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My top films:
2.The Gold Rush (1925)
3.The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
4.The Last Laugh (1924)
6.Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
7.The General (1927)
9.The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
10.The Jazz Singer (1927)
1.City Lights (1931)
2.The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
3.King Kong (1933)
5.Duck Soup (1933)
6.I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
8.Gone with the Wind (1939)
9.Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
10.Bringing Up Baby (1938)
2.The Great Dictator (1940)
3.Citizen Kane (1941)
4.The Maltese Falcon (1941)
7.The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
8.Double Indemnity (1944)
9.The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
10.Ladri di biciclette (1948)
1.On the Waterfront (1954)
2.The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
3.The Searchers (1956)
4.Rear Window (1954)
5.Salaire de la peur, Le (1953)
6.Singin' in the Rain (1952)
7.High Noon (1952)
8.All About Eve (1950)
9.Some Like It Hot (1959)
1.Midnight Cowboy (1969)
2.The Graduate (1967)
4.Cool Hand Luke (1967)
6.Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
7.Buono, il brutto, il cattivo., Il (1966)
8.In the Heat of the Night (1967)
9.Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
1.Star Wars (1977)
2.The Godfather (1972)
3.A Clockwork Orange (1971)
4.Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
6.The Godfather: Part II (1974)
8.The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
9.Apocalypse Now (1979)
10.Blazing Saddles (1974)
2.Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
4.The Breakfast Club (1985)
5.Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
6.Blue Velvet (1986)
7.Blade Runner (1982)
8.The Elephant Man (1980)
9.This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
10.The Princess Bride (1987)
1.Pulp Fiction (1994)
5.Jackie Brown (1997)
6.Batman Returns (1992)
8.Toy Story (1995)
9.L.A. Confidential (1997)
10.Groundhog Day (1993)
2000's (so far)
1.The Wrestler (2008)
2.No Country for Old Men (2007)
3.The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
4.Scaphandre et le papillon, Le(2007)
5.Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
7.The Dark Knight (2008)
8.Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
9.Lost in Translation (2003)
Blonde Cobra (1963)
Blonde Cobra (Jacobs. 1963)
Ken Jacobs is an experimental filmmaker and theory teacher who is still making movies to this day. He was an art teacher to the monumentally influential Art Spiegelman and is sometimes credited for coining the term "paracinema" though that changes depending on your source. Whether he invented the term or not, paracinema seems to be the wheelhouse in which Jacobs lives. It is a word that literally stands for any type of film that is outside the conventional genres in filmmaking. In Jacobs' personal favorite genre, experimental avant-garde, paracinema also means any film made without the standard equipment of the film medium. If this essay-like opening paragraph is boring you, I guarantee the subject matter of Ken Jacobs' 1963 Blonde Cobra will lighten the mood.
I almost feel strange referring to Blonde Cobra as an actual movie as opposed to a home video of two perverts talking about penises. See, I told you it would pick-up. It is set in a cramped apartment and shot with a single camera in grainy and unpleasant looking black and white. It "stars" a fellow experimental filmmaker, Jack Smith (Flaming Creatures), as himself in silly costumes while holding icky looking props. The motives for the movie are almost impossible to figure out. If I had to guess, I would say that these are two bored, eccentric homosexual filmmakers in the early 60s who are doing nothing more than looking for a way to torment the suits. There does not seem to be a point to anything in the film, rather Jacobs fills the half an hour runtime with controversial and offensive voiceovers behind strange images or completely blank screens.
There is no secular narrative presented in the film. Instead, Jacobs split his work into three short vignettes featuring Smith as different characters usually in drag or some other goofy costume. The first short in the film has Smith dressed in the manner of a fortuneteller and displays the behavior of someone with an intense oral fixation. This dialogue-less action includes Smith licking raw poultry and features a voice-over that describes cases of sexual molestation to children and necrophilia. The best I can do is say I THINK that is what they're talking about, but it is almost impossible to understand what they are saying. Most of these stories, including one particular moment in which Smith describes a female's use of religious statues for masturbation, are said over a blank, black screen. You'd think that a visual break from the action would be kinda nice, but the narration might even be more graphic. It is certainly more offensive.
The next "scene" has Smith and another man dressed as 1920s-esque gangsters as they dance to what sounds like (but don't quote me on it) the Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire version of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off". I would think that this scene holds the key to Blonde Cobra even being on this list of films. Pop music in film was a brand new concept in the 1960s. And though many credit The Graduate for the use of a pop music soundtrack, Jacobs and Smith were using recordings in their films as early as 1957. Jacobs'Blonde Cobra, Smith's Flaming Creatures and, of course, Anger's Scorpio Rising were all released between 1963-64 and unknowingly serve as the first examples of unlicensed music in film.
And then, after all of that excitement, there is another vignette. This time we have Smith dressed as an explorer of some kind. He and another man rub themselves on all sorts of different apartment props. Smith can be heard saying that sex is "a pain in the ass". Other than that, nothing really happens.
Maybe the most famous line in the film is said in the first act. Mid-sentence, Smith stops and turns to the camera. With a completely serious demeanor you can hear him say "I don't know if this makes sense to you". I can assure you that the film does not make any sense at all. Not in the way that a surrealist like Buñuel doesn't make sense, but more in the way that a sleep deprived, gay crack-addict probably doesn't make sense. I eventually came to realize that looking for a motive or a point in Blonde Cobra is an exercise in futility. The film is pointless.
It would be wrong to say that Blonde Cobra has absolutely no cultural importance. Jacobs and Smith are both very famous in the gay, New York underground film scene. Somebody somewhere likes this stuff. And like Tarantino makes movies for a niche of people these men made their films for a much smaller sample of the same thing. If you are not part of the particular audience Blonde Cobra will mean nothing to you. Honestly, it's a piece of crap.
Csillagosok, katonák (1967)
Gunshot after gunshot
The Red and the White is a movie that could have easily been named Gunshot. It purposely runs without any sort of central character, and almost everyone the audience meets is, at some point, shot to death. With very little important dialogue, it seems like Jancsó was more interested in letting guns do the talking. Which, considering the magnitude of his project, was a bold move.
Miklós Jancsó is a Hungarian filmmaker who was granted funding from the Soviet Union to make a tribute to the 1917 Russian Revolution. Rather than make a film that praised the Bolsheviks, Jancsó aimed his efforts toward a project that played no favorites. He wanted the audience to know that war is wrong, arbitrary and absurd.
The Red and the White takes place two years after the October Revolution, 1919, in the hills overlooking Volga. The "Red" Army is made up of Hungarians who support the communist movement. The "Whites" represent the Tsarist that is fighting to remain in power over Russia. There are no main characters in the film; Jancsó chose to show both sides represented through nameless men and women for the purpose of keeping the audience at the distance. It is a film without heroes, kind of like war.
As you might have imagined, a Russian-produced, anti-heroic film about the atrocities of war was not what the Soviet's had in mind. The film was quickly reedited before its release in the Motherland, and then eventually banned for several years. Outside of the Union, The Red and the White went on to become Jancsó's most praised and popular film.
The subject matter is grittier than your average war film from the time period. It features scenes of attempted rape, killing of innocent people, humiliation and death in abundance. In one scene, Hungarian men are forced, shoulder to shoulder, onto the ground and shot, one-by-one, in the head. Each time, the next person in line is forced to witness a comrade die. And that is just one example. Death is the theme. And for what? The audience never really knows .
One heavy criticism of The Red and the White is that it can be very difficult to follow at times. Characters are constantly being introduced, killed and replaced at an extremely rapid pace. It is impossible to become attached to anyone in the film because no person is alive long enough to develop an on-screen personality. For me, this is a perfect compliment to the feeling of despair that Jancsó was trying to achieve. I am of the anti-war sort. One interesting thing about war film is that, no matter how hard they try, a filmmaker will almost always make war look like fun. I highly doubt it is fun. The Red and the White looks awful, so it does its job. I do not need a hero, I need reality.
Aside from the daring concept, the film is also shot in a visually interesting style. The camera lenses get a hefty workout of quick-zooms in and out of focus. Some character's deaths are sharply detached from the audience after an unexpected fade or blur. The black and white is crisp and clean (though I would like to see a Criterion release) with well placed shading and emotionally appropriate shadows over hauntingly violent moments. The looming insanity of war is palpable from the overcastting darkness of the open hills.
If I have to admit a flaw in The Red and the White I would say that there is not enough (any) blood. I am not sure if this was an artistic choice, a budget restriction or if it had something to do with the Soviet's overhead but with the amount of people being shot in the film, you'd think there'd be some blood.
Maybe I am a little too American in my taste for cinematic violence, but if you want to push the absurdity of wartime there is no better strategy than showing an audience exactly what happens during wartime. When a person is shot, their bones break, their muscles tear and blood spills out of the wound. There is a visible entry and exist wound. But not in The Red and the White. Rather, people merely grab their stomach in pain and fall to the ground. They kinda look like they have gas
In terms of a "war film", The Red and the White is a unique look through the eyes of soldiers. It is a strong anti-war statement that hinds under the guise of a Soviet bandwagon film. Though it was dry at times, I still found it to be visually striking and emotionally compelling. It is black and white. It is in Russian/Hungarian. I recommend you watch it anyway.
Biruma no tategoto (1956)
Last Thursday night I was sitting in a tiny Amtrak station in Bloomington, Illinois waiting for my train to take me to my beautiful girlfriend in Chicago. As I sitting there, I was joined by a group of stereotypical sorority girls from Illinois State University. For almost an hour I was subjected to their countless stories about meaningless sex, Lady Gaga and the "pounding of shots" that they were so excited to soon be doing in the windy city. By the time we boarded the train, I had realized that I was alone in the car with these five exhausting females. I scurried to the far back to make sure that I could secure a seat by myself and far away from these strangers.
My efforts were in vain because one of them spotted my fraternity letters and found it necessary to try and sit next to me. "You're a frat boy, you may enjoy some of my stories". I could not think of any other way to make her leave me alone, so I whipped out my laptop and started watching my next film from the 1077. "What 'cha watchin'" she asked. I answered - "a black and white Japanese anti-war movie made in 1956". After hearing this, it did not take her long to jump out of her seat and rejoin her group of woo-girls. The Burmese Harp saved the day.
Little did I know that this movie would not only save me from two hours of annoyance, but it would also be an extremely rewarding viewing experience. Though I was watching it on my laptop, I was still in awe of the Criterion DVD quality and the flawlessness of the hushed black and white. The cinematography is simple and the landscaping of Burma is vast and magnificent looking. It was easy to see that the filmmaker was not interesting in a mass amount of dialogue. It was the striking subtlety in the visual style that properly denoted the overall theme of the movie.
The Burmese Harp is about a Japanese soldier stationed in Burma during the days immediately following the end of World War II. He has developed a love for playing the harp and uses it to signal danger to his troop. His playing is also used as a way to raise moral in the lonely mountains of Burma. Music, whether instrumental or vocal, plays a major role in the film. In fact, it seemed like the majority of the communication was presented through song. The sound of the harp is soothing and easy on the ears. It is a beautiful instrument that compliments the smooth visuals.
The story is also vividly entertaining in is simplicity. After retreating to the British, the soldier - Mizushima - is sent to try and convince another Japanese troop to surrender. He fails in doing this and the entire troop is eventually killed by British forces. This leads to Mizushima, and his harp, being separated from his fellow soldiers and he is now left to roam the countryside of Burma. As we walks, he meets a spiritual leader and realizes the devastatingly high amount of Japanese casualties caused by the violence of World War II. He sees the bodies of thousands of soldiers with his own eyes. He is traumatized and dedicates his life to giving them a proper burial.
The Burmese Harp is the first film by Kon Ichikawa to be seen outside of Japan. It is also one of the first Japanese movies to receive critical acclaim in the United States. What really makes it stand out is that it was the first example of an anti-World War II statement being made by the Japanese through cinema. We forget that everybody is hurt by war, and that the lines are not always as clear as good versus evil. The men in the Japanese army had families, kids and dreams of their own. They just wanted to return home - though they would find that home hardly existed as they knew it before the war.
Yes, I may be in debt to The Burmese Harp for saving me from the incoherent ramblings of a loud and proud party animal, but I also legitimately enjoyed it on almost every level. This is a great movie and could serve as an outstanding introduction into Japanese, Asian or world cinema. I am a big fan. I immediately bought the Criterion DVD. You should borrow it sometime...
I didn't want to like it.
There are some movies out there that were made strictly for the purpose of shaking the audience. I have seen some disgusting films in my time, and Antichrist does not compare with the gruesomeness of Salo (1975) or Tetsuo (1989). But there is something about van Trier's visual style that makes this an incredibly difficult movie to watch.
Calling it van Trier's "style" may be giving the writer/director a bit too much credit. Rather than using skillful camera-work or excellent framing - he uses graphic imagery. In the first five minutes of the film the audience sees a toddler fall to his death, Willem Dafoe's penis and scrotum, vaginal penetration and tons of guy-butt. Later in the film the audience is given the striking visual of Dafoe ejaculating blood and Charlotte Gainsbourg using scissors to cut off a piece of her vagina. And von Trier shows everything.
Antichrist is a little gross, yes, but it also has a somewhat compelling story to tell. After losing their son in an accident, a married couple retreats to the woods to try and fix their declining mental conditions. Dafoe plays a character who is simply known as "He". He is a psychologist who believes that he can cure his wife of her traumatic dementia. I feel okay telling my readers that he does not successfully cure his wife. Things spiral out of control and the film never looks back.
The strongest part of the film is the performances by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. I have seen directors do worse things to their actors, but never with so much conviction and demand. They have noticeably sold out to the belief that von Trier would not set them off in the wrong direction. Their brilliance as an on-screen duo is what makes watching the disgusting sequences worth the nightmares.
Dafoe is great in this movie, but Antichrist is nothing without the bravery of Charlotte Gainsbourg. Her character is sinister, pathetic, sad, frightening and sick. There is some level of personal pain in every move that she makes. But how could there not be? It is hard to not get personal when you are asked to masturbate on screen for a couple of minutes.
The narrative of the film is chopped up into chapters - grief, pain and despair. Each feeling is accompanied by an animal to form some sort of mystical constellation. Grief is represented by a disfigured deer, pain by a talking fox and despair by a persistent raven. Together they are called the three beggars, and something bad will happen when they get together. I understand that this does not make a ton of sense, but somehow von Trier makes it work. Antichrist was not a difficult film to follow.
Here we have a movie that wants to explore the depths of insanity, pain, sexual gratification and evil. Is there truly some kind of evil out there that we do not know about? Antichrist says yes. Some have accused the film of being closer to the side of "torture porn", but I honestly believe that every moment was necessary to tell such a dark and emotionally complex story. It was not the easiest film to watch, but I promise I will never forget it.
Flaming Creatures (1963)
Though every film on this list is supposed to have some kind of importance in the history of movie making, I have struggled to find merit in a number of the pictures I have watched. Some films, like Dog Star Man, were made from interesting ideas. While others, like Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures, do not seem to have any redeeming qualities at all. Flaming Creatures is a film like none that I have ever seen. It is perverted, trashy and important only because it helped define cinematic vulgarity.
Flaming Creatures was directed and written by the provocative filmmaker, Jack Smith. Here is a man that had no interest in entertaining the masses. I am not sure that his films could even entertain himself. He was a major proponent in simple aesthetics. He was the godfather of the underground film world, and he is credited with creating the drag-queen culture as we now know it. Smith was also a major influence on the films of Andy Warhol and the movies of John Waters. All of his films, with Flaming Creatures being the most incendiary, were shot under incredibly small budgets. But Smith was never worried about how much money it cost to make a movie.
According to underground legend, Smith filmed Flaming Creatures on stock film that he had actually shoplifted. It has also been said that he paid his actors in either gay sex or drugs. True or not, this still remains one of the most bizarre films I have ever seen. It is a parade of camp-queens, transvestites, hermaphrodites and prostitutes mixed in with the occasional flaccid penis or saggy breast. There is no noticeable story being told, but Smith had said that his work was showing you "a comedy set in a haunted music studio." I must have missed this, because all I saw was the showing of some very questionable acts amongst one of the cheapest looking sets I have ever seen.
If I have to give this film any credit, I will say that the images were exhaustively challenging for my poor Midwestern eyes. I was made uncomfortable almost immediately, and I would go as far as to say I was disgusted at times. Flaming Creatures is one of the most emotionally disturbing works in film that I have seen. But it does not frighten you. It uses music and absurd imagery to make you uncomfortable. You would have to be a pretty weird person to not be challenged by Jack Smith.
In one of the only secular moments of Flaming Creatures, we see an actress getting raped by way of cunnilingus. We are treated to the intense visual of a woman being held down and violated by more than one male figure. Of course, these men are naked and performing all sorts of "hand acts" on each others limp penises. This type of perverted sexuality becomes normality throughout the 45 minute running time. It is not an easy film to sit through.
Obviously, any film that features this type of rough imagery comes with loads of controversy. In fact, Flaming Creatures was seized by New York police directly following its debut screening. Along with Jack Smith, the film became a target of the infamous idiot, Strom Thurmond, during his crusade to end all pornography. Do not get confused this is not a pornographic film. It is a classic work in performance art. And though we would all love to pretend that this genre does not exist we still know that it does. And in terms of successful endeavors in the genre Flaming Creatures isn't really all THAT bad. I will never watch it again, but some esteemed opinions, like Frederico Fellini, hail this picture as a masterpiece in trash cinema.
Yes, Jack Smith may be an under credited influence on the Waters' and Warhol's of the world, but this does not make his films entertaining in any conventional sort of the word. This is the type of film that a pedophile would enjoy. And though I defend Smith's right to make trash, I also understand why the backlash forced him to withdraw from making films. Smith would go on to become a major pioneer in surrealist theatre. He worked in this field until his death of AIDS related complications in 1989. He was 56 years old.
Sayat Nova (1968)
Wow. That is one boring movie.
How much do you know about foreign culture? One interesting thing about world cinema is that it forces a milky white, middle-class American (like myself) to venture into the cultures of many different people. As much as I would like to say that I always enjoy that aspect of film, some films have the ability to turn even the most liberal film critic into a blatant xenophobe. For me, one of those films is The Color of Pomegranates. A Russian film directed by Sergei Parajanov, this has to be one of the least pleasant and most pretentious experiences of my life. I will say, in my introductory paragraph, that I would not recommend this snooze-fest to my worst enemy.
The Color of Pomegranates is a film that only arguably tells a story. I have read that it supposedly created a cinematic language through striking visuals and material symbolism. And though I am sure that this really happened, I cannot say that I noticed any of it. The concept that Parajanov based his film around was to tell the life story of the Armenian poet, Sayat Nova (King of Song), using non-literal and poetic imagery that more closely represents his art over his actual life. This means that the entire film is relatively without dialogue and features some excruciatingly pretentious still shots. In fact, the camera hardly moves throughout the entire production. It is just a jumble of long shots that lack any solid continuity.
One thing that I forced myself to remember is that I have seen this type of film before. I was automatically brought back to the surrealist movement of the late 20's and 30's with Louis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, but I think that this association would offend Sergei Parajanov. He was not making a surreal film; rather he was trying his best to tell a story through symbols and gestures. The fact that there is supposedly a story hidden in there keeps The Color of Pomegranates from being a surrealist picture.
So then what is this film really? There have been several filmmakers who try and tell an artist's story through works rather than facts, and I have never been much of a fan. Though the comparison is thin, one film that succeeds with the endeavor is Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006), which narrates the life of the famous photographer using her influences as a visual. But still, Fur is a film that stays within the boundaries of convention. Parajanov is not interested in conventional anything.
I suppose what you are reading is an American boy's yearning for a more Hollywood-like structure in his entertainment, and I will admit that it embarrasses me to write that. But The Color of Pomegranates is simply a painfully boring film. I may be uncultured, but I was also horribly uninterested in this dribble. We are treated to the visual of men slaughtering goats, one exposed female breast, a man riding a horse, people shooting guns and (of course) the leaking of pomegranates; which represents blood the essence of life. Deep right? This is the part where my fellow cinophiles tell me that I do not "understand" what Parajanov is trying to tell me with The Color of Pomegranates. I assure you that the obvious religious imagery, worked in coming-of-age angst and the allusion to VERY old poetry was not lost on me. I guess I just do not have an invested interest in the culture. I am certainly not interested enough for something like this movie.
At the end of the day, I want to be entertained by a film. The Color of Pomegranates can boast some beautiful scenery, but it lacks even the most basic values that interest a consumer. I have a hard time believing that there are people in the world who could legitimately enjoy something like this, but there has always been a market for the pretentious. The symbolism is ineffective and the story is lost in the fray of nonsense. I hated every minute of this film. It was an awful, boring and eye-opening experience. I gotta get out of the house more
Michael Snow's masterpiece, or something like that, is a "structural picture" from 1967 called Wavelength. Though the film was incredibly painful to my ears, it for some reason has stuck with me. After a long thinking period, I have decided that I actually really liked it.
At a little under 45 minutes long, Wavelength is not an easy film to get through. It features a non-moving camera set in a large room, and nothing else. The camera captured the action that goes on in the room to create what Snow calls "a summation of my nervous system, religious inklings and aesthetic ideas." On the surface it is merely a stiff frame of three walls, a floor and a ceiling with the occasional, but brief, interaction of a human variety. But once you look closer you will realize that your eyes have deceived you.
Through the entire film, Snow has his camera zooming in at an extremely slow speed. After realizing this, your eyes will be fixated on the screen in a desperate attempt to convince yourself that you are not insane. I found the entire concept to be so emotionally exhausting and frustrating that once the film was over I could do nothing but watch it again. It was a pleasantly unpleasing experience that did nothing but expand my conception of conventional filmmaking.
I have to admit that the soundtrack behind the film was a bit confusing for me. It was nonexistent for most of the film, but all of a sudden WHAM! Imagine the most ear-piercing scream or squeal that you have ever heard. Now combine them to make the last half an hour of Wavelength. I honestly thought that I was going to disturb my neighbor's dog with the high pitched whistles and unexplainable wails that accompanied the actionless action. If you can handle the sounds you will be rewarded by the film.
With Wavelength, Snow created the most aesthetically praised work in all of avant-garde. His technique ultimately forced me into a starring contest with the screen. It was me versus the structure of a single room. It was me versus the nonexistent, but ever present, movement of the camera's lenses. I waited arrogantly for the film to flinch. It never did. And then it ended.
Not Very Good
At this point in my life I have seen worse and stranger films than Andy Warhol's Vinyl, but I cannot say that improved my viewing experience. The film is the pop-artist's interpretation of Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange" and was made six years before the much more famous Kubrick version. Why is Vinyl not as memorable as the widely known and accepted 70's adaptation? The answer to that question is easy - Warhol's version sucks.
Vinyl does follow the basic story of "A Clockwork Orange". Victor is a troubled youth who is taken in and made subject to a terrible experiment that makes him submissive to violence. If left at this, the movie would have been kind of neat, but poor production quality and significant artistic liberties make this an unusual and uncomfortable experience.
In this film, the camera hardly moves. All of the characters exist is the same small space and world. Warhol's camera is the dictator over what is important, and it never allows the viewer to get a full sense of what is going on. This creates a cramped and almost unwatchable series of events that are sort of explained, yet hardly audible.
The acting is almost laughably bad. The cast is made up of Andy Warhol's Factory regulars, and I would be surprised if any of them knew how to properly play a character. Some names that may shout out to art snobs are Gerard Malanga (in the lead role) and Ondine (as Scum Baby). Watching these "famous" socialite figures bumble through their lines is sometimes hilarious. You can hear voices off screen feeding lines to the actors. If they forget what they are saying they will just stop and move on to the next part. It is unbelievable that Vinyl got as far as it did in production.
But that ties in to what makes Vinyl sort of interesting. This is not a film that was rehearsed ahead of time. The actors did not know their lines or cues or anything before Warhol put the camera on them and shouted action. Heck, it does not even have an opening or ending sequence of credits. All we open and close to is Warhol yelling the names of the cast and crew from off camera.
There is also a very strange homosexual sadist scene around the end of the picture. I cannot confirm or deny whether or not the source material contained any sexual undertones, but Warhol must have seen them in there somewhere. I am not sure why they decided that leather masks and wax burning was the way to go, but I remember the torture scene in the novel to be a bit less...weird.
One positive note about Vinyl is that the audience gets to see the beautiful Edie Sedgwick throughout the entirety of the action. She serves as almost a part of the set. She does not speak, but she smokes and dances and forces the audience to pay attention to her. It is no doubt that Warhol wanted her to be a star. She has a mesmerizing quality about her. Knowing the story of her tragic life and death, it was almost sad to see her first on-screen appearance. She did not look as though she knew what she was getting into with the Factory. Even if she did, she was out of place.
Vinyl is not the least entertaining movie that I have ever seen, but I cannot understand why it has been deemed significant. Yes, an Andy Warhol telling of "A Clockwork Orange" might seem interesting to the everyday moviegoer - but the horrible acting, sound quality and direction makes the whole thing not worth the time.
If this film had been directed by anybody else, I doubt the public would have ever even heard of it. I would have been okay with that. Pop-art and the fifteen seconds of fame may be the good things that Andy Warhol brought to the world, but Vinyl is a bad movie. I would rather look at the soup can for 70 minutes....
Weak for Dreyer
At what point can you tell that you are no longer awake? What has to happen before you are finally aware that what you are seeing is a dream, or maybe a nightmare? That question is asked, and the idea used, by the Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer in one of his often considered weakest works. Vampyr is a horror film on paper, but it does not frighten anybody. Though this may sound like a failure, it is actually what makes the viewing experience so memorable.
With Vampyr, Dreyer was quoted as saying that he wanted to create a "daydream on film". Shot between 1930 and 1931, Dreyer's first desire was to keep the film out of the currently exploding "talkie" era. Knowing that the studio would not accept this as an option, Dreyer countered by writing only a very minimal amount of dialogue. The majority of the characters in the film are silent. They let their facial expressions and body language tell the story. This is an interesting move by the great director because he is also known for using amateur actors in his films. Rather than covering up bad acting with creative dialogue, Dreyer wrapped everyone up in his desired universe. The acting did not matter.
Along with the acting, it was rather obvious that the straightforward story was not supposed to be the viewer's focus. Vampyr tells the story of a young occultist who is staying at an inn that is under the curse of a vampire. With strange sounds, disappearances and illnesses coming from seemingly nowhere, this is not an inn that I would recommend to anyone. In the hours of the night, an elderly man rushes into the room of the occultist. He gives him a book that explores the vampire curse. With everything explained, the story plays out in a very predictable fashion.
If the acting is bad and the story is simple, what is it that makes Vampyr an appealing film? Simply put, this is an aesthetically interesting film to the same degree of some of the surrealist classics. The film was shot completely on location to add to the maze-like sense of the film. Also, Dreyer had his cameraman shoot the film through a piece of gauze held three feet away from the camera. This manufactured a cloudy and dreamlike thickness for the screen that a viewer almost has to look through to see the action. This is a style that was most often seen by Louis Buñuel in his most cherished classics, but it can be argued that with Vampyr and earlier with The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Dreyer made the dream theatre style something of his own.
I would not say that Vampyr is a great film. In fact, I am not even sure that it is a very good film. It does succeed on an aesthetic level, and it is somewhat entertaining for an early horror. I hate to sound so snobbish, but I much prefer Dreyer's work on The Passion of Joan of Arc. Vampyr is a neat film, but nothing more.
The Wrestler (2008)
Are you tired of the same movie over and over? The Wrestler could be the film that you are looking for. I know what you are thinking- "I don't really like pro wrestling". Trust me, that doesn't matter. The Wrestler is a brilliantly acted and directed human tragedy that will violate your senses with amazing visuals and heartbreaking dialog. Mickey Rourke gives the finest performance I have seen in two years, much better then the future Best Actor winner Sean Penn in Milk, and Marisa Tomei again surprises the masses with an excellent and compelling performance. There has never been a film that has jumped this deeply into my heart and emotions. The artwork is mediocre, but the everything else is fantastic. If you enjoy great acting- watch The Wrestler. If you enjoy great direction and film making- watch The Wrestler. If you enjoy hard hitting, tear jerking, action involved, dialog driven works of art- watch The Wrestler. One of the finest works I have ever seen.