Richard III (1955, Laurence Olivier)

Poor crouched Richard (Olivier) sees his brother Edward become king of England, resolves to do something about it. Before Richard in line to the throne is his brother Clarence (John Gielgud), whom he imprisons in the tower and then has assassin Michael Gough (The Horse’s Mouth) murder, then basically guilts the sitting king (Cedric Hardwicke of Suspicion) to his death thinking he’d ordered his own son killed. In the midst of these plots, Richard finds time to relentlessly chase and finally marry the Prince of Wales’s widow Anne (Claire Bloom, Hera in Clash of the Titans), who then mostly disappears from the movie. Next in line: Richard’s young nephew Edward V (Paul Clunes, 12 at the time, a TV writer/producer in the 1980′s), whom Richard cajoles into the tower and has killed. Richard’s cousin Buckingham (prominently-schnozzed Ralph Richardson of The Holly and the Ivy) helps him gain favor to be crowned king, then flees when he finds out about all the murdering, but is soon captured (and murdered) within the span of a single scene. All this murder reminds me of Kind Hearts and Coronets. Finally we break out of the castle, snooze through a talky dream sequence then get a nice battlefield scene vs. golden-wigged Henry (Stanley Baker of Losey’s Eva and Accident) and balding traitor Lord Stanley (Laurence Naismith, Fezziwig in Albert Finney’s Scrooge).

A. Taubin on Olivier: “The echo of Hitler in his vocal delivery was deliberate; the atmosphere of paranoia and the violence and rampant betrayals attendant on Richard’s rise to power struck a nerve. . . Olivier gives us a murderous, fanatical protagonist, legendary in history and all too familiar in the modern world.”

Written in the 1590′s and set in the 1480′s. Alexander Korda’s final production, shot by Otto Heller (Peeping Tom). In adapting from the play, Olivier cut half the women’s parts and borrowed scenes from Henry VI. This is known as one of the best-ever Shakespeare adaptations. It wouldn’t make my top five, though I admit the costumes are mighty colorful and elegant. It’s mostly dudes speaking inscrutably on expansive sets – long and hard to follow and no fun.

Doctor Faustus (1967, Richard Burton & Nevill Coghill)

Basically a Richard Burton heaven-and-hell monologue, plus a few conversations with baldy Andreas Teuber as Mephistophilis, some fleeting glimpses of Liz Taylor, and one fart-joke scene. Idiot Faustus, supposedly a scientist with a thirst for more knowledge though we never see anything scholarly beyond some lab equipment in the first scenes, signs a deal with the devil – his soul in exchange for all the power and riches he wants for the next 24 years. But Faustus (who speaks his own name roughly twice per sentence, lest we forget it) doesn’t want to be king, he wants only to impress the current king with his magic tricks. We don’t know what other powers he has or desires, since he seems to spend all 24 years fretting about the bargain he made instead of enjoying it, being tormented by angel voices emanating from a cool arrow-pierced mannequin in his lab. Sounds like theater but it looks like a proper film, full of cool effects and dissolves.

Charulata (1964, Satyajit Ray)

Gorgeous movie. Looks different from the Apu flicks: strange angles and camera follows, and some stills at the end. Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee, also of The Big City and The Coward) is a bored, rich housewife whose husband Bhupati is too busy with work on his newspaper, so he gets his cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee, Apu in the third movie) to come hang out with her, which sparks her creativity as she and Amal both try to get stories published. What will happen when the neglected housewife spends all her time with an energetic young man? As a hint, the source novel was titled The Broken Nest. And while the husband’s relative is with his wife, Charulata’s relatives are supposed to be working on the newspaper but rob the accounts and skip town.

P. Kemp

It’s widely believed that the story was inspired by [author] Tagore’s relationship with his sister-in-law, Kadambari Devi, who committed suicide in 1884 for reasons that have never been fully explained. Kadambari, like Charulata, was beautiful, intelligent, and a gifted writer, and toward the end of his life, Tagore admitted that the hundreds of haunting portraits of women that he painted in his later years were inspired by memories of her.

Bastards (2013, Claire Denis)

One of those grimy revenge dramas in which the filmmaker seems to be asking if the rewards of revenge are worth the costs, further complicated by the revenge-seeker getting his facts wrong. The way Denis parcels out information in context-free fragments, I don’t blame the guy for being confused.

Vincent Lindon (Friday Night) is back in town (after fleeing his family to be a sailor) because his sister Sandra’s husband has killed himself, and their daughter Justine (Lola Créton of Bluebeard and Goodbye First Love) is receiving medical attention for a horrible sexual assault. He sells all his possessions for cash, and goes after the guy he assumes is to blame for all this, the dead guy’s former business partner Michael Subor.

So Vincent gets involved with Subor’s younger wife Raphaelle (Chiara Mastroianni of Love Songs, A Christmas Tale). Subor realizes this, takes their son and splits, saying she needs to get away from that awful family – and in the final confrontation, Vincent struggles with Subor and Raphaelle shoots Vincent dead. It’s just as well. Turns out Justine’s dead father was responsible for her abuse, aided by a slimy (pimp? drug dealer?) played by Gregoire Colin of 35 Shots of Rum. Justine kills Colin and herself in a car crash. The movie had a few asthetic pleasures, but story seemed more sordid than usual, and I ended up angry with everyone involved (except Alex Descas, who only has a cameo).

Apparently inspired by Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well. R. Koehler says “it marries her interest in narrative jumps, classical tragedy” and “the workings of capitalism.”

Venezia 70 Future Reloaded (2013), part 3

The Venice Film Festival posted 70-ish short films online to commemorate their 70th anniversary. I watched them gradually over the past year. Already rounded up my favorites and least favorites – this is the rest.

Krzysztof Zanussi

Kids haul a film can containing Zanussi’s Venice prize-winning A Year of the Quiet Sun from a trash can.

Sono Sion

“Cinema’s Future is My Future” title cards. An excited man films things in a neon room. A crowd chants “seventy!”

Antonio Capuano

Green-haired teen zombies carry video cubes on subway station escalators.

Tariq Teguia

“Still, tomorrow’s cinema will be saying: someone is here.”
He has a Film Socialisme poster. Show-off.

James FrancoThe Future of Cinema

FF Coppola says he hopes filmmaking professionalism will be destroyed and regular people will be able to make them. Then some vandals trash a house and it looks like we’re watching the framing story of V/H/S. Then all goes berzerk, and Franco appears, laughing amidst the chaos.

Pablo Larraín

Camera perched atop one of those sail-surfboards looking down, piano playing a riff on “My Blue Heaven”.

Nicolás Pereda

Single shot of couple in bed playing on their phones, unseriously discussing getting married.

Wang Bing

A guy works the land, comes home to his horrible, fly-infested cave.

Kim Ki-dukMy Mother

Kim films his own mother going to the store (slowly and painfully), buying cabbage and prepping dinner for his visit.

Edgar Reitz

Franz Kafka is moved by a film, walks outside into the present-day world of everpresent video screens and advertising. Searching for the source of his quote (“Went to the movies. Wept.”) led to an interesting-looking book called Kafka Goes to the Movies.

Pablo TraperoCinema Is All Around

iPhone videos of tourists taking photos at a waterfall while Doris Day sings Que Sera Sera.

Jia Zhang-ke

People watch old movies on new screens.
Unusually commercial-looking style for Jia.

João Pedro RodriguesAllegoria Della Prudenza

Grave sites (there are multiple) for Kenji Mizoguchi in the whispering wind. Cameo appearance by the grave of Portuguese director Paulo Rocha.

Peter Ho-Sun ChanThe Future Was In Their Eyes

Photo montage of the eyes of many dead filmmakers.

Isabel Coixet

A square little film sketch with bouncy music.

Haile Gerima

He’s in an edit suite reviewing Harvest: 3000 Years. “I am incarcerated in the historical circumstances of Africa. Our cinema is a hostaged cinema.”

Atom EgoyanButterfly

He lets us see video of an Anton Corbijn gallery exhibit before deleting it from his phone. “Frankly I can’t be bothered to store more useless memories that I’ll never look at again, so I have to make some choices of what to lose.”

Hong Sang-soo50:50

Guy smokes with a stranger, tells her that his wife, sitting on a nearby bench, is terribly ill.

Celina Murga

Theater full of kids watch a movie.

Hala Alabdalla

Driving through Syria shooting through a window with a beard-n-sunglasses silhouette stuck on. Then: close-ups of eyeballs.

Pietro Marcello

Silent stock footage and clips of film equipment at work, then a Guy Debord quote.

Jan CvitkovicI Was a Child

Nice moving camera while narrator tells of when she first realized that everything is god.

Jazmín López

Camera follows a trail of discarded objects to two identically-dressed girls making out.

Amir NaderiDon’t Give Up

Aged film of dust storm on a dead sea cut with some present-day film storage room.

Alexey German Jr.5000 Days Ahead

Single travelling shot, people on a beach discussing movies of the future, personal experiences using neural transmitters, “like dreams with subtitles.”

Benoît Jacquot

Single take of a girl looking into camera.

John Akomfrah

B/W travel footage rapidly edited, closing with titles about the Boston Marathon bombing.

Shekhar Kapur

Bunch of short fragments using the white balance and focus in nonstandard ways.

Davide FerrarioLighthouse

Open-air cinema is playing Buster Keaton, shown with nice helicopter(?) shot.

Ermanno OlmiLa Moviola

So that’s what a moviola looks like. Hands and a sort of stop-motion/time-lapse ghost set it up and start it rolling.

Giuseppe Piccioni

We’re at a party, dude goes to get a drink for the girl in center of shot, and she slowly glides with the camera into the other room, audio from a climactic scene from Double Indemnity in her head, then back again.

Brillante MendozaThe Camera

A movie is being filmed, shots of people across town already enjoying it on TV, but back on set someone has run off with the camera.

Monte Hellman

Slate, couple at a cafe, he pays and leaves while she silently cries, the traffic noise dialing down, slow pull in, then “cut”.

Teresa VillaverdeAmapola

Poem recital like a horror-movie bible reading, “jackals that the jackals would despise,” blurry TV sets with close-ups of faces upon them.

Guido LombardiSensa Fine

Last shot of a film, the lead actors kiss, then won’t stop kissing.

Shirin Neshat

Scenes from October and Potemkin played with a stop-motion-looking low frame-rate.

Chef (2014, Jon Favreau)

Simple, straightforward, obvious movie full of affable people, a pleasant diversion with some delicious-looking food but probably not even as great/interesting as something like Waitress.

Favreau’s smallest film in over a decade, but probably didn’t feel small since he was writer/director/producer/star/cook. Although it might’ve been ghostwritten by Twitter. His movie star friends come along – Avengers Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. play his restaurant hostess and ex-wife’s ex-husband. Sofia Vergara (vengeful brothel mistress of Machete Kills) is the still-friendly ex-wife, Dustin Hoffman the chef’s boss, Oliver Platt the restaurant critic who sends Favreau on a road-trip journey of self-discovery, starting from scratch and remembering what he loved about cooking (alongside longtime assistant John Leguizamo) and reconnecting with his favorite regional dishes and his 10-year-old son and ex-wife and finally making up with the critic (but not with Dustin Hoffman) and opening his own place and getting remarried.

Belle (2013, Amma Asante)

I found it funny that Dido (“Belle”) calls her sister-cousin Elizabeth “Beth” (sounds like Bête).

Director Amma Asante is daughter to immigrants from Ghana, sadly no relation to Armand Assante.

The painting is nice – both the fake one in the movie and the real one they show over the credits.

Talk of the Town (1942, George Stevens)

Cute comedy, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that’d be nominated for seven oscars, but there you have it. Town malcontent Cary Grant is arrested for a trumped-up charge. Everyone knows he’ll be killed by the town mob, so he escapes and hides out in old schoolmate Jean Arthur’s house. But she’s fixing it up for visiting law professor Ronald Colman, and when he arrives early, she arranges to stay in the house as his secretary so she can take care of Grant, keeping him hidden away from Colman in the attic. Colman is a self-important Good Man who refuses to deal with real people in real situations, preferring to stay apolitical and theoretical as he’s about to be appointed to the Supreme Court, so Arthur and Grant arrange run-ins between him and the corrupt town officials that are rigging Grant’s case, convincing him to bring his great influence into play.

Jean Arthur would be in Stevens’s The More The Merrier the following year, which I thought about while watching this – Jean and two guys in a single living space trying not to run into each other. Grant was between Suspicion and Once Upon a Honeymoon, and Colman played amnesiac in Random Harvest the same year. “This is a great country is it not?” I was happy to recognize the commie from Trouble In Paradise ten years later as a borscht peddler.

Sleepwalk With Me (2012, Mike Birbiglia)

The movie version of the Mike Birbiglia album. Not as much actual comedy as I would’ve liked, but great ending. Troubled-relationship plots and video of people picking glass out of bloody cuts both make Katy freak out a little, but she generally liked it.

Looks like Mike has a new special called My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose plays his girlfriend, and great character actors James Rebhorn and Carol Kane his parents. Cameos by David Wain, Marc Maron, Ira Glass, Kristen Schaal and John Lutz.