard detects and rescues overloaded boats full of dead and desperate refugees. We’re told these things are happening nearby each other, though they never intersect.

Rosi in Fandor:

Samuele, he’s afraid of the life coming. Everything he does is somehow creating suspense for something we don’t know how to face, with our laziness and our anxiety: the world that is coming through Lampedusa … Subconsciously the viewer identifies with Samuele, but they are not able to say that they do. So in the end they’ll say it’s a film about migrants, but it’s not. It’s really on the coming of age of a little kid who lives on an island where everything reminds him about the sea. About the harshness of the sea, about the life on the sea, about becoming a fisherman, about suffering the sea sickness. But the people are not aware of that. So at the end they come out and all they remember is a film about migration.

Of course Rosi is the guy who made the terrifying guy-in-a-room interview doc El Sicario Room 164, not the terrifying guy-in-a-room interviewing doc Collapse, which is what I told Katy.

Celluloid Liberation Front is suspicious:

Rosi’s idea of cinema remains highly questionable and Fire at Sea is ethically inadequate at best. Like virtually anything dealing with refugees these days, the film never bothers to mention the reasons why the wretched of the earth are being forced to flee their countries. This approach puts us in the very comfortable position of not being implicated, leaving us free to think about the amount of indignation and mercy we have to spare.

There are some things you’ve gotta do in SHOCKtober, and one thing is you’ve gotta watch something Italian. As the saying goes, if you haven’t got Argento, a Fulci will do. If you haven’t got a Fulci, woe unto you.

This is one of those giallo things where everyone is knifed to death by unknown black-gloved assailant(s). In this case, I think it’s not a single crazed killer, but everyone killing everyone else in order to gain ownership of the bay that all their houses border. At least it seems that way, but it was really hard to care about any of these generic characters – I barely had their names and/or relationships sorted out when they’d be hastily murdered. Dialogue was in English on my copy, and reasonably well-synced, a nice surprise (though the words themselves, and the actors speaking them, remain quite poor). And of course Bava’s got enough style – lighting and zooms and focus tricks – to keep things watchable.

Laura Betti transcends this stupid movie:

Frank and sexy secretary:

Bug Man:

Let’s see if we can piece together what happened. The movie’s only good story idea is staging the death of an elderly landowner (Isa Miranda of The Late Mathias Pascal and La Ronde) by using her own diary entry reading “I am tired. My life no longer has meaning” as a suicide note. I guess this is done by her husband Filippo, who is immediately killed by squid fisherman Simon (Claudio Camaso of John the Bastard), illegitimate son of the hanged countess. Squid Simon has a rivaly with insect hunter Paolo (Leopoldo Trieste, young husband in The White Sheik), who’s scheming with fortune teller Anna (Laura Betti, the miraculous servant in Teorema). Realty Dude Frank (Chris Avram of Voodoo Sexy) and his girlfriend/secretary are also scheming with various participants somehow. Renata (Claudine Auger of Yoyo and Thunderball) is daughter of the count and countess, I think, arriving late with her husband Albert (Luigi Pistilli of Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) to claim the bay. I think these two succeed, then are shot to death by their own young kids in an epilogue, the movie’s final “fuck you” to its characters and/or viewers.

Our ignoble heroes, Renata and Albert:

Filippo beneath the Squid Thief’s slimy cargo:

Also, with no apparent connection to anything else, four young partying sex-crazed kids (including a skinny-dipping Brigitte Skay, title star of Isabella, Duchess of the Devils) break into a house on the bay and get quickly murdered.

Duchess of the Devils:

The Duchess’s boyfriend catches a machete to the face:

This movie, sometimes known as Twitch of the Death Nerve, was a relatively late film from Bava, arriving some years after his early-to-mid-60’s horror heyday. I guess the others didn’t catch on like this one, since it’s credited as one of the most influential slasher/giallo films (though I’m not sure that’s anything to brag about), with some if its deaths directly ripped off by Friday the 13th sequels.

Margherita Buy (the pope’s analyst in Habemus Papam) is in the middle of a difficult film shoot (“a lame social drama about workers occupying a factory,” per Cinema Scope) with attention-hog lead actor John Turturro while her mother Ada’s health is failing. Involved in the family crisis are Margherita’s daughter Livia, her brother Giovanni (played by the director) and two exes (I think Federico and Vittorio).

Not a straightforward crisis-drama. There are dreams and flashbacks, which aren’t always clearly defined. The emotional build is consistent, but the scenes are allowed to stand alone, not necessarily progressing narratively from each other. A standout moment was Giovanni quitting his job without real explanation or plan of what he’ll do next, just an example of the grief and confusion in the family’s lives. Apparently made as a tribute to Moretti’s own mother (a Latin teacher like Ada) who died while he was working on Habemus Papam.

Ehrlich:

It’s not just the work/life balance that this film gets so right, but also — and more crucially — how you can never master your own life to the point where a personal hardship can’t make you feel like an utter amateur.

Won a prize at last year’s Cannes, was Cahiers’ pick for film of the year, and won Buy her fifth Italian best-actress award. It’s really good.

Rock goddess Tilda Swinton is relaxing at a Mediterranean island paradise with boyfriend photographer Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) when her ex, music producer Ralph Fiennes (an overpowering, charismatic performance) shows up with his newly-discovered daughter Dakota Johnson (Black Mass). Sexual and other tensions get extremely high, and the movie, which has an otherwise excellent soundtrack, tries in vain to get me to appreciate the Rolling Stones song “Emotional Rescue.”

I was disappointed when the story twists into murder-investigation territory after Matthias drowns a belligerent drunk Ralph in the pool, but this ends up justified. After initial interviews the chief investigator reveals himself to be a trembling Tilda superfan, gets her autograph and lets them all go. Tilda had previously, not at all convincingly, suggested to him that one of the immigrants flooding onto the island (many dying at sea) could have snuck onto the property, drowned Ralph, stolen nothing and run off. We didn’t realize that Tilda or her friends, in their wealthy bubble, even noticed the immigration crisis in the background noise around them – until it becomes useful to get themselves out of trouble.

Based on a story previously filmed by Jacques Deray with Alain Delon, and by Francois Ozon with Charlotte Rampling. Played in Venice with Anomalisa, Francofonia, Blood of My Blood and 11 Minutes. I finally warmed up to “Emotional Rescue” during the St. Vincent cover over the closing credits.

D. Ehrlich:

There are few better metaphors for the myopia of hedonism than a swimming pool on an island paradise surrounded by the sea … In lesser hands, this could’ve been a Woody Allen movie, but Guadagnino — always with his chef’s hat on — takes the ingredients for a sunbaked creampuff and slowly stirs them into a three-course meal. Working with regular cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, Guadagnino shoots in a sensual register where every shot feels just a hair too perfect to exist anywhere outside the movies. Snap zooms playfully focus on emotions that burst like firecrackers, rhythmic cuts throw you back on style whenever things risk becoming too realistic, and Marianne’s aviator shades reflect every character against their true intentions. Best of all, the soundtrack is wild and true, running the gamut from Harry Nilsson to Popol Vuh.

In the vein of recent self-consciously faux-grindhouse movies like Machete and Hobo With a Shotgun, but this one’s a giallo imitation. Obviously brings to mind Berberian Sound Studio and Amer as well, but aiming for parody through extended reference instead of jokes. I smirked at the obvious dubbing and the Udo Kier cameo, but it comes off as a bad movie parodying bad movies. Writer/directors Brooks and Kennedy also star as the editor and the inspector, respectively, with giant mustaches, and Kennedy’s inspector throws off the balance of the acting. Most everyone plays it straight – or slightly-winking parody-straight – but the Inspector goes big, a dead ringer for Matt Berry’s cocky explorer Dixon Bainbridge on The Mighty Boosh.

Film director Francesco and the inspector:

Lot of straight razors (everybody in the movie has one) and black leather gloves and woman-slapping and flashbacks. Favorite plot point: the inspector’s wife Margarit is the first to discover the bodies of movie-in-the-movie actors Claudio and Veronica, and goes blind from the sight. Everyone makes fun of the editor all the time – he was formerly a renowned editor (there is such a thing?) but sliced off his own fingers in a rage, and now works on shitty movies with his fawning assistant Bella. Either of them would be a prime suspect for the murder spree, which soon claims substitute leading man Cesare. But could top-billed Paz de la Huerta (The Nude Woman in The Limits of Control) as the editor’s wife who is barely in the first half of the movie possibly be involved? Yes!

Didn’t play the pile of extras, just gonna appreciate the surface pleasures of the movie, like the editor beginning to see reel-change marks bleed into real life, and UDO KIER (less awesome than he was in The Forbidden Room but hey, it’s still Udo Kier).

The codirectors previously collaborated on Father’s Day, a Troma movie about a revenge-seeking man named Ahab.

Coming-of-age movie with good reviews. I preferred The Spirit of the Beehive. Older and younger girl work on the family honey farm, compete on an awful traveling reality show hosted by Monica Bellucci (last seen in Shoot ’em Up), but don’t do very well. Also the family gets a mute foreign criminal kid to work for them, part of some rehab program, and he and the oldest girl (terrific Maria Alexandrea Lungu) have a weird kinda-friendship. Lungu has a trick where she puts a bee in her mouth and lets it crawl out, which only reminded me of the superior Limmy version. Spoiler: boy escapes, family loses the farm.

T. Charity in Cinema Scope:

Rohrwacher deftly sketches the stress points within the family, but the film’s real focus is the bond between eldest daughter and father. At the beginning of the summer Gelso is appreciative of her role as Wolfgang’s most trusted helper (as well as default child-minder), even if she’s also dimly apprehensive of her dad’s short fuse, his coercive methods, and obsessive personality. He’s the patriarch, but also an outsider in a house overflowing with women and girls (literally: he sleeps on a mattress out under the stars). Over the course of a couple of months, the film traces how the balance shifts from admiration towards a more nuanced understanding of Wolfgang’s shortcomings, a trajectory from daddy’s girl towards the first stirrings of Gelsomina’s emancipation and womanhood.

M. Sicinski’s letterboxd review is my favorite, but harder to break into quotable pieces.

I’ve always gotten this confused with Charade (starring Audrey Hepburn with Cary Grant) and Holiday (starring a different Hepburn with Cary Grant). This one has no Cary Grant at all, just boring ol’ Gregory Peck. But Audrey is charming, and Greg is better than I’ve ever seen him, and this movie lives up to its lovely reputation.

Audrey is a princess hating her European press tour, so she sneaks off after receiving a sedative and is found, presumed drunk, on the street by noble newspaperman Greg. He shows her around Rome the next day, pretending not to know her identity, while he and cameraman Irving (Eddie Albert, the husband in Green Acres) sneak photos and pre-sell their exclusive story. But after getting to know her better, Greg respects her privacy and withholds the story, giving her the photos as souvenirs.

I’ve seen few Gregory Peck movies (Guns of Navarone, Cape Fear, Spellbound) and none in the last 15 years, so maybe he’s not so bad and I’ve had him confused with Gary Cooper or James Mason. Hepburn won best actress in this, her debut film, and it was nominated for damn near everything else but From Here to Eternity won the rest. We saw the 2002 restoration with then-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo’s names in the opening titles. Coincidentally, a Trumbo bio starring Bryan Cranston as the Roman Holiday writer was playing next door.