Wednesday, June 29, 2011

THE DEVIL STRIKES AT NIGHT (1957)

During the war years German director Robert Siodmak made a lot of great movies in America including two of my favorites THE KILLERS (1946) and CRISS CROSS (1949) then in the early 50's he returned to Germany where he continued to make films, but many of them are hard to find...at least by me. I did recently come across a copy of THE DEVIL STRIKES AT NIGHT and it's an well-made film about a mentally retarded strongman who's going around killing women during the chaos of the last years of WW2.

As not to cause an alarm the SS is secretly investigating the murders and when they arrest an innocent man for one of the killings a lone police detective goes to great lengths to prove his innocence, but unfortunately for him the SS isn't interested in justice only keeping the population under their boot.

The guy who plays the investigator does a fine job, but it's the serial killer (played brilliantly by Mario Adorf) that steals the show. One look at him and you know he's bad news. You wouldn't want to be stuck in a broken elevator with this guy! But even more disturbing are the SS guys who lurk around behind the scenes pulling the strings with no concern for right or wrong or even who dies in the process.

If you can find a copy it well worth watching. I'm deeply ashamed it took me 524 reviews to finally get to Siodmak, but I will try to make up for it soon...then again I think I promised the same thing about Allen, Bergman, Ford, Lang, Ozu, Kurosawa, Vidor, Bunuel and Mizoguchi and look at how fucking far behind I am! Hell, I don't think I've even review one single David Lynch movie yet!!!
This has to be one of the earliest examples of "fuck" used in a film. Remember though Kurosawa was using "asshole" all the way back in 1949!

TRUE GRIT (2010)

Fourteen year-old Mattie Ross' paw was shot and killed in cold-blood by a low-down, snake in the grass mothergrabber by the name of Tom Chaney. Then, as it is now, the cops ain't worth a shit unless there's some personal gain in it for them, so Mattie is forced to hire a Marshall to bring her paw's killer to justice. Shit happens, they wander around riding horses a lot and eventually a few people get shot. The End.

I liked the film alright and there was some beautifully scenery, but I was kinda surprised at how I didn't feel any emotional attachment to any of the characters. From the very start Mattie is a cold and calculating character with more in common with a Terminator robot then a little girl and it never lets up. Until the very end she has the personality of an ice cube. It's like the brain of a Terminator was installed into the robot from "Small Wonder". Jeff Bridges is entertaining, but he could have reeled it in and been less hammy also he uses such an heavy mush-mouthed voice that you need the subtitles to understand everything he's saying! Matt Damon, well, he's actually pretty funny and the closest thing resembling a human of the main characters. I liked him.

I just wanted more depth to the characters. A short 10 minute build up at the beginning showing the father as a good man and Mattie as a human being would have helped a lot. One of the most impressive things about Ripley in ALIENS turning into a complete badass at the end was she was genuinely a nice person who was just pushed too goddamn far by the aliens and that's what needed to be shown here. We never got to see Mattie as a sweet innocent girl. There's also a lot of wasted time in the middle section that could have been fleshed out better.

Watch the movie, it's a good film and worth a rent. Just because I'm a crabby, bitter piece of shit don't let me scare you away from it...even though THE SEARCHERS is better.

Has anybody read the novel? Does it actually start with Mattie's father already dead?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

MANON 70 (1968)

Made a year after Bunuel's sexual masterpiece BELLE DE JOUR Deneuve continues the sexuality theme by playing a free-spirited prostitute who, with the help of her pimp brother, hooks up with extremely rich men and uses them to provide herself with an extravagant lifestyle. Things change when she bumps into average joe Des Grieux and she instantly falls in love with him.

Old habits are hard to break though and she soon finds herself on a yacht with a rich swinger and his entourage, but when she discovers that Des Grieux has been seen with another girl while she's off "working" she immediately leaves to confront him about his infidelity! Things go on like this for awhile until finally, well, you have to watch it for yourself.

With a less beautiful and less talented actress this film would have rightfully slipped into obscurity, but Catherine is completely hypnotizing in every scene and she carries the film with her playful little smiles. As far as the story goes it's alright, I was entertained, but really it comes down to how much like Deneuve as to whether you should watch this film or not. The story alone isn't reason enough.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY (1982)

Outside of INTERIORS this is probably Woody Allen's most underappreciated masterpiece. It's funny and touching, the acting is superb, the script (which was reportedly written in only 2 weeks!!!) is so brilliant that every time I watch it I'm left speechless, the photography is beautiful, it's the first pairing of Allen and Farrow and best of all it's based on one of my all time favorite movies: Bergman's SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT.

Set in the early 1900's Woody Allen works on Wall Street, but is currently staying at his summer home with his wife (Mary Steenburgen). They're expecting company but Allen is shocked when he learns that Mary's cousin's fiancee (Farrow) is actually the long lost love of his life that he's secretly been pining away over for years. Naturally this complicates the joyful weekend, but things take an even worse turn with Allen's best friend suddenly decides that he too is deeply in love with Farrow!

In 1982 Woody was right in the middle of his greatest period and AMNSC is amazing. It's so simple, yet deep and no matter how many times I watch it it never gets old. Also Farrow absolutely radiates. Allen must have really been smitten with her.

I cannot recommend this movie high enough, especially if you double feature it with SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT.