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"Midnight Cowboy" with Sonny Liston and Chet Baker by way of David Lynch...
That's the Hollywood pitch for this strange-o flick, meaning this movie is definitely not a Hollywood movie. It's done for pretty cheap (you can sometimes tell this and sometimes it looks like it has a budget?!) but there's some really good work in this movie from the actors in it. And it's got a nice groove once it gets going.
I guess even though Nixon is sorta in the background of this movie's lost desert weekend, the ex-president's woes seem just as tragic as the Boxer (Rhomeyn Johnson) and Musician's (Rob Arbogast). Their weird, funny, and troubled vibe is one of the main reasons to see this.
There are no big names in this either, but maybe that's okay in the end since nobody in this has any baggage to ruin it. It makes it feel more real.
Spin Cycle Tokyo (1999)
An excellent, mellow groove...
If Hal Ashby were alive and making short films in Japan, this would be on top of the list. It's a rarity to see a short film that doesn't pander or opt for a cheap bite-size candy payoff. The fact that a USC film grad (American at that) went to Japan to film this with a Japanese cast and crew is alone worth kudos for sheer audacity.
But that fact aside, the film is truly great because of the basics: authentic writing, direction and acting that is deceptively sparse; meaning it actually breathes rather than pushing or forcing anything on the viewer.
We look forward to seeing more films from Mr. Young.
Don't be fooled by lazy critics...
It's very true that this film defies convention by not spelling out the plot for the viewer. While some may have a problem with having to figure it out for themselves, I embrace "Uzumaki" for its irreverence. There is a PLOT, it's just that it may not be immediately accessible to a lazy viewer. This is a film that invites numerous interpretations, as all great art does - however, this film is also very entertaining, making it a rare film experience. It's simultaneously provocative and fun.
Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994)
A haunting love story...
There's no way to capsulize a film as deceptively simple as this one. I would recommend "Red" to the true romantics of the world who could appreciate a lyrical experience like this. It requires patience, trust, and love to watch - but is well worth the effort.
The Conversation (1974)
Curses to MTV...(semi-spoiler)
I have probably seen "The Conversation" at least 20 times (I have a lot of free-time). Obviously, this film is a personal investment, but I didn't always feel this way. The first time I saw Coppola's opus, it was right around the advent of MTV, somewhere in the early-to-mid-80's. I was already taken in by the fast-paced, video revolution. Hollywood was also affected, as it began churning out films with the BIG-BAM-BOOM mentality ("Top Gun" and "Flashdance" come to mind), and suddenly, movies slowly started to suck. I'm not covering any new terrain here. It's a rote debate that MTV, though in many ways a significant contribution, has screwed a whole generation out of embracing films that take their time. Films that are patient. Not boring. Patient. The first time I saw "The Conversation," I don't think I even sat through the entire film. Too many distractions, I had to catch the world premiere video of Men Without Hats. A few years later, after my Uncle Don trashed the family t.v., I managed to see Coppola's film again at a friend's house. This time, somehow, I stuck with it. And this time, I was rewarded with a profound experience. "The Conversation" is blessed by the performance of Gene Hackman, a man normally known for his virile portrayals as Popeye Doyle, Lex Luthor, and Little Bill. Here, as Harry Caul, he's an awkward, tortured surveillance expert (a metaphor for "artist") who falls from grace for taking pride in his soul-killing work. I love the way this film examines every pore of this man's painful life, and how his work ethic and guilt have taken its toll. Coppola was at his peak here. I know that the majority of the AMC audience doesn't want to sit down and take in every nuance. It's work. But there's a pay-off if one sticks with this stark, horrifying film. It doesn't get any better than this.
Lost Highway (1997)
A widely misunderstood Twilight Zone...(spoiler)
I'll throw my disclaimer out there by stating that I know that "Lost Highway" is a hard film to sit through. I'll admit that the first time I viewed it, I squirmed. In fact, I think I may have dozed off somewhere in the mid-section (appropriate since the film takes on a dream/nightmare-like quality). I would've probably written this film off like the majority of the world, but I started to realize that I couldn't shake off this movie. Damn, it won't leave me. Certain images and scenes set-up tent and camped out in my psyche. (So, after re-reading my mangled copy of "Crime and Punishment," and after watching the "E!" True Hollywood Story on O.J., I came to reassess my opinion of "Lost Highway" and decided to reassess this film).
Be forewarned, SPOILER plot-points (and one viewer's interpretation) are forthcoming...
I think it's a genius-move on Lynch's part to make a film about the power of "denial", set in Los Angeles - a surreal city notorious for crushing the dreams and reality of its citizenry. I'm sure many can relate to that, but don't want to necessarily be reminded of it at their local Cineplex Odeon. But I don't mind it, because there's real beauty to find in this film's surreal brutality. I'm sure most of us wonder how a person (a seemingly normal, successful person) could murder. If there was any grain of interest to the O.J. trial, it was that. This experience was like hanging out in the headspace of O.J. for two hours. After all, we're talking about a successful man, Fred Madison (Bill Pullman or O.J., take your pick) who can't take responsibility for killing his wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette). And rather than look at the truth, it's better to create a whole new life/fantasy while stagnating in jail. Enter Pete (Balthazar Getty), Fred's doppelganger. But Fred/Pete can't escape the truth. Everything and everyone that Fred tries to forget re-emerges in his new reality, Pete's reality. Thus, the descent into Hell, or Fred's "Lost Highway" is neverending.
This is heady stuff. This interpretation (one of many - but a good starting point for most) lends itself to the idea that one must be open to seeing this film MORE THAN ONCE in order to truly have an experience. It's too deceptively easy to dismiss, but there's a lot here to embrace. How many filmmakers out there are doing movies like this? A true movie about a "thinking man's" insanity, starring a cast of scarred psyches (Gary <motorcycle-rehab> Busey, Balthazar <strained family history> Getty, Natasha Gregson (daughter of drowned mother, Natalie Wood> Wagner, Richard <Parkinson's> Pryor, Robert <publicized breakdown> Blake, etc.). These choices were no accident. This film is an incredible work of art. It may not be for most since it is HARSH, but no one should deny its understanding of what drives sensible people over the edge.
Not many films nowadays can really pull that off.
And as for entertainment value, I can watch Robert Loggia smacking around the tailgator until the end of time.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
This one grows on you - Spoiler
Bottom line with "Eyes Wide Shut" for me is this - I loved it. And most of my friends chastised me for that because they hated it. Hearing their perspective, this is what I concluded - most people want films that ZIP along, especially if we're talking about the summer market. Also, most don't want a film that's open to interpretation. That's work. Well, I didn't mind the work. There's a haunting beauty and imagery to this film that lingers with you, no matter how much you may despise the overall package. And as for that "package," here's what I surmise (after sharing this viewpoint with my friends, they seemed more open to the experience)...
I interpreted the film as one big dream sequence for Cruise's character (hence the title) that takes place after the pot-smoking catalyst/1st Act Turning Point. Once in the dream, he's offered one sexual fantasy after another, but each fantasy turns out to be a nightmare, i.e.: the girl in the costume shop, the hooker with AIDS, the orgy gone awry, the death of the orgy-savior-girl, etc. It's only when Dr. Bill opens up his feelings to his wife at the story's close that he can fully consummate his primal urge.
Unfortunately, the mainstream market can't embrace a movie like this because it's so open to interpretation. The cineplex crowd doesn't want to sit there and work out the "meaning" while downing their Junior Mints. What's confounding is that even the critics and die-hard Kubrick fans threw in the towel on this one. Bummer. Because like Kubrick's previous films, this one requires more of an open mind. If you take on the film as a dream, then all bets are off and suddenly, you're in the hands of someone who's reinventing the conventional mode of storytelling. Maybe in time, people will realize how beautiful this film is. It sure beats sitting through "Battlefield Earth."