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Asfalttilampaat / The Asphalt Lambs (1968), 23 November 2016

One of the best Finnish classic films. Watching the new HD print I was pleasantly surprised how cinematic it is; clearly the famed director, Mikko Niskanen, was influenced by French New Wave, perhaps Soviet cinema as well. It's a story about young love in narrow-minded small town, a town which doesn't accept the relationship between the two lovers. Could have been a brilliant film instead of a great film - if the commercially inclined producer, Donner, had not insisted cutting the whole film anew on editing table and even filming an unnecessary scene of his own, regardless of director's wishes... making the outcome become somewhat fractured and different from Niskanen's original vision. The director apparently never watched the finished product himself. Still, a great classic with social criticism on small town mentality and a heartfelt love story with good performances and many colorful characters.

ASFALTTILAMPAAT (1968) is the last film in Niskanen's youth trilogy, all three of which starred the lovely female lead, Kirsti Wallasvaara. The other two films were about complications of free relationships in KÄPY SELÄN ALLA (1966) and social/socialist movement in LAPUALAISMORSIAN (1967), the former having more of a cult status in Finland. I would argue that "Asfalttilampaat" is at least equally impressive as a film and even more so visually, although probably not as groundbreaking on depicting youth culture of the time. Great product of its time, with a timeless story.

The film got a very much deserved Jussi Award for best cinematography and is probably best remembered for the theme song "Sinua, sinua rakastan".

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Excellent war drama, 22 November 2016

Forgotten gem of a classic war drama, delivered with taste and nice looking b/w cinematography. The story follows a platoon of US soldiers across several cities on their conquest of Europe during WWII. It's more of a compilation of vignettes on the platoon members' wartime affairs with local European women rather than a traditional war film, being almost devoid of battle scenes. Yet the presence of war is always felt; as in the superb bombing scene with Sgt Craig and the wealthy French war widow, played by Wallach and Moreau.

"The Victors" has a great all-round cast of characters, including George Hamilton as corporal Trower, Eli Wallach as the tough sergeant, Jeanne Moreau and Rosanna Schiaffino playing short but memorable segments as the conquered women, to name a few. The version I saw has a relatively long running time of two and half hours, and is sometimes slightly slow for all tastes.... which is however compensated with several high impact scenes that linger well after the fact... for example one with Peter Fonda and a doomed puppy. The film is a great character study on human condition and makes a strong anti-war message, especially in the snowy execution scene of a deserter with Sinatra's Christmas song playing in the background... a contrast of tender music and violence which contributes to one of the most striking scenes in cinematic history... a combination later seen in many films such as Kubrik's DR. STRANGELOVE (1964), Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966), Peckinpah's CROSS OF IRON (1977) - and of course various Tarantino films where the meaning is to rather glorify violence instead of criticizing it.

"The Victors" is based on British writer Alexander Baron's book "The Human Kind", which is a collection of short stories based on the author's own wartime experiences. Excellent film.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Existential angst from Bergman, 18 October 2015

Existential angst from Bergman; and a somewhat entertaining story of a knight (Max von Sydow) and his servant returning from crusades. A story which doesn't advance much but merely serves as a medieval backdrop for the protagonist's spiritual journey - in this film Bergman asks if God exists.

The film is supposed to take place in 14th century Sweden during bubonic plague (aka The Black Death), which fits the theme perfectly. However the costumes and props are rather low quality which doesn't make the film credible outside of its metaphysical introspection. Camera work is mediocre at best; the scenes consist mostly on static one camera shots focused on narrow view. The lack of production values is quite apparent while it was shot in one month, mostly inside a studio and with a budget of 150k dollars. In other words you can't make great panorama takes if there are only two medieval mock up shacks inside the studio...

The story is somewhat entertaining, not as boring as I expected from essential art cinema. The dialogue is often intellectually interesting and some images are very artistic, mainly on the scenes where the protagonist struggles with theological issues. So those are strong points of the film: dialogue and occasionally impressive, haunting, images.

On the meaning of grim reaper and chess, the talking point of the film... I wasn't quite convinced with grim reaper following Sydow's knight in first place - he seemed in perfect health to me, as did other characters. Yes, the knight had cheated death when returning alive from crusades but still. Perhaps the point was people seeking answer whether God exists from death while the grim reaper doesn't have the answer either. If this was the meaning then that would make it an atheistic film, or agnostic the very least. 7/10

Ikiru (1952)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Ikiru - Doesn't quite live up to its reputation, 16 October 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Can't say I agree with critical acclaim for Ikiru, all critics seem to be in perfect unison that it's a masterpiece. Perhaps, but also a very tedious one.

Yes I can appreciate the message about finding your meaning of life and making a difference etc but a film having a serious message doesn't mean it has to drag; Ikiru was very slow and rather long as well. Not a good combination.

What cheered up the film a bit was the female lead, the girl from the office... Ikiru, imo, has only one great scene; The girl showing her emotions at the restaurant, her sheer disgust/pity was quite fascinating to watch. Other than that it was the sad puppy face and slumped shoulders of the protagonist for almost couple hours which sure is memorable but also one note acting.

The wake scene, which consisted of almost last hour of the film, was some sort of critical social commentary on Japanese culture, way of thinking and bureaucracy - but also rather poor storytelling since it was hard for the viewer to relate to arguments by characters that had not really been introduced properly earlier in the film. More emotionally effective would have been to actually witness the protagonist perform his life altering bureaucratic heroics himself.

Well, to be fair, Kurosawa actually did show some of it using flashbacks...It seems that Kurosawa has a fetish for flashbacks, as seen in "Rashomon" as well. Yet those scenes in Ikiru were pretty much protagonist merely nodding and begging in apologetic manner. I found that less than convincing way to get the job done... or to achieve a legacy for that matter.

Oh well, at least they played Pachinko and visited a strip tease show.

But couple breaks from tedium and the life altering philosophy just couldn't save the film from its slow pace, predictability and dare I say rather mediocre cinematography. I'll give it 5/10.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Colourful life on the road/in the ring, 28 July 2011

Nice film with Peter Falk (RIP) ...I had seen it before, years ago, didn't remember it though...except the mud wrestling scene and that hot "Iris" aka Vicki Frederick - wow!

I wonder why Frederick didn't make it to a bigger star, she certainly had the looks and talent to be a real 80's sweetheart/hottie...

The movie is a sort of a mixed bag, divided between t&a of female wrestling scenes and story about them trying to make it...perhaps with too much wrestling/backstory depending on one's point of view... The last wrestling scene was something like 20 minutes long, a bit too much perhaps. But I have to say wrestling was well made and ladies were fit, so no big problem, entertaining fair nevertheless.

I liked the 70's feel of it, reminded me a bit about Rocky...well it did have "Paulie" in it. And Columbo, in quite a different role, pulling a fine performance as a sleazy manager. And of course according to this film, wrestling is all real, not a show. Ha! Wonderful find.


34 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
This is what science fiction is all about, 28 July 2011

Watched this one after few years, didn't remember what it was all about. Oh yes, it was the one with "V'ger"...aka amazingly beautiful Persis Khambatta...with her head shaved. Most beautiful bald woman I can think of right now...

The film is about huge unbeatable "cloud" approaching and threatening Earth, only thing standing in between is Enterprise with its legendary crew. It appears I enjoy the film more and more each decade I see it again.

I thought there was slightly too much time used on introduction and drafting of old crew, but once the "action" began it kept me on edge of my seat all the way through. Don't think that "action" I mention was fighting and shooting, it wasn't. Perhaps lack of silly fighting makes (all too) many people to say that this film was too long and slow paced. Well, I disagree - this is exactly the kind of science fiction I love, you are given chance to use your own imagination. Some say pacing and the film is similar to Kubrik's 2001...I won't argue against it.

The film had amazing special effects for its time. No, not amazing, incredible. But don't watch it for special effects only, the real interest of this film lies in the nature of the alien "cloud" and Enterprise crew trying to figure it out and trying to cope with it. Special effects were used as a tool to launch YOUR imagination, as they should be.

This film is probably closest to spirit of original series, without much campiness though. A thinking man's Star Trek film. What a wonderful treat. They don't make films like this any more.


0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Stylistic portrayal of competition, 3 January 2010

Finally saw this forgotten gem.

A small character study/sports film about downhill skiing, with Robert Redford, Gene Hackman and a fine looking actress named Camilla Sparv. I was also pleased to spot Dabney Coleman in minor role.

I was surprised to read all negative comments at this movie was plain and boring and who wants to watch skiing anyway...

I disagree.

For me it was exactly the authentic feeling this movie had on downhill scenes and the rarely depicted environment of downhill competition that made this film stand out from the mass. Have to admit that I was blown away by some of the skiing scenes, they were brilliantly done, imo. I agree that pacing was a bit slow at times and the storyline somewhat minimalistic. But as I saw it, this was exactly what the director had attempted...creating a true to life realistic experience, which should have been obvious from the documentary style of the picture.

Even the character of Redford's, or his relationship with the female, wasn't stripped down, but the viewer was left to draw one's own conclusions about his motives and what made him tic.

Really liked this one because it was different. And the ending was perfect: Reflecting the eternal cycle of life/competition and how small the difference between winning and losing can be.


Definitely worth watching

13 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Parallax View - A greatly overrated and disappointing picture?, 29 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Parallax View, starring Warren Beatty playing a reporter in Alan J Pakula's film, a couple years before ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. A film that did not enjoy success when it first was released but has apparently gained some momentum since.

I had been reading some reviews full of praise for this film. It was compared to movies about conspiracy such as Three Days of the Condor, All the President's Men, Manchurian Candidate, JFK and the Conversation. The movie has 7.4 average at IMDb and 91% at Rottentomatoes. My comparison would be POINT BLANK except this one being slightly inferior on all counts.

"A masterpiece of suspense, tension and cinematic storytelling the likes of which, sadly, Hollywood doesn't make anymore."

I'm happy that they don't. Maybe 70's seems better from distance, or from parallax viewpoint? The movie was about a reporter Joseph Frady(Beatty) tracking a conspiracy to kill high position politicians, I think...

However the plot is sort of messy and unsatisfying, questions are being unanswered and unexplained or never made. I'm not sure if this was by purpose or due to inadequate writing. In the beginning a politician is killed and shortly after possible witnesses from the crime scene are getting killed in various "accidents"...which sounds like a nice prospect for a thriller. However we are never explained why the urge to kill the witnesses in the first place? There was nothing to witness after the assassin getting killed at the event. Yes, us viewers do see that someone else was involved in assassination at the crime scene, but how would the "witnesses" know that remains a question not answered in the movie. I guess they just have to be killed, all 12? of that will make the conspiracy less noticeable for sure.

While following a "lead" for one of the witness killings, Frady eventually finds out that there may be a company called Parallax behind all this. So how to get more information on the company? - Simple, fill out a psychological test application form and send it to the company. If you're found out to be an anti-social murdering type you get an interview...because that's how hit men are really recruited. In this interview they apply some brainwash techniques, just to be on the safe side when dealing with a psychopath I guess. Although I don't see the need for a brainwash AND being a psychopath.

Anyways the problem with the movie, apart plot holes, was the long, dragging scenes. I found myself just staring at the screen thinking something unrelated. The movie never grabbed me along the attempted atmosphere...which was supposedly very "dark" and "paranoid". Actually what was "dark", was the dim lit was so dark that you could hardly see anything in many of the scenes. This is something that is typical to many films of the 70's, usually for the bottom of the barrel types. It can be used to film's advantage, but not all way through imo, especially when you're kept in the dark about what and why things are happening in the first place. Filming long and black shots does not a suspense make, it actually requires something to be suspenseful about...something along the lines of TIGHTROPE or DIRTY HARRY perhaps, where darkness was used wisely to not only in attempt to create but also to enhance existing atmosphere created by script, acting and characterization.

Talking about characters...There was no character development at all, not even for the protagonist. Other characters did get very little screen time and seemed to be irrelevant. I don't know...maybe Hackman could have pulled this off, but Beatty didn't seem to be able to.

After the movie I found myself thinking...Wow, I would have really hard time explaining the actual plot afterwards. Very unclear plot, an unnecessary bar fight scene and out of nowhere car chase. What was that boat explosion all about...How come Frady was the only one to survive and how did he get to dry land? Were there only Frady and his boss working in this newspaper? How did he know there was a bomb on the plane? Who were the people he asked about the application form? etc etc...And most importantly, why did this all happen in the first place!? It's really hard to tell since there was no character development nor explanations but rather jumping from one scene to another making it look sort of like a montage of cut scenes that were barely related. Rather hard to follow when you're in the trance state of staring and suddenly notice that it's a new scene you're watching...what happened in the last one, how did we get here...

Positives for the movie would be: -Somewhat creative brainwash scene along the lines of CLOCKWORK ORANGE -Unclear ending...was Frady actually brainwashed and an assassin himself in the end. -The way how he informs the plane crew about the bomb while not being accused himself of planting it. -And finally a scene with a chimpanzee playing Pong. Yes, you read it right, this was the highlight of the movie for me personally...

Watch The CONVERSATION or THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR instead. Former being vastly more successful on creating paranoid atmosphere and latter on suspense and having a good tight script with great pacing on keeping the suspense...NOT letting it drain away with long, pointless, disjointed and dim scenes as in PARALLAX VIEW.


Foul Play (1978)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Seventies at it's funniest, 20 July 2000

I'd put this film into category "comedy" instead of thriller. This movie is so seventies that it thrills me. Chase and Hawn are great. Most enjoyable character is of course Dudley Moore as Stanley Tibbets, unforgettable dancing scene...If you're a fan of Dudley, this film is a must!

Greatest war movie, 20 July 2000

Best war film I've seen, and I've seen plenty. It feels so real that it's hard to tell if the film is anti or pro war. Fascinating thing about movie is that Germans are this time the heroes of the film. Characters are very well personified, making you to identify, and hope that good guys will survive at the end. Not a typical war movie with lots of shooting without a decent plot. Far better than FMJ's, Platoons, Ryans etc.