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I have seen 6,035 motion pictures in my life. I have seen many of these more than once. I am not boasting. Nor am I proud that not only have I spent so many years of my life in front of a flickering screen but that I actually know the number of films that I have seen.
With that said, "Seppuku" ("Hara-kiri") makes that whole trip worth while. For every hundred pieces of celluloid tripe you can be fortunate to find a diamond in the rough and for me that was my first experience with this Kobayashi masterpiece. Pure enjoyment, pure excitement.
The film is brilliantly constructed and multi-layered in such a way that the film defies genre classification. To call it a "samurai film" is akin to categorizing "Psycho" as a murder mystery. "Seppuku" could easily slide into the mystery, suspense, drama, or western genres and feel right at home. Perhaps an eastern film noir, if you will.
Kobayashi's telling of the tale incorporates elements of despair, tradition, fortitude, revenge but mostly love, pride and honor in a grand visual style.
The story's setting, direction and Tatsuya Nakadai's strong performance invite the inevitable comparison to Kurosawa and his favorite samurai Toshiro Mifune. All are of such high merit that I would propose ignoring the temptation to compare and appreciate the genius involved in "Seppuku".
For those who have not seen "Seppuku" of course I strongly recommend that you do so but I also suggest that you avoid reading any synopsis and take delight in watching the tale unfold.
10/10 (and not too many of the 6,035 are 10's)
The Marauders (1955)
A refreshing different western
One of the more refreshingly different "B" westerns of the 50s. Instead of the usual set up: western town, hero with a past, dubious locals, saloon girl with the heart of gold, we get a bleak, low budget affair with a great over-the-top performance by Dan Duryea as a psychotic frontier bookkeeper. Yes, bookkeeper. But he becomes one of the more memorable villains of the genre. Keenan Wynn gives an equally bizarre but effective performance as Hook, you can take a guess why he's called that. Jeff Richards is a squatter defending his right to develop a piece of land. The cabin is set with its back to a mountain which makes for a claustrophobic setting that is used creatively. Creative is the key word as there are innovative action scenes throughout including Richards, a stranded mother and annoying child, building a medieval looking bomb tosser. This is a fun, fun movie and its unique story, colorful bad guys and noirish feel made it a must see for the western fan.
Un flic (1972)
I read the comments here and the comments do not justify the nearly 7.0 rating.
If this had been directed by a newcomer, the film may justify a 4-5 and a "worthy effort, kid". Nice "tip of the hat" to the great heist films of the 40s-50s.
However, I expected more from Melville & Delon. Especially after a very effective 20 minute opening, however, the train heist is more comical than it is dramatic due to a toy helicopter chasing my old Lionel train set. Hilarious.
And why cast Richard Crenna & Michael Conrad? Their dubbed performances are distracting and unnecessary.
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)
A Complete Work
I had the opportunity to see this last evening at a local film festival. Herzog introduced the film and did an hour long Q&A afterward.
This is a brilliantly done "documentary"; Herzog explained afterward that he does not consider his films to be true documentary since facts sometimes camouflage the truth. Instead he scripts some scenes and ad-libs some to introduce a new element that may have been missed if he followed the original story outline.
Little Dieter, unlike Timothy Treadwell, is a real person that you fall in love with; you cheer for him, you feel the anguish that he feels. You admire the sense of humor and joy for life that he exhibited here 30 years after he was taken into captivity by the Viet Cong. You are disappointed to hear afterward that Dieter passed on not too long ago.
As in most Herzog films, the imagery is breathtakingly beautiful with a wonderful choice of background music. Especially a scene of battle taken from archives of the Viet Nam war but fitting the story line of Dieter.
The core of the film has Dieter return to the hellish jungle where he was a POW and he re-enacts his journey with some locals. Harrowing for us to watch, I can't imagine what he felt as he was bound again.
One of the better films to depict and discuss the nightmare of the Viet Nam war. It should serve as a lesson to us all.
San Antonio (1945)
How Not To Make A Western
The great western directors of the 50s & 60s... Budd Boetticher, Sergio Leone, etc. must have used this as a blueprint as to how NOT to make a western. This looks like one of those lame Warner Bros. musicals of that era. The comic relief is used to break up the dance hall music rather than the action. TCM is showing doing during 31 days of Oscar because of the song! A good western needs a good villain. Tom Tyler is the only menacing villain and he is gone early in the film. Three directors are listed, including the great Raoul Walsh who must have been sent in to salvage this mess. Very little action, zero suspense. Put on Captain Blood instead.
A Tale of Two Pizzas (2003)
Charm....... with a little grated cheese
INGREDIENTS FOR MAKING "A TALE OF TWO PIZZAS":
Take (1) spoof of Shakespeare's 'Romeo & Juliet' (what if the Capulet and Montague families were in battle over a pizza recipe???)
Add a bunch of Italian seasoning (the credits read like a menu from Valentino's on Bronx River Road)
Add some Capicola ('Soprano' veterans Vincent Pastore and Frank Vincent hamming it up in a delightful way)
Mix in some fresh vegetables(Robin Paul and Conor Dubin are charming in the roles of the youngsters caught up in Great Pizza Wars)
And the parmigiana on this lasagna is the fine soundtrack with vocals by Freddy King plus fun & fitting animation that ties the whole thing up nicely.
An obvious labor of love from director Vinnie Sassone (you expected another name?) that delivers the film that you say "they don't make anymore". A fun, charming comedy in the style of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". Sit back, relax, have some fun, then go eat some pasta.
Overlooked "B" western
On the scale of classic westerns this would be a 6 but as far as Republic "B" westerns goes, this is a 9. An unusual script that could have been a disaster is smartly handled by veteran action director R.G. Springsteen and the solid casting of Wild Bill Elliott, Marie Windsor and Forrest Tucker. With characters like a reformed gambler turned preacher and a female outlaw, this oater had Worst 100 potential. But the tension is built by the credibility of the actors who make the whole thing seem feasible. The musical number (why did every western have to have one)is mercifully brief and the TRUCOLOR always makes a film look richer than its low budget production. It's currently in the WESTERNS Channel rotation, catch it for an entertaining 90 minutes.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
In Your Face Religion
Yes it spotlights the final hours of Christ. Peiod. The film assumes that the viewer has an understanding of the circumstances and the individuals involved. So all we are subjected to is the violence of the final hours.
Why? I don't care to get into the debates, hype, propaganda. First, it is a film. What are you looking for in a film. Entertainment? Time Killer? Educational? Having completed 16 years of Catholic education, I was fully aware of the brutality. So it was not educational for me. As a film geek, I did see or hear anything new in the presentation. The cinematography and score are fine. But nothing stood out. The actors do not have much to work with. Minimal dialog, no emotional pacing. Sledge hammer presentation by the director even though it is more than technically competently put together.
This is in-your-face violence like nothing I have scene before. Peckingpah I'm sure has been mentioned in context with a lot of the opinions posted here. Peckingpah used violence to set up or exclamation-point a plot line. Here the violence is the plot line.
No film can sustain two hours of comedy, romance, pathos. And certainly, a suspense film needs to build its suspense. This film does not attempt to build. It is the final hours. Period.
All we needed was Cinerama, 3-D, Imax to get the complete feeling that we were there.
I believe that Passion of the Christ would have worked for me if the suspense and drama had built beyond its initial 15 minutes. The violence would have had more affect if I had more feeling for the characters other than what I learned in school many years ago. The final hours were more than the torture of Christ. There was the torture of Mary Magdallen, Mother Mary, Paul the apostle who followed Jesus.
3/10 because the director accomplished what he set out to do and the look and the score. I wanted more but I can understand the higher rating.