Monday, March 14, 2016

The Last Few Films I've Seen, Early Spring Edition

1. Frameup (1995)- I've loved all of Jon Jost's no-budget and pleasantly unfettered films... until this one. Overtly Godardian in the way it uses literary quotes, jarring intertitles and stilted acting calling attention to itself for a higher purpose, "Frameup" could more likely be called "sendup". Nothing about this film- which deals with two very simple and prurient people who hook up and go on a crime spree in the loosest sense of the word- is meant to be taken seriously. Regardless of Jost's deconstructive reaches, "Frameup" is the type of film that hypnotizes the viewer with repetition and avant garde stylistics, which are all things Jost has done much more poetically in other films.

2. Hardcore (2004)- Misfire "fairy tale" wrapped up in a lesbian-hooker revenge drama with plenty of grubby locations, forced sex and a splatter of shrill violence. Director Iliadis shows sparks of creativity and emotion (especially in his use of music and a re-working of Abba's "Dancing Queen" to great effect) but too much of "Hardcore" is frigid and uninspired.

3. The Witch (2015)- When the lights came up after my screening, one person muttered "well, that happened." This type of overextended expectations for a subtle, dread-soaked atmospheric horror film is inevitable. Marketing campaigns have to sell a film, but I wonder if 95% of the moviegoing audience for Robert Egger's "The Witch" understand its not a Blumhouse production. They were disappointed. I was not.

4. Juvenile Court (1973)- The growth of Wiseman's documentaries observing the subtle interactions and moral non-judgment of America's various institutions takes full shape here with  "Juvenile Court". Clocking in at 2 and a half hours and assembled in a rhythm that will mark his work for years to come, this film could perhaps be called the real "making of a murderer". Following a handful of troubled youths as they appear before the courts for crimes they've possibly committed (including one chilling example of a boy accused of sexually assaulting a six year old girl), the film is perhaps more startling today for the way in which indecency and guilt is handled in an almost flippant manner, not subjected to over-saturated media hype or numbness to its rampant foundations. It's even more terrifying to believe many of these kids probably continued their crimes for decades after this documentary was finished.

5. Funeral In Berlin (1966)- The second of three Harry Palmer films (and I'd rank this right behind "The Ipcress File" and before "Million Dollar Brain"), is such a cool, laidback and unhurried affair thatI was beginning to wonder if any type of gun would make an appearance. They do, but this is all spycraft that I prefer the best. Talk, double crosses, double identities and beautiful ladies who may or may not be Nazi agents.

6. The Public Woman (1984)- Not one of Zulawski's best. Manic, nervy and wild.... but with a very classical idea about the intersection of art and life converging on an actress who barely knows how to handle her own regular life. It feels like some warmed over ideas from "Possession" were tossed into the cocktail to get Zulawski through this lean stretch of the mid 80's. The films after that... oh boy.

7. Anita: Swedish Nymph (1972)- Lars vonTrier owes somebody some royalties. And it stars a young (and barely recognizable) Stellan Skaarsgard.

8. The Fan (aka Trance) (1982)-  What begins as a somewhat harmless adolescent delusional pop-idol obsession soon turns macabre as unhinged Simone (Desiree Nosbusch) finds out the world of adults is more predatory than she could've imagined. It gives pop consumerism a new spin.

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