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Lumière et compagnie (1995)
I think this was a great idea. It works three fold: as a fun game, a slice of world cinema, and ultimately as a celebration of cinema. You get to see some more well known directors while some lesser known though not necessarily less important ones get exposure. I agree that David Lynch's film is probably the standout of the lot for its creativity within 50 seconds and the other rules of the game. But there are also many other interesting things going on throughout the whole exercise;weather the film is particularly entertaining or more personal, the whole project remains interesting. Other films I personally found memorable included the ones by Greenaway (also very creative, particularly his use of light), Zhang Yi Mou (sleight of hand with no special effects), Idrissa Ouedraogo and Gaston Kabore from Burkina Faso, Egypt's Youseff Chahine, to mention a few. Finally, after reading the other comments I wanted to say, instead of complaining that most of these directors showed no creativity why not think about and discuss what you yourself might film if given the chance.
Rih essed (1986)
high tension drama from Tunisia
I was prepared for a somber, somewhat arty piece. I was afraid it would be over serious and slow. Well, it is very serious. But I was impressed how the dramatic tension stemming from the two main character's inner torture was so high that scenes of conflict tended to almost literally explode off the screen. This is most noticeable in the scene when Hachemi leaves the dinner table in a rage after finding out his parents invited the man who molested him and his friend Farfat to his wedding. Less than a minute after he storms up to his room a real storm wind comes along, knocks things around, breaks glass and whisks away most of the tents and so forth that they had prepared for the wedding. This scene is also notable for the editing. A lot more cuts than I had expected. A shot of the window shattering, kids rushing in doors, birds, etc. The editing does a lot throughout the film to not only create pacing but to also add a certain poetic quality. Another explosive scene is towards the end when Hachemi and Farfat are brought by their friends to a brothel of sorts. The way this scene turns back and forth dramatically is almost dizzying. Overall a very powerful film.
Adorenarin doraibu (1999)
Yaguchi= Great escapism
Great escapism in this tale of a young milktoast car rental company driver and mousy nurse both in dire need of a boost of confidence. Through a string of unbelievable events they meet and then fall into a wealth of yakuza money. They are chased by the monstrous yakuza as well as his stooge like young henchmen. Yaguchi's themes are all here: happenstance, destiny, money, greed, finding your own identity. Oh and let's not forget his wonderful mocking of Japanese societal conventions as well as people in general. He has a sharp wit and utilizes violence to a humorous effect (such as when the yakuza hits each and every one of his henchmen with a shovel). I found this one a little toned down compared to "Hadashi No Pikkunikku" ("Down The Drain") however his style is so consistent and this one was equally entertaining if slightly less over the top. Seek this one out by all means.
Kurenai no nagareboshi (1967)
Killer Japanese 60's mod b-thriller
This one's a gem. The story and to some extent the style are influenced by Goddard's "Breathless". We have the cool elements of a macho yakuza picture with pseudo-new wave flourishes. The slight pretense of being something deep never gets in the way of the fun. Watari Tetsuya is brilliant as the rough yet suave killer anti-hero and Asaoka Ruriko is so alluring as the sophisticated rich girl. There are cool humorous touches such as the hole in the killers hat and the great campy dance hall sequences with 60s go go music and chicks. I enjoyed this so much because I found it to be an example of a real classy take on the exploitation picture. I think it's from Nikkatsu who churned out these "program pictures", basically formula b-movies. Here we have been given such a film and while it's careful not to get so bizarre as to disarm the target audience (such as the great Suzuki Seijun had a tendency to do) it does show a distinct flare for a certain camp mod coolness.
Hadashi no pikunikku (1993)
long live Japanese indie cinema
I found this a pleasant surprise when I saw it as part of a Japanese Independent film festival at the Walter Reade Theatre about 6 years back. It's a wonderful comedy of errors that gets more and more perverse as it goes along. A high school girl's life falls into the parameters of Murphy's Law as she has an incredible stream of bad luck from getting caught scamming a free ride on the subway to losing her grandma (in more ways than one) to getting lost and violated(!?!). Unbeleivable and hysterical,the film picks up speed unrelentingly as we watch her downfall until it finally tumults into a high powered cartoon of itself. This film filled me with glee for the way it starts off unassuming enough and then becomes so over the top that my jaw kept dropping between bouts of laughter. Mind you, it is a black comedy, somewhat offbeat and some might find the humor here a little sick. But I reccomend it for those with a penchant for comedy that pushes the envelope of what is standard and socially acceptable. Perhaps it's a little more typical for the Japanese sense of humor but I did find it to be as surreal and irreverant as "Duck Soup" or "Repo Man".
The Thrill Killers (1964)
"I Hate People!"
I dug this film so much when I first saw it because it epitomizes what makes low budget exploitation good camp entertainment. It seems to be made made solely to exploit itself and does it's damndest to deliver. I like the b & w cinematography and the various cinematic devices used albeit some quite cliche. The camp and subversive elements are given to us hand in hand when serial killer Mort Click tells one of his female victims "People are no good" "I hate People!" "I'm going to kill you". Super cheesy chase at the end is the capper and, because it's slightly anti-climactic, only makes the exploitation motives more obvious therefore giving "The Thrill Killers" very high camp value. I still think it's an admirable and entertaining effort by a spirited and eccentric auteur.
Starship Troopers (1997)
I've always appreciated Verhoven for his ability to make riveting, entertaining films that are also provocative social commentary. It is by his penchant for puting a well crafted subtext in genre pictures that appeal to the masses that he is truly subversive, reaching and effecting a large yet unsuspecting audience. Here with Starship Troopers he has made a brilliant parody of the government, the military, social class and society in general which is especially reflected in his representation of the media and technology. The fact that actual nazi propaganda films were used as a model for Starship's structure and look is yet another blaring example of this film's (and Verhoven's) subversive genius. The vision of an overly advanced technological future as well as the cliches of strong jawed heros and sexy heroines, love triangles and male rivalry that are typical soap opera fare are also used to maximum effect to mock modern society. (For another example of the latter check out the brilliant albeit campy b sci-fi pic "The Green Slime"). And what about the fact that this film is presented as a one sided propaganda but we are constantly bomabarded with horrific violence that might make one stop to think about why the bugs attacked to begin with. Lastly I must mention the great device of no opening credits which grab you and pull you in to this reversal of propaganda in disguise.
Overnight Delivery (1998)
wacky teen-type romantic comedy
Just caught this on Showtime. This is a throwback to, or should I say perpetuation of those teen comedies that were so abundant in the 80's. At it's wackiest, such as Paul Rudd doing Jackie Chan type stunts on an overnight delivery truck, it's especially reminiscent of Savage Steve Holland's over the top style. It's predictable and silly but competent direction with good pacing and good performances, especially by Witherspoon keep this just a cut above the usual fare of this type. For the mainstream teen and just post teen audiences.