Archive for October 19th, 2010

by Joel

#90 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series in which I view, for the first time, some of the most critically acclaimed films of the previous decade.

There are the mysteries that wrap us up in the procedural onscreen, giving us a pleasing diversion and a riddle to solve, and then there are the mysteries which serve as red herrings, MacGuffins for something else. L’Avventura and Blow-Up belong to that latter category, and in The Headless Woman Lucrecia Martel follows suit. But if Michelangelo Antonioni was examining the psychology and spiritual ennui in his 60s classics, Martel’s underlying investigation is primarily social. Vero (Maria Oneta) is driving down a dirt road by herself, returning from a get-together with her friends, mostly middle-class, middle-aged women like herself. Her cell phone rings and she leans over to take the call – the car slams into something, shudders and Vero freezes. We don’t see what she sees – we’re not even sure if she does see anything. She trembles, puts her sunglasses on, takes a few moments and then drives on, massaging her head which she hit in the accident. Looking back out of the car we can see what appears to be a crushed bicycle in the road – but this is not necessarily to say she hit its rider; in the first scene, a few children were chasing one another around and one of them easily could have left his bike in the road. Or so we hope – as does Vero. A torrential downpour has just begun, and as she drives into the rain she does not look back.


Read Full Post »

(Jacques Tourneur, 1942)

(essay by Troy)

Val Lewton’s legacy all starts here, the first of his RKO B-horror films and his first collaboration with Jacques Tourneur.  With Cat People, the two remove the gothic trappings of the then-popular Universal horror movies and bring things into a complex, adult world full of neurosis, psychological hang-ups, and repressions.  Like the other two Lewton films that have preceded it in this countdown (I Walked With A Zombie and The Seventh Victim)*), there’s a somber lyricism at the core along with a fatalistic melancholy creeping beneath the surface.  The films are also marked by their astute ability to delve into such subjects as a distressing obsession with death, the dissection of human duality, unspoken sexual conflicts all done with literate allusions, noir-ish atmosphere, and an impending sense of doom.  Lewton not only made sure these were intelligent affairs, but employed a simple formula to keep their short run times interesting, “a love story, three scenes of suggested horror, and one of actual violence.”

Read Full Post »

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1939 115m) not on DVD

Aka. Tsuchi

Ad flamus!

d  Tomu Uchida  w  Tsutoma Kitamura, Yasutaro Yagi  novel  Takashi Nagatsuka  ph  Michio Midorikawa  m  Akihiro Norimatsu  art  Yasuji Hori

Isamu Kosugi (Kanji), Mieshi Bando (Katsu), Donguriboya (Yokichi), Masako Fuhimura (Tami), Akiko Kasami (Otsugi), Mari Ko (Ohume), Bontaro Miake (Heizo), Chieko Murata (overlord’s wife), Chie Mitsui (Yoshie), Miyoko Sakura (Aki),

Make a note of the director Tomu Uchida.  Take yourself to your PC/laptop/mobile device or whatever you get your internet from and search for him on DVD sites.  Chances are the majority of references will be to his Miyamoto Musashi films of the 1950s, a popular series, but of no real interest to serious cineastes.  The oldest film you will find for him anywhere on a legitimate DVD is from around 1955.  Yet once, long ago, there was a film, some said it was only a myth, called Tsuchi, or Earth.  It was seen as one of the great Japanese films of the 1930s, one of the first realist films of its national cinema, but it was lost – in the allied bombings of World War II one assumes, and like much of the great work of Sadao Yamanaka, it was consigned to the flames of history.  Versions did survive, but only shortened versions, around 93m in length, and it’s in this version I saw it, in a third generation print, ending as abruptly as it started, as if both scenes had been entered and left halfway through, and with unreadable white German subtitles burnt in.  Someone had done English subs over the top, but they were hardly adequate, missing half the dialogue, but it was all we had…and it was enough.  These eyes could peer through the murk, the gloom, and see the masterpiece that lay in piecemeal on the cutting room floor. It had originally been 142m, as near as dammit the exact same duration as the legendary sangraal of the lost cut of Ambersons.  The 2001 restoration got the length back up to 115m, but who ever saw it outside of Japan?  Why did no-one pick it up for release?  Why did Janus films not get off their derrières to release it for Criterion?  All good questions… (more…)

Read Full Post »