Reviews written by registered user
|13 reviews in total|
My father, who has never been a fan of domestic cinema, always used to
keep a skeptic and indifferent moaning attitude towards the Swedish
films of this sort when aired on telly. When this particular gem was
shown, however, during one of its many awkwardly staged sceneries, the
sofa began to shake. I was something like twelve years old, and I
grasped nada of this flick but thinking it was high intellectual stuff,
I turned to my dad wondering what was happening. It appeared he was
laughing so hard he could barely make a sound. I learned something by
this, realizing that a highly pitched intellectual tone in a film not
necessarily means it has qualities, nor artistically nor as a
commentary of the human condition. I realized fully the meaning of
pretentiousness. Thus was the state of Swedish films in the late 1970s,
technically inadequate (maybe audible sound and intelligible dialog
were deemed to prosaic to be considered in serious film-making),
far-fetched Freudinism interpreted individually be those granted
Swedish governmental funding, and utterly unwatchable today. No wonder
Ingmar Bergman our escaped country in 1976.
Watch it and You realize what the summary of this comment refers to...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although this last(?) section of the Piovra series is not as good as
its prequels it still delivered to the fans of this series what we have
been used to; colorful characters; melodramatic intrigues and exciting
settings (this time the volcano of Etna). The way the mafia is
portrayed in La Piovra, gives a different dimension to the cliché
gangster as portrayed by the Hollywood industry. They seem to be a
strange mix between bullish pig-farmers, local little-Caesars and
diabolic witch masters. Not that La Piovra lacks clichés, in fact it
has, by now, virtually created new clichés of the mafia, as well as of
the Sicilian population and of the Italian justice.
(***Spoiler warning***) It is perhaps hinted by the creators of this series that the Piovra series is about to reach is finish. When the character Dottore Tano Carridi, essentially the master mind behind the Piovra network, agitatedly confronts the beautiful prosecutor and heroine of the series, Silvia Conti, he claims that "we both have outlived ourselves". As a consequence Dottore Carridi meets his destiny in very much a opera stylo Italiano fashion. Dressed in a suit and carrying the vital documents that could blast the credibility of the Italian justice, he simply descends into the crater of Etna. Well, this is the real thing, - they don't have neither craters or "dottori" in New Jersey, do they?
This is the first Argento movie I have seen. I've seen a lot of movies and thought I more or less marked out which genres and which cinematic approaches I was most fascinated by. Than all of a sudden one comes across something new, entirely new way of putting together the various components of filming techniques, that when otherwise used, too often become jaded clichés into something different. A true art experience. When the initial credits appear and the music starts You think You enter known and marked territory, with all the familiar clichés. As a film buff I am familiar with the Italian tradition of blending the nationality of their film cast so that every other actor need be dubbed, to me that's nothing new, however, the characters here are not international per se, they are a strange cocktail of very stylised but absurd personalities. The women are over stylized, made up un-contemporarily to become 40s film noir zombies in a 1970s Rome. They appear almost surreal and over-the-top stylised, almost like transvestites. This creates a peculiar atmosphere which slowly enhances the tension and viewer experience. Let me say this; I have never ever seen such a character like the one portrayed by Miss Nicolodi, neither on screen nor in reality. She is NOT our beloved Italian film sirene, no Loren, no Cardianale, no Monica Vitti, not by any means sexy as humans perceive it. She comes out as a cross between Carmen Miranda and Myrna Loy (the director has struggled to make her come out like a battle-of-the-sexes comedienne from 1940s). Her gestures with her hand is purely a self-developed style, alienated from any acting, her body moves live an entirely different time-space than her character and the rest of the film, and the rest of the universe. First I was flabbergasted, it distracted me from the plot, I couldn't decide whether this was genius or miscalculation and artistic failure to make her appear like this. Still it started to haunt me, and I was beginning to develop a fascination for this extraterrestrial character. She is the scariest thing I have ever seen on screen, and one of the most fascinating, because her character is obviously an extension of the artistic message the director wants to communicate. It is too elaborate to be coincidence; he appears to force not only her, but all his female characters in the film into a 1940s good girl movie babes or glamour queens. Speaking of blending, the settings of this film are a mixture of Latin-Roman and Gothic; we as spectators are presented into Hitchcockian environments, but set in the Roman campagna and Roman inner city. Even an Italian bourgeoisie villa, when abandoned and haunted by ghost, is as scary as the Anglo-Saxon Victorian hell nest. The steaming bathroom scene doesn't lack anything in cinematic poignancy as that of Hitchcooks Phsycho. The statuesque barflies in the 1940s cafe (familiarto a famous American artist whose name I forgot) reside just outside Hemings VERY stylised apartment. Can You be more inn and dolce vita than an English jazz pianist university teacher in Rome living in palazzo-like building with Bavarian physics as neighbours? And to top it all, the score, also at first annoying and misplaced, the Goblins, who are they? An Itialian Tolkien blues band with Led Zeppelin influences? OK, very good indeed, but as a score to a Gothic thriller, NO, and yet it starts to work after an hour of viewing. I know already I am going to watch this movie again and again, since I have been lucky to discovered yet another cinematic universe, the GIALLO thriller.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie was to me surprisingly good. I have read the Ralph Benner
review and many other user comments, which have been very negative.
Given that Maltin has given very positive reviews, I realise that this
film is an acquired taste of a movie. You have to be a certain type of
person to really like it. As a Liz Taylor fan I do it by default,
however, I was not prepared for how good Mia Farrow was here, neither
for how effective Mithcum was, and how wonderfully the all interact
with other. In all its dark tragic topic, it has a certain absurd humor
that completely took me. Some scenes are comically genius, Monty Python
couldn't have topped the absurdity of the restaurant scene where Mia
Farrow's Cenci enters in an unexpected state with Liz's Leonora swiftly
adjusting to Cencis madness.
The DVD-copy of the film I recently purchased, has excellent colour and image quality, which gave justice to Loseys very detailed work with the environment and sceneries. The claustrophobic but yet shielding Victorian house is a secret hideaway for the women who have been deeply hit by tragic events. In their recluse they can revive and live out the relationship they have been deprived of in reality. I don't find their relationship necessarily lesbian, although it is hinted that there are tendencies of sexual role playing of the two (escepically when the "man" arrives in the form of a poignantly seedy and sexually beastly Mitchum). Mia Farrows Cenci is a seductive tease in spite of her absurd black long hair and pale white face. Liz Taylors Leonora is a washed-up prostitute, and I agree with some reviewers that it is a shock to see Liz so plump and bloated, she is actually fatter than in Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolf. But I disagree with for instance Ralph Benner that Liz doesn't convey the role of Leonara convincingly, actually she does a good job in spite of her diffuse accents (Liz penchant for using different accents is a long story probably stemming from the fact that she's been raised in England until eight years old, and often sways from British to American accents in an unpredictable fashion). and when the interaction with Mia Farrow starts, they are both heavenly to watch.
And let's not forget the two kleptomaniac sister-in-laws, vultures of the worst sort and a direct menace to the secret ceremonies of Leonara and Cenci. Pamela Brown and Peggy Ashcroft are deliver two scary old spinsters with no shame.
What is the story all about then; we cope with our tragedies and losses differently, some even drown in the process, some survive but as the other mouse left in the milk bowl, standing on a pile of butter - lonely.
To sum up, a true Gothic feast, mystic, beautiful photography, Hollywood legends and British professionals giving very good performances, haunting scores, and beneath the surface a dark absurd humor.
Interesting fact: In the year 2003 the state in US with the highest crime rate is Arizona, compared with New York, which only ranks no 44. A far cry from the situation laid out in Death Wish, where the main character, being an over-civilized middle age man living in the "toilet" New-York, visits the homely cozy Arizona and comes to terms with his reluctance towards fire arms. Today, he'd be safer staying in New-York than going to a modern-day frontier high crime Arizona. What irony time can produce! Bronson is Bronson here, one can say that the final image of Bronson is fully developed here. Some of the acting here though are wooden and plain ridiculous, but when the inner action man in Bronson, and in You as a spectator, takes over, the film delivers, and is highly effective. One can easily imagine the controversy it must have stirred being made in the progressive era of social awareness. Herb Alperts score is lush and enjoyable, and the cinematography is competent enough to generate an eerie feeling when the lonely vigilante is roaming the streets. And we cannot help keeping our fingers crossed for him.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As being fascinated by 70s disaster movies I kept scores on the ratings
of films such as Airport, Towering Inferno, Poseidon adventure and
...Earth Quake. I heard negative things about the latter one, and the
scores on IMDb indicate likewise. When I by chance found a DVD-copy of
this film in a bargain bin for a very low price, I reasoned that the
price was affordable enough given its bad repute. Therefore, I was
surprised to be quite bitten by the movie almost instantly after the
initial credits were rolling. In terms of production values, I judge
Earthquake at least as professional and detailed as Towering inferno,
if not even more realistic. Those who actually live in L.A. perhaps now
how they faked the geography, etc, but the film does manage to draw the
spectator in the scenery and create a certain realistic presence. The
effects of the Towering Inferno were actually cheesier, this goes
especially for the skyscrapers scenes, which are definitely more
convincing here than in Towering. Maybe the extras used for the
hospital scenes are a bit too rehearsed for the next "surpise" after
shelve, but this is also the case in most other disaster flicks.
Plot wise then, and in narration, it has perhaps some shortcomings, there is not a definite apocalyptic climax, and the end may to certain spectators appear to be somewhat sudden, although I actually felt that it offered some moral logic. Because, as is the case for all true big Hollywood disaster flicks from the era, the story is actually a pretext for supplying old-fashioned morality lessons in an era that had already ceded to sins and secularity. All sinners get theirs here, but I noted that the film spares no-one, the extremist weapons fetishist as well as the middle class adulterer will meet their horrific destiny. One may almost call this cynicism, because the inner moral voice of this film does not appear to have taken a rightist or leftist side. It is rather resigned and world-weary. Once again an interesting comparison to Towering can be made, since Towering on the surface takes on a more middle-class leftist approach, where Paul Newman as center of moral gravity, the angry and aware intellectual. Here, the corresponding character is perhaps George Kennedy's antihero, the tired copper who does not carry moral cookies in his pockets, but on the other hand acts humanly to those in need. The same moody resignation you will find in the way the marriage between Ava and Charlton is presented, a sad failure, they don't hate it each other, he just cannot find any ounce of feeling for his alcoholic, middle aged wife. So, when it comes to characterization, I would definitely give Earthquake a higher score than both Towering and Airport, which are dominated by more shallowly drawn characters.
Speaking about score finally, the lovers of John Williams will be satisfied; his strings are used effectively here. As always, I have many more things to say, requiring many thousands of words more, but I stop here to not get tedious.
So I finally have gotten to see this film again after 22 years. It is
interesting in so many ways I don't know where to begin; First thing:
It stars one of the most beautiful and sexiest woman ever on the big
screen; no one less then la Taylor. But she has some serious problems
with portraying the lead role of Fran Walker, she is very badly cast as
a young, single, chorus girls, as so many of the previous commentators
have mentioned. The audience at this period was used to see la Taylor
plump and alcoholic, playing characters that were badly faded beauties
in their late 40s or even 50s; Martha in Wolf and Sissy Goforth in
Boom. Here, she is supposed to be not many years older than the young
girl la Taylor portrayed in the late 1940s, contemporary to the "old"
movies the character Fran Walker watches. This is indeed one of her
last "babe"-parts in movies. And her male co-star, is played by a then
an up- and coming actor who is five years younger, even more highlights
the miscasting. With face covering hairdos, soft focus close-shots, and
clever cinematography things get somewhat plausible and under control.
She must have crash-diet, and stopped half-way, she has slender legs,
but not a dancer's sturdy legs, moves youngish and feminine (she's
eating her pizza like a shy princess), but she is still somewhat
top-heavy and double-chinned, maybe because of the heavy medication she
was on at the time, as described in Burton's memoirs. Or maybe because
of the strange fluffy dresses she wears that make her body look like
"an apple balanced atop of two toothpicks" to quote a contemporary
reviewer. In some scenes though, especially when filmed from a
distance, she does still manage to look petite and delicious. And even
though it is absurd to think of Taylor as a struggling working-class
girl who needs to count every dollar and dime to balance the payments,
she really tries hard here to convince us, and sometimes she actually
succeeds. Or is it that the film is cleverly cut? We never really know,
since Taylor's larger-than-life image interferes and blurs our judgment
on her true talent as an actress. Still, she surprises by transcending
a low-key and insecure appearance, which I guess was the intention of
the original play writer Gilroy.
Second thing: Her co-star is the charming Warren Beatty, who here has some very effective scenes in which he makes his character Joe Grady very much authentic and believable. He resembles a combination of both (as one commentator pointed out before) Frank Sinatra's wit and style and Brad Pitt's Irish charming bad-boyishness. In contrast to Taylor, he is in my opinion very well cast. I sometimes wonder what it would be like, to be Warren Beatty, in Paris in autumn 1968, fresh from the huge success of "Bonnie and Clyde". According to the gossip that Taylor picked up, and reached the ears and notes of Burton, Warren was courted by so many beautiful Parisian women that Taylor hardly got a look of him off the set. Still some years to go before being "outed" by Carly Simon as being "So Vain", here in Paris he was evidently everybody's darling.
Third interesting point: The last star needed the presence of her beloved husband (and unfortunately heavy boozing partner) in order to be able to cope with this film, or anything else for that matter. Mr Burton was at this time busy shooting a farce with Rex Harrison, "Staircase", in Paris, which by the way was set in a grayish London. Maybe the married celebrity couple both needed the Parisian location to evade the US/UK taxes? Hence, a movie whose main plot is nothing less than one of the most American themes one can think of (quest for the big break), had to be shot in Paris! Nowadays the stars of Hollywood earn enormous amount of money, but they can hardly make any demands such as those of la Taylor, and get through with it. It is therefore a pure pleasure to watch the streets and buildings, knowing at least some of them, are entirely build for la Taylor in Paris (if we don't count some scenes that had to be made in Las Vegas very quickly in early Spring of 1969).
Four: The score of Maurice Jarre. Great late 1960s early 1970s feel to it, jazzy and bluesy, in a stylish blend, the very definition of Easy listening.
Fifth: A lushly filmed Hollywood picture like this needs elements that make it "touch the ground". We, as an audience, must still be led to believe that the story enfolded before us could be real. Bathroom and bedroom scenes that are not obviously over-sty. Warren's character IS supposed to be a fly-guy dreamer, who painfully lands in reality after excesses at the casinos. The fairytale needs to touch the audience in-between all its awe and amaze, and technically Stevens and the editor have managed the task.
Sixth and last point I come to think of: In spite of this extravaganza, which is not apparent on the screen if one is not aware of that we are looking at a mini-Vegas built in Paris, this movie apparently flopped painfully when it premiered in 1970. It is since forgotten, overlooked, and its print doomed to deteriorate slowly somewhere in the 20th century Fox archives (in Burbank?). But is the plot of the film dated? I think not. Today, whenever the X-and Y-generation have problems of sorts to deal with, like for instance gambling, we are inclined to make it a pathology that must be treated with therapies and counseling. Couldn't this film be re-dusted as a lecture in how painful and destructive addictions to gambling really is? It deserves it. In spite of all the "half-ways" of this film it is cute and sympathetic lesson in love.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This last Dutch speaking film of Verhooven made me laugh good. As a film buff looking for all the small details and cross references etc in any movie I can assure anyone interested in film art that this piece amuses all the senses. I haven't read Gerard Reves book, on which the film is based, but I still believe we get a candid picture of a somewhat self-conceited poet/writer who gets his (in a way - no spoiling here). An anti-hero surrounded by characters that have their ambiguous intentions, as has he. All this in a superbly packaged cinematography, Paul Verhopven manages to turn the otherwise rather cute "gesellich(?)" Dutch locations into a suspenseful film-noir setting, impressive work!
I agree with one previous comment that this film could have been so much better. There were in the production of the film evidently good working ideas, like illustrating the performances of LZ by fantasy sections representing their personalities in a fashion. Not a bad idea at all, but why was it so poorly translated into the film and not very well crafted. Especially the sequences with Jimmy Page look terribly awkward, and he was the one with perhaps the most vivid imagination in the band! The scene with Jimmy Page climbing the hill to reach the mystery wizard is pure home-video quality in lightning, scenery, effects, everything; whereas at other time the cinematography is somewhat better, and are in better pace with the mood of the music. And the idea that the band members are assembled in one days notice match poorly with the subsequent scene where the band members stumble out of their plane, looking as if they toured for 500 days in a row (which they almost actually had in reality when this Madison Square Garden performance was shot). Could it be that the moviemakers had to deal with musicians' egos instead of actor's egos? On the plus side is of course the music and a chance to see the touching interaction between Plant and Page, the two front figures and exhibitionists of the band, with the solid and heavy back-up of the more down-to-earth Jones and Bonham. Interesting is also to see the feared rock n roll manager in person himself behind the scene, Peter Grant, dogging everyone around. He is not ACTING, my goodness. But he did probably have point in this movie being the most expensive home video ever made.
This obscure movie, which has been so unfairly panned by the critics of its time, actually manages to deliver what I believe was the intention, a disintegrating world of a psychotic woman. As viewers, we are somewhere in the middle of two layers of realities, the one being the compulsive psyche of the main character, Lise, portrayed by Liz Taylor, and the other one being the absurd and incoherent events in her surroundings. I quite like this film, I had expected a B-movie with second rate production values, but I was at least partly mistaken, the cinematography is effective in painting the psychotic state of mind, example; Lise turning to her right, framed in the left side of the screen, when addressing someone. Another scene, where Lise is attempting to get in touch with a woman she befriended just recently, who may be stuck in the lavatory from some illness, we see Lise at the same time completely absorbed by her own mirror image, disconnected from any real emotional concern over the lady that might be in peril. Maybe some think these are cheap means of making a weird and psychotic setting, still the movie makes the viewer access the process of disintegration of Lise. Furthermore, some scenes are chillingly before its time regarding terror events and crimes; terror do pop up everywhere these days, and maybe a modern day public can better identify themselves with a confused and disintegrating persona as Lise. We can barely understand our own feelings and our driving forces - how can we then understand the complexity of the human society in terms of terror and conflicts?
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