Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Last Few Films I've Seen... Early '16 edition

1. Son of Saul (2015)- The well regarded Holocaust drama (which most likely has the upcoming Oscar in the bag) is everything its made out to be. I just wish I knew less about it going in and maybe it would have impacted me greater. What did impact though was not director Lazlo Nemes use of obscured Dardennes Brother-style camerawork that hangs over the slumped, weary shoulders of its "sonderkommando" as he goes about his grind in the concentration camp, but the swirling and hellish cacophony of sound that makes up the ambient noise of the film. Crying babies, muffled Yiddish, screams, cries and the continuous industrial hubub of the camp are overwhelming and really take the film to the next level.

2. Convoy of Girls (1978)- Even for Nazisploitation, Jesus Franco's film is tame and boring in the way it stretches poorly acted battle scenes out for what seems like ages. And at least one supposed dead guy looks up towards the camera in one scene. Z-grade stuff.

3. Ip Man 3 (2016)- If part 1 established Ip Man and his roots, and part 2 succumbed to the nationalist and individual struggle for post war acceptance, then part 3 of this trilogy finally transforms Ip Man into the super hero that history (and pop culture) have adorned him with. Full review here.

4. Essene (1972)- Not one of Frederick Wiseman's best documentaries because it seems to lack any real tension or exposure to an unknown world or institution. This one follows a commune of monks.

5. Star Wars Episode VII (2015)- Really liked it, but didn't fall in love with it. I did fall in love with Daisy Ridley, though. Basically a re-boot of episode 4 note for note, but with J.J. Abrams visual flair (and lens flares). I could have done without the Supreme Leader character which looked like something left on the editing room floor from the "Lord of the Rings" films.

6. Track of the Cat (1954)- Wellman and screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides pack more unspoken depth, misery and complexity into the first 20 minutes of this thing than most films accomplish in 2 full hours. And its perversely fascinating how Wellman's mise-en-scene equates both the act of secret lovemaking behind a brush pile and the POV from inside a freshly dug grave as the same thing.

7. Tree of Knowledge (1981)- My first experience with Danish filmmaker Nils Malmros (whose gotten alot of pub lately in film circles) and its a dandy. Poignant, patient and Bergman-esque in the way he follows a group of schoolchildren in that very vulnerable transition into puberty. Subtitled and Danish, yes, but universal in the world of confused adolescence and how fickle our judgement was in that time.

8. The Third Part of the Night (1971)- About to watch a good chunk of Zulawski's films over the next few weeks and his debut, "The Third Part of the Night", sets the stage for his erratic, complex explorations of humanity. Although it takes place during the Nazi occupation of Poland, it's a film with so much more on its mind. And I learned more about lice than I ever dreamed possible from a fiction work.

9. Man, Woman and a Beast (1977)- Surreal and experimental film from Italian Alberto Cavallone that, frankly, never connected. Probably should be projected in an art exhibition somewhere.

10. The Shadow Line (1973)- Georges Franju's adaptation of a Joseph Conrad novel is stilted, oblique and moves at a glacial pace. Following a newly assigned ship captain (again Conrad's Christopher Marlowe), he's quickly beset by sickness, madness and manipulative supply dealers as his ship and mission become moribund. At times, I wondered if this was a TV movie. Not one of Franju's shining moments and very hard to find.



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