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A Última Vez Que Vi Macau (2012)
Not a documentary, not a thriller... a mere thing
The reviewr of The New York Times, Manohla Dargis, wrote the movie is "a meditation on movies, myths and memory". This may have been the beginning of the myth some people built around a film that according to its co-directors in various interviews, said (1) that the documentary thing was in an early script presented to obtain some funding; (2) that on location it was evident that the few child memories of one of them (the only one that lived some years in Macau) had vanished; that the opening singing act was an afterthought. A Portuguese spectator encapsulated the whole thing thus: It is not a movie, it's a thing. It seems that when the team went to Macau, they did not know what they were going to do. Well, it shows...
The movie synopsis lies blatantly, suggesting that the movie confronts memories of the 1970s Macau with the 2010s reality: the memories are reduced to a couple of sentences about landscape preserved by the Portuguese and Chinese authorities, and has nothing to do with the gloomy side of borderline towns, Asian or European alike. The authors have said that some scenes had been shot in Lisbon and Almada, Portugal.
A docudrama it is not! One of the co-directors, Guerra da Mata, actually lived his formative years in Macau, up to the 1970s; he opens the movie as the Narrator, by saying «Thirty years later I am on my way to Macau, where I had not been since childhood. I received an email in Lisbon, from Candy, of whom I had not heard for years. She told me that she had been with the wrong men again, and asked me to go to Macau, where strange and frightening things were happening. Tired, after a long flight, I arrive at Macao on the boat that will take me back to the happiest period of my life." Several film reviews take from here - and the fact that there is no fiction drama, or story - to categorize this as documentarist. It is not. The film could have been turned anywhere where there are somber streets, some litter on the pavement, dead rats, and stray cats and dogs. A few (very few) shots of casinos' neon ensigns, a Venetian gondolier that is a casino attraction, and a few (very few) photographs of Chinese banquets, are not enough. Later, when girls in uniform are leaving the Santa Rosa de Lima College, Guerra da Mata seems to regret that there are no boys now at the college he attended, missing the fact that the college had been a religious institution for girls since its foundation, had had major changes (even in the buildings it occupies), and that during Portuguese administration, separation of genders in school was the norm, with few exceptions.
Candy is no candy! The film opens with a transvestite in a shiny low-cut dress showing enhanced breasts, singing in playback. As the Narrator is attracted to Macau by a Candy, some viewers admit that Candy is that person, but no, that is Cindy Scrach who worked with these directors in Morrer como um homem.
Candy is actually named once, later in the movie, as Candida - a Portuguese name, and it's English abbreviation was deemed more appealing for the international film festivals and the world of casino's entertainment where the alleged drama takes place. Candy is presented as a McGuffin, as fake as the carved inscription in a bamboo trunk - that in closer inspection is a plank of wood shot in front of some bamboos. The end credits name Candy as an actor, and we know from interviews that it was the real name of Guerra da Mata's pet kitty - dead, and thus appearing in stock footage.
Halfway into the film the narrator comments how, after 400 years of Portuguese rule, there was no one able to speak Portuguese in Macau. Was it any different when he attended college, and lived there? His depictions of local life in Macau are stereotypical, vague, and sometimes inaccurate. I was put off by the fact that the copy of the movie shown at a special session had no subtitles for the Cantonese dialogue - adding to my rejection of the vagrant succession of images with no sense at all; but one person who speaks the language has commented that the Cantonese dialogues are unnatural and seem to be an automatic translation of English phrases. For the Portuguese dialogue, I can say that it pretends to be mysterious and suspenseful, but it never gets up from dispassionate emptiness. Old photos shown and commented out of context are part of the same emotionless and flat.
The long paintball sequence between adults, in the beginning of the film, seems so unrelated to the story as the singing act by Cindy Stein. The bird cage with a cloth covering is not a McGuffin, it's co-director João Pedro adding his life interest to be an ornithologist and bird watcher - which he should have been, instead of going to a film school.
I loved the tiger images because they are so pretty, even when they are shown torn, and abandoned, filmed after the feast ends. But not even that is there with a narrative purpose, it happens the film was shot during the Gold Tiger year (Feb 14, 2010 - Feb 2, 2011). By the way, and totally off topic, according to the Asian horoscope under this sign the males are indecisive, stubborn, and feminized.
I was tempted to give it a single star
I watched the movie last night, and was tempted to give it an 8 star: great photography, great acting (mostly in the most difficult setting of a real ocean!) and gripping story (at least for me who'd not seen the German movie this is allegedly a remake).
All characters are easy on the eye, young and athletic, but not one is open enough for me like him or her. They're all friends, or they're supposed to be, to enjoy a week-end of sun and ocean aboard a yacht that belongs to the rich one in the group. The world is theirs - at least for the week-end! The yacht has plenty of beer and wine in the freezer for Daniel's 20th birthday. The sun is great. This ocean, just off Madeira Island, is so blue and warm!
In part to escape bickering with each other, some jump overboard and start swimming. Daniel, the owner, and former lover of Ana (the mother occupied with her one-year baby), attempts to grab her, and they fall overboard. Since his libido obscured his mind, he had forgotten to extend the ladder for people to get on board from the sea... Are they lost? Yes! They're lost because they're alone as a group, and each one is too selfish to act rationally under the dire circumstances. One by one, they die - in different manners, what we're told gently, by images and dialogue.
Without the last minute, the film would be a most enjoyable disaster movie. Many reviewers batter the last scene, but in my view, for the wrong reason. Daniel finally thinks of a way to serve as a ladder to Ana to get aboard. She does, she presses a button and an intermittent red light is seen briefly to her back. Her priority is to hug her baby, her second priority is to wrap herself in a blanket. If that's not weird enough, she disrobes again, and jumps overboard shouting Daniel's name - who's not answering back. She did not throw the ladder down to come back up - because, in my view, she was comfiting suicide like others had done before her, in different manners.
So, until here, the movie is good, and well crafted, though dark as hell. Black as the screen frames that precede the last minute.
Ana in a summer frock is holding her baby on the deck, and waving to a fisherman that appears with the early morning.
A producer or a distributor imposed a Hollywood ending where the whole concept of the movie does not allow for it.
After reading other comments this morning, and decided to balance my rating, to honor the beautiful things (and girls!...) in the movie.
The Arena (1974)
The female version of "Spartacus" without a cast of thousands, but no less spectacular.
I recommend this film as a mix of home entertainment and female fighting fetish. It has strong characters, high script values (parts of the dialogue may not be understood if you don't some classic culture background), good acting, beautiful women undressed (with modest camerawork) for a couple of sex scenes, and dressed to kill in the ultimate macho game of the arena bloodbath. Occasional comic relief is provided by Deidre, played but not overplayed by Lucretia Love, in a story otherwise gloomy. This film marks the epitome of Pam Grier's career, the eternal, superb, black retiarius fighting for survival first, for freedom second. Her role is in accordance with the actress's own personality, a physically and psychologically strong feminist, not alien to passion and love. She would be called to replay that sort of character in lesser films - starting as the independent journalist in the first episodes of "Chicago Blues" (USA 1988, TV series). However, with her civilized hairdo, in cocktail or executive dresses, her blatant sex-appeal was tamed down, to prevent those X and R ratings we liked so much. Pam Grier will always be Mamawi, the Nubian fighting slave. The video editions do not do justice to the original theatrical release. Margaret Markov defends her character the best she can, but pales in confront with the black mama - the same fate she suffered when they played the title roles of Black Mama, White Mama (1973). Many slaves never saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but they should have, all worthy of taking the fisher boat to Freedom instead of the barge to Hades.
La diosa salvaje (1974)
I have not seen this one
...and therefore I should not be entering a review.
I wish to alert that the only current user review to date of this movie, posted in 2003, is NOT about this movie, but about another one, Kilma, reina de las amazonas (1976), an action adventure movie mixing the themes of amazons and pirates in the early 19th century - given the fact there are mentions of a British ship, and of the unrest in Batavia (Dutch East Indies).
The confusion between the two movies is due to the fact they had basically the same production crew and cast. The main star, Spanish beauty Blanca Estrada, played Kilma, the Queen of the Amazons (billed as as Eva Miller in foreign versions of the movie), and Laura, a female Tarzan-like white girl familiar with chimps and elephants, but not men, considered by the natives to be the savage goddess of the second film.
Les biches (1968)
My homage to a great director, and his beautiful actress and wife
Stéphane Audran died last march 27, 2018. She was the fetish actress of director Claude Chabrol, and his wife since 1964. As an homage to her, I reviewed this movie again today.
Stéphane Audran was awarded the Best Actress prize of 1968 in the Berlin Film Festival, for this movie. The film was cut in different markets from the original 104 minutes to 99, 97 (in USA for a PG rated VHS 1980 release), and even 88 minutes.
«After seven years of rather paltry stuff, Claude Chabrol re-established his reputation with this elegantly enacted, cool, callous, and witty bisexual ménage-à-trois. It was also the first film in which Stéphane Audran (Mrs. Chabrol since 1964) was given a role worthy of her subtle expressiveness.» - Bloomsbury's Video Guide.
«This movie "proves that you can make a very sexy movie with practically no nude or copulation scenes. Yet the underlying sex drive is steamy and erotic.» - The X-Rated Videotape Guide, vol. II.
«1967 was the year of lesbianism in French cinema. Two films were turned with just a few months between them: "Les biches" by Claude Chabrol, with an original script, and "La Religieuse" by Jacques Rivette, upon Diderot's novel. Chabrol admits: "It was explosive for it's time. For the first time you were seeing a girl «taking» another girl... Be it the scene of the bathtub, or Stéphane's stripping, I never photographed below the navel: I always cut right in time! After all, both my does fell in love with a boy, and the most rich «won» him, what, as far as I saw it, was more immoral than a special relationship. Besides, to tell you the truth, lesbianism doesn't attract me; it only interests me as an abnormality. If a woman wants to have children, that is not the best way to achieve it..."» - Chabrol cited by Frank Deeth, "Sapho c'qui faut! Quand les biches envahissent l'écran", in "Le Crapouillot", nº 23, December 1972.
The original title sends a complex message. "Les biches" (French for female doe, the sweet animal a girl is drawing on the pavement when we first meet her character) is also French slang for "girls" in the way the British used to refer to young women as "birds", and the Americans as "chicks" or "foxes", with no derogatory intention. The Portuguese title (when the lesbian word was taboo), "As Rivais" erases the essential subject of the story, emphasizing the threesome of the story. The American title, "Bad Girls" adds an ethical judgement on the two women's behaviour that is far from what we are told about their characters.
Claude Chabrol was an upper-middle-class man, a bourgeois, and though he did not subscribe to the leftist agendas current in France in the 1960s, he was a permanent critic of the upper classes hypocrisy and disdain for the others. Some reviewers have pointed that the end of the movie represents the victory of the rich girl over the poor girl in their dispute for the man - therefore representing the usual, realistic triumph of the rich and powerful. Having seen many of Chabrol's films, I agree that in this one he was sending that message too, that we mostly missed for the blatant dare of showing, with taste but explicitly, love among women.
Bachelor's Affairs (1932)
Is it an antique, or just old stuff in second hand?
«The so-called 'lesser' features were deposited with the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and a number have been preserved by that institution. Among the Fox titles preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive (is) Bachelor's Affairs (1932).» (Anthony Slide, in Nitrate Won't Wait: A History of Film Preservation in the United States, by Anthony Slide.)
I wish all the Hollywood films I saw were as bad as this "lesser movie"!
When the pretentiously rich and educated fiancée (Joan Marsh) enters the New York antique shop of Hoyt & Radcliff, she remarks that "the furniture looks so old..." She is told that they are indeed *very* old, and then she replies, "Ah! So you mean this is second hand stuff..." or words to that effect. This movie certainly is an antique, a PRECIOUS one, to make a play on words with the intended title of the movie, that was the title of the play it is based on.
I had the chance to watch this in a glorious 35mm print, in March 5, 2018, when the movie was presented at Lisbon's Cinemateca Portuguesa by Jan-Christopher Horak, the director of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, who selected it among the best jewels of their preservation work. Rightly so.
The audience guffawed all the time, when they were not laughing out loud, and at the end - after listening in silence to the two minutes of music on the empty screen (a thing modern audiences probably don't know what that was for) - there was a good clap of hands.
Some dialogue may be lost to the new generations, like the secretary's name, Jane Remington, mistaken for Underwood (the most popular typewriter's mark in 1932), the old story of Adam and Eve is not. The film is about romantic love, but it is definitely of physical attraction, and sex, shown with tact but soon to be banned by the Hays Code.
I take the film proclaims that truth should prevail above everything, and true friendship is as important as love... All bad things happen starting with some "little lie", and Radcliff's loyalty to the senior associate of the firm will save the day.
There are two moments I wish to call the attention to, of future viewers, two of many I think the director planted to keep us riveted to the screen for the short duration of the movie.
The film takes place with five main characters, all of the upper rich part of society, or pretending to be. The so-called working class is not part of it. Yet, when we pass from the cruise ship to New York, the close-up of Andrew Hoyt's (Adolphe Menjou) shop-window serves both the purpose of exhibiting a pair of antiques and the mirror-image of a two-deck bus going down the street, full to capacity of people going to their daily work. One second is enough for us to know that there is another life out there.
Stella (Mina Gombell) is worried that her sister has not yet returned from a night out with the rumba teacher, and goes out past 2:00 a.m. looking for them. The car is parked in front of the house, empty. There's *the couple* sitting on a bench, back to her (and us), looking at the full moon. "Eva!..." she calls out in a rage. The couple stands up, and turn round facing her: it's a blonde maid and the butler. Stella is as confused as the couple, and goes back home. The couple sits again, and the maid replaces her head on the butler's shoulder, as she was when we first saw them. All is quiet again. Yet, for a fraction of a second, the maid has a startle. All is quiet again. Was I the only one who imagined the butler's hand going to her breast, hidden from us?
If there was a Distributor as greedy as Stella was, I'm sure this movie would be soon in a DVD and a pay-site. Until then, drive to the nearest theater where a film archive will show it.
Wilde Engel (2002)
Recommended crime action with sexy young women
I do not like goof-ball "comedy" and my 1980s taste evolute with time to more realistic, though fictional, women asserting their equality in law and social status with men, and daily violence that comes from organized crime and security institutions - like the Police and the Army - infiltrated by unlawful people. That's the 21st century in a nutshell. That's why I was able to sit back for this film - actually shown in my country as a 2-part pilot episode for the _"Wild Engel (2003) (TV)"_ series, and enjoy it fully. Yesterday I saw the five episodes I have on tape, and was unable to stop, and fast-forwarded very scenes scenes.
This film opens with an helicopter transported team of heavily armed soldiers to attack a huge military installation that is already surrounded by German police. Then, the building is set ablaze, there are a number of explosions, and one such explosions sends out of the building a missile that explodes behind the police cars, and another explosion sends off a sort of platform from which three scarred young women fall off into the police's hands, so to speak, practically uninjured. Taken to a police station, they keep their mouths shut as they go through the arrest procedures. Then, the leader of the helicopter assault team arrives, and takes the women out of the Police's custody, by just showing his card of BKA (the German Federal Criminal Police).
Then, in three flash-backs, we're presented to the three women who had not known each other 24 hours before... Christina Rabe (played by 28-y-o, black hair Birgit Stauber) is an expert car mechanic and driver, out of business, who has to fight boxing matches in a carnival tent against men to earn some money. (The translator in my country explained that Rabe means Raven in German, but in terms of color that is wrong, for Chris has black hair... He missed the means of the verb Rabe that means of a ferocious animal, To hunt for prey. This is very accurate to describe Chris character, as proved in later episodes.) We are shown two hard matches against heavier men, the last finished quicker because Chris received a message that her brother went to the bank, and it being a Sunday, Chris decided she should be there with him as soon as possible.
Franziska Borgardt (played by 31-y-o Susann Uplegger, brown hair) is the owner of a small bank that has her name on the wall, and of a luxurious country home with a butler and a servant for each of her many whims. We are introduced to her impeccable dress code, and her aim at clay pigeon shooting. She calls a halt to her diversion, has she intends to do some stealthy auditing of accounts, and Sunday is the only day the bank has no one there, except security TV cameras. She tells her butler that a person can not stop working if one wants "to be on top" of things.
Lena Heitmann (played by blonde Eva Habermann, 25) is introduced leaving Köln's police station in her first day of service. She has been appointed as the driver for an older male cop, who distinctly does not enjoy her sense of humor, nor his change of partner. Early in their patrol, they receive a radio call to go to an automatic alarm warning at the Borgardt Bank, and Lena drives madly through the traffic, making theirs to be the first cops on the scene. With the door closed, and no action inside, the male cop plays it cool, mentioning how many false alarms they have; he is seconded by another cop who arrives alone in his car, and the two men talk together, while Lena prefers to run to another street (the bank occupies a block) where she remembers having seen a sideways entrance.
That's when policewoman Lena meets VIP lady Franziska being kidnapped by the jobless duo of Chris and her brother. The three characters converge into the scene in a realistic manner, and the actresses fully endorse the three types of women that will (through the TV series) interplay as rivals and friends to solve crime mysteries. A sense of "déja vu" will be shattered by an intelligent written screenplay and dialogue, well handed stunt action scenes of all sorts (car chases, car crashes, aerial actions, fights on a small boat, gun fights...). Other reviewers emphasized the poor acting in the series; I'll underline that these are real stunt-women graduating into acting quite well, and that these sort of stunts was not, never ever, produced in the forerunner of Angels-based series, _"Charlie's Angels" (1980) (TV)_.
The intricate operation of the exchange of German Marks for the Euro (that was going to be introduced then) included the massive destruction of the ancient bank notes by the Army. The notes were going to be under severe controls going in to the destruction points, but only their quantity was going to be measured going into the furnace. That would leave open the opportunity for a rogue group of soldiers and policemen to substitute forged marks by the real ones in the warehouse, and appropriate the real German Marks that they would be able to exchange in banks at their leisure...
They did not do it, because BKA unit leader Martin Grossmann (played by Filip Peeters) was attentive, and decided to infiltrate a former criminal law student of his (without Chris knowledge), among the rogue cops. By the end of the adventure, Mr. Grossman decides to hire all three young women as his undercover group: The Specialists.
Kuang feng mi ling (1993)
Excellent kung-fu fighting
I agree with those who disagree about this film's quality, for the first half low development of it's story, and even for the unbalanced mix of comic relief situations and the drama into which the story eventually comes to. One has to be patient with that trend in the early 1990's of the Cantonese film industry. This film contains an aging star (Wah Yuen), a martial arts teacher in real life, and Cynthia Khan at her best in a deadly kung-fu fight on a narrow bridge over a waterfall. Athena Chu is alright, as the cute CID "angel" at odds with the Department's "madam" (woman director) as both are attracted to the awkward inspector Chiu Shui. The action takes place in the future, September 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and pretends to show the effects of the Chinese government abandoning nuclear weapons for the development of select humans into super agents. When a project goes wrong, they try to correct the side effects. The script is not easy to follow, but the action segments in the second part, is. You won't forget the cameo role of Woon Ling Hau as the Old Lady caught in the midst of a CID assault on the rogue super cops' shelter. A classic.
Killer Biker Chicks (2009)
Biker girls were best in 1968
B&W scene before the title: 8 biker chicks beat up and crucify a man in the Middle of the Desert, in order to teach him that to f*** one of them is to f*** them all. Retribution is therefore multiplied, with various ways to ensure he dies a horrible death. We're in to a well photographed rape and revenge drama, involving some leather clad, leggy, buxom biker girls. Good! Color first scene: 2 patrol cops enter a club and sit at a table, attended by the old owner, Ted Roy (Ted V. Mikels in a cameo). They seem the best of friends, though Ted calls them "rogue cops". Ted orders drinks to their table from an unseen bartender, Donna (neither seen, nor credited) and a blonde pole dancer on platform shoes and fishnet thigh highs, named Popcorn (Emma Rhodes). When she finishes, sprawling her legs wide in front of the cops, one of them complains that she has spilled his drink. Ted Pulls a big revolver, shoots her on the spot, and says "Problem solved!" We're not in drama territory after all. This is farcical musical comedy – unfortunately not well photographed, of the jerky camera, unfocused type, and with one of the worse sound re-cording and sound mix, that will be a nuisance to anyone who cares to follow the dialog, or the many lyrics of the 100 minute long movie. A DVD has been announced as "uncut", with a running time of 93 minutes.
I've watched the 100 minute version on the Internet, and I'm not happy, because it's a lot of time of one's life. The 8 killer biker girls are reduced by half by scene no. 2, and that's not because of turf war against another gang – they simply vanished. There's a Mother (Rose Garlano, only creditable performance among the actresses), her Sister and two daughters, that for a while could be a modern version of a serial killer family. There are an unusual number of characters driving through that Nevada desert road, all heading without a specific appointment to the combo petrol station and bar (with rooms upstairs) managed by Mother, and her family. Others appear out of nowhere – apparently because of poor editing. Background to the Mother's character is given via sepia colored flashbacks – that look like separate film shorts which someone decided to meld into a feature.
Mr. Hawkmeyer (Rusty Meyers, the actor that manages to defend his character in one of three scenes), from the Azerbaijan, is driving with a young brunette in his red sedan. The same patrol cops stop them, and a funny dialog ensues, basically because of the discrepancy between Hawkmeyer's behavior and accent, and the puzzled stare of the cop. The "Azerbaijani" says they are Iranian, not Irakis, "You are at war with Irak, not Iran," is a line that almost has him arrested for being a spy The other cop is having trouble of his own with the buxom girl he has to frisk (!), but their dialog is spoiled by lines delivered without art, or passion.
By the 24 minute mark, Mother knocks out a pair of girls in a white convertible, who stopped for petrol – and I could neither perceive in their attitude enough provocation for such a response, nor any logic in their subsequent disappearance. More seemingly random killings take place: a man and a woman drowned in their swimming pool; and on, and on.
Mother's Mother happens to drop by, and that calls for a flashback to Compton, California, in 1968. Mr. and Mrs. Chin (with a lousy Chinese accent) are assaulted by a girl with a shot-gun and a young man with a pistol who appear at the same time to rob their shop. Instead they opt to have sex, and that was how Mother was born When it's not rock groups appearing in cars with not enough petrol, it's three convicts performing some sort of loud music. Cops loose their uniforms when they go for a swim, but not much comes out of it; the same when they accept an invitation for lunch in an auto caravan by two transsexuals, Fran and Dan, who just end up by doing a singing and dancing number on the road to Las Vegas.
Before the one hour mark, in another flashback, we are told how Mother fought a couple at their home, castrated the man and stabbed the woman to death, and came away with no problem, because she set the house ablaze, and no traces of her were found. Is it too violent? In concept yes, not on camera. The fight between the two biker women is totally one-sided and, again, we're left without a clear reason for the actions of the dark heroine.
What may have been one good idea (may be two) at the beginning, ends in a tragedy – for the viewer. It is a long time I did not feel compelled to share my feelings about a film. Today I came back, and not for the best motive.
PS – I certify that 90% of the feminine cast are worth while looking at; but the way their looks are wasted by the cameras simply adds to the director's crime.
Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950)
Recommended for post-graduates on International Relations. SPOILER!
I've mixed views about this Oscar winning cartoon.
On the script side, it's still worth while to watch, and so much more so, 50 years and as many big wars since WW2, as humankind is less human, less kind, and less able to understand the deep self of the people across the Ocean, or the street.
Gerald is a mute boy, only able to pronounce boing-boing. When extraterrestrials from the planet Moo descend on his backyard, and take him in their flying-saucer, as a human specimen for study, they got the impression that all earthlings spoke like that. Being very clever, the extraterrestrials develop a language based on boing-boing intonations, and are still sending messages to Earth with the only sentence, "boing-boing".
On the drawing, colors, and repetitiveness, and also stridency, of the "language" signs, I'm afraid I'm not with the majority here. Even when I saw this title in 1965, I found it too simplistic, and still do. I grant you that I was not the child this cartoon aims at, and today's manga and similar comics are 300% worse than this, but I would not accord this title an Oscar...
(First posted September 19, 2003; re-posted after clarifying with IMDb that it belongs here, not with the 1956 longer version of this cartoon, similarly titled.)
Margin Call (2011)
And the Oscars don't go to... Margin Call
I'll concede this picture is not better than The Artist (Best Picture Oscar 2012), but it's damn much closer than the competing nominees.
Kevin Spacey in Margin Call (2011) goes through a number of inner changes with flying colours, and less make-up and wardrobe aids than Jean Dujardin (Actor in a leading role Oscar 2012).
Demi Moore in Margin Call shows a bit of leg and a big talent, both saying her lines and when she has no lines to say - which in my book is at least nomination material comparable if not better than, the cloning of an iron lady with due respect to Maryl Streep (Actress in a leading role Oscar 2012).
Paul Bettany is surprisingly good as a top villain, and that should have been awarded instead of keeping rewarding established names like Christopher Plummer (Actor in a supporting role Oscar 2012).
I'll not contend that Mary McDonnell's work in Margin Call, reduced to a marginal role of 3 minutes at best, was better than the much helpful support by Octavia Spencer in The Help (Actress in a supporting role Oscar 2012). And yet you won't forget her role, soon.
New York by night was never so well photographed than by Frank G. DeMarco, but he lost it to a common x-effects based work as Emmanuel Lubezki's The Tree of Life got it (Cinematography Oscar 2012).
John Paino and Robert Covelman created dull office spaces that we endure for over 100 minutes without feeling bored (24 hours in an office building, that's something!), allowing for fluidity of movement of actors and cameras alike. They create realism that is more difficult than the fantastic scenarios of Hugo by Dante Ferretti and Francesca LoSchiavo (Art Direction Oscars 2012 for Production Design and Set Decorator).
Carolin Duncan may have done a discreet job, but each actor and actress is dressed up - or down - according to the moment with precision and respect for him/her status in the organization - deserving as much as Mark Bridges with his glamorous The Artist (Costume Design Oscar 2012).
What did J.C. Chandor lack to deserve an award in comparison to the rather trivial (excuse me!) Michel Hazanavicius? (Directing Oscar 2012).
Pete Beaudreau did a wonderful job, so as you won't notice is presence in Margin Call - what would have been a good reason to award him instead of maybe Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (Film Editing Oscar 2012).
I'd have elected Erin Ayanian and Fabiola Arancibia for their work on Demi Moore, rather the overdone makeup of Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland on their Iron Lady (Makeup Oscar 2012).
Nathan Larson discreet, varied, mood creation, imaginative music certainly beats the expected score by Ludovic Bourse (Original Score Oscar 2012), and probably all other nominees, hands down.
Most of all, J.C. Chandor was robbed of award and nomination for his original screenplay that is what the people should be exposed to, to understand the reality of the last three years with a perspective that goes through 7 centuries, with a dialogue that all actors delivery naturally, because they were very careful written by someone who knew what he was writing about! Several dialogues of this screenplay should be mandatory study in Acting and Finance Schools. So, with due respect to the old hand of Woody Allen (Original Screenplay Oscar 2012) I'll contend that the nominee Chandor should have got the trophy.
1. I do not understand how come Margin Call did not get a single statuette. 2. I am confirmed in my conceited opinion that good movies are rarely rewarded by the Oscar crowd.
PS - This film is rated R, probably because of the repeated use of the F**k word, despite the characters saying the expletive or the verb are subjected to unbearable psychological and economic pressure. I appeal to all minors of 21 or 18 or whatever, to sneak in and watch this movie. You will know what your favourite TV station and your favourite political leader has not told you these last three years.
The Debt (1993)
A funny drama à la Hitchcock - of extreme actuality in 2010
This is an excellent short that shows the writer's attentiveness to the social and political problem represented by the mounting US public death - counted by the marquee-sized debt clock in Times Square, NYC - and how «your family share» is affected, after being itself part of the cause of the problem.
One bleak Friday, a couple arrives home from home and listen to the voice-recorded unattended telephone calls from a number of people: the credit card company, the bank, the husband's office, the husband's lover, the wife's life insurance company... Each is disturbing enough in itself, but heard in a crescendo to the unexpected - and extremely revealing ones - it makes something only comparable to the best of the short, crispy, made-for-TV Alfred Hitchcock episodes.
À la Hitchcock, the story ups to a grim finale, with crisp editing, up to 2-frames-per-cut. The lab's experienced editing assistants didn't believe it could be done - as told November 15, 2010, at the film's show at the Portuguese Cinematech by the Director, Bruno de Almeida. He imposed that daring-do in editing. He won! The 35mm film didn't disintegrate, and the result is terrific! Again, as in the best thrillers, the eye-to-eye, revolver-to-revolver confrontation by the not-so-loving husband and wife, will not end in that grim finale.
As in real life, a book-peddler appears at their door, proposing them to buy (to buy - to buy - the cause of their overburdening debt) just one more book, that will save their lives, and assure them a bright future. Yes, they can! For a moment, their grim faces change. Unfortunately, as for the US, the reasons to believe in a bright future are short-lived - as are the three lives in this short.
With three false finales, and almost no words from the principals whose facial and body expressions are exaggerated as if this was an old Harold Lloyd's comic, we are fully served.
Because the Director's was living in NYC then, and possibly in love with that city where he chose to carve a career away from The System, he chose to film some plans of the 6th Avenue, with the debt clock, and the Twin Towers in the distance amidst the other engulfing sky-scrapers.
Thus, it also makes this short of extreme actuality in 2010. First, since the 9/11 the Twin Towers are no more part of NY's skyline. Second, the debt clock has been moved to another location, and modified since it came to a halt due to failure in keeping with the over US$10 trillion number in 2008, and the new clock is more performing, but less impressive than the first clock was. Third, «your family share» of the (seemingly) unstoppable Debt is still mounting.
Amidst tales of «sex, lies, and mounting debt», at individual, and global scale. So much in 12 minutes. The nine prizes the film got already are OK, but it should be brought to wider audiences, in theaters and television.
Rififí en la ciudad (1963)
For film noir, Nazi, jazz, thriller fans, and Franco's distracted fans alike
I do not know the background of this film, but it has features that later Jess Franco's films had: beautiful girls (young readers will be appalled by their large hairdos, but yes, women were using it like that, and I liked it), plenty of bad guys, coward and courageous cops, rotten politicians, a South American unnamed country sunny and reach in opportunities (for working people and cocaine traffickers). Other reviewers noticed how Franco's next films were a succession of cheap exploitative slashers, nudity, prostitution, gore, terror. Why? My answer is that maybe Franco thought, as time went by, that he needed money, and he was more serious than his audiences, and distributors. If he saw historical evolution right, after 1963 he understood that he made a film with a happy end (no, it's not a spoiler yet) that was out of pace with real life: we know now for certain that gangsters, former Nazis, people involved in drugs trafficking, when «democratic» elections by using power, fear, and all the votes money can buy. In a far, unnamed country in Latin America - nothing to affect English speakers... Franco did manage to film this in Madrid under a dictatorial regime, but his film was so good, too good in fact, that it has had almost no distribution, even with VHS and DVD. Or else, I've been distracted, and many fans of Franco too.
And yet, Franco was placing all in front of our eyes. The first image is a political campaign poster, "Leprince es Justicia" (Leprince is Justice), but we FORGET it when the woman's voice starts speaking low of a gone lover, and the camera pans onto the beach house, and the seashore. The orchestra that starts playing all that black jazz score (by Jess Franco as Daniel J. White - also the wonderful cabaret numbers though the film), and an elegant pair of ankles and feet are doing dance steps on the chalk marks on the stage, 1-2-3-4... and on and on, but we FORGET that it means that her audience (us) do not care she is not what she pretends to be, a dancer, and as credits roll, we finally see her, the buxom blonde in a tight white dress, promising us kisses. A couple of black men are seen dating with brunettes, and one even has time to evade answering her about sort of thing was he dealing with - to be so rich, and to afford having a different girl every night, and promising them pricey cars, but we FORGET about him, as he is a mere underling to the big boss, and soon dispatched from the story. The cabaret owner is also the owner of the cotton industries, and an immigrant of April 1944, arriving without money from Nazi occupied Marseilles, France, but we FORGET that Franco plants this information in three distant occupied dialogs, never as a relevant matter but something that blurts out in the middle of something else. One person will come close to another person who is snoring loud after drinking an alcohol drink, open the person's shirt, extract a small key to a safe, and eventually finding out more than expected (yeah! I managed to write this without a spoiler!), and we FORGET that neither Orson Welles, nor Alfred Hitchock, ever managed such a long, thrilling suspense that had me on the edge of the chair, and yet unable to press fast forward - for I was as much afraid of that said person.
The expression Rififi comes from the underground world of Brussels (I think) and it's almost impossible to translate, so in other languages (as in Spanish) it is either left alone, or a different approach must be used... Riffraff is not an explanation, and it is more than struggle, or fight, because it conveys despair, all-out, annihilation...
The French title "Vous souvenez-vous de Paco?" (do you remember Paco, the most common short name in Spanish language countries...) is very intriguing. With it, Franco tells us that Paco will be easily forgotten by the men in the story, and in the audience, who will NEVER FORGET the French (or is it German?) that fled to South America to start a new life (or is it?). I (with my male brain, already forgot Paco's face), but Franco also told me that Paco will never be forgotten by the women who loved him (for his face, his body, his sex, or himself?) even if he had not loved them. Nina's and Pilar's speeches, on camera, or in a letter read later by a police detective, mark the difference between man and woman in a relationship - and suddenly I find that this is not just an engagé director settling a political matter, it is a genial director putting us face-to-face with the ages old question of love, sex, and relationships. In 1963 - five years before the summer of 1968.
The beautiful cinematography in black and white and the cheap decors somewhat manages to give to the film all the bright colors - and shades - of Latin America, but the original story, or its magnificent screen adaptation leads us to the high levels of human and social statements film directors ever made in a movie.
I'm ashamed I only knew Jesus Franco by some musical scores in sexploitation films, and a couple of Doctor Orloffs. I paid US$8.37 for the original version in Spanish, no subtitles, Clásicos Imprescindibles del Cine Español, at a discount sale, that runs exactly 99 min 30 sec., format 1.85:1 (screen 4:3), an excellent, blameless print by Mercury Films & Video, and Filmfax Homevideo. I'm not selling it for US$83.70 even if you ask politely. Unless you've just won a democratic election in your State - like in this film's there is a decider second vote after the first results are counted - and you, and your friends, make me an offer THAT I CAN'T POSSIBLY REFUSE. (pun intended)
Geisha vs ninja (2008)
Geisha vs Ninjas - a misunderstood chanbara out of Japan
The film has been decried by some viewers because the feats of strength attributed to a mere girl are impossible, particularly after she has been injured. That would put down thousands of action films in which the main character is a man, too.
The film is declared a fake, because the script has the heroine fighting a number of opponents in succession - count them: 2 Ronin, 4 Ninjas, 1 Monk, 1 Assassin, 1 Priest, 4 Demons, 1 Samurai, 1 Young Ronin = 15. The same happens in most action films, and if it does not, then it's because they do not have enough money to pay as many expendable characters; in the best action movies the hero or heroine is supposed to kill hundreds or even thousands of opponents, and survive with less physical damage than our Geisha here, and they are usually acclaimed just for that.
The ninja style bout is a bore, with fake action like jumping to the sky, sliding ten meters over an uneven ground, and so on. True, but that would be inescapable due to the fact the film is an Eastern, and with Ninja in the title. According to the film genre, such scenes are mandatory, though lacking credibility in a rational analysis. The same happens with American or European Westerns in which the colts fire dozens of deadly bullets without being re-charged... and most get good reviews.
The Geisha fights a Monk who is larger and stronger, and she defeated him by her strength, which is another fake. This blame is not true. The Geisha shows stamina equal to the taller, stronger enemy, and defeats him with a clever and unexpected wrestling hold, a figure-four headlock applied with her thighs – the most powerful limbs in an athletic woman wrestler – and takes his breath, and almost breaks his neck with it. Then, as he his still unable to defend himself, she finishes him with a karate punch to the Adam's apple. (I find this quite believable. Kids of all ages: please do not try this blow at home!)
The film is a chanbara, and one should appreciate the music of the tinkling blades together, and the contrast they establish with the opening soft music in a temple where the grown-up Geisha is dancing - a choreography that she had perfecting as a child, even against the will of her beloved father...
Are Western reviewers so much into computers that they became incapable of understanding a story told as a fairytale about a girl's quest for her father's killer, and her family's sword?
I'm not so much in love with this film to the point of rating it 10, but I understand the people who did that. Very nice cinematography and eventually a better film than what we're seeing editing down to 78m32s and without a good translation. I saw it in a language I do not speak, and even so I liked it, and got the main points of the story. That speaks high of Go Ohara, the director and screenplay writer.
Risk of disappointment - be prepared!
«I sat in a theatre listening to the music coming out of the big speakers: the latest from Brazil. The film I was coming to see was "FADOS" by Spanish auteur Carlos Saura. I thought fado was from Portugal - I was confused,» said another IMDb user.
I can only sympathize. Film Author (and that's more than Director to you) Carlos Saura decided, because no one had done so for 30 years, to document Fado, the Portuguese national song of passion, sorrow, and remembrance that come so well in almost impossible to translate word, saudade, that seems to be the deepest in us, the Portuguese.
But this is his artistic vision of it, ands he warns in the opening credits of the film that he is not going to present the «classic» fado, but he will attempt to describe it's 150 years old roots that go deep in the miscegenation of native European Portuguese and the local cultures of the peoples that were once our colonies, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Angola and also the «modern» and stylized ways Fado has taken through the voices who people who loved it, but innovated deeply in the way to sing it. Amalia Rodrigues was the first, changing the popular words of fado songs for poems written by great poets, those of centuries ago (like Camoens) and some contemporaneous. The stylized Fado of Coimbra was quickly accepted, though usually restricted to the cultured Portuguese, as it emerged from the groups of college students from that town. Carlos do Carmo, who now passes for a «classic», with his respectable 70-y-o look, was indeed a revolutionary who dared (protected by his mother, herself one of the best Fado singers ever, Lucilia do Carmo) to sing Fado as a song, upsetting the traditional rhythm and pose of Fado singers. Some audiences went riotous at first and then acceptance came. There were others, and now the new born queen (a princess yet), Mariza, sings Fado in a totally different way again, HER way, and it is not so much her African origin that does it, I think, but her voice, and her soul. I do not think she is a beautiful girl, though many will throw bricks at me for saying so, but I am deeply touched by her passionate voice, and her attitude; there is no doubt that she has the same Fado culture, and love, as Amalia, and Lucilia, because when she sings she transfigures herself. You'll notice all this, and more, viewing the film.
«Casa de Fado» is the only sketch in which you'll have a peek of the «real thing» as it happened in Portuguese «tabernas» (taverns, where the poorest of a poor people talked, drank, and tried to survive the sorrows of life and love together by singing them out). Through out the film, for the disappointment of the unprepared viewer who expects to watch and hear the purest of classic Fado, Carlos Saura uses multimedia to mix, on stage and on screen, several art forms with modern ballet and African folk dances on top, all connected to the Portuguese song. I do not like rap dance, but you must know that many African and Portuguese youths do, and there are many who wanted to show their respect for the African roots of Fado.
I was also shocked at first, when I viewed the film last night. But then I thought it over, and this morning I decided to leave here this warning. Please watch the film once, and let yourself go with the tunes, and the mood of poetic passion that Saura builds so well. Enjoy the great guitar players, and try to understand why artists so much apart came together in this film project That's another beauty of the thing, Fado and Portuguese: both are able to integrate different peoples, and different cultures, all unique, and all the same! A footnote: someone praised «the fight superstar Mariza has with the Spanish singer in MEU FADO MEU - probably the only emotional moment in the film » The choreographed fight in the film is played by two solo Spanish dancers, underlining very well the words of that particular song. I don't think that one was sang by Mariza, but Mariza is much better looking than the frail dancer in that scene.
A plea: I beg with film producers of the world to put this in a DVD with the short documentary by António da Cunha Telles, Fado (1970). I saw it 37 years ago, and the beautiful images and sounds came to me when I was researching our IMDb today. It would be a smashing DVD, contrasting two great film directors, two epochs wide apart, and with the same deep respect and love for an art form.
La piovra: La piovra 10 (2001)
Defending my vote of 9
Someone wrote before that La Piovra 10 is full of clichés, and I must admit that some situations and complex family relationships tend to repeat each others through the series, even in the two prequel series (8 and 9, that should be seen before the others, actually). But if you seat back and think, what was the real history of Sicily since the Allied invasion in 1945, but the substitution of underground alliances of local mafia, and new power lords? That pattern kept repeating itself, only technology changed - and that is clear contrasted between Series 8 (the Fifties), 9 (the Sixties), 1 to 7 (the Seventees and Eighties), and 10 (the Ninetees). In the earlier episodes, you listened behind closed doors to learn secrets, than you started breaking computer codes, and in the end you have characters talking to each other through second generation mobile phones - though the most terrible secrets amassed through decades are still kept in now old-fashioned floppy disks. The methods of killing changed a little, from the flick-knife or the razor-blade to the untraceable drugs that kill slowly, but efficiently, passing through the (American introduced) machine-guns (the 1960s) and time-bombs (the 1970s).
This 10th and last series had a problem; how to surprise an avid public, and how to put an end to what we know, in real life has not ended, and does not seem to. The surprise was the volcano mouth, able to devour all the secrets of the world, including those of corrupt company chairmen, local authorities, regional and national politicians, policemen and magistrates. That may be a bit far-fetched, but cinematographically it works very well, with brilliant choice of camera angles, and enough close-ups of action to document which is certainly one of the rarest ends of a thriller.
Before that, this series is absolutely full of little nothings, like a glancing view over little ships made of paper cuts, that are absolutely essential to understand the change of mind of Dottore Cariddi, now the top man in a crime ring that became larger and larger, starting with a little smuggling and extortion racket in Sicily, growing through drug trafficking, money laundering, arms deals, company take-overs, and ending in the control of governments by underground organizations that pervade all national and religious institutions... That Dottori Cariddi is the same person called Tano, that we came to know as a silent, mistreated teenager, that wanted «to be someone» and who never overcame the trauma of the violence he saw committed against his mother, first, and his half-witted sister Maria after, is the key to understanding his behavior in this concluding chapters.
If you missed the previous installments of this Series 10, you can not fully appreciate Remo Girone's outstanding performance here; you will lack basis to interpret the multiple signs that the director and the property master provide lavishly to take our minds back to very much meaningful moments of the series.
So, if you liked a little this series 10, you know that you must find the other series in DVD and buy or rent them. Try your best to get an Italian spoken version - there are others, but the importance of the original sounds, and voices, is great. I know, because I have the chance of having seen an original subtitled version.
If the supporting actors in this series were half as good as in the earlier series, this would have been a 10 star for me. Unfortunately, they were not up to the task of equaling Remo Girone and Patricia Millardet. Elena Arvigo composes her character well, passing convincingly from the bride in love to the suspicious intelligent girl, and then to the courageous unbroken victim; a few images of her facial expression in captivity show very good acting. Radamonte's downfall and decay come too fast (because of production needs), and therefore Rolf Hoppe's composition is not so convincing; yet, for a flick of a second, when he sees the hidden gesture of his pupil, the very child he brought up from nothing, putting venom in his glass, his face of silent acceptance of death and loss of friendship is magnificent.
OK. I'll leave you with those hints at that perhaps I should have given it a 9 and a half star. Please see it, and judge me. Then give me the same the courts gave to all the criminals brought to justice by a handful of memorable policemen, starting with Michele Placido as Corrado Catani.
La piovra (1984)
Twin Towers in the most optimist series of The Octopus
After the determined police detective Cattani fell in the line of duty like so many police officers and magistrates who were not bending to the Italian Mafia and even more sinister powers above it, the Italians simply imposed the series producers to keep on the saga. For me, the fourth series will always be the best - and it's last sequence is forever engraved in my memory.
It was only this week-end I had the opportunity to watch the DVD release of the fifth series, and it was a surprise. For the first time, a magistrate uses international cooperation to get her hands on bigger fish than the southern Italian mafiosi. Long establishing shots, and even a couple of dialogues are conducted in outdoors scenarios with Manhattan and New York City as backgrounds, with particular emphasis on the Statue of Liberty, and the Twin Towers.
Episode 1 is «The American Operation» with good results for the law, but the power of the Mafia, and the Cupola above it soon re-start devastating the police force and even the criminals who, for family reasons, are wishing to cooperate with the law. Thus, episode 2 «The Evasion» shows how weak a prison is for a big criminal; episode 3 «The Ambush» is a bloody affair, and just one of several ambushes this particular series has, in the eternal cat-and-mouse game of law and crime; episode 4 «Kidnapped», has again a policeman's family used as bait to trap, and destroy him.
Only this time, the producers wanted to compensate a public of millions of viewers, and pampered them with a happy end, when (episode 5) «The Bomb» carefully prepared and planted in a busy railway station goes off - but in a way it does not provoke the carnage we have been reading about in real life newspapers. For once, the realistic series ends with a woman judge hugging the courageous cop and his young son - and they are alive.
At least until the next series, for to deal with organized crime and political corruption in Italy, and the world at large (the USA, Luxembourg, and unnamed African countries are exposed), we know that script writers don't have much space for optimism.
Almost a 10
For me, Jaguar Paw (Youngblood), the predictable single hero, runs too much and is much favoured by Destiny for this to be the Perfect Film of the Year. As it is, it's still a powerful human tale of great simplicity, that went to extreme, minute historical detail, to bring us back five centuries and watch - in suspense and awe - how a great civilization that was able to predict the succession of the eclipses of the Sun, came to an end, amidst an incompetent ruling class, submerged to the wit of indisputable religious leaders, all acclaimed by a population that lived out of exploring forced labour, kept entertained and high on drugs and rhythmic chants. No - we're not speaking of present day's politics... Though we could be. All the horrors committed among American natives did happen, and that's historical proof they could meet an apocalyptic end by themselves. Destiny wanted it otherwise. The ships' sails (last scene) brought indeed the apocalyptic end by a greed for gold and power even greater than the worst specimen of the natives had shown us. Despite all the enhancements that digital video and hi-fi sound is able to, I advise you to watch this film in a good theatre house. This is a masterpiece for sound (yes, you can hear flies fly in the background), and picture, taken by great cameramen that place you in the very middle of a natural forest. My advice to parents: if your sons and daughters are able to stomach graphic violence and a birth, and if you can have a long talk with them just after leaving the cinema, this can be a powerful way to convey high standards of humanity to them, and explain them what death, life, and love are all about. You can not say the same for the last 300 movies you've seen together with them on your living room, ha?
Keeping the traditions
Twenty-five years ago, I saw some Muay Thai live in it's motherland, both men's fights and - breaking with the tradition - women's fights. Both were of the fiercest kind I've seen, in comparison with any other combat sport. Ong-bak is certainly a film produced with an eye on export sales, but if it had not been tampered with - in music or dubbed dialogues - one would also have a small treaty on Thai traditional values of family bonds, loyalty, justified back-stepping from 'new urban values' (such as illicit games, drug abuse, stealing). If shouldn't miss the fundamental opening scene, in which the village's young-men, some thirty of them, fight against a huge tree and each other to gain a simple yellow scarf. Because those blows and heavy falls from about a first or even a second floor balcony, are conducted in an open air location (marvellous set, too) and the grass is not fluffy enough to absorb the pain those guys took, besides hitting their bodies on the tree trunks, on their way down. The scene is intriguing for us Westerners, who do not know a thing about Thai culture - but then the following scene explains it all. Bravery is then a part of Ting's personality, embedded since a tender age. But so is respect for the village's religious belief, and the respect of elders. Eventually, the film narrates two stories - that of Ting, in a search for the robbed head of a Buddha statue (because there is always a fence for robbed art somewhere in OUR urban culture) - and the story of Humlee aka George, a fellow man who forgot his duty towards the Nong Pradu people, and now lives out a sordid life in the big town. The closing scene is the return to the small village, with the triumph of folklore and positive values.
I saw this film in its theatrical release in Europe, and now again in «For Thai Only. Not For Export" Region 9 DVD by Bad-Ram-Ewec, in anamorphic widescreen but Dolby digital surround sound, Thai language only of course. I regret the loss of light in this version from the theatrical one, but the original Thai soundtrack is better, more to the point in underlining scenes than the so-called French (Luc Besson) or UK versions. I had no problems watching this DVD on a multi system player, and I'm sure I will come back to it at least once a year. Even without subtitles, it's one of the best in my collection.
Racket Girls (1951)
Undervalued classic in a pristine new package
I like b&w films, because those are two colours like any others, and have the merit of being better than current blockbusters showing a dark blue image on a black background to mask the poor acting, set decoration, and cinematography.
I also like films that have some historical value, and Racket Girl does. It was one of a kind in terms of sexploitation; it covers extensively the novelty of post-war time, women engaging in athletics, and "men's sports" such as wrestling; it shows extensive wrestling matches with real life women wrestlers; it has a sexy mature gym trainer and masseuse, and a peachy blonde, Miss Peaches, to please male (and female, as lesbianism was implied then) viewers of all age brackets; the film was impounded by the police for the fact at least one person cast in it was on bail, and should no be working when he did it.
I like re-editions of films that serve both the entertainment, and the historical documentation of the film's production, and this Special Edition from Something Weird Video does. The original Racket Girls was announced at 70 min, this edition has 67 min and does say so, which is commendable; it's only my guess, but the missing scenes would be a shower, and more of the body massage of Miss Peaches. To compensate for the loss, you have the long original trailer, and an audio commentary by Johnny Legend, a wrestler promoter himself, and a couple of other people who give some interesting background and critical views of the film. The DVD option of audio on is for the second or third viewing of the film, and will be of interest to film and wrestling fans.
The quality of the print is not excellent - but as I have tried VHS copies, legit and bootleg before, I'd say this one is the best restoration available outside a major studio.
All the above are reasons to put this on the shelf at home; one shall return to it for the extras: six other assorted matches of women wrestling from the 8mm silent films, also in good digital transfers, four little amateur cat-fights on a park lawn, and a large gallery of women wrestlers from the Forties to the Sixties, and last but not least, a segment on Roller Derby girls, when the girls skated fast, pushed, shoved, elbowed, and punched to prevent their rivals from passing through the mêlée.
Note for feminists: I know that women wrestling is supposed to be politically incorrect these days, but please see this feature. Discard the four apartment wrestlers in bikinis that end up by showing four breasts in the only colour segment of the DVD - and please note that I did not count THAT among the pluses of this edition... Watch carefully the dialogue of REAL wrestler Clara Mortensen with the shady promoter, when she says, and she sounds like she means it, "Wrestling is one of the few clean sports, and I intend to keep it that way." Next, she is having a talk from pro to tyro with Miss Peaches, the big asset the promoter had just signed in, and she takes her away from the racket even before she does her match with another rough-and-tumble champion, Rita Martinez. Isn't it a beauty? That back in 1951 the only assertive, positive views on wrestling comes from two women (Mortensen and Martinez)? It's better than equality - it's supremacy of ethics in the work environment.
Yet a very poor DVD version of a classic
I'm giving 6 points to the little jewel this film once was, presenting a pretty tough girl, very acrobatic and good with two knives, or a wood plank, or a hatchet, whatever comes handy, against hordes of bad guys.
The fancy title Chase Step By Step (1982) is appropriate, as most of the many fights in the film take place up and down staircases, and though we cannot count them, the body counter shall be in par with the number of steps.
Queen Boxer was once the international English title, and is also the most current version of the film, on DVD, copyright 2004 Aquarius Media Corp, SOFA Home Entertainment Inc, and GoodTimes (NY) - too many copyrights for what is a destructive job on a classic film. The content is announced at 94m and it runs 84m (those people can't even add up numbers), delete the original credits and substitute them with fancy ones, and large sequences are simply black on black, as they didn't compensate for a poorly lighted original. Also, they got hold of what may have been a bootleg copy, taken off a large screen with an amateur camera, so that we miss a substantial part of the action; as another reviewer said, the end result is as if the camera was permanently out of focus with the fulcrum of the action.
A must see for Judy Lei fans, and viewers onto blade fighting. As bad as the media support is, you still have a good number of deaths, and hectic blade fighting all over. The end scene is obscenely cut by the DVD producers, reducing considerably it's original emotional impact.
Civil Brand (2002)
What's news about a WIP?
Women In Prison films are standard fare for the entertainment of mainly boozed up, lurid male audiences, featuring (1) cat-fight; (2) almost nude gals in isolation; (3) sexual harassment of inmates; (4) brutal guards; (5) rape; (6) riot; (7) revenge on the (8) corrupt warden and superior officers. WIP are usually low budgeted, filmed with poorly paid crew and very small cast.
Guess what? You've all the required items, the film was made on a stringy budget and a dozen actors, one of them doubling as stunt choreographer, who 'gets shot' without putting up a fight! So why is all the uproar? Plenty of (lurid?) viewers complaining that it's a BAD BAD FILM, and plenty of established critics complaining that it's a BAD BAD FILM...
Because this film was made (as the director explains in detail in the voice on commentary in the DVD version) from a critical, very political view point, exposing as well as it can the link between Politics, Economics, and Prisons. Even without being corrupt, a prison's system exploited like a private business - as it is perfectly legal in some countries, like the U.S. of A. - may, and eventually does, as historic cases prove, end up in being a monstrous creation.
That the director was naif, and tried to put to many ideas and characters in at the same time, ending with a couple of loose ends, it's a pity. DaBrat is not the best narrator to keep an audience interested, in a film with not much screen action; Tichina Arnold should be meaner as Aisha the bad girl, yet she provokes a good fight on the gravel yard of this urban prison; woman sarge Cervantes looks sexy enough to liven things up - but her character is underdeveloped in the (cut to 91m though R rated) DVD version; LisaRaye is OK as the taller new girl, but lacks experience, and it shows, in several crucial moments.
The music is new, and at times inspired, by Mandrill. The exposé of established facts will be valuable for audiences who wish to get a larger view than the telly gives them. Supporting cast has good performances by Clifton Powell (justly awarded), Reed McCants, and best for last, the beautiful and definitely the best actress of the pen, N'Bushe Wright. (I'm closing this comment and go searching for other films with her.)
Espion, lève-toi (1982)
Splendid Spy Thriller
I caught this film on a hotel room TV set, just when I was going to bed. A look at Lino Ventura made me stay just for a few minutes - and finally I set on to the dramatic, dark end. Looking at my watch I noticed that I must have started watching the film just after the early credits.
This capacity of keeping even a tired spectator awake is a trade mark of director Yves Boisset, with an easy to follow storyline told so that it is new, or old seen through interesting new angles. The ambiance is luxurious Switzerland and French intelligence headquarters, or college's libraries - for spying is done not only by your common 007-type of agent, but by people "above all suspicion".
Ventura plays a retired agent living a peaceful life with a younger, loving German woman, who's teaching in France, when he is called into active service again - very much against his will. When he finally starts suspecting all people around him - minus those who fall dead after he makes the first moves into knowledge... - it will be too late. Too late to avoid discovering the unthinkable truth, and too late to get back to his peaceful retirement.
The dark end may not please all viewers, but it is actually a signal of the times the movie was made - and now that you are a quarter of a century past that, you may notice that it was a forewarning against the all encompassing spying and intruding on people's lives from those people up there who are "above all suspicion"!
Nel segno di Roma (1959)
Half a century later, is it worth?
I believe it is. Even reduced in it's intended length, the film has a number of curious elements to make it worth while even today. It was one of the first great productions from the "peplum" film industry, in this case in association with German, French, and Jugoslav studios. The army action relied entirely on men and horses, and also the war machines and traps that are here quiet realistic - catapults and multi-spear throwers, mainly (Stalin Organs, avant la lettre). Then, for arty fans, this is a good way to see where did Michelangelo Antonioni start perfecting his interior shots of dialogue; if you watch the German video copy (one of the best colors and editing around) without knowing the language (as I did), you'll notice that the interior shots are never boring - although you get to see some very poor "Egyptian" wall paintings... Finally, the two most prominent topics for most male viewers: Anita Ekberg riding a horse in mini-skirt, wearing daring low-cut evening dresses, and getting her man with a kiss, and a vengeful spear; Chelo Alonso proving in 4 minutes (longer, in the original version) how to be the focus of attention of the film industry with just one choreography... She mixes hand movements from Indian dance, with minimalist ballet and Turkish belly-dance to a perfection; she was famous as a dancer when discovered by film-makers, and with good reason.
Estambul 65 (1965)
Another forgotten B jewel
This is one of the best action spy thrillers I saw, and believe me I've seen a lot.
Even by today's standards, it would be good, provided someone cared to restore it's brightly colour, perfect editing, and natural sound. The alternate soundless shots of a knife fight inside the hotel swimming pool, where he can see each detail of two athletic actors actually going at it, and the merry sounds of tourists on the esplanade above while still unawares of the drama close-by, has NEVER been recreated in any film, possibly because it was too much trouble, or there were no Horst Buccholz and Mario Adorf around.
The dialog was OK, and true grit, real lines, and delivered with realism. In that not only Buccholz was good, but the other actors, too, therefore grabbing the spectator into a quite realistic scenario. The story develops from a predictable ending into something quite different, therefore we miss the presence of Koscina in the later part of the story, but it is all for the best of the film.
The director was defending his name and career, but also his money in more ways than one, as he was one of the producers investing in the project through Isasi (Barcelona, Spain). It is a pity that there was never a VHS around that I know of, and that no DVD is made of such a precious B jewel.