Saturday, March 13, 2021

The Last Few Films I've Seen, Spring 2021 edition

1. Bloody Kids (1980)- Stephen Frears' film about two young boys (Richard Thomas and Peter Clark) surging through the nocturnal wasteland of new-wave dead end Essex, England after a prank goes horribly wrong is a masterpiece of anarchic energy. With a propulsive soundtrack that swaggers from inspired spaghetti-western theatrics to thudding heavy metal and a camera that swoops and glides around its characters with breathless energy, "Bloody Kids" captivates from the very opening. It only gets better when one of the young boys hooks up with a group of older men and women (led by the manics of Gary Holton) and the film sinks into an orgy of anti-establishment nose thumbing and petty criminality. Made for television and released in 1980, this is a film that deserves a rediscovery for its nervy ambition in representing the nihilistic attitude of punk rock Britain in the late 70's. For the record, the cops (and supposed adults) in this film don't get off easily either.

 2. Papa, the Little Boats (1974) -  One of four Nelly Kaplan films available on the Criterion channel. Psycho-sexual deception as screwball comedy. Not as good (or biting) as her previous assault on the bourgeoisie, "A Very Curious Girl". 

3. Dear Comrades! (2020) - Andrei Konchalovskiy, now in his 80's, is probably best remembered for his long ago Hollywood action hits like "Runaway Train" and "Tango & Cash". With this film, he retraces the appaling tragedy when Russian soldiers opened fire on a protesting factory group. The violence is swift and shocking, and its black and white cinematography adds a layer of grace to the whole affair.

4. The Taste of Violence (1961) - One of my favorite directors to discover over the past few years has been actor-director Robert Hossein. Producing a string of low-key thrillers and bastardized westerns with nary a hint of release on any video format (or streaming) here in the US, it's somewhat thrilling to continue finding small gems like this, as if I'm the only one who knows about them. This 1961 western tracks with the rest of his work, barreling though a variety of themes such as the almost wordless anti-hero Hossein himself plays, a Stockholm syndrome kidnapping, and superfluous camera moves that feel needlessly pompous and so freaking perfect at the same time. Hossein plays Perez, the leader of a band of Mexican outlaws who kidnap the president's daughter (Giovanna Ralli) and then tear themselves apart with jealousy and greed over her return to other revolutionary forces. Often filmed with searing landscapes behind them and never afraid to shy away from horrifying tableaux (such as a group of men hanging alongside a cobblestone street like heavy pinatas), "The Taste of Violence" is a western quite unlike any other.

5. Luz The Flower of Evil (2018) - It looks pretty and all, but the idea behind this slow-burn psychological horror film about a devout rural religious "prophet" and the hell he puts his 3 daughters through isn't pretty at all. I wanted to like it, but just couldn't connect.

6. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace (2011) - More Adam Curtis films will soon follow as I really dig the rabbit holes he often goes down. This three part, 3 hour documentary enraptures for the first two-thirds, and I don't quite always follow the strands he attempts to weave together, but his image selection and musical cues are second to none.

7. Love, Gilda (2019) - One sort of knows the mediocrity one will get from these CNN Films. I didn't know a ton about Gilda Radner besides her terrific Saturday Night Live presence and that wonderful childhood favorite of mine, "Haunted Honeymoon". It's a well meaning effort, but one that doesn't dig far enough beneath the surface, even when it uses her own words to describe the turmoil and humor.

8. Pretend It's a City (2021) - This is very old-man-screaming-at-the-sky stuff. Watched as an obligatory Scorsese completest.