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the placement of the false leg and the associated paraphernalia are unsettling surrealist touches
A wonderfully controlled film that you just know that the director had a very clear impression of from the start. I have heard it suggested that Franco Nero represented his younger self and Fernando Rey the elder. This would make sense because although the film is outwardly one of his most gentle and understanding of people's foibles there is a violence and a desire to control ever present. The beautiful Catherine Deneuve, all childlike and innocent at the start becomes warped under the lecherous and abusive early attentions of Rey and whilst she continues to appear pliable, she is not. Her relationship with Nero (Bunuel insisted on calling him such as he so hated the Spanish dictator and the name reminded him) is always controlling and though we barely notice it as the film proceeds she becomes more and more so. Ironically Rey appears to become more easy going as age takes its toll but as there never was at the beginning when he called the shots, Deneuve's character is hell bent even missing one leg and confined to a wheelchair. Much has been made of the film's lack of surrealism but even if the dealings with the artificial leg are partly to do with the director's known foot fetishism, there is little doubt that the placement of the false leg and the associated paraphernalia are unsettling surrealist touches. Some have suggested the film is slow, but measured, very measured would be my description and it is one of those rare films. One that once you have seen you would happily sit down and watch again. Although the life depicted is alien, it is presented so believably that you become embroiled in the machinations of the mind of genius film maker, Luis Bunel.
Zombi 2 (1979)
That the creatures are not all the same is most commendable
I had forgotten just how solid a piece of work this is. After an elegiac opening in the New York harbour and a drifting, seemingly innocent yacht (despite the now ominous view of the twin towers) things are about to kick off most dramatically. Watching on Blu-ray, when my previous viewing was on VHS the difference in picture quality was bound to be noticeable but I was a little anxious that the special effects might not look as realistic. Worry not, absolutely astonishing from the early US appearance through the amazing graveyard scenes as the undead emerge from below the surface to the later crowded scenes of mayhem. That the creatures are not all the same is most commendable and helps maintain the horror level. The individual scenes of extreme violence are also beautifully achieved and wincingly effective. I must also mention the underwater scenes prior to all this which in their own way are just as remarkable. The zombie fighting with the shark quite brilliant and I feel I should just also mention how delectable the young Auretta Gay is in these scenes too. Wonderful and meticulous film making and to achieve so much in an area of film, even now, so despised is to be much praised.
La mort en ce jardin (1956)
one of the greatest filmmakers of all time
This is not what we would call 'vintage' Bunuel although it is one of his earlier films and made only a couple of years before Nazarin (1959) which would prove to be the start of the most amazing run of cinema classics, certainly half a dozen of the finest films ever made and quite possibly a dozen. This is more mundane, although always of interest and those little Bunuel trademark signs do creep in. Indeed without wishing to spoil anyone's viewing it does turn out that salvation at the end is at the cost of some 50 lives. It is also interesting to see how the priest is ridiculed throughout and that the seeming good and kind turn out to have interests much closer to their own hearts. It surprises me that after the wondrous El (1953) and hilarious Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955) Bunuel should decide to make this more straightforward literary adaptation but there were undoubtedly financial restraints and it is well documented that he would rather make a lesser film for someone than make nothing at all. And it is surely this perseverance that would lead to that aforementioned fantastic run of films that would establish him as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
The Yakuza (1974)
so good I can't believe that not only had I not seen it but not even heard of it
This is just so good I can't believe that not only had I not seen it but not even heard of it. Screenplay by Paul Schrader (and his brother) just before he did Taxi Driver should have drawn attention but then maybe the Scorsese film took all the attention. Sydney Pollack's direction is assured and he gets great performances from everyone, but I reckon it is the script thats the thing. Moreover it is the only US film I have ever seen that seems to have the vaguest notion of Japan and it culture. So much of this rings true that it tingles with the excitement. The 70s streets of Tokyo and Kyoto are something to behold and the believable interaction between the main characters quite fabulous. There is bloody action here but for a film with such a title nothing like as much as expected, and all the better for it. Love, memory, betrayal, loyalty and repayment of debts both financial and emotional are all here - oh and Robert Mitchum and ken Takakura are great.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
glows and glistens in glorious b/w
What a sparklingly brilliant and horrible noirish movie this is. Even beneath the opening credits the film is bursting forth with crowds bustling, newspaper lorries gushing forth and neon reflecting onto the dark and wet pavements. The fast pace is maintained throughout and there is a slight problem at first in ascertaining what is going on because we find it so hard to accept that Tony Curtis is playing a bad man. Hardly any good men in this, though, as we see how the popular newspaper gossip writers go about their business and the pleasure they take with their snide insinuations and malicious digs. Curtis is fantastic playing against type and this is probably his finest work, Lancaster is similarly playing it more darkly and is so scary, with minimal movement and a steely glare. Much has been said about the seeming weakness of the young lovers and maybe Lancaster's sister could have been more of a wild child and her jazz friend more of a hip cat. But it is a minor moan when the picture before you glows and glistens in glorious b/w before exploding in the midst of its manipulative nastiness.
Hell Drivers (1957)
Dr Who, The Prisoner and the Bond films
Hard hitting, gritty and well known for having so many young British actors who would go on to greater things. In particular there are the future stars of Dr Who, The Prisoner and the Bond films all leaping in and out of lorries. Indeed, it is most noticeable that while the very fine Stanley Baker stars, the bit part player, Sean Connery would be about to leapfrog to mega stardom. The film is fine but there are just a few too many speeded up shots of many lorries speeding through the English countryside and maybe a sub-plot would have been helpful. But 'drive' this certainly has and there is a relentlessness to it, whilst giving just enough colour to the various participants. Herbert Lom's character is perhaps a bit too maudlin and didn't really contribute positively, perhaps the role should have been that of a young lad, son of one of the bosses maybe, just take away that sentimental element the film, surely did not need. Peggy Cummins seems a bit posh for the role but has to be forgiven as she would plain the wondrous Night of the Demon the same year.
Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
Watching it almost 40 years later, things have changed
I saw this back in the day and have always spoken up for what seemed always to be an underrated film. Watching it almost 40 years later, things have changed. I am now viewing this after exposure to any, many Italian giallo. If someone had mentioned back in the 70s that this had been inspired by the genre, I would have perhaps been able to seek them out without having to wait some 25 years. So, what we have here is, possibly the only example of an American giallo, although one might be tempted to consider some of the work of De Palmer and Verhoeven. Unfortunately, what seemed at the time innovative and stylish, lacks the razzmatazz of the Italian product. And for all the Helmut Newton imagery and the models in (and out) of their finery, this lacks, for want of a better word, balls. There is no edge, it is ponderous and lacks the courage of its convictions. It starts well enough but fades badly despite the excellent performance of Tommy Lee Jones and perhaps partly because of a very lacklustre one from Faye Dunaway.
Lisa e il diavolo (1973)
I did feel my eyelids begin to droop at one point
Since last seeing this almost five years ago, I have acquired a wonderful Blu-ray version that includes this and the much maligned re-edit House of Exorcism. At the time of my original review there was no separate listing for the latter film so I had to merge the two pieces. Now all is good I have deleted the original review. So, the first thing about this release is that the problems with sound I originally had are gone and the visuals glow even in those dark H P Lovecraft inspired scenes in woods with mould and broken statues. The wonderful soundtrack is also clear and bright. The film itself is still somewhat problematic and I did feel my eyelids begin to droop at one point, only to be brought back with the absurd but likable over acting of Telly Savalas. Basically, this is a little short on coherent narrative flow whilst the spouting of the lady of the house and her son suggest something going on of which we are not aware. So, unfortunately, whilst everything looks and sounds great, we flounder before the seeming significant tale unfolding, which can be off putting. Ironically, the oft hated re-edit, if a little heavy handed puts right some of these omissions.
The House of Exorcism (1975)
I prefer watching this re-edit than the original Lisa and the Devil
Blasphemous declaration: I prefer watching this re-edit than the original Lisa and the Devil. Well, I am not going so far as to suggest this is a better made film, just that I have some difficulties with the constant (although very pretty) dreamlike structure of the original. This version clearly comes under the heading of 'exploitation' and can therefore be ignored because of the extremes of language, sexuality and blasphemy on display. I just happen to feel that the editing together is remarkable and adds a little sense to the picture. It may not be a pretty sight but there is real vigorous here and Elke Sommer desires a medal for going back and performing those remarkable scenes. I realise I am upsetting not only fans of the original but at the same time fans of the original Exorcist. So be it, in my opinion, the original is what Bava intended and always hoped to get made but being magnanimous was able to assist in creating an alternative movie, perhaps more able to gain an audience. There again, it seems, maybe not.
Blood Simple. (1984)
a crazy burial scene
Whenever this film has come up in conversation, I have always said how good it is but barely remembering much beyond a wincingly tense scene involving a window, a crazy burial scene and the fact that the image was always very dark. That viewing must have been on some less than wonderful video because although most of the film is shot at night, it looks marvellous. Indeed, the visuals, the dialogue, the use of music, the pacing and the performances are near faultless. I still feel that burial scene is a bit too crazy but then allowing for the delirious state the main protagonist was in maybe it is fine, just not what any thinking person would choose to do. But no matter because it makes for great viewing, as does the entire film. There are moments when we do not know quite what is going on (and doubt the characters do too) but this is noir or at least neo- noir and that's all good.