Reviews written by registered user
|349 reviews in total|
The horrible, manipulative English DVD title and packaging of Ray Müller's "Die Macht der Bilder" should not prevent you from watching this portrait of a fascinating personality, beautiful woman and polemic figure. Beyond all ideological or emotional reactions to Leni Riefenstahl's films, this works proves beyond doubt that she was a masterful filmmaker. The careful conception and framing of the persons, objects and events she filmed, the beauty of the resulting images, the inventiveness of her "mise-en-caméra", her passion and vision, make Riefenstahl a major figure of film history and one of the greatest contributors to the evolution of film expression. The complete 200 minute version of Müller's documentary includes four sequences that were cut from the international edition. Two of them are in the second part, and they are chronologically disrupting, for they were inserted before showing her photographic work with the Nubas in Africa, and the underwater shootings during the final part of her life. One sequence in particular (a most embarrassing and decadent montage in Las Vegas, visiting her magician friends Siegfried & Roy) damages the documentary, for it shows --for no dramatic reason-- Riefenstahl's least appealing and most frivolous side, right after the tragic account of the trials she went through after the war ended. On the other hand, the extensive footage filmed in Tokyo, where the exhibit "Leni Riefenstahl - Life" opened in 1991, though out of place, is welcome for it shows that her work was reinstated and recognized in some places during her lifetime. The exhibit was one of the first comprehensive displays of her photographic work, mainly consisting of photos of or by her, of enlarged frames of films she played in as an actress and of films she made herself. There is also a section of Riefenstahl posing for photographs. For a complete portrait of Riefenstahl these sequences add another angle, and although Müller's work loses some cohesiveness, the negative effect of these sections is not powerful enough as to erase the impact one experiences before and after, in this approximation to Leni Riefenstahl's impressive, tragic and rich life.
Hilarious occurrence from the 1940s (probably a B movie to play in double features), "Zombies on Broadway" is better than more prestigious RKO products starring more prominent performers, with Wally Brown and Alan Carney as two press agents working for a "reformed" gangster who wants to open a night club featuring a real zombie. When a powerful radio commentator announces that he will denounce the fraud if they pretend to use a fake walking dead, Brown and Carney are sent to the island of St. Sebastian, searching for Dr. Renault, a scientist who has made extensive research on voodoo practices. As played by Béla Lugosi, the doctor is both menacing and funny (what a gem that brief moment when Lugosi searches for a little monkey in a chest of drawers!), while Darby Jones reprises his scary role in RKO's "I Walked with a Zombie", with Sir Lancelot also on hand to sing a little song about the joys and menaces of the island. A few can complain about the black stereotypes (especially Nick Stewart as a frightened janitor), but that is how the American audiences and films were (and sometimes still are). With a tight script of fast, concise dialogs and scenes, "Zombies on Broadway" was a real good find and a fine addition to my list of horror comedies.
Typical Hollywood rubbish saved mostly by bright and beautiful images shot in South America, and impressive sets -although they do not mix well with location shooting, as well as some California exteriors that are obviously too foreign to pass as tropical forest landscapes. Anthony Perkins plays an obnoxious rich kid, the son of the Minister of War from Venezuela, who speaks American English and meets every available English-speaking person in the Amazonian jungle, in his search for gold to take revenge from those who made a revolution in Caracas and overthrew the government and his dad, and burnt his house... Audrey Hepburn is miscast as a native of the Amazon jungle with a Bambi. Her origin, accent and hair style remain a mystery, so one tends to forget it all and enjoy her presence in this melodrama, a lush entry into the territory of "cinéma fantastique". Of course, Audrey is the subject of sadist wrong-doing, but she is like a flower that dies here, and suddenly reborns there, leading to a happy jungle ending of sorts. Katherine Dunham contributed an embarrassing mishmash credited as "choreography", and Heitor Villa-Lobos' music is lost among Bronislau Kaper's pastiche cues. Watch it though, it's fun.
Surprisingly effective and atmospheric Mexican horror film directed by Chano Urueta, which mixes elements from every story featuring a mad scientist or a woman falling in love with the wrong man, from Fritz Lang's "M" and, above anything else, the basic premise of "The Miraculous Serum" (1952), first adaptation of Stanley G. Weinbaum's short story "The Adaptative Ultimate", made for the TV series "Tales of Tomorrow", and later remade -again for television- as "Beyond Return" (1955) for the series "Science Fiction Theatre", and finally as the film feature "She Devil" (1957), in which Mari Blanchard played a brunette with TB who was turned into a lethal and invulnerable blonde. There is a big difference, though: after "The Witch" (called as such because of her extremely ugly face) is injected with the serum, turned into a beautiful woman, and educated and polished to pass as a rich countess (Lilia del Valle), she remains emotionally vulnerable. She has to kill three business men who supposedly wronged the scientist (Julio Villarreal), but she falls for the young, dashing Fedor (Ramón Gay), leading the story to tragedy, when all the marginal and handicapped men and women from the underworld (as in "M") create their own court of justice It is funny how in these strange Mexican fabrications, names and locations from Eastern Europe are candidly mixed with native elements, and in the end get away with it. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why many of them are so fascinating, including others directed by Urueta, as "El monstruo resucitado", "El espejo de la bruja" and "El barón del terror".
With the over praise and awards given to "Primer", obliquity, omission, in-explicitness and ambiguity have been turned into highly regarded characteristics of scriptwriting. These absent story spices turn a common story into some cryptic trip through non-sense that could have been avoided. The funny part is that it is quite possible that the Sundance jury were given a hint of what they were going to see, and they found brilliant how Shane Carruth treated time-traveling. We common folks just sit and watch intriguing images and listen to oblique scientific talk, while being told a story about two fools going back and forth in time that does not lack interest. Fascinating "Primer" is, indeed, and we also fools go through it for 77 minutes. But to be fair, Aaron and Abe, the Jewish-American characters played by Carruth and David Sullivan, are no cleverer than Wells and Filby (the parts Rod Taylor and Alan Young played in George Pál's "The Time Machine", in 1960). All four characters are foolish fascinations concocted by H.G. Wells and Carruth, with the difference that Wells' men and tale had a stronger ethic value to the Victorian society at the dawn of the new century. In "Primer" the greatest revelation (or assertion) for me was the 2004 scientists' lack of ethics in the applications of technology, for the benefit of not even themselves, as the side effects of this time traveling tale demonstrate. Said in more simple terms, it reveals the divorce between matter and spirituality in the hearts and minds of the geniuses of today at the dawn of another new century. And simpler than this: as Dale Coba reasons to Joanna Eberhart why the Stepford husbands turn their wives into robots: "Because we can".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A veritable catalog of addictions, "La bien pagada" is very useful for the study of addiction to relationships, to sex, to diamonds and a few more dependencies, all of which helped filmmaker Alberto Gout to acquire more skill to later guide Ninón Sevilla through the meanders of emotional and physical misery in his cabaret classics, long before the publishing of self-help books and the practice of 12-step programs, more benefited with Ninón's honest impudence, than with the falsely refined posture of Maritoña Pons, who can't wait for the drums to beat to release her rumbera rascal. In the labyrinthine plot, when Carola Rute (Pons) is required in marriage by Fernando Jordán (Víctor Junco), a very rich business man, whose wealth is administered by her father, she accepts to marry, even though she knows that her sister Victoria (Blanca Estela Pavón) loves the entrepreneur. However Victoria is engaged to a whiny man from Jalisco, whose mother is possibly afflicted with Alzheimer (which nobody identified by then, but for the way he describes her condition ), and she marries him. If in a couple of dialog lines Carola says that she married Fernando because she was forced by her father (most probably melodrama b.s., by the upright image Gout offers of Mr. Rute), the new Mrs. Jordán does not wait too long to have an affair with a slimy pilot, an ex-boyfriend whom she "really loves". No wonder: Fernando is the classic inaccessible man, with a cold and distant attitude that he supposedly acquired in his ascent from misery (he was even an acrobat!) in the world of business, but he is ready to jump on Carola when she is lying in bed. Ah but when he discovers her in the pilot's arms, he rejects her, goes to Paris, refines himself a bit and comes back changed: more cheerful, but more of a bastard. By then, Carola is no longer Carola but Diamond Piedad (or Pity), an expensive prostitute that dances rumba in a chic cabaret, a plot point that legitimizes various musical numbers. What comes next is not narratable, concerning who loves who, and the short screen time it takes before they change the object of their affections, so if you laugh out loud it is completely understandable. It is interesting though to see Gout make two rehearsals of a scene that in 1950 would function very well in "Aventurera": as Pedro Vargas sings the title song written by Agustín Lara, a hurt and suffering Ninón Sevilla crosses the dance floor of the cabaret, feeling that don Pedro is reproaching her and only her for being a tramp. In "La bien pagada" it happens twice: Carola a.k.a. Diamond Piedad crosses the hall, first, as María Luisa Landín sings "Amor perdido" ("Lost Love"), while Carola feels Landín is singing about no other love but the love she lost from Fernando; and to finish off, she makes a second miserable crossing, as Miguel de Molina sings "La bien pagá" ("The Well Paid"), so there is no doubt she is the one. If you want to have fun and complete your Gout album, don't miss "La bien pagada". If you prefer a more polished and sharpened Gout, better search for "Aventurera" and "Sensualidad".
RCA Victor could have subsidized this Columbia release. It looks as if by 1941 the only recording company in business was RCA, for every single disc Irene Dunne plays for almost two hours, during this over sentimental account of a couple searching for a child, is on that label. George Stevens' film starts promisingly but becomes dull with its structure device (every time Dunne plays a record, she remembers a stage of her married life), and very silly with cute babies and smiling little girls, that the whole product loses impact. Dunne and Cary Grant are good as usual, but Grant has more opportunity to elaborate a performance, and Dunne has little opportunity to display her winning charm; while Beulah Bondi and Edgar Kennedy provide excellent support in key roles. These four performances make the film somehow worthwhile, but for me that was just it.
One of the best Tin Tan comedies with his sidekick Marcelo Chávez, under the direction of Gilberto Martínez Solares, the same people that made the classics, "Calabacitas tiernas (¡Ay, qué bonitas piernas!)", "El rey del barrio" and "El revoltoso". The four films are solid products that hold up very well after 60 years of being made. When you watch any of these movies you do not expect masterpieces: they are star vehicles rooted in vaudeville and circus, with the kind of comedy performed by buffoons in tents. Their structures are basic, built around sequences dealing with a single situation: in this case, Tin Tan as a waiter, Tin Tan as a private detective and finally as a wrestler. Opposed to Cantinflas and other Mexican comics, Tin Tan was a charismatic and handsome comic, a good dancer and singer, stylishly dressed in pachuco outfits or in rags, as the poorest guy in town. This time he is constantly put in jail for the silliest possible reasons, while his lawyer neighbor (Marcelo) make things worse instead of helping him. When he is falsely accused of stealing the tires of a car, his girlfriend (Rosita Quintana) signs IOUs in his name, that force him to find work and raise the money to pay. The funniest sequence is the one concerning Tin Tan's last job, when he has to fight a wrestler called "El Enmascarado", who turns out to be one of the many restaurant clients he abused while working as a waiter. The role is played by Wolf Ruvinskis, a professional wrestler who was the villain or center of jokes in many of Tin Tan's movies. They were very good friends in real life, and it shows, since the match is truly hilarious. Maybe for cultural reasons, the humor is limited to or more appreciated by Latin Americans, but this one rates very high in the actor's and director's filmographies.
Heavy and slow-moving as its beefy star Reg Park, "Maciste nelle miniere di re Salomone" is one of the least attractive peplums I have seen. The bad impression is worsened by the prejudice contained in the narration and in the depiction of the African tribes. If British Park, who looks like a mammoth version of Terry-Thomas, is not appealing as a mythological hero, Italian director Piero Rognoli thinks otherwise, setting his camera in the weirdest places to show the bodybuilder's neck, back muscles or nipples, or making him repeat scenes from other films that do not improve a bit from the original: fighting a lion (already seen in a dozen of films, done by Victor Mature, Steve Reeves, Mark Forest and others), or having horses hitched to his wrists, as the animals pull in opposite directions. And what is worst is that the film editor seems to have no idea of how to cut parallel actions in tension-filled sequences, as when Abucar, the young co-lead (Bruno Piergentili, billed as Dan Harrison) is about to be killed, while Maciste takes an eternity to reach the city and try to save him; or when the evil queen Fazira (Wandisa Guida, wearing a towering black wig) and throne usurper Riad (Elio Jotta, billed as Leonard G. Smith) decide to bath maid Samara (Eleonora Bianchi) in liquid gold "a la Goldfinger", as it takes ages to free Maciste from the gold anklet that has made him forget his identity. Add Francesco de Masi's pastiche score and star counting the minutes. If you are a peplum completist or share Arnold Schwarzenegger's admiration for Park, watch "Maciste nelle miniere di re Salomone". Otherwise, go to the beach.
Billy Wilder, as many European film artists and technicians, also contributed his share of propaganda during the Second World War, with this film adaptation of Hungarian writer Lajos Biró's play, "Drama in Four Acts", previously filmed twice as "Hotel Imperial" at Paramount. It narrates a story of love and political intrigue involving Austrians and Russians during First World War. Given green light by Paramount to make a new film, Wilder and writer Charles Brackett discovered the property and, based on recent war events in North Africa during Second World War, decided to cash in the drama headlines of the times. I read that Biró's play had comic touches, but I really do not know who contributed the antics merged with the drama in this version, if they were the playwright's ideas, or if they were added by Brackett and (especially) Wilder, who even wanted Cary Grant to play the lead. The result of this spy story about Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and the sabotage of his "Five Graves" operation, is plagued with stereotypes, caricatures and comic relief, all of which are so out of place that they become the real saboteurs of "Five Graves to Cairo". Erich von Stroheim plays his trite version of a ruthless European officer, while Anne Baxter unconvincingly tries to pass as a French girl, Akim Tamiroff overacts as he frequently did (this time as a Egyptian, but he used the same tics to play a Chinese general, a Spanish Republican, a Mexican mafioso, a Turkish cook or an Italian monsignor), and Fortunio Bonanova is a bad joke as a ridiculous Fascist general who loves to sing arias. The best performances are given by Franchot Tone and Peter van Eyck, who respectively play a British corporal and a German lieutenant, both under control. Tone is convincing and moving, especially in his last scene in a graveyard; and Eyck is good as an officer exchanging favors for sex. Wilder as usual keeps you interested, but for spy thrillers, sex melodramas or action war dramas, it is better to watch "Casablanca" (1942) or James Mason as Rommel in "The Desert Fox" (1951), which are much better, and were more honest about their business.
|Page 5 of 35:||              |