Still stuck in 2021-catchup until we get to the next Chaplin. This was a mid-1980’s ensemble movie where every one of the 20 lead characters is “the crazy one.” It’s like Vampire’s Kiss if Nicolas Cage played all the parts. For a while I was over the moon, but an hour in I hit my fill of wackiness.

After a successful bank robbery, the four thieves led by Tchéky Karo (Full Moon in Paris) meet a new friend on the train, latch onto Sophie Marceau (of a Pialat the same year), then declare war on the four Venin brothers who wronged her. Leon from the train (Francis Huster, star of Demy’s Parking the same year) takes over as the lead, falling for Karo’s girl Marceau, his eyes glowing yellow when he gets overeager. I lost track of everyone else, all of whom end up dead anyway, but a guy from Amer was in there, a guy from Malle’s The Lovers, a character named Andrzej Zulawski – and a flamethrower. Inspired by The Idiot, but certainly doesn’t follow that novel’s storyline… still, with the Bresson, I made an accidental Dostoevsky double-feature.

Thought I’d pair this with the Coen version, not realizing the latter wouldn’t come out till early next year. A terrific looking movie, reportedly in part due to newly-designed anamorphic lenses – almost technically impeccable, a few dubbing issues. I like the idea of turning parts of the monologues into voiceover, although it means the actors have to silently react to their overheard thoughts, which is harder to pull off than speaking the lines. It gets gruesome between Macduff’s slaughtered kids, the king’s guards being dismembered, and a man taking a crossbow bolt to the forehead – also some clumsy clanking armor battles (these are all compliments). The only time I felt the 1970’s was in the “dagger I see before me” scene.

Polanski’s first film after his wife was murdered – he’d been prepping What? but thought it’d appear crass(er), and Hugh Hefner(!) was looking to add respectability by getting into the Shakespeare business and losing a bunch of money. Opens with the witches on a beach… the second prophecy scene is zany, and culminates in a good mirror scene.

In the chronology of filmed Macbeths, Werner Schroeter’s obscure hourlong TV version came out the same year, a TV miniseries the year before, but there hadn’t been a major film since Throne of Blood. The next would probably be in ’79, the TV movie with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. Never heard of a single person in the cast, besides MacB (Frenzy star Jon Finch). Lady M Francesca Annis would star in back-to-back sci-fi epics Krull and Dune. Macduff would become a Gilliam regular, and Banquo was in Dennis Potter’s Cream in My Coffee.

Macduff would like some revenge please:

This was pretty good, and less than half the length of Woodlands Dark & Days Bewitched, which I watched as an extended intro. After his men and horses died with bright red paint for blood, romantic lead Ian Ogilvy (Puppet Master 5 and a Peter Cushing haunted junk shop movie called From Beyond the Grave) returns home to marry his beloved Sara (Hilary Dwyer, who’d return to Vincent Price and witches in Cry of the Banshee) with the blessing of her preacher dad. Meanwhile, Vincent Price is going from town to town with his brute beardo torturer sidekick Robert Russell (of the pre-Revenant Man in the Wilderness) getting paid for ferreting out witches, who are drowned using the Monty Python & The Holy Grail technique or burned or whatever’s convenient.

Villains:

Next time Ian is away, the witchfinders roll into town. Price’s game is to get cash and get hot women. Sara agrees to sleep with him for a time, but he drowns her dad and brands her a witch, and Ian forgives her (weird for a dude in a period film) then sets to hunting the hunters. Price is on the outs with Beardo and has to hire a substitute torturer in the next town, finally gets beaten to death when Ian catches up.

Appreciate that the townspeople left her alone except to enter her house with ladders and put up this witch sign like a happy birthday banner:

Reeves and DP John Coquillon (soon to join Peckinpah) acquit themselves nicely, with a lotta zooms, some nicely framed closeups, a real cool water-to-fire transition. The sound editor however had a minute of anguished cries and kept looping them.

No Sudden Move has lost its status as the year’s most grotesque use of a wide-angle lens, courtesy of some Abu Ghraib flashbacks that turn Oscar Isaac and Willem Dafoe into carnival-mirror dwarfs. Isaac served time for torturing the enemy while his superiors stayed free and rich, and a fellow torturer’s son Tye Sheridan tries to rope Isaac into a revenge plot, but Isaac wants to stay cool and quietly win card games using Tiffany Haddish’s money. Nice to see a movie where cooler heads prevail, the kid is set straight and Isaac gets the girl… oh no, that’s not what happens, two people die and Isaac goes back to jail. I can’t decide how I feel about it – the tone felt off, or maybe I just felt weird being at the Grand all by myself, anxiously trying not to expect First Reformed 2.

Irene barely survives a violent home invasion, her family killed, her dad Johnny Hallyday (Man on the Train) visits in a Macau hospital and swears revenge. But Johnny’s not an elite killer getting dragged back into the business, he’s just a French restauranteur with a fading memory. He runs across a team of hitmen played by the Johnnie To superstars Suet Lam, Anthony Wong and Lam “Bo in Sparrow” Ka-Tung and they can fit his revenge scheme into their schedule. Of course since their boss is Simon Yam and he barely appears in the first half of the movie, I guessed the (very satisfying) second half would pit our doomed men against their own organization. Since there’s a French lead actor, this was able to play in competition at Cannes, but got robbed by Haneke and Audiard.

I pulled out the earliest Johnnie To movie I could find, thinking “surely his visual and character quirks and his tendency to upend expected narrative weren’t fully developed yet,” but yup, they were. These movies are so stylish and unpredictable, and I could watch them forever.

Boss alliance:

Jack (Leon Lai of Fallen Angels) and cowboy Martin (Ching Wan Lau, the Mad Detective himself) are rival enforcers for crime lords, and when their bosses team up and go straight, their men are left crippled, unemployed and forgotten. After a wheelchair-improvement montage they take righteous revenge on their former organization(s).

Jack up high, Martin down low:

Knots Landing and Family Plot star William Devane is a traumatized war vet who is pleasantly dispassionate to the investigating cops after his family is murdered and the killers run his hand through the sink disposal. Now with a hook hand, he gathers up war buddy Tommy Lee Jones and takes a revenge trip to Mexico.

Can pretty young Linda Haynes break through Devane’s armor? No

The year after Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader not a fan: “Schrader [says] he basically wrote a film about fascism, and the studio made a fascist film.” Looking up where I knew the director’s name from… wouldn’t have guessed Brainscan!

It’s Cannes Fortnight 2021! I was gonna watch this anyway, eventually, then noticed there’s a new Gaspar playing Cannes this year, so “eventually” became now. In in the mood for some cinema after taking things easy post-True/False, rounding up some recent Cannes titles I missed, and some by this year’s crop of directors.

Wonked-out closing/opening credits sequence, then the camera spirals and weaves around a courtyard, Massive Attack’s La Protection Centrale. I didn’t know what was happening for a good long time, the I Stand Alone guy philosophizing with anonymous Frenchman Albert Dupontel (a war survivor in A Very Long Engagement), but it becomes clear as the movie woozily whips us through the rest of the story in reverse order. I was gonna say it takes us from one sordid scene to another, but that’d be underselling one of the most extremely sordid films of the last twenty years. I read a piece recently, thought it was by Charles Bramesco but can’t find it now so who knows, calling Promising Young Woman a weaksauce take on the rave/revenge story, and it came to mind a few times while watching this, a decidedly strongsauced rape/revenge story, because is that such a desirable thing? Is the point to seek out the most extreme rape/revenge cinema? Ultimately, the “time destroys all things” thesis, the film title and the reverse-action gimmick framing the horrors had me appreciating this much more than, say, Revenge, though I can’t feel naughtily transgressive about liking a movie that comes highly recommended by every critic I respect.

“Our tolerance was a mistake.” After the poisoning death of a martial arts master, a brown-suited dude is sent to insult and challenge his disciples during the memorial service, a crass move that earns the wrath of disciple Bruce Lee. This starts out way better than The Big Boss by pitting Bruce against forty guys early on instead of waiting for the second half – “Next time I’ll make you eat the glass.”

The titular fist:

Lee’s confuse-o-vision technique:

This is Shanghai, and all the villains are Japanese. Not a master of history, I’d forgotten that the Japanese colonized parts of China throughout the 1930’s and I was amazed at their nerve. Bruce goes on a righteous rampage through the city, smashing racist Japanese in their jerk faces, then in case we’re tempted to feel bad for them, the Japanese massacre all of Bruce’s friends (including poor James Tien again). There is a love interest, just barely, and a couple of fun disguises. The big boss sports an absurd long mustache and has hired an English-speaking Russian tough who fights in a bow-tie – Bruce punches a guy’s dick off before taking them on, the action in this movie always great. Same as The Big Boss, the army closes in on Bruce post-killing-spree. Must see Lo Wei’s New Fist of Fury, a sequel starring Jackie Chan in his first major role.

love interest Nora Miao:

the big boss Chikara Hashimoto: