Don’t know why I assumed this was not a good movie. I’d seen screen captures from the DVD (some of the same ones I’ve got below) and somehow I still thought it was possible to make a bad movie using those images. It is not. This was astounding.


In a daring but successful shout-out to Feuillade, the story (set in 1910 or 20) is ridiculous. Plot threads do not weave together as in a tapestry of grand design. Each scene seems to have been thought up after the last one was finished filming. This is not a weakness, but adds to the movie’s dreamlike effect.

Master criminal Judex’s evil plans aren’t very broad-ranging in this story. He’s stalking rich guy Favraux acting as his servant, sends a letter demanding Favraux surrender half his fortune or he will die the next night. Next night at the costume ball (seen above), Favraux does die.

But he’s not dead! Imprisoned by Judex!


Daughter Jacqueline is left alone in the house!


She is easy prey for Marie, the swinding ex-governess of the house who returns to steal Favraux’s valuable papers and kidnaps Jac. when she interferes.


But Jac. is rescued by Judex’s dogs!


There’s a private eye named Cocantin (seen below reading Fantomas), originally hired by Favraux, and somehow still involved.


Can he stop Marie?!? Who can??




Ha, not really. Marie has captured Jac again, has her tied up atop a building along with Marie’s accomplice, a man who found his long-lost father earlier after Favraux tried to have the father killed, but that’s another story. Highlight of the movie here, Cocantin is wondering how to get atop that building when a circus caravan rolls past. Why, it’s the circus of his old friend Daisy, an acrobat who easily climbs the building!


Rooftop fight! Marie grabs the gutter! Will she fall??




I think the only actor I knew was Edith Scob as Jacqueline – just saw her as Mary in The Milky Way. Sylva Koscina (Daisy) was in some MST3K-approved Hercules films. Francine Bergé (Marie) was later in Mr. Klein, Rivette’s The Nun and Roger Vadim’s La Ronde remake. Channing Pollock (Judex) was a magician with only a few other film roles. René Génin (Pierre Kerjean) had appeared in Renoir and Carné films in the 30’s. This movie was co-written by Feuillade’s grandson, heh.

G. Gardner with Senses of Cinema:

Franju sought in particular to recapture Feuillade’s sense of documentary and his playfulness. He reproduced with as much exactitude as possible the costumes and settings which Feuillade filmed in scrupulous detail. Feuillade’s street-scapes are now an invaluable documentary record, but Franju also paid particular attention to reproducing the elaborate interior designs and furnishings of the day, resulting in settings of quite extraordinary detail and clutter. Franju also sought, despite the playfulness, to avoid any camp satire of these elements by over-emphasis or any special attention being paid to them.

In the title role, Franju pulled off his most brilliant coup by casting the master prestidigator of his day, near godlike in his handsomeness, Channing Pollock. Pollock’s skills as a magician were employed to produce a dazzling array of apparent magical occurrences involving, most particularly, disappearing doves, a plot device that Feuillade uses to enable the regular rescue of the heroine and others by Judex. Franju’s Judex is a far livelier, less sombre, more inventive and more mysterious character than that of Feuillade.

Supposed to be the first great work by Para(d)janov, whose other work I haven’t seen yet.

young Ivan:

Film is divided into sections. At the end of each one the world turns red, then a bold title card introduces the next. Time is fluid here, sometimes passing slowly, sometimes quickly, and it’s hard to tell how much of it has passed… this is because Parajanov refuses to film anything that is not awesome for purpose of story or character clarification. This is a cine-poem, a work of art, not even the same medium as the David Schwimmer and Jim Carrey and Neil Marshall movies playing in theaters right now.

grown Ivan discovering Marichka’s body:

Only a minute into the film we have a shot from a falling tree’s POV. Later, we see naked children, multiple axe-fights, a long-take shot travelling from a giant raft over an unseen bridge onto shore. Vodka. No sex, but suggested sex. A sorcerer and voodoo dolls, many deaths.


Story is divided in half. When he is young, Ivan(ko)’s brother and father are killed in the same week, he meets a girl (Marichka, daughter of his father’s killer), they grow up in love but she drowns before they can wed. Second half, Ivan is depressed, brightens up enough to marry Palagna, then goes back to being depressed. She just wants to be rid of him, eventually gets her wish.

Actually sounds kind of depressing, but it is so beautifully told (and Ivan meets Marichka in a death dream at the finale, so it’s sort of a happy ending), a pleasure to watch.

Marichka reborn:

There was a movie a few years later, The White Bird Marked with Black, directed by this film’s cinematographer, with the same lead actress (Marichka), written-scored-and-starring our Ivanko.

One tiny little complaint: I wish movies would not blatantly show characters biting into apples when they are about to give in to temptation.


From the esteemed director of The Tichborne Claimant and Sex Traffic comes yet another Harry Potter adventure that I’ll forget three weeks from now. I don’t mind forgetting them though, because I’m looking forward to the mindless six-movie DVD marathon the week before the final movie premieres. So no plot summary.

What We’ve Gained:
Oscar-nominated abortionist Imelda Staunton as a transparently evil teacher.
More Gary Oldman screen time than part 4.

What We’ve Lost:
All the life and energy from Gary Oldman’s performance.
Those broomstick hockey games.
Any sense of art or interest to the proceedings…

Liked it better than Unholy Three because of the super fast pace and more exciting atmosphere, the wonderfully (if not accurately) rendered African setting.

Ron on IMDB helpfully summarizes: “Magician Phroso’s wife Anna leaves him for another man, named Crane, who fights with Phroso and leaves him paralyzed. Later Anna returns and he finds her dead, leaving behind a daughter. For 18 years Phroso, known as “Dead Legs” by his cronies, plots his revenge, becoming a pseudo-king in East Africa, nearby where Crane has set up an ivory business. When the daughter is grown, having lived in a brothel in Zanzibar thanks to “Dead Legs”, Phroso put his plan into action, resulting in revenge and retribution all around.”

Lon Chaney is great as Dead Legs, but the great Lionel Barrymore looked pretty generic to me, failed to stand out as the arch-rival. Young wife Anna quit acting the following year (right before sound films) and lived until 1986. Drunken Doc, who falls in love with the daughter, was Warner Baxter, who won the best-actor oscar that same year in the second annual academy awards, for In Old Arizona, the first full-talkie.

Not to be confused with the 50’s British Ealing Studios West of Zanzibar about a good-hearted man (Story of O actor Anthony Steel with wife Sheila Sim of A Canterbury Tale) fighting ivory pirates.

Was beaten out by a Maurice Pialat film for the Palme d’or at Cannes, but it still won the jury prize (not the GRAND jury prize – I don’t know exactly how things work at Cannes).

Terrific-looking, bizarre film from Mali (large, landlocked, northwest Africa).

Niankoro (N.) has some sort of magical powers. He and his mom have been hiding out, but dad is hot on their trail, so they go off to find help. While she prays in the swamp, pouring milk over herself, N goes looking for an uncle. His father Soma has a magical post (and two non-magical post-carriers, AND a twin brother with his own post) which may lead him to N. N stops in a village, tries to help out, defeats some bandits and offers to help the king impregnate his youngest wife. But then N impregnantes her himself and gets to keep her. N finally gets a wooden wing from the good uncle, combines it with the gem he got from mom, and confronts his dad with apocalyptic results. Overall, it’s sort of a goofy Western. Or a Malian Star Wars?

The web tells me “Yeelen is the adaptation to film of one of the great oral epics of the Bambara people, set in the thirteenth century, during the period of the Mali Empire.” Katy sent me a long PDF file explaining the mythology but I haven’t read it yet.

Movie opens with a rooster being burned to death… Soma also burns an albino man but not on-screen.

Michael Dembrow helpfully interprets:

Though set in a time far from history, Yeelen clearly reflects Mali’s contemporary situation in 1987, when Mali was firmly in the grips of the military dictatorship of Moussa Traoré. Cissé has acknowledged the difficulty that he would have had in mounting a direct critique of the regime: ‘As my own experiences have shown, what you narrate may also put you into trouble. Sometimes in order to survive a hostile environment one is forced, not necessarily to disarm, but to construct a narrative that is not too political nor devoid of pungent criticism of the system’.

It is difficult not to connect Niankoro with the young men and women who were willing to risk their lives for positive change in the last days of the Traoré regime. Looking within the tradition, taking guidance from those elders whose connection with the positive aspects of the tradition remains intact, they are attempting a synthesis of tradition and the modern. These are people who know how to listen to the song of the Sankofa bird–those who heed the values of the past in order to proceed to a moral, community-building vision of the future. From the vantage point of 1987, the film predicts the violent upheavals of 1991 that would produce many sacrifices, but ultimately new hope for the generations to come.

The duel of the dueling-magician movies! Unexpectedly, The Illusionist won.

Prestige is pretty solid, though… a flashy angst-ridden story of magician one-up-manship. Huge Ackman and Christian Batman-Bale are magicians assistants when Bale ties the wrong knot and Huge’s wife drowns during the escape-from-water-tank routine. They go their own ways, but keep sabotaging each other. Huge messes with one of Bale’s trick causing Bale to lose a couple fingers. Bale messes with the guy Huge hires as his double for the teleport routine, gets Huge’s audience to go watch Bale’s own teleport routine which is even better, because Bale is using his secret identical twin brother as his double.

How’d Bale do that? Huge sees Nikola Tesla (a mustachioed David Bowie) to find out. Bowie makes him a crazy device… a Huge Ackman Duplication Machine!! Huge steps into the machine and wammo, one Huge falls through a trap door and dies in the water tank, and the other Huge gets zapped into the balcony where he takes a big bow. Christian Batman-Bale tries to get to the bottom of this and is discovered with one dead Ackman and sentenced to death. Oh and doesn’t his wife kill herself? I think maybe the surviving twin kills Huge at the end, too, but it doesn’t matter.

Stylish, cool looking movie, fun trickery and all that. Acting is all good, too. Both movies had a big trick ending, but this one seems to live for its tricks and torture its characters. Illusionist had a great happy ending, and nice slowly-developing story. That’s the one I’d want to see again, not this bizarre-world flash-fest.

Is there anybody who could watch both of the 2006 period-magician mystery movies and not compare the two? Of course not, so why pretend? I’ve rented ’em both in one weekend.

Surprisingly, this is an understated little movie… a simple trick ending (though I don’t know how Norton could’ve planned the sword-fight between the girl and the prince), simple characters and staging. What’s the deal with police inspector Paul Giamatti being talked up as the best part of the movie, though? Just some post-Sideways holdover I guess. He and Norton and the girl are good, bad guy Rufus Sewell less so.

Ed Norton is a magician who likes the prince’s crush Jessica Biel, and taunts the prince at a party. Prince gets all upset and tries to kill Biel in a drunken rage, but nobody sees the fight so she’s just found dead and the prince isn’t blamed. Norton shuts down, opens a new theater and starts summoning ghosts, eventually bringing up her ghost who, through audience questioning, casts suspicion on the prince for her murder. Prince is brought down, shoots himself in front of Giamatti, and Norton and his not-dead girl live happily after an eerie Giamatti-chase through the streets that is every bit like the ending of The Usual Suspects.

Very likeable movie, subtle (even more so when compared to The Prestige).