Thursday, December 28, 2006

Reincarnation


Reincarnation
Original title: Rinne

Directed by: Takashi Shimizu, Japan, 2005
Horror, 95min
Distributed by: ?


Story:
Young actress Yûka [Nagisa Sugiura] finally lands a major role in a movie. A horror movie to be directed by infamous gore director Matsumara [Kippel Shiina], based on violent true life murders that took place in a hotel some thirty five years ago. A deranged professor one day snaps and goes on a killing rampage murdering eleven people with his family and himself included. As the preparation for the film gets going Yûka finds that there’s more going on than just making a movie as she finds herself tormented by haunting visions of the professor’s daughter.


Me:
So it took me a while to overcome the struggle to stick this movie in the player, because I kept thinking, crap I just picked up another Shimizu movie, and in my opinion Shimizu’s first three Ju-On movies, especially the first J-Horror one, really brought something new to the table and where really atmospheric masterpieces. The creepiness, the non boom-flash-shock approach, just slowly and subtly built, the fact that the ghosts just where there almost naturally, and the terrifying sounds that the ghosts make and that kind of stuff just work perfectly. So obviously I was worried that this would just like the U.S. remakes of Ju-on (Grudge & Grudge2) just be ninety minutes of reusing the same old bag of tricks. After a rather predictable and lame opening sequence things take a nice firm pace, Yûka starts seeing the ghost here and there, and there’s some very effective moments, and even though they where very Ju-on-ish they actually had me jumping with the shocks, so obviously I was getting ready to rethink my take on Shimizu, perhaps he actually was more than a one trick monkey. Unfortunately he loses me in the final reel, perhaps I was expecting more after the promising build up, but I just didn’t like the ending. But before we get there he’s got some serious shit going on here. Spooky child ghost, haunted hotels, broken spooky dolls and a mysterious murder add to the mysterious blend. Don’t get me wrong although I find Shimizu to be taking an easy way out, with four Japanese instalments, two American remakes, and a fifth Japanese version on the go which will undoubtedly generate a third US remake, he’s not to be confused for a lazy guy. I have the greatest respect for him, and I can understand why he would want to helm his own remakes in the US, hell the foundation of one for them one for me has worked for plenty of other directors and actors through the years so why not. And if his US movies get him enough credit to keep experimenting back at home that’s just great. But I still wish that he’d come up with some new idea’s. The grey child meowing and scaring it’s victims to death is more than well done. Reincarnation on the other hand does prove that he’s doing his best, like I said it gets off to a promising start; concentrating around the parallel realms of the movie in production and the actual murders thirty five years ago, Shimizu has Yûka find herself wandering in-between the two time spaces. There are some very effective and wonderful shifts of time which are very clear and don’t try to trick the viewer. As the rather interesting plot starts to unravel it’s self it’s clear that the Professor’s murders all where part of a macabre experiment to re-unite all the victims many years later when they have been reincarnated as other people, yes you guessed it, the cast and crew of Matsumara’s movie. And when this becomes clear, the movie just goes flat. Shimizu gives no explanation to why or how, it’s just the way it is. Ok it’s a horror movie, and being a Japanese horror movie I should be accustomed to the fact that anything can happen and I’ll probably never get an explanation, but Shimizu is one of those guys up there with Miike, Kurosawa and Nakata, so I was expecting a better payoff than the one presented, and the asylum ending just annoyed me even more. So therefore I feel that he lost the ending, but up to that point I was entertained and very eager to find out what the hell was going on.

Reincarnation
is so far the strongest of the so called J-Horror Theatre series created to bring the horror of the east to the west (something that I thought already had happened some ten year ago with the first wave of J-horror movies on import!), Masayuki Ochiai’s Infection and Norio Tsuruta’s Premonition, both 2004, are the two movies which predated Shimizu’s Reincarnation, and the fourth part, Retribution, to be directed by Kyoshi Kurosawa (who has a cameo in this one as a college teacher) is the one that I’ll be looking forward to the most.


Image:
16x9 widescreen

Audio:
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, English subtitles


Extras:

This version that I watched was a copy I got from a friend so it unfortunately had no extras at all.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Doll

The Doll
Original Title; Vaxdockan

Directed; Arne Mattsson, Sweden, 1962
Drama / Thriller, 91min
Distributed by: Klubb Super 8 (OOP)

Story:
Lonley night watchman Lundgren [Per Oscarsson] spends all his free time dreaming about his dream woman. Then one night he stumbles into a robbery at a clothes shop, he wards off the burglars, calls the cops and steals a manequin [Gio Petré] the looks just like his dream woman. He smuggles the doll into his flat and finds happiness as their relationship evolves. Only he can see that she is a real person, until his neighbours start wondering who he is talking to up there in his lonely flat...

Me:
I caught the back end of this amazing movie on Swedish TV last week, and I had to dig out my old VHS to rewatch it. This is a great old Swedish movie, directed by one of Sweden's most underrated directors; Arne Mattsson. It's a creepy tale that unwinds rather slow, but the nosey and obnoxious neighbours and Oscarsson's fantastic performance as reclusive Lundgren with Petrés stiff & sexy portayal of the manequin, really make it worth the while. There's a few shocks and a surprise ending that suits this movie like a charm. If you like Mattsson and haven't seen this one, it should be next on your list of movies to see. If you've never seen a Mattsson movie, well then it's a great starting point. In my opinon it's far better than his "Hillman" series, which are more Hitchcockian and border on swedish "Pilsnerfilm" feeling.


Image:
Black & White, full frame 4:3

Audio:
Stereo

Extras:
Nope, it's one of those classic VHS tapes. Although there is a rather amusing reprint of an old TV review written by Kar de Mumma when it was first shown on tv in 1965.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fear X


Fear X
Directed by; Nicolas Winding Renf, Denmark/Canada/UK/Brazil, 2003
Drama / Thriller, 91 min.
Distributed by: Nordisk Film

Story
Shopping mall security guard Harry [John Turturo] works all day and spends all day watching surveillance camera footage in the hunt for his wife’s murderer. One day he is approached by the police who have an image of the killer, but don’t know his identity. After being lead by the ghost of his wife in a dream to the house next door Harry finds a mysterious photograph of a woman. Harry jump to conclusions and sets out to find the woman on the photograph to see if she can help him find the identity of his wife killer.

Me
Gosh! First off, I really enjoyed Winding Renf’s previous Danish movies Pusher 1996, and Bleeder 1999 which both contain a variety of homage’s and tributes to European exploitation movies from the late eighties. Fear X is based on a novel by Hubert Shelby Jr. [Last Exit to Brooklyn 1989, Requiem for a Dream 2000], it is a dark haunting movie which plays with familliar Lynch-ian / Coen-ish undertones and themes, but I liked it. I liked it a lot. Unlike other movies with open endings that I’ve watched lately, this one engages and the possible off-screen endings generate many thoughts on possible scenarios. Did the climax take place in Harry’s head or is it just yet another part of the cover up operation that he stumbles across? I can’t really understand that this movie was received so lamely by audiences, Winding Renf already has a fan based following, but for this one they just weren’t there. His company Jang Go Star even went bankrupt because the audience failed this one. Like I said, it’s a mystery to me, because the story is good. It unfolds in a nice way, even though there are a bit too many coincidences that lead the way, but that’s part of the main root to this tale. His wife is killed by coincidence, and if we’re buying that, then the rest shouldn’t be too hard to accept. Turuturo is great as the frustrated Harry, haunted by the ghost of his late wife [Jacqueline Ramel] and not knowing why she was killed. But by far the movie belongs to James Remar’s Peter character. From the first frame you see him, you know that he’s the killer, and you want him brought to justice ASAP. But this position is delicately shifted as his remorse and vulnerability shines thorough the more he’s on screen. This isn’t a cold blooded killer as we initially thought, he’s just a man who by coincidence got drawn into a dark cover up operation to eliminate bad cops, and who accidentally happened to kill Harry’s wife. His dark secret and personal demons are starting to shatter his marriage to Kate [Deborah Kara-Unger] who by coincidence it the woman on the photograph that has led Harry to Peter. To add to the Lynchian feeling of the movie, the mixture of Peter De Neergards pale colour schemes, and the minimalist interior design of Harry’s suburban home to the dark hotel and its blood red corridors and Brian Eno’s haunting score work terrific. I feel that this movie is a gem that has been misunderstood and should immediately be watched by anyone waiting for the next Lynch or Coen brother movie. Ok it’s a fair bit lighter that those guys movies, but it’s well worth the ninety minutes that it plays.


Image:
2.35:2 Anamorphic Widescreen.

Audio:
English audio, Dolby Digital 5.1. Optional Danish, Swedish, Norwegian or Finnish subtitles are available.

Extras:
A twenty five minute making of which documents the background and the shoot. Cast and crew talk about the movie and its creation. Eight trailers for other titles released by Nordisk Film.

Broken Flowers


Broken Flowers
Directed by; Jim Jarmusch, USA/France, 2005
Comedy / Drama, 106 min.
Distributed by: Nordisk Film

Story
An aging charmer, Don Johnston [Bill Murray], sits passively on the couch as his girlfriend Sherry [Julie Delphy] walks out the door in search of what she wants to make of life. Without interest Don just sits staring into nothingness until an anonymous mysterious pink letter tells him that he has a twenty something son who might be on the road trying to find him. With the aid of his next-door neighbour and friend Winston [Jeffrey Wright] he set’s off on a road trip though the states to visit lovers long lost to find out who could be the writer of the mysterious letter and the mother of his eventual son.

Me
A typical low key Jarmusch story that goes far with a fantastic performance from Murray, coming off almost like a blend of his character from Coffee and Cigarettes and Anderson’s Steve Zissou. I love the way he tries to play totally uninterested in the quest every time his friend Winston tries to get him activated, and the energy that he puts into it when Winston isn’t there. And the small details, like the checking out every young male that he sees after receiving the letter, and giving them a “could that be him” glance is brilliant. The photography by Jarmusch regular Frederic Elmes is wonderful; the colour scheme is somewhat pale, but still so deep that it looks amazing. The story is simple, one man on search of the woman who may have fathered his child, his search for meaning in his otherwise rather tepid life. But this is the simplicity that we have come accustomed to when you sit down to a Jarmusch film, a simplicity that is multifaceted and actually has more depth that meets the eye. No overacting, no out of place scenes, just a slow build as we investigate the human mind. There’s a wonderful play with Nabokov’s Lolita when past girlfriend, Laura’s [Sharon Stone] daughter Lolita [Alexis Dziena] playfully taunts Don and then shockingly walks into the room naked. Needless to say Don gets out of there in a flash of the eye. Every one of Don’s past girlfriends are played by high end actresses, like Sharon Stone, Julie Delphy, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy and Tilda Swinton who looks amazing in her white trash outfit sporting a big black wig. I have to mention the supporting actors too, mainly Chloë Sevigny who manages to portray Lange’s lesbian lover/secretary with out even saying the word. Last but definately not least, Jeffrey Wright’s Winston, he's the kind of sympathetic friend that everyone would like to have, and I love the scene where he explains to his kids that he’s only smoking ‘erbs, and that there’s definitely not any tobacco in his cigarette that he’s secretively smoking behind the garage. Hilarious stuff.

The amazing soundtrack focusing mainly on Mulatu Astatqe’s Ethiopian Jazz (currently playing warm on my iPod and stereo at home) is a great addition, the smoothness and progressiveness of Tom Waite’s Night on Earth 1991 and Neil Young’s Dead Man 1995 scores springs to mind as the fair tones of Astatqe’s instrumental jazz just washes over the scenes interweaving the meetings with Murray’s former lovers without distracting anything from Jarmusch’s trademark formula. The road movie themes, the progressive soundtrack the low key acting, it’s all great stuff that will make this movie a beloved Jarmusch classic for the future.


Image:
Like mentioned previously, great looking film presented in 1.77:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Audio:
Dolby Digital 5.1. Optional Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or Finnish subtitles.

Extras:
The crazy Start to Finnish, a fast paced collection of all the markers through out the entire movie interwoven with a few gags, and bloopers. A look at the outtakes of the two girls on the bus scene, where the two actors Jennifer Rapp & Nicole Abisinio adlib their way through a youthful discussion about life, friends and foes. A featurette on Jarmusch as he discusses his filmmaking and finally the domestic and international trailers for Broken Flowers.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Moustache

The Moustache
Original Title:
La Moustache

Directed by: Emmanuel Carrère, France, 2005
Drama / Mystery, 86min.
Distributed by: Triangel Film



Story:
One evening Marc Vincent Lindon] asks his wife Angès [Emmanuelle Devos] if he should shave off his moustache. Against her advice he does so anyhow. When nobody in his closest circle notice that he’s shaven it off he starts to get frustrated, but when Agnès claims that he has never had a moustache his world starts to crumble.

Me:
What a promising movie this turned out to be. My wife has talked about it for quite some time, so we decided to give it a shot, and I’m not disappointed. Ok, somewhat disappointed because the movie losses itself in the latter part. But the build up to this last twenty minutes are brilliant. The basic idea of a guy shaving off his moustache and then having nobody notice, and finally claim that he never had one is brilliant. The way Carrère plays through this is very smart; small subtle changes in the relationship between Marc and Agnès, the way we keep loosing track of Marc’s sanity, the questioning of everything that we see and hear, it’s very effective and you constantly keep asking yourself is Marc really insane or is it his wife playing a really evil prank on him. The deeper in we get the more Kafka-esque the movie gets. We see what Marc sees images of him with his moustache, but then we start to believe that he’s insane again when Agnès claims that his evidence, the photographs of a moustache clad Marc taken when they where in Bali, don’t exist, they have never been to Bali. Small details like Marc’s father on the answering machine planning the meal for tomorrows get together, which if flipped over when Agnès explains to Marc that his father died a year ago. Great stuff and we are just as confused about what’s going on as Marc. When the penny falls down and Marc makes his escape the movie like I mentioned earlier, just gets lost in itself. The Hong Kong bit works until Agnès all of a sudden turns up and life goes on as if nothing ever happened. Nah, it just gets stupid from here and director Carrère’s explanation that it’s all a cyclic movement is just a load of bollocks. We are so accustomed to non-linear narrative in these days that we don’t even question the Hong Kong footage from the opening sequence, as we understand that this is Hong Kong the second Marc escapes there. We just assume that the story will continue from here and all before was leading us here, So to bring Agnès in here just annoyed me, especially as my theory is that she’s trying to dump Marc for his co-worker Bruno to start with, that’s why they are all in on the tormenting of Marc. Because the idea that it was all Marc and that he was temporarily insane and now mysteriously sane again as Agnès comes back into his life is just too shallow for me to accept. But up to this part the movie really rocks and is very effective. I have no better solution to the ending, but I can’t help felling let down when the movie ends even if there is a open question mark at the end or not.

Image:
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Anamorphic.

Audio:
French Dolby Digital 5.1. Optional subtitles in Swedish or Finnish


Extras:

A twenty minute making of where the cast and crew talk about the movie and what it means. An interview with Director Emmanuel Carrère and Editor Camille Cotte. The making of is decent, but the interview with Carrère and Cotte is so fucking pretentious that it almost made me want to put my foot through the TV screen, which is a pity as I quite enjoyed the film.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Jigoku


Jigoku
Directed by: Nobou Nakagawa, Japan, 1960

Horror / Drama, 101 minutes

Distributed by: Criterion Collection


Story:

Theology student Shiro [Shigeru Amachi] is tormented by the fact that he and his friend Tamura [Yoichi Numata] accidentally killed a man in a hit and run accident one night. His life turns to the worse when one freak accident after another kills off all the people around him until he himself passes over to the other side, Hell, where all sinners get there final punishment for all eternity.


Me:
Nabou Nakagawa’s Jigoku is one of those movies that you have to see to believe. It is probably the most extreme Kaidan movie of the early sixties and seventies, and I’d even go as far to claim that Jigoku could be the first splatter/gore movie as it was shot three years before Herschell Gordon Lewis’ landmark Blood Feast 1963 that often takes credit for starting the splatter movie genre. Jigoku has a fair share of severed hands, rivers of blood and gory mutilated corpses. Nakagawa was no stranger to the Kaidan genre as Jigoku was in fact the last of a string of nine very atmospherically and stylish genre movies that he had directed. Neither was the genre new either, as early as 1912 Shozo Makino directed the earliest version of Yotusya Kaidan [Yotsuya Ghost Story], also re-made in it’s finest version in 1959 by Nakagawa. The photography is stunning and considering the tight budget that this Shintoho Company production had it’s an amazing piece of cinema. Focusing on the Shiro we follow him though a very painful journey, his tormentor, the enigmatic Tamura who pops up when Shiro expects him the least, to poke fun at Shiro or provoke those around him. At a dinner with Shiro’s mother and father in law, when Shiro escapes to his home village to comfort his father after the death of his mother Tamura soon shows up. It’s Tamura who is in the car with Shiro as they run over the Yakuza man leaving him dead in the middle of the road, and this is the marker for Shiro's decent into the terrifying spiral that lands him in the dark pits of hell. There are many story lines running at the same time, there’s the sudden death of Shiro’s fiancé Yukkio [Utako Mitsuya] and the way Shiro’s relationship with her devastated parents evolves, then there’s the family of “Tiger” Kyoichi’s family planning and attempting to take their revenge for the hit and run accident, and the complex story of Shiro’s return to his home village where he meets neighbour girl Sachiko who is the double of his late fiancé, also played by Mitsuya in a double role. The acting is top notch Shigery Amachi and Yoichi Numata deliver memorable performances as the strangely linked Shiro and Tamura, and Mitsuya is very persuasive in her portrayal of Yukkio/Sachiko. Nakagawa’s works being an influence on later genre directors like Takashi Shimizu, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Hideo Nakata is clearly noted as the tone of the movie is reminiscent of their works. It moves from a slow explanatory build up and works delicately up to the last climactic third in a manner that we are accustomed to with the later years wave of Asian horror flicks, slowly but surely.

After re-watching this movie, now in the stunning presentation Criterion have released, I realised during the opening montage, that there’s a lot of similarities to Adrian Lynne’s Jacob’s Ladder going on here. Not that I know if Lynne ever saw Jigoku, but it plays with the same themes, a dead man re-living his own personal hell. I’m sure that the opening sequence is an indicator that Shiro actually is already dead when the movie starts, and the entire movie is in fact his time in hell. Compared to the previously released, long out of print, Beam Entertainment DVD from Japan, I can't really say that there's much differance to the print more than some obvious reapairs that have been made to it, also the colours look better with the remastered Criterion editon. On the other hand the Beam edition has 2.0 sound where as Criterion have opted for 1.0 mono. The extras are the big bonus with the Criterion version. Definitely a must see movie for fans of the recent wave of Japanese horror movies.


Image:

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Colour, shot in 35mm Shintohoscope

Audio:
Dolby Digital Mono 1.0

Extras:
Once again Criterion gives reason to buy this disc with the extra features. This time they have included an almost forty minute documentary called Building the Inferno which focuses on the movies of Nakagawa. Actor Yoichi Numata, screenwriter Ichiro Miyagawa, Nakagawa collaborators Chiho Katsura and Kensuke Suzuki, and director Kiyoshi Kurosawa all talk about Jigoku and the influence it had on them. Just this documentary is worth the price if you want to know more about the masterful movies of Nobou Nakagawa. An essay by Chuck Stephens, and two artwork galleries stills and posters. To round it all off there’s the theatrical trailer for Jigoku.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Scary Movie 4

Scary Movie 4
Directed by: David Zucker, USA, 2006

Comedy, 89min
Distributed by: Buena Vista Home Entertainment


Story:
Fourth instalment to the Scary Movie franchise finds poor Cindy Campbell [Anna Farris] and her trusty companion Brenda [Regina Hall] fighting off Japanese child ghosts, an alien invasion end the enigmatic Jigsaw.

Me:
I love these movies; especially if you are a genre fan you can spot and appreciate all the spoofs that they are filling the movies with. The two first movies in the franchise, directed by the Wayans' brothers are great, the third one, also directed by Zucker was a disaster, but here he seems to have found his groove again. The main story is a weird blending of The Grudge, War of the Worlds, and Saw. You know what you are getting when you sit down to a Zucker movie, nothing is sacred and every thing is having the piss taken out of it. Farris is great as usual, and the main movie parodied this time is Takashi Shimizu’s The Grudge and to be honest, after six instalments of Ju-on – The Grudge 2000-2006, these parodies are what make this movie for me. We all know exactly what should happen next and Zucker just gets crazy with it. I honestly laughed aloud several times watching these hilarious Grudge parodies. There’s even one real shock in the movie. I never would have guessed it but it’s in there and it really shocks you hard. Good job. Loaded with movie references out over the main three mentioned above like The Village, Bareback Mountain, and Million Dollar Baby. There’s even a Tom Cruise making an ass of himself on Oprah parody that is brilliant. There is also a cast full of great names like Charlie Sheen, Bill Pullman, Carmen Electra, Chris Elliot (yeah he’s back!), Molly Shannon, Leslie Nielsen, Michael Madsen, Shaquille O’Neal and even Dr. Phil. Regina Hall is also back as the sex crazed Brenda is still hilarious, especially in the Village and Saw sketches where she manages to twist everything to a sexual innuendo. No I have to hand it to Zucker, he’s rescued this series from a certain death after the third part. Good job, and thanks, it was a long time since I laughed so much.


Image:

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1


Audio:

Dolby Digital 5.1, English, German, French or Spanish audio tracks are optional, Subtitles in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, English, German, French, Spanish Islandic and Dutch are also available. And yes, they even subtitle the commentary track.

Extras:
Loads of extras round off this great disc. Commentary track by director Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss and writer Craig Mazin, a bunch of deleted scenes, bloopers The Man Behind the Laugh focusing on David Zucker, Zany Spoof Humour – Zucker Style about his brand of comedy, The Visual Effects of Scary Movie about the impressive effects, a short featurette on all the rappers and actors who have cameos in the movie, a short bit about Craig Bierko’s Tom Cruise at Oprah skit, and to round it off a conversation with Zucker, Weiss and Mazin

New York Waiting


New York Waiting
Directed by: Joachim Hedén, Sweden, 2006

Romance / Drama, 88min
Distributed by: Pan Vision AB


Story:
Sidney [Chris Stewart] has sent his ex-girlfriend Coreen [Katrina Nelson] an airplane ticket and an invitation to meet him at the top of the Empire state building in three days to see if there is any way they can get back together again after their year apart. As he counts every day, hour, minutes and seconds left until the date deadline, he wonders around New York until Amy [Annie Woods], who has just walked out on her boyfriend, asks if she can sit next to him at a café. They spend the day together soon their first meeting may be the start of a second chance.


Me:
New York Waiting is a rather decent and sweet movie and although I’m not big fan of romantic dramas I quite enjoyed it. The acting is OK, but I found it a bit irritating that the flashback sequences are in black and white. That was somewhat insulting, as we are accustomed to destructed linear story telling since way back; there was no need for to make the past story so obvious. Director Hedén manages to keep three tales going at once her, Sidney’s back story with Coreen, his feelings for the upcoming meeting with her and his growing emotions for Amy, and Amy’s feelings for Sidney. Dialogue is well written but sometimes comes out a bit tame and could have been acted better. But it’s a decent movie which I enjoyed, even though it was a bit slow in some parts.


Image:

Widescreen 1.85:1


Audio:

Strangely only Dolby Digital 2.0. Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Norwegian subtitles are optional


Extras:

A short behind the scenes / making of where the actors and director talk about the movie. Biographies and trailers for other Sonet Film movies.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dead Meat


Dead Meat
Directed by: Connor McMahon, Ireland, 2004
Horror, 80 min
Distributed by: Scanbox Entertainment Sweden AB

Story:
Helena [Marián Araújo] and her husband find themselves lost on the Irish landscape. After accidentally hitting a guy with their car they put him in the back to take him to a doctor. But before they get very far he bites a big chunk out of Martin’s [David Ryan] neck. This is just the start of Helena’s forty eight hours in hell as she soon learns that zombies have come back to life and are feeding on everyone they can put their hands on.


Me:
Honest to the genre and financed through funding from the Irish state, McMahon’s low budget zombie movie definitely delivers the goods. The opening is classic zombie movie formula. Along the way the Helena character meets new friends and foes who together try to outlive the zombies. The quiet but wise gravedigger Desmond [David Muyllaert] with his trusty shovel, the aggressive and strange Cathal Cheunt [Eoin Whelan] who acts as a composite of all the prejudices about Irishmen, and his wife Francie [Amy Redmond]. Towards the ending of the movie he shifts the focus from the zombies and has mad cows be the attackers, yes this has a humorous effect but the actors just take it for what it is and don’t go overboard with it, and he manages to squeeze in a great Jurassic Park 1993 homage in the scene too. There are several very scary scenes, especially when the four of them are surrounded by zombies in the pitch black as their car has stalled in the mud. Cheap but well made effects keep the gore on the right side for a zombie movie. Very much in the tone of George A Romero’s zombie movies dark, downbeat and not much time wasted on explaining the reason for the zombie invasion McMahon obviously has passion for his film. He uses conventional approaches but surprises by throwing in interesting scenes to his movie. There is one scene where Helena uses her high heel shoes as weapons, and after this is forced to walk around without shoes for a while. It could easily not have become an issue, but I like it because it adds to the character vulnerability that genre movies often seem to forget. There are a lot of references to movies within the genre, mostly the above mentioned George A. Romero’s movies obviously. There's an arm decapitation right out of Day of the Dead 1985, but that’s fine because even though he takes time to homage his hero’s McMahon manages to create a good movie and a respectful entry into a genre where many fail to bring something new to the table. Shot on location in Ireland the surroundings and atmosphere are great and the many abandoned castles make great creepy settings.


Image:

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

Audio:
For an independent short movie like this the choices of Dolby Digital 5.1 or dts is fantastic. Subtitles in Swedish, Finnish, Danish or Norwegian are optional


Extras:

Here you will find, Mad Cows and Zombies, a twenty minute documentary on the making of the movie and how it came to be. McMahon’s earlier short movie Brain Eater, the original trailer and even there’s even an audio commentary by the director.

My Dear Killer

My Dear Killer
Original Title: Mio caro assassino

Directed by: Tonino Valerii, Italy/Spain, 1971

Giallo / Mystery, 102 min
Distributed by: Shriek Show

Story:
Inspector Luca Peretti [George Hilton] investigates a remarkable decapitation of an insurance officer, and when he finds the prime suspect hanged in an abandoned ware house it looks like the case is closed. But upon closer investigation, it shows that the suspected killer was in fact murdered! When he looks into the case the insurance officer was investigating it leads him into a family hiding a dark secret.

Me:
Yet another respectable title from Shriek Show’s Giallo Collection and it’s a rather decent movie too. This one stays away from the regular stalked female antagonist and focuses instead on Hilton’s rather down to earth detective, investigation the abduction and murder of a young girl and her father. Valerii, best known for directing the classic western My Name is Nobody 1973, manages to keep you guessing who the killer could be all the way trough. Typical to the genre he throws in a few red herrings here and there, some very effective murders and a vibrating score by Ennio Morricone. What I liked about this giallo is the fact that it’s the detective who always leads the killer to his next victim. When he finds a clue and investigates it, the killer is often the next person to be knocking on the door. When he realises that the kidnapped girl has left a revealing clue at the scene of the murder, he makes the mistake of telling the family and close friends about it as they visit the place where the bodies where found, hence giving away the final key to the killers identity Not until later that night does he realise that he’s just tipped off the killer, and the final race against time is on. Hilton is great the killings are quite few, but very effective. That Black and Decker tool murder is a classic. Morricone’s score is as usual haunting and vibrating at times when the hunt is on. Like I said earlier, it’s a rather decent giallo well worth checking out.

Image:
Widescreen 1.85: 1

Audio:
Unfortunately the English dubbed soundtrack is the only option here, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Extras:
Interviews with lead actor George Hilton, and director Tonino Valerii. Four trailers of other titles in Shriek Shows Giallo collection.

Point Blank


Point Blank
Directed by; John Boorman, USA, 1967
Action / Drama / Classic, 92min
Distributed by: Warner Home Video Inc.

Story:
Walker [Lee Marvin], a hit man as hard as a bag of nails helps out his gangster mate Reese [John Vernon] with one last heist. Reese suddenly turns the tables around and swindles Walker. Walker is shot, left for dead and his share of loot from the robbery is stolen from him by Reese, all $93.000 of it. But you can't keep a cool man down. A year or two later, Walker is back on track and decides that he's going to reclaim his money and get some revenge on Reese for screwing him. He soon find's out that his ex-wife Lynne [Sharon Acker] was having an affair with Reese at the time of his shooting. He tracks down his ex-wife's sister who is Reece's girlfriend Chris [Angie Dickinson], and from her he soon learns that the threads he's been following lead to the top of a secret underworld called The Organisation. So it's The Organisation who now owe Walker his $93.000

Me:

This is one of those movies that left a very big impression on me when I first saw it some twenty years ago, and I still frequently think about this movie. If you think that the story sounds familiar, then your'e probably right, it was remade in 1999 as Payback with Mel Gibson in the Walker role. The movie is a visual orgy of style and innovative tricks, which is probably one of the reasons I still keep returning to it. Just in the first few minutes the viewer is bombarded with loads of strange time cuts, flashing forward and backward to bring us up to date with what we need to know about Walkers back story. Lee Marvin is great as the stone-faced Walker, and Vernon is sleazy as the backstabbing Reese. The women of the movie are all cold and distanced. There's a very seventies American paranoia feel to the movie as each step Walker takes brings him further and further into the murky crime world. You never know who the top dog of the organisation is and where the chase will end. A true gem of seventies US cinema, much in the vein of movies like Coppola's The Conversation 1974, Paul Schrader's Hardcore 1979, and Alan Pakula's The Parallax View 1974. If you liked the Mel Gibson version, then you have to see the original. A true classic.

Image: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1. Beautifully remastered and the print looks great.

Audio:
DolbyDigital 1.0 Mono Optional Englesh or Frech dubbed soundtrack, the commentary track is in 2.0

Extras: A commentary track by John Boorman and Steven Soderberg. The original vintage featurettes from the sixties The Rock part 1 & 2, and the theatrical trailer.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Alice och Jag

Alice och Jag
Directed by: Rebecka Rasmusson, Sweden, 2006

Documentary, 74min

Distributed by: Folkets Bio

Story:
Documentary filmmaker Rebecka Rasmusson sets out to portray the enigmatic Swedish queen of the red carpet Alice Timander as she prepares for her ninetieth birthday. Timander who actually is a dentist is one of Sweden’s most know personalities, and even though she’s not know for anything else but just always being at the grand openings bet it film, theatre or like wise, she never misses an photo opportunity. During the making of the documentary, director Rasmusson finds out that she is pregnant and the guy she thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with leaves her for his ex-wife. Rasmusson soon sees the ironic similarities between her life and Timanders as they together take a philosophical look at life, love, parenthood and family values.


Me:
A fascinating tale which shifts focus very subtly and after a while recaptures my interest. The first ten minutes of just being a straight forward documentary on Timander works fine for the curiosa base, but when Rasmusson starts interweaving her own tale it at first feels pretentious, but she manages to pull it off and my interest for the two women’s lives picks back up. There’s a sombre and melancholic tone throughout the movie as Rasmusson has Timander tell her tale of guilt and lost acknowledgement from her children. Timader systematically retells how she was never really accepted no matter what she took upon herself. So she decided that she’d become the centre of attraction in her own way, and she managed. Like I said, she’s always on the red carpet full of spark even at the ripe age of ninety. Timander tells how her first husband left her to pursue an acting career and her dubious feelings for her second and third husbands. How she fells that her children have alienated her for trying to achieve her goals. Two of her children refuse to take part in the documentary, but her oldest, Annika talks emotionally about her mother and their childhood. At the same time Rasmusson shares her own parallel narrative about the child growing within her, and the lover that left her all of a sudden. She asks Timander for advice and takes learning from her tale. Sometimes a bit sad, sometimes happy, but for the most of the time she keeps it in a philosophical and melancholic tone. Rasmusson doesn’t take any definite side, she relates to Timander through her own life as an ambitious woman, and at the same time relates to Timander’s children through her own relationship to her own mother who shares many of Timander's alienating features. It’s a very warm tale even though it has a dark undertone to it, and I found it very fascinating that Rasmusson manages to interweave two strong female personalities into one tale and tells there and well worth checking out.


Image:

Full screen 4:3. Rasmussen uses a wide variety of formats to tell her and Alice’s joint venture Blending super 8, and Dv cam before blowing it all up to a 35mm print.

Audio:
This screener; Stereo 2.0

Extras:
Being a journalistic screener there was no extras on this edition. I can’t see much more than an original trailer and perhaps a few deleted scenes on an eventual official DVD release.

Fat Girl


Fat Girl
Original title: À ma soer

Directed by: Catherine Breillat, France / Italy, 2001

Drama, 86min

Distributed by: Criterion Corporation.



Story: Two teenage sisters, Anaïs [Anaïs Reboux] and Elena Pingot [Roxanne Mesquida] spend their summer vacation in a dull seaside town. The older of the two, Elena, meets the mature Italian student Fernando [Libero de Rienzo] whom she lets into the two girls sleeping room at night to indulge in sticky sexual escapades. Anaïs lies in the bed next to them staring in shock and awe as Elena looses all of her adolescent sexuality.

Me:
I just can’t see the hype with this movie. I know that Breillat is held high by the elitist film critics, but I honestly can’t come to grasps with this fact. Fat Girl could just as easy have been an Italian or Spanish exploitation flick from the seventies or early eighties. The voyeuristic little Anaïs watching her older sister’s sexual experimentation and persuasive contempt to being raped by her older lover, the non understanding parents, the downbeat ending where Anaïs is violently raped after seeing her family murdered. It’s all elements that have been done and done and done so many times before, but the simple fact that Breillat is cheered on as some kind of genius director just gets on my nerves. I can appreciate what she tries to do with Fat Girl, but it didn’t really impress me. Yes. it is a decent movie, it is effective and it is a disturbing movie, Breillat avoids explicit sexual acts in this movie, but the themes and the way she chooses to portray them are still close to the early exploitation movies. Breillat’s major step into celebrity outside of France, where she already was a provocative celebrity, was with her movie Romance X 1999 where she had actress Caroline Ducey being fucked senseless by porn star Rocco Siffredi and claimed that it was a study of Gender roles, and masculinity. But come on, cast Rocco fucking people and show it graphically on screen and its porn. Call it what ever you want, its still porn, and that’s what gets me irritated. None of the finer movie critics who claim that Breillat is a creative genius would give a second thought about the directors who first experimented with these topics, Jesus Franco, Tinto Brass, Joe D’Amato Torgny Wickman, and Russ Meyer to name but a few. Nope those guys’ movies are looked on as foul, degenerate exploitation movies. It’s the same annoying hype that surrounded Trier’s Idioterna 1998, Virginie Despentes’ Baise-Moi 2000 and Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible 2002. Gritty drama with explicit hardcore sex, and hey, let’s call its art and then honour these “genius” directors are as innovators of the celluloid art, pushing the boundaries of what we can show and not, provoking and taking us to new levels... Honestly let’s just cut the crap, its porn. I’m not taking sides, and I can without any problem appreciate what they are doing, but give it a break. Don’t try to put a new label on it. I’d just as easy watch one of the other guys’ un-pretentious gritty, raw, plump exploitative flicks any day.


Image:
1.85:1 aspect ratio,

Audio:
French Dolby Digital 5.1 or dts with optional English subtitles.

Extras:
A five minute Behind the scenes making of Fat Girl featurette, two interviews at ten and fifteen minutes each with director Catherine Breillat. The French and the American trailers. One text essay and an interview with Breillat from French magazine Postif.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Britney Baby, One More Time


Britney Baby, One More Time
Directed by Ludi Boeken, 2002, USA/France/Netherlands

Indie/Comedy, 78 min
Distributed by: Kock Entertainment Distribution

Story:
Dude Schmitz, [Mark Borchardt] independant movie maker need to stash up on money for his next lowbudget movie, so he takes a temporary job as a news reporter for a local network. His shot at the big cash appears as he gets an opportunity to interview Britney Spears before she performs in town. But he trashes this chance by asking her about the infamous implants... Unsympathietic for being thrown out of the interview, he runs into Britney impersonator Robert [Angel Benton], and a cunning plan unfolds taking his mutinous crew and sidekick Mike [Mike Schank] on a remarkable road trip.

Me: I saw this movie during the Stockholm Film Festival a few years ago, and I loved it. So I was happy to enjoy it again on my own tv. It's one of those great low budget indie comedies that you either love or hate. What's so great about this movie is that anyone who's seen Chris Smith's "American Movie", and knows Borchardt & Schank's background will see this as a imaginative sequel to Smith's documentary. The story is outrageous, because it's always on the edge, and especially as it's based on a true story. Just the idea of taking an impersonator and faking your news stories with him is hillarious. This is one of those movies which deserves the happy ending it serves up.

Image:
Widescreen 16:9

Audio:
Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras:
Cast bios, a photogallery, the official trailer and "Angel on" an inteview with Angel Benton who retells the story behind the movie.

My Neighbor Totoro


My Neighbor Totoro
Original Title; Tonari no Totoro

Directed by; Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 1988

Asian / Anime / Family, 86min

Distributed by: Zoke Movies


Story;

Two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, move with their father to the countryside so they can be closer to their ill mother, who is in hospital. One day Mei stumbles into gentle giant furry creature Totoro deep in the woods.

Me;
Movie magic from Anime master Hayao Miyazaki's studio Ghibli, Kicki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and many more. This has been my son's favourite movie for a few years, well most of his life actually. Since the first time he saw it up till now, he'll still watch Totoro and enjoy it, he even talks along to the Japanese dialogue [Dongiri!]. It's not at all strange that he likes this film; it's amazingly cute and works on so many levels, that even I can endure watching it again and again. Like so many of Miyazaki's movies it's based on Japanese folklore interwoven with European tales and legends. There's nothing in this movie that I fell should be different, it's all just perfect. The mysticism of the Totoro figure, most likely a forest spirit and his small helpers. The girls who first joke about him until Mei finally finds him sleeping inside a secret forest hideaway. The sadness of their mother’s illness and how this affects the two sisters, the amazing and always hilarious cat buss that helps Satsuki search for Mei when she goes missing; it's all part of this brilliant tale which is one of my definitive Ghibli favourites too. This is definitely a movie that you should have and watch over and over again. You'll love it.

Image:
Full frame 4:3 cropped to 16:9, Traditional or simplified Chinese and English subtitles are optional.

Audio:
Unfortunately being an early release of Totoro, this DVD only has Dolby Digital 2.0

Extras:
Not a lot at all. Just a few trailers of other movies from Zoke Movies.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Original title: Chinjeolhan geumjassi
Directed by; Chan-wook Park, South Korea, 2005

Asian / Drama, 112 min

Distributed by: Panorama Distributions


Story: Thirteen years after being sentenced for the abduction and death of a child she didn't kill, Lee Geum-Ja [Yeong-ae Lee] is released from jail. Her mind is set on one thing only... to claim vengeance upon the real culprit, Mr. Baek [Min-sik Choi]. All her friends from jail are called upon as she goes after Mr. Baek to take her revenge.

Me:
Oh boy, does this movie pack a punch. I've had it on the DVD shelf since just after New Year, but I haven't really dared to watch it. Mostly due to the fact that I didn't want to be disappointed, I've read some pretty bad reviews of this movie. It's no surprise to anyone that find Park to be one of the most interesting directors to come out of Asia these last few years. So I was sort of worried as I stared to watch this movie, but my fears where unnecessary. This movie is awesome. It shifts between genres, very smoothly, blending drama with dark comedy. The tale of Gaum-Ja's tale of vengeance is told by an third party voice over, which I'm uncertain whom it belongs to, probably Geum-Ja's daughter. The story is a basic revenge tale, Geum-Ja who helped Mr Beak kidnap a child, had her own daughter kidnapped by him to force her to take the blame for the kidnapped child's death. So it's no wonder she wants revenge. Geum-Ja is brilliantly played by Yeong-ae Lee who also had the lead in Park's J.S.A. She's absolutely beautiful as the tormented Mrs. Vengeance. Park chooses a very intelligent way to tell us about Geum-Ja's time in jail, through flashbacks portraying her closest friends' time as incarcerated women. Geum-Ja is their smiling angel who helps them through the roughest of times, and foes. But now on the outside they all see how she has changed, she's now a woman with a vile plan for revenge. Mr Baek, portrayed by Min-sik Choi from the magnificent Old Boy, is totally different from his rather likeable Old Boy character. He's put on weight, show's no signs of compassion to anyone, be it his girlfriend, or the pre-school children the he teaches at work. And this is where the movie gets very dark. The road up to where Geum-Ja finds Baek, is rather fun and full of humorous twists. She find's her daughter, who has been adopted by an Australian couple, and takes her back to Korea, but not until they have had a booze up together. Secondary characters and Gaeum-Ja's time in prison is all told with a twinkle in the eye, but then she finds Baek. Upon finding him she starts to take her revenge, but when she realises that he's responsible for killing more than the child she was sentenced for her vengeance takes a drastic turn for the worse. Through a fiendish plan to let all the parents of the murdered children do as they please with Baek. To motivate them she shows them the video's Baek shot of their children before he murdered them, and this came as a complete shock. I was not prepared for this and it took me quite a while to get over the grainy, rough footage of the children. There's no onscreen violence, and the children are obviously actors, but it was quite rough to watch. Especially as I have a child of my own not far from the age of the children in the videos. Heavy stuff! So when the parents claim their vengeance it's almost as if I too wanted to take a swing at Baek. But I presume that Park had to make some drastic move to get the viewer past the sympathetic feelings that Min-sik evoked in Old Boy, not that Baek has been portrayed as an especially pleasant chap to start with, but the videos sure take care of any doubts.

I'm glad that I finally dared watch Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, it was worth the wait, it's a very, very good movie, and I'm sure that I will be returning to it soon. OK so it's the last part of the Vengeance trilogy, but to be honest, they don't have much to do with each other so you can actually just watch any part you want. If you still haven't seen a Chan-woon Park I'd advise you to start with Old Boy, and then if you want more check out Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which are both very good movies, but have some very dark moments. Or if you just want a short, check out his segment Cut from Three Extremes. Like I keep saying, Chan-woon Park is a director that's here to impress, and impress he does.

I also have to take this opportunity to complain about the terrible Scandinavian cover art. If there are so many beautiful poster and original art works for this movie why the fuck do you make a cover with Kill Bill references? Pathetic is the only word that spontaneously springs to mind.

Image:
Anamorphic Widescreen. Traditional or Simplified Chinese and English subtitles are optional.

Audio:
Three options are given; Korean soundtrack 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, 5.1 Dolby Digital, and dts.

Extras:
This edition being the first version released in Asia is very sparse with features. There is only a ten minute behind the scenes featurette and two trailers for the movie.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Cooler


The Cooler
Directed by; Wayne Kramer, USA, 2003
Drama / Thriller / Romance, 101min
Distributed by: Nordisk Film


Story:
Meet Bernie Lootz [William H Macy] the worlds most unlucky man. Hired by Shelly [Alec Baldwin], his old school Las Vegas boss, to jinx lucky gamblers at the Shangri-La casino he's doing quite well for himself, and in seven days time he's packing his bags and leaving Vegas to start a new life. That is until Natalie [Maria Bello] walks into his life and turns his world upside down.

Me:
This is independent cinema at its finest. Damn this was a good movie. William Macy just rules every scene he ever shows his adorable face in. The story is a rather typical "down and out in Vegas" type of tale, where lowlifes and hard guys mix with the few sympathetic characters that the story centres around. In this case Bernie and Natalie. Even though there's a feeling of awaiting doom lurking around each corner the move manages to keep the glimmer of hope through out. Not to give away the last fifteen minutes, but it's one of the first time's in a long while that I've taken on such an emotional rollercoaster. Acting is obviously fantastic in this movie, Baldwin's old school hard guy is magnificent, Macy, like I said just rules, Bello pulls off a decent washed out Vegas dancer routine. Throw in small but impressive bit parts like Paul Sorvino's Lounge room crooner hooked on smack, Ron Livingston's hard working next generation casino owner, a tall and menacing M.C. Gainey as a threatening Highway policeman, and you have a damned fine movie. Definitely worth checking out. I'm sure that I'll be returning to this one, it's all done so simple and easy, but so incredibly effective.

Image:
Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1


Audio:

Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dts


Extras:
Three trailers for other titles from Nordisk, and a twenty minute Anatomy of a scene featurette.

The Pyjama Case Girl

The Pyjama Case Girl
Original Title; Ragazza dal pigiama giallo, La
Directed by; Flavio Mogherini, Spain /Italy, 1977
Giallo / Thriller / Mystery, 98min.
Distributed by: Blue Underground

Story:
A murdered body of a young woman is found on a beach in Sydney. But before the police can arrest a killer, they need to find out who the woman with her face is burned off is.

Me:
A Giallo that is based on true events can't be wrong can it? No, it sure can't, although Mogherini adds and subtracts from the real events to get this magical tale of death and betrayal. Two tales are told at the same time in Sydney Australia. One is the tale of retired detective Thompson [Ray Milland] trying to puzzle together the identity and mystery surrounding the dead woman found horribly burned in a car wreck on the beach. The other is the love quadrangle between promiscuous Glenda [Dalia Di Lazzaro] and her three men, Douglas [Mel Ferrer], a wealthy and strict professor factory working Roy [Howard Ross] with his mysteriously sun tanned body, and her official "boyfriend" Antonio [Michele Placido]. Glenda shags her way between the three guys as she tries to make up her mind of what she really wants from life. She finally ends up marrying Antonio, but her promiscuous background seems to be a large problem for him. At the same time detective Thompson is causing a stir within the department as he works against the official police investigation, and follows his own leads as to who the mysterious body can be. The investigation even goes so far as to exhibit the violently disfigured body in a formaldehyde tank so that the public can come see if they recognise it. This is actually like in the real life Pyjama girl case; they actually exhibited a corpse in the search for the identity of the victim. More than two thirds into the movie the Giallo motifs that have been lacking start falling into place, not that the movie hasn't been entertaining so far, on the contrary, but the usual sexy women, jazzy soundtrack (this one by maestro Riz Ortolani) and violent killings have been very few. There are a couple of tracks sung by Amanda Lear on the soundtrack, and they are sung so poorly that they become cool. Anyhow, the movie takes this new curve, and then there's a really neat plot twist at the end that doesn't concern the killer or the story, but how the tale has been told, and this is what gives this Giallo its value. Long before the cut up narrative was a well used trick of the trade, Mogherini uses it here, and to a quite good effect. I definitely got more than I bargained for with this movie and highly recommend it.

Image:
Widescreen 1.85:1 / 16.9.

Sound:
Unfortunately this is one of those Italian movies that Blue Underground didn’t offer alternative soundtracks to. Here we only have the option of the English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack.

Extras:
There isn’t much on the disc that could qualify this disc as a great one extra feature wise. Although even if there’s just two features, one being the theatrical trailer there is a very interesting half hour documentary about the real Pyjama girl mystery that took place in Australia in the early thirties. Also included in the disc is an 8 page reproduction of Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel The Pyjama Girl which you may recall from the brilliant From Hell graphic novel he did with Alan Moore.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Biography: LUCIO FULCI

Born in Rome during the last half of the twenties, Lucio Fulci started working with films just after the Second World War, and spent some fifteen years working with Steno, one of the Italian masters of comedy. His main tasks were writing screenplays and being an assistant director on several of Stenos movies.

His first personal venture into directing came in 1959 with the crime comedy "I Ladri" (a.k.a. The Thieves), which unfortunately didn't do much to impress critics or movie goers, even though top Italian comedian Toto had the lead role. Fulci followed it up with a few more comedies and a spaghetti western between 59-69. Among these one can find the somewhat strange "Urlatori alla sbarra" (a.k.a. Howlers of the Dock) with suave jazz player Chet Baker as one of cast, and "Tempo di massacro" (a.k.a. Massacre Time) with Franco Nero in the lead role.

In 1969 the films "Una sull'altra" (a.k.a. One on Top of the other) and "Beatrice Cenci" (a.k.a. The Conspiracy of Torture) see Fulci starting to leave out comedic elements and move towards more hard crime/thriller/exploitation themes. In 1971 the early sexy Giallo "Una Lucertola con la pelle di donna" (a.k.a. Lizard in a Woman's Skin) saw Fulci finally reaching the form we eventually came to worship. The impressive special effects, here by Carlo Rambaldi, the thematic soundtracks, this time provided by Ennio Morricone, Luigi Kuveiller's cinematography, and finally, but not least, Vincenzo Tomassi's editing. Tomassi stayed on as Fulci's regular editor for the rest of his and Fulci careers.

Fulci soon found himself in trouble with "Lucertola" as a lawsuit was slapped against him for the violent visual effects of slaughtered dogs seen twitching on a table. These were presumed to be real, so Rambaldi and Fulci showed the props and were let off to go about their movie magic, and boy was there more to come....

Between 72 -78 he made a few more crime movies, a few comedies, some adventure movies (the White Fang movies freely based on Jack London's book) and few more spaghetti westerns "Sella d'argento" (a.k.a. Man in the Silver Saddle) and "I Quattro dell'apocalisse" (a.k.a. Four of the Apocalypse). Among the movies made during this period is the 1972 satirical thriller "Non si sevizia un paperino" (a.k.a. Don't Torture a Duckling), which was blacklisted for a few years as an Italian politician thought some of the themes in the film were making fun of him. In "Paperino", Fulci returns to violent murder and even a good old chain flogging are among the few, but shocking effects to be found. Not surprising, as this is the first time Fulci and special effects wizard Gino De Rossi work together. The other title among the 72-78 movies to stand out is the gem from 1977 "7 note in Nero" (a.k.a. "The Psychic"/"Murder to the Tune of 7 Black Notes" is the uncut presentation of this title). The Psychic can best be described as a thriller/horror with Poe influences. Jennifer O'Neil stars as psychic woman who sees violent murders recently committed... or does she? Classic Fulci gore is presented in all its glory. From the opening scene where a woman's face is smashed to pieces against the front of a cliff, the shocks just keep coming. For the second time Fulci collaborated with Fabio Frizzi, who's thematic scores can be heard on the soundtrack, the first time they worked together was on "I Quattro dell'apocalisse"

This brings us up to 1979, where the triumph of smash hit movie "Zombie" (the Italian title of George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead", (Dario Argento supervised the European cut) and the financial success of "7 note in Nero", landed Fulci in a meeting with film producer Fabrizio De Angelis. Running along with the zombie craze of the day Fulci created one of his best loved masterpieces "Gli Ultimi Zombi," (a.k.a. Zombie 2). Nothing was left to chance in this movie. Loads of decomposed zombies, brain shootings, flesh chomping, the infamous splinter in the eye effect and a total overload of Gianetto De Rossi's gory effects. Together with Fabio Frizzi's pulsating melotrone music, Sergio Salvati's magnificent widescreen cinematography, Tomasini's editing, the top-notch actors all blended together for one of cinemas most outrageous gore feasts. During the next three years, 79-82, Fulci made seven more films, and among these are the ones that definitely made him the Godfather of Gore. "Luca il contrabbandiere" (a.k.a. Contraband) and "Paura nella città dei morti viventi" (A.k.a. City of the Living Dead) both made in 1980. In 1981, Fulci gave us "Il Gatto nero" (a.k.a. The Black Cat), and the two masterpieces "E tu vivrai nel terrore - L'aldilà" (a.k.a. The Beyond) and "Quella villa accanto al cimitero" (a.k.a. The House by the Cemetery). Notable for most of these titles was that Fulci had used his solid crew, Salvati, Tomassi, De Rossi and Frizzi, who all helped to make these titles small masterpieces of genre history. 1982 marks the end of the main, Fulci gore classics period with "Lo Squartatore di New York" (a.k.a. New York Ripper) a return to the violent thriller genre and the horror /suspense piece "'L'Occhio Del Male" (a.k.a. Manhattan Baby The Possessed) which sports Hellrasier-ish bookends.

Although 1982 marks an end of the main gore period, don't for a second think that Fulci slowed down, on the contrary, he presented an assortment of various genre flicks, Fantasy/Barbarians with "Conquista, La" (a.k.a. Conquest) in 1893, a rather weird movie with lots of atmosphere. In 1984 he ventured to SCI-Fi/Post Apocalypse with "I Guerrieri dell'anno 2072" (a.k.a. Fighting Centurions), a quick return to Giallo with "Murderrock - uccide a passo di danza" (a.k.a. Murder Rock - Dancing Death) about a maniac stalking and killing the girls at a New York dance school. The erotic S&M thriller "Il Miele del diavolo" (a.k.a. The Devil's Honey) from 1986 sees a young woman, Blanca Marsillach, kidnap and torture the doctor she holds responsible for her boyfriends death. The movie is not at all a gory Fulci movie, but proof that Fulci could move between genres as he pleased.

In 1987 Fulci returned to the horror genre, with "Aenigma". "Zombi3" followed "Aenigma" in 1988, which was to be the first of two unsuccessful comebacks for the maestro. Due to ill health Fulci pulled out of the project and Bruno Mattei took over the production (or was it Claudio Fragasso, only those there will ever know...) Even though it isn't a "real" Fulci movie, it works and has some great zombie moments and other unpleasant gory surprises. Between 1988-1991 Fulci directed some of his weakest work ever, several of the movies were made for Italian TV, they are quite full of some trademark Fulci gore, but story wise they just don't work. The 1990 movie " Un Gatto nel cervello" (a.k.a. A Cat in the Brain) stands out as a sort of oddity where Fulci played himself, a old horror director, haunted by his films. Scenes of Fulci aimlessly wandering around, mixed with the gorier scenes from several of the previously directed TV movies and titles Fulci either supervised or produced make up a gory greatest hits package with out much story line, but it's good for laughs, as the gore just keeps on coming. Fulci's last film to capture the atmosphere and style he once mastered over, "Voci dal profondo" (a.k.a. Voices from Beyond) was made in 1991 and it's sadly the last film the great Godfather of Gore made.

Hold the presses, wake the dead, Fulci is making his comeback! Yes hopes were high in the second half of 1995 as rumours were spreading that Dario Argento had met Fulci at a convention, felt sorry for him and decided to make a film together. They wrote the horror mystery "Maschera di Cera" (a.k.a. Wax Mask) together and Fulci was to direct it under Argento's production. But the gods had other plans for dear old Lucio... Getting ready for his grand return to horror after a five-year departure, Lucio Fulci passed away on the 13th of March 1996. The Godfather of Gore had slaughtered his last victim. I'll never forget that day, because we where just getting ready to finalize the latest Art Video Club newsletter when a fax came trough from Germany where the guys at Hard To Get... (who released Umberto Lenzi's Eaten Alive, Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust and Fulci's New York Ripper, remastered on VHS and Lazerdisc) who where in contact Fulci and his people for future releases. We called them back straight away as we took it for a sick joke, but they said it was true. I called up Alan Bryce at UK magazine Darkside as he'd been in contact with Fulci during several of the conventions Fulci had graced witht his presance and Bryce said that he'd just heard the rumours too. About an hour later he called back to confirm. Sad news indeed and a very dark day in horror history.

Epilogue:
"Wax Mask" was directed by Sergio Stivaletti instead, and never left much of an impression. Although Fulci did get sort of a comeback in 1998 as Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures, made sure that "The Beyond" was theatrically re-released in the states. Now almost ten years after his death, his films of the 79-82 period still stand the test of time and are easily among the most fascinating pieces of Italian Horror Cinema.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Black Orpheus



Black Orpheus
Original Title: Orfeu Negro

Directed by: Marcel Camus, Brazil/France/Italy, 1959
Drama, 100 min.
Distributed by: Criterion Collection



Story:
Classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice retold during the Carnival in Rio. Eurydice [Marpessa Dawn] comes to Rio to visit her cousin Sarafina [Léa Garica] during the week of the Carnival preparations. Buss conductor Orpheo [Breno Mello] who is engaged Mira [Lourdes de Oliveria] falls head over heels in love with her and will stop at nothing to seduce her. But when a mysterious figure disguised as death who has been stalking and killing women in the capital targets Eurydice the race is on. Will Orpheo manage to rescue Eurydice before it’s too late?

Me: Often quoted as one of the greatest movies ever and I have to agree. It is an amazing piece of cinema. The look of the film is fantastic, and Criterion has really done a great job of restoring this gem. Jean Bourgoin’s cinematography is awesome; he captures all the colours and senses of the carnival, from the opening aerial shot of Rio and the crowded colourful big sets to the tight claustrophobic shots of the empty murky hospital as Orpheo searches for Eurydice. Great stuff. As most great movies have their roots in the oldest stories ever told it’s no wonder that Camus delivers a fantastic movie. Almost everyone knows the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice and their journeys in the underground, the deal with death and the promises not to look back when Eurydice is allowed to go, it brings a natural and deeply rooted suspense to the film. Even though I know the myth and know how it is supposed to end I was really into this movie and it never let’s you down, you keep on rooting for their love even to the last frame. The choice of setting it in the carnival of Rio is a great choice as this allows Camus to use the energetic samba beats, vibrant music and amazing costumes. The actors make a real impression; Mello, Dawn and de Oliveria are attractive people and bring their characters to life in a believable way. The humoristic tone that he interweaves with the younger generation obviously ready to take over and keep the wheels spinning is brilliant. A complete and probably perfect cinematic experience, it comes as no surprise that this movie won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1959 and an Academy award for best foreign film in 1960.

Image:

1.33:1 Widescreen, removable English subtitles

Audio:
Even though it is remixed the soundtrack is still Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono

Extras:

Being a Criterion disc I had expected more, but if you take into the calculation that this is a four minute longer uncut restored print, with a re-mastered soundtrack bringing Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfá’s energetic bossa nova score to new levels then that might do. There’s also a French trailer for the film.