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Another slasher movie in which a bevy of beautiful sorority girls are diced and sliced and all because of something that happened 20 years previously. It's hardly "Halloween"; it's not even "Friday the 13th" but "The House on Sorority Row" is a suitably sleazy creep-fest nevertheless. Of course it's also totally predictable right from the pre-credit sequence. The acting is terrible and the script is no better and sometimes it's hard to tell if the laughs are intentional or not but that's all part of the fun where trash like this is concerned. This is strictly Midnight Movie material; seeing it in the cold light of day may not really be such a good idea.
Isabelle Huppert is one of the greatest and boldest actresses there is, unafraid of any role she's given. Unfortunately that sometimes means she's given parts that are, quite frankly, beneath her. Her role in Christophe Honore's screen version of Georges Bataille's novel "Ma Mere" is one of them. She plays a hedonistic woman who, after the death of her husband, initiates her adoring young son in her lifestyle. She attacks the part gamely enough as does a frequently nude young Louis Garrel as the son but the film is mostly unpleasant and shallow. It's like a porn movie with the pretensions of seriousness, as if all sex is just a cover for something more profound rather than as an end in itself. Ultimately it reminded of seventies Europorn and it leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.
The very best Irish cinema is so steeped in the DNA of the country that
it couldn't possibly come from anywhere else and I'm not talking solely
about the landscape or what one perceives as 'national character,
though both, obviously, play their part but a feeling of 'otherness'
that is as natural as the weather. I am thinking now of the films of
the great Bob Quinn and Thaddeus O'Sullivan, films that may not have
been 'successful' but which were inescapably Irish, part fact and part
fiction; not quite documentary in that they had actors and had
'fictional' narratives but which were quite unlike the fiction films of
other national cinemas.
As Irish cinema grew more confident, feature films like "Eat the Peach", "I Went Down" and Lenny Abrahamson's "Garage" embraced their heritage with just the right amount of boldness and affection. Abrahamson, of course, has gone on to pastures new, to international cinema and success at the Oscars. I'm not yet going to say he's sold out; talent like his is too big to cage and we may yet see him return to his roots.
Last year Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor gave us "Further Beyond", an Irish film quite unlike any that had gone before; one that dealt, not just with Irish history, but with the film-making process itself and the nature of 'acting'. "Silence", which Pat Collins directed in 2012 and co-wrote with his leading 'actor' Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhride, harks back to the cinema of Bob Quinn. It's part fiction, part fact; the people on screen are 'playing' versions of themselves, the subject that Irish DNA I spoke of, the landscape, the people and their thoughts and above all the 'silence' that is so a part of that great swathe of Irish countryside.
It's about a sound recordist, (Mac Giolla Bhride), who returns to Ireland to record the absence of man-made sound, the silence that is peculiar to Ireland. On the one hand, then, it deals with the film-making process, the use of sound in film, but it also deals with what could be described as that well of loneliness we often, wrongly, associate with silence. In seeking silence Eoghan, who has been away from Ireland for 15 years, seems to be seeking the solitude, and in the solitude, the happiness the Irish diaspora has denied him.
For a film called "Silence" sounds are everywhere but they are the sounds of nature we very often don't hear; the sounds of silence, if you like. Beautifully shot for the most part in widescreen and in colour, with 'inserts' in black and white, this is an exquisite piece of film-making that draws us deep into its subject. Of course, being Irish myself, and living not a stone's throw from where some of this film was shot, perhaps I am seeing things here that others won't; perhaps I have the privilege of being a part of that DNA. Regardless, this is a film that really shouldn't be missed, as open and as honest as they come.
Not quite the disaster the critics made it out to be but hardly likely to be remembered among the best of Carol Reed. It was a prestige production done on a grand scale but neither Philip Dunne's screenplay nor, indeed, Irving Stone's original novel were inspirational. The subject, of course, is Michaelangelo's painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Charlton Heston, who else, is a hugely miscast Michaelangelo, (he's heterosexual, for starters). He does what he can with the part but the material defeats him. On the other hand, Rex Harrison not only carries the movie but redeems it. He barnstorms his way through the part of Pope Julius II, the man who commissioned Michaelangelo in the first place. He even manages the fanciful dialogue, barking it out as though it were Shakespeare. There's also a decent supporting cast, both British and Italian, with the Italians largely dubbed, but they too are wasted. Does it give us any insight into the man or his work? Absolutely not, but as epics go it's a pleasant enough time-passer.
It may be a stretch to even call Andy Guerif's "Maesta, The Passion of
the Christ" a film in any real sense of the term. It's probably more
akin to theatre, playing out in real time, yet even then it's hardly
theatre as we know it. Perhaps it's nothing more than a painting
brought to life, at least to a degree. Guerif fills the screen with 14
tableaux, some split in half thus multiplying the images and within
these 'screens' figures move about enacting scenes from the last hours
of Jesus, beginning centre screen with the Crucifixion then seemingly
moving in reverse to the events leading up to it, then moving forward
again to the Crucifixion and so on as if on some kind of loop.
Scraps of dialogue are heard in French, (there are no English subtitles), and without some knowledge of the Biblical story of the Passion it would be impossible to tell what is going on. One image appears to show the Last Summer, another the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and so on. It's as if Guerif is attempting to bring religious painting or iconography to life, only in miniature. Since we are never allowed to get up close and personal we can't identify with the tiny figures on screen. The experience is akin to assembling a jigsaw without prior knowledge of what the finished product will look like. It lasts less than an hour but it feels like eternity.
A 'realist' western which means it's about the death of the 'Old West' and its cowboys are no longer young men. Its title character is played by Lee Marvin, (he was 46 when it was made), and his partner is Jack Palance, (who was 51), and the woman Monte loves is a French whore, (a lovely understated Jeanne Moreau). There is very little in the way of conventional action or plot, (a gunfight in the rain, a town almost wrecked by an untamed horse). This is an observational western chronicling a lifestyle that no longer seems relevant. It's gorgeously shot in widescreen by David M Walsh, making great use, not just of the landscape, but of the elements and is beautifully directed by the underrated William A Fraker. I think it's something of a small classic.
John Carney's "Sing Street" is much closer to "The Commitments" than it is to "Once" but like "Once" it's on a much smaller scale, (a kind of "Bugsy Malone" version of "The Commitments"), but if the scale is small both its heart and its humour are pretty massive and its mostly young cast are fabulous, (and the adults aren't half bad either). You could write the plot on a pinhead, (boy meets girl, boy starts band, boy gets girl), but plot is the last thing you go to a movie like this for, There's more tonic in "Sing Street" than there is in a dozen pints of plain.
Life's hard for a couple of juvenile delinquents in Japan. Takeshi Kitano's marvelous 1996 film "Kids Return" skirts around the fringes of his better known gangster pictures to look at the seeds that, once planted, might turn a boy into a gangster or, as happens here with one of our anti-heroes, a boxer. This is a very likable, small-scale film full of all the affection of friendship where even violence seems like a necessary evil in the process of growing up. Drawing superb performances from his young cast Kitano, who wrote, directed and edited the picture, keeps things light and easy with just the right degrees of sadness and humour. This may not be one of his better known films but it's just as good as anything he's done.
Critically much maligned but really rather an outstanding screen adaptation of Nathanael West's 'difficult' novel about Hollywood in the 1930's and based on West's own experiences there as a 'hack' writer. The British director John Schlesinger helmed the picture, bringing much the same jaundiced eye to bear on proceedings as he did in "Midnight Cowboy". Waldo Salt wrote the excellent script and the outstanding cast included Karen Black as the wannabe actress trying to make it big in the movies, Burgess Meredith as her drunken father, William Atherton as the young art director in love with her and Donald Sutherland as the sad and lonely Homer Simpson that Black all but destroys and whose presence instigates the films tragic ending. The great Conrad Hall photographed the picture and the monstrous child is Jackie Earle Haley.
A better than average script from Leigh Vance and director John Lemont and a highly charismatic performance from a pre-Bond Sean Connery give this British gangster picture something of a lift. It's hardly ground-breaking and the plot offers nothing new but it's tough and well cast, (as well as Connery there is excellent work from Herbert Lom and Alfred Marks as villains even if we do have to put up with the dull John Gregson on the right side of the law), and it passes ninety or so minutes pleasantly enough.
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