I made all those sophisticated tools available to anybody so you can do all of this too. This is a site for film and DVD enthusiasts (i.e. freaks) where you can build your own communities, with your very own movie and dvd lists, reviews, blogs and RSS feed, mailing lists, a home page like this one, and even keep track of movies your friends borrowed from you.
2011.09.09 - What Does Horror Mean To You? at Brutal As Hell
I am starting to write this article right after I just finished watching Dario Argento?s Stendhal Syndrome for the third time in about two years. I am fascinated by it because it is likely Argento?s last good/great film (Dracula 3D doesn?t look very promising so far), and because surprisingly, what disturbs me the most is the brutality of the film and that Dario put his own daughter Asia at the center of it. Talk about a Freudian setup. Additionally, the movie is gorgeous. Yes, its use of digital effects is very crude, even for the time, but the film is otherwise very polished in the greatest Argento tradition. I appreciate that. I also appreciate Asia greatly....
2011.08.25 - Not Quite Hollywood review at Brutal As Hell
Documentaries about films are a tricky affair. Either they have to be about an incredible film, or the documentary itself has to be cool and uncover little known nuggets about a cult classic, or they have to paint an epic movement and give you tons of information, references, and cool interviews. Not Quite Hollywood is of the latter kind, but unlike the recent American Grindhouse, it manages to pile on so much energy, laughs, outrageous interviews and cool film bits...
It always amazed me how badly received this movie was, to the point that Tim Burton was taken off the project for the follow up. The differences couldn't be starker. Batman Returns is dark and gorgeously Art Demo and Gothic at the same time. It explores many corners of the human psyche and the contradictions of the Batman character. In contrast, the 2 follow-ups from Joel Schumacher are brightly colored, silly and cartoonish. I for one think this is the second best Batman film after Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.
However, not all Italian horror directors of that era were as famous and well respected as Dario. In fact, most were quite infamous. Names such as Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato, Joe D'Amato, Lamberto Bava, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci often inspire revulsion and disgust more than anything else. They often made exploitative horror films that mixed in softcore pornography. Those horror films seem to all gravitate around 3 sub-genres: snuff, cannibalism, and of course, zombies. Joe D'Amato in particular had an uncanny flair for mixing cheap exploitative shock, horror, and pornography. With Laura Gemser, his muse for some 30 films, he defined this subgenre amalgamation with the Black Emanuelle series, and several Zombie movies.
Laura Genser made 15 Black Emanuelle movies, and Joe D'Amato directed 6 of them. The series was a shameless rip-off of Emmanuelle (note the two m's), the erotic box office hit of the 70's with Sylvia Kristel. Gemser herself actually starred in Emmanuelle 2 as an ultra-sensuous masseuse. Gemser was stunning and a real star in Europe from the mid 70's to the mid 80's. Her exotic looks propelled her quickly to the covers or Playboy and other European men magazines, as well as countless softcore movies. To me, she remains simply one of the most beautiful woman to have ever graced the big screen. She was elegant, gorgeous, and starred in many exploitative movies, some of them quite shocking.
Black Emanuelle In America is one such movie, featuring Gemser in all her erotic glory, yet, in the context of a movie fundamentally designed to shock and gross out its audience. Emanuelle is a successful reporter in a New York newspaper who freely mingles with the high society and all its depravity. One night, Emanuelle accidentally comes across a 8mm film that depicts brutal and savage mutilation and rape of several women. She is not entirely sure of what she saw, but decides to investigate further. Ultimately, she figures out that she had seen the product of a Snuff ring that involved highly placed politicians and socialites: the torture, rape and murders shown on film are real, and captured on film for the "pleasure" of whomever can pay for it. That's what Snuff is.
This is a very strange movie that is absolutely not for everybody. As a matter of fact, i suspect most people will be repulsed, whether by the shocking and explicit yet comically absurd scene involving a horse named Pedro and a lady out of control, or the vicerally realistic and sick snuff imagery towards the end of the film. This is an extreme movie that will only be of interest to the sick-minded among us, or the movie buffs interested in this genre. Gemser is, as always gorgeous and intriguing, and some of the erotic scenes are really well done. On the horror side, the Snuff scenes are quite shocking in their realism and filmed in a hand-held, underground style, with quick jump cuts, that only accentuates this realism.
I find it always strange that some people might enjoy seeing what i would consider highly erotic material along scenes of great violence and cruelty in the same movie. But that's what Joe D'Amato and Laura Gemser were famous for. Honestly, this movie shouldn't have any redeeming qualities and should be destined to the garbage can. Yet, the contents and how the movie was made exert an undeniable fascination in the context of this sub-genre. The movie was recently released uncut on DVD in the US. The DVD features a good presentation of the film, along with interesting documentaries.
I have always liked this movie, but i watched it again recently, the 3D version, and i really loved it. I was humming the tunes days after, and really appreciated the writing and character design more than ever. It's one of the greatest animated films ever.
I love this movie. It's filmed with in Cinema Verite style. The camera is hand-held most of the time providing a very documentary feel. It dances around in cramped spaces around the actors and the action. The camera work is fantastic here to the point that you cannot help but guess at the choreography work that must have been going on between the cast and the technical team. The camera always manages to give you a feel of movement and chaos, while finding all the right opportunities to let you focus on the little details of a scene. Every look, hand movement, body language from the characters are captured in exquisite details. Add to that a masterful editing that makes it all feel seamless, and you get a first rate cinematic experience for a very realistic movie.
This is really what struck me the most when i first saw the film, but it's so good in many other respects too. The music is well balances between background score and features songs. It is tightly woven into the story and the lives of the characters. The art direction and cinematography are gorgeous, treating you to an uninterrupted festival of colors, costumes and textures. Finally, although the story is fairly standard (it's a wedding movie after all), you get treated to unexpected treatment of the subject, mixing child abuse and the meaning of marriage in an unexpectedly serious fashion. The writer has successfully blended serious subject in an overall joyous and happy film. And the cast pulls it off greatly. Although there isn't one particular actor that stood out with a remarkable performance in my eyes, everyone of them, without exception, did a great job, and you get to feel how this family lives and feels.
This is a fantastic joyous film celebrating life, family and love which also examines painful issues such as child abuse. It is technically masterful at inserting you into the life of this extended family during the 3-day ceremony for the marriage of their daughter. You will feel like you are there, experiencing not only the chaos, but also all the little moments of their lives.
This is a film that has always been panned by the critics but which i have always loved. The new "Encore" version is fantastic, a notch above the theatrical release by provider a broader sense of the musical environment, and some greater character development. It's only 12mn longer, but it feels tighter and fuller.
It's hard to fully describe how much i love this movie. If you look at my favorite movies, you can find Kubrick's 2001 1, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which i love for its intellectual and technical perfection, Kurosawa's Ran (1985) for its sheer artistry and grandiose shakespearean scope, Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993) for its emotional power and uncompromising recreation of one of humanity's darkest time, and Wenders' Wings Of Desire (1987) for its gorgeousness and metaphysical lyricism. If you were to round up my top 10 films, you'd find two other movies from Wim Wenders (check out his official site here). I can't explain why, but i resonnate with this man on so many levels, or at least, with three of his movies that move me, impress me and awe me so much. Paris, Texas (1984) is one of those films that i can watch over and over without ever feeling tired of it. It's gorgeous, deeply moving, so well performed, and with such an extraordinary soundtrack. Wings Of Desire (1987) is also gorgeous, wonderfully performed, with an extraordinary soundtrack, and a strong philosophical and metaphysical message. And finally, Until The End Of The World (1991) is the third film of his that i deeply love. Once again, it's gorgeous, with an amazing soundtrack, fantastic performances, and an incredible futuristic story spanning the Earth. Can you see the common thread here? Wim Wenders at his best makes movies that combine gorgeous visuals, expansive and deep stories, memorable soundtracks and great performances. What more can you ask?
Set in a futuristic 1999 (the movie was done in 1991), an Indian nuclear satellite suddenly malfunctions and starts a journey back down to Earth. No one knows where it will land, and when it does, it will be a catastrophe. The end of the world as we know it is near. But all of that doesn't matter to Claire (Solveig Dommartin), a young woman from Paris with a taste for adventure, drugs and travel. On her way back from a party in Venice, she gets into a car crash. Forced to stop to fix the car, she meets Trevor McFee (William Hurt) with whom she immediately connects. After the car is fixed, they both leave for Paris but when they arrive, he disappears after robbing her. Ticked off, she embarks on an incredible adventure to find that man with the help of her former boyfriend (Sam Neil). Like the proverbial butterfly's wing bat in South America setting up earthquakes in Tibet, Claire will be thrown into one event after another that will take her throughout the World and end up in Australia. Trevor is in fact Sam Farber, a man on the run from the US Government after having stolen a special camera that can record images from a person's brain. That camera was invented by his father (Max von Sydow) originally to help blind people see, and Sam is on a mission from his father to travel the world to capture images of friends and family for his blind mother (Jeanne Moreau) to see before dying. But soon after Claire and Sam get back to Australia, Sam's father is trying to perfect the camera so that it could now record people's dreams. Quickly, they become addicted to recording, and then watching their own dreams.
I love this film for so many reasons, most of which is the complex and detailed story and its rich characters. The film takes you for a ride around the world. It's an adventure film, a drama, a sci-fi film. It is thought provoking, and entertaining all at the same time. It also projects a kind of future that is almost utopic. People speak so many languages, traveling around the world is easy, and technology allows you to know almost everything about almost everyone. The deeper themes of the movie however revolve around closing onto oneself, and the adulation of images. The movie starts on a grandiose scale. The world is your playground. But slowly, the characters get trapped in a narcissistic spiral that will cause them to focus onto themselves exclusively, as if technology that enabled you to travel the world with ease suddenly trapped you, like a drug, in a very confined space. If you think of where we are today in our society, technology has this dual effect. I cover the entire world from home, with peers on every continent, working on common projects. Technology enables me to work in a team that spans the globe, yet, in the end, i am still home. Pushed to the extreme, when one day technology gives us full telepresence, will we ever feel the need to ever leave home and mingle with others? I am sure it will be very tempting for many people. And addictive too. Remember Asimov's The Naked Sun? Similarly, after having traveled the world, our characters perfect a new technology that allows them to record, and then later see, their dreams. Those characters that were not too long ago adventurers, globetrotters, all too easily get trapped by their own technological creation and close onto themselves. Those self-generated imageries immediately exercise an irresistible pull, and like a drug, only the toughest detox program will be able to yank them out of their self-induced stupor. What's interesting too is that the metaphor of TV, and images in general, as a drug is quite potent. Their dreams, through portable TV sets, deliver images of things long forgotten. It's nostalgia at its most destructive. It's also a prescient vision of how the 21st century has turned out so far: obsessed with selfies and image-driven celebrities. After all, what is more symbolic for privacy-deprived society of today than the ability to capture and broadcast your dreams. It's definitely a double-edged sword that is used to great effect in this film.
On every other respect, the film is fantastic. The soundtrack is a masterpiece mosaic of cool songs from various great artists. From U2, Lou Reed and David Byrne to Neneh Cherry, REM and Nick Cave, the songs in the movie form an eclectic collection that nevertheless fit so well together and give the entire film a unique sound. The art direction is very creative. Obviously on a tight budget (even if the film did cost $20M which was not small at the time), Wenders nevertheless takes us literally throughout the entire world and everywhere, in Paris, Tokyo, San Francisco, Berlin or Moscow, he found the perfect places to film his story and give us a futuristic feel. Sometimes, it's achieved purely with the location. Some other times, it's done with simple props such as animated signs, TV-phones and so on, or some futuristic sounds of futuristic cars and motorcycles. The feel of a near future is very real. Acting-wise, the cast is wonderful and conveys the relationships and personalities of each character perfectly. The international nature of the cast also lends to multiple languages being spoken and mixed very naturally, adding to the "global village" settings for the film, this human community that inhabit our small planet.
This film has an interesting history. Wenders was never quite satisfied with it. Not that he disliked it, but he felt that it should have been a mini series so that he could have expanded the story and the characters further. At some point, he asked his own producer to pull the plug so that he would be forced to complete the film rather than go on and film a mini-series, which was never intended in the first place. His original cut for the movie clocked at about 8 hours, with reportedly many more quality hours left out. When i first saw the film, it was in Paris in its original theatrical cut of almost 3 hours. I remember when i stepped out of the theater how i felt that i could have easily watched another 3 hours of that movie. Shortly after, i heard of a director's cut clocking at just under 5h. The 280mn version had been shown in a few locations in Europe, Japan and the US, but for legal reasons, it never got released more widely. When the film came out in the US, it was yet another cut that ran under 2h30mn. How typical! Since then, i was dreaming of one day seeing the full version of the film. I would love to see the original 8h cut, but i'd be satisfied with the 280mn cut. Recently, my dream came true. Even if i am still longing for the 8h version, i had the pleasure of getting the German Region 2 PAL import of the director's cut version (thanks Dino for the present). Shown as three parts, this version was so engrossing that i literally could not pull out for the entire length. I hadn't seen the movie in almost 10 years and was vibrating with joy at every single frame.
Until The End Of The World (1991) is a fantastic movie that brings me indescribable joy. I love the story, the characters, the performances, the themes, the music, the cinematography, the art direction and how this incredible film was put together as a whole. I completely clicked with it at all sorts of levels right from the first few minutes of the film when i first saw it. Since then, i had dreams of watching the full cut, and although i'll probably have to wait longer for that, i at least got my hand on what is for now the director's cut of the film. As far as i know, only one place carries the film on a regular basis. If you want it, check out Scarecrow Video located in Seattle, but know that it is a Region 2 PAL release. Also, a few parts are in French and the DVD only has German subtitles. Kim's Video in New York also carries the title, but only a copy or two at a time, so it's hard to find it and they no longer do special orders. To this day, there is no US release on home video except the short version on Pan&Scan VHS to be avoided at all cost.