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Archive for the ‘Allan’s 90s Countdown’ Category

(France/Poland 1993 104m) DVD1/2

Aka. Trois Couleurs: Bleu

270641196

p  Marin Karmitz  d  Krzysztof Kieslowski  w  Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Krzysztof Kieslowski  ph  Slawomir Idziak  ed  Jacques Witta  m  Zbigniew Preisner  art  Claude Lenoir

Juliette Binoche (Julie), Benoît Régent (Olivier), Florence Pernel (Sandrine), Charlotte Véry (Lucille), Hélène Vincent (journalist), Claude Duneton (Doctor), Hugues Quester (Patrice), Emmanuelle Riva (Mère), Philippe Volter, Julie Delpy, Zbigniew Zamachowski,

What sort of a tagline is that, I hear you ask?  In the movie it’s merely an account number, but it’s one of those rare almost frighteningly prophetic numbers in cinema.  You see, 270641 is Kieslowski’s birthday, leaving just the last three numbers 196; Kieslowski died, prematurely of heart failure at 54, in 1996.  A coincidence, for sure, but a rather disconcerting one.  And talking of disconcerting, this is a very disconcerting film, probably the most cerebral of the trilogy.  It’s also possibly disconcerting in another non-existent meaning; someone who goes out of their way to stop a concerto being heard might be said to be disconcerting.  Such is the attitude of Juliette Binoche here.  This is a film about grief and the ways we cope with it.  People have been known to cope with grief in bizarre, selfish and even cruel ways (think of Samantha Morton’s Morvern Callar, for example; body in the bath anyone?).  But Binoche, Kieslowski and Piesewicz make her pain almost unbearable.  When she is asked by her maid at her old country house why she is crying, the maid replies “because you’re not.”  She’s crying not just because she’s upset, but because the most affected person is so upset she can’t even show it.  (more…)

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la belle noiseuse 1

(France 1991 239m) DVD1/2

We want truth in painting

Martine Marignac  d  Jacques Rivette  w  Pascal Bonitzar, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette  story  “Le Chef d’Oeuvre Inconnu” by Honoré de Balzac  ph  William Lubtchansky  ed  Nicole Lubtchansky  m  Igor Stravinsky  art  Emmanuel de Chauvigny

Michel Piccoli (Edouard Frenhofer), Jane Birkin (Liz), Emmanuelle Béart (Marianne), Marianne Denicourt (Julienne), David Bursztein (Nicolas), Giles Arbona (Porbus),

Jacques Rivette is probably the most individual director of the acknowledged greats of the nouvelle vague, a director of a purely personal vision, one which may alienate as many as it entrances but which remains wholly original.  His 1991 study in the creative artistic process qualifies as a Rivettian subject in more ways than one.  Not only is the film itself one to split audiences down the middle, but so too is the eponymous painting itself.  In truth, the finished article (or should one say articles, as he bricks his original up rather than have people see it) is not one that I could say I really appreciated remotely enough to confer with the notion of his being a genius, but it’s the process itself that is under the microscope here.  Well, that and the human soul.  (more…)

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la conf 1

(USA 1997 136m) DVD1/2

Paging Rollo Tomassi

p  Arnon Milchan, Curtis Hanson, Michael Nathanson  d  Curtis Hanson  w  Curtis Hanson, Brian Helgeland  novel  James Ellroy  ph  Dante Spinotti  ed  Peter Honess  m  Jerry Goldsmith  art  Jeannine Oppewall  cos  Ruth Myers

Kevin Spacey (Sgt.Jack Vincennes), Guy Pearce (Lt.’Ed’ Exley), Russell Crowe (Off.Bud White), James Cromwell (Capt.Dudley Smith), Kim Basinger (Lynn Bracken), Danny de Vito (Sid Hudgens), David Strathairn (Pierce Patchett), Graham Beckel (Dick Stensland), Ron Rifkin (D.A.Ellis Loew), Matt McCoy (Brett Chase), Paul Guilfoyle (Mickey Cohen), Amber Smith (Susan Lefferts), Darrell Sandern (Buzz Meeks), Simon Baker Denny (Matt Reynolds), Shawnee Free Jones (Tammy Jordan), Tomas Arana (Breuning), Michael McCleery (Carlisle), Gwenda Dracon (Mrs Lefferts), Brenda Bakke (Lana Turner),

Of all the great films released in the nineties, few could have been greeted with such joyous surprise as LA Confidential.  Firstly it was directed by someone who, up until that time, had seemed no more than a journeyman director and, secondly, it was a throwback to the old fashioned noirish dialogue and seedy atmosphere of the forties, with added modern censorables.  Furthermore, if it still isn’t as complex or delicious as the novel on which it is based and the finale does slightly disappoint, it’s still a damn near magnificent achievement that also showcased new talents in front of the camera. (more…)

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Lone Star (no 13)

lone star 1

(USA 1996 134m) DVD1

A sixty room hotel with bars on the windows

p  Maggie Renzi, Paul Miller  d/w  John Sayles  ph  Stuart Dryburgh  ed  John Sayles  m  Mason Daring  art  Dan Bishop  cos  Shay Cunliffe

Chris Cooper (Sam Deeds), Elizabeth Peña (Pilar Cruz), Joe Morton (Col.Delmore Payne), Miriam Colon (Mercedes Cruz), Ron Canada (Otis Payne), Clifton James (Hollis Pogue), Kris Kristofferson (Charlie Wade), Frances McDormand (Bunny), Matthew McConaughey (Buddy Deeds), Eddie Robinson (Chet Payne), Stephen Mendillo (Cliff), Stephen J.Lang (Mickey), Joe Stevens (Deputy Travis), Richard Coca (Enrique), Jeff Monahan (young Hollis), Latanya Richardson (Priscilla Worth),

Welcome to the world of John Sayles, the modern master of cinema’s small town community autopsies.  To be more accurate, welcome to Mexican border town Frontera, in Rio County, Texas, a veritable melange of culture clashes, bitter resentment and racial tension (or, as Chris Cooper’s sheriff sarcastically calls it, “gateway to inexpensive pussy”).    Though Sayles has made other superb studies of small town communities in crisis (Matewan, the brilliant City of Hope and Sunshine State in particular), Lone Star is his finest work, a film that shows how the shadow of the past can linger and darken a community years on. (more…)

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Heimat 2 (No 14)

heimat 2 1

(Germany 1992 1,059m) DVD1/2

Aka. Die Zweite Heimat; Heimat: The Next Generation

Art or life?

p  Joachim Von Mengershausen, Edgar Reitz  d/w  Edgar Reitz  ph  Gernot Roll, Gerard Vandenberg, Christian Reitz  ed  Susanne Hartmann  m  Nikos Mamangakis  art  Franz Bauer  cos  Billie Brassers, Nikola Hoelz

Henry Arnold (Hermann Simon), Salome Kaller (Clarissa Lichtblau), Gisela Muller (Evelyne Cerphal), Anke Sevenich (Schnüsschen), Noemi Stauer (Helga), Lena Lessing (Olga), Daniel Smith (Juan), Eva Maria Bayerwaltes (Aunt Pauline), Eva Maria Schneider (Marie-Goot), Michael Seyfried (Ansgar), Michael Schönborn (Alex), László I.Kich (Reinhard), Peter Weiss (Rob), Frank Roth (Stefan), Armin Fuchs (Volker), Hanna Köhler (Frau Moretti), Susanne Lothar (Esther), Anna Thalbach (Trixi), Alfred Edel (Herr Edel), Ivan Desny (René Christian), Franziske Traub (Renate), Edith Behleit (Mother Lichtblau), Hannelore Hoger (Frau Cerphal), Kurt Wagner (Glasisch),

Heimat was, upon its release in 1984, regarded as an unquestionable masterpiece and, for its director, a summit he could not hope to top.  After all, how does one go higher than Everest?  The answer of course is that you don’t, you tackle the Eiger.  And that’s just what he did with this sequel, making the cinematic equivalent to the North Face of the Eiger.  True, not the height or scope of Everest, but the period it did cover was covered so meticulously, and was so important and challenging as to represent the most difficult option open to him.  Ask any mountain climber, what would they rather climb, Everest or the North Face of the Eiger, they’d head off to Nepal every time. (more…)

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brighter summer day 1

(Taiwan 1991 237m) not on DVD

Aka. Guling Jie Shaonian Sha Ren Shijan

Love is not fun and games

p  Yu Welyan  d  Edward Yang  w  Edward Yang, Yan Hongya, Yang Shunqing, Lai Mingtang  ph  Zhang Hulgong, Li Longyu  ed  Chen Bowen  art  Yu Welyan, Edward Yang 

Liu Zhiming (Ming), Zhang Zhen (Xiao S’ir), Zhang Guozhu (Zhang Ju), Elaine Jin (Mrs Zhang), Wang Juan (Juan), Zhang Han (Lao Er), Jiang Xiuqiong (Qiong), Lai Fanyun (Yun),

It’s fair enough to say that, up until the mid eighties, Taiwanese cinema was generally supposed to be pretty much summed up in the martial arts spectaculars of King Hu.  Then along came Hou Hsiao-Hsien, an eclectic and sometimes impenetrable director who gave his nation’s cinema its own identity.  Yet despite Hou’s unforgettable The Time to Live and the Time to Die, it was left to his compatriot, Edward Yang, to make what I consider the greatest of all Taiwanese works, A Brighter Summer Day. (more…)

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 our-friends-2-copy

another in the TV classics series

(UK 1996 628m) DVD2

Because tomorrow’s too late

p  Charles Pattinson  d  Pedr James, Simon Cellan Jones, Stuart Urban  w  Peter Flannery  ph  John Daly, Simon Kossoff, John Kenway ed  Greg Miller  m  Colin Towns  art  Rob Hinds

Christopher Eccleston (Nicky Hutchinson), Daniel Craig (Geordie Peacock), Gina McKee (Mary Soulsby), Mark Strong (Tosker Cox), Peter Vaughan (Felix Hutchinson), Freda Dowie (Lorrie Hutchinson), Daniel Casey (Anthony Cox), Tracey Wilkinson (Elaine Craig), David Bradley (Eddie Wells), Malcolm McDowell (Benny Barratt), Alun Armstrong (Austin Donohue), Tony Haygarth (Roy Johnson), Saskia Wickham (Claudia Seabrook), Donald Sumpter (Harold Chapple), David Schofield (John Salway), Daniel Webb (Ron Conrad), Peter Jeffrey (Colin Blamire), Nicholas Selby (Sir Edward Jones), Louise Salter (Julia Allen), Angeline Ball (Daphne), George Sweeney (Leonard Harris), Geoffrey Hutchings (John Edwards), Jo MacInnes (Francine Volker), Julian Fellowes (Claude Seabrook), Terence Rigby (Berger),

There are some works in all art-forms that defy convention, that break rules and are imperishable to the mind’s eye.  Peter Flannery’s monumental TV drama of the mid-nineties is just that and more.  Of all the British TV dramas in this selection, along with numerous European TV masterpieces from directors as important as Kieslowski, Fassbinder, Bergman, Reitz and Syberberg, more than any other this masterpiece belongs up there with them in the stratosphere.  This is, in many ways, the British Heimat, and also comparable to the later drama The Best of Youth which covered a similar period in time in Italian history.  For anyone who lived through the period of 1964-1995, this is not just compulsive viewing, it’s like reading your own life story. (more…)

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raise the red 1

(China 1991 125m) DVD1/2 (Japan only)

Aka. Da Hong Deng Long Gao Gao Gua

Isn’t that a woman’s fate?

p  Chiu Fu-Sheng  d  Zhang Yimou  w  Ni Zhen  story  “Wives and Concubines” by Su Tong  ph  Zhao Fei  ed  Du Yuan  m  Zhao Jiping  art  Cao Jiuping, Dong Huamiao

Gong Li (Songlian, Fourth Mistress), Ma Jingwu (Chen Zuoqian, The Master), He Caifei (Meishan, Third Mistress), Cao Cuifeng (Zhuoyan, Second Mistress), Jin Shuyuan (Yuru, First Mistress), Kong Lin (Yan’er), Ding Weimin (Songlian’s mother), Cui Zhigang (Doctor Gao), Chu Xiao (Feipu),

The third of the six collaborations between director Yimou and Gong Li, Raise the Red Lantern may well be the coldest film of the sextet.  It also pushes Ju Dou very close to the honour of being the best.  One is drawn into the story from the very matter-of-factness of the opening scene, in which the nineteen year old Songlian discusses her prospects with her mother upon the death of her father.  Songlian sees no out but to marry a rich man.  “Marry a rich man and you’ll be his concubine” her mother warns.  “Then I’ll be a concubine”, she replies emotionlessly.  “Isn’t that a woman’s fate?

            In 1920s China, Songlian, daughter to a recently deceased father, becomes the Fourth wife (or Mistress as they are called) to the head of a powerful, long-standing family, Chen Zuoqian.  His four wives live in separate quarters within his estate, each trying by hook or by crook to obtain his favour for the privileges it brings with it.  The master chooses which wife he will sleep with on any given night by having red lanterns placed in front of her door.  In addition, Songlian also makes an enemy out of a sullen serving girl who herself had dreams of becoming the Fourth Mistress. (more…)

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thin red line 1

(USA 1998 170m) DVD1/2

Isaste san palikarta mu

p  Robert Michael Giesler, John Roberdeau, Grant Hill  d  Terrence Malick  w  Terrence Malick  novel  James Jones  ph  John Toll  ed  Billy Weber, Leslie Jones  m  Hans Zimmer (including “In paradisum” by Fauré)  art  Jack Fisk  cos  Margot Wilson

Sean Penn (Sgt.Welsh), Adrien Brody (Cpl.Fife), Jim Caviezel (Pvt.Witt), Nick Nolte (Lt.Col.Tall), Ben Chaplin (Pvt.Bell), Elias Koteas (Sgt.Staros), Woody Harrelson (Sgt.Keck), John Cusack (Capt.Gaff), George Clooney (Capt.Bosche), John C.Reilly (Sgt.Storm), John Travolta (Brig.Gen.Quintard), John Savage (Sgt.McCron), Jared Leto (2nd Lt.Whyte), Dash Mihok (Pvt.Doll), Tim Blake Nelson (Pvt.Tills), Miranda Otto (Marty Bell), Kirk Acevedo (Pvt.Tella), Arie Verveen (Pvt.Dale),

At the end of the seventies, the future for Terrence Malick, esq. looked rosy.  Critical acclaim and cult status had been bestowed on his debut feature Badlands, while his follow up, Days of Heaven, though finding no real audience, did contain some of the most gorgeous imagery of its decade and some sublime reworkings of Saint Saëns by Ennio Morricone.  And yet it was twenty years before his third film was announced, and it was not without some anticipation that it was greeted.  Malick’s film is an adaptation of that most popular of authors, James Jones, who had also provided the source material for From Here to Eternity and Some Came Running, as well as an earlier, uninspiring version of Line by Andrew Marton in 1964.  It might at first have seemed a strange choice, and it’s one that can take some time to adjust to, but, once that adjustment is made, it’s hypnotic.    Line is set in the middle of World War II and tells the story of a group of servicemen, from the brass hats through the brave lesser officers to the plain privates, who fought in the South Pacific at Guadalcanal.  And that’s it really, but it’s what the film says that really hits home.  This is not the propaganda of the Preston Foster and Richard Conte flick, but a stately, contemplative, ruminative and well nigh magnificent treatise on the futility of war and its after effects.  Of course many films have had the same mission statement, and Malick even pays homage to some of them (most memorably All Quiet on the Western Front with its diverse shots of gorgeous butterflies), but what Malick is showing is not so much that ‘war is hell’, as ‘hell is a place in paradise’.  Never was a war film shot in such an ethereal location as these islands; as the opening line in the film states, “why this war in the heart of nature?  Why does nature vie with itself?”  (more…)

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Fargo (no 19)

fargo 1

(USA 1996 97m) DVD1/2

The three cent stamp

p  Ethan Coen  d  Joel Coen  w  Joel Coen, Ethan Coen  ph  Roger Deakins  ed  Roderick Jaynes (Joel & Ethan Coen)  m  Carter Burwell  art  Rick Heinrichs

Frances McDormand (Marge Gunderson), William H.Macy (Jerry Lundegaard), Steve Buscemi (Carl Showalter), Peter Stormare (Gaer Grimsrud), Harve Presnell (Wade Gustafson), John Carroll Lynch (Norm Gunderson), Kristin Rudrud (Jean Lundegaard), Tony Denman (Scotty Lundegaard), Bruce Bohne (Lou), Gary Houston, Sally Wingert, Kurt Schweickhardt, Larissa Kokernot, Melissa Peterman, Warren Keith, Steven Reevis,

For true cineastes, the Coen Brothers are a source of constant joy.  They are the one creative team who recall, pay homage to and venerate the old school of Hollywood and are probably the most idiosyncratic film-makers at work today and among the best.  For me, Fargo is their masterpiece (to date) and one of the best American films of the nineties.

            Jerry Lundegaard needs money to finance a proposed parking lot but knows his skinflint but rich father in law hates him and won’t supply the money, so he hires two goons to kidnap his wife, get the father in law to pay the ransom, then use his share to finance the deal.  But the kidnapping goes wrong.  Very wrong.  (more…)

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