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L'indic (1983)
Ruthless gangsters, boring picture
22 June 2015
A few tough criminals are ruthless in their pursuit of a lot of money. But suddenly they become surrounded by cops. How is that possible?

I expected not much, but was still disappointed. It is a film that just lacks real tension and excitement, due, I think, to uninspired directing (Serge Leroy) and a mediocre screenplay, with hardly anything original. When realism is your purpose, you should go all the way, like in L.627 and L'engranages, but this film stays stuck somewhere in the middle – much too aggressive to be a romantic film, and too much melodrama to be exciting as a crime film – and that's the main reason it doesn't withstand after thirty years.

There is also the problem of Pascale Rocard, who plays her part as Sylvie (I guess on purpose) as flat as possible. In some way it symbolizes her gullible character. Because, well, someone didn't have a clue how to write an interesting female character in a story. Why would a guy like Bertrand still be chasing her, or be chasing her at all? I couldn't figure it out.

There is some good news though. It is a pretty decent film from the perspective of Daniel Auteuil, who I expected to be the main character, but wasn't. He seems to be enjoying his role as a young cop with artistic tendencies a lot. Which can not to be said of the bad guy performance by Thierry Lhermitte, one of the stars from Diner des Cons, whose part as Dominique is all about looking over-the-top cool (waaaay too large sunglasses, lots of brylcreem, leather pants, creepy smile). There is some nice sense of cinematography sometimes, but also not much, almost all of the film is average, as well as the music. There's nothing that reminds us here this film is from 1983 – it could as well have been 1977 or 1995 for that matter. Much better crime films from this era are Diva and Police. I rate it 5/10.
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Lino Ventura doing hard labour
22 June 2015
Usually Lino Ventura plays a tough gangster or police detective, without doing not much besides frowning and looking pensive. But he COULD do much more, like comedy (Monsieur Gangster) and there are also a couple of films in which he had to endure stuff in a godforsaken spot somewhere on earth. I tend to think those were the films he really loved to do, for example Greed in the Sun, Le Ruffian, Les aventuriers, and this one, in which he gets his hands really dirty. He plays an experienced captain and has to do a lot of hard labor, diving deep, carrying crates, pulling ropes, pulling a heavy lever, dodging bullets, et cetera.

The film is set almost completely on a boat and an island, which is quite remarkable. A pleasurable watch, although it is not THAT GOOD. The main problems are a few plot holes (how about opening one of those boxes!), a predictable storyline and the part of Leo Gordon, who is a bit too old-fashioned as an actor for this film. And there is not a lot of chemistry between the characters Osborne and Cournot but I am not sure if that was intended anyway.

Predictable or not, I liked it, not only because of Ventura, whose films I almost always like (and there are plenty), but also because of his female counterpart, Sylvia Koscina, an underestimated actress who was not only pretty but also quite good in acting, and played in a lot of interesting sixties flicks in all kinds of languages, like Giulietta degli spiriti, Hot Enough for June, Deadlier Than the Male, Judex, to name just a few. But it was also a decent directed film by Claude Sautet, for whom this is NOT AT ALL a typical film (just watch for example Un Mauvais Fils to get an idea), and shows he was also capable of some easy entertainment. Even better is Classes Tous Risques made five years before this film, also with Ventura, and of course doing rough things. I rate this 7/10.
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Not very inspiring, but a fantastic soundtrack
15 June 2015
Il giustiziere sfida la città seems a bit uninspired compared with the other poliziotteschi, for example: Milano Calibre 9, Roma Violenta, Napoli Violenta, Almost human. Though this one is made by poliziotto master Umberto Lenzi (who made around three films a year in that period), it is certainly not one of them.

The story about one very cool cop who wants revenge on two criminal families, lacks the real energy and the dramatic intensity of the others. Thomas Milan is too cool as a cop, when you compare him with Maurizio Merli (serious mustache), or Franco Nero (intense eyes). We don't really believe that he is pain because he lost his best friend.

It's not a Thomas Milan one-man-show like in other films, in which he went all out with his acting abilities (like Milano odia…). He plays his larger than life hero straight in this film. But I think it is ALWAYS a show when he plays a role, last and not least for his sense of what is cool. No actor I know of smokes a cigarette as aesthetically as Milan, and this biker outfit looks terrible on most men, but he could wear it to a fashion show without a problem. Also fashionable are the FABULOUS sunglasses worn by Joseph Cotton, but that was also the most interesting bit about his role, which is as uninspiring as uninspiring can get. Citizen Kane was far, far away.

But then there is the music. You'll have to play this film loud, to fully enjoy the marvelous tunes from Franco Micalizzi, who had a lot of work to do in the 70's.

A seemingly real life poliziotto story is hidden in the story of actor Duilio Cruciani, who plays the part of Luigino, the son of Milan's brother. He died from an overdose heroin in 1984 when he was only 26 years old. Newspapers from that day mentioned there were already six death of heroin overdose in Rome in that year already (it was only 17 January). Unfortunately there weren't any poliziotteschi anymore to make films about the subject.
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The introverted family member of Diva
11 June 2015
La lune dans le caniveau is definitely different in comparison to director Beineix's much more straightforward crime film Diva (1981). It is more like an introverted, dramatic family member. We observe a man who tries to deal with his mistress and his alcoholic brother, and wants revenge for the death of his sister. Is this story very interesting? I wouldn't say so. Most scenes are long and tedious (the film has a two hour runtime). Only real fans of either Beineix or the actors will keep their concentration until the very end.

The pleasure for the viewer lies elsewhere: the stylistic, colorful cinematography. The film has playful use of lights EVERYWHERE. It is visually incredibly detailed for a film from begin 80's, which were usually bleak on purpose. Both films from Beineix, Diva and this one, weren't praised for its renewal. On the contrary: they were equally bashed by the critics. Style over substance, they said. Which, as an argument about film, seems always ridiculous to me. Isn't cinema BY DEFINITION about style? It is not a book on screen, after all. How is a film as 8 1/2 not style over substance?

While I'll think Beineix was quite adventurous with his colorful style, perhaps even ahead of its time, as films have become more style over substance ever since (take for example V for vendetta, Spring Breakers, Ixjana, City of lost children, The strange color of your body's tears). Also quite modern are these out of the ordinary female characters, played wonderfully by Victoria Abril and Natassja Kinski. Depardieu's acting perhaps seems a bit shallow but he is in fact right in tone with the introverted style of the film. This was a period (begin 80's) in which he excelled in playing lead characters (Danton, Le chevre, Le dernier métro, Buffet froid). I rate this film 7/10. Despite the visual feast, I'm just too impatient to enjoy a film at such a slow pace. An one-hour cut would do magic for this film.
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Too average for its own good
11 June 2015
Teambuilding wasn't a real phenomenon back in 1982, as it is (mis)used today to create friendliness among staff (as if you aren't too much together at work already). A great Swiss film has been made about bringing colleagues together in one place: L'invitation in 1973. Que les salaires levent le doigt isn't up to par.

The reason this film doesn't work like it should is the haphazard collection of story lines. None of them actually makes much sense or evokes anything else than indifference from the viewer. Tcheky Karyo being in love with his colleague Solange; Daniel Auteuil as Lum, the supervisor of the company, but having no idea how to deal with women; his obtrusive father (Michel Piccoli); Jean Poiret as the boss, but who can't even manage his own daughters properly. And there are a lot of other people with their own problems.

The storyline that did SOMETHING, was the awkward relationship between the sexual aggressive Nathalie (Jeanne Lallemand) and the socially awkward Lum. He steps quite ferocious on her foot and she challenges him during a diner. Interesting duel. But then she starts to make fun of him and this storyline is also dead.

I did not get the thought behind this film. None of the actors seem to be really comfortable with the screenplay either. As a result the film descends slowly in obscurity. Is it bad? No, it is just too average for its own good, accompanied by a very uninspired soundtrack. I rate it 5/10. Only interesting to see the acting of a young Karyo or Auteuil, or for the fans of Piccoli (whose part seems superfluous to me), or Jeanne Lallemand, who was great as the daughter with loose morals, but only acted in two other films.
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La menace (1977)
Interesting beginning, boring middle part, interesting ending
10 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Dominique (Marie Dubois) can't stand that Julie (Carole Laure) is with her husband Henri Savin (Yves Montand), who owns a transport company. Dominique follows Julie and jumps of a cliff, in a way that Julie could be blamed, especially when they find a ransom note. But Savin thinks about a way out.

You cannot discuss this film without talking about its ending. This film is ALL about its ending. All the reviews are about it. It's the type of ending that evokes discussions. The kind of plot in which you have to accept A LOT of unlikely events as a viewer. I liked it anyway, as the setting is quite wonderful and it feels almost like a film in itself.

There are other interesting things though. There's a great deal of attention for the lighting in this film, which is nice. Also, as many others have mentioned, the part of Marie Dubois is terrific. She is so important for the film, that when she is gone from the story, the film collapses a bit. Director Alain Corneau took a chance with his own screenplay. Because what follows is a long and dragging part in the middle. They could of course have chosen to keep her for the whole film, to continue the suspense, but in that way her role wouldn't feel as powerful as it does now, and the story would be more about exploiting the madness until the end, probably more like something like Cape Fear, which is also nice, but the story works better now this way, I think. I rate it 6/10.
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The Toy (1976)
A pretty neat comedy
6 June 2015
When François Perrin is just back from unemployment, he wants to take no risks as a journalist. Unfortunately, the son of the president of his magazine sees him and says: I want him. So he is hired… as a 'jouet', just another toy for one of the most spoiled brats that ever existed. Which means, karting through the house, playing cowboy, and fussball.

A neat comedy, good for some laughs, and highly appreciated by its audience. I think it appeals to the feelings of many people for a couple of reasons. Firstly the feeling of a kids paradise. Racing in a kart through the house, that kind of stuff. It also works the other way around: it is great seeing Perrin getting in contact with his inner child again. And at the same time it appeals because of the tragedy. The kid needs warmth and love from his parents, not just another gift.

Pierre Richard is perfect for his part but I think the supporting cast is also quite wonderful. Everyone in the family plays it as straight as possible. Especially the father (Michel Bouquet, who had an awkward childhood himself – read his wonderful biography here on IMDb), and Fabrice Greco as the kid. This was the only role Greco played in his life! How about peaking early in your career! The only part that was forgettable, was the part of the sister, but in many Veber screenplays the women are underdeveloped.

This was Francis Veber's first feature film to direct. Already you can see Veber had a different approach than the people he used to work with as a writer of screenplays: much more steady photography, fewer edits, more symmetry. This way the comedic acting is more powerful, though it lacks the usual natural flow of seventies films. In a way, Veber's clean directing style fitted very well in the 80's. From this film on he directed a film about every three years, and in all his screenplays he stayed faithful to the same premise: coupling two opposite strangers. That's quite something, I never heard any writer doing something alike.
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Pierre Richard delivers
5 June 2015
A not so capable man (played by Pierre Richard) is appointed to handle the affairs of a bank during the time the director is gone. When he's in charge, a suitcase with an important paper gets stolen, and he wants to retrieve it. Police thinks he's the culprit and his girlfriend wants him back. So, basically, everyone's after Pierre Richard in this film.

I expected not much. A film by Claude Zidi, once a camera operator from Claude Chabrol, who made a bunch of mediocre comedies. As if to prove this, there's a joke with a toilet bowl only after five minutes.

But it was too hard to resist to the gags and I started giggling anyhow. The thing is, Pierre Richard pulls it all off every time - trying to yell 'au secours' when his voice is hoarse, fumbling with keys, playing a blind man, reassuring a detective that there are no problems while there obviously are. Even the joke with the toilet bowl.

It's a goofy comedy, with a lot of predictable jokes, but it's PASSIONATELY GOOFY. Although this film is far from Le Grand Blond..., the best Pierre Richard-film I know of, it has great speed and some funny episodes. Most funny bits, for me, were the exuberant episodes in a carnivalesque train and the grand final. I rate it 6/10.
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L.627 (1992)
Way ahead of its time
5 June 2015
I remember vividly watching the film in 1996. It had a recommendation (as it says on the poster): 'Just as gritty as Reservoir Dogs'. We were disappointed. This wasn't Reservoir Dogs at all!

How wrong was I. Twenty years later there are a lot of documentary-like series about the lives of cops, for example Engranages. Well, L627 is EXACTLY as these TV series, but twenty years earlier. The cops from L627 and Engranages both work in the underbelly of Paris, where tourists won't come. We see the REAL lives of cops. Eating together, joking together, doing undercover operations together, shouting at each other, visiting squats. These are not the overly cool cops from other films, these are real people dealing with fears and tensions. The only thing from the series that is missing here, are judges and lawyers.

The thing that stands out, is how all kinds of stories are intertwined, just like in real life (and just like in Engranages), without leading towards a 'bad guy' to catch, as crime flicks usually do. It's about an hopeless fight against the drugs trade, without the proper resources. Suddenly you realize how much improvisation and intelligence this job needs. A job in which you even have to negotiate with a school director about using a classroom for a lookout, you can't have a decent car and have to pay your own camera when you want to film something.

No wonder it has been written by Tavernier together with a drug squad detective. With its two hours runtime L627 is almost as a mini TV series in itself. And just like Engranages and The Wire it boasts not only realism, but also terrific acting by a largely unknown cast. As in these series they have a wonderful chemistry together – for example when they are joking with each other. There's even one running joke… In the midst of all this is Lulu. He is only loosely the protagonist – as was Laure in Engranages (who has many similarities with the character of Marie in this film, by the way).

It isn't a pretty film, it has not really a cinematic feeling you are used to. But it is ahead of its time as many films nowadays are aiming at documentary-like realism. Therefore it demands a lot of attention and concentration in the beginning and it might be difficult to get into. It is certainly NOT the kind of film teenagers would like to see, I can say from my own experience.
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Good, but not outstanding
4 June 2015
Louis Coline tries to keep up with his demanding wife and an equally demanding boss. They both want something else of him. How to cope with this? I liked the theme of how work can have an immense influence on your life. Louis is under pressure and we see him trying to cope with it. How would you respond when at midnight your boss (Michel Piccoli) and his aid (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) are on your doorstep and seconds later they are in your kitchen baking an egg? Shaving naked in your bathroom the next morning? And your wife wants to leave in her nightgown in the middle of the night?

I did not enjoy the film thoroughly, unfortunately. I waited for the magic to happen but it never came. The reason is, I guess, that I found the film just too regular. A regular story about a regular guy, living with other regular people, in a style of filming that is equally regular. It was visually not very enticing. I am not familiar with the work of Pierre Granier-Deferre, but my guess is it shall be mostly slow and observing.

I wouldn't go as far as calling the film bad. It is a solid production after all. It also boasts a couple of decent actors, Gerard Lanvin in his early years being surprisingly sensitive; Nathalie Baye as his wife; and Michel Piccoli as his boss. But it was actually only Jean-Pierre Kalfon who was outstanding (he would've fitted greatly in The Wolf of Wall Street).

On the other hand this observing style works fine when you watch the film as some sort of time machine, to have an honest view of life in 1981 (and not the punky kitsch version of these years the media has invented). As how it was for probably most people: working, family, eating, sleeping. Not as different as life nowadays.
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Fun comedy about a fanatic crook in rehab
4 June 2015
Why, someone must have thought, isn't there a 'crooks anonymous' as you have an alcoholics anonymous as well? That's the premise of this film, in which 'brother' Forsdyke undergoes the program, to win back the heart of his love, Babette la Verne. Forsdyke is forced to go in rehab, to get the criminal instincts out of his veins. He is tortured by booby trapped safes only to look for a cigarette.

It is a must-see for fans of British comedy, with a lot of 'I saayyy' and 'sport', witty humor, an unrivalled politeness of the characters and, last but not least, almost invisible sexual innuendo ('You'll get my Christmas present later', says a man when hasty leaving after a kiss).

I enjoyed it a lot, thanks to decent comedic acting of Leslie Philips, Wilfird Hyde-White and Stanley Baxter (in a fitting part in which he changes his outfit all the time, as a predecessor of his own TV show that started a year later). Perhaps only Julie Christie, in her first serious role, is a bit of a dissonance. But she would be great in Fahrenheit 451 a couple of years later.

Director Ken Annakin made all kinds of films (The Battle of the Bulge, for example), but was really into silly adventure comedies with rather long titles, like Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes and Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies, all scripts from Jack Davies, as is also this one. Of course, it is all a bit dated now and then, but sometimes I wonder why this kind of innocent comedy has just died out in this day and age. It is almost impossible nowadays to see a film that is not either totally ludicrous, or over-dramatic. That's why we have this problem today that so many comedies are packed with boring melodrama. Not this one though!
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Heaven Sent (1963)
Delightful little comedy
3 June 2015
When your family principle is that you shouldn't work (because you belong to the aristocracy), what to do when you just sold your last chair to collect money? Georges must find a way to support his family even if it means stealing in churches. An interesting race begins between the two parties (Georges and the church agents) as they have to adapt to the improvements on the other side.

A delightful little comedy, carefully crafted, really not one second wasted seeing it. The comedy begins lighthearted, friendly, slightly bizarre, and remains so until the end. It has some surprises, one in particular.

What I really enjoyed was the lovely acting of Jean Poirot as Raoul, the dentist who at first is reluctant to help Georges out, but becomes his assistant later on all too willingly. He seems to see it as a fun practice besides his real job. A talented actor, who would be used quite regularly by director Jean-Pierre Mocky.

Bourvil is excellent as well, as the gentle thief. It is a great part for him as he was an actor who could play both hilariously funny as well this kind of sophisticated funny. Georges is probably one of the friendliest thieves ever to appear in cinema. It's also refreshing seeing (a lot of) churches being used in cinema.

This was only Mocky's fourth feature film, while he is still productive, and recently finished his 73rd and 74th title! I read that he has 17 children, which might explain the theme of the families in this film (the church agents are one, his own family, and even friends become family in the end). Excellent stuff. I rate this 7/10.
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Static and aesthetic
2 June 2015
In this film Bourvil plays a judge applied to research a murder case (difficult to explain the French judicial system, one should watch the series Engranages to get an idea). There are two possible culprits: the widow and the nurse (and mistress) of the victim. Bourvil is positive that the widow is lying, and that they are sending an innocent woman to jail.

Don't Tempt the Devil is about 'the perfect murder', which was also the subject of a couple of films of Hitchcock, and of course, Witness for the Prosecution by Billy Wilder, made six years earlier. Just like in Hitchcock's Rope we learn immediately who did the crime.

In this film you'll see people talking, rather static. Bourvil who talks to Pierre Brasseur, who talks to Marina Vlady, while Virna Lisi talks to Umberto Orsini, who talks with Pierre Brasseur, and sometimes Bourvil talks to all of them. While the dialogues are good in itself, it would have been great if there had been some more variety. As this film is directed by a director with a background as well as a writer (Christian-Jacque) it might not be such a surprise this story is rather talkative.

Nevertheless, it's still a great film. What I enjoyed were the aesthetics of the film. The beautiful black and white shots, the carefully positioning of the characters at the foreground and background, the choosing between close-ups and medium shots. It is absolutely worth the time of the viewer and in my opinion even more enjoyable if you forget the story and start watching the actors. Especially Bourvil and Pierre Brasseur (with a hoarse voice, while his voice was so splendid in Enfants du Paradis) are great. In many modern films this sense of aesthetics is gone. There's hardly any logic in choosing shots, it is all about nonsensical close-ups and raw editing. Therefore I rate this 7/10.
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Bloody Friday (1972)
German poliziotto that is not as bad as it looks
1 June 2015
If you consider the fact that the Italians, back in the seventies, were champions in the eurocrime exploitation genre (poliziotto), than it's no wonder they would have a go at it in other countries as well. Cineproduzione Daunia 70 (from Caliber 9) tried it in Germany with actor/director Rolf Olsen. He made the crime film Wenn es nacht wird auf der Reeperbahn in 1967, and the prostitution drama Der Pfarrer von St. Pauli in 1970, which are both quite good, so you understand why he wrote and directed it.

Bloody Friday is a more German version of the stylistic Italian poliziotto. It is tougher, more direct and also more over the top, I mean, it is sometimes TOO SILLY. The escape of Heinz Klett (great acting by Raimund Harmstorf by the way) on itself might be believable, but why would Heidi incriminate herself suddenly for her boyfriend Luigi, or would her brother do just the same for her? Just robbing a bank with a maniac, what can go wrong?

The heart of the film is this violent character Heinz. He is the cause of everything. How he bluntly accepts these amateurs for nothing less than a bank robbery, that's typical Heinz. He is like a caricature of a man, aggressive, sexist, opportunist and over confident. People who die just deserve it because they are weak, in his opinion.

Bloody Friday might look terrible at some point, but this film isn't as bad as it looks. It actually brings some surprising social undertones to the genre, which are usually lacking in poliziotteschi. The desperation from the other robbers give the film an humanistic context. Heidi and Luigi want to escape from their shitty jobs, while the brother is a deserter. It is also (very loosely) based on a real story, as Germany had to endure a lot of violence in this period – terrorism from extreme left wing organizations and violent bank robberies, not only by professionals, but also by amateurs, like in this film. I rate it 7/10.
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The Apple War (1971)
Old motherland will be... future motherland!
29 May 2015
Anglamark, a rural Swedish town, must become an amusement park, called Deutschnyland. At least, that is the aim of Tore Gustafsson, the entrepreneur of the town. 'It means lots, lots of money. And, finally, we can put this castle on fire.' A rebellious man, a peasant woman with magical powers and an inventor try to thwart the project.

The Apple War is a witty low budget film, which charms the viewer using inventive solutions and enthusiastic actors. It is the kind of creative 'special effect' that nowadays is used by Michel Gondry. The PR man with a growing hat, actually becoming as big as himself. A Stonehenge-like structure changed into a casino.

It is not at all the straightforward satire you might expect, actually quite the opposite. You can describe this as a fairy tale with satirical elements. This makes way for bizarre and unpredictable interludes, as the episode with three simple-minded brothers (Max von Sydow just two years before his big break with The Exorcist). The scene with the man who has a beard that grows against the walls. Or the scene with the peeing giant.

However, the film remains satirical until the end. And you might even call this film prophetic. The Gustafsson's are the boss in this modern day and age. Everywhere you see them destroy beautiful things in order to build their Deutschnylands. 'Old motherland will be... future motherland!' One of the main reasons I think that this film is so enjoyable: it is made with confidence. Director Tage Danielsson and Hans Alfredson were comedians who worked together on films and TV shows since 1956, so they were well experienced in 1971.

I loved this film and recommend this everyone who enjoys obscure and original cinema. I rate it 8/10.
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Rhythm of a great film
27 May 2015
I saw this film in terrible quality and still liked it. It has a two things which are usually rare in films: good acting and an original story. In this case, a man wants to hire a room from some guy who lives in the outskirts of Zagreb. The guy accepts. They talk from time to time. The older tells about his fascination for crime statistics, he seems to be able to 'read' them.

This is an interesting, smart story, written by Pavao Pavlicic, and translated to the screen by Zoran Tadic. It reminded me a bit of modern absurd cinema, like the stories of Efthymis Filippou (Alps). Never before I have seen a film using statistics and maths this way. Not much happens but it is still intriguing and absurd until the very end, that's how smart this story is. However, I understand the viewers who find this story getting too supernatural for its own good.

And then the wonderful acting. I really felt that Fabijan (who is also called Fabijan in real life) is madly passionate about statistics, and that Ivica (also Ivica in real life) has initially no interest (he has interests of his own, reading books and talking to Zdenka, his former girlfriend). Fabijan's spell over Ivica grows gradually.

The film has the looks of a modern art-house film (straightforward scenes, slow, observing). But in 1981 this style wasn't as common then as it is now. Therefore is this style ahead of its time. I rate it 8/10.
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Funny portrayal of the insecurities of men
26 May 2015
Two men are 'on the run' for women. A gynecologist and a pimp have an incredible urge to live in a country without women.

As for the films of director Bertrand Blier, many are praised, but this one not so much. It is understandable why. It starts quite slow and seems a little bit too straightforward for Blier's standards. Les Valseuses (made only a year prior to this film), Buffet froid and Preparez vos mouchoirs tackle the theme less predictable.

But, as others pointed out as well, this film should be placed within its time frame, the 70's, an era in which women were becoming quickly much more independent. I can even remember as a young kid seeing the graffiti 'Wicca' painted everywhere in the my city. And Blier quite captured it, as if he wanted to make a TIME CAPSULE about this subject. He plays with the insecurity of men via the characters of Paul and Albert. They don't hate women, they are just scared of their (sexual) aggressiveness. In this case even in the shape of the most masculine symbol of all… a tank.

I quite loved it anyway. We might have not the Blier-show we are used to but there's still a lot of great cinema to watch, like when Paul consoles Albert when having a nightmare about women; the opening sequence (Paul eating pate when a women spreads her legs and waits impatiently); the scene in which they warn a boy about women. And of course the unforgettable final episode of the film, which will have sparked many discussions in 1976.

While you might have second thoughts about its theme, you should approve the cinematography of the film. Done by Claude Renoir, nephew of the great director Jean Renoir (and thereby grandson of the famous painter). His aid are fantastic actors and great music. While Jean Rochefort is almost always wonderful, in this case, the best performance comes from Jean-Pierre Marielle, whose talent unfortunately is often misused in mediocre films.
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The Amazons (1973)
Following amazons in a silly story
26 May 2015
What can one expect of a film about raving amazons from 1973? I expected something really terrible but it wasn't at all as bad as I expected. The basic story of a competition between two female leaders is kind of silly, but it has not at all the campy weirdness one would expect with all these big breasted women doing naked oil wrestling, throwing javelin, riding on horses, sleeping together, fighting, et cetera.

There are even sincere dialogues, nice looking sets and mass fight scenes. It has the looks of an expensive film. The story line of Antiope finding affection of a man, and being troubled by it, is not very interesting, but believable in a sense, also thanks to the reasonable acting by Angelo Infanti. All other acting is not very good, but never the cringing kind of bad.

But how to watch this? It is not too bad to get the predicate 'camp'. It is not funny enough to be a comedy (only a slight bit, when women are torn between aversion and lust for men). And it is certainly not factual to be enjoyed as an historical drama, as many others already have pointed out.

And what about an erotic film? There are pretty women in it, often naked. But the characters themselves HARDLY seem to enjoy sexuality. They have to ENDURE it in order not to die out. Which was perhaps the whole joke of the film, I guess, but only director Terence Young could have told us that. I rate this 5/10.
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A cult murder machine playing samba music
26 May 2015
In a Parisian ghetto live all kinds of weird characters. There's one even more outrageous than all the others: a woman named Rosemonde du Bois de la Faisanderie. She has the nasty habit to kill people and put them in a machine. This machine makes the sound of Brazilian samba music when it's working. The police try to catch her but they fail every time as she outsmarts them with her charm.

It's a pity when you see all this effort done by the actors (for example the bit when Annie Girardot plays piano and Bernard Blier plays harp), trying hard to make it funny, and to experience that the comedy doesn't work. It isn't the hilarious black comedy it could be. The film looks more like a satire without a subject. It has some references to authority, religion, social differences, and yet they all remain trivial.

I always try to support the underdogs of cinema, like this film. And I guess the fun part lies in the strange characters in this ghetto. In that way it reminded me a bit of the film Micmacs. But it still is painfully unfunny most of the time. What remains is a film for the fans of Annie Girardot as there a lot of scenes in which she's pulling her typical Girardot faces. Michel Audiard also directed the reasonable predecessor of this film (Elle boit pas, elle fume pas… ), but this one just doesn't work for me. Only to watch out of curiosity for the cult murder machine playing samba music, otherwise a forgettable flick.
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Sinister, but amazing
20 May 2015
The meaning of Cu Mainile Curate is pretty obvious. As in many communist films, we have a noble, incorruptible hero (Mr. Roman), who, as a cop, tries to beat the evildoers. In this case: ruthless mobsters. They are tough competition. No wonder these cops sometimes use the same methods (terrorizing, shooting people) in order to get them. 'I want them alive… as much as possible.'

It is obviously a politically motivated gangster flick. Of course there's a bend cop with a 'wrong history'. He just has to go. And of course tough cop Miclovan (played by director Sergiu Nicolaescu himself), who seems to enjoy beating up villains, teams up with our protagonist, as his violent but necessary counterpart.

A lot of surprises in this film. In the first place: it looks AMAZING for a crime film, with its setting in prewar Bucarest. Beautiful cars, beautiful old buildings, beautiful suits. Unexpectedly great music (Richard Oschanitzky, who composed the score for 25 Rumanian films). Great scenes. The one with the empty factory and the table in the center. The heist with the tank. The chase scene in the outskirts. Secondly: the original story telling. There are actually a couple of stories intertwined, loosely build around this one noble cop, like a Rumanian mini The Wire.

And I never expected this much violence. This is a ruthless crime flick. People getting shot is as common as it can get. In this way it sometimes reminds me of poliziotto films. It gives the film a sinister atmosphere. Shootouts are cool but execution kind of stuff is way too much, at least for me… I rate this 8/10.
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Why doesn't it work?
19 May 2015
This film is based on the comics of Junior. It's about the rude and blunt father and the sophisticated and sensitive Junior, who is immensely popular with beautiful women. Senior loves comics, junior reads books. Junior spends evenings TALKING with women, much to the horror of Senior. The battle between the sexes, but also between an old and new era, these are recurring themes in the works of cartoonist Wolinski, who died in last January in the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

It could have been an interesting politically incorrect satire, based on the gags from the comic. But it isn't. Though it is quite watchable for about 30 minutes, until a weird story unfolds and it gradually changes into a regular Maccione madcap comedy, and it gets tiresome. Of course Wolinski and director Schulmann had to make up a couple of story lines but this (a silly story about a hardresser being a cover up for a brothel) seems a bad choice. It is not funny and has nothing to do with the characters Junior and Senior, nor the spirit of the comic.

It is actually a common problem with films from comics that exist entirely from gags. They tend to result in average comedies. Another example is the film Fais Gaffe à la Gaffe, taken from Franquin's comic of Gaston.

That said, not all is so bad. Both Junior and Aldo are good casts. I am not a fan of Aldo Maccione, but in this film he is perfect as the father (in the title named Aldo after the actor I suppose). Riton Liebman is also convincing as his son Junior. And it's as 80's as it can get. Viewers with a weakness for the kitsch of the 80's will love this film. Hacking into the computer of a dating agency. Terrible music. Absurd hairdos. The clothes from another planet. I rate this 5/10, for a reasonable first part.
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Watching a serial killer doing his thing
18 May 2015
A brutal murderer was widely known in the 1920's in Germany, nicknamed The Vampire of Düsseldorf (hence the title). He got captured and he appeared to be Peter Kürten. In this version of events we follow Peter committing his crimes. A laborer who pretends he's from high society. There's much attention for the unstable political situation in the days of the Weimar republic. There are fascist everywhere, burning books, beating people up, etcetera.

Watching a serial killer doing his thing is a actually quite weird type of film to watch. But it exists for decades and keeps on fascinating people, until this day (for example Henry, Portrait of a serial killer, or series like The Fall and Dexter). Le vampire de Düsseldorf is an early example from 1965. But a film about (supposedly, director Fritz Lang denied it) the same killer, M., is even older, even from the same year as when Kürten was executed (1931).

The subject isn't very original. As many others already have mentioned, M. by Fritz Lang is a much better film. It's not so much about the killings, rather about psychology, fear and sentiments. As others also have mentioned, there's not much German about this film, not even an attempt to. This film lacks in original storytelling and in realism.

However, the good thing is: I found this film surprisingly stylish. Robert Hossein (who wrote and directed the film, and played the lead) was by then already an experienced film noir director, who knew how to capture the attention with silence, as he did in La Mort d'un Tueur. The street scenes at night are quite marvelous. The camera movements are lovely to see. Many pretty shots, as for example the distant shot of the bar Eldorado, the shot with Anna and all her mirrors, or the following through the streets. Those are absolutely worthy of the predicate film noir. I rate this 7/10, mostly for style.

Unrelated to the review, but I also like the idea of a bar with phones in which, for example, table 14 could call table 8. Apparently a common thing in the 20's. A funny concept that a smart person perhaps can revive again.
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Arcana (1972)
Unsettling but interesting anyway
18 May 2015
A portrait of a slightly weird guy living with his mother, who is a fake clairvoyant. He is discovering his supernatural talents.

Unsettling is the right word for this film. People, waiting to collect their welfare, are being kidnapped without a reason. A metro stops in a tunnel, people start banging on the windows from the outside. Unsettling is also the relationship between the protagonist and his mother. She is hardly angry when he ties her to the bed or makes love with one of her costumers in front of her.

The second part is even less comprehensible than the first part already is. He collects stuff and people seem to get more and more crazy. It is lovely bizarre, still not the David Lynch or Luis Buñuel kind of bizarre, but sometimes not far from it. There's a fascinating piece of cinema with a monotonous gypsy player and the mother suddenly coughing up frogs. Or the one with people waiting silently outside the door, one man glances over his shoulder.

I found it hard to understand why things were happening like this. Usually films have too much explanation, this film is an example of the opposite. There's not much sense of logic. I guess one of the reasons was the unbalanced editing. Some more interesting, surreal scenes don't have enough time to work, and less interesting scenes could have been removed. Especially the final could have been better.

Nevertheless, this is a slow, but surprisingly entertaining film, subtle and yet politically incorrect. This might not come as a surprise as the director, Giulio Questi, is also the man behind a thriller on a chicken farm (Death laid an egg, 1968) and a cult western with gay cowboys (Django kill..., 1967). These were the only three films he made. He was the uncompromising kind of director and that's why his films are still unique. This film is supported with great performances and music. Lucia Bosé is very good as the over-protective mother, and Maurizio degli Esposti is just as fine as the weird son with the feminine hairdo (he only played in four films). Also Tina Aumont, famous for Fellini's Casanova, but in fact specialized in playing parts in the weirdest section of 70's cinema. I rate it 7/10 for mystery.
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Effraction (1983)
Not the obscure gem I was hoping for
10 May 2015
Jacques Villeret plays an obnoxious, annoying criminal, who panics during a heist and kills everyone in his sight. He escapes, travels around, rests in an hotel, gets discovered, takes hostages, escapes again.

I had some hopes of this unknown crime film with this intriguing title. But the first minutes I was sure I was watching a comedy. This was also influenced by the appearance of Jacques Villeret, the comedy hero of Diner des Cons, and the over the top acting (and wigs and fake mustaches) in the heist scene. But, it wasn't. It was a serious crime film.

I think it was meant as an artistic interpretation of a crime novel from Francis Ryck. And there are a couple of slightly interesting scenes, especially in the first part. The conversation with the waiter in the middle of the night, the bizarre dance of an old lady in a bar, the conversation with a whore. The confused and violent character of Valentin is surprisingly well acted by Villeret ('I like to have a room… with a view at the sea.' 'But there is no sea here, sir.'). Marlene Jobert and Bruno Cremer are both decent as well.

But all in all, I guess it isn't interesting enough for a whole film. It's not gritty enough for being a serious crime film, it's not comical enough for being a black comedy, it's not psychological enough for being a portrait of a mad man. Bits and pieces, about 30, 40 minutes, are worthwhile. It reminded me a bit of the film Roberto Succo (2001, Cedric Kahn), which I found better in almost every aspect.

Effraction would be Daniel Duval's last directing endeavour (until his comeback in 2006, with his autobiographical film Le Temps des Porte-Plumes). In the meantime Duval was actor, specialized in playing dubious characters (for example his role as Szabo in TV drama Engranages), working with Tavernier, Ozon, Haneke, Marchal. He died two years ago. I rate this 6/10, mostly for trying.
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Empty Days (1999)
Exquisite sensuality
10 May 2015
Two people, unemployed, bore themselves to death, doing errands, visiting cafés, cleaning houses. One thing leads to another.

I read only two kinds of responses to this film: either you dislike it a lot, either you like it a lot. Either you find it clichéd and boring, either you find it sensitive and humanistic. I greatly enjoyed it so I am from the second group of viewers.

This is not a film about positive, successful, special skilled people. These are just ordinary people without a job. Like many people are. We follow them in their everyday struggle, and, eventually, their affair. But not the usual boring dramatic kind of struggle, with a lot of tears and crying, as you see often in cinema. It is a lighthearted and sensitive portrait.

What I really enjoyed was the sweetness of their spontaneous love affair. Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Patrick Dell'Isola are both exceptionally good in this film. Especially Bruni-Tedeschi. She has an incredible subtle change of her countenance every time. I rarely have seen someone playing uncertain as well as she does here. But Dell'Isola is also very convincing: cool and depressed at the same time. With actors of this range it is inevitable to end with a cute film about love and intimacy.

Yes, this is a love affair as we have already seen a thousand times, and yes, a couple of scenes are a bit predictable (especially the break-up halfway). But then cinema is not always story, is it? It is about images, and the exquisite sensuality of their meetings are, for me, way more interesting than the story. It's all about acting here. This kind of believable and charming characters are very rare in cinema. I can recall Ma nuit chez Maude, but not many other films. I rate it 8/10, mostly for sensitivity.
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