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Espejismo (2014)
South American entry in the art film stakes.
14 December 2018
The mix of pretension and gloom recognisable from the films of Maya Deren, early Ingmar Bergman or MEMENTO without suggesting any more substance than they had.

Disturbed artist Vladich is confronted by his childhood self, friend Luis Andrés Solano Rodriguez' appealing girl friend Liz Rojas Rodríguez, a mall carousel and a bath tub which ends up on the beach with the rotted fish where his parents drowned before they were interned at the white tiled cemetery.

Deliberately confusing and never suggesting an effective author's vision, this one is mainly interesting as one of the few films from Costa Rica that have had sub-titled screening.
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Diego Peretti in ambitious family comedy.
25 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Long faced Argentinean comedian Diego Peretti is not as much at home here as he is in some of his superior star vehicles. He's not the best choice for a Robin Williams part and this film never recovers the promise of the opening where Diego addresses the camera, walking in the middle of flaming chaos on the beach. "The rabbit's burning and drowning."

Family man Diego is just hanging on at the Hypermarket where he's been in charge of human relations for fifteen years.

At home he finds that dissatisfied wife, the always watchable Carla Peterson who gave up her lawyer career to raise the family, has booked herself a holiday at Machu Picchu leaving him in charge of the bratty teenagers and destructive tinies. "Didn't you say you wanted to be in my place?" she asks him and draws a wall chart of parental responsibilities. Yes, it's going to be MR. MUM or actually another entry in that cycle going back at least as far as Clive Brook in 1925's THE HOME MAKER.

Things immediately go pear shaped when Diego finds that the school is closed for a training day, something he learns about from the raddled teacher who claims she looked like a super model before she started, and he then backs the car over his limping housekeeper. Diego realises he's brought the wrong kid home from soccer practice and can't understand the baby who insists on painting on the kitchen wall. His family togetherness project paper balloon blows into the house and starts a fire and, when he locks his keys inside and the rogue washing machine fills the stairs with menacing suds advancing on the baby, the pre-teener starts smashing windows to be helpful.

Relief does arrive in the form of super-competent hired help Pilar Gamboa who however turns out to be a girl Diego dismissed to impress the Hypermart board. Sensing the tension, daughter Agustina Cabo warns Peretti "If you fire Julia, I will learn to drive and run you over."

Cabo's a rural single mother sacked from a string of jobs who comments "I've gotten tired of no future." The financial crisis, which figures regularly in South American films, is never mentioned but lies under this picture of suburban prosperity.

Events climax on the company's Family Day and with Diego falling behind his competitor in the sack race and other competitions. His only hope is the high points event getting inside the giant see-through ball and rolling down the hill into the inflatable bowling pins. This is not going to end well.

Class performers are not really served by a predictable script though it does run to a nice line in sadistic humor and keeps the awful situations coming, cutting to a speeding emergency service vehicles after each disaster. The film gives the impression of having been reduced from a more extended version with elements disappearing - like the gerbil last seen in the glass jug.

Nice Nahuel Moreno toon titles and best, bright low contrast colour filming.
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Argentinean forties set mystery.
23 November 2018
Middle aged Homeopath Francella takes the train to the hotel run by his sister in the treeless Bosque de Mar dunes only to find that femme fatale Luisana Lopilato and her entourage are already in residence.

There's some style to this one, with the forties detail (celluloid frame glasses prominent) and restricted palette (Digital Cinecolor). They cite McCoy, Goodis and Hammet but the large dose of perversity signals Agatha Christie, along with the string of close-ups telling us the characters are going to be suspects. When the murder does come, the investigation is protracted, killing off whatever momentum the scene setting has provided.

Definite curiosity value however.
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Off beat Colombian cmedy.
23 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Things are not going well at the windowless office where dumpy Marcela Benjumea arrives as the shutter is rolled up each morning. Boss Hoyos is worried and the staff excursion has been cancelled in favor of "reflective pauses" which turn out to be yoga work outs conducted by his flashy red head daughter.

However the appearance of hired in maintenance man bald and disorganised Enrique Carriazo brightens the day. They get on a treat. She even starts cutting out card board foot prints so she can take up his invitation to the dance club - to the scorn of her silent mum. However even the bright patches in the secretary's joyless life look like being extinguished. She strikes back.

Well how many films from Colombia do we get to see? This one is predictable. We know mum is going to speak and it's not hard to guess that always scowling Benjumea is finally going to smile. The character become endearing even if the piece goes on too long for a deliberately one note exercise and the pay off is really too slight. Interesting performers.
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Io c'è (2018)
OK Italian anti religion comedy.
14 November 2018
Leo's business is wiped out by the uniform currency and he finds himself struggling to make a living out of the family home as a B&B after taxes. He notices that the nuns running their guest house across the square don't pay anything. Checking their "Franciscan" operation with its Four AM mass and a giant Madonna in his room he decides to start his own religion calling on the aid of minimally published author Battison. A few good gags and the cast are superior.

Buy is wasted as Leo's sister but the dark glasses wearing nuns are a great comic concept. Professional shooting.
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The Despoiler (1915)
Creaky Ince drama.
13 November 2018
History overtook this then contemporary account of Western intervention in the Balkans where Makey (Jane to Elmo Lincoln's Tarzan) sacrifices her virtue to the lustful commander to have him spare a chapel full of Kurdish women. The Chicago German community objected to a Von officer and there was much withdrawing of the copy.

This incident curiously is the main reason that this clumsy melodrama is now viewed. Ambitious production and name stars now forgotten.
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The Projectionist (V) (2012)
Short Hitchcock simulation.
11 November 2018
Amateur B& W short simulating the style and period of a Hitchcock silent. In the twenties, the young couple encounter a spooky projectionist and the boy to believes he's done away with her when she doesn't show up for their rendez vous.

Touches like dissolving her body onto the sheet in the bio box or two shots of the watch show an awareness of silent film style. The anachronisms disturb but this one doesn't outlast its welcome.

Don't think 16mm film will stand up to that much misuse.
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Danish costume melodrama.
5 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
In this lumbering historical piece from the end of the so called Golden Age of Scandinavian silent film, it's the 1657 to 1660 Danish-Swedish Civil War. The victorious Swedish king notices wounded mercenary Roumet, who saved the life of a nobleman in a battle. He orders that he be and tended in the Gaabense village home of Frederik Jacobsen, leaving corporal Neilsen to protect him. ("You will look after this good soldier and keep the town from looting")

The non com proves a bad egg extorting the locals. However recovering Roumet is accepted into Jacobsen's family and develops a romance with daughter Little Ann Belajeff. She makes him swear "This sword will never be drawn against a Danish man again."

The evil corporal steal the recovering soldier's savings (and his horse) but Roumet pursues the low life and overcome him in front of the Swedish Castle where the man is serving, accordingly being proclaimed an outlaw. Tragedy (and the plague) follow the lead couple.

Hard to identify with the over age, comically turned out Roumet and his regulation blonde girl in peasant blouse lover but the piece moves along and has some atmosphere. The film is not as elegant as its Swedish counterparts but it has the same reliance on location shooting, contrasting the icy winter arrival of the troops with the sunny romantic interlude the leads share in his the deepest forest lair.
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Silent Swedish drama.
2 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Cronvall is the village beauty who is protected by her brothers Tranberg & Cederlund and father Blich who send smallholder's son young Hanson on his way with a beating when he tries to court her and tell him he will only be a worthy suitor if he can reach her in the summer pasture they defend. He slips past them and wins admiration by scaling the fifty meter cliff to reach the object of his desires.

Passable feature from the believed golden age of the silent Scandanavian work. The landscape dominates again.

Nothing special, with the young Hnason the main point of interest.
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Judaspengar (1915)
Early Seastrom drama.
31 October 2018
The discovery of any of the missing films of Victor Seastrom is an event. MGM managed to lose three. However JUDASPENGAR is an early work made before he became a world leader in his field on a small scale and without any of the flourishes that appear in the director's work as the films of Griffith circulated raising the film making game. The staging's most interesting feature is to use shots which show characters approaching through the window in the hut far wall.

The gloomy plot centres on the betrayal of the impoverished lead by his friend after a poaching accident. It is played out in forest settings in the Scandanavian manner. The acting is characteristically restrained.
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Ponderous silent literary adaptation.
26 October 2018
The appeal of the Honoré de Balzac original as a subject for film adaptation is hard to fathom. This grim late silent French version is a remarkably ugly production even with it's giggle worthy moments. The glamorous Josepha is particularly grotesque.

Poor Alice Tissot wreaks her vengeance on the relatives who have deprived and marginalised her at great length. The odd Paris location intrudes into the ponderous studio simulations. There is money on the screen but none of it seems to have been well spent.
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Tokyo ondo (1933)
Pre Talkie Japanese musical.
26 October 2018
Made to catch in on the then popular song that the cast dance to in the final reels, this is mainly valuable as a glimpse of then modern Japan. The plot pivots on the leads winning over their parents to their proposed marriage which was contentious when the film was made.

The handling is competent. It comes with a sound track but this does not contain dialogue making the film a silent with a track.
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Early sins of the father melo.
25 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"Her Code of Honor" is and early example of the far fetched melodramas that were to be John M. Stahl's trade mark in the silent period.

The action switches between 1895 Paris and the then present following two generations and giving star Florence Reed a double role. Film form is quite sophisticated for the still early days of fiction features but the characteristic preposterous melodrama robs the piece of any weight. It does however have the extraordinary moment of William Desmond bursting into hysterical laughter when told that he has been making out with his sister.

Passable performances buried in obvious studio decors.
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French version of the Charley Chase long short.
24 October 2018
This one is a curiosity, a foreign version of the Charley Chase - Roach - MGM ALL TEED UP where the lead (& director) appear to be uninhibited by the need to do their lines in French.

They are surrounded by the Hollywood French speaking contingent who alternated these versions with parts in English language efforts.

To win the heroine Charley takes to the links, out smarting the snobby players who recruit him to make up a foursome so they won't have to use a player they don't like.

This one is passable by the standards of early sound comedy with the gags on the obvious side and the pacing a bit slack.
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The Drover's Wife (1968 TV Movie)
Forgotten Asutralian breakthrough drama.
20 June 2018
Giancarlo Manara had been an assistant to Visconti on SENSO and the fledgling ABC TV brass hired him in to raise the tone of local production, which ended with him being stuck in a corner of the news room going out every month or so to do Italian language news item.

He managed to break free of these restraints and make an innovative documentary called LIVING ON THE FRINGE which attracted some attention and from that contrived to be put in charge of an atmospheric dramatisation of a celebrated Henry Lawson story with James Mason's then wife in the lead. This stood out in the lackluster dramas being made for Australian TV and should have led to more ambitious projects for Manara. It did not.
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Low rent British suppport
21 December 2017
Another one of those quota filling English first halves badly shot, directed and played in unconvincing B feature studio settings.

Because it departs from the crime formula, this one is actually above average with a jokey plot about an insurance clerk who becomes the terror of the underworld when he unconvincingly knocks down a couple of extras with his umbrella. Faint echoes of IRMA LA DOUCE.

The fetching Angela Douglas lacks star potential, looking working class and talking R.A.D.A.
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Felices 140 (2015)
Startling Spanish ensemble piece.
15 December 2017
This one kicks off as if it's going to be another one in the Les petits mouchoirs / Little White Lies and Perfetti sconosciuti / Perfect Strangers line, with Maribel Verdu celebrating her fortieth birthday by inviting all her intimates to the dazzling coastal villa to which the departing house keeper gives her the keys.

Maribel's nephew, young Marcos Ruiz, is suitably impressed like his parents, Verdu's sister Miriam Alvarez and her abusive lawyer husband Antonio de la Torre (Marshlands, Ballad for a Sad Trumpet), failing restaurateur Eduard Fernández and his preganant wife Nora Navas (Pa negre), rich Alex O'Dogherty arriving by helicopter and old flame Ginés García Millán with his new girl fiend sexy starlet Paula Cancio who's waiting on a part in a movie with Ricardo Darin where she might even have scenes with him.

There's a bit of "Whose place is this?" and they do the "Money Money Money" Cabaret number together. Tension with Cancio, who is picky about the lavish breakfast spread as Verdu lists it out finishing "and you want alfalfa!" Turns out there's resentment about Maribel's sudden prosperity. So far unsurprisingly slick.

However things take an unexpected turn, moving the piece into a dark conspiracy. This has a number of startling moments - de la Torre spelling out their black mail or listing out the lack of people who might notice Millán's absence with stunned Cancio looking at them when they say "His friends."

It seems impossible that they are going to go there but the cynicism of the ending is alarming. The ever admirable Verdu is growing through successive Joan Crawford like screen incarnations making her one of the most interesting leading ladies. The rest are faultless. The technique is best A feature stuff and playing the action in the luxurious poolside setting registers.
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Bodies (2017)
Low budget English science fantasy is not without interest.
3 December 2017
The programs of trash-horror film events are by their nature a mixed bag and by those standards BODIES is one of the better items.

A few unestablished performers mill around in real settings as we follow the young couple whose home has a "For sale" sign on the lawn, when they enthusiastically take up the offer of a program with the "Kenilworth Life Science" program that offers a pay out that to solve their problems. In prosaic farm estate settings, they face increasingly sinister choices where the organisers study their reactions. So far so so, complete with double exposed, echoing track interludes.

However as the film's real design becomes clear, it gets to be more interesting. The running masked man is missing a finger. "What happened to my Rosie?" The argument that the work will make easier anticipating the decisions of people in power almost makes the craziness seem justified.

They get by without effects work, action or (really) sex and stay so British.
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Japanese poetry derived love story.
25 November 2017
This one is determined to be purest art movie. It is derived from a book of poems and centers on exploited one eyed construction worker Sôsuke Ikematsu, hired on the the 2020 Tokyo Olympics who pairs with Shizuka Ishibashi a nurse and part time girlie bar waitress who feels deserted after her mother's suicide. Her friends tell her to stop talking about death. The film totally lacks the forward momentum of a commercial movie, going through developments that have no baring on the outcome and creating a dozen moments where you expect to see an end title come up, unavailingly.

The background is quite vivid - the detailed construction site which is destroying the workers' bodies, the dormitories and bars where they drink to make their lives less miserable, the girls-only apartment block where Ishibashi is keeping a surprisingly high maintenance turtle in a temperature controlled tank with an air raid warning monitor. The pair wander through the Shibuya and Shinjuku districts of Tokyo encountering oddities like a flying airship, a lovable puppy that is captured, caged, put down and incinerated in cartoon animation and an ignored girl busker, who no one takes any notice of, singing about armpit sweat.

Director Yûya Ishii explained that his film is meant to show the things happening around people of which they take no notice. He has a following on the festival circuit. Bracket him with Hirokazu Koreeda.
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Permitidos (2016)
Soso Argie Rom Com.
24 November 2017
How often do you see an Argentinean Romcom? They're about as common as horse feathers but not as funny, if this is an example.

All the ingredients are there. The winning Lali Espósito heads up a personable cast, even singing the play out music, and the film zips along with good living detail. Unfortunately they are re-treading the not all that funny premise of HALL PASS and it's the drear combination of people talking dirty but not getting naked and enthusiastic build ups to jokes that don't have a punch line.

Dorky Martín Piroyansky nominates model Liz Solari as someone he'd like to get it on with and his long time fiancée Espósito says it will never happen and he could have a free pass to fill that fantasy. Sure enough his motor bike hits the bag snatcher who made off with Solari's Louis Vuiton and things go from there, with Espósito's eco freak nominated object of desire Vicuña and his stalker Bustamante getting in on the act. Piroyansky becomes a celebrity and the whole thing gets to be subject of a TV show.
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Quasi documentary political thriller.
23 November 2017
This grim, dramatised account of Italy's La Prima Linea, an extremist left wing political faction who saw themselves as combating the excesses of police repression, features jailed Scamarcio (MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD) telling his participation in the movement at the time of the Aldo Moro kidnapping in which they were not involved. The plot centres on the attack on the prison where his love interest Mezzogiorno (TENDERNESS) and other women members are being held while the movement has lost the sympathy of the workers movements whose interests they claim to represent.

Meetings, raids, actual news coverage and filming in Rome, Milan and Venice fill in his to camera narration. Not one of the best of these though it's sombre presentation does hold attention.

The Dardennes' participation may be noted.
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Early John Ford Tom Mix
22 November 2017
This one is more Frozen North than Western but it can be lumped with the silent cowboy movies of it's day and in that company it's quite accomplished.

The bad hats are after the Gold Mine, that has made Eugene Palette and Will Walling rich, and resort to skulduggery which puts their opponents on "the death trail" being sent into the wilderness without food or shelter to die of exposure. Hero Tom Mix, who doesn't really blend in, faces freezing weather, wolves, rapids and fur hat nasties.

We can only guess that he triumphs as the end is missing on the surviving You Tube copy but the cumulating dangers and the great snow country scenics do give this one an edge and it's fascinating to see movie giants Mix and John Ford working together even on a minor effort.
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Spooky Kiyoski Korosawa romance.
19 November 2017
Characteristic spooky Kurosawa romance but with added science fiction and suspense elements. The husband is acting strangely in hospital, the teenage girl emerges from the house blood stained and a cheery teenager connects with a reporter who shows up in a borrowed TV truck. The film spends most of it's not short running time exploring the mechanics of spaceman invasion and it's done through rather endearing aliens - even when they start wreaking havoc with very loud, government issue automatic weapons.

Scope filming and subdued playing register and the business of having the characters appear against backgrounds more brightly lit than they are manages to be eerie.
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Brazilian traveler film.
15 November 2017
Young sustainable traveler student João Pedro Zappa works his way through interchangeably scenic African countries, with the aid of interchangeably affable African locals. The fact that the lead is a plausibly non movie star type is an asset and, when he links up with his equally unglamorous lady friend and they bicker about missing out on the bunji jumps between romantic interludes, attention picks up for a while.

Some added impact from the photos of the real traveler who lost his life on this excursion (they tell you that in the opening scene) but this one is a very long 127 minutes.

I didn't like INTO THE WILD enough to want to revisit it.
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Take Me Home (V) (2016)
Short film by the celebrity director.
12 November 2017
A child leaves his ball where it will roll down endless flights of stairs. It scares a cat and is ignored by a dog - those bits are the highlights. The glimpse of Teheran (?) stairways has some oddity value. Sharp Black and white images.

Hard to see why a major film maker wanted to do this one.
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