551 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
8/10
The Fishes Come Out
13 January 2018
I was inspecting today two copies I acquired of «The Day the Fish Came Out»: a Greek copy with the 20th Century-Fox logo at the beginning, and a download with the International Classics logo instead. I remembered that when I watched it for the first time in 1967, as a 16-year old teenager I liked the film a lot, but I could not figure out what was going on. I guess I was a chaste Catholic boy, who had never heard of fish poisoning, the destruction of villages and nature by tourism and nuclear weapons, let alone the role of sex in world politics. And today when I was checking both copies, I was somehow surprised at how clever director Mihalis Kakogiannis had been by 1967, and I wondered if he was consciously making a film about menaces to ecology, both chemical and human, and the opening of sexual orientations. If he was doing so, Mr. Kakogiannis was a true visionary. I would have to watch the film again (for the nth time) to answer my own question, but it is interesting how accurate his vision of future society was. Check today: fashion-obsessed persons, waters poisoned, nature destroyed, the lost paradisaical spots in islands and remote places, and the opening of many homosexuals (although the acceptance of different life styles is still a closed subject for the majorities). Director Kakogiannis was a homosexual, and his dramatic strategy resembles those of many other gay filmmakers who conceived artistic canvases where their sexual orientation ruled, from Cukor to Almodóvar. By the way, the Greek copy looks much better, and the colors are brighter. Still the movie deserves a better DVD release.
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5/10
Demons, Women and Inquisitors
10 January 2018
Neither bad nor plausible work, with no discernible motivation than to make a profit from the outburst of raw emotions and epidermis of the 1970s, with the fall of those moral codes that every now and then emerge in the media industry. It follows the line of «Witchfinder General» but without the indispensable amount of rigour in that historical drama by Michael Reeves (who was supposed to make this one but died too young), to move it from low-income neighborhood to big city respectability, so to speak... The following year Ken Russell would strike gold with a new re-telling of the case of the inquisitors, devils and nuns of Loudon (which was treated as early as 1921 in «Häxän» and later in 1961 in «Mother Joanna of the Angels»). Both Reeves and Russell had larger budgets, but all three movies are tales without hope, in which love and innocence are destroyed. Three aspects most negatively affect this motion picture, in my opinion. First, Michael Holm's Euro-pop score is too contemporary, obtrusive and rather ugly. Second, we have two actors with no chemistry unconvincingly enacting a romance (with bad dialogues, true, but Udo Kier's face is as blank as usual, and Olivera Katarina looks like his aunt). Last, the film editor had no sense of rhythm, sometimes not knowing when and what to cut (like the drops of water that fall on the head of a torture victim). There were some jaw dropping, eye opening exploitation films at the time, a few became classics, but not this one. Compared to them, this movie is just routine.
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7/10
The Golem vs. The Metropolis Robot
8 January 2018
Two monsters meet in this second adaptation of Hanns Heinz Ewers' novel: Paul Weneger, actor and director of "Der Golem" (1920), and Brigitte Helm, diva of Fritz Lang's masterpiece "Metropolis" (1927).

Classified as science fiction and horror, the film was more of a fantasy to me. A scientist decides to inseminate a prostitute with a mandrake root that grew thanks to the semen of a murderer who was hanged on a tree. In the first scene, we learn that it is a full moon night and that someone will dig directly under the hanged man's body to remove the root. It will be used for the experiment. The result will be a living creature: Alraune.

The film (or the copy I saw) makes a discreet ellipsis when the prostitute enters the scientist's experiment room, and in the next scene, we see young Alraune (mandrake, in German) in a boarding school ruled by nuns, from which she will escape with the scientist's worthless nephew. In the story that continues, there is no science fiction or terror, but the drama of a woman who ignores her origin. Her attempts to love and live freely are frustrated every time her "father" intrudes. He is convinced that Alraune has inherited anti-social traits from her prostitute mother and murderous father. However, what Alraune really wants is to enjoy life: she escapes with a magician to a circus, flirts with the animal trainer and meets a good viscount who falls for her and proposes marriage. But papa scientist does not give up, so she decides to take revenge.

Brigitte Helm, who, as in "Metropolis", alternates between innocent sweetness and malicious eroticism, contributes to the fascination of the story. Director Henrik Galeen uses expressionist images, although the realistic approach predominates. It is a pity that the restored version is not available and what circulates is a vile copy of a VHS edition in English, with music often out of place and with the name of the protagonist changed to Mandrake. However, curiosity is curiosity and there is no one who can beat our archaeological passion for cinema.
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8/10
Terayama's Last
2 January 2018
I liked this film very much, but the connection with Gabriel García Márquez is so thin that I would not credit "Cien años de soledad" as source. It could have inspired Terayama in the same way someone writes a poem after hearing an inspiring symphony. Sometimes the film looks and sounds more Fellini-Rota to me than Colombia, but the really fascinating images and sounds are those culturally linked to Japan. I am not a specialist in cultures, I only respond emotionally to this product, which has a dark tone and complex idiosyncratic background that is rarely present in the world of light and color of García Márquez. Although Gabo's works can be dark and complex, this motion picture has the scent of an ancient world and culture. A bit rambling sometimes, but a very good audiovisual experience.
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4/10
Cinderella's Bad Trip
1 January 2018
This is a good lesson for filmmakers: if you are going to shoot a movie with songs, do not let your songwriters also write the script, because they would add a song into the story every five or ten pages. The worst part can be if their muse is on vacation or retired. This was the case of this lame version of Cinderella by Bryan Forbes. It is terrible and overlong! I give it a few points for the beautiful Austrian locations and because Forbes, in the last big opportunity that industrial cinema offered him after becoming an "international director", knew the trade and skillfully put the stories on screen, although it is merely academic, without any flight of inspiration. Richard Chamberlain and Gemma Craven look somewhat old for the roles of prince and orphan, poor Edith Evans is used as a clownish little old lady, the art direction seems to be the work of Margaret "Big Eyes" Keane, the choreography by Marc Breaux is mostly routine (and sometimes even ugly, as the dance in the royal mausoleum) and the songs by brothers Robert and Richard Sherman... oh, boy! Far are the days of "Chim Chim Cher-ee", "A Spoonful of Sugar", "Feed the Birds" or "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (which were not wondrous either, but they accompanied very well the adventures of "Mary Poppins") and what we have instead are monotonous concoctions with lyrics about protocol, dead kings or royal weddings. Of the whole thing, I think the best are Annette Crosbie as the Fairy Godmother and Margaret Lockwood as the Stepmother, although you have to be a very bad actor to ruin these two stereotypes. So proceed at your own risk.
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9/10
The Shock of Truth
30 December 2017
It is as old as humankind is, but we only react when our stomachs are empty (and that is not a privilege of Marxist regimes). All over the world the ordinary people look the other way when told that actions have always been taken to control our planet (and of course its economy). I was not surprised with what I saw and heard in this fine documentary, but my info about the who, what, where and when of the whole Neoliberalism business was too vague. Therefore, when I see a film like this I appreciate to be illustrated, but I am mainly surprised at the wickedness of some human beings. My only regret is that "The Shock Doctrine" is a product from a specific time; it was made in the first decade of this century, so it ends with the Obama government. Nevertheless, the information it gives us is still valid to analyze the present. If you prefer to label this as leftist, propaganda or biased thought, well, it is your right to do so and believe in what you want. From my perspective, I do believe that such option leads us all to remain blindfold. I do not pretend things are exactly as described here, but the film does help to make us aware, a bit wiser and conscious that our rights are violated on a daily basis. We best stop believing it happens in "other countries". All of us, up and down, left and right, white and black, are subject to the decisions of evil, greedy persons, persons as those that were expelled from the temple in the Bible, as those that complain about the holocaust they were victim of, without thinking about all the wrong they do to people around the globe with their avaricious economic plans.
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5/10
Eight steps to recitation
28 December 2017
A gang of five road laborers has the task of painting the discontinuous yellow line between two Mexican towns, under inclement sun, camping during cold night and finishing the work before the rains come. The crew consists of a watchman, a waiter, a circus worker, a thief and a truck driver, all previously unemployed. The instruction is to take five steps painting the line with a machine that atomizes the paint on the road and then take another eight steps without painting. This strategy is similar to the structure of Celso García's script, who debuted as a director with "The Thin Yellow Line", under the auspice of producers Bertha Navarro ("Reed: Insurgent Mexico"), Alejandro Springall ("Santitos") and Guillermo del Toro ("The Labyrinth of the Faun"). The idea is valid. The problem is that every eight steps equates to pauses in the action so all five men can make forced statements of their personal pasts. In contrast, the five steps of work are the most interesting. When the five men work or solve obstacles, their actions define them better than their (often-overemotional) recitations of what happened to them in the past. The five actors are very good and they do the best they can with their dialogues. But besides this weak point of the script, you have montages of scenes of "camaraderie" with gay music, overused resolutions and shots (for example, when a patient is carried in gurney, we the audience watch the ceiling and lights), a bitch that adds the "Disney touch ", a short flirt with a beautiful girl, plus a gruesome ending. As a result it turns into a poor drama instead of a plausible first work.
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7/10
Good entertainment
27 December 2017
This entertaining adventure drama about smuggling in late 18th century is somehow betrayed by its low budget, more evident in the ship wrecking scenes, under furious storms. It tells the story of a British coastal town laden with taxes, where almost everybody has turn to smuggling to make ends meet. The action never stops with good rhythm and precise dialogue, and the enjoyment is evident in the actors' faces. All the cast is very effective, with Peter Cushing as a magistrate with a secret that haunts him, Bernard Lee as the villain before playing M to Sean Connery's James Bond, John Fraser as a dashing young swordsman and William Franklyn as a highwayman that becomes a hero. With pretty Michèle Mercier as the love interest, June Thorburn as Cushing's daughter and Liz Fraser in one of her best early roles as waitress-spy, this is one of John Gilling's best contributions to period drama.
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7/10
Maciste Rules
25 December 2017
I am a peplum fan, especially in its original form. Did American International executives really think that they were improving Italian pepla by shortening and dubbing them, changing the Greco-Roman characters' names for those of Philistine and Jewish men from the Bible, and replacing the original scores with Lex Baxter's pastiches? The American version of this highly enjoyable wide-screen production is a fine example of the cheapening effect their strategy had. Starting with the substitution of the name Maciste, perhaps the father of all strong men in films since 1914 (when "Cabiria" was released), they had no idea of anything, just as well as Baxter with his atrocious pop cue for a belly dance in a tavern. Nevertheless, the good news is that Maciste is in good shape and in the very good and capable hands of American star Gordon Scott. He goes this time after a vampire tyrant called Kobrak, who is helped by a slave witch called Astra. Maciste lives many adventures with the assistance of Kurtik, a rebel fighter, and his not-very efficient army of blue men. But Maciste is Maciste and you know that he will win. Scott is helped by a fine cast that includes Jacques Sernas, Gianna Maria Canale and Leonora Ruffo. Hope one day someone will releases the original version in Italian.
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Elle (I) (2016)
5/10
Superficial Approach to Complexity
23 December 2017
I am not a follower or scholar of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven's worked. I liked a few of his films a lot, others left me indifferent. However, I recognize that there is a gulf between the incendiary films he made in the Netherlands, and what he does now, after establishing in Los Angeles and becoming an "international filmmaker". Between the man who made "Turkish Delights" (1973) and "The Fourth Man" (1983), to the one that directed "Basic Instinct" (1992) and "Showgirls" (1995). There is a transition from his early simple and honest movies to the standardized products made with high budgets, that lack the disturbing world vision in the first works. And after going up and down, between poor works and other more successful (as the amusingly proto-fascist "Starship Troopers" in 2000), Verhoeven returned to Europe taking with him the expertise of industrial cinema, mixed with some viruses that affect the cinema of Los Angeles. In 2016 "Elle" was released, his adaptation of the novel "Oh ..." by Philip Djian, which provoked debates and controversies about the vision of the female world and the "empowerment" of women. Long in excess (2 hours, 11 minutes) and with a pastiche and monotonous musical score by Anne Dudley, "Elle" tells the story of an unhappy, perverse and sick businesswoman who is experiences a curious regression towards her past and old family "values" , after reaching the lowest point of her downfall when she is violated repeatedly by a masked man. I do not deny that similar stories can occur in reality or that everyone perceives the cinema in their own way, but I really do pass. Verhoeven applied the skin-deep "know-how" he learned in commercial films to a story that demanded a bit more rigor, perception and sharpness. He opted for effects and sensationalism: maybe it was always the same in his film prehistory in Holland, and I never noticed it, I do not know... The cynical and feminazi audience of these times ended up applauding a character without ethics, without love, only with an insatiable and almost dry vagina. The "well-behaved" world discovered Isabelle Huppert! The actress does absolutely nothing here that she has not done the same or better in countless times... I do not know how many films to mention, because I've always liked what she does: "The Lacemaker", "Violette Nozière", "A Story of Women" , "The Ceremony", "The Pianist" ... In short, to each his own. Surely, there are those who liked it and want French cinema to lose its own signature and resemble one more melodrama from Hollywood. Bon appétit.
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El socio (1946)
7/10
The Associate
11 December 2017
The novel "El socio" (1928) by Chilean writer Jenaro Prieto has even served as a for Whoopi Goldberg's vehicle. Therefore, it is not rare that in 1946 (the year of Prieto's death) the Argentine tango-singing superstar Hugo del Carril starred in another version, in addition to those made in England, Italy, Spain and France, plus two TV series in Chile in latter years. The most remarkable feature of this Roberto Gavaldón film comes from the novel, a satirical vision of financial speculation in "Dumbland" (as Prieto called Chile), but, in truth, the machinations seen here are similar to those of many places in the world. While the plot works well in mid-1940s Mexico, the presence of Del Carril in those lands is not justified satisfactorily, but… Don Hugo was the famous tango singer, so screenwriter Tito Davison inserted a few musical numbers. It is not the case as in Gavaldón's "Historia de un amor", where the leading lady was an artist, so Libertad Lamarque did not stop singing. In his eighth feature film (of the 55 he directed), Gavaldón is not at ease with satire. In fact, in the 20-odd titles I have seen of his filmography, he showed a predilection for seriousness. The vision is interesting and enjoyable, and it is undeniable that, although fresh, Gavaldón knew the trade, but he replaced the satirical tone with a switch from drama to comedy and back to the beginning again. Therefore, that it is Jenaro Prieto who sets the rule, from the pages of his novel. Do not be surprised if any of these days a Chinese or Turkish version of "El socio" appears.
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Overlord (1975)
10/10
Overlord
9 December 2017
Second World War (1939-1945) has been the subject of many films that recount the beginning, the offensives, the European movements of resistance, their survival; stories of troops, battles and personalities; the prisons, intimate dramas the madness, the Jewish experience, the memories and the perceptions of the conflagration and the post-war years. England was one of the most devastated nations and the conflict generated a varied production, from the State financed propaganda to classics as "In Which We Serve" and "49th Parallel". But the farthest the products were from the real events, the more false they got, the more they have been loaded with special effects, without a real feeling of what happened between 1939 and 1945. "Overlord" (codename for the 1944 disembarkation of troops in Normandy) supplies that time distance from the real events with a brilliantly executed idea. The film depicts the training of a young British recruit who will die even before the landing starts: his premonition is exposed from the first minutes. We know that he is going to die in the end, so his preparation, reflections, relationship with other recruits, fleeting romance and movements with the troops, are loaded with melancholy and naivety, to which Brian Stirner's face immensely helps, as he portrays the central role Tom Beddows. Tom is not afraid at all. He is just there because he was recruited, he is going to fight because "he has to" or perhaps he senses that his destiny is in the hands of powerful men who stage wars when numbers do not add up. Therefore, the screenplay by Christopher Hudson and Stuart Cooper (also director, an American filmmaker) contrasts Tom's moments of apparent calm, with footage from the war itself. I confess that I have rarely seen documentary material from different sources so admirably edited into a drama as in "Overlord", and I think the key was the selection of images. Taken from the British Imperial War Museum and a film archive in Germany, the authentic footage of Second World War is impressive. Only once we see human remains, because they prioritized the images of aerial attacks, train and cities under fire, building in flames with firemen all around, advancing troops, cannons, machine guns, ambulances, ships that are sunk (in a moment, Adolf Hitler impassively contemplates the panorama, from a wide airplane window...), all aptly overdubbed. No contemporary visual effects can compare to these sounds and images shot at the time they were happening. And the most remarkable job done is the integration of these shots with the scenes of Tom's recruitment, sometimes calm, other hectic. It is the contrast and the context, what Tom is ultimately going to face. "Overlord" won the Special Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, but not even the UK recognized its value when it came to handing out its Bafta awards. Hollywood, for its part, had had too good a production in 1975 to award an Oscar to a British film. However, time is the best judge and in 2007 and 2014, digital editions were issued.
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El techo (2016)
8/10
Up the Ladder to the Roof
6 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The chorus of one of the most beautiful song hits by The Supremes, a woman invites her lover "Up the ladder to the roof / Where we can see heaven much better / Up the ladder to the roof / Where we can be closer to heaven". It is this closeness to heaven, to the limpid sunny skies of La Habana (shot from many different roofs that, together, create a very different cinematic space from the ones that we consume in everyday film constructions) what makes "The Roof" a curio. It is a strange film that escapes from the stifling daily life of scarcity, impotence and disenchantment, unlike other works that also speak of the debris of a beautiful island with a damaged social fiber, as "El hormiguero", "La obra del siglo", "Melaza", "Juan de los muertos", "Persona", "Chamaco", "Conducta" and even, beneath the ornaments, "La trucha" and "Caballos"). "El techo" tries to take wing in the midst of that reality which you cannot escape even on top of the highest skyscraper, in search of the breath of life. Sometimes it fleetingly succeeds, sometimes (fortunately, the least) it navigates aimlessly, from a script that resorts to musical montages that lengthen the filmic time, but contribute little to expose or elucidate the disappointment. Or perhaps they merit a different reading as if they were "recesses", truces, pauses before the exhausting and pressing verification of neediness, to be able to live with some dignity. Three young people live in the middle of the debris; they operate on the roofs of La Habana, without finding directions or answers. Vito dreams of being a foreigner from Sicilia. Anita expects the child of a faceless father and answers calls from her mother in the United States. Yasmani breeds pigeons and pushes his two friends to find outlets, through an improvised pizzeria or through the birds, in efforts without consequences: in the end, the three lose the round of 75 minutes until the credits roll up. There is no exit. Not even on Vito's trip to Sicilia, surrounded by people that are probably not his relatives... but so what?, if life on the roof challenges the gravity of an environment without prospects for innovation. A chorus of characters add spice to the story: the retired father of Yasmani, who refuses to stand up; Vito's grandmother, who he cannot tell if she is lying or not, a deaf neighbor, a sexy neighbor, a rival pigeon breeder... In the central role of Yasmani, Enmanuel Galbán stands out. With expert guide and grooming --with every new film, every stage play or experiment leading to artistic maturity-- Galbán could become a prominent actor: he has the voice, strength and resources, as Mastroianni or Finney did. Andrea Doimeadiós as Anita is always correct, but her role is more passive witness than active participant, and Jonathan Navarro faces the role of Vito, which sometimes borders the limits of caricature. However, the three young people maintain the same level of quality, as well as Noslen Sánchez in the role of El Yeti, a fleeting character, a re-seller of objects of dubious origin. With the bonus of fine cinematography by Alán González, director-screenwriter Patricia Ramos released her first feature without fireworks or controversy, but "El techo" is promising and it reveals a position before the world that, with greater elaboration of the story and good fortune, will add an attractive feminine point of view in Cuban cinema.
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7/10
Guadalajara in Acapulco
26 November 2017
I would probably have never watched this film if it were not for a little old lady who often calls at the film archive where I work and asks for movies starring French actor Maurice Ronet (who is her favorite star), and strange choices as Don Sharp's "Rasputin, the Mad Monk" or this Elvis Presley's vehicle. Surprisingly I enjoyed watching it as "zero degree style" as it is, and now I believe that this is one of Presley's best vehicles of the early sixties. It has a formulaic story that does not demand much from viewers, most of the songs are forgettable and corny, and back projection and sound stage decors do not match well with such a magnificently sunny location as Acapulco. But somehow it works: Presley, kid Larry Domasin and leading ladies Ursula Andress and Elsa Cárdenas all seem to enjoy what they are doing (and make fun of themselves, as in the musical number in which Presley finishes a ridiculous song with a matador cape wrapping his head) , and screenwriter Allan Weiss surely knows how to keep us viewers smiling at every new move by orphan Raoul (Domasin) to get trapeze-artist- in-crisis Mike (Presley, that is) back in shape. Richard Thorpe (who also directed "Jailhouse Rock") moves things efficiently until the grand finale in which the trapeze artists sings... "Guadalajara" in Spanish. I could not understand a word, but it was fun to watch "The King" (at his handsomest) trying hard.
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7/10
The Marked Woman
19 November 2017
Of the Spanish filmmakers who migrated to Mexico during the civil war, the most famous was Luis Buñuel, but others, such as Luis Alcoriza, Carlos Velo, Juan Orol and Miguel Morayta Martínez, also had successful careers. Unlike Buñuel, whose artistic hallmark was more prominent than his technical or narrative efficiency, Morayta was more an artisan than author, his effectiveness allowed him to bring the product to fruition, and he moved from one genre to another with dexterity. I have never watched his films for academic purposes, but I recently saw his film "The Marked Woman" and found it an interesting experience. It is an incursion into "noir" melodrama that has enough merits to stand out in his abundant filmography.

Ana Luisa Peluffo plays a beautiful woman with half her face disfigured by a bad surgeon, after she was in a car accident. This "marked woman" will go in 97 minutes through a physical, emotional and professional transformation similar to other films, but with some attractive variants. Within the framework of melodrama there is an elaborate development of her character (Ana first, Lucy Morán afterwards), motivated by love, a desire for revenge, fear and remorse. Ana suffers and resigns to her condition, but when she finally finds the responsible of her misfortune she seduces, deceives, becomes Lucy, and reaches the inevitable tragic outcome.

On the "noir" side of the drama there is an original elaboration of the underworld, with characters that contaminate medicines and commit crimes among those seeking health without any scruples. In addition, an erotic subplot permeates the entire film: it is a story that demands nudity (but has none) to reveal Ana/Lucy's body, which does not match her disfigured face. The strange thing is that Ana Luisa Peluffo, a pioneer in nude scenes in Mexican cinema, is shown in demure shots that hide that sculptural part of hers that awakens the passion of the villain, Rodolfo Morán (Alberto de Mendoza).

The film is also the story of composer Germán Álvarez (Joaquín Cordero), who is the first to show compassion for Ana. He not only prevents Ana from committing suicide, but also invites her to live with him. Germán is a valid excuse for several musical numbers (so dear to Mexican cinema in those years), and that also leads to the multifaceted ending that includes bullets, a touching torch song, detectives and a jealous girlfriend.

I believe that, in part, the artificial but effective screen story is the responsibility of several people of letters, including Mexican poet Adolfo Torres Portillo, Spanish playwright María Luisa Algarra and Mexican novelist Luis Spota. Although the cast is too emotional in certain scenes and Luis Hernández Bretón's music is extremely dramatic, all contributions –which also include some effective expressionist sets by production designer José Rodríguez Granada, good cinematography by maestro Jack Draper, and direct mise-en-camera by Morayta– help to make "The Marked Woman" a good film that has aged with dignity.
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Il messia (1975)
8/10
Politics and the Messiah
8 November 2017
I do not know if I am delirious, but living in a country that has an enclave called the Vatican (in a certain way, a spiritual "Canal Zone", as the area under US control within Panamá) must predispose Italian artists: perhaps it leads the most pious to exalt Catholicism, while the most progressive maybe take a more critical stance towards this ecclesiastical-state enterprise within their country. I find quite curious that two Italian non-believers and filmmakers, one Marxist and the other atheist, made two of the most interesting films I have seen about the figure of Jesus of Nazareth. First, Pier Paolo Pasolini, released in 1964 «The Gospel According to Matthew», in the middle of a controversy that ended in praise; and the other, Roberto Rossellini presented «The Messia» in 1975 with less luck, to the point that the free circulation of the product had to wait almost 30 years to be (marginally) distributed. «The Messiah» is long, Brechtian, austere and intelligent; it dispenses with many biblical passages in which David W. Griffith, Miguel Morayta, Nicholas Ray, George Stevens, Franco Zeffirelli, Martin Scorsese or Mel Gibson delighted in their (kind of frivolous) versions of the Nazarene's immolation; and it introduces the story in an ingenious way: the film starts with a synthesis of the history of the Jewish people, from their arrival to the "promised land", after 40 years in the desert, to the selection of Saul as their first king, who led the common man to war, and proceeds with a description of the process of corruption to which the tribes came, which culminates in the moment when the expected Messiah appeared, to whom they ended up turning their backs and murdering. Rossellini does not shilly- shally: he cleverly exposes the political intrigue of Pharisees and Jewish priests, who try to preserve their power without disturbing the Roman invaders that control them. Jesus is young and strong, somewhat timid, he works wood, ploughs and gleans, has mystical outbursts, preaches with metaphors to death, and knows how to debate with logical reasoning. The most difficult part of the film is the sequence of the apostles' proselytizing campaign, as they preach the "new word", but that is the director's choice. Rossellini prefers that to show us instead the brutal and violent, in the best aesthetic line of a Greek tragedy, which showed not tortures, crimes or mutilations on stage. «The Messiah» saves us the lashes, the road to Golgotha, the long agony on the cross, and the miracles. The agenda of the film is another: it is to show the story of a man who confronted the corruption of power, who preached love as method, but who was paid with hatred by his own people. The way Rossellini does it is realistic, he shows thing in a way so natural and non-dramatized (often in long shots, with few cuts or none), that the images lose that false fervor of "saint cards" that has ruined so many films about Jesus. As an example, see the sequence of the last supper, from the moment Jesus washes the apostles' feet to Judas' departure. It is just that, a last meal, a sad farewell and the leader's final instructions, and not an ornate evocation of the first Eucharist. Roberto Rossellini was not an improvised filmmaker: he is the father of Italian neo- realism, a brilliant light in the history of cinema, whose trilogy of war («Rome, Open City», «Paisá» and «Germany, Year Zero») marked the birth of contemporary cinema. He was an innovator who took melodrama to the limit in his films with Ingrid Bergman, the love of his life, in «Stromboli, Land of God,» «Europe 51» or «Voyage to Italy,» and a visionary who joined the practice of television, a medium that he glimpsed as the audiovisual future of the planet. «The Messiah» is not a sole spiritual work in his oeuvre. It also includes the portrait of Francis of Assisi in his film «Francesco, Jester of God» (1950) and the TV mini-series «Acts of the Apostles» (1969). Atheists can also be sensitive to genuine religious people.
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La La Land (I) (2016)
6/10
Romantic Sweet
6 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When I wanted to see «La La Land» in a movie theater, I found no company to go with and I let it pass. I asked my friends and they answered, "It's pretty, but not like the musicals of the past." Then it won 261 awards and 193 nominations according to IMDb.com and I stopped asking... I finally saw it two days ago and I understood them. Yes, by parts it's pretty, but the problem, in my opinion, is that it tries to be like old musicals and that format changed, evolved, because the world changed and the perception and appreciation of art advanced, and because shows became more eclectic and media stuff (as illustrated by that 2001 spawn called «Moulin Rouge!»). The naive (and perhaps a bit silly) world of «Top Hat», «Meet Me in St. Louis» and «Finian's Rainbow» no longer exists; and people care very little for products as «West Side Story» or «The Sound of Music» that solved their sociological, economic and ideological issues with someone singing «Somewhere» or «Climb Ev'ry Mountain».

I felt it since the film began, when car drivers stuck in a traffic jam and under a hot sun, sing a little song that, in the harsh reality, would translate into insults, curses and maybe blows. However, I followed the game and began to like it, the more so when the plot antagonized two realities, two personalities with two very different goals. Ryan Gosling plays the pianist Sebastian, a musician who is trying to rescue forms of cultural expression from oblivion or extinction, anguished because jazz is dying and he does not have a space of his own to practice it and spread it. Emma Stone is Mia, a girl who is after that old aspiration of actors since the early 20th century, who lined up to enter the "factory of dreams" (or nightmares, you name it) that is the cinema of Los Angeles - which is not the same as the cinema of New York or Texas.

Immediately, my identification was with Sebastian, although as a theater person I understood Mia. However, it did not take too long before the character disappointed me: Mia has no assistance to stage her show and only gives one performance of her monologue because the opening night was not what she expected and returns home. I have seen openings with fewer people than those who went to see her. In addition, to make matters worse, in one of the most unlikely dramatic (and ridiculous) turns of the plot, some producers propose her to make a film about her ideas. Of course, this may happen, no one denies it, but director-screenwriter Damien Chazelle does not let us see what she did on stage, so we can say, "Sure, such a good actress deserves that opportunity." But no, we must imagine that the monologue was great, although, truthfully, at that point of the movie Mia has not shown any trait of genius.

To be fair, Sebastian does not either, but his character has conviction, strength and determination, and he has his great "commercial moment" before Mia's, when he plays with a standard band a bad song in front of an entranced crowd shouting and dancing to the tune. Luckily, the pianist reacts and says, "No, this is not my thing". Count the awards that Emma Stone won, and those Ryan Gosling got and you will know this world goes only wants «The Voice» and «American Idol»... All in all, I admit that Mia's option is valid, there are many people who want to be the art world and have families. To the effect, the presence of Tom Everett Scott, a nice actor who plays her husband, helps a lot, but Chazelle (and Stone and Gosling in their performances) insinuate sadness and regret for what could have been but was not, as each followed their dreams.

In short, this central conflict between art and personal fulfillment is adorned with musical numbers tinged with romanticism that work very well (those that my friends call "pretty") or are very cheesy (like the dance by the stars in the Observatory Griffith) and overloaded with special effects. I guess many miss the expertise of Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire when dancing, or the voices of Julie Andrews and Mary Martin. But the earth trembles and the hurricane is coming, so nobody has time for the la-la-la of this romantic comfit.
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6/10
Erotic Tale of Mushrooms and Men
5 November 2017
Clearly this adaptation of a novel by Mexican writer Sergio Galindo, was an ambitious co-production between México and España. It sought a prestige similar to that enjoyed by most of the creators involved, from director Roberto Gavaldón to his distinguished cast, plus the co -authors of the script, that included Mexican writer Emilio Carballido, Chilean director Tito Davison and Spanish Fernando Vizcaíno Casas, writer of Francoist affiliation. However, the 1970s were not the best years for Gavaldón, whose style was akin to the films of the golden age of Mexican cinema, and outdated when compared to the most freewheeling products of that time, signed by Paul Leduc, Arturo Ripstein and Felipe Cazals. "The Man of Mushrooms" is artificial and very formal in the way it approaches a story that contains elements that are always thorny, such as racism, incest, the use of hallucinogens and adultery. The story focuses on the family of a ruthless Spanish landowner (Adolfo Marsillach) who one day finds a mulatto child in a place full of mushrooms, names him Gaspar and gives him to his youngest daughter. However, the boy's entrance in his life will bring out all the vices and injustices that he commits, as well as his Mexican mestizo wife (Isela Vega) and his depraved elder sons (Ofelia Medina, Fernando Allende). In addition to the presence of a black panther that terrifies almost all the characters, now there is the disturbing presence of Gaspar, played in adulthood by Philip Michael Thomas, who spends much of the film naked, before he became popular in "Miami Vice." But the erotic tone that Gavaldón achieved with freshness and naturalness in "Sombra verde", one of his most disturbing films, is not perceived here. Although the twists of the plot keep the interest, the film does not have the vigor of the previous works by Gavaldón, who, by then, for his constant bad mood was called "The Ogre", as Ofelia Medina reveals in an interview that accompany the edition of the film on DVD. He would retire three years later.
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10/10
Winner of BannabaFest Panamá
29 October 2017
This extraordinary documentary about a young Belgian-Chilean filmmaker (Andrés Lübbert) who decides to investigate his father's secret past, a Chilean cinematographer who found refuge in Europe from Augusto Pinochet's fascist regime, won the Best Film award at the first Human Rights Film Festival of Panamá. The festival is also known as BannabaFest, after the guna word "bannaba" (with its accent on the last "a") which evolved into the name of the country of Panamá (also with accent on the last "a").

As a simple description, this work is something like a political thriller in the Constantin Costa-Gavras style, mixed with family drama, all based on facts. Andrés' father is cinematographer Jorge Lübbert, brother of Chilean filmmaker Orlando Lübbert, who gave shelter to Jorge when he arrived in Berlin as an exile. Jorge went from East to West Germany and finally to Belgium, and for little Andrés his father's behavior was a puzzling mystery. Eventually he became a filmmaker and decided to make this movie. The result is a highly dramatic account of the lives of these two men who went through a painful process to learn their past. It is a powerful motion picture about the force of truth and the horror perpetrated by those persons who seek world dominance, as Latin American oligarchies and militia, and those whose fascist leaning determines the United States foreign policy (as the creation of the School of the Americas in Panamá, to train torturers and assassins all over the continent).

I would say that this motion picture is for emotionally grown up people, not for those only seeking entertainment. The unfolding of truth in "The Color of the Chameleon" is quite interesting and on its own way entertaining, while simultaneously contributing to our getting of wisdom. The film hardly lets you down, as it consciously follows its investigation (which is its main objective), but it also goes straight to your heart in emotional little moments between father and son. Works like this do not let you escape to the Kingdom of Men, Skull Island or Gotham City to watch fantasy tales. Those settings and stories are fine when you want to watch them. However, "Chameleon" takes us to other reigns, mind spaces of horror, solidarity and love. If we are not looking for the land of Kong, Frodo and Bruce Wayne, "Chameleon" is something quite different and probably more rewarding for us viewers, as human beings.
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4/10
The Singer, the Composer and the Orphan Girl
20 October 2017
«History of a Love» could easily be one of the less satisfactory films in the abundant filmography of Roberto Gavaldón. A prestigious director of the golden era of Mexican cinema, all those acquainted with his work know that he directed many good films and among them, not less than five movies of excellent quality. But there was no shortage of failures or failed attempts to try to obtain more than what the raw material promised, as here, in this endless product at the service of the singing and whining of Argentinian singer Libertad Lamarque, which had no possible redemption. Gavaldón was no stranger to the "suffering divas," such as Dolores del Rio and María Felix, whom he directed in intense melodramas. Or he could turn actresses like Ariadne Welter and Miroslava into passionate women dominated by their intense sexuality. Lamarque, known as "The Bride of America" and beyond her vocal abilities, represented other values, within the "normality" of her time: that is, the majority sector of Catholic women, virgins by profession until proved "guilty", defenders at all costs of the family institution, the "good habits" and the Victorian morality. There was no doubt that there were cracks and ruptures everywhere, but her melodramas did not transgress that order of things advocated by the middle class that controlled the public opinion and administered the doses of fake morality. In this story of the singer Elena Ramos and her relationship with composer Roberto Mijares, the insinuations are all over, but Elena's fight is more inclined towards achieving (her) happiness by raising the abandoned little daughter of a maid, although this means that the composer can abandon her. In fact, when the movie begins, Mijares (Emilio Tuero) has spilled the beans and Elena begins to remember this "history of a love" (that will culminate in the rigorous interpretation of Carlos Eleta Almarán's title song). She does so through several flashbacks that are triggered by a song, or that include a timely melody (like the unspeakable scene in which Elena and Mijares sing to the girl "The March of the Letters". It is the opposite of " Michael Winterbottom's «9 songs», the melodies are mere excuses for the "Bride of America" to show off. However, there is one brilliant moment in the film, a choreography by Ricardo Luna that is interspersed in the middle of a musical number that the diva sings. In front of a theater audience, Elena sings "The Woman of the White Shawl" and, in the middle of the song, she leaves the scene through a door at stage left, which represents the gate of a church. The writers came up with the idea that we, the viewers of the movie (and not the audience of the theater) would see what happens inside the church. And so it is: Elena walks in, kneels in front of the image of a virgin, looks with her tilted head towards a grating that evokes a cross, and suddenly, in an expressionist setting, dancers appear and perform a dance of Death, photographed with maestro Gabriel Figueroa's usual mastery. When she concludes, Elena leaves the church and enters the theater stage again and finishes "The White Shawl" in front of the audience (which, as I said, did not see Ricardo Luna's choreography). Next, when the dizzy singer stumbles through a theater hallway, one wonders if the dance we just saw was a simple hallucination of the protagonist. Or imagined by director Gavaldón, fed up of so much marshmallow. However, this moment does not justify seeing the film in its entirety, but as I know that Doña Liber had legions of fans, see it. But you were warned.
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4/10
Terrible
8 October 2017
At 111 minutes, this "Midnight Special" turns into an endless experience, watching something that you have seen many times before with variations and different casts, including Martin Stephens in "Village of the Damned", Jeff Bridges in "Starman", Haley Joel Osment in "A.I. – Artificial Intelligence", and a rubber puppet designed by Carlo Rambaldi. My admiration for Jeff Nichols' films grew every time he released a new title, from "Shotgun Stories" in 2007, to "Take Shelter" in 2011 and "Mud" in 2012. However, this time he has gone the way of the big scale special effects frenzy with unfortunate results: it is so silly and simplistic, so lacking in finesse and humor, that I could not believe that it was the work of the same director. Nichols had previously been so delicate and perceptive of human condition (including "Take Shelter", a movie about ESP), and dealt intelligently with the innocence of boyhood, and the benign, naive side of manhood. This time again there is something similar in the core of the story, but the father seems too dumb and the kid too foreign to any credibility. If Nichols did not intend this story as a metaphor of Jesus Christ's passion (my goodness!), leaving the Holy Spirit out of this plot, then it also leaves an open door: how did this human-like E.T. end up in this world, having too earthlings as parents? I do not know who cares for a sequel, but I do not. The best thing in the film is Joel Edgerton as Lucas.
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5/10
Play It Again, Stefan
2 October 2017
It was inevitable that the piece of music Richard Addinsell composed for this film would become more popular than the movie itself, when it is heard over and over again in the 94 minutes original version or in the 82 minutes reduction made in the United States. Even at this shorter version, the movie seems overlong, because it takes too much screen time to tell a very simplistic patriotic tale. There is not enough passion transmitted by the Polish pianist and his American bride to carry on the movie, and on top of that, too much screen time is given to Derrick De Marney as an Irish suitor, who is supposed to be fiery and passionate but seems rather lame. Poor Sally Gray (25 years old) is trapped in the middle of Anton Walbrook who was 45 and De Marney, 35. The film is interesting up to the leading characters' wedding but after that, it becomes more routine than the previous first part. When Brian Desmond Hurt films the climatic concert as static and dull as he could manage, then you know there is not much to do, but wait for one air battle of the kind you have seen dozens of times. Only Addinsell was truly inspired when he worked in this production, so he deserves all the success of his «Warsaw Concerto».
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10/10
King Tin Tan at His Best
12 September 2017
Tin Tan was the real king of Mexican comedy, a performer loved by all Latin American audiences: he sang and danced, and was a very funny, irreverent and sexy pothead, ready to party. In this movie he is the leader of an inept band of thieves, a sort of Robin Hood who helps people in a poor neighborhood in México City. He does everything to steal, even pretending to teach rich Vitola how to sing opera. His love interest is lovely Silvia Pinal, before her Buñuelian films; Marcelo, Borolas and Tun Tun, provide laughs, while Tongolele adds a bit of exotic dancing.
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The Brainiac (1962)
6/10
Vitelius' Delicatessen
10 September 2017
Following «Santo vs. the Vampire Women», another cult oddity came to Mexican cinemas in November 1962, surpassing the tale of wrestlers and female vampires in weirdness and kitsch value. Director Chano Urueta had previously released the classic «El espejo de la bruja» and then came «El barón del terror», probably the title for which he is most remembered among the horror genre fans for its bizarre concept. The story has a similar beginning as Mario Bava's «La maschera del demonio», in which Baron Vitelius d'Estera is sentenced to be burned alive by the Inquisition, accused of being a warlock and seducer. He curses his judges and 300 years later he returns to take revenge, as a hideous monster who eats people's brains. He kills the inquisitors' descendants, has enough cerebrum delicatessen at home to eat, but for no discernible reason Baron Vitelius also viciously kills innocent persons, among them pretty Ariadne Welter. Produced with a very low budget by Abel Salazar, who also took the title role, the money must have been spent in the top cast. The curious thing about «El barón del terror» is that everybody agrees that it is a trashy movie but none can deny the strange fascination it exerts.
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Alucarda (1977)
7/10
Alucarda, Daughter of Darkness
7 September 2017
In 1974 director Julián Soler released "Satanás de todos los horrores", a new version of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", suggesting the influence of Juan López Moctezuma's 1972 horror drama "The Mansion of Madness". For López Moctezuma, though, Poe's name and work were as incidental as Sheridan Le Fanu's, whose novella "Carmilla" inspired this masterpiece of gore. The sound and visuals of "Alucarda" went over the top, prompting the publisher of the "Psychotronic Video" magazine to declare that the film had «more blood, loud screaming and nudity than any horror film» he could think of. I suppose that indeed it was, at least in 1978, and it surely called into question the "appropriateness" of the Mexican mini-epics of terror for the middle class that were in vogue, and the stiff upper lip of Hammer vampires and victims of the 1970s. It also came up against the presumptuousness of those Mexican genre directors who denied their cultural roots, in search of a horror cinema made in limbo. In the times of Mexican genre masters Fernando Méndez, Chano Urueta and Rafael Baledón, the Eastern European names and locales of their movies were naïve attempts at worldliness, that made us giggle and panic, as also did products like Portillo's "La momia azteca", that toyed with pre-Columbian cultures and Mexican folklore but was also aligned with the Egyptian mummy of Universal Films. Here worldliness became universal and it was simultaneously rooted in the weirdness or excessive emotion that Mexicans can elicit from themselves as a cultural trait. The representation of fanaticism, guilt, vice and death in "Alucarda", among demented (and lascivious) nuns and monks, proved one more time how correct André Breton was when he declared México «the most surrealist country in the world». Juan López Moctezuma's film gave a grand finale to an era of undeniably wonderful, non-expensive and evocative works in the history of humankind's creation of cultural works of horror, from 1953 (the year when Chano Urueta's "El monstruo resucitado" was released) to 1978, in México.
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