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Los olvidados (1950)
Still powerful and heart-wrenching after 60 years...
"Los olvidados" is probably Buñuel's best film from his Mexican period; it's a depressing study in juvenile delinquency, set in the slums surrounding Mexico City. This film is the Latin American equivalent to Italian neorealism, but it also contains surrealist elements in it (for instance, Pedro's dream, one of the most poignant moments in film history). Jaibo (Roberto Cobo) has just been released from the reformatory and meets with his friends again, encouraging them to steal and abuse people in their neighbourhood. He viciously kills one of his acquaintances -Julián- for denouncing him to the police. Pedro (Alfonso Mejía) is the only witness to the murder, and so Jaibo begins to threaten and harass him in order to keep quiet, until tragedy comes for both of them. Pedro is the only likable or "positive" character in the whole movie. He has a tough life both in the streets and at home, where his mother despises him and doesn't care. Nevertheless, he tries to mend his ways and gets a job, and, although it seems for a moment that his luck and fate will change, things get even worse for him. Buñuel is not Manichean (his moral vision is never black/white) and he seems to tell us that the struggle between good and evil is permanent, with no clear or definitive results. His film is uncompromising, violent and cruel sometimes, always reminding us, as the director said, that "We don't live in the best of the worlds".
The Party (1968)
Sellers at the top of his game...
I saw this film about 25 years ago in a re-release at the movies, and still remember laughing from the very beginning until (almost) the end. Peter Sellers plays Hrundi Bakshi, a not-to-clever and clueless Indian actor who is the worst nightmare for directors when they're shooting scenes with him. Accidentally, Hrundi is invited to the party of a prominent Hollywood producer until the last consequences...This movie is basically Sellers' one-man-show, he shows an extraordinary talent not only in physical humour (his facial gestures and gags) but also verbally. He may seem socially inept and maybe a fool, but he's not. He is amusing, witty, and most of all, shows a great deal of tenderness (especially in the scenes with the French starlet). I won't rate it with 9 or 10 stars because I found the last 15 minutes a bit crude and predictable, and not according to the quality of the rest of the film.
Mediocre coming of age art-film...
I remember vaguely having heard the music of this film when I was a child, a wonderful score composed by Francis Lai. After waiting so many years to watch this movie, I was quite disappointed; the director (photographer David Hamilton) was able to create a dream-like atmosphere for the film, but that's about it. "Bilitis" is an almost plot less, erotic feature about a teenage girl who is confused about her sexuality (she is attracted to both girls and boys). Patty D'Arbanville plays the main role with a certain charm and naivety, but the rest of the characters are completely flat and uninteresting. Nevertheless, there is an acute sense of romance and nostalgic longing in this movie, plus the unforgettable soundtrack and fine cinematography (reminded me of impressionist paintings...) Rating: 5/10
Bitter Moon (1992)
"I don't know you, Nigel, but somehow, you're the listener i've been looking for..."
During a trip to India in a cruiser, a boring British couple -Nigel and Fiona- become friendly with a crippled writer (Oskar) and his sexy wife Mimi. This film is a twisted tale of obsessive love; how passion and sex can eventually destroy the lives of two people. It seems it would turn out to be a movie with a somber, downbeat tone, but not under Polanski's direction; he manages to inject lots of sarcasm and black humour into the film, especially in the character of Oskar (a magnificent performance by Peter Coyote). Nigel is in love with Mimi, so Oskar and her take advantage of this to make fun and manipulate him; the writer tells him the story of their bizarre love story, while Mimi deceives Nigel every time he tries to approach her. Fiona remains a passive character in this "love triangle"...until she drastically changes the course of events in the last scenes of the film. This tragicomedy is one of Polanski's masterpieces, along with "The Pianist" and "Rosemary's Baby"; although it seems it was misunderstood and not well received back in 1992. It also has a great soundtrack with tunes by The Communards, Lionel Richie and Bryan Ferry, which fit perfectly with the tone of the film.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Quite good, actually, in spite of Dean's overacting...
When I was a child, I always thought James Dean appeared in this film riding his motorcycle, with a tough-looking image. (Later on, I learned it was really Brando in "The Wild One"). I remember this as an example of Dean's iconic stature in the world of cinema, though he never gave me the impression of rebeliousness in Ray's film. Just the opposite, he played Jim Stark, a shy, introspective young man who has a problematic relationship with his parents and gets into trouble in every opportunity he has. He seems to be drifting, wandering in life, and obviously has the need to fit in, to be accepted by other people his age. At a police station he meets Judy and Plato, two misfits just like him, who study at the same school he goes. Judy's father despises her and thinks she is a "tramp", while Plato's only companion is his black maid (his mother is absent most of the time). He is emotionally unstable and has homicidal tendencies; he was brought to the police after shooting some puppies. Plato seems to admire Jim's personality, though Ray never makes it clear if it's really a homosexual attraction towards him. The film is aggressive and tender, poetic and melancholic, with a sense of quiet desperation, of things left unsaid, the lack of communication not only between adults and their sons, but also between young people and the prejudice and stereotypes among them.
Unfortunately, Ebert was right...
I never care about what critics say about a film, but in this case I must admit Roger Ebert was right: a zero should be included in the rating for this piece of rubbish called "Caligula". This is, without a doubt, the most malignant and repulsive film i've ever seen; a sadistic blend of hardcore pornography -both straight and gay- and extreme violence. It's really a visual attack, and the only thing I find ironic is that highly respected actors like O'Toole and Gielgud accepted to have a role in this monstrosity. This film has nothing: no plot, no story, nor good acting; it's just a series of vignettes showing the most shocking images you could ever imagine. Some people get thrilled by watching gore movies, but one can tell the difference when a film is made just for entertainment, and when it's made to offend the viewer. There are limits. And it seems to me that Brass and Guccione surpassed those limits.
The Boyle family meets Dr. Freudstein...
The only reason for watching Lucio Fulci's films is to witness the most unpleasant and nauseating images ever committed on celluloid; he was a master on his "craft", as well as his Italian colleagues Joe D'Amato, Umberto Lenzi, Deodato, etc. Thus, Fulci's movies are devoid of coherent or logical plots, and his poorly conceived narrative is just an excuse to show tons of gore (and some) sleazy sex. In "House...", the Boyle family moves to a 19th century house in New England, but they're not warned about an uninvited "guest" living in the cellar, Dr. Freudstein, a killer zombie who needs human flesh to renew his cells. Although the movie is for most of it's part absurd and idiotic, Fulci has a great visual imagination and is able to create a morbid atmosphere in a convincing way. As a fan of "trash cinema", I find Fulci's films quite amusing and transgressive; he was a real iconoclast, instead of some art-house charlatans and poseurs like Godard, whose films could only outrage very close minded, conservative people.